IRON MOUNTAIN: The Hidden Truth

First of all, I think  Iron Mountain should have BIG BAD WOLF somewhere along its name. Simply because, it will have you huffing and puffing and tries to knock you down, the entire way up. Having major switchbacks on the trail was at some point something I would definitely not look forward to. Til’ IRON MOUNTAIN. The steepness level of this brutal hike is unbelievable. Not only that, there are 3 or 4 major hills, that before you can go UP, drops DOWN several hundred feet. I guess that’s the STEEL of the mountain. Total distance up to the summit, about 7miles with 7,000ft elevation gain. Keep in mind, you are practically climbing 1,000 ft per mile, something to ponder about.  

 Sunday morning, our plan was to arrive  at the Heaton Flats trailhead parking lot at 6am. I received a message from Chad (@life_is_goodoutdoors), something about being a tad bit late. No worries, I said. As the thought of not having enough food was at the back of my head. Stopped by a near 24-hr Walmart store to get some food; Chicken Wrap rolls for the way, and honey buns for breakfast. I munched a few 😅 . 6:20 at parking lot, Chad arrived about 5minutes later. Handed Chad 3 honey buns, and he handed me a water bottle, fair exchange, right? I must say, do not underestimate the amount of water needed on this trail, especially on a sunny day. “Here, you can have a water bottle,” Chad told me after I said I was PERHAPS a tad bit short on water. I had 2 1/2 liters, Chad had I believe (6) 16-oz water bottles. All gone before completion of hike. 

A little past our desired time, 6:45am, we were all packed and ready to tackle the BEAST mountain, as Chad described it. About 1/2 mile into the fire road, Heaton Flats campground is reached. Here, you have the option to hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, or go where few have gone, Iron Mountain. A Wilderness Permit is required, to which is self issued at this junction. Bring a pen! A few pics were snapped, permit was submitted and we were on our way. Our goal was set, and we were determined to accomplish that goal.  

   
From beginning of trail, the only way is up. Though not as bad compared to what is yet to come. Our trek was quickly interrupted, for a few seconds, by a junction that switched the trail 360degrees. To the right, was what seemed like a trail, however no foot evidence of being one. More like a water drainage, so, we decided to pour some water of our own and put it to test. To the left, was the more evident trail. Unfortunate for a hiker, he took the wrong turn, and found himself hauling ass to get to his group. “I took the wrong turn, have you guys seen my group?” he asked, as he described fellow hikers about 20 minutes ahead of us. 1 mile into the hike and several hundred feet already climbed, the Sheep Mountain Wilderness sign welcomes you. Our only thought at this point was, how do some hikers see herds of bighorn sheep or at least one, and we’ve yet to witness that.  

   
Along the way, we were greeted by a nice older gentleman James (@he_wei_jin), advised us of his secret water stash, at the Saddle. We chit chatted for a while, and he also mentioned the steepness past the Saddle was about 60% incline. He also added that before going (straight) up, we would first descend a few hundred feet. This is the interesting and tough part of the trail, we thought. And this is my reason as to why I don’t mind switchbacks as much as the UPS AND DOWNS. Upon getting to the Saddle, already some 4miles and 3,000 ft out the way, the best was yet to begin. Water stash was found, nearby a few rocks slighty hidden, as advised by @he_wei_jin.  

Walking along the backbone the entire way up: COOLEST THING ever

The first descent is right after the Saddle, straight down. Then, about 1/2 mile or so, straight up. The inclination level was just insane, and though we were taking  a beating, we kept pushing up. I told Chad we were doing great as we passed a group of 4, taking a quick breather break before heading up the first hill. I spoke a bit too soon, however, a new group we had not seen, quickly got ahead of us. They came out of nowhere, hauling ass straight up the hill. Not worried much about it, after that first hill, we decided to stop and get some breakfast, the time was now roughly 11:13am. I had some chicken wrapped rolls, delish; Chad boiled water and had a dehydrated meal. 20 minutes, give or take a few, our ascending continued. 2nd hill; ups and downs, again. Done. The 3rd or 4th hill, I lost track, included major rock scrambling, that was after the DOWNhill part of course, straight UP we went.  

     
6 hours 20minutes, 7 tough miles with rock scrambling and 7,000 ft gained, we arrived at the summit, 8,007 ft. Exhausted and hungry AF, looked around and enjoyed the view; snapped a few pics, signed register book, and got to boiling water on Chad’s jetboil stove. Which may I add, that thing is just fuckin’ amazing. Water boils before you can even blink. Once water was boiled, under 2minutes, all that was left to do was wait for dehydrated meals to fully cook. After our meal, a 30-40 minute power nap was enjoyed deeply by Chad, who found a rock out in the sun to be his comfy bed. I tried laying on a rock, only lasted seconds; the heat was just beyond my handling capabilities. I dislike heat; hot water and sun are at the top of the list. Crazy how I can easily chug down steaming hot boiling coffee on a 100• degree day. But, that’s just another story. Anyhow, I moved to a grassy shaded area where I re-adjusted my shoes, leaving them off for a few minutes felt great. And kept being bothered by bees just roaming near by. Hat on face, I doze off for about 5 or 10 minutes. Time to go? Chad still on that power nap. Oh well, back to laying I go.  

  

  

At 2:20pm, we started heading down the beast mountain, heads high and chest all pumped, running down some not-so steep parts of the trail. Coming to a quick halt and walking slowly uphills, then running downhill, then slowly uphill again. We kept on saying the entire hike was like a video game, with the water cached and the man stashing the water was on a side mission. And our mission was to find it. All fun and games, til, going downhil you slip on loose rocks and fall on your ass. Yep, that happened to me alright. Mountains just caught me slippin’ and that was a sign that a quick break was needed. I mean, I was already sitting down, might as well, right!? Kept running, trail blazing down; being extra careful with the yuccas trying to prick us. There were parts of the trail where there were yucca plants in both sides, sharp and pointy as can be. Only way to pass thru is to slowly, very slowly maneuver your entire body. This stages were called LEVEL 1,000 in our hiking GAME! As we reached the Saddle on the way back, we grabbed some water from the secret stash. Thank you @Hei_Wei_Jin for such great gesture. It took us about 4 hours 40 minutes to get down, few breaks and picture sessions included. Tired and sore AF, and although heels and toes took a beating, no blisters!  A horny toad was spottedby Chad onthe way down. Funny looking horned lizard. 

  • PHOTOS

   

 
   

Monkeyin’ around
  
    
  

  

  

   
 

Endurance Knows No Age

  Saturday morning 6am, Christopher and I set out to a hike. He has been on many hikes with me, with the exception of a few tough ones. That being said, we were prepared with plenty of food, water and warm winter gear to introduce him to some tough rugged terrain. I wanted to throw some elevation gain and push him a little, without the loss of enjoyment and enthusiasm. He can do some distance, the most have been 12miles RT. I was determined to not discourage him, or else he would have no desire to return. To climb a mountain, or go up to the peak is no easy task. Endurance is put to the test, making the statement PUSH FOR THE PEAK sometimes the hardest, as you are walking straight up! 

Our destination was the Icehouse Trail in Mt. Baldy. Icehouse Saddle is 3.6 miles from trailhead and gains 2,600ft. A few miles into the trail, you enter Cucamonga Wilderness, and a permit is required. Mt. Baldy Village visitor center provides this permit, simply have to go to office. You can also call ahead and have one ready at the message board, very convenient if you are looking to start before sunrise. 

I was uncertain of the distance we would hike, therefore, stopped at Baldy Village and picked up a permit. However, I was more than  happy with the fact that Christopher  was up for the challenge. 

All packed and ready to go, I looked at the time, 8:15am. As we started our hike, it was very cloudy and chilly. I had been advised by a friend of mine of a storm said to start later in the afternoon. Though we both had rain gear, I did not want to get heavy rain coming back down the mountain, not with Christopher. 11:30am was my turn around time. From beginning of trail, the steepness at some parts can not be overlooked. Christopher was feeling it and quickly began looking back to see how far we had walked. He looked at me, and with a look that said WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR? smiled and kept going. Throughout the entire hike he was all smiles. After about half mile, he requested his first snack, SCOOBY GUMMIES; which according to him, gives him energy. He sat on a rock, enjoyed the gummies, and off we went. As we were walking, clouds begun to move in on us, and we found ourselves unable to look past 100ft ahead of us. The clouds also brought along very little mist.  

