Being unemployed has its perks. For one, I can go hiking during the middle of the week and not have to worry about the crowds. A friend and I took advantage of my current situation and went to Idyllwild last Thursday to hike in the San Jacinto Wilderness. The area had a fire a couple of months ago and I wanted to see how the trails were affected. Currently one cannot hike to San Jacinto Peak via Humber Park. I wondered how they blocked off the trails. So we left San Diego on a faux-fallish morning and arrived to the ranger station around 9 a.m. They were closed for the day so I couldn’t talk to anyone about the current trail conditions. But I did notice on the door that if you go to San Jacinto Peak from Saddle Junction, you will be fined $5000! Holy smokes! Our plan was to do an out and back hike to Tahquitz Peak. Once we had our gear together and layered up we hit the trail. My friend had just returned from hiking in Peru so she was glad to be back on the trail. It was windy and cold, but at least the sun was out and occasionally a sea of clouds would roll in, but then quickly roll back out. I took lots of pictures as I’m fond of sea of clouds images.
View from Devil’s Slide Trail
While on the trail I did the usual self-reflection and wondered about the many possibilities which lay ahead. And then I got to Saddle Junction. The different trails that were currently closed off had yellow caution tape around the trees. I took lots of pictures for my hiking friends back in San Diego.
$5000 fine if you pass the tape!
We took a break and then continued on to the tower. We passed a volunteer ranger and got a chance to talk about the current conditions. He said the trail to San Jacinto Peak might not reopen until next year. He also mentioned that last Saturday he counted 70 people on the trail to Tahquitz since that was the only one open via Humber Park! We continued on knowing that we would see him again at the tower.
We are almost there Frodo!
And then we were there. And someone was inside! To let us in from the cold! I had been to the tower many times before, but I’ve never actually gone inside! This was a real treat for me. There was a desk, a bed, a stove, books, sign-in sheets, cooking supplies, everything a volunteer could need while checking for fires.
A humble adobe
We talked with the volunteer for half an hour while we ate our lunch and then he gave us each a card saying that we climbed Tahquitz Peak Lookout Tower and thus we were recognized as members of the “Ancient and Honorable Order of Squirrels.”
View from the tower
I suggested to my friend that instead of going back the way we came, that we should take the South Ridge Trail and then hook onto the Ernie Maxwell Trail back to Humber Park. That would make it a loop hike for us. She happily agreed and off we went. Descending down the trail was amazing since there were a lot of rolling clouds over the valley. Of course I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
Sea of clouds
And before we knew it we were back at the quiet parking lot taking a break before the drive back to San Diego. I thought of all the hikes I could do during the week and I thanked someone/something that despite not having work I can go hiking.
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I took Monday and Tuesday off this week. My intentions were to hike San Gorgonio on Monday with my hiking buddy, but she strained a muscle the previous week. Gorgonio will just have to wait…again! Fortunately the Sierra Club had a hike listed in the San Bernardino Mountains for Tuesday. I signed up for the 16-mile round trip hike to San Bernardino Peak. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into as we would have to meet at 7:00am at the trailhead which meant leaving San Diego at 4:30am. Luckily, I met two other hikers in San Diego and we carpooled to the trailhead. Jim was kind enough to drive. We arrived at the Angelus Oaks restaurant around 6:45am, took a pit stop and waited for the other hikers. Everyone (11 of us) showed up around 7:00am. We introduced ourselves, got our packs ready, and hit the trail around 7:15am. The weather was great! We started out in the low 50s, but you quickly warm up as you go up on the San Bernardino Peak Trail. Plus, our leader was going at a pretty good pace, about 2-2.5 miles an hour! The views of Los Angeles were spectacular and the vanilla scent from the ponderosa pine trees was intoxicating. I just love being out there. The highest temperature was probably in the low 70s so it was perfect hiking weather. I was a little worried about it getting too hot so the previous day I made sure to drink plenty of water and eat fruits and veggies. I think that helped a lot because on Wednesday my muscles felt great. I was tired yes, but not sore. We took a few 5-10 minute breaks and maintained a steady pace. Before we knew it, we were having lunch on San Bernardino Peak at 11:30am! We could see San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. After the obligatory pictures and refueling we headed back down to the trailhead. Coming down you see things that you don’t see going up so it was equally beautiful. By 3:15pm we reached the trailhead. Jim had a beer at the restaurant while we waited for our other carpool buddy. Our leader had suggested visiting Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, but Jim’s iPhone revealed that they do not serve food. So we opted for Casa Maya in Mentone. They fortunately had Hangar 24’s Orange Wheat which was really effervescent, almost like soda pop. After our break at the restaurant Jim drove us back to San Diego. If it had been me driving, I probably would have fallen asleep. We got back around 7pm, said our good-byes and we all slept like babies that night. Overall, a great day in the mountains.
