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.

 

 

Bertha Peak

Trailhead701 Blue Bird Ln, Fawnskin, CA 92333
Length: 6.8 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1325 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Total time: 2.5 hrs
Dogs: Yes, on leash
Parking: There is parking lot with bathrooms. You’ll need an adventure pass which you can get at the rangers station or any sporting goods store.

Last Saturday @ill_profe and I had planned to hike Sugar Loaf in Big Bear but there was some event going on where cars were lined up the streets and bouncy houses were at the trailhead and we were like, yeaaaaahhhhh passssss.

Since we’d made the drive out I racked my brain for an alternate and came up with the very memorable name of Bertha Peak, named after Phineaus H. Bertha, discoverer of mumus.

Bertha Peak starts from the Cougar Crest trailhead. When you come to the fork in the road, continue to the left.

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You will begin to meander through a forest that is rather fairy tale like.

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You’ll climb steadily, but gently, and if you get tired there’s like 1,000 benches for you to sit on and enjoy the views.

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Seriously, guys. I’ve never seen so many benches on a trail. Benches to the left of you, benches to the right of you. There was a sale on benches and EVERYONE GETS A BENCH!

Also, on the way up we saw a bunch of cairns which we kicked down while shouting “LEAVE NO TRAAAAAAACCEEE.”

Look, I’m a big fan of cairns when they’re marking a trail (sorry Sierra Club) but when they’re just hanging out there because someone was bored and serve no purpose I kick ’em down so they don’t contribute to soil erosion and encourage others to leave stuff they shouldn’t. You may find this overkill and say “Oh, come on Kristin, you’re just being a prude, let people have their dumb rock stacks” to which I say ::insert emoji shrug::

Anyway, there’s not a lot of opportunity to get lost on this trail so just keep on heading up. At some point you’ll see some towers in the distance, and that’s Bertha peak. You’ll come to a juncture where the PCT splits off but there’s a sign letting you know Bertha is a-that-away (right… it’s to the right. Go to the right, because that’s where it is.)

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This is where this fairly gentle trail starts getting real. It becomes a fire road but a fairly steep fire road. I mean, not like Cactus to Clouds steep, but steep enough to where you go “Boy howdy, this is kinda steep.”

Apparently, you’ve also stepped into a time warp where people say things like “Boy Howdy.”

Annnnyway, at one point on the fire road, you’ll see a track off to the right. You can take that up if you want a slightly more strenuous trek, or just stay on the fire road. Eventually you’ll make it to the top for some amazing views of the lake

 

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There are also some buildings up there you can walk around for alternate views of the area. You might also find a guy up there stacking rocks out of boredom and think “when he leaves Imma kick those suckers down.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

When you’re done, go back the way you came.

All in all Bertha Peak was a great backup to the trail we were originally planning on doing. I especially recommend it as an introduction to elevation training.

Or carin kicking.