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Urban Hiker!

Sometimes I feel guilty for driving long distances to the country/mountains for a 10-mile hike.  Sure it’s nice to get away from the city and enjoy the peace and solitude of the mountains, but I need to be a conscientious oil-consumer as well.  So last week I managed not to drive my car for three days, which means I did a lot of urban walking.  On Saturday morning I woke up saying to myself, I’m going to do a 10-mile hike in the city today.  So I packed my day pack with the usual 10 essentials and hit the streets of San Diego using the smartphone app MapMyWalk to chart my course.  I live in North Park, which is about four miles away from downtown.  I walked to Whole Foods in Hillcrest to check out their 25% vitamin supplement sale.  Unfortunately, they were out of cod liver oil.  From there I walked down to Little Italy for the farmer’s market.  I’m currently on a budget so I managed not to buy fresh goat cheese for $15.  At that point I needed a cup of Joe and a bathroom break.  I stopped into a Marriott Hotel, used the restroom, and then sat outside with a coffee and oatmeal cookie I had brought from home.  So far so good.  After my short break I walked to the Convention Center and to get some elevation I walked up and down the stairs that they have outside.  I passed by Petco Park and then hooked onto Park Blvd., passing by Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.  I then reached my quaint neighborhood of North Park and finally found myself back in my humble studio.  I did 11 miles that morning.  After much pondering, I decided that I would try not to drive my car 2 or 3 days out of the week.  If anything, I’ll be saving money for bigger backpacking trips in the summer.  🙂

Urban hike in San Diego

Urban hike in San Diego

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To start out 2013 I continued my ritual of hiking on New Year’s Day (a tradition I picked up during my days with the Bloomington Hiking Club).  I had no idea where we would be going, but I was always curious about the Ramona Trail and Thomas Mountain whenever we drive past it on our way to Idyllwild. This time we decided to check it out. Over the last weekend southern California got a lot of rain so I was expecting some snow. Thankfully we didn’t need yak trax or snow shoes. My gosh, the trail was breathtaking! The views of the San Jacinto Mountains were amazing and the transition from manzanita trees to pine trees was beautiful. I really enjoyed this trail. Here are a few pictures from my first hike of 2013. Thank you 2012!

View of San Jacinto Peak

View of San Jacinto Peak

Snow covered trail

Snow covered trail

Manzanitas and pines

Manzanitas and pines

 

 

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Last weekend was my first time camping in the snow.  I have hiked and snow-shoed in the snow many times, but I had never spent a night outdoors while it was snowing.  Now I can cross that off my bucket list.  This outing was part of the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course.  After doing a car camp and two weekend backpacking trips the final outing is a snow camp trip to Mammoth, CA, a popular ski resort in northern California.  There were four snow shoe trips and two ski trips.  I chose a snow shoe trip as I do not know how to ski.  Each trip has 15 students with two trip leaders.  A week before the trip, we brought our snow camp gear and the leaders checked to make sure we had the proper equipment.  When I heard the weather reports, (windy, 18 low, snow showers, 1-2 ft. of snow) I purchased some last minute winter clothing and snow boots.  I’m glad I did.  We left San Diego on Friday afternoon on a chartered bus and arrived to Mammoth High School at midnight.

Loading gear onto bus

We spent the night in the gym and the next morning at 6:30 am the lights were turned on.  Breakfast was served at 7:00 am.  I’m a breakfast person and that was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.  They had muffins, croissants, bagels, bread, bananas, coffee and orange juice.  I ate a larger breakfast than I usually do because I knew I would be burning lots of calories due to the weight I would be carrying and the cold conditions.

Outside of Mammoth High School

At 8:00 am we left the high school for the trailheads.  Once we reached the trailhead we put on our packs and snowshoes and hiked into camp, which was only a mile and a half away.  That was the easy part.  The hardest part of the trip was withstanding the cold.

