A Tale of Terror: Strawberry Peak

Trailhead: Red Box Picnic Area
Length: 6.8 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1794 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Total time: 3 hrs
Dogs: Yes, but read on for what happened to sweet little RescueSmalls
Parking: Parking lot across the street. You will need an adventure pass which you can get at a ranger’s station or any sporting goods store.

Gather ’round friends, for I have a tale of terror to share. ‘Twas the time I trekked up Strawberry Peak.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Fires swept across the lands of the Six Pack of Peaks, closing several of the trails. Jeff named alternates, and as an ambassador, I felt the obligation to complete these alternates, including the sweetly and cunningly named named, Strawberry Peak.

It started off as any other day. We parked and crossed the street to get to the trail head. And the trail, it was gentle.

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Ah, but the peak, she lures you in like a siren before she takes you as her victim.

We traversed through switchbacks with mild elevation gain and into an Oak Grove before coming to a junction where we turned right. “This is easy,” we remarked, as we merrily made our way through the trail.

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We climbed higher and higher as we skirted around the mountain and then saw it…the final ascent.

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The terrain quickly changed, becoming steep and rocky and we needed both hands and feet to climb it. Many false peaks awaited us as we made our climb. The heat began to rise. And then, the pokey plants began to multiply, stabbing us from the left and from the right.

Sweat began to pour down our temples. We came to what seemed to be a fairly begin stretch of flat land where we had to traverse between a row of pokey plants. We came to one plant which was vibrating with a buzzing sound. As Smalls and I walked through she started panicking. I felt stings on the back of my legs and arms. I screamed out in pain.

“GO!” I yelled as my fellow traveler turned to check on us.  “It was the plant,” I panted. “The plant was filled with fire ants!”

I already had welts from the bites. Smalls was spinning in circles, biting at her haunches. We looked around and saw them–fire ants, everywhere. On the ground. In the plants. On the rocks. This mountain was theirs.

Weary, we pressed on, determined not to allow the mountain to defeat us. I carried Smalls for a bit, as she was too afraid to continue on her own. I slipped and fell on some rocks as I tried to move up with a terrified K-9 wrapped in my arms.

And finally, we made it, and were treated to a terrible view of overcast skies surrounded by So Cal Brown.

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After a short stint at the top to gather our strength, we made our way down. On the descent, we were smarter, as we’d learned the ways of the mountain. I picked up Smalls and carried her over the fire ant bush, although she clung to me in terror as we made our approach. We seemed to enter a time warp, as the trek back was never ending. It was as if the peak was pulling us backward, unable to let us leave. We could see the parking lot, but it never seemed to get closer.

But then finally, the road. And the picnic area which so sweetly concealed its portal to hell.

We sat down on the bench, weary travelers, indeed. We had survived, but would we ever be the same?

 

So, in case you didn’t get it from this post, Strawberry Peak sucks.

 

 

Havasupai

Trailhead: Supai, AZ 
Length: 8 miles to the tourist office; 2 miles from tourist office to campsite
Elevation Gain: 2400 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous due to the heat
Total time: 3-4 hrs
Dogs: No
Parking: There is a dirt lot at the trailhead, but do know that it’s packed and you may have to park fairly far down the highway. Also be aware of people double parking and blocking you in–that happened to one of our group members the first time she did it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You NEED a permit to hike Havasupai. There is no day hiking allowed. I keep getting messages from people saying “I’m gonna try to go next week!” and I’m like, “aww buddy… that’s not gonna happen.”

Permits open up on Feb 1 for each year and sell out within hours. You can get a permit by going to the website or calling in.  We were only able to get a permit for one night which meant we really had to work to make the most of our trip.

Here’s how it went.

We left Riverside after work on Wednesday and arrived at Hilltop at 2:30 a.m., ready to go. We stopped several times for bathroom breaks and made the unfortunate decision to stop in the McDonald’s in Needles for food, which was apparently overrun because the Jack in the Box had flooded.

As a result, McDonald’s was out of just about everything and my egg McMuffin came out cold.

Don’t do that. Take an extra hour and stop in Kingman instead. So many more options there. So many, many more.

Anyway, Needles is about 2 hours from the reservation. One thing I don’t remember anyone preparing me for was the drive in on the reservation in the dark. Animals roam free there and so the entire time we were dodging elk, deer, cows, coyotes, and bunnies that would dart in front of the car. It was like “Where’s Waldo” for spotting animals that would kill you if you didn’t find them before they ran into your vehicle.

After being terrorized by suicidal animals for an hour and a half, we were very happy to get out of the car and start hiking. Unfortunately we were told “Nah, bro” by the ranger and told we’d have to come back at 4 a.m. before we could go down.

Exhausted from the drive, we took a quick, uncomfortable nap and then started the 8 mile trek to the village.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

 

The hike is relatively flat with the exception of the first mile, which steadily declines and tries to murder you with sand and gravel (danger was a running theme this trip). On the way we saw a giant scorpion (more danger), the moon set, and the sun rise.

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We made it to the village at 6:45 a.m. and picked up the permits. This is where I noticed that my shoe had ripped. At the beginning of the trip. Awesome.

 

 

After buying a $10 roll of duct tape to fix the shoe which did not work AT ALL, we began the descent to the campsite which was another 2 miles down. On the way to the site we passed both Navajo Falls and Havasu falls but my back hurt from the pack, and the heat began to climb, and the lack of sleep made it hard for me to care much about any “dumb miracles of nature” because I just wanted to take my bag off.

We finally made it to the camp and set up our hammocks, and took a quick nap in the 105 degree heat. It was glorious.

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We chose to camp next to the river which felt great to dip the feet in due to the heat, which I am sure was sent from Satan himself. In the afternoon we decided to head over to Mooney Falls to cool down.

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Because I wanted to save my hiking shoes now that they had a hole, I decided to hike in my new Salomon water shoes which turned out to be a pretty solid plan because they were comfy and grippy.

The hike to Mooney isn’t far from the campsite, but the hike into the waterfall area is one of the sketchiest of sketch descents in the history of sketch. It’s like something out of the Goonies only you don’t have any of Data’s gadgets to save you, and you spend every moment envisioning your inevitable plummet to death.

To make matters better, there’s only one path up and one path down which is the perfect recipe for a traffic jam.

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The amount of people who could SEE us waiting at the middle trying to get down who then decided to go up so we couldn’t move was astounding. To those people, I would like to say: you suck.

We waited at the sketch part for 10 min before we decided to stop being polite and start getting real and elbow our way down.

While we were waiting at the crossroads I looked at @katierm1821 and said “NEVER AGAIN”

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Once we got there we went exploring, jumped off the rope swing and swam into a cave. I then looked at Katie and said “Ok, totally doing this again.”

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After a couple of hours we made our way back up sketchville and to the camp. We would have liked to hit Beaver Falls, since to get there you have to go through Mooney, but we were too tired and decided that needed to be saved for another trip.

