Mt. Hillyer, 5.6 miles RT, 1,112' +/-, max elevation 6,207', January 1, 2019

Mt. Hillyer, 5.6 miles RT, 1,112' +/-, max elevation 6,207', January 1, 2019

Our first hike of 2019 was to Mount Hillyer. I love this hike. There’s so much going on. Lots of great rock formations and change of scenery along the way. It was 39 degrees at Chilao where we picked up the Silver Moccasin Trail with wind gusts up to 50 mph expected at the summit. We had a great hike up. The breezy day was refreshing and there’s not much exposure on this trail with all the boulders, so we were protected from the wind for most of the route. There was a downed tree on the switchbacks of the Silver Moccasin trail. I’m not sure if it was caused by the winds, but luckily it was easy to maneuver over. As we continued our journey upward, the winds became stronger. My core was warm with all my layers, but for some dumb reason I didn’t wear a bottom base layer under my hiking pants. I don’t know where my head was this morning. I knew there would be a wind chill, and I’m usually the one who is over prepared with too much gear. When we reached the gusty summit, I could feel the tops of my legs getting numb. We hauled butt pretty quickly down off the exposed mountain top. I haven’t felt that numb feeling set in since Pennsylvania when I would spend the entire day at the barn riding and taking care of my horses in temperatures below zero some days! Once out of the big gusts, my legs warmed up and we continued our descent. About 1:30 pm, we heard a loud roar in the sky. As we looked up we saw two B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers flying overhead. They were probably headed back to base after the Rose Parade. Last year we got to see one of them from the top of Waterman Mountain. I didn’t think we’d get to see that this year, but we actually got to see two of them! It was a great way to begin the New Year!

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Mt. Pinos Snow Hike, 3.8 miles RT, max elevation 8,848', 515' +/-, December 30, 2018

Mt. Pinos Snow Hike, 3.8 miles RT, max elevation 8,848', 515' +/-, December 30, 2018

Today was a nice, low key snow hike around Mt. Pinos.  The weather was predicted to be in the upper 30s with wind gusts up to 30 mph.  We put on our layers and headed to Los Padres National Forest, which is just about an hour and thirty minute drive from Burbank.  We arrived at the Nordic Base around 9:30 am. This is actually a lot later then I usually like to be on the trail, but since this was going to be an easy day with not much mileage to cover, I didn’t mind sleeping in and waiting for the weather to warm up a few degrees.  Los Padres is absolutely beautiful in the snow. There was about 2 to 4 inches on the ground. We hiked the trail to the junction with the Vincent Tumamait Trail. The wind was pretty strong on the exposed switchbacks, and we did not continue on to Sawmill Mountain as we’ve done in the warmer months.  I took a lot of photos of the twisted limber pines in the snow and enjoyed the views and the crisp, winter air before heading back. It was a perfect winter day and great hike to close out the year.

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Devil's Chair, 6.7 miles RT, 1, 260' +/-, 5,396' max. elevation, December 27, 2018

Devil's Chair,  6.7 miles RT, 1, 260' +/-, 5,396' max. elevation, December 27, 2018

I love the hike to Devil’s Chair. We did it in October of 2017 and it’s a beautiful part of the San Gabriels hidden away to the far north. The geological formations that have been formed throughout the years by the San Andreas and Punchbowl Faults are an incredible spectacle to witness firsthand. This area is also a transition zone between high desert and subalpine, and it’s interesting to see how the plants change as you travel the undulating trail. This time it seemed the trail was a bit more eroded in sections then the last time we hiked it, but it was still easily passable without being unsafe. As we approached the Devil’s Chair we descended the switchbacks and navigated the over narrow, rocky cliffs. Thankfully, there’s a metal fence put in place here that allows you to go all the way out to the edge. Otherwise you would not be able to hike here. The views from the Chair were spectacular. Once we’d taken it all in, we climbed back up and had a quick snack break before starting our return. The clouds were starting to roll in and it looked pretty chilly up in the higher elevations on Pleasant View Ridge and Mt. Lewis. The temperature dropped to about 43 degrees as we made our way back and the wind kicked up making it a chilly end to a beautiful winter day.