Looking for a campsite

Once we found a site with minimal wind, the leaders showed us how to set up our tents.  After we completed that task, we got together and built the camp kitchen and snow potty.

Building the snow kitchen

Fortunately, we were able to set up our tents and build the kitchen and potty before the storm arrived later that afternoon.  We took a break and then went for an afternoon stroll around the area.

Afternoon stroll

The storm had gotten worse so the leader cut short our afternoon hike.  Since the snowfall was too heavy, we weren’t able to have dinner in the snow kitchen.

Our home for the evening

Front door view

Our neighbors

My tent mate and I had dinner outside of our tent in the vestibule.  Dinner consisted of Tastybite lentils and green pea soup.

Dinner is almost ready!

Fortunately I was able to borrow a friends’ 4-season 2-person tent for this outing.  My tent mate and I didn’t sleep a wink, but at least we were not freezing to death.  I had to sleep in many layers in my 15 degree sleeping bag and with foot warmers.  Those are indispensable!  On Sunday morning we woke up to frozen water bottles, condensation, and a winter wonderland.  The storm had passed and the sun was out early in the morning.  We had breakfast in the snow kitchen and I heard the other campers laughing in the kitchen as my tent mate and I packed our gear away and disassembled the tent.

Sunday brunch

We had to meet the buses at the trailhead at 12:30pm so we left camp at 11:00 a.m.  The leaders were rather disappointed that the students didn’t have the experience of having dinner in the snow kitchen.  But maybe I’ll experience that next year.   After breaking down the kitchen and the snow potty we hiked out.

Hiking out

Once we reached the trailhead and the main lodge I drank water like a fish, as I didn’t drink enough water on Saturday.  We had half an hour to change and use the restrooms before the bus took us back to San Diego.  We did make a stop in Bishop, CA for a quick dinner pick-up.  My tent mate and I went into the famous Erick Schat’s Bakkery for strudel and bread to take back to our family.  We arrived in San Diego around 8:30 pm, gathered our gear, said our good-byes and sleepily drove back home.  This was a great experience as I learned many new backpacking skills.  I’m considering taking this course again next year.  And if you are interested in hiking/backpacking, then you should take this class as well.  It’s worth it.

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My friend Byron and I decided to meet up on Sunday morning for a return visit to El Cajon Mountain.  We had done it last weekend, (with 85-90 degree temps!) and we wanted to do it again for training.  The hike to El Cajon Mountain is notorious for being up and down to the summit, and then up and down back to the trailhead.  My first time was back in January and I was amazed at what a butt-kicker the hike was.  It’s about 10-11 miles with 4,000 ft. gain, a great training hike for Mt. Whitney and other summer adventures.  We met at 8:30 a.m., or 7:30, and this time the temperatures were a lot cooler!  I was actually wearing my fleece.  And surprisingly the parking lot was empty.

Empty lot

Empty lot

One would think there would be more people since it was cooler, but there were only a few cars.  Last weekend the lot was nearly full!  In any case, Byron and I were really happy with the weather conditions.  We started out under overcast skies, but it burned off and the sun made its presence.

Fog burning off

Fog burning off

San Diego River Valley

San Diego River Valley

Clear view looking north

Clear view looking north

We took plenty of pictures, more so than last weekend, and continued to thank the weather gods.  Finally, we made it to the summit around 11:30 a.m. We rested, had lunch, talked about summer trips and took pictures.

Byron at the top!

Byron at the top getting ready for a break!

Going back down on the trail can be dangerous as some sections are very steep.  I recommend wearing hiking boots with sturdy traction and bringing trekking poles for stability.  The trail is well-maintained with trail markers along the way.

Trail markers by Adventure 16

Trail markers by Adventure 16

Going back down

Going back down

It’s not as crowded as Mt. Woodson, but I can see it becoming so in about a year.  If you’re looking for a great workout with great views, then this is the hike for you.

Spring is almost here

Spring is almost here

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Happy Earth Day!

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