Peru in 9 Days: The Logistics

Peru in 9 days

So you wanna do Peru in nine days and see as much as possible? Well, boy howdy do I have the plan for you!

This trip is very aggressive, and in some points, seemingly impossible. If you do not function well on little sleep, you may want to omit some of these tours or add a couple of days… ’cause you’re going to be very, very tired if you do what we did.

Below is our schedule with links to each of the tour companies we used.

  • Day Zero – Leave LAX at 8:30 p.m.
  • Day One – Arrive in Cusco at 11:00 a.m.; check into AirBnB
  • Day Two – Tour to Lake Titicaca (2.5 day trek)
  • Day Three – Uros Islands and Taquile Island; overnight bus back to Cusco
  • Day Four – Hike to Rainbow Mountain 
  • Day Five –  Sacred Valley tour to  Machu Picchu 
  • Day Six –  Machu Picchu
  • Day Seven – Walk across Inca Bridge 
  • Day Eight – Climb to Sky Lodge; zipline down; return flight home
  • Day Nine – Arrive at LAX at 7:30 a.m. 

Some tours were great. One? Actively conspired to give us Covid. Which one? Well, you’ll have to actually read to find out.

Ah, the suspense! This is also how I force people to read it all.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost:

  • Flight to Lima: $696
  • Hopper Flight to Cusco: $103
  • Travel Insurance: $50
  • AirBnB (per person): $129
  • Lake Titicaca: $277
  • Rainbow Mountain: $79
  • Machu Picchu: $465
    • Sacred Valley: $17.50
    • Lunch Buffet: $11.25
  • Inca Bridge $69
    • Bridge Entrance: $2.5
  • Via Ferrata (Sky Lodge) $139
    • Photo package: $20

Total per person: $2058.25

Other costs:

  • Gratuities for tour guides: See suggestion for tipping. BTW tour guides aren’t like ours in the US where anyone can do it… In Peru tour guides study at university for FIVE YEARS. They are extremely knowledgeable and tours are definitely worth booking.
  • Food: most of our food was included in the tours; however food is very inexpensive in Peru, so you can easily get by with $10-15 per day, depending on how much you eat/drink. This daily price would include the cost of bottled water. Also we weren’t in Peru for the food so if you want restaurant suggestions… I can’t help you. 
  • Souvenirs: Varies. You can get high quality, beautiful items very inexpensively. We got some gorgeous baby alpaca blankets for less than $20. They would have cost $100 here. If I had brought bigger luggage I’d have bought more.
  • Luggage fees: $75-100.  On your hopper flight you will have to check your carry on bag (personal bags are fine). On the way to Cusco we “volunteered” to check our bags at the gate prior to boarding, so there was no cost (if you check ahead of time or if they stop you while you’re boarding, you will have to pay $40). On the way back our fee was $36. This was for a small bag, larger bags will cost more. 

Other Notes:

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That engagement pic where they’re side by side looking at one another, except with an Alpaca

In Peru

  • Don’t drink the water. Or eat fresh veggies washed in the water. This is the one time where salads are not good for you. Also, stay away from ice. You will have a very bad time if you have the water. 
  • Download Whatsapp. They love it there. I used it to communicate with tour guides and with our AirBnB hosts
  • Public Restrooms. Some are free, public toilets like we have in the US. Some have toilet paper but it’s outside the stalls and you don’t know until you’re sitting down. Some you have to pay for and you get two squares of toilet paper with your purchase. Some don’t have toilet seats. Some are flushed by someone dumping water in the toilet after you go. You’re just not going to know until you get there. It’s always a surprise. One thing that IS consistent though, is…
  • Do not put your toilet paper in the toilet–it goes in the trashcan. I was successful in remembering this a solid 60% of the time 
  • Uber works and is probably better than using taxis. Taxi drivers are known to quote you a price and then start adding on fees you didn’t agree to
  • Bartering is a thing here. If you’re like me and you hate bartering, just remember everything is so inexpensive you’d really only be saving a couple of dollars, anyway. Also, if you and a traveling companion double up, you may get a better deal. For example Sharee and I both bought two blankets each which got us a better deal because together we were buying four total. 
  • Baby alpaca wool is so soft! The best way to tell if it’s real baby alpaca is to place your hand in the stack. If it’s cool it’s real. If it’s warm, it’s synthetic. 
  • Tipping: aside from guides, you do not need to tip servers and taxi drivers
  • Animals: Get used to seeing dogs roaming everywhere. Packs of dogs. Dogs in pairs. Dogs wearing sweaters but who do not have owners. Dogs dogs dogs. Also, sheep, alpacas, llamas, cows… we saw a giant pig once… it’s wild, man.
  • Driving is bonkers and people are constantly honking at one another, and pedestrians. Even so we saw no accidents and experienced zero road rage.
  • Bring a bottle of aspirin. Cusco is at over 11,000 feet so you are likely to suffer altitude sickness and we found it hard to get pain killers. Also, they ask you how many you want because they only sell them in packs of two because IDK
  • Coco leaf tea and candies also help with altitude sickness, which can include headaches and nausea. Be careful taking the leaves back, though. Apparently it’s illegal to bring into the US because anyone bringing it back is planning to make cocaine OBVIOUSLY.

