hiking

Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

I decided to take a vacation day on Monday so I could go hiking. We headed to Chantry Flats, but we weren’t sure whether or not we wanted to do a longer, more strenuous hike to Mt. Wilson or a shorter loop. We figured we’d decided when we got to the junction at Sturtevant Camp. Santa Anita Canyon was exceptionally beautiful today. There was so much water flowing in the creek. We took the Lower Winter Creek Trail that climbs up along the side of a rocky cliff to the top of Sturtevant Falls. The water was rushing strong and it looked awesome! As we hiked along the trail, we saw so many cascading pools of water. When we reached the junction near Sturtevant we made the decision to do the longer route to Mt. Wilson. I figured why not. I’d taken the day off and had no other place to be. As we started up that first steep mile, I was almost starting to regret my decision. My body was tired, but I didn’t want to turn around. We’d done this route last year, and I remember I really enjoyed it. We slowed up our pace which made it a little more bearable. It was a fun climb! Lots of beautiful scenery along the way. But I was very happy to reach to top because all I kept thinking about was sprawling out at one of the tables at the Cosmic Cafe and eating a ham and cheese croissant my husband had picked up at the donut shop before our hike! Once at the top, we had a nice rest. I took my hiking boots off to give my feet a break too. After we were finished refueling and recharging, we began the 7 mile descent back down the mountain. We took the Mt. Wilson Trail where you can still see quite a bit of fire damage to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. There had been an avalanche since the last time we hiked on this road, and there were huge fallen boulders strewn across it. They were easy enough to get around, and I wondered what it must have sounded like when they came crashing down. We then reached the junction for the Winter Creek Trail and continued the long, steep descent on the switchbacks until we reached the bottom of the canyon. There were a lot of downed trees to hop along the way and there was also some trail erosion. The trail was still in good shape, but it does need a little TLC from the wonderful volunteers who help keep these trails passable so we can enjoy them. My knees and feet were getting tired, but the Winter Creek Trail is just so pretty. The final part of the hike was the grueling slog up the concrete road leading back to the parking lot. It seems to go on forever and it is steep! I was sweaty and tired by the time we got back to the trailhead, but it was so worth it. It’s been a while since we did any long, hard days on the trail so it felt really good to get out there and enjoy it!

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Griffith Park: Wisdom Tree, Burbank Peak, 1.7 Miles RT, 761' +/-, 1,690' Max Elevation, March 18, 2019

Griffith Park:  Wisdom Tree, Burbank Peak, 1.7 Miles RT, 761' +/-, 1,690' Max Elevation, March 18, 2019

Since I began hiking in Los Angeles, I’d always seen photos of the Wisdom Tree. But since I’d never really been interested in city hiking until now, I never considered hiking up to see him for myself. He’s kind of a celebrity to Los Angeles city hikers. There’s a huge trunk that sits underneath the tree where hikers can leave their “Wisdom Tree Wishes” in the hopes they’ll be granted. This tree is the only tree that survived the 2007 Hollywood Hills fire. Now that our days are getting longer, there’s more time for hiking on weekdays after work. We decided to make the short climb up Burbank Peak where the famous Wisdom Tree is located. This is a very popular trail and there was a consistent flow of all kinds people going up and down the entire time. In front of us, a girl who was wearing only chucks and hiking with a handbag was slipping and sliding on the rocky trail trying to make her way up. She finally realized that this may not be the best idea and asked my advice on whether or not she should continue. I politely let her know it would probably be better to come back another day with a pair of hiking boots. She took my advice and turned around. I felt relieved she did so that she wouldn’t twist an ankle. The climb up was a lot of fun. It was a warm day and I worked up a decent sweat. As we made our way to the top, I saw a few people trying to come down on the rocks wearing sandals. Yikes. In just a short time we reached the top and the Wisdom Tree came into view. I walked up to him, made my introduction and then explored all around the summit taking in the 360 degree views of Burbank, Griffith Park, DTLA, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Studios and the surrounding mountain ranges. To the east, there was a trail to continue on to Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee. We’ll try that one another day. After taking it all in, we carefully began our descent down the rocky trail. Now when I look up at the Wisdom Tree which I can see from the studio where I work, I can finally say that I have met him in person.

