2023 Trip Report - A Memorable USFS Road 1N09, June 10 2023
A Memorable USFS Road 1N09
June 10, 2023
By Marian Johns • Photos by Catherine McClean, Craig Baker, Janet Austin and Marian Johns
What a fine group of Desert Explorers we had for the USFS Road 1N09 trip! I think we pulled off a good trip even though we were a rather large group with 12 vehicles and 24 people. At the last minute, folks suddenly seemed to come out of the woodwork and I just couldn’t say no. We all met at the Mill Creek Ranger Station on Highway 38 east of Mentone. Participants were: Dave Burdick, Dean Linder, Dennis Pratt (thanks for sweeping, you three), Joan Taylor, Janet Davey (my Lytle Creek neighbors), Janet Austin and crew - Caroline Austin Bolt, Andrew Bolt, Nathan Bolt, Fiona Bolt; Bud & Traci Stewart, Craig Baker, Allan Wicker, Dave & Lois Hess, Tracy Wood, Lindsay Woods, Danny Silar, Shane Daley, Catherine McLean, Rod McDonald & daughter Janet, and yours truly, Marian Johns.
Several guys brought spare GMRS radios (thank you), so every vehicle had one and communication went fairly smoothly especially after my initial omission of assigning a sweep/radio and nearly losing Janet Austin, et al.
Since the restrooms at our meeting place were out of order, our first stop was only two miles away at the Thurman Flats Picnic Area where there were such amenities. Only bushes were available for the rest of the trip. From the picnic area we continued on up Highway 38 all the way to Glass Road (elev.~ 6000’) where we turned and drove down to the little community of Seven Oaks and beyond to the beginning of USFS Road 1N09. This trail is Ted Kalil’s legacy to the DE because it was he who first led a DE trip over it back in August of 2013.
Last year I had this same trip scheduled, but I had to cancel it because the Forest Service closed the road when they decided to improve the first five miles. They graded the road and topped it with gravel so now just about any 2x4 vehicle can drive all the way to Bear Creek; the improvement stops there at Bear Creek.
The new graveled road makes those first five miles fly by quickly and you don’t really pay too much attention to what’s going on around you as you zip along. But then, when you reach Bear Creek Canyon, its great size and depth makes you want to say, “Whoa! Wow! What’s this?” As you peer into this immense canyon, you can see that the bottom is covered with huge boulders, and the size of those boulders obviously means that Bear Creek goes on horrendous rampages every now and then.
As we descended into Bear Creek Canyon, we could see that our road has been bulldozed across this boulder field. Looking on the far side of the canyon we could see a bridge that spans the creek; it’s the only bridge on the entire trail. By the time we reached this spectacular canyon, it was noon, so we drove on down and stopped there for lunch - and for a bush break (watch out for the poison oak) – and for airing down.
After lunch we continued on – over the Bear Creek Bridge and up the steep, unimproved trail out of the canyon. I used 4WD on this section; the rest of the trip was rough and bumpy but was not really difficult – in my opinion.
The trail between Bear Creek and Highway 330 has umpteen twists and turns and ups and downs. By the end of the trip my arms and hands were actually a little weary from the work out they got. The scenery along 1N09 is always changing – far off vistas of mountain peaks (Mount San Gorgonio and Keller Peak), canyons, hills and valleys, shady tree-shrouded glens and streams and wildflowers everywhere. This time of year was perfect for wildflowers – so many wildflowers. My Lytle Creek neighbors who rode along with me were in wildflower heaven.
Wildflowers bring wildlife to mind and yes, I (and my passengers) did see wildlife - a doe with three fawns! I think three is pretty unusual so I checked the internet when I got home and found that twins are common, but triplets are extremely rare. I don’t think anyone in the vehicles behind me saw these deer because they quickly dashed into the brush when they saw us. The only other wildlife we saw was a snake with a slender, tapered tail that also hustled into the brush - when it saw Craig coming in its direction.
The second highlight of the trip is/are the Keller Cliffs. I keep using words like “immense” and “spectacular”, but that’s what they are. I’ve been wondering about their considerable height and width so I tried the internet when I got home, but could find no info about them at all. One of our local Lytle Creek rangers who seems to know something about 1N09 mentioned birds and the Keller Cliffs, but we didn’t see any birds flying around them. I wonder about the light-colored composition of the cliff’s formation; it reminds me of the light–colored material of Mormon Rocks. Far above the cliffs we could see Keller Peak. The Keller Peak repeater, well-known to local ham radio enthusiasts, is located there. We made a second stop here at the cliffs to ooh and aah and stretch our legs.
About an hour later, we made a third and last stop at the site of Emmett Harder’s infamous nose-dive into a pine tree that happened about three years ago when he and his wife Ruth (DE members) and I made a 1N09 trip.
For those who didn’t hear the story: I was leading in my truck and Emmett and Ruth were following in theirs. Emmett radioed that he had stopped for a bush break, but a few minutes later he urgently requested that I return because an emergency. He had evidently left their truck in gear with the motor running and it had idled up to the edge of the clearing and then taken a nose-dive into a tree. Wow! If that tree hadn’t been there…..it was a long way down that mountain side. It took us some time to get poor Ruth out of their truck and back up on flat ground, plus we had to pull their truck up out of the tree. But the hardest part was the towing Emmett’s truck the 6.4 miles out to Highway 330 with his hood bashed up blocking his view, making it difficult for him to steer around the corners. When we finally reached 330 we called AAA for a tow truck. This all happened just at the beginning of Covid and Emmett and Ruth were not allowed to ride with tow truck driver so I gladly drove them on home. What a day that was!
Back to June 10, 2023 - Allan Wicker took a look at the pine tree and noticed a broken branch and wondered if it might have been broken by Emmett’s truck. Yes, I bet it was, Allan.
USFS Road 1N09 is supposed to be approximately 22 miles long. My odometer came up with 20.7 miles. Time-wise it took us about five hours including lunch and the other stops. We crossed at least 13 creeks, thanks to a wet winter – I’m sure some are just seasonal.
Initially I was afraid we might have to split the group in half because of our size, but thankfully it wasn’t a problem - I worried for no reason. ~Marian Johns