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Descanso Gardens, December 23, 2018

Descanso Gardens, December 23, 2018

I woke up Sunday morning feeling inspired. It had been a while since I’d last visited Descanso Gardens. I used to go there every weekend to take photos of the flowers, the trees, the plants, and through the years, I’ve come to know the garden with it’s changing seasons quite intimately. Now that I’ve been spending most of my weekends hiking, I just don’t have as much time to spend visiting the garden. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed being here until my walk this morning. It felt so refreshing and it was, as usual, beautiful. I’m going to make it a plan in the new year to create a balance so that I can still set aside some time to visit this enchanted place.

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Icy Pacifico Mountain and Snowy Waterman Mountain Hike, 8.6 Miles, 1,729' total +/-, Maximum Elevation 7,824', December 9, 2018

Icy Pacifico Mountain and Snowy Waterman Mountain Hike, 8.6 Miles, 1,729' total +/-, Maximum Elevation 7,824', December 9, 2018

Today we set out to hike from Mill Creek Summit on the Pacific Crest Trail and up to the Pacifico Mountain Campground. I knew this mountain was a north face, and I had a feeling we might encounter some icy patches on the trail, but we decided to give it a go. I knew there would be some snow up at the campground after the recent rain, and I wanted to take advantage of that since we never know what kind of winter we’ll have here in Southern California. We were about two miles into the hike and we started to come across patches of hard packed ice. We had microspikes to slip onto our boots for traction, but if we were to continue, coming down would be sketchy. Neither one of us wanted to risk spraining an ankle, so we decided to turn around and head back. Since it was still early in the day, we drove to Charlton Flats, had some lunch and then drove up to Waterman Mountain which I knew would be reliable for a nice snow hike. It was about 12:30 when we started on the trail and I expected to see many more people hiking, but it was actually very quiet. Most of the snow play folks stayed on the fire road or over at the Buckhorn day use area and there were very few people hiking up the Waterman Mountain trail. The few people we past were hiking with dogs in tow, or rather I should say they were in tow of their dogs. That’s the one thing I love about hiking… seeing all the happy dogs on the trail. As we got higher up, we seemed to be the only people on the trail. The sky was gray with overcast clouds and the mountain seemed still and peaceful. It was around 2:15 when we reached the Twin Peaks junction which is about 3/4 miles away from the Waterman Mountain summit. At this point we both decided it was time to head back to make sure we returned safely before the sun set and the temperatures dropped and turned the melting snow to ice. We both went home satisfied after spending another beautiful day in our Southern California mountains.

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Switzer Camp to Bear Canyon, 4.8 Miles RT, 3,362' Max Elevation, 978' +/-, December 2, 2018

Switzer Camp to Bear Canyon, 4.8 Miles RT, 3,362' Max Elevation, 978' +/-, December 2, 2018

Sunday was our first hike in about a month since my husband and I were busy moving most of November. Late Sunday morning we headed up Angeles Crest Highway with a bunch of maps, but no real commitment to any particular trail. As we passed by the entrance to Switzer Camp the overflow parking along the highway didn’t look too busy. We turned in and headed down to see how it was looking. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too packed for a weekend. Some of the oaks were still holding onto their color, so it was a nice treat since we didn’t get to experience much of the fall weather this year. The stroll along the Arroyo Seco was very pleasant, and we crossed the stream a number of times. I think the last time we hiked this all the way to Bear Canyon Trail Camp last March, I counted a total of 50-something crossings round trip. It was a beautiful day. Perfect hiking weather; a little chilly to start, but we warmed up as we kept going. On the cliffs we passed by the ruins of the old Switzer-land chapel and then descended down towards Switzer Falls. We decided to forgo the falls this time and continue on to the Bear Canyon Trail knowing there’d be lots of pretty cascades along the way and a lot less traffic. We hiked in as far as the junction where the two streams intersect, and then continued on a bit farther to where the going becomes less maintained. We stopped about a mile short of the campground this time. It was getting later in the day and we wanted to make sure we got back before the sun started to set. It was a nice way to ease back into the hiking routine again, and we could not have asked for a more perfect day.