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Griffith Park: Mt. Hollywood, Captain's Roost, Mt. Chapel Trail, Mt. Lee, 9 Miles RT, 2,110' +/-, 1,708' Max Elevation, March 17, 2019

Griffith Park:  Mt. Hollywood, Captain's Roost, Mt. Chapel Trail, Mt. Lee, 9 Miles RT,  2,110' +/-, 1,708' Max Elevation, March 17, 2019

We spent another day exploring Griffith Park. Our plan was to hike the North Trail from Mineral Wells Picnic Area and from there take the Mt. Chapel Trail to watch the sunrise from Mt. Lee which is where the Hollywood Sign is located. This is a non-traditional route to the sign, and I had not been able to find much much information about the Mt. Chapel Trail. We got started around 5:30 am and saw a couple of coyotes scavenging the picnic area for leftover food. As we hiked up, the city below looked really pretty. The lights were twinkling and there was a soft, warm wind blowing which made it seem kind of surreal. Up ahead I noticed the orange glow of an eye reflecting in the light of my headlamp. I wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was until I got closer and realized it was a little bird. It seemed strange to see a bird just sitting in the dirt and there was another one not far up ahead. Later, I did some research and learned that these nocturnal birds are called Common Poorwills. We continued up the hill until we reached the base of Mt. Chapel. It was about 20 minutes before sunrise, and at this point the wide trail turned into a rocky, narrow footpath hugging the hillside. We didn’t get too far on this when we realized we’d have some rock scrambling to do. I wasn’t comfortable scrambling rocks in the dark with only the light of our headlamps, especially since I didn’t know much about this trail. To play it safe, we backtracked and opted to see if we could make it to Mt. Hollywood for sunrise instead. We could always check out the trail again later when there was more light. We had about 15 minutes to reach our Plan B destination, and we made it there just in time! There were already a number of people on the summit ready to enjoy the sun coming up over Los Angeles. It was lovely. We then headed down to Captain’s Roost where you can find the “hidden palm trees” that you see in so many photos of Griffith Park. It’s just a short distance from the Mt. Hollywood summit, and it’s a great place for a photo op with it’s beautiful garden overlooking the city. From there, we continued our journey and headed toward Taco Peak. Taco Peak is a just small bump, but the climbing was a bit slippery due to all the loose little pebbles. The views at the top were nice, and from what I understand, there used to be a tea house here. After a quick snack break, we headed back towards Mt. Chapel to check out the Mt. Chapel Trail again now that there was daylight. After surveying the scrambling situation and some encouragement from my husband (I’m not a fan of rock scrambling), we made our way across the rugged trail over to Mt. Lee. I admit the rugged trail was a lot of fun and the views from the ridge were probably some of the best I’ve seen yet in Griffith Park. By this time the sun was warming things up and there were a lot of Painted Lady butterflies fluttering around the wildflowers. Eventually, the Mt. Chapel Trail intersected with Mt. Lee Drive and we met up with the crowds making their way up to enjoy the views from the summit of Mt. Lee and the back of the Hollywood sign. It was actually really fun seeing the Hollywood sign up close. I’ve lived here for so long now and never made it a point to go see it. But we didn’t stay very long since there were lots of people on top jockeying for a good view and the perfect photo. Even so, I would definitely recommending seeing the sign at least once just as long as you know what to expect as far as the amount of people you’ll be sharing the views with. After leaving Mt. Lee, we scrambled our way back across the fun Mt. Chapel Trail and back the way we came on the North Trail and to Mineral Wells. We put in about 9 miles. I am really enjoying exploring this park!