While eating dinner the mosquitoes came out and were like “Oh, heyyyyy” so I pulled out the 98% DEET and still got four bites, one of which has turned into some weird red rash on my leg, so I’m not really sure what that’s about.

Even at 9:30 it was still hot as I lay in my hammock but I mananged to crash hard until I woke up two hours later FREEZING. Supai weather, make up your mind already.

Despite this, I woke up after an awesome night’s sleep in the hammock. I know you’re not going to believe this but I’m not being sarcastic. It’s true. Sometimes I AM sincere. Like only sometimes though. Anyway, it was actually great night’s sleep, and much needed if I was going to backpack 30 lbs through the canyon.

We decided to break up the trip back to the village by stopping at Havasu, Navajo, and 50ft falls.

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Havasu falls was super pretty with lots of fun pools where I managed to almost drown myself with the use of a floatie (danger!) because I really am just that special. We saw some guys taking some heavy duty tubes into the river leading away from the falls and found out that you can ride about 20 minutes down the river and get to camp. This was noted for our next trip.

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When then headed up to Navajo falls where we passed the frybread stand we tried to visit the night before only to find the packing up because it closed an hour early. This time they we found them unpacking their goods and were informed it would be an hour before they would open.

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Why do you hate us, frybread lady?!?

Next to Navajo Falls is 50ft falls. Most miss this place because it’s a little difficult to get to; it requires swimming through the reeds and waters unknown that probably have alligators or boa constrictors or the Lochness Monster waiting to kill you. Because of that there’s no one there and you have it all to yourself.

 

 

Uh… so definitely don’t go here, it’s too scary, and we didn’t go exploring and find a cool cave or anything like that at all. Just look at my pics instead of going yourself or telling anyone about it.

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From 50 Ft. Falls, we went to the lower part of Navajo where Katie played with rocks and found some cool fossils and I almost got swept downstream by a current I clearly underestimated (danger!).

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After a couple of hours there we made our way back to the village where we FINALLY got frybread because Keto diet be damned, am I right?!? I had a cell signal and was informed our AirBnB was canceled and we watched, bitterly, at the lucky bastards taking heli rides out of the canyon, knowing we’d be carrying our packs up the hill of death at the end.

I slipped my hole-y shoes on and we left the village around 6:20 and made our way back to Hilltop.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Two of us arrived at Hilltop just after 9 p.m. We had the full intention of sleeping in the car, but when the other two arrived later we all laughed at that idea and at midnight drove an hour and a half through the reservation, dodging animals (danger!) and to a Motel 6 (danger!) full of tweakers (danger!) and someone else’s hair in the beds (oh, dear God, danger!)

The next morning we did as all travelers do after a long, arduous 48 hours… treated ourselves to #IHOB (Danger!)

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And that was it. Our whirlwind trip was over.

Here are some tips to prepare you if you’re planning on going:

Gear:
Water shoes:
I used these. They were light and I was able to walk from waterfall to waterfall without having to change. My only complaint is that they did allow sand to get into them so I had to rinse them out several times. Don’t cheap out on the water shoes. I know you can get a pair for $15 on Amazon, but you’ll be more comfortable if you make the investment, and it’ll give you incentives to go on more water hikes. Also, Solomon please feel free to sponsor me at any time.

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Backpack:
I used this one which was given to me by my roommate who is downsizing her backpacking gear. It served me well, but she’s about 6 inches shorter than I am, and the pack is an XS and about an inch too short for me. The first day was agony, but the second day I seemed to have it adjusted to where it was pretty comfortable and I was finally balanced.

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The best thing about this is that the water pouch is removable with straps and you can use it as a day pack. If you don’t have this option, I highly recommend bringing a smaller bag as a day pack so you don’t have to lug your giant backpack around.

 

Sleeping:
Three of us used a hammock and it was a good call due to the heat. I don’t think you need a specific hammock–any one will do. The campsite has tons of trees for hammocking. Don’t forget a mosquito net as well, otherwise you’ll be spending the night swatting bugs away from your face.

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I also used that down blanket from Costco everyone is in love with (and rightfully so) and borrowed my roommate’s Thermarest pillow which was so awesome I bought my own as soon as we got back.

Food:
I’m not much of an eater when hiking. I’ve actually trained myself to do long distance hikes without any food. I always bring food, but very rarely do I need it.

I had to eat on this trip. A lot. The heat just sucked out all the energy to function on the most basic level. Being on a ketogenic diet and vegetarian, my main staples were Joseph’s low carb pita bread with single servings of peanut butter and sugar free jelly, vegetarian beef jerky, and One Bars. Also, this coffee is awesome but super not low carb.

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I slightly over packed on food, but I cannot stress this enough: bring enough food. There is also a spigot at the campsite and the tourist office to fill up on water, and a store and cafe at the village for extra supplies.

Clothes:
I wore a wicking t-shirt and leggings on the way down and brought another t-shirt for the way up. I also brought a swimsuit, a pair of shorts, several pairs of socks/underwear. There isn’t much privacy to change into other clothing, especially if you don’t have a tent, so normal rules of hygiene don’t really apply.

Man, camping is seriously gross.

Also, after my recent trip to Mammoth where bugs were biting me through my clothes, I treated my clothing with this spray to avoid that happening gain and I *think* it worked, as everywhere I was bitten was exposed skin.

 

Also bring:
-Electrolytes (I had both salt tabs and Nuun tabs)
-Container for water besides your water bladder
-Cup for coffee (can also double as a bowl)
-Spork and knife
-Burner to heat water/food or two friends with burners (score)
Smell proof bag and to hang your food so the critters don’t get it.
-Towel
Cooling towel (don’t get the iCool ones from Walmart, they suck)
-Bug spray
-Sunscreen
-Sunglasses
-Hat
-Rope/paracords for hanging food and mosquito nets
-Grocery bags for trash

 

Some other notes:

Trash:
I read quite a bit of reviews talking about the trash in the village, and yes, there was some trash. But you know where the trashiest part was? The campsite. The campsite full of tourists. That trash was ours, not theirs. If you don’t want a trashy campsite, PACK IN PACK OUT. And if you see trash, pick it up and take it out. The previous campers left their trash at our site. Did we leave it and say not our problem? Nope, we took it out. Stop complaining and then doing nothing to solve the problem.

Pack Mules/Horses:
I’ve seen many posts on the state of the pack animals that the villagers use to charge tourists to carry up backpacks. Many have said that they are mistreated. Although I saw a few horses that looked awfully thin (they were not being ridden but were grazing at their stables), most of the animals I saw (with the exception of one that was bleeding from its pack) looked healthy and cared for. Two of the people on the trip that had been before also said that they looked much better than what they’d seen the year prior as well, so perhaps they’ve taken action on this.

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I don’t know enough about the issue to preach to anyone, either way. I’m not a vet and I’m not saying they’re in perfect health, and things may be happening that I haven’t seen. But maybe they’ve made progress. Regardless, I felt better carrying out my own pack.  But that’s me. Do your research, use your best judgement, and go with what your conscious allows.

