Persevere and you shall achieve, was one of the many thoughts running through my mind as Christopher and I boarded the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift chair. The plan was to reach Mt. Baldy summit (10,064ft above sea level) via the Devil’s Backbone trail. The Ski Lift elevated us up to 7,350ft in just under 15minutes, and skips about 1,500ft climb in 3miles. The remaining 6mile, 2,500ft gain trek is no easy task. And, though Christopher’s determination was set higher than the summit itself, I was mainly worrried for altitude sickness.
At first, He was a bit skeptical about the ski lift ride. After all, it was our first time. “don’t look back,” he kept telling me. As I looked back, I told him, “you should look back, it looks beautiful.” “Oh yeah, you’re right,” he said as he looked back and was was amazed by the views. As nervous as can be, the fear went away after a few minutes.
As we arrived up to the Notch and jumped off the ski lift chair, the first thing we did was look back. Hike had not yet begun and we were already astonished by the great views from the ski lift. Walked a few steps, closer to the trail, off to the left, and we sat down for a few minutes and had a snack bar. As ready as can be, we headed up the trail and started our trek, the time now 10:45am.
Like I said before, the Devils backbone trail is no easy task, as it is slightly steep since the beginning. About 1/2 mile in, Christopher was already feeling the steepness, and looked back every few steps. His face said, what did I get into. “The trail gets tougher,” I said, “but, I know you can do it, because you are a tough cookie.” I like to tell him the real deal, and keep it simple. Sense of humor kicked in, making him forget about the trail, at least for now. “Hey, I’m not a cookie, I’m a kid” he said. We continued up and he began to slow down. No biggy, as he usually sets the pace. We kept moving, slow yet steady.
First break, came about an hour after we started, at a nice shaded area where the trail switchbacks a hard left. Christopher sat down with joy, had breakfast (lunchable pizza) while I looked around and snapped a few pics. Well rested, we continued. Shortly after, you reach the boundaries of the ski area, and came accross some abandoned inoperable ski lift chairs, and of course, Christopher wanted to get on it and take a picture; and that is exactly what we did.
At this point, the wide fire road trail becomes much smaller, and a tad bit steeper, as you are preparing for the Devils Backbone. The trail is narrow with sheer scary drops, with enough space for only one person to pass at any given time. I must mention that it falls off a few hundred feet to the both sides, making it something to ponder about when windy or snow is present. Furthermore, while on this trail, one must concentrate and be very careful, keep your eyes forward and alert. Not as bad as it sounds. The trail takes you along a narrow ridge, hiking uphill with spectacular views in what feels and seems as if on a huge backbone. Somewhere in between, kiddo was getting tired, and hungry, I decided to have lunch, 1:30pm. Boiled water for dehydrated meals; beef stroganoff and mac and cheese. While water was boiling, he played with dirt and rocks. I enjoyed watching him. Bellies full, happy for the long break, the trek continued.
After 1/2 mile or so, the trail shifts to the right, widening the trail to see the immense Baldy Bowl, and the Devils Backbone’s steepest section. A series of steep switchbacks going straight up for the final stretch. Some rock scrambling is needed, and the loose gravel, steepness and lack of oxygen slows you down a little. Pace is key, and taking as many rest breaks as needed. Before the last 1/2mile to the summit, which gains about 700ft, you must traverse thru a narrow hillside trail; scary and sketchy AF as there is nothing to break a fall. As long as body and eyes are kept alert, it is a nice, fun and short shot of adrenaline. The last final stretch; This part was the hardest for Christopher. Already extremely tired, we pushed to the peak very slowly. 500ft from summit, he was ready to call it quits. “Ok, no more,” he said as he sat down and looked at me with a disappointing face. “Look back,” I told him, “you have walked sooo much, and we are practically here, can’t give up now.” I kept telling him ‘just a few more steps and we’re there.’ Few steps,break, “no more” he insisted. We had spotted our friends, Drew and Sara from @CoastTrekkers a while back, and already on their way down, they helped cheer up Christopher.
