Cucamonga Peak, 8,859', 12 miles RT, (4,252' +/-), November 23, 2017

Hit the trail early Thanksgiving morning to hike Cucamonga Peak.  We started up Icehouse Canyon at 5:30 am.  This was our third time up this trail to Icehouse Saddle which is a gateway to other trails including Cucamonga Peak.  It used to be a challenge, but it’s getting easier every time.  We entered the Cucamonga Wilderness just before the sun came up, and by 8 am we were at Icehouse Saddle.  We stopped for a snack, and it wasn’t long before other hikers arrived.  One of them was heading to the same destination as we were.  He was using the trail to train for other peaks.  After the break, we hopped on the next segment to Cucamonga Peak.  This is where the real hike began.  From here on out we were on much more rugged terrain with narrow sections, steep cliffs and rock scrambles.  It was one of those hikes where you really had to watch your footing.  Next came the switchbacks.  Some sections were all scree and talus.  It was a hard climb and my fear of heights being on a narrow ledge with loose rock and steep drops was starting to kick in.  I had to stop and take breaks to keep my zen.  I could see the peak, but it seemed a million miles away.  Up and up we went moving slowly, but making progress with each careful step.  We were less then half a mile away from the peak when we saw the young hiker we’d met at Icehouse Saddle coming down.  “Almost there.” he said.  “Take short steps and use your poles.”  After a few more switchbacks I spotted the marker for the spur trail leading up to the peak just ahead.  What a relief!  We made our final ascent up a steep but well buffed out section of trail.  Finally I saw the wooden sign, “Cucamonga Peak 8,859’”.  Whew!  That was rough!  The views from the peak were vast and sprawling overlooking the city and all the way out to the San Jacinto and Santa Ana mountain ranges.  We took a long break to rest our tired legs and celebrate Thanksgiving morning with yesterday’s leftover pizza!  On the way down my overactive mind calmed down.  Although I still had to be careful with my footing, I was in a much better headspace.  The hard part was over.  I was able to soak in the incredible views of the remote wilderness and enjoy the trek down this beautiful mountain.  The switchbacks seemed to go a lot faster on the way down, but we still had to negotiate our way through rugged trail back to Icehouse Saddle.  Once at the saddle, we still had about 3 miles to go to get back to the trailhead.  Luckily, the canyon is so pretty, it makes those last miles go quick.  We finished the hike (including our breaks and all my picture taking) in about 8 hours and 50 minutes.  We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving day on Friday knowing we earned those extra slices of pumpkin pie!
 

 Views from Cucamonga Peak.

Views from Cucamonga Peak.

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 Heading back down the spur trail.

Heading back down the spur trail.

 Beautiful views of Baldy, Pine, Timber and Telegraph.

Beautiful views of Baldy, Pine, Timber and Telegraph.

 Looking down into the Cucamonga gulch.

Looking down into the Cucamonga gulch.

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 Heading back down the switchbacks.

Heading back down the switchbacks.

 Looking back and what we just climbed.

Looking back and what we just climbed.

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 At Cucamonga Saddle.  Almost back to Icehouse Saddle.

At Cucamonga Saddle.  Almost back to Icehouse Saddle.

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 I think this is a use trail up to Bighorn Peak.

I think this is a use trail up to Bighorn Peak.

 There's an old mine here.  I don't recommend trying to crawl in it!

There's an old mine here.  I don't recommend trying to crawl in it!

 Cucamonga Wilderness.

Cucamonga Wilderness.

 Columbine Spring.  When you are hiking up to Icehouse Saddle, this will be your last water source.  Note:  Always treat your water before drinking it!

Columbine Spring.  When you are hiking up to Icehouse Saddle, this will be your last water source.  Note:  Always treat your water before drinking it!

 Looking back at Icehouse Saddle.

Looking back at Icehouse Saddle.

 Back in the canyon.  All the leaves are brown now.  They were golden last time I was here.

Back in the canyon.  All the leaves are brown now.  They were golden last time I was here.

 Almost back.

Almost back.

 Ladybug party!

Ladybug party!