 

That Hill: I’d heard everyone talk about how horrendous the last mile was on the way out and had been dreading it the entire time, but to be honest I’ve been up worse hills backpacking, like the first mile of San G, or Whitney. Going late in the day was a good plan–we were able to relax and enjoy the waterfalls on our second day there, eat at the cafe, and then go through the canyon as it got cooler. Most people you see will leave early in the morning, but you miss an entire day of waterfalls. It depends on how many nights you get and how much time you want to spend there. But the one thing I can say is don’t go during the middle of the day, because you’ll probably die. Probably. (Danger!)

 

Their Land: And finally, this should go without saying but apparently it needs to be said. This land belongs to the indigenous people of the Havasupai tribe.

ALL of the land in the US is land of indigenous people.

We are guests on their land. We need to respect them and be grateful they’ve given us the opportunity to see this place.

The night we were in Havasupai, a group of campers making the ah ah ah “Indian call” sound that even I, shamefully, made as a kid before I grew up and realized that it’s racist. Other tourists shouted at them to be quiet and one person shouted back “You’re not my dad!”

Ugh.

Stop being disrespectful. Treat people with kindness. Be respectful. BE GRATEFUL.

Really, why do I even have to type this out?

 

All in all Havasupai was an amazing time, even with the heat, the exhaustion, and the numerous, unidentifiable bug bites all over my legs. I am hoping I’ll be fortunate enough to do it again next year and perhaps make it to the confluence, which is now on my bucket list.

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Most importantly, the trip was with good people who supported one another down scary cliffs, monster infested waters, and tweaker motels. It was definitely a memorable time and despite my hesitation (see: terror) over the heat situation leading up to the trip, I am so, so glad I went. XOXO hike fam.

Iceland

Oh, hey, Inland Empire.

I’m gonna do that thing where I write about something that’s not in the IE and you’re not going to leave me annoying, snarky replies, or as I call them the “Actually comments.”

“Aaaaaaaaactuallllllly, that’s not in the Inland Empire. It’s in Iceland.”

Yeah. I know. That’s why I titled it Iceland.

So, I went to Iceland in March, and it was awesome. I spent only 5 days there because work ruined my life and made me come home because I had to do my job. I hate it when I have to do my job. It is very much rude.

Anywho, here’s a summary of the ins and outs.

I mean ins and outs of Iceland. Not my work event. Nobody cares about that.

First, we’ll start with the stuff we saw. At the bottom of the post is more logistical information.

 

The Golden Circle:
The Golden Circle has several spots to see in in southwest Iceland including: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Here’s what happened for us: We landed in Iceland at 5 a.m., spent a good deal of time at the rental car place, and then began driving to the southwest part of the country. We stopped by the National Park which was closed which resulted in us getting yelled at by a park ranger for taking pictures on a bridge. We also visited the Geysir Geothermal area, where I got an itty bitty coffee–the only size they sell in Iceland–and stayed in the car because it was cold and I was wimpy and tired and you can see some dumb geyser in Icleand ANY TIME anyway!

Then… we went to the waterfalls.

First up was Gullfoss, a sight to be seen:

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pic by @trailbot

Then there was Seljalandsfoss

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@notyournatalie at Seljalandsfoss by @nursiechris

 

And then Skogafoss

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pic by @dulcefarts

Plus tons more you see while you’re driving. If you couldn’t tell, “foss” means waterfall. Skogafoss was the most powerful one that you could walk right up to. The water from the fall combined with perpetual rain made me soggy. I was starting to get fossed out, man.

Black Sands Beach:

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pic by @nursiechris

After all the fossing, we stopped by Black Sands Beach where Rouge One was filmed. I don’t really care about Star Wars (that’s right, I said it!), but the beach was very cool, and didn’t have any waterfalls. Definitely worth the trip out.

 

Diamond Beach:

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pic by @sdhiker

On our way to the Glacier Climb on Day 2, we stopped by Diamond Beach, which has black sand and is covered in ice “Diamonds” that wash up on shore. It’s one of those surreal experiences that make you think you’re on some other planet. Definitely a unique place that I highly recommend.

 

That was basically all of the “Free” stuff we did on days 1 & 2. Here are some of the paid tours:

 

Glacier Climb:

What: you hike Sólheimajokull glacier and do an Ice Climb
Cost: $200
Includes: Tour guide and belay; bus travel from Reykjavik (or you can meet on site like we did), climbing gear
Website

This was an awesome trip, and probably my favorite thing we did. Sólheimajokull glacier is actually featured in Chasing Ice and is rapidly melting due to climate change.  Our guide gave us the stats and pointed out a sign where the glacier was in 2010, which, in comparison to where it is now, is staggering.

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pic by @notyournatalie

The day we went we had the pleasure of seeing the sky for the first time we were there, but it was still snowy and rainy, which made for some fabulous rainbows.

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On our way through, our guide showed us how to put on our crampons and ice climb. The crampon part went well. The practicing ice climbing did not go as well.

After a brief orientation, we continued up to the wall we would climb and the guide belayed us down.

I’d been going to the rock climbing gym for months, trying to get my strength up so I wouldn’t fail at this. I thought I was super smart.

The thing about ice climbing though… it’s not like rock climbing AT ALL. You have to basically climb a wall of ice using the equivalent of butter knives attached to your shoes and ice picks in each hand. It’s super cool because you keep hitting your knees on the wall and your hands are in an upward position so it’s cold and they’re also not getting any blood. This might be fine if you’re coordinated, but I am like a turtle turned on its back 95% of the time.

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pic by @trailbot

After about 10 min this was as far as I’d gotten, and my hands were so cold I couldn’t feel anything. Our guide lowered me down and came to get me, but I started feeling strange. By the time we got to where the others were I was disoriented, my breathing was shallow, and I felt nauseous. It took me a second to realize I was having my very first panic attack.

After sitting down, and having four nurses that had taken the trip up with us buzzing around and shouting “GET HER ATIVAN, STAT” over and over and me repeating “Nah, bro, I’m good,” I was fine. I knew just needed to get my hands warm again to have my body calm down and I was right.

While I’m bummed I didn’t make it up, I have no trouble in admitting that I wasn’t successful and no regrets about the excursion other than I did not have proper gloves. Have proper gloves. It will help. And maybe you won’t have a panic attack.

 

Blue Lagoon:

What: geothermal water bath and spa
Cost: $90-$400 depending on the package
Includes: Access to the spa, mud mask and some other stuff depending on what you buy
Website

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I don’t think I can say it any better than how I said it on Instagram.

Let’s talk about the Blue Lagoon.

It’s man made

It messes up your hair. Bad

It feels relaxing at first

But after you look around for a bit you notice people. Lots of people

People with beers and smoothies dripping into the murky water filled with dead skin cells

It’s soup

It’s beer smoothie soup

It’s people soup

It’s beer smoothie people soup you have to use to wash your face off because you paid for that silica mud mask and you’ll be damned if you don’t get your money’s worth

You spent 90 bucks to float around in beer smoothie people soup

But hey, at least your skin feels nice afterward even if your hair is like Medusa.

…Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan.

Lava Tube Tour
What: lava tunnel Raufarhólshellir, one of the longest lava tubes in Iceland.
Cost:
Varies depending on the length of the tour. Ours was around $70.
Includes:
“microspikes” that are actually yak traks (a.k.a. useless), headlamps, tour.
Website

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Our tour was about an hour and just for the first portion of the tunnel. It was cool with stalactites and mites. Because I was leaving for the airport right after the tour, I made the mistake of wearing regular boots and thin socks and my feet froze to the point that I was incredibly uncomfortable so, if you happen to go during cold weather, don’t, y’know, do that. Also, my headlamp barely worked so in addition to bringing microspikes, you may want to bring your own headlamp.

 

Snorkeling:
What: 
Guided snorkeling tour in Silfra Fissure
Cost: 
$150
Includes: 
Drysuit and tour
Website

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pic by @sdhiker

The group did this tour the day I had to leave to get back to work, so I can’t say from personal experience, but it looked awesome and I will forever shake my fist the god of working for me having to miss this. You get snorkel through the continental divide in glacier water and OMG I am never going to get over not getting to do this.


Kerid Crater

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pic by @nursiechris

Another cool thing that these bastards did without me was visit Kerid Crater which is believed to be a collapsed magma chamber from 6,000 years ago.

The Northern Lights

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Northern Lights by @trailbot

The thing I was most excited about on this trip was seeing the Northern lights. I dreamed of snowy scenes with cabins and green and purple wisps in the sky. I downloaded the Northern Lights app to tell me when to look up.

But here’s the problem… to see the Northern Lights you need to see the sky. Remember mentioning the rain? Well, with rain comes clouds that cover everything. And that app? It basically tells you that if you could see the sky, then you’d see the lights, which isn’t super helpful.

The first night in the city we caught a glimpse of them. Jae took the picture above but it took some heavy saturation to get any colors to pop. The picture is better than what we actually saw.

We had planned to go out the second night in the city, but unfortunately a pub called the Drunk Rabbit got in the way.

Night three we looked at weather reports and drove two hours each way, being chased storms. No lights.

The crew repeated the drive and pray method the final night, when I had left. Still no lights. Le sigh.

 

And there, my friends, is the summary of our trip.

Some other things we did not see on the trip but I wish we had:
Ice Cave
Hobbit Houses
Airplane

…Plus hiking, any hiking at all.

 

Other Helpful Thingies

Plane Tickets: we used WOW Air, which despite what you’re thinking right now, IS TOO an actual airline. And it’s not a bad airline. It’s just that it’s a cheap airline where you have to pay numerous fees.

Like $70 each way for checked baggage.
Or $50 for carry on.
All the food costs money.
If you want to pick your seat, that costs money.
If you accidentally pick a super luxury seat and want to unselect it, you have to call the airline to have it taken off because it “conveniently” gets an error when you try to remove it on the website no matter how many times you try. And you can’t get ahold of anyone when they call, so you decide to @ them on the Twitter. And finally they remove the seat selection, and you’re like “cool” and then you go to pick a seat and accidentally pick one that’s even MORE expensive than the first one you accidentally picked because gold is the $12.99 one, but slightly greenish gold is the $70 one and you just give up and end up paying $70 which results in you sitting next to some dude with the plague.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, WOW Air.

Here’s a tip: Just spring for the upgraded package. By the time you add luggage, and food, and a seat, you’re saving money. And hassle. So just buy the fancy one from the get go. Do it.

Lodging: We stayed at a Hostel in them middle of nowhere, which wasn’t as murdery as it sounds, and a really great Airbnb right in the middle of town. Between the 10 of us lodging cost $230 which isn’t bad at all. You know what was bad, though…?

Food: Dear God almighty food was expensive. People kept telling me food was expensive in Iceland and I was like “Yeah, yeah, I get it” but no, bro, FOOD IS EXPENSIVE. I paid $14 for a quesadilla. From Taco Bell. And don’t ask me why everyone wanted Taco Bell so bad. We’d been in Iceland for three days and they were like OMG TACO BELL! Like they’d been stranded on an island for 10 years with no food and only a volley ball named Wilson to keep them company.

Anyway, food is expensive. It was much more manageable to go grocery shopping and make food in the Airbnb. I lived off of PB&J for days. And the coffee is all thimble sized servings. You’re in Iceland. Things are expensive. Just get used to it.

Rental Cars: We had three cars to hold the ten of us. Jae secured the cars from a budget rental place (sorry, I don’t know the name of it) and they were all, shall we say, unique.

Picasso

Picasso, the car Chris, Jen, and I were in was a masterpiece with airline tray tables in the back, sunshades, and a front with side windows that went to the dash, making it look like an aquarium on wheels.  It was hands down the best car of the bunch even if the driver’s side window was continually getting stuck and wouldn’t go up in temperatures and wind chill below zero.

Gas is mighty expensive in Iceland and if you’re driving a clown car like Ervin was, you get to stop three or four times a day to get gas because the tank only holds about five gallons. Also, take note that on the 1 Highway, stations are few and far between. We noticed numerous vehicles that were abandoned on the side of the road; there are only two reasonable explanations for this: running out of gas or alien abduction.

 

Phone coverage: Everyone in the group contacted their own carrier to get an international plan. I have Google Fi, so I’m covered internationally.

Now, you may notice that I have almost no photos of the first day we were traveling.

Gather ’round yee children, for I have a story to tell.

It was the first day. It was dark. We had been driving, and driving, and driving. We hadn’t slept in 36 hours. I had to pee.

Chris pulled off to the side of the road I hopped out into the rain and wind and did my business.

Oh, stop judging me. It was dark. There was a monument to pee behind. I’m a hiker and I don’t care. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Chris had pulled the car closer so I could run back in quickly, and off we went.

About 15 minutes later, I noticed I couldn’t find my phone. I couldn’t find it, because, you see, it’d fallen out of the car during the break and I didn’t see it on the ground because the car had moved.

Did I mention that my phone case is also my wallet?

Chris did a U-Turn and we drove 15 minutes back to the turnout. He quickly spotted the phone, still there, on the side of the road. Grateful, I snatched it up, but it would not turn on. “It’s just cold,” I thought. But even after it warmed it, I snuggled it, it was plugged in, it was hard reset, it was shouted at, it was given the cold shoulder, and it was apologized to, it would only give me a green screen flicker before dying again.

RIP
Pixel “Pixie” II
January 2018-March 2018.

