Hot Springs Mountain April 2017

Now that we’re back in shape, and while the weather was still cool, we decided to take a day-hike to the summit of the highest mountain in San Diego County:  Hot Springs Mountain, elevation 6533 feet.  Unlike other summits, this mountain resides within the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, and so a visit requires permission from the tribe.  Currently this is easy to get:  Just pay ten dollars for a permit at the reservation’s entrance and drive a few miles to the trailhead.

After that, it’s merely a matter of hiking five miles each way and ascending about 2000 feet.  It sounds much easier than it is, however, so don’t fool yourself:  You’ll be in for a solid day of hiking.

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PCT Onyx Summit to Whitewater April 2017

As Pacific Crest Trail “Section Hikers” we differ from the true “PCT Through-Hiker” in that we can hike the trail in any order and in any direction that we please.  This is the kind of freedom we like.  Our previous two hikes in California Section C were both Northbound, but this hike was planned from the outset to be Southbound. Why?  Because we did our homework and  checked the elevation profile of the trail.  We made darn sure that we started at a significantly higher point than the finish!  As we stated to the other hikers that we met along the way (all of them sweating and puffing up the trail):  “We take our PCT hikes downhill – both ways!”

And this section was truly a whopper of a downhill, with over 6500 feet between the highest and lowest points.  Being the ever-changing PCT, there was also more than 3000 feet of uphill climbing here and there along the way, which yielded a total descent of 9500 feet!  This was nearly two miles of elevation loss!  And it would have been a true knee-destroyer if it weren’t for the fact that it spread the change out over a total of more than 35 miles.  True, some sections were steeper than others, but all in all, the PCT is known for being a well-graded trail.  Just the same, we sure were glad to be hiking southbound this time!

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PCT Lake Morena March 2017

This hike on the PCT was special for several reasons.  It was our first backpacking trip of the year, after waiting through a long cold winter.  It was also our first backpacking event after waiting months for Vicki’s shinsplints to finally finish healing.  And, lastly and most importantly, this trip was intended to complete the final sub-section of California Section A on the Pacific Crest Trail that we had yet to hike.  Hooray!

That it also went to Lake Morena, the site of the world-famous PCT Kick-Off, was merely an added bonus.

Vicki looking out over Lake Morena from the Pacific Crest Trail

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San Bernardino Peak Oct 2016

For this, my second attempt at backpacking solo, I chose to repeat a hike that Vicki and I had done several years ago, climbing San Bernardino Peak in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and camping at the Limber Pine Bench campsite.  Of course, this time I was in much better shape, with much lighter gear, so I decided to hike all 3400 feet in one day, rather than breaking the climb into a two-day trip.  I’d still spend two days, but this time on my second day I would take life easier, simply bagging the summit, relaxing up on top for a few hours.  I would return on the third day.  That was the original plan, at any rate.

My tent in the lee of a big boulder at the windy Limber Pine Bench Campground

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San Jacinto Sept 2016

This trip differed from all of my previous ones:  I backpacked solo.  Why?  Because my usual partner wasn’t feeling well.  I also couldn’t get anyone else to go with me, but I admit that I didn’t try all that hard to find anyone.  In fact, I confess that I didn’t even bother to ask anyone.  Why not?  Well, it’s complicated.  But the main reason is that I had been planning to do some longer multi-day high-mileage treks in the Sierra Nevada and on the Pacific Crest Trail in the next few years, and to hike them successfully your best bet is to do it by yourself.  You always walk at your best pace, you stop when you want to, you eat what you want, you aren’t dependent on anyone for anything, and you never get angry at anyone except yourself.  The downside, of course, is that you sleep all alone, you do all the work in camp, and you don’t have a buddy to help you out if something bad happens to you.  My partner, Vicki, has trouble at higher elevations and cannot hike as fast or as far as I can, and she decided that she would prefer to help me do those upcoming big hikes in more of a support capacity, by being at a trailhead to pick me up when I finish a hike, or to help me with a mid-trek resupply.  Hence this solo trip.

But did I really want to hike solo?  Would I be lonely?  Would I hate it?  I really didn’t know.  But I had to try, if I was going to realize my dream of backpacking those awesome trails.