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Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

After our snowshoeing excursion on Mount San Jacinto, we drove an hour to Twentynine Palms to spend the rest of the weekend at our favorite bed and breakfast, the Campbell House. We arrived early enough to relax for a bit before heading out for dinner and drinks at the Twentynine Palms Inn. It was a great way to end the day. I slept very well that night until I awoke around 5:45 am and decided to wake my husband up so we could head into the park by 6:48 am in time to watch the sun come up. As much as I would have liked to sleep in, I never miss a desert sunrise. We quickly put on some clothes, threw our backpacks and some extra water in the car and drove into the park. The colors were phenomenal as always! It was chilly, but I was bundled up so I barely noticed. It was quiet with not many people around since it was still very early. The only sounds we heard were the birds peacefully singing and I saw a huge hare hop by. His feet were quite large and he had long, black tipped ears. I took a some photos as the sun came up and then we spent some time simply enjoying the tranquil morning before heading back for breakfast. Later on, after checking out of the bed and breakfast, we decided to drive through the park. We had mixed feelings about it since all of the issues going on with the government shut down, but we wanted to see for ourselves. We discovered that there were rangers working both the West and North entrances (without pay). The park looked like it was being well taken care of by the volunteers. The ranger told us that the Visitor Center on Park Blvd. was open and being operated by Joshua Tree National Park Association. We stopped off at the visitor center and made a donation. It was the least we could do to help their efforts. If I lived near and worked in Joshua Tree National Park, I'm sure I'd be working for free too. Joshua Tree is a very sacred and special place. I was happy to see it being well cared for.

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Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, Desert View Trail & Round Valley, 6.6 miles RT, max elevation 9,100', 900' +/-, January 19, 2019

Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, Desert View Trail & Round Valley, 6.6 miles RT, max elevation 9,100', 900' +/-, January 19, 2019

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!

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Josephine Peak, 8 miles RT, 5,558' max elevation, 1,866' +/-, January 13, 2019

Josephine Peak, 8 miles RT, 5,558' max elevation, 1,866' +/-, January 13, 2019

My favorite part of the hike to Josephine Peak are the spectacular views. It’s a steady 4 mile climb to the peak, and today we had a nice, clear day since it had just rained. As we travelled up the fire road from Clear Creek Station just off Angeles Crest Highway, we could smell the eucalyptus trees and the yerba santa. It was even more fragrant today since it had just rained. I’m not quite sure how the eucalyptus trees got here since they’re not native, but they sure do smell nice. As we continued hiking up the trail, I started to get some great photo ops. Strawberry Peak looked quite impressive and we could see a dusting of snow covering the mountaineer’s route. We also had a nice, clear view of DTLA. The views went out all the way to the ocean. To the north, the high country was covered in fresh snow; Waterman, Baden-Powell, Twin Peaks, etc. As we neared the summit of Josephine, we crossed over a bit of snow ourselves. When we arrived at the peak, the views were even more incredible. The last time we were here we were shrouded in clouds so we didn’t get the 360 degree views that we had today. I took advantage and snapped away with my camera. It was absolutely lovely. After spending some time at the summit and greeting a few fellow hikers who’d come to enjoy the day as well, we decided it was time to begin our descent. The clouds started to roll in as we hiked back down the mountain, but we didn’t see any rain. It was an absolutely perfect day.

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Vasquez Rocks, 3.3 miles, 2,672' max elevation, 535' +/-, January 6, 2019

Vasquez Rocks, 3.3 miles, 2,672' max elevation, 535' +/-, January 6, 2019

We had an easy day today at Vasquez Rocks. We walked the trail that goes around the perimeter of the natural area and enjoyed looking at the unique geology. The sky was filled with big, billowy clouds from the rain we had last night. This is such a wonderful place to come for a relaxing day, and you can get some really great photos perched up on the rocks.

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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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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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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 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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