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.
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.
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.