Me on the summit of San Jacinto Peak, elevation 10834 feet

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Onion Valley August 2016

After our original plan to hike in the Cascades was derailed by a forest fire (after we drove all the way up there) we decided to recover from the shock by spending a couple of impromptu nights in the High Sierra.  On the way back to California, we stopped at the Bishop Ranger Station in late afternoon and started inquiring about a wilderness permit.  Our top choice was already gone, but our backup option was available: We got a permit for the Kearsarge Pass Trail out of Onion Valley.  We’d day-hiked the trail back in 2011, but we certainly hadn’t exhausted the exploration possibilities in the area, and we knew that it was exceptionally beautiful.  We were only planning to spend two nights, which was much less than the ten-day trek we had planned for the Cascades, but being in the Sierra would make a big difference mentally, and would put us back on track.

Panorama view looking down on the Matlock Lake basin from the west near Bench Lake

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PCT Onyx Summit to Big Bear July 2016

We decided to hike yet another section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) over the Fourth of July Weekend.  This time, our plan was to hike the section just north of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, covering 27 miles over three days, from Onyx Summit on Highway 38 to Poligue Canyon Road, in the mountains above Big Bear Lake.

These new miles would connect to the section that we hiked back on Memorial Day Weekend.  The end result would be that the two of us completed a total of 62 miles of PCT California Section C (about half of the section).  Maybe next spring we’ll tackle the other parts of Section C, when the weather is cooler and the mountains are wetter.

Looking out over the Mojave Desert from the PCT east of Big Bear Lake

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San Gorgonio Wilderness June 2016

Summary: We backpacked up the Momyer Trail and camped at the Alger Creek Campsite, and on the second day we hiked onward to the Dobbs Cabin Campsite.  Then we set up the tent, and day-hiked cross-country up Falls Creek to visit Allison Falls and Lone Warrior Point.

Vicki happy amongst the blooming Lupines on the Momyer Trail

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PCT Big Bear to Hesperia May 2016

This backpacking trip was planned in advance to be a tough one, a long one, to get our 2016 hiking season off to a solid start.  And, if you want to collect some serious trail mileage, there’s no better place to do it than the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).  At 2600 miles long, it offers plenty of hiking excitement.  We’d already done most of the sections down near San Diego (as well as assorted sections in northern California and Washington), and were now “shopping” the Los Angeles area for new PCT ideas.  In fact, we had planned to do one section near San Gorgonio Mountain last year when the Lake Fire broke out and burned for weeks, causing a trail closure right where we wanted to hike!  So this year, even though the burnt section was still closed, we set our sights a bit further north, to a section near Big Bear Lake.

A popular trail, the PCT has been thoroughly mapped out; it’s been broken down into named sections, complete with virtual mileage markers, GPS tracks, and downloadable topographic maps, all available online.  For those who care about PCT nomenclature, the hike I chose was part of California Section C, namely: PCT miles 279 through 314.  In other words, we’d be hiking 35 miles total, beginning at a dirt road just north of Big Bear Lake near the town of Fawnskin and heading roughly northwest, descending gradually toward the Mojave Desert, ending up in a dirt parking lot at the end of Highway 173 near the town of Hesperia.  After considerable study, making use of various online water reports, I came up with a plan.  I figured that this hike could be done by the two of us in about three days.  Three LONG days, because we’re not exactly the fastest of hikers.

A highlight of our trip: Fish in Deep Creek checking out Vicki's Feet

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Mount Langley Sept 2015

This trip report is about a proud moment in fatherhood: I got to watch my son become a fourteener!

It should have happened a month ago, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, my wife (who always accompanies me when backpacking) at first decided that she didn’t want to go hiking, so I invited my son for a three day hike. We set our sights high on Langley’s summit. My wife, meanwhile, got jealous. Suddenly she wanted to join the hike in a “support” role. But she hikes really slow and doesn’t like high elevation. She was stubborn and insistent, and eventually I gave up. I told my son not to bother taking that Friday off, and instead my wife and I lowered our sights to hiking to the Cottonwood Lakes. And we had a great time, as we always do. But my son still wasn’t a fourteener.

So we made new plans for Labor Day Weekend. My wife was not invited. We arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger Station before 8am on Friday morning, drew a low number in the lottery, and opted for a slightly more challenging route to Langley, a roundabout route via Cottonwood Pass, rather than the typical, shorter Cottonwood Lakes route. We would take the PCT north from Cottonwood Pass to Soldier Lake, camp overnight, then take our big packs up the New Army Pass Trail. We would stash the big packs at Old Army Pass, dayhike to Langley’s summit, return for our packs, and then descend to the Cottonwood Lakes Basin and find a campsite there. We would exit on Sunday.

Happy Fourteener on the Summit of Mount Langley

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