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Warm and Cozy on Table Mountain, October 7 & 8, 2018

Warm and Cozy on Table Mountain, October 7 & 8, 2018

We hiked along the PCT in Wrightwood from Inspiration Point and across Blue Ridge to kill time before checking in at our campsite at Table Mountain. This section of the PCT has great views of Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy). It passes by Mountain High Ski Resort and continues on past the Blue Ridge Campground. Some of the oaks were starting to change color, and it finally felt like fall. We did just over two miles on the trail before it was time to head to camp and get set up so we could settle in and enjoy the evening.

The weather in Wrightwood was chilly! I knew we’d be in for a cold night, but I was looking forward to snuggling up inside the tent in our sleeping bags. After we made camp, we headed into town to pick up a pizza and bring it back to camp for dinner. No point in cooking when you have a pizza shop 10 minutes away! Wrightwood is such a cute little town. It’s a nice change compared to the chaos and sprawl of Los Angeles. All the shops were decorated for Halloween and I even spotted a pumpkin growing outside the Wrightwood Market. As we walked around town waiting for the pizza, I felt that warm and cozy feeling I used to get growing up in Pennsylvania when the seasons would change from summer to fall. This is exactly how it should be this time of year.

When we arrived back at camp, we got the fire going right away. The autumn days are getting shorter and it wouldn’t be long before sunset. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company and the warmth of the crackling fire. As the daylight faded and darkness set in, the night sky filled with endless stars. We were almost ready to call it a night when we noticed a bright white light appear in the sky. We watched it as it continued to travel in a southwest direction until finally disappearing. Neither of us knew what it was, but guessed it might have been a comet or some sort of rocket. We didn’t find out until we got back to the city and had cell service that it was, in fact, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch. What a sight to see from on top of a mountain in the middle of a forest!

The next morning we were in no hurry to get up from our warm sleeping bags. We slept in until well after sunrise. When we did finally get up, we built a fire to keep warm in the chilly morning air, then made coffee and breakfast. There was no rush to be anyplace else, so we took our time and later did a walk around the campground and enjoyed the views from high up on the mountain before it was eventually time to check out and head back to civilization.

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Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

My husband and I did a sunset hike on Mt. Lowe this past Sunday. We drove up to Eaton Saddle, followed the Mt. Lowe Fire Road through the Mueller Tunnel to Markham Saddle and then picked up the trail to the Mt. Lowe summit. I really like this area a lot. There’s never very many people and you get some great views of the rugged San Gabriels. The hike to the summit is a short one, but it was perfect for a day when we didn’t have time to do a long hike. The views are pretty great too. As the sun began to sink behind the Santa Monica Mountains to the west, we started to make our way back down the mountain. We reached Markham Saddle just 10 minutes before the sunset then stopped to enjoy the show as the light faded from orange, to pink and finally inky black. It was a little spooky coming back through the Mueller Tunnel in the dark, but the city below us lit up in a romantic, sparkling glow of lights. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend!

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Red Box to Valley Forge Trail Camp, Gabrielino Trail, 6 Miles RT, 4,868' Max Elevation, 1,276' +/-, September 23, 2018

Red Box to Valley Forge Trail Camp, Gabrielino Trail, 6 Miles RT, 4,868' Max Elevation, 1,276' +/-, September 23, 2018

Today we hiked the Gabrielino Trail East from Red Box to Valley Forge Trail Camp with the option to continue on to West Fork and Devore Trail Camps if we felt up to it. With the cool morning temperatures and the trail covered in falling leaves from the towering oaks that surrounded us, it was finally starting to feel like fall. The first part of the trail descended the steep stone steps from the Red Box picnic area then continued down some exposed switchbacks. It wasn’t long until we were in the cool shade of the oaks following the trail along the South Fork of the San Gabriel River. The stream was dry at this time of year, but that didn’t stop the gnats from bothering us. Luckily, we were prepared and always have our bug nets with us which prevented the pesky insects from flying into our eyes.