A note about phones: I would not rely on Whatsapp only. If you don’t have data, you will need Wifi to use it, which Sharee, my traveling companion, found out about the hard way when she had no way to communicate with people back home unless there was free wifi. Also, many phone carriers don’t work in Peru, even if you were to pay.

I have Google Fi (YES, Google is a provider, just like Verizon or T-Mobile, AT&T, etc.) as my carrier and I have texting and data (not voice but I’m an elder millennial and we don’t call people anyway) in every country I’ve gone to without having to pay extra. I tell people about Google Fi all the time and they just ignore me and I’m like “Have fun having crappy, expensive coverage you dummies.” 

Anyway, click here  for my referral code and $20 off if you switch. Google supports Android and iPhone so there’s honestly no reason not to… unless you really DO enjoy your crappy, expensive coverage. 

Flying Notes:

  • Bring paper copies of your tickets because they won’t let you into the airport in Cusco without it
  • You have to go through passport control both coming and going to/from Peru (this confused everyone on the way out)
  • You will have to claim your baggage and go back through airport security in flights to and from Cusco
  • Your baggage will be hand searched in both Cusco and Lima, right in front of you.
  • You can bring water into the airports
  • You cannot bring water on the plane from Lima to LAX, as US customs will not allow even bottled water because of… reasons??? Wish we’d known that before spending $12 on water to have it thrown out 10 min later. Peru is cheap but airports in Peru are like airports anywhere… expensive. So you better savor your thimble-sized cup of water you get every six hours from Latam, because that’s all the hydration you’re getting
  • Download the passport app for customs. Gone are the days of the paper form and trying to borrow a pen from someone. Also gone are the days of going through customs at all, which was pretty rad. You still have to go through passport control, though.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for… COVID

If you’re post Covid:
Hey, man… what’s it like? Is it rainbows and butterflies? Is your skin soft now that you don’t have to bathe in bleach every day? How is it seeing more than ⅓ of people’s faces? I bet it’s real nice over there ::stares off into distance::

If you’re not post-Covid:
Whoa, me too! Here’s what you have to worry about:

  • Double masks on planes!
  • Mask and face shield on buses like the one from Lake Titicaca AND the train to get to Machu Picchu. We used these ones. Fun fact, there are TWO sets of film on these bad boys which we figured out after suffering through two trips of looking through a perpetual fog. 


  • Testing:
    • To get into the country: at the time of this writing, you need a PCR test to get into Peru. Keep your eye on this page because requirements change a lot. For example, at first a vaccination was fine (I’m fully vaccinated), then three days before we left it wasn’t fine, you needed a PCR test, antigens weren’t good enough. And don’t expect your airline, Latam, to keep you up to date, because they literally could not care less about you (more on that later).

