hiking

San Gabriel Peak, 3 miles RT, 1,030' +/-, Max Elevation 6,161', October 13, 2019

San Gabriel Peak, 3 miles RT, 1,030' +/-, Max Elevation 6,161', October 13, 2019

This weekend we did a late afternoon/early evening hike up to San Gabriel Peak. It was a full moon and I wanted to watch the sunset from the forest and see the moon come up over the San Gabriels. We started the hike from Eaton Saddle and through the Mueller Tunnel. When we reached Markham Saddle, we took the trail towards San Gabriel Peak. I’d forgotten how steep and rugged it is. The views along the way were wonderful. We took a short break at the top, enjoyed the views and then started back down. The sun was beginning to set and it would soon be dark. When we arrived back at Eaton Saddle, we saw a HUGE harvest moon coming up over Mt. Baldy. It was such a beautiful site! It was a short, but sweet evening.

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Mt. Hillyer, 6.7 Miles RT, 6,215' Max Elevation, October 6, 2019

Mt. Hillyer, 6.7 Miles RT, 6,215' Max Elevation, October 6, 2019

We had a nice hike on Mt. Hillyer this past Sunday. The weather was a bit on the warm side, and we started a little later than usual, but it was a lovely day. The last time we hiked this was on New Year’s Day and there was a cold wind chill. The ACH is still closed from the slide that happened in February. Now they’re saying it will be open at the end of October. It adds so much extra drive time to get up into the middle and high country of Angeles NF. Since it was a warmer day, the gnats were extra pesky. We had to wear our bug nets. One of the highlights of this hike in addition to the incredible boulder formations are the Coulter Pines on top of Mt. Hillyer. Their pine cones are about the size of my head! I brought along my tree identification book today and made use of it as we hiked. We put in a little over six miles today. It felt great to get back to the mountains after a few weeks away.

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Cottonwood Pass, August 20, 2019, 6 Miles RT, 837' +/-, Max Elevation 11,000'

Cottonwood Pass, August 20, 2019, 6 Miles RT, 837' +/-, Max Elevation 11,000'

We didn’t really have a plan for our second day in the Eastern Sierra, but I did some quick research after we got back from Big Pine Lakes and decided upon the Cottonwood Pass Trail out of Horseshoe Meadow. Horseshoe Meadow is only about a 30 minute drive from Lone Pine where we were staying. Our plan was to hike up to the pass and then over to Chicken Spring Lake, but when we got started my husband was a lot more tired than usual. I think he may have been feeling the altitude (over 10,000’) and also a little lack of sleep the night before. The hike started out fairly flat winding in and out of tall pine trees until we got to the rocky switchbacks where we started to climb up and up. We passed through incredible alpine meadows covered with wildflowers and under the shade of towering foxtail and lodgepole pines. We were just short of the pass when my husband decided it was time to turn around. It’s really odd for him to be affected by altitude because he’s usually fine, but it just goes to show you altitude does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone on any given day without warning and when that happens, the best thing to do is descend. I would have loved to continue on, but we are a team and so I had no problems turning back and doing the hike again on another day when we could both enjoy it.

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Big Pine Lakes, North Fork Trail, Eastern Sierra, 13.6 Miles RT, 2,385' +/-, 10,427' Max Elevation, August 19, 2019

Big Pine Lakes, North Fork Trail, Eastern Sierra, 13.6 Miles RT, 2,385' +/-, 10,427' Max Elevation, August 19, 2019

Our hike to Big Pine Lakes in the Eastern Sierra was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on. There are seven lakes total and on this day, we hiked to the first three via the North Fork Trail. Since we weren’t backpacking, I had much less weight to carry then when we were in the Eastern Sierra last month backpacking the Mt. Whitney Trail. Most of the Big Pine Lakes hike follows along Big Pine Creek. We were next to the beautiful rushing waters most of the day. Early in the morning when we first got on the trail, we saw two doe and a fawn crossing the creek. There were plenty of wildflowers and butterflies to enjoy throughout the day as well. I took my time on this hike and spent a lot of time taking photos of it all. When we reached lake one we saw Temple Crag (popular with alpine rock climbers) towering over the incredible turquoise waters. The turquoise color comes from the glacial powder of Palisade Glacier. I also saw some trout swimming in the lake. This was a wonderful hike. We had to do some work climbing up in elevation to get to the lakes, but it was well worth the effort because the scenery was spectacular.

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Big Pines, Blue Ridge, PCT Hike, Wrightwood, CA, 6 Miles RT, 1,302' +/-, 8,187' Max Elevation, August 11, 2019,

Big Pines, Blue Ridge, PCT Hike, Wrightwood, CA, 6 Miles RT, 1,302' +/-, 8,187' Max Elevation, August 11, 2019,

Today we made the drive to Wrightwood to hike the Blue Ridge Trail. We’ve been slacking the past couple of weeks since we got back from Mt. Whitney. The Blue Ridge Trail is a nice, mellow climb up to Blue Ridge in the welcoming shad of Oak and Pine. When we got to the ridge we decided to go a little bit further to enjoy the views. We hiked southeast along the PCT towards Guffy Campground and Wright Mountain for just a short while. It was a lovely day and much cooler than at the lower elevations. There are still plenty of wildflowers in bloom and the bees were buzzing all around them. Afterwards, we headed over to my favorite place to eat in Wrightwood, The Grizzly Cafe. It was a nice way to end the weekend.

