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Posts Tagged ‘southern California’

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

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!

$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!

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

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

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

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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Santiago Peak! I finally crossed it off my list of to-do hikes. I had wanted to do this since 2009, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Finally, the Sierra Club of San Diego posted an outdoor outing and I quickly signed up as I knew it would fill up quickly, and it did. Santiago Peak is in the Santa Ana Mountains and it is the highest peak of Orange County. The 15 of us hikers met at 6:30 a.m. at a Park’n Ride and carpooled to the trailhead, which was about an hour and a half drive. I highly recommend high clearance vehicles as you have to drive 4.7 miles to the Holy Jim trailhead. The Volvo I was in took a while to navigate over the holes and big rocks on the path. It was overcast in the OC area, but once we reached the trailhead the sun was out and I knew we would be hiking under sunny clear skies while the rest of southern California would be blanketed with clouds. Once we had assembled our packs we hit the trail at around 8:50 a.m.

Morning at the trailhead.

Morning at the trailhead.

Hikers getting their gear ready.

Hikers getting their gear ready.

I stayed near the front of the group and the hiker who was leading was going at superfast speed up the steep inclines, but I was determined to stay with her. The leader warned us a head of time of black flies, but thankfully I didn’t need to wear my bug net. The terrain is mostly chaparral, but you will find oaks and sycamores when you hike through the deep canyons.

Hiking through chaparral.

Hiking through chaparral.

And once you get higher up in elevation you have beautiful views of the Santa Ana Mountains and can see San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Almost near the top.

Almost near the top.

Finally, we reached the summit after a long push. It is a difficult hike, but well worth it. We had lunch near one of the many electrical towers, rested, and located the summit register.

The view from the summit.

The view from the summit.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, there is a vehicle road to the top and you will find JEEPS, trucks, motorbikes and mountain bikers going up the dirt road. On the parts were hikers do have to take the vehicle dirt road, be wary of the drivers. Some are polite while others not so much. After our lunch break, we headed back down, which is so much easier and faster.

Returning to the trailhead.

Returning to the trailhead.

We arrived back to our cars a little after 4 p.m. According to my GPS we covered 16.7 miles with an elevation gain of 4,202 ft. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Several hikers decided to go to the biker bar afterwards for beers and burgers, but even though they did have a vegetarian burger on the menu, I opted out of it. Instead I enjoyed Silva Stout by Green Flash from the comfort of my home. I highly recommend that beer! Oh, and I recommend this hike as well.

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