Paiute Pass July 2017

We hiked up the Paiute Pass Trail into Humphreys Basin over the long July Fourth Weekend.  We stayed the first night at Paiute Lake, and the second night on a high ridge between Desolation Lake and the Humphreys Lakes.  There was plenty of snow and very deep sun cups everywhere up in the basin.  The snow was melting everywhere but many of the lakes were still frozen.  It was a challenging and beautiful hike.

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Horseshoe Meadows Loop June 2017

I spent a day acclimating to elevation by hiking a ten mile loop out of Horseshoe Meadows.  I began by climbing up to Trail Pass, hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail to Cottonwood Pass, and then descended to the trailhead, completing the loop.  The weather was perfect and there was only a small amount of snow, so it was a fun hike.

Horseshoe Meadows Loop June 2017

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San Jacinto May 2017

We spent a night over the Memorial Day weekend backpacking along the Fuller Ridge Trail in the San Jacinto Wilderness.  Along the way, we visited the Black Mountain Fire Tower and also bagged Castle Rocks, an 8600-foot peak situated directly on Fuller Ridge.  We day-hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail, and enjoyed fine views in all directions.  All in all, it had been a relaxing weekend in the mountains.

Vicki on the Castle Rocks summit block

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Volcan Mountain May 2017

Vicki and I took a drive to Julian for a fun dayhike to the summit of Volcan Mountain, which lies within the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve.  Along the way there were plenty of excellent views, large old oak trees, and breezy grassy meadows.  It was a beautiful park and a fun climb.

Relaxing on a stone bench in the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve

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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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Bristlecone Pines August 2016

While on our annual summer vacation we decided to head back to see the Schulman Grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  This was the location of the world’s oldest tree(s), with one of them being over 5000 years old.  We visited the new visitor center and learned a lot about these amazing trees.  Then we hiked the “Methuselah Walk” trail which took us down to the site where the oldest trees of all were living.  It was humbling to be in the presence of living things one hundred times older than yourself.

Vicki posing with the dolomite ridge behind her where the oldest tree in the world lives, the Methuselah Grove

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