The Riding and Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs Map says that the High Country Trail from start to finish is 5 miles and the degree of difficulty is: intermediate to most difficult. We only hiked from Paramount to the Whiting Center (via Jacaranda at the end) and my Endomondo tracker says we did 3.59 miles, dropped 2119 feet and had an ascent of 476 feet. Our minimum altitude was 4436 and our max was 6110.
January 11, 2014. My 52nd birthday. What did I want to do? Hike the High Country Trail, of course. Or at least part of it. My goal in 2013 was to hike all the Equestrian/Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs. I completed all but four of them: the High Country Trail, the Quail Ridge Trail, the Quail Canyon Trail and Goat Springs Trail. My goal in 2014 is to hike the four I’ve missed and to finish writing about them all. So this day we were tackling a part of the five mile long High Country Trail.
Since my hiking buddy, my youngest daughter Katie, just had major surgery in October and I didn’t know what the High Country Trail would be like, I waited until my older daughter, Naomi, and her husband, Chris, could join me and my husband on this particular adventure. We left the Dodge Ram at the Whiting Center parking lot and had Katie drive us up Jacaranda Drive to the very top, Paramount Drive. Unlike some of the trails, the trails taking off from Paramount were clearly marked. We took a picture to show where we started and headed westerly, down the mountain.
We headed through pines and sage. There was still some snow on the ground in the shade even though the last time it snowed was December 9, 2013, over a month ago. We were at over 6000 feet above sea level. We noticed on the short uphill climbs we encountered that our breath was a little short in supply. Through pines and sage and strange forests of lichen covered trees we went. Chris climbed on rocks and Naomi snapped pictures left and right. Enjoy them below!
We were on top of the world. The first vista we encountered when leaving the forest was that of Highway 58. We couldn’t see the famous railroad feature the Tehachapi Loop from the trail but we could see the small valley that spreads out behind Keene. My husband had gone there years ago with friends to cut wood. Next we could see over the mountains to the Tehachapi Valley and the windmills beyond. We kept hiking. We were in Bear Valley but had not yet caught a glimpse of it. The next valley we could see was Cummings Valley. At Stirrup Way we stopped to take more photos by the trail sign and then walked up the road to rest at some more grinding rocks. We have found grinding rocks on many of the trails. They are often at vista points where a woman sitting and doing her “daily grind” could enjoy the view. We finally had a view of Bear Valley.
After snacks to fuel my 6 1/2 foot tall son-in-law we headed down the hill encountering a lone woman hiking up. We encouraged to keep going! When we finally reached Jacaranda Drive (we’d seen the trail sign on our way driving up the mountain) we couldn’t figure out where the rest of the trail went. There were no signs to point us to the continuation of the trail once we crossed Jacaranda. We wandered around searching for a bit and then decided to simply walk down Jacaranda, knowing it would lead us to the Whiting Center parking lot and our pickup truck. Further down Jacaranda, a woman bawled us out saying that she had lived in Bear Valley for 19 years and the trails were for horses only. I’d tried to explain that the map and website says Riding and Hiking Trails but she insisted that the police would arrest us for going on the trails. They would have to arrest the Sportsmen’s Club then, as they regularly schedule hikes on the trails and publicize them on the announcement board at the gate entering our community and in the newspaper. It’s amazing how much confusion there are regarding these trails. They are a hidden gem.
We made it safely back to the truck, my son-in-law and daughter racing to see who could get there first. It had been an exhilarating birthday hike in spite of losing the last part of the trail and being bawled out by a complete stranger. Happy Birthday to me!
A few days later my husband and I walked straight uphill from the Equestrian Center to the Foothill Trail junction where it meets the High Country Trail. We followed the trail we couldn’t find on my birthday all the way to Jacaranda and discovered it came out ABOVE (not straight across or below) the Jacaranda High Country Trail sign. We should’ve turned east and uphill rather than west and downhill and then we would have found the remainder of the High Country Trail to the Breakfast Spot and eventually the Equestrian Center. We live and we learn.
Proverbs 8:2 – Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand…