This weekend was our first camping trip of the season! It was time to pull all our gear out and get familiar with it again since we’ll be backpacking the Mt. Whitney trail this year. I love camping. It’s so nice after a day of hiking to be able to build a fire and sleep out under the stars. We headed out of the gloomy cloud covered city up to sunny Wrightwood. There were, however, some scattered storm clouds hanging around, but the rains held off and the clouds passed us by. Our hike today started at Jackson Lake. There were people here fishing and families picnicking. We got on the Jackson Lake trail to the Boy Scout Trail. There’s plenty of shade on this trail as you pass through a forest of beautiful black oaks and towering pine trees. I’d like to come back here in the fall when the leaves are changing. It’s a lovely trail and we didn’t see another person. The Boy Scout Trail eventually ends at a junction for two service roads. You can head southwest on the Pinyon Ridge Truck trail, or southeast on service road 3N26. This road winds around the mountain as it climbs upward with nice views of Mt. Baden-Powell which is still covered in snow at the top. The road eventually takes you to a junction for the PCT, so we headed north here to loop back to the Jackson Lake Trail. We passed about 6 thru hikers on this section heading towards Baden-Powell. Hope they all made it up safely with the snow. It was about 2:30 pm when we got back to the trailhead and headed to camp at Table Mountain. After we set up camp, we went into town and brought back some Grizzly Burgers from the Grizzly Cafe. That’s the nice thing about camping at Table Mountain. You’re about a 10 minute drive from food! Why cook when you can get a burger to go, right? As the sunset and the weather cooled down, we built a fire, toasted marshmallows and enjoyed the outdoors. We had a peaceful night and slept comfortably under the stars. The next morning welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise and birdsong. We had breakfast and then headed home. The weekend was way too short, but I’m so grateful for the times we have like this when we get to be away from the city, traffic, electronics, etc. and enjoy the beauty of the forest.Read More
What a beautiful mountain. There are so many blooming wildflowers this time of year. We did this hike last year in June and the weather was very hot. This time the weather was still warm, but definitely not as bad. Again, just as last year, we saw very few people other then the PCT thru hikers passing by on their way to the Sierras. We put in quite a lot of mileage and the day was made even longer by my stopping to take photos every few minutes. The best hikes are always the ones where I take my time and don’t feel like I’m in a rush against the clock or in a big hurry to reach the summit. Now that we’ve been hiking for a few years and have hiked many of these mountains, I don’t feel such an urgency to summit and I’m taking more time to stop and really appreciate and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. Even though Pacifico Mountain was hit hard in the 2009 Station Fire and there’s still a lot of visible damage along the route, it’s a very pretty hike. The area is incredibly beautiful with great vistas and it is full of flowers and wildlife. In fact, we can in very close proximity to a rattlesnake towards the end of the hike and only about a half a mile away from the trailhead. We didn’t see the snake, but we did hear the warning rattle. She must have been alongside the trail hidden where we couldn’t see her. It’s amazing how they can disguise themselves. As we climbed up the mountain, the trail changed from charred trees to beautiful Jeffery Pines. We had lunch at the campground on top of the summit. It would be so nice to camp here sometime. There were a good number of ravens circling and I saw several species of butterflies including painted ladies, swallowtails and duskywings. We spent good amount of time at the top before leaving. There was no one there but us. I scouted around the big boulders to see if I could find the official USGS marker, but I still couldn’t locate it. I’ll check again next time we’re here. It was a really nice day.Read More
The weather is still cool so I’m trying to make the best of the front range before it gets too hot. Today we drove up to Eaton Saddle with no specific plan in mind since there are plenty of routes you can take to make a great hike. We hiked up the Mt. Lowe Road through the Mueller Tunnel which experienced an avalanche over the winter, but some of the rocks were cleared so you can get around it safely. At Markham saddle, we decided to continue down the Mt. Lowe Road to Mt. Lowe Trail Camp and the ruins of Ye Alpine Tavern where we’d take a break and enjoy the ham and cheese croissants we’d picked up from the donut shop before starting our hike. I really love this area and enjoy walking the Mt. Lowe Fire Road. The views are great down into Bear Canyon and you can really see just how rugged the San Gabriels are. As we hiked the sun was trying very hard to break through the clouds, but we were soon engulfed in them as they wrapped around the mountain and our views disappeared in a heavy mist of white. When we reached the junction with the Tom Sloan Saddle trail, we branched off to explore it for about a quarter mile. It descended steeply and since we didn’t want to lose too much elevation, we decided to save that adventure for another day. I was really enjoying being surrounded by all the cloud cover. When we arrived at the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, I noted that there was water flowing. This is the first time I’d seen it there. There were a few people enjoying the solitude of the camp, and we stopped for a while to appreciate the silence and eat lunch. I pulled out the map while we were eating to check out the Mt. Lowe East Trail. It would be a shorter, but steeper route back, so we decided to explore it. We got on the trail and began climbing up the switchbacks on Mt Lowe’s southern slope. There were some loose rocky, sections that were narrow and exposed so we had to be careful on those, but nothing too terrible. At one point, two mountain bikers almost collided into us as they were racing down the mountain on the switchbacks that didn’t give them much visibility to see what was around the corner. Thankfully, they saw us and we moved to the side so they could continue their way down the mountain. I worked up a pretty good sweat climbing up, but soon we reached the junction with the summit trail to Mt. Lowe. I considered continuing up since we were already here, but then we both decided since there would be no views today, that we’d just head back to Eaton Saddle and enjoy an early day.Read More
The mountains are filled with snow! I wanted to take advantage of it while I could sans the crowds of people I knew would be heading up over the weekend. I took the day off on Friday and my husband and I drove to Palm Springs where we took the Aerial Tramway to Long Valley Station to go snowshoeing. We loved it so much the first time we went a few weeks ago, that we purchased our own snowshoes. There was over three feet of snow on top of the mountain and the conditions for snowshoes were excellent. We spoke with the rangers as we filled out our permit before taking off into the wilderness, and they advised to not go any further than Round Valley due to the potential of avalanche. I’d originally planned to go to Wellmans Divide, but since the rangers know these mountains a lot better then we do, we of course, took their advice. The weather was fantastic! It was a bluebird day with not a cloud in the sky. The fresh mountain air felt great and the snow was fresh powder most of the way. We took our time and savored the journey soaking in the beautiful winter scenery. These are the moments I live for! It seemed we reached Round Valley much faster this time. We ventured into the meadow floating atop three feet of powdery snow and breaking trail. It was my favorite part of the day. Just glorious! All too soon it was time to start heading back. We were about a half a mile from Long Valley when my husband’s snowshoe broke. Somehow the rivets popped out and he was left with just the crampon strapped to his left foot. Luckily, we were not too far away from the trailhead, and he was able to hike back without a problem. Lesson learned -- Always carry a field repair kit. Although we both had microspikes with us, they wouldn’t have been very useful with the depth of the snow. Aside from that minor mishap, it was peaceful day to be out on the trails. I left the big mountain with a feeling of gratitude; so happy to have been able to enjoy another perfect day in this beautiful wilderness!Read More
We had quite a bit of rain over the past few days and I really wanted to try snowshoeing. We had already made plans months ago to spend the weekend in Twentynine Palms, but instead of hiking in the desert like we normally would have, we decided to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mt. San Jacinto. We rented snowshoes from REI in Burbank and were lucky to get the last two pairs available for the upcoming weekend. Seems everyone had the same idea: Take advantage of the snow while you can. I got up at 4 am and we were on our way by 5 am. When we arrived in Palm Springs at 7 am, the parking lot was already getting filled up; families with sleds, coolers, snowshoes, etc., all gearing up for a winter play day. We got our tickets for the 8 am tram and were on our way up the mountain in no time. The tram is a unique activity to do in and of itself. I never get tired of being hoisted up a steep cliff inside a floating bubble travelling up a cable. The transition from desert floor to sub-alpine is amazing and in just 10 minutes we went from the desert floor at 2,643’ at Valley Station to 8,516’ at the top of Mountain Station. The air at the top of the tram was in the 30s. The snow was hard packed and crunchy with some ice. We headed over to the Desert View Loop to try out snowshoeing for the first time. It was actually quite easy. To me it felt a bit like an elliptical machine. The Desert View loop is a short trail with a gentle incline and five notches overlooking wonderful views. It was the perfect place to start. After we had gotten the hang of things, we headed over to Long Valley Station where we filled out a permit and continued on into the San Jacinto Wilderness with our destination being Round Valley. By this time, more people had arrived, some wearing microspikes and there were many groups of snowshoers and winter backpackers. I really enjoyed being able to “float” on top of the snow in the snowshoes. I also liked having a sturdy grip with the snowshoes’ crampon that dug its teeth into the hard packed snow for traction. I felt very secure both ascending and descending. There were a number of people on the trail today, but we were still able to enjoy some alone time. After arriving at Round Valley, we contemplated going up one more mile up to Wellman’s Divide. But instead, we changed our minds and decided to start heading back, knowing we had a cozy room waiting for us in Twentynine Palms. The weather was warming up now, and the snow was starting to get slushy. I think it was a little after 2 pm when we arrived back at Mountain Station. We had no problems getting on the next tram down and were headed out to spend the rest of the weekend relaxing and enjoying the desert. It was a wonderful day. I think I am hooked on snowshoeing and I cannot wait for the opportunity to do it again!Read More
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!Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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!Read More
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!Read More