      You also have to fill out this declaration form which is buggy and is in half Spanish, half English. Can’t find the United States on the drop down? That’s because it’s listed as EE.US (abbreviation for Los Estados Unidos in Spanish). Also it’ll require phone numbers that are eight digits even though ours are seven digits, so we added a random number because IDK what’s happening RN. Get used to that feeling because you’re going to IDK what’s happening RN a lot when it comes to traveling and Peru in general.
  • To get out of the country: Remember when I said “More on that later” with Latam? Well, guess what, it’s later.

    First, domestically they do not care about testing, so our flight from Cusco to Lima was fine.

    However getting on the plane in Lima was a WHOLE THING.

    At the time of this writing the US requires antigen or PCR tests. We used the Ellume at home test which is an antigen test done by nasal swab. It’s super easy to use and only takes 15 minutes to get the results. But because it does not have the word “antigen” in the results they email you, the staff at Latam would not let us board the flight. It didn’t matter how many times we showed them the FAQ page that explained it was an antigen test–they did not care. And I really mean they DID NOT CARE about us.

    We spent TWO HOURS being bounced from person to person while they all took pictures of the results, sent it to some supervisor we never saw, and then played on their phone or talked to their friends and ignored us as we stood tired and afraid we’d never make it out of South America. After about an hour and a half, we asked if there was an in-airport testing facility and the Latam ticket agent said yes, but it had closed at 10 p.m. It was 10:30. 

    Out of desperation, we went to the United Airlines desk and asked them if they would accept the Ellume test. They said they would absolutely accept it, and did not understand what Latam’s problem was. But United does not have direct flights to LAX United also told us the on-site testing facility was actually open until 11:00 p.m. but it was 10:56 by the time we learned this fact. If Latam had told us at the beginning the on-site testing was an option, we would have had it resolved in 30 min. and had enough time to have a birthday drink and meal. United was more helpful than our own airline. Great. 

    Meanwhile, back at Latam, asked to talk to a supervisor and stood for 20 minutes while no one ever came over. We were treated as if we were just a bother and  not one of the customer service people even TRIED to come up with a solution for us. In fact, when we asked for a refund, we were told “We’re the only ones that fly from Lima to LAX, you do not have any options.” 

    Yet, they did nothing to help us. 

    When I say Latam does not care about you I really, truly mean they do not care. At all. Not even a little bit. 

    Finally, I was able to get in front of an actual supervisor who had just come on shift. I politely showed her my results and clicked on the part that said it was an antigen test. She said “oh yes, this works, I don’t know what the problem is” and took us to the counter where we were able to check in for our flight. 

    I could have cried. I wish I’d gotten her name but we were in such a frazzle we just wanted to get on the plane. Thank you, female supervisor. I love you, and you’re my for forever and ever.

    So my advice? Just get a test at a clinic. Apparently there are multiple ones that are 24 hrs in Cusco. If we hadn’t had four hours for our layover we’d never have made the flight and I would probably just have given up and accepted my life perpetually living in an airport. 

    P.s. It was my 40th birthday that day. Great job Latam.

    Also, to enter the US you need to sign a health declaration form. Not having access to a printer, we’d actually begged a local hotel to print them for us, only to find that they had the forms in the airport ready to go. 

Okay, so I think that’s all I have about getting to and from Cusco. What do you do while you’re there? Check out Part 2 and Part 3.

75 Hard Challenge

Wherein I do sporatic, awkward, unedited videos about the 75 Hard Challenge. I will post updates on this same page.

Rules for 75 Hard:

For 75 days, every day…
-Two 45 min workouts, can’t be back to back, at least one has to be outside
-Drink a gallon of water
-Read at least 10 pages of a non-fiction book
-Take a progress pic
-Follow a diet (any diet) with no alcohol and no cheat meals

If you miss any of these, you have to start over.

Week 1:

How I got my 2 Month Climbing Membership for $38

Alright, people.

I’ve been approached a zillion times to promote this or that company, many of which offer a “free” product if you pay $20 in shipping that takes 6 weeks to get to you. I have declined or been unresponsive to most and I’ve been hesitant and picky about those I picked to promote because for some reason y’all trust me and I take that seriously.

So when I saw Rakuten posted by an influencer, I first, thought he’d been hacked, and secondly approached it with suspicion. However, after I read a ton of reviews and did research, I found out it’s a legit site that can give you some pretty decent cash back on deals using the app or a browser extension for those on a compy.

