Phelan’s Curve to Nowhere

PHOTO: T.A. Graydon- NewsPlus

Don't Blink or You'll Miss It: Signage is abundant, yet if overlooked, may be potentially dangerous.

Highways can be challenging when changing elevation and topography, creating dangerous driving scenarios. The south entrance to the town of Phelan, Ca. from the Cajon Pass and I-15 is such a hazard. Traveling west up the grade through the Mormon Rocks area and the Mountain Top Café, continue across the Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) signal to the one-and-only Sheep Creek Road off-ramp of the westbound 138. Due to geography, it is the only entrance from the south into the high desert town of Phelan, at 4,141 feet.

This exit is a curvy, speed-reducing adventure. After exiting CA-138, stay right. Pass the many mini billboards on the left, put down the coffee mug, and downshift to low, both hands on the wheel staying to the right. Slow down to make the left turn north towards Phelan and say, “Whew, I made it!” Happy to be facing North on Sheep Creek Road; you probably didn’t notice the absence of a returning lane back to the CA-138. That is because there isn’t one.

Out-of-towners passing on the southbound side may be in for an alarming experience. As they enter the exit ramp you came from, they will run into a collection of “Dead End,” “Do Not Enter, and Oncoming Traffic” signs waiting just around the curve. This is when the unsuspecting driver must immediately U-turn to the left to avoid a collision, going off-road, or both. The last curve on the southbound side of Sheep Creek Road leaves few choices for those who find themselves face to face with on-coming traffic, including sports cars, delivery trucks, and anything else on wheels exiting the westbound CA-138.

This situation currently leaves commuters from Phelan/Pinon Hills to Wrightwood with the detour of using Beekley Road South to reach CA-138 options. The detour signage is there but easily overlooked. Obvious attempts at rectifying this are present with a barrage of warning signs. No stranger to incident, the Sheep Creek off-ramp from State Highway 138 has a danger-laced history. Trying to avoid collision with another vehicle, a driver and passenger recently escaped injury when their U-Haul box-truck flipped over on its side, down the embankment.

Unfortunately, a similar vehicular tragedy occurred involving traffic coming from the opposite direction. This accident mirrored the conditions of the box truck with a different company logo lying on its side just after not making the curve on Sheep Creek Road. Escaping with only minor injuries, the driver was able to remove himself from the disabled vehicle. Snow, black ice, and dense fog are all common to the area in Winter and add to the dangers of this hazardous passage. A keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel approach may be a good idea on this roadway. For the present, Beekley Road is your easiest option. Returning to the highway from Phelan/Pinon Hills to CA-138 should be easier, but for now, when trying to leave Phelan from the south, do not use Sheep Creek Road, and this curve to nowhere because there is nowhere to go.

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