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
so cal hike
This past Sunday we drove 90 minutes outside of LA to the Western Mojave desert to Saddleback Butte State Park. Our destination was a short climb up the 3,651’ Saddleback Butte Peak. This butte dates back to the Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago. The hike was a short but sweet 3.7 miles round trip with an elevation +/- of 1,020’. I think the hardest part of this hike was walking through the desert sand. Once you start climbing up the butte, the trail fades in and out a bit. There are also some rock scrambles, but they’re pretty easy making the hike a lot of fun. In the spring, this area will be covered in wildflowers. It was a nice relaxing day. I’m looking forward to seeing this area again in the spring.
Hit the trail early Thanksgiving morning to hike Cucamonga Peak. We started up Icehouse Canyon at 5:30 am. This was our third time up this trail to Icehouse Saddle which is a gateway to other trails including Cucamonga Peak. It used to be a challenge, but it’s getting easier every time. We entered the Cucamonga Wilderness just before the sun came up, and by 8 am we were at Icehouse Saddle. We stopped for a snack, and it wasn’t long before other hikers arrived. One of them was heading to the same destination as we were. He was using the trail to train for other peaks. After the break, we hopped on the next segment to Cucamonga Peak. This is where the real hike began. From here on out we were on much more rugged terrain with narrow sections, steep cliffs and rock scrambles. It was one of those hikes where you really had to watch your footing. Next came the switchbacks. Some sections were all scree and talus. It was a hard climb and my fear of heights being on a narrow ledge with loose rock and steep drops was starting to kick in. I had to stop and take breaks to keep my zen. I could see the peak, but it seemed a million miles away. Up and up we went moving slowly, but making progress with each careful step. We were less then half a mile away from the peak when we saw the young hiker we’d met at Icehouse Saddle coming down. “Almost there.” he said. “Take short steps and use your poles.” After a few more switchbacks I spotted the marker for the spur trail leading up to the peak just ahead. What a relief! We made our final ascent up a steep but well buffed out section of trail. Finally I saw the wooden sign, “Cucamonga Peak 8,859’”. Whew! That was rough! The views from the peak were vast and sprawling overlooking the city and all the way out to the San Jacinto and Santa Ana mountain ranges. We took a long break to rest our tired legs and celebrate Thanksgiving morning with yesterday’s leftover pizza! On the way down my overactive mind calmed down. Although I still had to be careful with my footing, I was in a much better headspace. The hard part was over. I was able to soak in the incredible views of the remote wilderness and enjoy the trek down this beautiful mountain. The switchbacks seemed to go a lot faster on the way down, but we still had to negotiate our way through rugged trail back to Icehouse Saddle. Once at the saddle, we still had about 3 miles to go to get back to the trailhead. Luckily, the canyon is so pretty, it makes those last miles go quick. We finished the hike (including our breaks and all my picture taking) in about 8 hours and 50 minutes. We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving day on Friday knowing we earned those extra slices of pumpkin pie!Read More
This was our second time hiking up Mount Baden-Powell from Vincent Gap. It’s a challenging 7.08 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation +/- of 2,907’ according to my GPS. I was really excited to try this one again. The first time we did it in July it seemed a lot harder and longer. I also wasn’t used to being up on high mountains with precipitous drop offs. I remember the first time I looked over the side of this one I nearly had a heart attack. Now that we’ve gained more experience, the hike to the summit was easier, went faster (41 switchbacks and yes… I was counting them as we hiked) and I’m now able to enjoy myself at 9,406’! I felt very accomplished! I was able to go right up to the Wally Waldron tree, the 1,000+ year old limber pine that clings to the side of the slope, without my stomach doing flip flops.
Aside from the steep ascent and the hard work you need to do on this trail, the journey to the peak is quite enjoyable and scenic. There are great views the entire way and it doesn’t have many rocky or sketchy sections.
The summit of Mount Baden-Powell can also be approached from Islip Saddle and Dawson Saddle. It’s a much longer hike, although not as steep as the more traditional ascent from Vincent Gap. I think I’d like to try the longer approach sometime.
On the way down we past a couple of thru-hikers who had already come 18 miles and were just reaching the 1 mile marker up to the summit of Baden-Powell. Both of them were carrying 45 pound packs and were on their way to Little Jimmy Camp. We stopped and chatted with them for a while. It’s people like that who make you humble and also inspire you. They said they’d only been hiking now for 3 years, so maybe someday we’ll be able to do the same.
After we got back down the mountain, it was still pretty early so we decided to hike the Mine Gulch trail to check out Vincent’s Cabin. The cabin once belonged to Charles “Tom” Vincent who also discovered the Big Horn Mine that I described in our hike from last Sunday. He built the cabin himself and lived in it for many years. Some of his pots and pans and things are still there. It’s definitely worth the quick 1.36 mile side trip to view the cabin if you have enough steam left after Baden-Powell.