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Camping Table Mountain and Blue Ridge Trail, 4.9 Miles RT, 1,201' +/-, Max Elevation 7,919', June 20 and 30, 2019

Camping Table Mountain and Blue Ridge Trail, 4.9 Miles RT, 1,201' +/-, Max Elevation 7,919', June 20 and 30, 2019

We had a another relaxing camping trip to Table Mountain in Wrightwood this weekend. We set up camp in the afternoon, took a nap and then did a short evening hike up the Blue Ridge Trail through the majestic Black Oaks and up to the top of Blue Ridge. I love this trail. It was very peaceful on a Saturday night, since most of the day hikers were gone. Before heading back to camp, we stopped off in Wrightwood and picked up a pizza and a bottle of wine. We spent the rest of the evening enjoy food by the fire. When we turned in for the night, the forest was extremely quiet. It’s usually windy up on this mountain, but on this night it was very still. In the morning we woke up early and did a quick hike on the Table Mountain hiking trail. It’s about 2.5 miles and goes around the perimeter of the campground. It has great views of Mt. Baden-Powel and all the way out to Palmdale. It was another great weekend spent in the mountains!

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McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 8.5 miles RT, 1,594 +/-, Max Elevation 7,570', June 9, 2019

McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 8.5 miles RT, 1,594 +/-, Max Elevation 7,570', June 9, 2019

This weekend we took out the backpacking packs, loaded them up with gear and went on a hike in the Los Padres National Forest. We hiked the McGill Trail up to the McGill Campground. I was carrying about 27 lbs in my pack. This was a nice starter trail with a moderately graded incline to begin getting used to carrying extra weight before our backpacking trip on the Mt. Whitney Trail. I also started using my backpack to train at the gym. At least one day per week, I wear it with 30 lbs and do exercises like squats, lunges and step ups. It’s all been very beneficial. Hiking with the extra weight takes some getting used to, but the McGill Trail is a lovely trail through a beautiful pine forest and I enjoyed myself nonetheless. Once we arrived at the campground, we chatted with the camp hosts before sitting down at a picnic table and making lunch with the Jetboil stove. We took a nice rest before loading up again and heading back. It was nice and cool up in the mountains. When we got back on the freeway to head home, my car gauge read 101 degrees! I was happy to have spent the day in the mountains!

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Jackson Lake, Boy Scout Trail, 7 Miles RT, 1,378' +/-, Max Elevation 7,462', Camping Table Mountain, June 1 and 2, 2019

Jackson Lake, Boy Scout Trail, 7 Miles RT, 1,378' +/-, Max Elevation 7,462', Camping Table Mountain, June 1 and 2, 2019

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.

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Pacifico Mountain from Mill Creek, 14 miles RT, 2,316' +/-, Max Elevation 7,124', May 12, 2019

Pacifico Mountain from Mill Creek, 14 miles RT, 2,316' +/-, Max Elevation 7,124', May 12, 2019

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.

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Eaton Saddle, Mt. Lowe Road, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, Tom Sloan, Mt. Lowe East, 6.4 Miles RT, 1,434' +/-, 5,421' Max Elevation, April 21, 2019

Eaton Saddle, Mt. Lowe Road, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, Tom Sloan, Mt. Lowe East, 6.4 Miles RT, 1,434' +/-, 5,421' Max Elevation, April 21, 2019

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.

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Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 6.9 Miles RT, 1,814' +/-, 6,164' Max Elevation, April 19, 2019

Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 6.9 Miles RT, 1,814' +/-, 6,164' Max Elevation,  April 19, 2019

I had off on Friday and was looking for a challenge. Strawberry Peak seemed like a really good idea. We’d done this hike exactly one year ago, and I was excited to see if it would be easier this time since I’ve been working with a trainer for almost a year now at my gym and he’s been training me with my specific hiking and backpacking goals in mind. The hike starts out innocently enough meandering northeast from the trailhead at Red Box and making a sharp turn to the west and around the southern slope of Mt. Lawler until it reaches the saddle between Lawler and Strawberry. That’s where the fun begins. The trail then climbs unforgivingly for about the next mile and a half except for a short section where you’ll actually lose elevation and then have to climb back up later. I put my hiking poles away on the last mile so I could have free use of my hands for the rock scrambles. I felt really strong today and all the step ups I’ve been doing at the gym were really paying off!! I was definitely running on a bit of adrenaline and excitement, but I was having a good time. Strawberry Peak is still a butt kicker, but I could tell how much stronger I’ve become. We reached the top of the mountain in no time and since it was a week day, we didn’t see many other hikers and had the peak to ourselves. We signed the summit register, had lunch and then began our careful descent. On the way back we saw a lot of critters. One in particular was a Western Fence Lizard doing push ups to impress a female. We stopped to watch him as he tried to put the moves on her, but she had no interest. I wished him luck and continued down the trail. As we got closer to Red Box, we also saw a few snakes. They made their way into the shrubs as we passed by on the trail. It was an awesome day in the mountains!

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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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