   
Along the trail flows a small creek stream, and due to recent rain, was flowing nicely. Christopher’s  weakness is a river. He loves ‘HELPING the water, it will make it go faster and reach farther,’ his exact wording. 

Every few hundred feet, he would ask me to stop and go EXPLORE. “No, we have a long way to go,” was my answer. “We will help the water on our way back.” That did not stop him from slowly going off trail and making his way towards the river, even though the trail was right in front. His perseverance was strong, and finally he said, “ok, this is it, I need to explore!” as he walked off trail straight to the river. Halfway he stopped, looked back and just smiled, “come on” he said and waited for my response. Serious face at first, just had to give in and couldn’t help smiling back, “fine, let’s explore a lil.”  

 He jumped over a small river stream, removed some logs from water, and after about 10 minutes or so, he was ready to go. 

  As we continued going up, the steepness level was increasing. Our first official break  was at the mile marker, which is a junction of the Chapman Trail, turning north taking a route thru Cedar Canyon. Our backs felt good with no packs. Christopher had some SCOOBY gummies, a snack, and drank plenty of water. Many hikers passed by, all amazed at Christopher’s determination and mainly his age, 5 1/2. “great job, keep pushing,” most told him.  

   
That seemed to motivate him, grabbed his pack and said, “come on, let’s catch up to them.” Our 15minute break came to an end and we continued our hike. As we tried to catch up to them, the steepness gradually kept increasing. Christopher decided to make up songs and count, as to keep his mind occupied. That worked wonders and though we did not catch up to the hikers he wanted, we advanced quite a lot.  

 At 1.8miles from start, you reach the Cucamonga Wilderness, here we unpacked for another break as we were hungry. A cold salami sandwich was our meal, I drank water, Christopher had fruit punch flavored water. I snapped a few pics while Christopher explored. The trail was foggy and dark clouds roamed ahead of us at all times, with occasional mist. Our bodies cooled down while sitting, and we could now feel chills. Jackets were put to work. As our trek continued, to what I estimate about 2.4 miles one-way, rain started getting heavy and more consistent. Hikers going back told us the Saddle was just about 1mile, “almost there,” they all said. However, the time was now 11:15am, and Christopher was exhausted.  

 The trail only kept getting steeper, which meant a lot more time was needed, that is if he still had energy. Christopher’s determination was very strong, and though he was tired, “let’s make it to the top” he said! I quickly reminded him that we still had to explore the river, that worked, he was very excited about that. We sat for a little while, tossed on our rain jackets, and enjoyed some blackberries before descending. The way down was much quicker, at some parts Christopher found himself running down the trail, then stopped to catch his breath for a few secs, and continued. Around 12:20, already past the hardest parts of the trail, Christopher decided to opt from the trail and follow the stream of water. Looking for a nice spot to have lunch, and for me to set up my hammock. 

Along the river, we found lots of little waterfalls, and a few logs begging us to cross ’em. Finally reaching ‘the spot ‘ Christopher took off his pack and quickly started removing rocks and logs from water. His goal is to help the water reach the river bed by our house(in Downey) so he can continue to take long showers. Rain drops were now very small, and I was able to set up hammock and prepare lunch. Hammock was set up, Christopher took over. He was swinging and as I jumped off the hammock, my phone jumped out of my pocket; landing screen down on a rock. Phone was fully functional though screen was cracked. First thought, the wife is going to kill me! I wasn’t going to let that ruin our trip, everything continued as if nothing had happened.  

 We had lunch, BEEF MEAT; and luckily as we were done eating, rain forced us to pack up everything. Well rested, bellies full and rain jackets on we continued our trek back to the parking lot, about 3/4 mile to go. Extremely exhausted, Christopher would occasionally bend down, hold his stomach and catch his breath. Back at the car, rain still strong, packs came off and so did the soaked rain jackets. Christopher had thermo pants under snow bib, so, those came off too. 

