San Gorgonio Summit

Here we were, sitting on the Vivian Creek trailhead parking lot ready to start our hike. With only one mission ahead of us: reach San Gorgonio summit. Our group consisted of 5; Sheila, Jen, Chad, Cody and me.  

  

 Our plan was to arrive at the trailhead  around 2pm, and make it to High Creek campgrounds (5miles from start) and set camp. Things however, did not go as planned. Time was against us, as we started our way up the mountain nearly at 5pm. Packs strapped tightly to our backs, our voyage begun. Sheila, who had been there before was leading the way. After about 1 mile, we reached the San Gorgonio Wilderness sign, stating a PERMIT is required. 

   

 I was thrilled, and still could not believe we were actually there, attempting to reach Southern California’s highest point. Though I was excited, I was also tired. Our packs were pretty heavy. From beginning of trail, the steepness kept increasing gradually. When we reached the sign, a group picture was taken, and a much needed break was enjoyed. Shortly after leaving from the San Gorgonio Wilderness sign, we encountered a volunteer ranger. He was coming down from the summit, and was concerned for our safety. “Do you guys have rope?” he asked. Chad told him safety was our priority, and if we thought any danger shall arise, we would not hesitate to turn back. The ranger checked the permit, chit chat with us advising the conditions of trail, then shortly after we continued our trek. 

 

Chad was thirsty AF

 Our first break was at Vivian Creek. Here, the crew filtered water and had snacks. After about 10 minutes or so, we continued. Daylight was slowly fading. Late night hikes don’t have to be short and boring. As the night took over, we stopped to strap on our headlamps, and hiked in the dark for about 3 hours (maybe more 🙃).  

 At around 9:30pm we reached the breaking point of Halfway Camp and High Creek. Here, we discussed if to proceed to original destination -High Creek, or stay at Halfway camp. We were pretty tired. That was not only the factor keeping us from going. The next 2 1/2 miles to High Creek would be PERHAPS icy, and dangerous AF. And keep in mind, it was already dark. The crew decided to call it a night, and avoid any danger zones. Halfway camp turned to be our billion star hotel for the night. A nice camping spot was found, and we laid down our packs giving us so sooooo much relief. Before cooking dinner, we set camp. Dinner for me, my favorite, RAMEN NOODLES. Each one of the group had different meals. The next day’s hike would not be any easier than today, therefore our time to be on the trail was set to 5am. For a few minutes, we glissaded down a mini mountain right behind our tents to practice self arrest with ice axe. then, off to sleep we went.  

   
4am was here, and we were anxious to get some breakfast and getting on the trail. 

woke up at around 4am, and quickly started cooking breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes 😋

 Unfortunately, Jen and Cody, did not have the proper sleeping bags, and were unable to sleep due to coldness. Cody, also had fever blisters around his mouth. As much as they wanted to make it to summit, Cody wasn’t feeling well, and finally deciding to make their way down the mountain. Safe call if you ask me. Sheila, Chad and I packed only snacks and food, leaving tents and sleeping gear at campsite. At 6:45am we started hiking up. Lighter packs, made for faster ascending, however, the fact that we would gain over 3,000 in 6miles could not be overlooked. Sections between halfway and Highcreek were hard ice, we stopped to strap on crampons. Ice axe was in full effect as well. Made it up the first steep ass hill, boy was that steep! There was a 2nd hill, this was no different from the first. Upon reaching the top of the 2nd steep hill going straight up the mountain, a much needed break was enjoyed. And, it was lunch time. Sheila’s jetboil stove was used by all of us, as I had ran out of fuel in the am when making coffee. A few photos were snapped while water was boiling. The views to San Jacinto peak were extraordinary. I was im complete awe.

  
     
Well rested and bellies full, our trek continued strong, still had about 2 long miles to reach summit. The steepness level got to a point where we had to stop to catch our breath every 10-15 steps. Our final stretch seemed the hardest, as we were already exhausted. Last break was taken, and from there we would make a run for the peak, figuratively speaking. We were pushing for the peak.  