On our route we passed by some cabins and the ruins of an old, stone chimney. After about two miles, we reached the junction for the Valley Forge Trail Camp that was marked with a sign at the spur. We descended the spur to the camp to check it out and see if it was a place we’d like to stay as a future backpacking trip. The camp was lovely with plenty of shade, fire rings, picnic tables and primitive bathrooms. We set up at one of the picnic tables and decided to stay a while. I made friends with a Steller’s Jay who invited himself to our breakfast table. It was a very nice day and we were thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet! This hike along this section of the Gabrielino Trail reminded me a bit of Santa Anita Canyon sans the crowds. We will definitely be coming back when the weather cools down a bit more to hike the longer routes to West Fork and Devore Trail Camps, and perhaps enjoy an overnight stay.

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Car Camping Table Mountain Campground, Wrightwood, CA September 15 & 16, 2018

Car Camping Table Mountain Campground, Wrightwood, CA September 15 & 16, 2018

This weekend was our first overnight camping adventure! We decided to start at an established campground with all the amenities (water, fire ring, picnic table, bathrooms) so we chose Table Mountain in Wrightwood. This is a beautiful campground that sits on top of the mountain at an elevation of 7,000’. There are great views from the camp, but it can get windy at night so we reserved a campsite ahead of time that had some protection from the wind. We had wanted to get to camp earlier in the day and do some hiking, but I underestimated the amount of time we’d be stuck in traffic on the way there. Usually, when we make the drive to Wrightwood, we leave very early in the morning before the freeways have time to get jammed. It was around 4 pm when we arrived which gave us just enough time to set up camp, build a fire and make dinner before the sun set. Once we were settled in, we sat by the fire relaxing and roasting marshmallows for making s’mores. It was a beautiful night with perfect weather. The forest was so peaceful with only the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Our new tent and sleeping bags served us well. Around 2:30 am my husband and I both woke up and went outside to look up at the stars. It’s not often we get to see so many of them since we live in the city. In the morning (I think it was sometime after 6:30 am) I awoke to the sound of chickadees chirping outside our tent. We were so relaxed that we ended up just hanging around camp all morning in our sleeping clothes, cooking breakfast and drinking coffee. There was no rush to go anywhere or do anything besides sit in the warm morning sun enjoying the peace and quiet. I got a kick out of watching the birds take turns diving into my cooking pan to get the pancake crumbs leftover from breakfast.

Originally, when we got all our gear I really thought we would be using it mostly for backpacking overnights. But now that we’ve done car camping, I can absolutely see us doing this more often. It’s a great way to spend the weekend when you just want to get away, detox from the stress of everyday life and unplug from the electronics that we are unfortunately forced to be glued to all week long at our jobs. We’re already making plans for the next overnight adventure, and I can hardly wait!

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Backpacking to Little Jimmy Campground and Mount Islip, 8 Miles RT, Max Elevation 8,287', 1,781 +/-, September 9, 2018

Backpacking to Little Jimmy Campground and Mount Islip, 8 Miles RT, Max Elevation 8,287',  1,781 +/-, September 9, 2018

We had a great day backpacking to Little Jimmy Campground and the top of Mount Islip. We started the hike from Islip Saddle on the PCT. This time the gear in my backpack didn’t feel as overwhelming. I’m learning how to better adjust the pack which makes it more comfortable. After the first steep section of trail which passed through rabbit brush covered in nectaring insects, we climbed upward through lush pine trees which offered us plenty of shade. We’d hiked this trail last year, and I’d almost forgotten how beautiful it was. Along the route, we passed a few boy scout troops heading down from Little Jimmy. I was certain with the weekend crowd heading out, we’d find a spot to set up our tent and have breakfast. As we got closer, the smell of coffee lingered in the air. I was glad we’d soon be enjoying a cup of our own.

After finding a spot setting up the tent was easy. They make it pretty simple these days. I’m sure we’ll make mistakes here and there, but that’s why we’re doing practice drills.

After breakfast and with less gear, we set off to hike to the top of Mount Islip. My backpack seemed feather light without the tent, sleeping bag, etc. We cruised on up the trail like it was nothing. Just before reaching the high point, the old fire lookout ruins came into view. Mount Islip has such a beautiful peak and there was hardly a soul on it. We explored the ruins, enjoyed the views and I snapped a ridiculous amount of photos before descending.

Once arriving back at camp, we had a snack then hiked to Little Jimmy Spring to fill up our water. The spring water tasted cool and refreshing. We brought some back with us to make one last cup of coffee before packing up our gear and heading back.