Not only was I unable to retrieve the photos I’d taken (no sim or memory card!), but I also had no means by which to take new ones. I was sad. Luckily, Chris had an extra iPhone that was older but did the trick as far as taking photos and getting me access to the internet. I also learned some important lessons about traveling including:

a) carry an extra phone–my old Samsung would have been a great backup
b) ensure your phone is in a secure location during pee breaks
c) set up your Gmail on your tablet before leaving the country because it’s going to ask you to verify your identity on your phone, which you can’t, because you don’t have a phone, and then it’ll say “cool, verify it by checking your email on a computer that already has access,” and you’ll be like, but “I can’t” and then it’ll say, “cool, verify it by getting the text on your phone” and then you’ll be like “ARG I ALREADY TOLD YOU I CAN’T DO THAT!” and it’ll give you the shrug lol emoji, and then you can’t order your replacement phone and have it waiting for you when you get back.

iceland
Dead phone, panic attack, and weird people soup aside, Iceland was one of my favorite experiences, ever.  The country has a unique, unparalleled beauty, even when it’s cold and rainy and destroys your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. It’s definitely a must return for me. A huge thanks goes to Jae for planning the trip with assistance from Chris and Ervin. This trip reminded me why I love traveling so very much, especially when it’s with good people.

You can see other pics of our adventures by following my co-travelers on Instagram
@trailbot
@Dulcefarts
@SDhiker
@kylojenhikes
@nursiechris
@notyournatalie
@swervin84
@_.karinao
@ashleytayfields

 

Oh, and here’s a pic of me impersonating a polar bear. Just because.

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Kid & Stroller Friendly Hikes

Photo courtesy of Matthikes7.0

Over the years I have received several questions on stroller and kid-friendly hikes in the IE. Since it’s such a common request, I put out the question to HikeIE followers and boy did you guys deliver.

Please note that I have not personally done all of these trails so if you have questions, I suggest you do some research via the Googles, because that’s what I’ll end up doing to find the answer, and there’s no reason to have a middleman… person… in all of this. When I was an adviser and one of my students asked me a question, I would first respond with “Did you Google it before asking me?” nine times out of ten they would sheepishly turn around and go back to their desks. 

Google is your friend. Ask the Google.

 

Some notes:

  • Mileages: All listed mileages are RT
  • Strollers: When it says “Stroller friendly” it is because someone actually said they used a stroller on it or I’ve personally seen someone using a stroller. Fire roads are usually stroller friendly but they may have an incline so that doesn’t mean they’re easy. Also I know nothing about strollers so I can’t tell you if your Baby Hikerton III stroller is going to be good enough or not. Although with a name like that I would REALLY hope it’s good for hiking.
  • Uphill: Where relevant, I’ve added elevation information. Everyone has their own level in terms of what is strenuous and what is not, so please use this info when making a decision. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know every one of my follower’s hiking abilities.
  • Kids: I often get questions asking me if I think their kid can do a trail… and my response is to shrug and say “I dunno, bro, can she?” Every kid is different. There are ten-year-olds that can’t walk a mile and there are three-year-olds that can climb Mt. Baldy (#Harperhikedit). I don’t know your kid but I’ve provided as much information as I can for you to make that decision on your child’s ability.
  • Adventure Pass: many trails require an adventure pass for parking. You can pick these up at a ranger station or any sporting goods store (Big 5, etc.). Passes are $5 for a day, $30 for a year, or $35 for two annual passes. Also, if you have an annual National Parks Pass you can use that as your adventure pass–you just need to display it from your mirror.
  • Updates: I plan for this to be updated so if you have suggestions on additional hikes, please send me a DM via Instagram or email me at: hikeinlandempire@gmail.com

 

And finally, if you go out there and something isn’t exactly kid or stroller friendly, please DO NOT YELL at me, man.

I’m a person. A person with feelings. Please remember that I’m trying best to be helpful. That being said, if something is wrong, corrections can be sent to hikeinlandempire@gmail.com.

And now, on to the hikes!

 

Riverside/Moreno Valley/Corona/Perris/Murrieta:

 

Box Springs Reserve
Riverside/Moreno Valley, CA
Various mileage; can be stroller friendly

Anyone who follows HikeIE knows that Box Springs is one of my favorite places ever. It’s best visited in the spring when the hills are green and wildflowers are blooming. The main road is a fire road that is stroller friendly with several other trails branching off. If you’re lucky you’ll see wild burros, hawks and various other wildlife. There are also boulders for the more adventurous kids to climb.

You can also take the fire road to the Moreno Valley M with about 1800 feet of elevation gain for a 7.3 mile RT hike. But you don’t have to go that far to enjoy the park.

Parking is $5 using the honor system at Box Springs Park; however it does close at sundown so be sure to leave before then or a ranger in a Jeep will come find you and yell at you… not that that’s happened to me or anything.

Leashed dog friendly. Please note that little dogs are susceptible to owls/hawks/coyotes in the area (one was just taken last week) making it even more important that you keep your dog on a leash.


Hidden Valley Nature Center
Riverside, CA
25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails; stroller friendly fire roads.


Open Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Parking is $5.
Dog friendly but a fee of $1. Dogs must stay on leash


Pumpkin Rock
Norco, CA
1.2 Miles; 370 ft elevation gain; not stroller friendly.

This hike does have a pretty steep incline but it is a fairly short trek. There are numerous trails that branch off to get there, but as long as you head towards the pumpkin you’re fine.

I wouldn’t recommend strollers and please make sure your shoes have some grip. I took a kiddo there recently and he fell a couple of times due to the steepness, but he got up like a champ!

Street parking
Dog friendly


Mt. Rubidoux
Riverside, CA
4 miles at 500 ft. elevation gain; Stroller friendly paved fire road.

This is an extremely popular hike and for good reason—paved, and kid friendly, great views and a castle at the top! Although the castle kind of smells like pee 😦

In my opinion the best time to hike this is on Sunday afternoons when it is a little less crowded.

Parking is free at Ryan Bonaminio Park or on the street.
Dog friendly; please keep your dogs on leash.


Moreno Valley Hiking Trails at Trailridge Way
Moreno Valley, CA

This one was sent to me by a follower but we’re not sure exactly what the trail is called. She says it’s by the Walmart off Moreno Beach and is a flat terrain where she takes her six-year-old for walks. From the pictures on Facebook it looks pretty stroller friendly. She says it is clean, quiet, and safe. 

This follower parks at the Wal-Mart.
Looks to be dog friendly 

If you happen to know what this trail is called, please let me know!


Santa Rosa Plateau
Murrieta, CA
Tons of trails with various mileage. Some stroller friendly areas.

This one might be a drive but it’s definitely worth it if you have kids. Tons of wildlife and different trails that lead you do adobe structures, through fields, and if it’s the right time of year, vernal pools. A lot of exposed areas so bring sunscreen.  

No parking fee, but a usage fee of $4 for adults, $3 for children.
No pets allowed.

*Read the HikeIE write up


 

Sycamore Canyon
Riverside, CA
Nature Center with over 25 miles of official trails and guided hikes; not stroller friendly

Hikes are usually .6 miles and last 45-60 minutes, easy enough for small children. Strollers are not recommended. Check out their calendar of events

No parking fee
Leashed dog friendly


Skyline
Corona, CA
Fire road that tops out at the Doppler for a total of 11.5 miles; stroller friendly fire road.

The great thing about Skyline is that you can turn around at any point. The elevation gain is that of a typical fire road; however it is completely exposed so mornings or afternoons are suggested.