 The summit was reached at around 1pm, and we were all happy the long strenuous hike had paid off. This was Chad’s first time up San Gorgonio summit, and was my first official summit. I was astounded by the views, was just amazing. Last snacks were munched, snapped a few pics, and I enjoyed my FIRST SUMMIT BEER, well deserved if you ask me.  We also kept in mind Sheila’s one WHOLE year of sobriety. Way to go! CONGRATS! 🍻  

Official Summit CHEERS 🍻

   
The way down was much faster, as the snow was slushy from direct sunlight. We glissaded and made it down to Highcreek in a little under 1hour. I was a bit skeptical about sliding down, as I dropped my ice axe somewhere along the trail. RIP ice axe. Luckily, Chad is a swell skier, and he let me borrow his axe to descend. All the while he was skiing down the mountain as if he was walking in the park. Though the hike down was much faster, still took us a good 5 hours to get down. Finally reaching the parking lot at nearly 8pm.  

 
Overall, I had a great amazing  unforgettable experience, and best of all, made new friends. As exhausted as we all were, there was always, at all times, a smile on our face.  

   
    
    
  

much needed break, after 1st steep hill
  
Cody was trying to make a run for it, BAD CALL 😂
    
 

   
 

Backpacking A Snowy Mt. Baldy

52 Hike Challenge #8/52 

When my good friend Jose told me he was gearing up for backpacking, I was thrilled and excited for the many adventures to come. We made plans for our first backpacking trip together to BRIDGE TO NOWHERE located in the San Gabriel mountains. A 10 1/2 mile hike R/T. As the time approached, there were warnings of a storm headed our way. The trail we made plans for has many river crossings, and dirt along the sides.  

 

There was heavy rain the week prior to our trip. We knew it would be muddy. Not wanting to cancel our voyage, we decided to look for another trail. I decided to take Jose to Mt. Baldy, the Ski Hut via San Antonio Falls trail. This trail was shorter in distance by 3 miles, but had an elevation gain of about 3,500 ft. more than the Bridge to Nowhere. And, we would be carrying a 40-50lbs pack on our back. As bad as it seemed, we decided to just do it (more like I decided). Jose was unaware we were going to hike up a snow covered Mt. Baldy, until we arrived. 😁🤗

 
When we arrived to the San Antonio Falls trailhead, at approximately 0700, the parking along the side was full. Our option was to either park about 1mile down from the trail, or wait for someone to leave. We waited for a while, drove around in circles and had no luck. That weekend, it was beyond full because there had been little to no rain in Los Angeles for the past few years. So, lots of rain meant lots of snow, and everyone was heading up to Mt. Baldy, the local and closest mountain. After about 30 minutes waiting, someone left, and we parked. 

Got out of the car, stretched as we strapped on our packs, and were ready to go. The first 1 1/2 mile to San Antonio Falls is fairly easy, as the trail is pretty much straight forward. The uphill comes past the falls. We stopped at the falls for a quick break. Although the first mile is not tough, we were carrying weigh on our backs, and that made trekking in the snow tiring and difficult. Being Jose’s first time with full gear, and knowing the challenge ahead, we thought of staying near the fall. Not really sure if it is permitted though. I was ok with staying as well as if we kept going. I advised Jose how challenging the hike up would be, specially with fresh fluffy snow and being EXTRA heavy from packs. 

 

San Antonio Falls
 
 
After a few minutes, we decided to continue ascending. Jose was a tad bit tired. He is very optimistic, and his ‘I CAN DO IT’ attitude pushed him to keep going. The hike up was tough, tougher than what we expected. Every once in a while there were spots along the trail when our feet would sink (ankle deep) into snow. After about 2 miles or so, the switchbacks and elevation gain was becoming a nightmare. We stopped to cool down and catch our breath a few times.   

 

Jose, just chillin’ in his comfy snow chair
 
After many more quick stops, and many times of wanting to turn around and call it quits, last break and on our breaking point, a group of hikers coming down from the Ski Hut, told us we were sooo close, we just had to keep going. They were shocked at the fact we were planning on camping up there, as the storm was not completely over. We chitchat for a little longer, had some sandwiches, strapped our packs, and up the mountain we went. Our goal was to make it to the Notch (Ski Hut). Jose was running on fumes, however, he did not want to quit. He pushed himself to the limit.    

  

 I was glad we didn’t give up, and so was he when we made it up the last switchback, and there we were, at the Baldy Notch. All we can think of was finding a spot to set down our packs and relax. While looking for a good camping spot, we got off the trail. However, due to no foot traffic, the snow was fluffier and deeper: knee deep. We found ourselves battling the snow and fighting our way back up to the trail.  

