The time had come to hike Mount Baldy. With the experience we gained over the summer, I knew we were ready, and I wanted to hike this mountain before winter covered it in snow. We set out early Friday morning and arrived at Manker Flat around 6:30 am. Around 6:50 am we suited up and started our trek up Falls Road to the Baldy Bowl Trail. Right away the trail started to climb at a steep grade, but the path was well worn and quite pleasant despite the 1,000’ of elevation we were gaining per mile. As we got closer to the San Antonio ski hut, about 2.6 miles up, I was really starting to feel the burn. Still, this was not so bad. I love a good physical challenge! We stopped at the ski hut for a snack and took a look inside. We met a group of hikers there and one of them named Cherry graciously offered to take our photos. After the short break, we continued on. The trail dropped us down into the rocky, Baldy Bowl. Still no trouble here. It was fairly well marked and mostly easy to follow. Climbing up out of the bowl, the path led us into a forest of lodgepole pines. Now the high elevation was starting to kick in. We were moving slower, but still making good time. After the forested section, we arrived at the saddle. The final ascent to the summit lie just ahead, and the hardcore work was about to begin only I had no idea what was in store. We began our climb up the last difficult mile. As we got higher up in altitude, 45 mile per hour winds whipped unmercifully around the mountain. The gales were so strong we had to stop and brace ourselves from being pushed off balance. I had never experienced anything like that before, and I didn’t know if it was safe to keep going. The trail here also became extremely steep and rocky. Some sections were loose and slippery making it difficult to climb. I thought we may have gone off route, and the wind gusts were not making matters any easier. Unsure if I wanted to continue, I hiked back down a few feet and leaned against a rock to try and stable myself. I contemplated whether or not I wanted to go on. In all honesty I was ready to call it a day and turn back. I was heartbroken and wanted to cry, but I knew the mountain wasn’t going anywhere and it’s always better to be safe then sorry. Just at that moment, the same group of hikers that we met at the ski hut appeared. They were coming up the trail below us. Had it not been for them, I would not have kept going. I asked if we could follow them up, and they welcomingly said “The more the merrier.” Now I knew we were on the right track. My fears diminished. We were going to be fine. It was comforting being in a group of people, especially since I learned that they had climbed this mountain before. I listened to them talking as I focused on the terrain. Two of the men in the group were seasoned hikers having summited Mount Whitney and other such great beasts. Listening to their conversations helped me relax. They didn’t seem too phased by the winds either, so I knew it was going to be all right. Slow and steady we climbed. That last half mile was a challenge! Wow! Finally the views of gray rock in front of me turned into the bluest sky I had ever seen. The summit appeared at 10,064’! We did it!! I was ecstatic! We were on top of the great Mount Baldy looking down at a sea of clouds. The winds showing no mercy of letting up did not allow us to spend as much time at the top as I would have liked. But we took in the views, snapped our photos then prepared for the journey down on the Devil’s Backbone. The Devil’s Backbone is a ridge top trail with spin-chilling views. The terrain varies from steep drop offs on both sides to cliff-hugging sections with no room for error. Definitely not a trail for those with a fear of heights, and I had been terrified of it and and obsessing over it for months. Today I was ready to face my fear. I knew it was going to be a better option then going back down the steep Baldy Bowl trail we came up. Once on the infamous Devil’s Backbone with its precipitous drop offs, I was loving it! The sections I’d been so frightened of were incredible! I will admit the narrow parts that hugged the mountain were a bit unnerving. On those sections, I kept focused on moving forward and pushing through without overthinking. I kept up with the group and didn’t psych myself out. The winds were still gusting strong as we descended the great mountain. The views were absolutely breathtaking. It was quite an adventure! At approximately 1:30 pm we arrived at Baldy Notch safe and sound! I felt accomplished! Lucky for us, the ski lift was running and since the rest of the hike would be going down on a fire road, we saw no shame in hitching a ride. Both of us were exhausted, but on a major “mountain high” from the day. Once back to our cars, we bid farewell to our new friends and I thanked them profusely for helping us through. Mountain conquered, fears faced and new friends made. It was an incredible journey!