Jim on San Bernardino Peak with San Gorgonio in the background
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On Sunday of Labor Day weekend my mom and I hit the road at 5:45am to bag San Jacinto Peak. The San Jacinto Wilderness is one of our favorite places to hike in southern California. This would be our first time to the peak from Humber Park, around 15-16 miles round trip. Humber Park is always a popular spot and with the long weekend I knew we would have to arrive early. We reached the ranger station around 7:15am to pick up our permits and by 7:30am we were on the Devil’s Slide Trail.
Morning light in Idyllwild
The weather was perfect! Already in the low 60s with clear skies. After 10 minutes we were already stripping layers. My mom was familiar with the trail so I felt comfortable going on ahead of her. At least that’s what I thought. When I reached Saddle Junction I took a break and waited for my hiking buddy. After 10 minutes I sensed something was amiss. I went back down to see if I could see her coming up but she was nowhere in sight. I asked a couple of hikers if they passed an older woman with a beige hat, but no one had seen her. Then I figured she had gone off trail as there was a section where one could veer to the right thinking it was the trail. I yelled her name and I didn’t hear a response. I went back to the junction and I still didn’t see her. Then I saw her coming up. I asked what had happened and sure enough she had gone off trail. Another hiker overheard our conversation and he said the same thing happened to his friend at the same spot. Relieved that she found the trail and each other, we continued on. The views were spectacular!
View of range an beyond
On the trail
Around 10am or so we took a snack break and soaked in the sun. We didn’t see to many people on this portion of the trail. It wasn’t until we passed Wellman’s Divide that we saw more people, as they were coming from the tram station. And by 12:30pm we were at the peak. It was crowded in comparison to the last time I was there which was in February of 2009. By the way, snow shoeing to the peak was a lot of fun! Mom ate her lunch and took pictures.
On San Jacinto Peak
With San Gorgonio in sight from our lunch spot, we discussed the possibility of bagging it sometime. She wants to do it on her birthday. That would be a great way to spend one’s birthday! Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad in mid-October. After refueling we headed back down. We felt pretty good.
By 4:15 we were back at Humber Park. And I forgot to display my Adventure Pass. After drinking green tea and eating dark chocolate from our cooler, I was caffeinated enough to drive back to San Diego. With no sore muscles the next day we just might be able to do San Gorgonio in one shot.
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Saturday early morning found my mom and me en route to the San Bernardino Mountains. She had never been there before and I wanted to bring her here before school started. We left San Diego around 5:45am with a stop at a coffee shop (name declined to preserve integrity) near UC Riverside to fuel up on caffeine and carbs. After passing through Mentone, we stopped at the Mill Creek Ranger station for permits. The lot was already full with day hikers and cyclists. I had no intention of bagging San Gorgonio that day. Instead I planned to take the Foresee Trail which was recommended to me by another hiker. Passing through Angelus Oaks we made a right turn onto Jenks Lake Road. There is a bit of driving on a dirt road, but a high-clearance vehicle is not necessary. The lot was almost full. We started hiking just shy of 8:30am. And it was chilly! The previous week the temperatures in San Diego were in the high 80s-low 90s. I checked the current temperature and it said 55! And with the wind it felt even colder. Fortunately I was prepared as I had my fleece with me, but a thermos of hot chocolate or ginger tea would have been nice. It was a clear beautiful day and the smell of the Jeffrey pines was intoxicating. Despite the lot being full, we only saw 4 hikers on the trail the entire day. With my new GPS (review forthcoming) I was able to keep track of the elevation gain and mileage. The views of the valley, San Gabriel Mountains, and Big Bear Lake were spectacular. When we reached Anderson Flat we stopped for lunch and tried to keep ourselves warm from the chilly wind. I wanted to continue on, but with the 2-hour drive to San Diego, we decided to head back. It was much warmer on the descent. Mom was impressed with the area and even talked of bagging San Gorgonio one day! When we reached the lot I read my GPS and it said we covered 12.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 4,100 feet. We have much training to do before San Gorgonio!
View of San Gabriel Mountains from Foresee Trail
View of Big Bear Lake
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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!
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.
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!
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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