One thing I’d noticed while still at camp was that there was a smoke smell in the air that didn’t seem like it was coming from the camp. As we descended the mountain, the smoke became more apparent. I hiked up to a high point next to the trail with a view looking down towards Crystal Lake. The canyon was filled with smoke. We were less than half a mile from Islip Saddle and we could see cars coming and going on Angeles Crest Highway. We were concerned, but not alarmed. Cars were being diverted out of the Crystal Lake area onto the normally closed section of Highway 39. When we arrived back at the trailhead, another hiker asked us if we had seen the fire. Apparently a brush fire had broken out in San Gabriel Canyon above Azusa near Highway 39, but it must have happened just after we left the peak. I hope everyone was evacuated safely.

Happy to be back safe and sound, we called it a day and headed home. We had a wonderful time and will be back again when we can spend the night at Little Jimmy Camp.

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Backpacking Test Run to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, 7 miles RT, 8,116' Max Elevation, 1,404' +/-, September 2, 2018

Backpacking Test Run to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, 7 miles RT, 8,116' Max Elevation, 1,404' +/-, September 2, 2018

I had my mind made up about wanting to transition from day hiking to backpacking. Once I get my mind set on something, I obsess over it until it happens. After spending a couple of weeks doing research, I felt confident enough to head over to REI and make the investment. We spent the following day setting up camp in the living room and practicing packing our backpacks. Sunday morning (also my birthday), we headed out with all our new gear to Wrightwood to hike the Blue Ridge Trail. The Blue Ridge trail was a perfect trail to get a feel for the new packs with the additional weight we’d be carrying on a backpacking trip. I picked this trail because it’s well maintained, it’s not too steep and there is no scree which makes it a great place for a worry free trial run. There’s also a bit of altitude (over 8,000’ at the ridge) and about 1,000’ of gain in two miles. Both of us carried over 20% of our bodyweight which slowed us down from our normal day hiking pace. But backpacking, to me, is a different mindset. It’s not about rushing to bag a peak or hiking to be at a certain place by a certain time. This is a quote from one of my hiking books that could not sum up how I feel about backpacking any better:

“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I believe backpacking is going to take us on exciting new journeys into the wilderness and offer us amazing experiences that will make our lives even richer. In a few weeks, we’ll be setting up camp for the first time to enjoy our first overnight in the forest. I’m really excited about all of this and looking forward to many adventures to come!

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Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

For my upcoming birthday I asked my husband for a Jetboil cooking system. It would be the first item in a long list of backpacking gear that we’re going to need to make the crossover from day hikers to backpackers. Since I’d been looking for an excuse to make the short hike up the little bump called Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak if you’re using a Tom Harrison map), we headed up to the mountain to test the new cooking system and spend a quiet morning together.

We hit the trail just after 6 am. After a very short distance we took the path leading up to the peak. There appeared to be a number of fire roads around to explore, but we were ready to get cooking and I couldn’t wait for a hot cup of coffee. The Jetboil system did not disappoint! For breakfast I’d packed a couple of Eggo waffles (my favorite) and brought along a freeze dried breakfast scramble from Mountain House. Overall, it was pretty good. I definitely could live on this stuff for a couple of days in the backcountry. After eating, we got comfortable on one of the large, flat bounders looking towards Waterman Mountain and Twin Peaks and napped for a short while. After a peaceful rest and stomachs full of interesting freeze dried food, we packed up our gear and did some exploring around the mountain both on and off-trail. An unmaintained road/trail took us northeast around the bump and offered views looking towards Pleasant View Ridge. We also saw a lot of deer; mostly doe and one with a young fawn. The road/trail eventually disappeared and we made a scramble up the east side of the mountain before heading back the way we came. It was around 11 am when we got back to the car. We thanked Mount Akawie for the hospitality and headed home to enjoy what was left of our weekend.

