Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

Trailhead: Big Falls Picnic, Forest Falls, CA, 92339
Length: 18.5 miles? I dunno, I keep getting conflicting mileages. Just know that it’s long.
Elevation Gain: 5840 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 1.5 days backpacking; 10 hours as a day trip
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure pass required. You can get them at any sporting goods store. There is a lot that says “no fee behind this sign” except that there is a ranger that stops you at a kiosk before you enter to ensure you have a pass, so riddle me that Batman.
Permit Required: Check out the Mill Creek Ranger Station for info. They run out of permits QUICK so get on that. 

 

For some dumb reason I thought it would be a good idea to backpack San Gorgonio, the longest and highest of the #SocalSixPack. I’d never backpacked before and hate camping, so, you know, why not do it on the longest of the peaks?

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There are three campsites for San Gorgonio on the Vivian Creek trail: Halfway, High Creek, and Summit Camp. High Creek is the most popular and probably the prettiest. Summit Camp is, you know, at the Summit which means you have to carry your stuff the entire time. And Halfway is about four miles up and not actually half way, it’s way less than half way, so thanks a lot, liars.

Because High Creek was full, we ended up at Halfway camp because there was no way I was lugging a tent 18 miles RT. It actually ended up being a great choice because carrying your house on your back is the pits.

@kylojenhikes, @sdhiker, @matthikes777, @denise5323, and I started out at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.  The very first part of the trail from the parking lot is fairly easy. You walk down a dirt road and cross over a dry stream bed to get to the actual trail.

It is at the trail when the pain starts. You gain about 1,000 feet relatively quickly through a set of steep switchbacks that suck all willingness to live from your being. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the trail and you will praise Jesus when you see the “San Gorgornio Wilderness” sign that indicates that this stretch of the trail is over.

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After this stretch, the trail mellows out and goes through a wooded, streamy area. In this section, we ran into a ranger who informed us that there was no water at our camp and that we better make sure we got it back at the stream we passed. The ladies and I held our place while we made the boys go back and get us water because that’s how society works. During this time, we also ran into @broloelcordero who had summited the mountain earlier that day.

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Eventually we made our way to the camp and found it was fairly full. We had to wander around to find a spot to host us all. After our tents were set up we faced the cold hard fact that camping without a fire is BORING AS ALL GET OUT. No heat. No light. No s’mores. NOTHING.

I ended up crawling into my sleeping bag around 9:00 because it was COLD AND BORING AND CAMPING SUCKS.

We shuffled around in the morning and left for the summit around 7:15 a.m. Most of the trail maintains the same gradual incline as before, although there is one section about a mile and a half after high creek that climbs pretty steadily. It is at the top of this section that the altitude will start to get to you, making the relatively easy incline harder than it should be. Additionally disheartening is that you will not see the actual peak until you’re right on it, as it’s blocked by two false peaks. It does seem like you’ll never get there.

Once I was at the top I was repeatedly accosted by some seriously jerk-faced chipmunks that kept trying to steal my food.

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Look, Chipmunks… you have plenty to eat up here. It’s where you live.

I don’t live here.

I don’t have a fridge where I can replenish, so stop trying to steal my low carb tortilla—IT’S ALL I HAVE YOU FAT JERK!

After fending off the little furry devils, we took our obligatory pictures with the sign and made our way back down the mountain to camp. While it was a nice break from the walking, breaking down camp on tired legs is pretty crappy.

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So overall, what did I think?

Although it was hot at the beginning, the road was strenuous at times, I got almost no sleep, the bag was heavy, and camping sucks, I did a lot better than I thought I would. As it turns out, all of those conditioning hikes up Potato Mountain with the Lazy Asses have paid off. I’ve done this hike both as a day trip and overnight, and I definitely prefer it as a day trip, even though it makes for a long hike.

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@kylojenhikes was sick during this trip (she only went because I guilt tripped her into it), and was a trooper. Recognition also should go to @sdhiker who was the only one who had any sort of backpacking experience and had to deal with our inexperience and whining. He also did his best to keep Jen from dying from hypothermia since she didn’t bring a sleeping bag.  That’s my Boo for you.

 

Gear I Used:

Sleeping Bag: Teton Tracker 5+
Although it is not the lightest bag in the world, it was fairly inexpensive (less than $70) and kept me warm. So very, very warm.  It also fit in the monster pack that @sdhiker let me borrow

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Sol Mattress
Someone told me this would be good to get. Apparently it helps shield you from the cold ground. It also helps shield you from any sort of comfort. I’d say I got a good 5 to 6 seconds of sleep using this thing.

Backpack: Osprey Atmos 65
This bag was lent to me by @sdhiker and it’s definitely:
A) too big for a day trip
B) a dude’s bag

Although in many ways I have the physique of a 12-year-old boy, I am still a female and this bag was not made for me. No matter how I adjusted the bag, It seemed to either put too much strain on my hips or too much strain on my back. Oddly enough, it felt much more comfortable when there was more weight in it. So it was fine for the day, but you’d have to ask someone who has extensive experience with it to get a more accurate account.

Tent:  Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
I’ve put up exactly one tent in my life prior to this, and I’ve come to discover that I am not a technical person. I don’t just “get” how things work.  This tent is probably pretty easy to put up… or seemed to be as I watched someone else do it. It’s also technically a two-person tent, but it would be kinda squishy in there if I had to share it. In the end, it kept me warm and was a fine tent for the evening.

3 thoughts on “Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

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