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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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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San Jacinto October 2014

Vicki and I decided to take one last backpacking trip in the mountains this year, to get in some high-altitude relaxation before the holidays, and also to get in some hiking before the snow starts falling.

First, the backstory: Long ago in June the two of us had great plans for getting in shape for our big summer trek. (Ten days in the North Cascades!) One small part of that greater plan was to backpack up to Little Round Valley via the Fuller Ridge Trail, spend the night, hit Folly Peak and San Jacinto Peak the next day, then stay a second night at LRV, and hike back out. A fun trip! But other things happened, instead. Annoying things that just HAD to be dealt with, and our plans were postponed. Meanwhile, the rest of our summer weekends had already been allocated. True, we had lots of fun on those other hikes, but Folly Peak remained unconquered.

What with one thing and another, we couldn’t get away until mid-October. And we also got lazy. We decided to take the tram and camp in Tamarack Valley. Our big trek back in August was finished and we no longer needed to get in shape! And that’s why we decided to take life extra easy this time, hiking in on a Friday, day-hiking to Folly Peak on Saturday, and eventually dragging our still-out-of-shape butts back to the tram on Sunday.

It sure sounded easy when I got the permit. But soon enough I read on the internet that even the Round Valley Spring had dried out! OK, we said. We’ll hike in, set up camp, then hike on back to Long Valley for more water. Three trips total, not one. With all this extra hiking the Fuller Ridge Trail started sounding a whole lot better, but it was far too late to change the permit.

Vicki looking back at San Jacinto Peak from the Folly Peak Summit

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San Jacinto Aug 2014

TR: Little Round Valley and Nearby Peaks, Labor Day 2014

Normally Vicki and I go out backpacking together, now that our kids are grown, but this time she was away for a week visiting relatives. I decided that backpacking beat the heck out of staying home alone, so I enlisted my son and three of his friends, and the five of us set off for the Fuller Ridge Trail, Little Round Valley, and a three day weekend full of peak bagging. Bro’s Only. Sorry, ladies.

The only problem I foresaw was that these four dudes were all 25 years younger than me, and that I might not be able to keep up the pace. That they wanted to climb every rock along the way was merely an added bonus!

Sunset silhouettes in Little Round Valley

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San Jacinto October 2013

We decided to spend a night up in the San Jacinto Wilderness to end our summer season of backpacking. It was already beginning to get cold, but it wasn’t much colder than the Sierra in August, so it was actually quite nice. This time, however, we had extra plans: We met up with Hikin’ Jim and his lovely daughter Joyce at the Palm Springs Tram station, and had further plans to spend the afternoon meeting up (and having a potluck) with some of the regulars from the internet forum.

Hiking back to Tamarack Valley on the Round Valley Trail

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San Jacinto Sept 2012

This trip to San Jacinto was different from all of the others. Normally, we backpack in the park and camp for one or more nights. But this time we only came for the day. Why? To meet a bunch of people face to face that we’d only “seen” on an internet forum. And have a potluck dinner, of course.

Me at Hidden Lake Divide with Tahquitz Peak in the distance

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Tahquitz and Caramba June 2012

This was the third of our “training” backpacking trips this year. Unlike last year, when our primary training goal was to get acclimated to high elevation for an eventual summit of a fourteen thousand foot peak, this year our goal was to pay mere lip service to elevation-acclimation and endurance-training and simply go on a bunch of fun backpacking trips. Call it training if you like. I call it having fun!

On this trip we planned to start hiking in Idyllwild, from Humber Park. We wanted to climb up the Devils Slide Trail, then descend to Laws camp, where we would spent the night. The next day our goal was to descend even further in the Tahquitz Valley to Carumba Camp, to check out the waterfalls, but only as a day hike. On the third day we would exit via an alternate route, checking out a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Vicki enjoying the waterfall and pool at Carumba Camp

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Skyline Trail Oct 2011

Last year in October, my son and I climbed the Skyline Trail, and I swore that I would never subject myself to such a grueling climb ever again. Climbing 8000 feet in eleven miles is not a simple walk in the park. It takes preparation (you must carry lots of water) and you’d better be in shape. And even then it’s a hike that can take its toll on you. Hence my desire to never climb it again.

Still, climbing Skyline is a fairly major accomplishment for any hiker, and I admit that I was proud of myself. Perhaps a bit too proud.

My wife, wonderful woman that she is, had to put up with my smug superiority for months afterward, and, unbeknownst to me, this festered within her for a year. October swung around once again (Autumn being the best time of year to climb this trail, as it’s too hot down below in the desert during the summer and too icy near the top in the winter) and suddenly, out of the blue, I was informed that I would be climbing the Skyline trail with her the following weekend!

I tried to protest, reminding her of how much she hated hiking uphill, but it was immediately apparent that this was a doomed strategy on my part. She was hiking Skyline the following Saturday, with or without me.

At this point, my only course of action was Damage Control.

Sunrise HDR shot with crepuscular rays at 6:30 AM after six hours of hiking (and resting)

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