Within Skyline you can also explore Tin Mine Canyon for a total of 4.5 miles and 695 elevation gain making it good for kids. Hagador Canyon at 4.2 miles and 606 feet of elevation gain is also an option. There is TONS of poison oak on these side trails so keep your kids close. Both offer beautiful scenery. Strollers are not recommended for these side trails so if you need to bring one, I suggest to stick to the fire road.

Parking is free on Foothill; however, this is a very popular trail so it’s recommended to get there early to get parking.

Dog friendly

*Read the HikeIE write up


UCR Botanic Gardens
Riverside, CA
4 miles of hilly trails; not stroller friendly

Over 40 acres of gardens with plants from throughout the world. This is a gem of the UCR campus. They often do special events such as moonlight tours.

Parking by dispenser is $2 for one hour and $3 for two hours.
Not dog friendly.
Open 8:00 a.m. to Sundown and closed on administrative holidays.



Terri Peak
Perris, CA

4.6 miles with 954 ft. elevation gain; not stroller friendly

This hike is recommended for kids that are more conditioned and offers beautiful views of Lake Perris.

Parking: This is in a recreation area, so it is $10 to get in but it does give you access to the lake.
Leashed dogs.

*Read the HikeIE write up



Upland/Claremont/Rancho Cucamonga Area

Claremont Loop
Claremont, CA

4.9 miles; 823 feet elevation gain; stroller friendly fire road.

A popular fire road trail with views of the Inland Empire. This trail is completely exposed so morning or afternoon is recommended.

Parking is $6 at the trailhead
Dog friendly


 Etiwanda Falls
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

3.4 miles 790 feet; not stroller friendly

This is a fairly popular trail that features a waterfall at the top. It is completely exposed so morning or afternoon is recommended.

Parking is free at the trailhead
Dogs are not allowed

 


Icehouse Canyon
Mt. Baldy, CA
Mileage depends; not stroller friendly.

Technically this 7.9 miles RT to the Icehouse Saddle, but you don’t need to go that far with kids and I wouldn’t recommend you do. The first part of the trail is the part that’s great for kids although it is not stroller friendly. It’s shaded, with a stream to follow and has little elevation gain. Just stop when you get to the crazy rocky area. 

Adventure pass required for parking and the lot fills up VERY fast on the weekends, so get there very early (early as in 6 a.m.) or in the afternoon when hikers are coming back.

Leashed dogs are allowed.



Johnson’s Pasture
Claremont, CA

4.3 miles with 843 feet of elevation gain; Stroller friendly fire road.

Views of Claremont and Upland. Several reviewers suggest to use Alltrails on this one as it’s easy to get lost.

Parking is free at Thompson Creek
Dog friendly

 


Pacific Electric Bike Trail
(Various)
18.1 mile trail with various entry points. Stroller friendly, paved or crushed granite. From the site:

The segment in Rancho Cucamonga includes a 10-foot-wide, concrete trail for bikes and the same width side path of decomposed granite for running, walking and horseback riding. The segment in Upland is asphalt, and is nicely landscaped, leading through residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors before connecting to Claremont.”

Several parking locations
Dog friendly

 


Potato Mountain
Claremont, CA
4.6 miles with 1289 ft. elevation gain. Stroller friendly fire road.

A popular trail on a dirt fire road. Shaded for a great deal of it except as you get closer to the top. Two dirt lots are at Evey Palmer Canyon and Mt. Baldy Rd.; however this is a very popular trail so it can be hard to get a spot.

Parking is free. Please also know that car break-ins are extremely common here–I actually had my passport stolen–so do not leave ANYTHING valuable in your cars.

Dog friendly  

*Read the HikeIE write up


Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Claremont, CA
Stroller friendly

86 acres of botanic gardens featuring native California Plants, a library and several tours and educational activities.

$9 adults; kids $4; under 3 free.


Redlands/Yucaipa/Loma Linda

San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary
Redlands, CA

3.8 miles with 200 ft. of elevation gain. Stroller friendly although it is slightly sandy in one part

This is a 200 acre preserve that is cared for by the Redlands Conservancy. Parts of this trail are exposed so be sure to bring sunscreen.

Parking is free
Leashed dogs only

 


Hulda Crooks Jedi Trail
Loma Linda, CA
5.6 miles with 1000 ft. elevation gain. Not stroller friendly.

According to the reviews you’ll probably want Alltrails and GPS as the trail is not clearly marked.

Parking is free
Dog friendly

 


Los Rios Rancho/ Oak Glen Preserve
Oak Glen, CA

2.4 miles with 357 elevation gain. Stroller friendly fire road.

This hike features a lake and is very kid friendly. It is suggested to check out Los Rios Rancho’s site for family friendly activities including apple picking.

Parking is free
Leashed dogs OK


Socal Mountains

Ernie Maxwell
Idyllwild, CA
4.8 miles with 875 ft. elevation gain; stroller not recommended.

A shaded trail with wildflowers. Five people recommend this one when I did the call for suggestions, so it must be good!

Adventure pass required
Leashed dogs only

 


Heart Rock
Valley of Enchantment (Crestline), CA
1.7 miles with 227 feet of elevation gain. Not stroller friendly.

I grew up in Crestline so I have a soft spot for this place. A great hike for kids that leads you down into deep creek where there is a heart shape that has been carved out by water fall over the years.

What’s super cool about this hike is that you can see grinding stones used by Native Americans if you look hard enough.

Parking is in a dirt lot; not sure if you need a pass, so you may want to have an adventure pass just in case.

Leashed dog friendly 



Heaps Peak Arboretum

Sky Forest, CA
.75 mile with 90 ft elevation change; stroller friendly dirt path.

The Sequoia Trail takes you through the grove that was planted in the 1930s and is particularly pretty when the dogwoods are blooming.

Adventure pass required
Leashed dogs only.  

What’s best is that you can go to the very famous Santa’s Village afterward! I used to get gingerbread men at the bakery there as a kid. There was no reason to mention that right now other than the fact that I’m hungry. 


Lake Gregory
Crestline, CA

2.3 miles; 65 ft elevation gain; not stroller friendly

Another one from my hometown! This trail is awesome and I used to run it in High School. Well, “run” is an overstatement. I used to barely trot along it in High School. Anyway, the trail is shaded, beautiful and definitely kid friendly. In the springtime you can see frogs! Or at least you used to be able to. 

Parking is free at the San Moritz lodge (if you park at the entrance to the swim area it’s $10)

Dogs on leashes are allowed

*Read the HikeIE write up


Outside Riverside/San Bernardino Counties:

Carbon Canyon Park
Brea, CA

2.5 miles with 75 ft. elevation gain; Stroller friendly dirt path

10 acre redwood forest, the only one of its kind in Southern California. The park also has kid friendly activities including three parks.

Parking is $3 on weekdays, $5 on weekends or you can use an OC Parks Pass.
Dog friendly


Red Rock Canyon
Lake Forest, CA

4.2 miles with 420 ft. elevation gain; not stroller friendly

A relatively easy hike that features red rock similar to what you would see in Arizona. There is also a lot wildlife, including mountain lions, so be mindful. 

