Monday, July 12, 2010

Where was I on Saturday?!

Somehow, someway, the hiking bug bit me this past week. It must have been the taste of climbing to dizzyingly high altitudes last Monday that left me wanting more! So, I somehow convinced Michael that "Mt. Baldy" beckoned, it was waiting there, just for us. Mt. Baldy is the local name for Mt. San Antonio which summits at 1068 and has the distinction of being the highest point in Los Angeles county. It sounded like a challenge, but after much discussion, we decided that we were game! Especially when a friend recommended it, saying that it was his favorite hike in Southern CA. How could we resist?
Waking up at a reasonably early hour on Saturday was not too painful, and we set out east, driving a mere 40 miles before we found ourselves here:

Okay, we actually had to hike a bit to see such an expansive landscape, but we felt as though we were days away from Los Angeles rather than 40 miles and several thousand feet. We found beautiful pine trees towering over us, reminding us both of alpine wilderness areas, but then scattered beneath those grand trees were yucca plants and other more desert-like flora. It was kind of crazy, seeing such a mix!

Despite an early-ish departure, we discovered that arriving at the trailhead at 8:00 am is seriously the worst time to start off on a hike. I do now recall, from my past hiking years, that one should be on the TH at 6:00, or, in the worst case, by 7:00. Well, we started the hike with every single hiking group in the greater LA area, throngs of people (I kid you not) beginning the uphill climb. In order to give ourselves a bit of space, Michael and I kept up a very quick pace which we pretty much maintained for the ascent via the Ski Hut trail (there are different trails that one can use to climb Mt. Baldy). Blisters barely slowed me down, thanks to moleskin, and we climbed the 4 plus miles in less than 3 hours. Woo-hoo! The final thousand feet were definitely a challenge, and we slowed down considerably.
But the hard work and great effort were worth it as we happily rested and admired the views from the top:

After a quick lunch of fruit, bread, cheese and trail mix, we began the longer descent. We opted not to do the up-and-back hike on the same trail but followed the Devil's Backbone trail for the descent:

The beginning of the descent was particularly devilish for me - I even stumbled a bit, doing my usually graceful thing going downhill. At that point, I decided that the really annoying family could pass us and I would slow down. Fortunately, they stopped and rested frequently, so we passed them again and then stretched out the distance between us and them. This trail was more exposed but let us see far to the east, and it was a more gradual descent (= longer, in terms of mileage). I did enjoy that we took a different trail down because the terrain was different and it offered us beautiful views. That is, until we ended up on an old fire road. I don't mind a fire road here and there, but it was a bit of a boring hike, especially after the stunning scenery that we had enjoyed earlier. I must admit that I also became extremely grumpy at that point. I looked at the map and it appeared that we would be finishing the hike at 3:00 pm, an hour-and-a-half longer that I had mentally planned. I should also add that I was seriously exhausted at that point. I had forgotten what it felt like to have bone-tired feet. Literally. Before I experienced a total melt-down, we discovered a short cut to the road and then high-tailed it down to our car, finishing up before 1:30 in the afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to stop at the Buckhorn Lodge to drink a beer, eat some onion rings and watch the highlights of the Germany-Uruguay soccer game.

A few things that I found noteworthy on the hike:
- First of all, it was beyond beautiful, and I cannot believe that I've lived in the greater LA area for five years now without climbing Mt. Baldy!
- I had forgotten how hard a LOOOONNNNGGGG day hike is. Really.
- I do not like to socialize when hiking; I always imagine joining a hiking club so that I can "make friends", but I tend to stay quiet when I hike. I love the time that it gives me to think and to daydream and also to take in where I am and appreciate that. Apparently, I find chatty hikers to be rather annoying.
- As much as I pretend to be a "go with the flow" type-of-a-person, I am terribly competitive. I hated it when people passed us! So much for 'stopping to smell the flowers'....
- Apply, reapply and reapply again sunscreen.
- Do not wear almost-matching shirts if you are hiking with a partner, even if it is unintentional because people will comment.
- Finally, one should apply moleskin WELL BEFORE a blister forms. I always put moleskin on too late, and although I made it up and down Mt Baldy without too much pain, I have been suffering ever since. Thank goodness it is flip-flop and sandal weather because my heels (BOTH OF THEM) look and feel quite awful. I am forever grateful to whoever invented moleskin, however!

For other, perhaps more thorough reviews of Mt. Baldy:
DSLR Hiker Great pics on this report!

By the way, one can take a ski lift up or down part of the trail, but we felt that was a bit of a cop-out. At a certain point when we were on the fire-access road, I cursed my monstrous pride and ego, but now that it's all over and done with, I do feel quite "accomplished"!


Kim said...

That's hilarious about the matching shirts. And I'm with you on finding chatty hikers annoying. I'm pretty quiet myself. I'd like to say it's because I'm contemplative in nature settings, but I think I'm just trying to not fall and not get lost. I've never done that hike. Looks really fun!

Jaya said...

That looks like some pretty spectacular scenery! Like you (and Kim), I am a fan of the quiet, contemplative hike. When the trial gets crowded, my instinct is to be a bit disappointed, but my reason tells me to just be glad that other people are out appreciating and enjoying nature and being active.
Yeah, reason loses every time.

Anonymous said...

I am terribly competitive about things like hiking and I hate it when people pass me too! I don't even like it when I'm driving to Vegas and I see cars pass by me. :)

I also agree with socializing while hiking or exercising in is just not for me!

Beautiful scenery Kristina! I have never been to Mt. Baldy but I am definitely tempted now. I just won't go unless I can get there before 7am??

Kristina said...

Yep, we matched. We looked "cute", apparently. You should definitely hike Mt. Baldy if you want a nice challenge and amazing views!

Thanks for the reminder - to be glad that other people are out. It would be a very "zen" thought, but I think that, even if I reasoned with myself in such a way, I wouldn't quite beat the demon.

Oh, the competitive drive! I have to remind myself that I don't want an expensive ticket just because of my ego. I would say 7 am will get you to the trailhead early enough, or do it on a weekday!