After his climbs, usually, he gets LEGO’s. He demanded 2, because “this is extremely tough” he said. He suddenly remembered seeing stuffed animals at the Ski Lift store, and changed from LEGO’s to a stuffed animal. That was all it took, found some energy and he pushed for the peak with all he had. As amazed as he was of the great views, and of having made it to the peak; the high winds and exhaustion did not let him enjoy as much, at first. Come checkout this cool plaque, and the register box, I told him. As he approached the plaque, he smiled and wrote his name on the notebook in the register (ammunition) box. We sat down inside a windbreaker made of stacked rocks, and enjoyed the views and the feeling of being above the clouds. Happy, excited and proud, I was nothing but smiles. Long Break as we took the views in; Had snacks, gatorade and water, good to go, vamonos!!!
The descent was relatively fast. What took us about 4 1/2 hrs to climb, was done done in less the 2 1/2 hours, including a 30min nap. Beyond exhausted, pushed to his limits, Christopher had to rest. Already heading down the Devils backbone, As soon as the steep rock scrambling section was over, Christopher sat down, and said “I need a break.” He looked at me and asked if he could “go to bed.” “Sure, I said, “take a quick nap.” Layed down on the flat surface, and in matter of seconds, was fast asleep. Picked him up from the hard rocks and layed him on top of me. Heck, even I started dozing off. Perhaps fell asleep too didn’t even know it. Still tired, but batteries recharged, we flew down the entire trail, until we got to the ski lift area. Along the way, we were on the lookout for litter, trash. None until closer to the beginning of the trail. We fill a bag of trash: water bottles, cans, energy bar wrappers, you name it. Remember, always pack out what you take in, and if possible, go the extra mile and pick up as much as possible without exposing yourself or anyone in your group to danger.
As Groupon advertised, we had each $10 meal brochures for the Notch Restaurant, which we did not hesitate to take advantage of. The restaurant is really well maintained , and the staff is great. Live shows are offered, as courtesy for the customers. The food, delish. I had the Notch burger, Christopher had Chicken Strips, both meals accompanied with a bunch of fries. Pigged out, well rested and ready to go home, we got on our way to the ski lift area to head back down.
Unfortunately, the arm bar on the ski lift chair, hit my GoPro selfie stick and knocked off camera. Unaware at the time, I realized half way down the ride, “oh nooo, the camera” I yelled. “Lets go back up,” he said, “I’m sure we will find it.” As soon as the attendant help us out, I advised him of the situation, and he gladly helped us back on the chair, and up we went, again. In search of the GoPro. It was cold. Checked the area where we were eating, nothing. Lost and found had nothing either. Left a note with my info, and gave up on it. As the guy helped us into the chair, to go back down, I was looking for the camera on the floor, as if it had fallen while I boarded. Sure enough, it was there, laying flat on the dirt. Already on the chair, unable to get off, I shouted with excitement, “it’s there, I see it.” “I’ll send it down ” said the attendant. All worries aside, Christopher randomly started laughing so hard, and I asked why. He said, “imagine they send the GoPro on the ski lift like if it was a person!” Few minutes later, we see a crate in the chair, and inside, the GoPro camera. We looked at each other and laughed so hard. People must have thought we’re crazy. Headed down to the store, for his stuffed animal; odd enough, he chose a baby fox.
back at the parking lot and ready to go home, 7:45pm. As I drove off, he hugged both his foxes, and easter bunny, and went to bed aka sleep. What else is there to do after a tough hike, and such great accomplishment, right?
I was glad all went well, and we reached our goal; Mt. Baldy summit, 10,064ft
“Mount San Antonio, also known as Mt Baldy, at 10,068 ft (3,069 m), is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, and the highest point in Los Angeles County. The peak, which marks a boundary between San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County, is called Baldy because of the absence of trees around the summit.”
PHOTOS and VIDEOS:
Sara and Drew, motivating Christopher to keep pushing 😃