There is a parking fee (you pay at the kiosk)
Not dog friendly


Eaton Canyon  
Pasadena, CA
3.8 miles with 592 ft. elevation gain; not stroller friendly

This hike features a 40 ft. waterfall and wading pool. The last third of the hike is the prettiest part, as it’s shaded and involves numerous water crossings.

Parking is free but fills up quickly on weekends
Leashed dog friendly


Michael D Antonovich Trail
San Dimas, CA
6 miles with 475 ft. elevation gain. Not stroller friendly as there are stream crossings.

Trail features a lake and is good for kids, but has poison oak, so please be mindful. Reviewers also says that it can be somewhat easy to get lost, so Alltrails and GPS are recommended.

Free parking
Dog friendly


Monrovia Canyon Park
Monrovia, CA

5.8 miles with 1279 ft. of elevation gain; not stroller friendly.

Has a waterfall and is shaded; good for kids who can handle the distance.

$5 parking fee weekdays, $6 weekends
Dog friendly


Palomar Observatory
Aguanga, CA
4.8 miles with 754 ft. elevation gain; not stroller friendly

This shaded trail takes you to the top of Palomar Mountain where there is an Observatory with three large telescopes. The observatory has been in operation since the mid 1930s and has discovered dwarf planets and comets.

Adventure Pass required or pay the $5 usage fee
Dogs on leash


Sturtevant Falls
Arcadia, CA

3.25 miles, 400 feet elevation gain; not stroller friendly.

One of the nicest and most scenic waterfalls in the area. Lots of shade and greenery, but also lots of bugs in the summer so it’s best accessed during the winter or late fall.

This has a pretty decent hill at the end when you’re coming back so probably best for kids who are willing to make the climb.

I’m not going to lie to you, parking for this is horrendous. Literally one of the worst parking experiences you may ever have. Like, you might have flashbacks and night terrors kind of bad. It starts from the same trailhead as Mt. Wilson and I’ve gotten there at 6 a.m. and the lot has been full. When you arrive in the afternoon, you will see cars parked with half the body on the highway, three miles down the road (I’m not exaggerating).

Your best bet is to do this on a weekday if you do not want to get there super early. Adventure pass is also required.

Leashed dogs OK

 

Gem Lake from Mosquito Flats (Sierras)

Trailhead: Mosquito Flats
Length: 10 miles RT  (we added more by visiting Morgan Pass & Chickenfoot Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced (only due to exposure & elevation)
Total time: 7 hrs for all
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lots of parking at Mosquito Flats, but get there early.

Let me preface this by saying: YES I KNOW THIS ISN’T IN THE INLAND EMPIRE AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT MAKE YOUR OWN BLOG.

Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way.

I love the Sierras. I’ve been up there four times in the past year, which isn’t a lot except when you consider I’d never been prior to last August. My first experience was Kersarage Pass and Bishop Pass with Lazy Ass Hiking about a year ago. I was hooked after that… so hooked, in fact, that I’m still willing to camp to go there even though CAMPING IS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD.

This time I went up with the Lazy Asses on Thursday where the first day we hiked in the Rock Creek Area to Third Lake. A beautiful trail that I may write about later.

The next day we headed out to the aptly named Mosquito Flats into Little Lakes Valley.

IMG_20170729_091011

Mosquito flats was gorgeous, but full of mosquitoes. I’d gotten bitten up pretty badly two days before at the hot springs we visited, so I was armed with bug spray and sun screen and was practically bathing in it hourly.

Anyway, after a quick orientation, we headed to the trail on the right to go into Little Lakes. When you have a group, only 15 people are allowed on the trail in each group, so we had to split into two. The trail quickly revealed itself to be incredibly scenic and beautiful.

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We passed several lakes along the way, including Hidden lake and long lake. There were also quite a few stream crossings.

IMG_20170729_113138

As we made our way up, there were some steeper parts of the trail, but nothing unmanageable. About 4 miles in we came to a post that used to have a sign on it (thanks, thieves of the Sierras!) and turned right. About a half of a mile from there, we came upon Gem Lake, and my was it purdy.

IMG_20170729_123141

After Gem lake, we made our way back down the trail and took a right at the post up to Morgan Pass. This was the steepest of the climbs at 600 feet, but because we were at elevation it was more like 1 million feet. There were also patches of snow on the trail which were slushy, and that’s always a good time when you didn’t bring microspikes or poles because you’re an idiot. #beprepared

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It was at Morgan Pass that I had a hard time and began to overheat from the exposure. While the climb isn’t particularly strenuous, two days of hiking trails at full exposure at high elevation was making my body go “WOAH LADY I AM NOT A MACHINE.”

I also *probably* shouldn’t have sat in the sun for an hour at Gem lake.  When I got to upper Morgan Lake, I crawled into what little shade I could find and worked to get my heart rate down. And to be honest, Morgan Lake wasn’t all that great looking in comparison to everything else and wasn’t really worth the detour.

IMG_20170729_131012

We then headed back down the trail and turned right at that now infamous post. About two miles in we made another right and headed to Chickenfoot Lake, where I sat in the sun some more because that’s always a solid plan when you’re dying.

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Some of the group jumped in the lake but I refrained because mosquitoes. A couple of the Lazy Asses pulled out inflatable rafts and floated around and made a lot of “dingy” jokes because every male I hang out with is perpetually 12 years old.

IMG_20170729_141038

 

After a bit there, we made our way back to Mosquito flats. The sun exposure was strong here and I just kept drinking fluids and cherishing any shade I could find. When we got back to the parking lot I sprayed, and sprayed again to avoid any more blood sucking incidents while we waited for the rest of the crew. On the way back we stopped off at Rock Creek where I took the best shower ever just to get out and spray myself with mosquito repellent again.

All in all this trek was worth the possibility of Zika (but probably not West Nile).  Hands down one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever seen. If you make the trek, you won’t regret it.

Just be sure to bring bug spray… not sure if I mentioned it, but there were a lot of mosquitoes there.

 

 

 

Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flats

Trailhead: Santa Anita Canyon Rd, Sierra Madre, CA 91025
Length: 15
Elevation Gain: 4200 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 7.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lot at trailhead, Adventure Pass needed, which you can buy at any sporting goods store. Also, get there at 6:00 a.m., otherwise you’ll have to either pay $20 for the “valet” camp parking or park on the road somewhere in Outer Mongolia and hike to the trail head.

 

Oh, Mt. Wilson. The most hated of all the Six Pack of Peaks. In fact, so hated, I created merchandise so that we all may express our hatred of this mountain.

What makes Mt. Wilson so bad?

So, so many things. There are the flies and mosquitoes. The switchbacks. The canopy all around that blocks any breeze from entering. The steady elevation gain towards the end of the summit. The hill you have to climb at the end of the descent. All of it. All of it is terrible.

Yet, for some reason only known to Jeff (SoCal Hiker), he makes us trudge up this thing every year for the Six Pack of Peaks.