Everything covered in snow, we laid down a tarp, relaxed and enjoyed the view before setting up camp. I snapped a few  pics. With such great work out, appetite rises, I started cooking lunch: RAMEN NOODLES 😋 . Beef steaks was next on the menu. When we were eating, already cooled down, the cold breeze was now felt tremendously. Jackets were necessary to keep warm. Started setting up camp around 1500hrs, before it got dark and in no time, we were all set up.   

    
 

As early as it was, we were tired, and the high winds did not allow us to stay out for long. Therefore, we decided to get into our tents and take a (very well deserved) nap. The nap was a big success. I woke up and it was already dark, super windy and chilly. Jose would call me, I was asleep he says. I would call him, he was asleep. As if we were playing tag. The night was somewhat chilly, and at some points the wind would be felt thru the tent and sleeping bag. Although bearable, the chills would wake you up and keep you awake for a few minutes. 

0900hrs – In the morning, my thermometer read 27degrees F.  We got to cooking breakfast inside Jose’s tent. And soon after started packing at around 1000hrs. Though the hike down was much faster, it was no easy task. Multiple breaks were necessary to catch our breath. On the way down, we saw a guy hiking SHIRTLESS. In no time, we were already down at the beginning of the trail.

 
Overall, it was an  amazing experience and something about hiking in the snow makes it peaceful and serene. 

   

 09JAN2016

Echo Mountain via Sam Merril

52 Hike Challenge #15/52

We started our hike at around 8am. The plan was to take the Sam Merril trail to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. A total of 11miles, and approximately 2,800  feet elevation gain. As the trail begins, the first 2 miles or so are pretty steep, and you can quickly get out of breath if going to fast. As I looked back, I was amazed how quickly we were ascending.  

   
We took 2 breaks before reaching Echo Mountain; a mountain where a hotel once stood. A hotel built in the late 1800’s by Thaddeus Lowe. There were no roads to this hotel — you reached it by an incline railway that climbed over 1,000 feet. The hotel burned to the ground in a fire, but there are remnants of the grandeur that once shone brightly atop Echo Mountain. At 10:30am, we were atop where the hotel was years ago. Cement stairs and old trolley parts remain. We had snacks, snapped a few pics, explored the surroundings and shouted thru an echo phone, my guess is that is where the name Echo Mountain comes from. After about 3omin or so, we got on our way. 

Christopher pointing to our destination
  

Kevin, Juan, Christopher, Foxxy, and me 😆
   
  


 From there, we headed up to Inspiration point. The trail was marked with signs providing information of the hotel, and its history. Really awesome. Though the trail past Echo Mountain was not as steep, at first, it still felt as if we were not advancing towards the peak. Or, maybe, just maybe could have been the fact that we were tired. Christopher was exhausted and extremely hot. The sun was out and doing what it does best, warm up planet Earth. I always take extra clothe for Christopher in my pack, ALWAYS, with the exception of today 😁. He was wearing a thick long sleeve shirt, and was shy to take it off. I told him that I was hot as well, and if he took off his thermo shirt, I would take off mine. He finally agreed when he was drenched in sweat.  

  

We would count, and his pain would seize( for a while)
counting to 100; by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s helped Christopher reach his maximum distance YET
 

After some walking, we found a nice shaded area along the trail, and decided to take a break. As much as we really wanted to make it to Inspiration Point, we were extremely tired, and also did not pack enough food and snacks were running low.  About 1 mile short to summit, we decided to take a long much needed break, before heading back down to the parking lot.  

  
 Juan laid down, took a 15min nap. Christopher and Kevin played with dirt and rocks. And I, made lunch. Our favorite, RAMEN NOODLES.  The time was now (approximate) 12:30noon. We ate, enjoyed the view, and soon after started descending. I kept telling myself, and the group, that the way down is usually faster. However, that was not the case, or at least seemed that way. The hike down was much easier, but still felt long and endless, Christopher was EXTREMELY tired. We stopped to re-energize, and to cool down as the sun was out and beaming. One break at Echo Mountain and straight down we went. When we got to the beginning of the trail, now close to 2:45pm, I asked Juan how many miles he tracked with his FitBit watch, “12.4 miles” was his response. I was surprised and happy Christopher hiked the entire trail, all by himself. All he wanted was to go get some ice scream.  On our way home, we were all hungry. STARVING!! A salvadoran restaurant caught Juan’s attention, and mine as well. We stopped, got to munching and headed home. Overall, it was an awesome challenging hike, we all had a blast and agreed to come back with plenty of food. 😆😋🙃

*Due to low battery on my phone, I was unable to snap as many pics as I would have wanted; times are approximate.