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Ascent of Thomas Mountain on 2019-06-09

Climber: Joseph Hirniak

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, June 9, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Thomas Mountain
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:6825 ft / 2080 m

Ascent Trip Report

Solid day's hike but not without confusion. Too many "oh-shit" moments followed by "Eureka" moments which consumed precious time while adding superfluous distance and unnecessary ascent and descent, both of which I will not tally on this page. Arrived at Ramona Trailhead along Hwy 79 and started hike at 0640 hrs. Easy enough. Trail wended through chaparral, scrub oak, manzanita, and madera, crossing through occasional burnt-out swatches. Largely exposed at lower elevations. The higher I climbed abundance of beautiful wildflowers, mostly purple in color, increased. Warm weather and buggy, even in early morning, until I hit the Coulter pine zone. Then nice consistent breeze and perfect, room-temperature hiking. Great views of San Jacinto and still snow-capped San Gorgonio. Now for the confusion: I reached a junction in the trail just below the campground whereupon I made the first of two critical errors, which would later dog me in my descent. I went right at this junction following the uninformative USFS trail marker (A narrow brown metal slat which denotes this trail is designated for mountain biking & hiking, but no other details such as trail name, directions, distance, etc.). I should have taken the wider path to the left which IS the Ramona Trail. The right fork eventually led to the lower reaches of the USFS campground (Tool Box Springs CG?), where I made my second critical error. Instead of taking the road upwards through the campsite towards Thomas Mountain Rd (6S13), I stayed on the trail. The trail undulated gaining and loosing elevation and after about 15 minutes of hiking I stopped, pulled out my map and realized this unnamed trail led nowhere (atleast not to the summit) and didn't seem to connect to the Thomas Mountain Rd. I backtracked to a grassy meadow and decided to bee-line it uphill (prb. near Magee Sprg) hoping to find Thomas Mountain Rd which ran parallel to the trail I was on. I hiked up the first rise, maybe 60 vertical feet, nothing except another boulder-strewn rise beyond. Hiked that and Eureka! came upon Thomas Mountain Rd around 0845 hr. I made a mental note of where I popped out the woods and took pictures of the area too. From the road it was an easy stroll to the summit which I came upon just before 0930 hr. Stayed less than ten minutes and headed down at a fast pace, taking pictures occasionally of the beautiful carpets of purple bloom. After 30 minutes I noticed that I couldn't find the place where I had originally exited the woods and I came upon campsites I didn't remember passing. I asked a couple people in 4Wds but they were not hikers so they hadn't heard of the Ramona Trail. Doubling back I went down the Thomas Mtn Rd and saw a clear view of Palomar Mt along a switchback and knew I went too far. I also saw the terminus of the Ramona Trail (the left fork I should have originally taken: see critical error #1), but there was no marking so I didn't want to head downward not knowing if this was the correct trail or not. (I only figured this out after my hike was completed). After sometime along Thomas Mountain Rd I ran into the 4Wd driver whom I asked previously and while they were looking for a campsite he told me there was a trail marker below. This was critically valuable info and on a hunch I walked down the campground road and Eureka!, at 1112 hr. the site of critical error #2. I was home-free and headed down to the car which I reached at 1241 hr.

Cautionary note: This mountain is great for hiking esp. along the Ramona Trail, but unfortunately there are few trail signs. Even the campgrounds aren't labelled so if you are an uninitiated hiker, as I was, you may not know which campground is which on the map (Tool Box Sprgs CG?, Ramona CG?, & Thomas Mountain GC?), esp. if you go off-trail and beat a path through the woods. Previous trip reports I read mentioned confusion regarding trail and roads of which I am in total agreement. Again, on the ascent, when you come to the first junction below the campgrounds (which are still out of view) take the LEFT fork - and all will go smooth - this fork is denoted by a sign which reads "Ramona Trail" viewed from a descending direction, with an arrow heading down. The USFS really should do the opposite too, to avoid confusion, at this junction, a sign which denotes which fork is the Ramona Trail heading uphill. Mensch!

Pre-hydrated with 250 ml water, 300 ml protein shake. Drank 2/3 gallon water during hike.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Thomas Mountain (summit upper right not visible) from the lower reaches of the Ramona Trail (2019-06-09). Photo by Joseph Hirniak.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2305 ft / 702 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route:Ramona Trail/Thomas Mountain Rd
    Trailhead:Ramona Trailhead  4520 ft / 1377 m
    Grade/Class:1
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
warm, temperate depending upon elevation
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 



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