The best time of year to do it is in winter or early spring, before the bugs take over the place. There aren’t words to express how many flies you’ll encounter on this trail in the summer. Which makes me super glad that I waited until July to do it this year.

Bring a mosquito net.

Or take a friend like Mike who the mosquitoes are super attracted to. Eight bug bites to my one! Decoy friends are the best!

Anyway, the trail starts by descending about 400 feet. Soon after you finish this hill, you will come to a junction by a set of restrooms where you can go to the left to continue up to Mt. Wilson, OR you can go to the right and visit Sturtevant Falls.

Wilson 3
From a previous trip

If you do take the Sturtevant Falls route, you will either have to backtrack to get to a main trail (the trail is by the giant tree that’s embedded in the rock… you’ll know what I mean when you see it)  or you’ll have to climb up a big hill to the left of the falls that I’m not sure is actually a trail. If you do choose to visit the falls, you’ll end up on a different trail than the one we took.

For the trip I took last week (yes, I’ve hiked this dumb peak numerous times), we skipped the falls and continued onward.

Follow this trail along for awhile and you’ll cross over the stream several times, and you may come across creatures, like salamanders. If you’re weird like Mike, you’ll pick one up.

Wilson 2

Eventually you will come to another juncture. You’ll want to make a sharp right to continue up to Mt. Wilson. Remember this juncture on the way back.

After this sharp right is where the pain begins with a steady, brutal, humidity-laced climb. It was at this juncture that I started cursing Mike for “letting me talk him into this.”

Once you get through the grueling switchbacks, you’ll come to a fire road. Keep to the right until you get to another fire road. Very quickly after this, you’ll see a trail off to the right. Follow that for about 20 minutes and you’ll end up at a parking lot.

Oh, yes, that’s right…

YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE TOP.

You don’t actually HAVE to climb to see this peak. You can drive there. Like a regular person who doesn’t like self torture.

The one saving grace of this mountain is the fact that there is a cafe at the top where you can get coffee, Gatorade, and various food items, including chili cheese Fritos. If you’re David, the head of Lazy Ass Hiking, you’ll think is a good idea to eat that just before you have to hike 7 miles back down.

Also note that the Cosmic Cafe does not open until 10 a.m. and is closed during the winter. When Mike and I went we got there too early and were devastated by the news.

While at the top I also suggest you roam around to look at the exhibits. There’s a big giant telescope that is cool. Plus, on the far side from the cafe you’ll get better views at the lookout there.

After you’ve had your fill of goods and sight seeing, head back down the way you came.

Here’s a pro tip: if you want to avoid climbing the 400 feet at the very end of the trek, you can take the higher road back. Remember the junction before the death march switchbacks started? Go to the right instead of to the left where you ascended. The right will still have a pretty steady hill going up for quite some ways, but at least it’s not at the end of 14 miles. And BONUS: fewer flies

Wilson

Parts of this road are exposed, but there are some nice shaded areas. You’ll also see the parking lot fairly early on this trail; however keep your enthusiasm bottled down because it’s going to take you longer to get there than you think.

The trail will let you off at a paved road. Continue down the road and you’ll see the sweet, precious camp on your left where you can get in your car, turn on the AC and swear you’ll never hike that stupid peak again, until next year when you talk yourself into doing the Six Pack all over again.

Sandstone Peak

Trailhead12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Length: 6.25
Elevation Gain: 1075 ft.
Difficulty: Beginner/moderate
Total time: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Parking at trail head (free)

Sandstone Peak is the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is super adorable because it’s only 3,111 feet tall. Look at you go, little guy!

The trail is a loop with a fairly gradual incline, although there are a few ups and downs… just like life, amirite?

To take the longer route, go to the right when the trail splits off, unlike what we did, which was go left and then have to turn around. This seems to happen a lot when I happen to hike with this particular guide. Not sure why I keep letting him lead me into the wilderness.

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Most of the trail is completely exposed, so going early morning or late afternoon to catch the sunset is advised. While trekking along, you will likely see rock climbers on Echo Cliffs, which is a name that sounds like something that you’d see in The Princess Bride.  “As you wiiiiiiiissshhhhh!”

There is one spot about 2 miles in that offers some shade, but that’s about the only part on the trail that doesn’t leave you exposed.

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After this section, you’ll continue skirting around the mountain. Head down the backbone trail to continue to Sandstone. To get to the actual peak itself, you’ll be required to participate in a smidgen of rock scrambling, and climb some stairs, so get a few Buns of Steel workouts in before you go (J/K its not that bad and also does Buns of Steel even exist anymore?).

Sunset at the peak is quite a sight, especially when it’s windy and cold and you have to shield yourself behind a rock because you didn’t bring a jacket. Good times.

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Once you’re done and complete the loop, go back down the stairs and make a right when you reach the trail. I was told by my guide that you can also see glow worms on the trail at night, but I didn’t see any on our trek. Then again, he is also the one who says “I think we go this way” and is wrong soooo…

Enjoy!

 

Sunset Peak

TrailheadGlendora Ridge Road
Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced Moderate (completely exposed)
Total time: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Wouldn’t recommend on this trail.
Parking: Parking at trail head (free)

Full disclosure on this write up. I’ve been to Sunset Peak twice. The first time there was a sunset to behold. The write up I’m doing now is based on the second trip, which involved a ton of cloud cover and no sunset.

I mean, the sun set and everything. It’s not like it was permanently stuck in the sky. I just mean we couldn’t see it because of clouds.

“More like NO sunset peak,” I grumbled (har har).

Onward!

There are two ways to get up to Sunset Peak, one up the booorrrrring fire road, or the way we went, which was up the ridge. The fireroad is easy to spot because it’s a fire road. It’s right in front of you, looking all fire-road-y.  The ridge route is a small path to the left if you’re facing the peak from the parking lot.

At the start of the trip, the organizer for the group was like, “Oh, this isn’t a hard route, it’s like the second short cut at Potato Mountain, not like east face.”

Very shortly I learned that he’s a liar liar pants on fire.

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Most parts of this hike on the ridge are very East Face-onian. Lots of  ascending. Then some descending to ascend again.  Climbing. A bit of bouldering. Do-able, but a heart pumper.

After the first long stretch on the ridge, you will be dumped off at the fire road. Look for the trail off to the left, just a small ways up.

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This second trail is much shorter than the first and will take you to the peak. This is the final stretch that will lead you to the peak. You’ll know you’re there because you’ll see a weird tin roof (rusty!) on the ground.

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As you can see, not a lot of Sunset here.

We made up for the lack of sunsets with a solid potluck. I brought the important item, a.k.a. Circus Animal Cookies because NOM NOM NOM.

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I’d recommend Sunset Peak for moderate/advanced hikers who are interested in a challenge. If you’re a beginner and the ridge way seems too tough, you can always take the fire road.

As of May 2017, Lazy Ass Hiking is planning this trek with the potluck at the top on a monthly basis. Check out the calendar on their Meetup page.