Sesquicentennial Celebration
The Establishment of the San Bernardino Meridian Initial Point

The Picnic
Saturday November 9, 2002
County Regional Park, Yucaipa CA
By Bruce Hedquist, PLS

Despite heavy rains, fortunately without much wind, the San Bernardino Meridian Initial Point’s Sesquicentennial Celebration ended up a success. Aside from walking around, or should I say  "slopping around" between the exhibit booths, under pop-up tents serving to keep the various exhibit materials reasonably dry, the 200 plus attendees kept themselves as dry as possible, by sitting at large picnic tables under a much larger tent.

At approximately 10 am, the opening ceremonies began, moderated by the lively bon-vivant (sic) David Paul Johnson. The first speaker was a lifelong local resident of the Inland Empire, who’s not a surveyor, but whose family dates back to the 1850’s! He gave us a very interesting historical account of the Inland Empire area, beginning with the local indigenous people, followed by the Spanish-Mexican colonial period and the Ranchos. Then he discussed the Mormon, as well as other "highly competitive Anglo” settlements in the area. His final comments led nicely into Mike Duffy's talk about early reconnaissance surveys, led by Major Leander Ransom in 1851. Mike then described the quite arduous several month long establishment of the Initial Point by Colonel Henry Washington (George's nephew), culminating on November 8, 1852. Mike Duffy finished with a talk on the subsequent land surveys, performed by the likes of GLO surveyors Colonel Rice, Major Pierce and Mr. Hancock.

Then awards and plaques were presented to various key participants, especially hard-earned ones to three local Eagle Scouts and five girl scouts. The boy scouts had built in the park, next to the picnic area, a full size semi-permanent wooden replica of Henry Washington's original stone and wood IP monument. The boy scouts also built a 3-foot high rock commemorative cairn nearby, with a plaque to explain the purpose of the original 150-year-old IP, located high up on the mountain ridge behind it.

The girl scouts, at the time of the picnic, were still building a cairn. It’s similar to the boy scout’s cairn, but located about a hundred yards up a hiking trail leading to the original IP, near the San Bernardino Trail Head, located off SR38 in Angeles Oaks, CA, several miles away. Their hard work was temporarily delayed by the Forest Service's decision to close the forest, only one day before the long planned Commemorative Hike in October of 2002. But it was a good decision by them, due to the very severe fire danger present. The forest was reopened one week before the picnic, thanks to the new and abundant rainfall. Talk about some bad timing! Land surveyors seem to be cursed sometimes!

After a fine lunch, provided by Jose's Mexican Restaurant, the time finally arrived for the long awaited "Surveyor Games". One of these games was "Guess the Distance to the IP". That game particularly intrigued me. So I started to plan on how I was going to obtain the distance, between the replica IP and the original IP high up on the mountain. I had forgotten to bring my trusty hand-held Magellan GPS'er, Dah! I also forgot to bring any local USGS quad map(s), or even a customized map I made the month before, using TOPO! Software. The map was made especially for the cancelled October hike. But it would have been of limited use anyhow, since it did not include coverage of the replica IP's site. Nor did I have my HP-48 with me, with a neat geodetic inverse program loaded into it. So I had to resort to some very "low tech" methods.

The geodetic coordinates of the original IP, i.e., "Washington's Monument", were quite difficult to obtain from anybody. Gee I wonder why? I researched the various exhibit areas, finding very little useful information. The few maps on exhibit, limited in number of course by the rather wet conditions, weren't of much help either. Likewise, the replica IP's coordinates were also being held "close to vest" by most of the participants. I did eventually "con" Marti Ikehara into providing me a very "quick-fix", via her trusty Trimble Scout. And Gara Cross was kind enough to give me her own customized quad map, which had some useful geodetic coordinates for the original IP, i.e., ticks along the map's margin at every 2 minutes of arc. Other than that, all I had to go by was some personal "local knowledge" gleaned from my having lived in Yucaipa, for nearly 7 years, between 1993 and 1999.

I estimated the replica IP's location in the park to be about 1-1/4 miles north of the T1S-T2S Township line and about one mile west of the R1W-R2W Range line. Initially, I came up with a guess of about 8-1/2 miles, "as the crow flies", i.e., if that old nasty bird will just fly straight and level! Given the new useful information I now had, I figured I could whittle my preliminary estimate down to a few hundred feet or so. As I said, Gara's 1:100,000 map had 2-minute ticks approximately every 1.5 inches N-S (less E-W). That nice souvenir "Yogi Bear Ruler", kindly supplied by the Forest Service people earlier, now came in real handy. With it, I could better scale off the original IP's latitude and longitude from the map and account for the fact that the south meridian line was 600 feet east of Washington’s Monument. Knowing the replica’s position, I then calculated the arithmetic difference in latitude between the two points, converting it to minutes of arc and then multiplying this N-S difference by the approximate 1853 meters per minute of arc. I did likewise for the longitudinal E-W difference, and now the “convergence factor". Hmm… cosine of the latitude? … Hey anyone got a HP calculator? Finally, I used that ol'  Pythagoreus’s (sic) theorem, and voila!! The geodetic distance, accurate to perhaps 30 meters or so, maybe? Maybe NOT?  I figured the winner would probably get to within a meter or two, maybe to within a few cm's. Some vendor had even done a recent GPS-RTK survey, I think.

But Man! Just as I was sitting down in the relative comfort of the big tent, now absent of most people and even most tables, to finish my "arduous" computational chores, a certain Mr. Mike Duffy grimly announces over the PA system that due to a distinct and obvious, except to me of course, lack of interest, "The Games" have been cancelled! I looked around outside and I saw mostly everyone had split already! Oh well. You know what? I still haven't determined the correct distance value. Maybe I’ll do it sometime. Mike later said he thought it was 8.12 miles.

NEWS FLASH!! Using TOPO! At work, I carefully scaled off UTM coordinates at each of the two points and calculated the distance to be 13,385 meters or 8.317 miles. A tad off from Mike’s number. Hmmm… Perhaps someone can confirm or comment.

Finally, the next day, with a local surveyor friend, I returned to the replica in the park. It was a beautiful sunny day. Standing in front of the rock cairn, I carefully lined up the marker line on the plaque with the center of the IP replica monument's vertical post, looking up towards the visible west ridge of Mount San Bernardino, where Washington's IP monument is located. Oh No! I noticed the LOS was clearly east of Mt. San Bernardino Peak, not west! Oops!! I know we’re not going to rotate that plaque. Heck with it! Who’s going to know besides us?

Bruce Hedquist, PLS

To find out more about San Bernardino Mountain itself, click here to visit San Gorgonio Wilderness Association's website.

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