wilderness

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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Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, 4.6 Miles RT, Max Elevation 9,229', 961' +/-, February 8, 2019

Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, 4.6 Miles RT, Max Elevation 9,229',  961' +/-, February 8, 2019

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!

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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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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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Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

We headed into the local mountains on Sunday for a nice easy day of hiking in the Los Padres National Forest.  We did a short 8 mile hike to Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain.  We did these peaks in May of this year and at that time we also added Grouse Mountain which completed the 3-2-1 challenge.  (Check out  mymountainchamber.com for info. on the challenge.) .  It's a lovely area to explore.  This time around the weather was much warmer then the last when it was cool and cloudy.  I got to see some butterflies and the highlight of my day, a horned lizard.  He blended in so well with his surroundings that I could barely see hime when looking through my camera lens.  After reaching Sawmill Mountain and taking in the views from there, we decided to head back before the day got too hot.  This was a nice hike to ease us back into it after an incredible 3 days spent in the Eastern Sierra.

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Cottonwood Lakes, 14 miles RT, Max elevation 11,384', 1,660 +/-, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Trip, July 10, 2018

Cottonwood Lakes, 14 miles RT, Max elevation 11,384', 1,660 +/-, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Trip, July 10, 2018

I woke up at 4:30 am excited to get started on our new adventure. We had a hearty breakfast and soon were on our way up Horseshoe Meadow Road to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead at 10,000’. I took my compass bearings, geared up and we were on our way by about 7 am. The trail enters the Golden Trout Wilderness and starts off on a leisurely stroll through the big pine trees. As we went along we started to gently descend. We followed along side a beautiful creek and made a few water crossings. The mosquitos were out in full force, so I was sure to break out the bug spray before becoming their early morning breakfast. We passed by lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers, corn lily and incredible views of large granite cliffs. Soon we entered the John Muir Wilderness. There was another creek crossing and more lovely meadows to enjoy before we came to the switchbacks. As we began to ascend our pace was slower than usual due to the high altitude. I did not mind stopping to take a few breaks so I could enjoy the views from above and take my photos. As we approached the top of the switchbacks, we could see some peaks coming into view. We passed a junction for Muir Lake and started to see the playful marmots poking their heads out waiting to see if we were going to give them hand out. The trail gently meandered through the meadow with a flowing stream and had incredible views of Cirque Peak and Mount Langley. It wasn’t long before the Cottonwood Lakes came into view. They were stunningly beautiful. We took a moment and sat in the shade to take a break, have a snack and enjoy the scenery, peace and quiet. We made our way to lake #3 and followed along its shore to a short climb up some switchbacks. On the other side we reached lakes 4 and 5. We felt a light breeze and could see the summer storm clouds rolling in closer, but I didn’t hear any thunder. We thought it was a good time to start heading back. We had quite a ways to go before reaching the end of our journey. As we made our way down the switchbacks we enjoyed another marvelous view of lake #3 from above. We passed a man with his two sons who were fishing, but he said they hadn’t had any luck. As we made our way back to the trailhead, I could feel some light precipitation. The cool raindrops on my skin felt refreshing after a long day and the smell of summer rain mixed with the pine was intoxicating. We got back to the trailhead around 3:30 pm and clocked about 14 miles. It was my first time hiking for that long at such a high altitude and I was both tired and exhilarated at the same time. It was an incredible experience. The Eastern Sierra has so much to offer. I have fallen in love.

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Icehouse Canyon, Cucamonga Wilderness, Icehouse Saddle, Timber Mountain, 8,303' (3,325 +/-), 9.03 miles RT, August 27, 2017

Icehouse Canyon, Cucamonga Wilderness, Icehouse Saddle, Timber Mountain, 8,303' (3,325 +/-), 9.03 miles RT, August 27, 2017

Our destination today was to hike Icehouse Canyon through the Cucamonga Wilderness to Icehouse Saddle and then summit Timber Mountain via the Three Tee’s Trail.  Icehouse Canyon has quite a bit of history.  In the 1800s, there was an icehouse here that serviced Los Angeles.  The ice was brought down from the mountains by mules and sold door to door.  There was also a resort here that was built in 1880.  You can find more info. on all of this by searching it on Google.  It’s very interesting and really makes you appreciate the area in which you are hiking.  

Icehouse Canyon is a popular destination among Angelenos, so in order to beat the crowds, I was out of bed by 3:30 am, on the road and at the Old Baldy Ranger Station to collect our wilderness permits just after 5:30 am.  We arrived at the trailhead in the dark, but soon dawn broke and the sun rose to turn pitch black skies to moody blue.  As we began our ascent on the rocky terrain of the trail, we could hear the running creek off to our right.  It followed us through the canyon until we we reached the beautiful Cucamonga Wilderness where the trail opened up to towering trees.

Much of this trail is walking on rock and uneven terrain, so you have to pay attention here.  Then once you hit the switchbacks, get ready to party even harder!  It’s a slow burn all the way to the saddle but I guarantee the scenery will make you forget about your fatigued leg muscles.

The saddle is a junction for a number of different hikes.  Knowing the weather was going to heat up, we had already planned to summit Timber Mountain and be back down before it got too hot.

We took a short snack break at the saddle and then headed straight up the Three Tee’s Trail to summit Timber Mountain.  It was a short one mile climb, but that was no easy trek.  Once at the peak were were rewarded with the most beautiful mountain top covered in a forest of trees and huge, fallen pinecones.  I now understand why it’s called Timber.  We had a little lunch (sandwiches taste so good at over 8,000’), and took in the scenery until it was time to head back.  

With the cardio work out of the way, I could now enjoy myself by taking photos of… EVERYTHING.  Every which way I turned, it was a picture perfect landscape.  Coming back was definitely another challenge.  All those rocks we climbed up on had to be negotiated carefully on the way back down.  I could feel my quads working hard.  It was definitely something you had to pay attention to.  When we arrived back in the canyon, the sunlight peaked through the shady canopy of trees to create magical hues of green and gold.  Coupled with the sound of rushing water, I had to keep stopping and standing there saying, “Wow.  Oh Wow!  This is so pretty!”  

We passed quite a few people on the way back down, but not nearly as many as I had originally anticipated.  I guess not everyone likes getting up at 3:00 in the morning to beat the heat.  Personally, I would not have it any other way.  
 

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