May 15th saw more of the Forest Service roads opened to the public. Given the amount of precipitation during the winter, we thought it was likely that the roads would be damaged. We decided to head to our favorite campsite, Yellow Post 54.
We went out Highway 38, east for about a mile and a half past Sugarloaf. The highway becomes straight, with a passing zone and just past the 7000′ marker, and take a right, across from Hatchery Road. The road is marked 2N93.
We lined ourselves up with this sign and set audometer to zero.
As we headed in, we found several streams still running through the road. The snow level is at about 8000′, and there is still plenty of snow cover in the higher elevations. We stopped at the trailhead to Sugarloaf (2E18) and there was stream covering the road.
Approximately 2.4 miles into the drive, we looked behind us and saw a spectacular 180 degree panoramic view of the Valley. We were able to see the Big Bear Lake with the snow tipped San Bernardino Mountains in the background, Baldwin Lake and the Mojave Desert. Baldwin Lake is full and has returned to its former status as a duck haven.
Eagle Point is to the right of the lake, while the community of Sugarloaf sits between us and Gold Mountain. We were able to see across the lake to Fawnskin with Hannah Rocks in the background. Fawnskin is a beautiful small community on the north shore of the lake. It serves as an entrance to Holcomb Valley and Southern California’s gold mining history.
We could also see the Solar Observatory on the edge of the north shore. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology owns the Observatory. Big Bear has more days of sunshine than almost anywhere else in the world. The abundant sunlight, coupled with the lake’s natural refractive quality, makes Big Bear an ideal location for a solar observatory.
At the edge of the east valley we were able see Lake Williams and Camp Oakes. The Pacific Crest Trail comes down from Onyx Summit, behind Lake Williams and the Camp, and parallels Baldwin Lake over to Highway 18 and then twists back into Holcomb Valley.
At about five miles into our drive we started into Balky Horse Canyon (a wonderful hike any time of year). There we occasional patches of snow coming down the other side of the canyon wall.
We continued on this road for a total of 6 miles and then turned left.
If you continue on instead of taking a left, you will come to a fabulous view of San Gorgonio Mountain. Highway 38 winds down past the mountains, through Angeles Oakes, and back down to the Valley floor and the Santa Ana River.
Up until this point, the roads had been typical of most California forest roads; riddled with large sharp rocks, requiring more clearance than most 2 wheel drive vehicles have. Now the road had become challenging. We had to clear a mud puddle the was several feet deep and almost caused us to throw the car into 4 wheel drive. This road hadn’t be driven on. The road was wet and rocky and there were a couple of serious piles of snow to plow through.
At 6.8 miles, we saw the picnic table and fire pit for Yellow Post Camp Site 54 on the left.
The flat area behind the picnic table is perfect for a two man tent. You will find yourself pitched on the edge of an alpine hillside, looking out to the Mojave Desert.
The campsite is almost always windy, so check the weather an be prepared for colder temperatures at this higher elevation.
The area is covered in manzanita, a thick, woody bush, with green leaves. It is impossible to walk through, even in heavy jeans.
The Forest Service allows camp fires at Yellow Post site through the beginning of Summer, depending on how dry the conditions are. Before you begin your trip, stop at the Discovery Center and pick up a fire permit. They’re free!
Distant sounds from Highway 38 can be heard. You can sit and listen to the abundant bird sounds in solitude. This campsite will also serve as a great base camp. A strenuous one to two hour hike will bring you to the top of the ridge with panoramic views of San Gorgonio Mountain, Big Bear Lake and the Mojave Desert.
We’ve camped at this site several times and have rarely seen other people. There are no other Yellow Post sites or public camping grounds for miles, making this camp site one of the best in Southern California!