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Mt. Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, 5.8 miles RT, 10,032' Max elevation, 1,824' +/-, August 20, 2018

Mt. Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, 5.8 miles RT, 10,032' Max elevation, 1,824' +/-, August 20, 2018

We only had two short days to spend in the Eastern Sierra, so on the second day after having hiked to Kearsarge Pass the day before, we decided upon something shorter since we’d be heading back to Los Angeles on this day.  I knew the hike to Lone Pine Lake on the Mount Whitney Trail was only about 5.8 miles round trip, and although I am not always keen on hiking busy trails (this one probably being the most popular trail in all of California) I decided to suck it up and give it a go. 

On Saturday the day we arrived, we actually drove up to the Whitney Portal just to check it out.  I have to admit I was pretty starstruck knowing that every year about 30,000 people try for the summit of the tallest peak in the lower 48.  Just for fun, we weighed our backpacks at the weigh station, and my day pack weighed in at 15 pounds.  

On this Monday morning as we began the hike to Lone Pine Lake, the first section of the Mount Whitney Trail reminded me very much of a typical Southern California hiking trail.  The grade was steady and not too strenuous as we ascended through pine trees, passed by wildflowers, a grazing doe and crossed over a few streams.  We were surrounded by the towering walls of majestic granite cliffs that opened up to views down into the Owens Valley, Alabama Hills and White Mountains off in the distance.  At about 2.8 miles we reached the junction for Lone Pine Lake and followed the trail to the shores of the lake’s stunningly beautiful cobalt blue waters.  After spending some time exploring the lake, we hiked a little further on the Mount Whitney Trail to the posted sign for the permit only Mount Whitney Zone even though we knew we would not be going any further today.  As we looked longingly up trail towards Outpost Camp, several groups of hikers passed us crossing over into the zone with their permits hanging from their backpacks like little battle flags.  I could not help feeling a bit jealous wishing I were one of them, but also knowing I would not want to attempt hiking Mount Whitney in just one day.  On this trail, my husband and I made a pact that we would start collecting the gear and learning how to backpack.  It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while now, but seeing this mountain in person for the first time seemed to inspire us to get the ball rolling.  Perhaps someday we too would be one of the many hikers who journey to the top of this peak, but for today we would just take it all in before it was time to head back home leaving the Sierra until next time.

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Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass, 11 miles RT, Max elevation 11,835', 2,972' +/- August 19, 2018

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass, 11 miles RT, Max elevation 11,835', 2,972' +/- August 19, 2018

The trek from Onion Valley to the top of Kearsarge Pass was a spectacular day hike! The Kearsarge Pass Trail heads west from the trailhead at Onion Valley entering the John Muir Wilderness at approximately .7 miles. On this 11 mile round trip journey, we passed through foxtail pine forests, crossed over boulder fields, hiked alongside waterfalls and aquamarine colored lakes filled with golden trout. A final rigorous high altitude ascent up a barren, rocky slope lead us to Kearsarge Pass where the trail crests the Sierra at an altitude of 11,835 breathtaking feet! We were rewarded with the most sublime views I have ever seen; the glaciated Sierra peaks, sparkling turquoise pools of water and views into Kings Canyon National Park. Here are some photos with captions below each to describe our incredible journey.

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Winston Ridge & Winston Peak, 5 Miles RT, 1,358 +/-, 7,618' max elevation, August 12, 2018

Winston Ridge & Winston Peak,  5 Miles RT, 1,358 +/-, 7,618' max elevation, August 12, 2018