Overall, it was a great hike! New experience for Christopher and I, and best of all, we had a FANTASTIC bonding time. As usual, Christopher is always talking, even when out of breath!! I was very happy and satisfied with the outcome of this (training) hike. We will attempt to reach the Saddle again, however with an earlier start. Or maybe no rain on forecast. 

      

      

  

  

  

  

  

     
   

   

  
  

  

Trailhead address: 7698 Ice House Canyon Road, Angeles National Forest, Mount Baldy, CA 91759

Trailhead coordinates: 34.25018, -117.635997 (34° 15′ 00.64″N 117° 38′ 09.58″W) 

Living Room Picnic?

My regular working hours begin at 4 in the evening, Monday thru Friday. When I learned I would have Friday off, due to holiday, I was thrilled. First thing that came to my head, surprise my wife. My plan was to pick up Christopher from school, and instead of taking him to the wife, I would take him to the park or a hike, his choice. After that, go on a date with the wife. Christopher’s Godmother, Rachel, had not seen Christopher in some time, and asked for him to sleep over. Christopher, agreed to such great invitation. My plans changed. My wife told me she would get home from work around 11’ish, and though late, still wanted to continue with our plans. I suggested a picnic at the beach, she agreed. 

As the time passed, very slowly- or PERHAPS I felt it that way- I had prepared a pack with her favorite; HOT CHEETOS, and wine ( San Antonio Red Wine) and was just waiting. I also packed my fuel stove, a small pot and short ribs for dinner. 11 o’clock was around the corner, and I was anxiously waiting. 11:30pm and she was still not home. I was going crazy. Finally, she arrived, closer to 12midnight. I was waiting outside, ready to just hop in the car and roll, literally. I manned the wheel and she moved to the passenger side.  

 As I started driving towards the freeway, insecure face, “you look really tired, should we still go?” I asked. The GPS estimated an arrival time of 35minutes. Blocks away from the house, I asked her if she was working the next day, “yes, have to be at the shop at 6am” was her reply. I looked at the time, and as bad as I wanted to make it extra special, it would be inconsiderate for me to overlook her work schedule. I estimated the time to get to the beach, the time we would be there, and the drive back. We’d be getting home between 2-3am. She seemed extremely tired, and did not want to upset me, as to why decided to proceed as planned. Suddenly, I made a turn back to the house, and decided to just go home so she can rest for the next day. As determined as she was to not let me down, she still wanted the picnic, however, at home, in our living room. “You know we still having a picnic, RIGHT!?” she stated. The look on my face said WTF and simultaneously I said “YOU ARE CRAZY.” She affirmed the picnic was still on, and to simply pretend we were at the beach. 

Back home, before I finished parking, Elizabeth aka the Wife said, “I’m gonna take a quick shower, when I get out the picnic better be set.” I quickly replied, “I’m not wasting my fuel, I’m going to cook in the house stove.” She did not like that idea and gave me the look. And of course, I had to obey. Hot steaming boiling water, how she ALWAYS prefers to shower. All I could see was steam coming out of the slightly opened restroom door. I should say that I dislike hot water, with passion. I continued to lay my movers blanket on the carpet, and began taking everything out from the pack. 

  Already in PJ’s, she joined me as I finished setting up. She open the bag of Hot Cheetos, and kept her eyes on the wine bottle, as if trying to give me a hint. One step ahead, “A” game strong AF, wine bottle was already opened. I served her in a glass cup, and started cooking the meat. “I’m going to keep my feet inside blanket, dont want sand on my toes,” she said. We both looked at each other, and started laughing. Meat was taking some time, hence I was doing small rather tiny pieces. The wine bottle was now almost gone. Luckily, meat was done right on time, as the wife was getting tipsy with 3/4 bottle on an empty stomach. We enjoyed our LIVING ROOM PICNIC, and by the time we were done eating and wine bottle was finished, we called it a night. “You’re driving” Elizabeth said, “I think I had a tad bit too much to drink.” Although we planned for some fresh beach air, our living room was the perfect spot and we enjoyed the moment. No matter the place and time, a simple idea can go a long way if the intentions are right.