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.

IMG_20170826_083040

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

IMG_2539

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.

20180901_080213

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.
IMG_20170826_095013

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.

IMG_20170826_094724

 

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

IMG_20170826_100228

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:

IMG_20170827_122340_132

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!

IMG_20170826_111419

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.

IMG_20170708_190122

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.

IMG_20170708_194149

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!

IMG_20170708_214908

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: Salvationmountain.us)

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
salton-3

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
20160430_171747

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

salton1
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 Hikingguy.com‘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.

20161126_073422_hdr

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.

600_449909831

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.

600_449909962

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.

20161126_095342

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

Babananana

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.

highres_456385569

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.

20161126_122135

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.