We watched the sunrise from Cloudburst Summit as we geared up and got ready to hike to Winston Ridge and Winston Peak. We’d been to Winston Peak a few times before, but we had climbed it from the north side. This time our plan was to hike to Winston Ridge first (which we had not done) and then tackle the steep ascent up the use trail on the south side of the mountain to Winston Peak. We began the hike by descending the fire road and heading northwest on the PCT. When we reached a small saddle with Bump 6903 we had a choice to climb up and over the bump or hike around it to the left or to the right. From the research I’d done it seemed taking the use trail to the left was going to be our best option. The trail was quite rugged with soft dirt and loose rock that would give way if you weren’t careful. We had a number of downed trees to negotiate as well. There was one rather large tree that was particularly challenging. (I will talk more about that later.) This rugged section of trail tested our agility for sure, but it was definitely a lot of fun. When we reached another saddle, we continued northwest to reach the high point on the ridge. The hike along the ridge was undulating and lovely with views of Squaw Canyon to the south and Pleasant View ridge on the opposite side. We could also see the transition zone from forest to desert. We hiked past the high point on the ridge and came to a rock formation that reminded me of the back of a stegosaurus sticking out of the ground. I examined it looking for a way to get around it, but it looked a little sketchy, so I opted not to continue any further. We took a long break on the ridge and chatted about how nice it was to be the only ones here. For such a fun hike I was surprised it didn’t have more people on it. But being I like my solitude, I was not complaining. I explored some of the interesting rock formations and checked out the views in all directions while my husband made some contacts on his HAM radio. Before continuing the journey, we signed the summit register which was tucked away in some rocks marked by a rock cairn. We then started heading back enjoying the views and the scenery along the ridge. As we got closer to the saddle, I had a good perspective of that very large downed tree I’d mentioned earlier. We had climbed over it on the way to the ridge and it looked awfully menacing from this angle. When we reached the downed tree, my husband went over first (as we had done on the way to the ridge) so I could hand him my backpack making it easier for me to maneuver up and over. The footing here was loose, and we had to be extra careful. We continued along the slippery slope and at one point we diverted slightly off trail after negotiating another downed tree. We could see the saddle and Winston Peak right in front of us and were able to correct ourselves right away. Once back at the junction with the PCT, we had the choice of hiking back the way we came, or we could make the steep ascent up the south side of Winston Peak on a use trail. We decided to take on the challenge! The climb showed no mercy, but it sure was fun! The ground wasn’t nearly as slippery as what we’d experienced on the way to the ridge. I turned around to look back a few times to take in the wonderful views of Winston Ridge and snap some photos. This was also a good excuse to catch my breath. The climb seemed to go on and on, but I could see the top and I knew we’d be there in no time. Once at the top of Winston Peak, we gave each other a high five. We both felt pretty accomplished! I wandered around the summit for a while climbing about the rock formations and keeping an eye out for a summit register. I never did find one. We then descended down the north side of the mountain and back to Cloudburst Summit. I had actually wanted to include the short hike to Mount Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) on this trip, but both of us decided what we really wanted was a bacon cheeseburger and some fries! It was well earned after this climb!

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Kratka Ridge 7,515' and Peak 7160, 2.4 miles RT, 948 +/-, August 5, 2018

Kratka Ridge 7,515' and Peak 7160, 2.4 miles RT, 948 +/-, August 5, 2018

Kratka Ridge has been on my radar to hike for quite some time. We made a plan this weekend to go check it out and when mapping out the route, I added nearby Peak 7160 to the plan. The whole hike was only a little over two miles, but in that short distance we were offered amazing views, a fun, steep climb and plenty of solitude. We arrived at the trailhead at the Vista Picnic Area around 6:30 am. The route wasted no time ascending quickly and offering great views. As we continued there were sections where the ground was soft and the footing was loose making the going more challenging. It wasn’t long before we reached the ruins of an old, wooden ski lift that had been in operation from the 1950s up until 2001. Now its deteriorating structure sits abandoned with single seat ski lift chairs hanging from the cables. We spent some time exploring the structure and tried to imagine what it had been like when it was up and running. We sat inside the old ruins looking down the mountain towards the rickety lift chairs enjoying each other’s company and the quiet of the morning until it was time to continue up to the high point on Kratka ridge. Behind the ski lift I discovered what looked to be a use trail that would require some scrambling up rocks and tree roots to reach the top. I continued to explore the area looking for the best way up and just a little further past the wooden structure I found another use trail on the side of the slope that would also take us to the top. The trail was narrow and a bit loose, but I felt comfortable enough to negotiate it to reach the high point from this route. At the top of Kratka Ridge we were rewarded with some of the most excellent views of Bear Creek Canyon and the San Gabriel Wilderness I have ever seen. I could identify Mount Williamson, Waterman Mountain, Twin Peaks and many of the other surrounding mountains from the viewpoint. After we were done taking it all in, we found another faint trail which followed the wilderness boundary. I figured it would take us back to the scramble behind the lift and sure enough it did. We then began our descent down the mountain being extra careful on the slippery sections. As we descended I could see Peak 7160 right in front of us. There wasn’t much of an established way up, so we started heading towards its high point. The ascent was steep, but the footing was fine. Along the way I found a heart that someone had made out of pine cones. When we reached the summit, I found another one made out of stones. So cute! From Peak 7160 we had a great view looking back over at Kratka ridge and down into the canyon. It was a lovely day. Although it was short, this hike is definitely a favorite!