Still cautious, I tried it myself before promoting it. I have been getting my rock climbing membership to Hangar 18 through Groupon for over a year, and it was time to renew. All I did was log into the Rakuten app, click on the Groupon offer to “activate” it, find my gym membership and buy as I normally would.

Because I am a new user, I got $10 back for my first purchase of $25 (or more), and another $4.24 as a “rebate” on top of that. Then, at the end of the month $14.24 showed up in my Paypal account. This means my $52 membership only actually cost me $38.

Hand to God, that is exactly how it happened. So. Here we are.

Besides Groupon, there are a ton of other companies you can use, including Amazon, Backcountry,, Disney, Walgreens… the list goes on.  Some stores will offer double cash back–for example, as I write this, Backcountry is giving 8% back. There are some companies where you can use the app in store and get cash back there, too.

A couple of things I’ve learned with the people I’ve referred so far:

  1. You have to purchase $25 or more to get the $10 initial cash back
  2. It can take a few days for the rebate to show, but if it does not you can put your order number into the app to check on it
  3. You have to access the store through the app for it to work


Hiking gear and outdoor activities can become super expensive, so any little bit helps. Like I said, I wouldn’t be promoting it it if it didn’t work. Here’s my referral link you decide to try it out!

Shadow Lake

Trailhead: Mammoth, CA 
Length: 8.5 RT
Elevation Gain: 750 ft. (you descend, then ascend, then descend, then ascend)
Difficulty: Strenuous due to exposure
Total time: 4-5 hrs
Dogs: Leashed
Parking: You can a) take the shuttle ($12/person) and get off on Stop 1, or b) pay the fee for the park and drive to the trail head. If you choose the drive route, get there early as spots fill up fast and they don’t allow you to drive down after 7:00 a.m.

When people ask me about my favorite hike I immediately shout “Shadow Lake” before they can even get out the words.

Shadow Lake has everything you’d want in a hike. Mountains. Meadows. Mules. Murderrrrr.

Okay, probably not the murder, but it does have a super awesome waterfall but that doesn’t start with an M and I wanted to keep the alliteration going.

You’ll start from Agnew Meadows where there’s a pack station with donkeys and whatnot. There will be a fairly large parking lot and a small PCT trail off to the left that passes over a small creek that’s the trail you want.


Follow this trail for a bit and you’ll pass through Agnew Meadows.


You’ll then enter a forest area where there’s an Ansel Adams Wilderness Sign.


After the sign, you’ll end up going dowwwwwwn into the valley, which is super fun because you’ll get to climb back up on the way back. Once you get to the bottom you’ll come to another junction. Take the trail on the right to continue towards Shadow Lake. Your next landmark will be a lake on your left hand side. We named this Mosquito Lake because there were a lot of bees.


Just kidding, we named it that because there were a lot of mosquitoes. Also it’s actually named Olaine lake.

Annnnyway, the next junction you will come to is the Shadow Creek Trail. You’ll go to the left to go towards Shadow Lake. You’ll know you’re on the right track because you’ll cross a bridge and then begin ascending real quick like.

This is where it’s pretty exposed and hot and stuff. If you haven’t already, you’ll begin to hear the roar of the awesome waterfall you’re about to climb next to.



Keep on climbing up and you’ll get to Shadow Lake:


Once you’re there go explore! There are lots of boulders to sit on and enjoy the view. And if you continue up the trail a bit you’ll get a stunning view of the lake from the opposite direction:


And if you continue a bit further up the trail and go to the right at the junction, you’ll see a semi-hidden waterfall!


AND if you go even further, you’ll make it to Thousand Island lake, but that’s like a super long hike and maybe you should slow down there, partner.

Once you’ve soaked up all the awesomeness, trace your steps back and enjoy that fun ascent back to Agnew Meadow, suckerssss.

Anything in the Mammoth area is incredibly beautiful, but this is definitely a favorite. Anyone who follows this blog knows I like to be super mean and complainy, so that alone should be testament to the awesomeness of this hike.

