Archive for January, 2010

Gear Review: Pyrenees Boot

The week of winter storms in January (18-22) here in Southern CA prompted me to replace my worn out hiking boots.  Knowing that I would be hitting the trails over the weekend (sunshine in the forecast), I stopped at REI after work determined not to leave empty handed.  I was scanning the women’s shoes when a clerk asked if I needed any assistance.  I told him that I was looking for water resistant hiking boots.  He asked if I was going to be doing light-hiking or if I was going to be backpacking.  I told him light-hiking.  So he recommended light hiking boots with leather exteriors.  He gave me a couple of brands and I tried each in a couple of different sizes.  Finally, I settled on the Pyrenees Boot. 

I took them for a test hike on Saturday and Sunday, mostly on muddy trails going uphill.  Sure enough, they proved to be light and sturdy at the same time.  And the mud and water did not penetrate through the leather.  Traction was excellent as well, as I felt my feet were firmly gripped to the ground.  The only problem was that the right boot was too tight around my ankle.  I wondered if my right ankle was thicker than my left one as I didn’t have a problem with the left boot.  Other than that minor discomfort, the boots proved to be comfortable, light, water proof, and excellent on slippery muddy trails.  I would highly recommend!

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Sunday was the first clear and sunshine-filled day after a week of serious storms here in Southern California.  I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather before the next set of storms was to dampen San Diego County.  Searching for a hike with views of surrounding mountain ranges, I settled on the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido.  Apparently a lot of people had the same idea about getting outside, as both parking lots were full and I had to park on the side of the road.  I made my way down to the main entrance, crossed the rushing Escondido Creek (more like a river), and started on the Way Up Trail, which literally means just that. 

Start of Way Up Trail

The 1.4 mile trail is dotted with chaparral and there are lots of switchbacks.  I quickly warmed up as the trail is somewhat steep.  A few mountain bikers passed me and I gave them kudos for tackling such a strenuous trail. 

View of Escondido

I finally made it to the top which meets the Ridgeline Maintenance Road.  From here there are great views of Olivenhain Dam, Escondido, and Palomar Mountain.  A couple of years ago, my family and I wanted to continue onto the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail, but it was undergoing maintenance because of the Witch Fire of 2007.  This time, I was able to take this route.  Turn left onto the Ridgeline Maintenance Road.  After passing the Escondido Overlook, you’ll connect to the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail. 

Trail marker

After about .75 miles, I reached the Lake Hodges Overlook where I took a break and admired the views of the lake and the mountains. 

Lake Hodges


Olivenhain Dam


View of San Bernardino Mountains and Palomar Mountain

This was a rather quiet portion of the hike, as I didn’t pass any mountain bikers or families, only couples who were interested in a longer hike.  The trails are well maintained and there are restrooms, picnic areas, and drinking water near the dam.  Overall, a great place for a hike if you are looking to stay close to San Diego.

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Sitton Peak

My Saturday morning drive brought me to the Cleveland National Forest.  I didn’t have any set plans to come here, but impulse lead me to the Santa Ana Mountains.  It’s a little over an hours drive from north San Diego.  I had hiked a couple times before in this area so I was familiar with the trail.  I decided on hiking to Sitton Peak, the second highest peak in the Santa Ana Mountains.  The trailhead is near the candy store, off Ortega Highway and the parking lot is right across the street from the store.  I displayed my Adventure Pass and hit the trail by 11:30am munching on a red delicious apple I had purchased from the candy store.  The first few miles of the Bear Canyon Trail are lined with chaparral, medium-sized boulders, and oak trees.  At 1.75 miles I turned right at the junction with the Morgan Trail.  Two miles later I reached an intersection and turned right and proceeded uphill for about 1 ¼ miles until I reached the Four Corners intersection.  From here, turn right and it’s about 1.7 miles to the peak. 

Four Corners

The last portion of the trail up to the peak is quite a workout, but once I reached the top, I was greeted with some awesome views of Orange County. 

View towards Pacific Ocean

 I munched on German chocolate while taking in the expansive views and I recalled that I had hiked here on New Year’s Day last year.  I had forgotten what a great hike this was!  One can see the San Bernardino Mountains, the San Jacinto’s, and the islands off L.A. 

View from Sitton Peak towards Ortega Highway

A really great hike and the trails are well-marked and well-maintained!  I had passed several groups of hikers on my way up, but my return to the trailhead was rather solitary.  I returned to the trailhead at around 3:30pm covering about 9.5 miles with 2150’ elevation gain.  Overall, I was glad impulse led me to Sitton Peak.

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A few years ago I started a tradition of hiking on the first day of the New Year.  For the first day of 2010 I decided to hike in the San Jacinto Wilderness, a great place near the small town of Idyllwild.  Los Angeles County has been criticized for not having great hiking areas, but I think this place is a slice of the Sierras!  It has pine trees, spectacular views, sheer cliffs, boulders, mountain ranges, valleys, and the Pacific Crest Trail.  And it’s only a two-hour drive from San Diego. 

By 5:45am I was on the road headed towards Idyllwild, where I would pick up my day use wilderness permit at the ranger station.  I arrived at Humber Park a little after 7:15am with only two other cars in the lot.  After putting on layers and adjusting my gear, I was on the trail by 7:30am.  The beginning of the Devils Slide Trail was icy and there was still plenty of deep snow.  Fortunately, I brought my yaktrax along.  After struggling up a portion of the icy trail I decided to put them over my hiking boots.  They made a lot of difference! 



Suicide Rock

Suicide Rock

After about 2.5 miles I reached Saddle Junction and decided to take a trail I had never been on before, as it was the New Year.  I took the Willow Creek Trail, which would take me to Long Valley. 

Willow Creek Trail

View of desert from Willow Creek Trail

 I was on the trail for about 3 miles until I reached a point where the snow was too deep and I couldn’t make out the trail anymore.  As any lone hiker without a GPS would do, I decided to return to Saddle Junction.  Here I enjoyed a quiet lunch perched atop a rock.  After refueling on a hummus sandwich and Bailey’s, I continued north on the Pacific Crest Trail so that I could get a view of Tahquitz Peak and take some pictures.  Once I was high enough I turned around and took some snapshots.  Parts of it were still covered in snow! 

San Jacinto Wilderness

Slice of the Sierras

From here I returned to the lot.  I had the trails pretty much to myself and it wasn’t until my return to the trailhead that I met three other hiking couples.  Of course the lot was packed when I returned, mostly families with kids enjoying sledding on the hard-packed snow.  I enjoyed the 6 hours of solo hiking in the San Jacinto Mountains.  My watch showed 5 hours of hiking time so I’m guessing that I covered about 10-13 miles.  I think for the New Year I’ll invest in a GPS.  When I returned home, I was greeted by Kona Brewing’s Pipeline Porter.  Delicious!

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