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Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

The best time for hiking during the hot summer months is EARLY! I like to be on the trail either before sunrise or shortly after so I can enjoy my time on the trail before the day heats up. This is also the time of year when I like to stick to the high country or look for higher elevation hikes which are usually a bit cooler than those at the lower altitudes. Mount Williamson was the perfect hike for today; a short 5 miles from the Islip Saddle trailhead with a little bit of an elevation gain and a fun climb. The early morning sunlight was brilliant as we headed up the trail which starts off on the PCT. It wasn’t long before views of Mount Islip opened up to the south on the opposite side of the Angeles Crest Highway. The hike to Mount Williamson is a fun one. We did this last year in September and I really enjoyed it. The climb is mostly steady until you get closer to the top where you leave the PCT and the trail to Mt. Williamson becomes quite steep and rugged. Once at the top we had wonderful 360 degree views. It was only us on the summit so we took our time, had some snacks and after orienting my map, I spread it out and secured it with some rocks so I could use it to identify some of the surrounding features of the area. Many of the surrounding peaks were visible including Mount Lewis, Mount Baden-Powell, Throop Peak, Mount Hawkins and Twin Peaks to name a few. To the north I could see all the way out to the Mojave Desert and to the southwest I had a nice view of Williamson Rock, which was once popular with rock climbers until the area was closed off to protect the mountain yellow-legged frog. It was barley 9 am and already I could feel the sun starting to heat up the day, so we headed back enjoying our time on the trail and the sweet, vanilla fragrance of the Jeffery pines along the way.

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Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

We headed into the local mountains on Sunday for a nice easy day of hiking in the Los Padres National Forest.  We did a short 8 mile hike to Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain.  We did these peaks in May of this year and at that time we also added Grouse Mountain which completed the 3-2-1 challenge.  (Check out  mymountainchamber.com for info. on the challenge.) .  It's a lovely area to explore.  This time around the weather was much warmer then the last when it was cool and cloudy.  I got to see some butterflies and the highlight of my day, a horned lizard.  He blended in so well with his surroundings that I could barely see hime when looking through my camera lens.  After reaching Sawmill Mountain and taking in the views from there, we decided to head back before the day got too hot.  This was a nice hike to ease us back into it after an incredible 3 days spent in the Eastern Sierra.

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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Methuselah Walk, 4.5 miles RT, 10,183' max elevation, 1,000' +/-, July 11, 2018

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Methuselah Walk, 4.5 miles RT, 10,183' max elevation, 1,000' +/-, July 11, 2018

On Wednesday morning we drove up to the White Mountains/Big Pine area to spend a day exploring the land of the ancients at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where a 4.5 mile hike journeys through the oldest living trees in the world. This is a high altitude hike starting out at over 10,000’ feet where the gnarled and twisted trees that look like something out of a Tim Burton movie cling to steep, arid, rocky slopes. The trees thrive in this severe environment and usually survive for over 2,000 years. Incredible! The trail makes its way down a canyon and into a grove of the ancient trees. As you hike down the south facing slope, you’ll note a dramatic transition where there is a wider variety of plants including sagebrush and mountain mahogany. Eventually you will enter the Methuselah Grove. This is where Edmund Schulman in 1957 discovered the Methuselah Tree which is over 4,600 years old. How amazing is that?!

Methuselah’s exact location is not disclosed to keep the tree protected from vandalism, but if you ask the rangers they’ll tell you that the best place to hide something is right in plain sight so you will walk right by the Methuselah Tree along the trek, but you may never figure out exactly which one he is. After the hike we stopped into the Schulman Grove Visitor Center to get some souvenirs and check out the interpretive exhibits. Ranger Dave gave us an informative talk about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines and I am pretty sure I learned more about trees in that 30 minute chat then I ever did when I was in school! I highly recommend stopping in if you want to learn more about these magnificent ancient trees.

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