Definitely make the time for this hike if you’re in Mammoth. You won’t regret it.



Moonlight Mt. Baldy via Ski Hut

Trailhead: Manker Flat
Length: 11.3
Elevation Gain: 3900 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 7-8.5 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure Pass required. You can purchase one at any sporting goods store.

So there I am, thinking about how I need to knock out Baldy for this year’s Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, when I see good ol’ Lazy Ass Hiking post it as a moonlight hike.

Now, I’ve been up Baldy about a gazillion times, but never via Ski Hut, which seems to be everyone’s go-to. I’ve done both Register Ridge and Bear Canyon which are supposed to be the hardest trails ever, so how bad could Ski Hut be? In fact, I even invited my Boo @kylojenhikes to join, knowing full well that she hates steep peaks.

Oh, silly, silly Kristin, what did you do?

Here’s the trail report:

Start at the port-o-potties at Manker Flats and go up the fire road. A ways past the waterfall, you’ll see a steep trail to the left. This is also the trail you take to get to Register Ridge, which, by the way, you should never, ever do.


This part of the trail is the most scenic I’ve taken up Baldy. Throughout the trek on this first part you are able to see the green ski hut in the distance. It is also challenging, but not deadly. Once you get to the Ski Hut, however, things take a dark, dark turn.


I mean, yes, it was literally dark. So dark, that Boo and I got lost along the way. The trail was extremely steep, making frequent rest necessary, so Boo and I were way behind the pack. At one point I had to radio for help:

Kristin: Um, hi. I think we are lost.
Jack: Where are you?
Kristin: That’s a great question. Like I said, we’re lost.
Jack: …
Kristin: I’m sitting on a fallen tree and there’s a jagged rock over there?
Jack: Keep going to the left.

I don’t know how they knew where we were, but we were once again headed in the right direction. A couple of the guys ahead turned on their headlamps to guide us. Eventually we caught up with part of the group (and passed them) towards the final ascent where the trail seems to meander back and forth and you feel like you’re playing a long episode of that old school snake video game and you just know it’s going to end in you eating yourself at some point.

But progress, we did. “Push until you puke” as Boo said. And I almost did puke. But the best part about going through Lazy Ass Hiking is that have your friends waiting with wine and shots of fireball at the top!


After a bit of a break, we headed back down the less steep but murder-y sounding Devil’s backbone trail, which is actually the easiest trail and therefore the only one anyone should take.

Ski Hut was hard, man. I’m surprised that Boo is still talking to me, although we did get down to the Baldy Notch restaurant in time to take the ski lift down instead of walking another 2.5 miles to the car. This made us both very happy.

Less happy was that once we were in the parking lot, two drunk dudes started shouting at us to give them a ride down the mountain. We declined, and they got mad and asked us “What, you don’t like white guys?”

Yes. Clearly, because two women don’t want to be alone in the car with two drunk randos, we hate white guys.

A Day at the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea isn’t so much a hike as it is a weird adventure.

The Salton Sea is shared by Riverside and Imperial counties. This “man made disaster” (which isn’t exactly correct, this area has naturally flooded periodically over thousands of years) was created when there was a breach in a dam at the Colorado River. In the 1950s and 60s the Salton Sea was a resort with swimming, water-skiing, and yachting.

Being super smart-as man often is- the sea was populated with fish that shouldn’t be there. Agricultural runoff into the basin caused the fish in the sea to die, creating a beach filled with fish carcasses and stench that on a hot day sometimes can still be smelled throughout Southern California.

As a result, the resort town folded. People literally left everything there and you can still see boats, cars, and even houses with clothing and shoes from the 1950s still inside. The Salton Sea is now an apocalyptic town filled with strange sights and a culture of people living outside the norms of society.

I’ve been to the Salton Sea twice: once as a hike through the Ladder Canyon, and then again as a day trip around the area this past April. One thing I can say is that despite the The Hills Have Eyes kind of feel, the place is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by a hodgepodge of desert landscapes and vineyards juxtaposed with geological formations and mountains in the distance.

Here are some places I visited:


The World Famous International Banana Museum:20150502_161650
This was the first stop. I mean, it’s home of the largest collection of banana items, so you have to. You would think that the world’s largest banana museum would be huge, but it’s actually a fairly small place. Not quite closet sized, but maybe “really rich person closet” sized. Here you will find banana themed items from around the world. Banana figurines. Banana toys. Stuffed bananas. Frozen bananas.  Lots of pictures of bananas as well, including one photo of a banana doing something to another banana that is clearly not consensual. They request a dollar donation if you visit, or you can purchase something from the shop and have your fee covered.



Salvation Mountain20160430_135314
This is one of the main attractions at the Salton Sea, and probably what it is most famous for. Built by Leonard Knight, the mountain is “a tribute to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message: ‘God Is Love.’(Source:

The mountain features biblical scripture and colorful scenes from the bible created with a variety of materials, including bottles, wire, and plaster-covered hay bales. Leonard Knight passed away in 2014, but the property is still guarded by caretakers who will loudly remind you to “STAY ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROADDDD!!!” when climbing the piece of art.

I’d say you should pour some out for Lenny, but I don’t think he’d like that very much, because, you know, Jesus.



Slab City

Located near Salvation Mountain is Slab City, a place for squatters in the middle of the desert. Slab City is full of pieces of art made from anything you can think of–even shoes tied to a tree, as well as dwellings, also made of anything you can think of. There is also a library and a hostel where you can stay if you have special permission, or just wander in and feed ducks that are in a random coop next to the “hotel.”



East Jesus20160430_141141

East Jesus, a section of Slab City, has a sculpture garden featuring pieces made from rusted metal, recycled glass, and old TVs. There’s also shakey tree house that I did, in fact, climb because I like to live life dangerously and really want to ensure that tetanus shot I suffered through wasn’t for naught.



Mud Volcanoes20160430_160427

Located way yonder on the corner of Davis Rd and Schrimpf Rd. It’s on a washboard dirt road, so be sure your car can handle it. We were in a truck which was fine, but I’m not sure I’d take my Hyundai Elantra on there. I’m also not sure I should drive that car anywhere, as it’s been in the shop twice in the past two weeks. But I digress.



Not really sure why these mud volcanoes exist, but they’re kind of cool and freaky, and definitely worth a visit. This is just one of them. I’d also recommend NOT sticking your finger/hand/face in these. I don’t know how hot they are, and also eww.



Red Hill

Continuing with the depressed feel is Red Hill. Walking around this area will reveal just how much the sea has receded, as you can see docks that seem miles long that lead into nothing but dirt.  Currently there are restoration efforts to extend the space into wetlands for migratory birds and to leave room for geothermal energy plants (probably something to do with those mud pots we saw earlier). I wouldn’t say this is a must Sea (see what I did there?) but you can easily stop there on the way back from the mud volcanoes.



Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach as a main attraction in the 1960s. Now, it is an abandoned wasteland covered with rusted boats, empty houses, and bleached fish carcasses. While I was there I saw all sorts of strange photo shoots going on, including what I am pretty sure was an adult video, which was really cool for anyone who brought their families there, because kids gotta learn about that stuff sometime, amiright?.

For some inexplicable reason, people still live in some of the houses at Bombay Beach, so while you’re there you may have residents eyeing you with suspicion as you make your way down the road.

This was the last stop for the day and I saw a pretty epic sunset. I do wish I’d gotten there early and spent a bit more time, as there is tons to see in that section alone.


These are just some of the attractions you can see at the Salton Sea, but there are many more, such as the Sonny Bono Wildflife Refuge, an important spot for migratory birds.  There are also camping sites available if you’re into that sort of thing. Hiking opportunities are also available–the Ladder Canyon hike is a popular spot.

Whatever you do, be sure to make time to explore the area. You won’t be disappointed.

Bear Canyon to Baldy (Return Via Devil’s Backbone)

Trailhead: 6778 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA
Length: 6 miles to the peak, another 3ish to the notch and then take the ski lift down because if you have to walk another step you might die.
Elevation Gain: 5740 ft. You will climb all of this in 6  miles. It will make you tired and sad.
Difficulty: So hard you will cry like a baby.
Total time: 8 hours
Dogs: Don’t do this to your poor dog. I don’t care if he IS a “really good climber.”
Parking: Adventure pass required, as is a shuttle. Have someone park at Manker Flats, and another drive you to the ranger station where you will start the trek.

To get to the trail head, walk up Bear Canyon road (across the street from Mt. Baldy Lodge) until you get to the trail head. Getting there is a little tricky, so I recommend you check out‘s turn by turn directions.  Actually, you should just check out his site for any hiking instructions. I don’t know why you’re even here.

Anyway, I’ve done this trail twice because apparently I didn’t learn the first time. Both times we started this trek at about 6:30 a.m. in the semi-dark.

The beginning part of the trail does not go gentle on you and you climb pretty fast, pretty quick. There are some short breaks with flat terrain, but just remember you’re climbing an average of about 1k feet/mile and it’s going to be like that for a long, long time.

We made it to Bear Flats just in time to see the sun rising over the mountains by the time we were half way up the unrelenting switchbacks. Take your time on this section. You’ve got a lot of mountain to climb.


After you finish the switchbacks, the next big landmark is a place called “Split Rock” which is a rock… that is split in two. It’s a good place for a quick break before you head up the next grueling passage.


This part is the hardest climb of the trail because your legs are tired and it’s super steep.

After 17.5 years of climbing, you’ll reach the traverse. Take heart because it’s kinda, almost, not really at all close to being over. You’ll have something like two more miles to go, but the elevation gain is more mellow.


For us, the traverse where it started getting windy and cold. Like SUPER windy and cold. What made it even better was the fact that I’m a head sweater and my hair was sopping wet (I mean, I can wring it out kind of wet) which felt way awesome with the cold wind blowing on it.


After the traverse you’ll head up into the trees. The trees protected us a bit from the wind, but had the added bonus of snow. At this point to distract myself from the slog, I started making up new lyrics to the Fugee’s version of Killing Me Softly. It goes like this:

I got up at 4:30
Put on my boots to hike

I hopped into my Hyundai
And drove it for awhilllle.

And there it was, this mountain
About to claim my sooooul.

Cold, numbing pain in my fingers
Wind blasted face, legs that hurt.

Killing me slowly with this hike,
Killing me slowly…with this hike.

Taking my whole life… with each step.
Killing me slowly… With this hiiiiiiiiike


The composition of this soon-to-be-chart-topper kept me busy enough to get to the top where winds were blowing about 45 miles per hour. My fingers were so cold that it took a while to take a picture, as my phone didn’t recognize them as belonging to a human anymore. It also came out blurry, so it was well worth the effort.

Someone else had a camera and decided to take, perhaps, the most unflattering photo of me in the history of my existence. Here I am, in the middle looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman under my three layers of clothing.


I also had to borrow a face scarf from my friend Mike which I returned to him filled with snot and spit. Thanks, buddy!

At this point, there is a choice. You can either go back down the way you came which probably sucks just a little less than it did going up, or you can take the 3.5 mile down the Devil’s backbone down to the Notch and take the fire road or the ski lift down to Manker Flats.

Remember how I said to arrange a shuttle? That’s why. I hope you listened when I said that, because otherwise you’re going back down Bear Canyon to the ranger station.

I stayed up at the top for about 95 seconds and made my way down to the Notch Restaurant, just in time to see the storm rolling in.


After eating the vegetarian lunch I brought because last time when I ordered a “Black Bean Burger” from the restaurant I got an actual meat burger with black beans on it (WHO WOULD WANT TO EAT THAT?), I paid the $12 to take the ski lift down, which was totally worth it, even if it was hailing on the way down and I kept getting pelted in the face with tiny, high speed ice balls.

And there you have it. This is arguably the hardest trail up to Baldy. I say “arguably” because there’s also Register Ridge and that one is also horrible.

This is actually a great training hike if you plan to do Cactus to Clouds, which makes this one look like a hike for toddlers. This won’t be the last time I do Bear Canyon, as I do need to train for the next and last time I ever to C2C (I made a promise to a friend), but I think it’ll be awhile before I climb it again.