Six Pack of Peaks – Arizona

Oh, hey internet.

So, as I’ve mentioned I’m an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks, a hiking challenge created by Jeff from Social Hiker. The challenge started with six progressively higher peaks in Southern California and has grown to include multiple regions throughout the US because apparently, Jeff doesn’t want me doing anything but hiking as I try to complete each challenge.

This year Jeff added a “winter series” based out of Arizona. This series, created by Richard Oppelaar a.k.a. FoxTrax on Instagram, is a series of  hikes make you want to die in a different way than the Socal Six Pack in that they are short but so steep you feel like you’re perpetually on a stair master.

I had a few days off around the holidays and I asked Richard if he thought this was possible to do in three days. He suggested a plan (he was probably laughing manically while doing so) and I suckered… I mean invited my friend Sheri (a.k.a. Wheelzabub, the talented artist behind the ye olde Hike Inland Empire logo) to join me in my quest to complete the series. She texted back, and I quote “it looks like fun.”

LOL, what fools we were.

Below is the the itinerary of the trip we took. Richard did an excellent job on the trail guides for the main Six Pack of Peaks site and I’m super lazy, so rather than writing my own versions, I’ve linked his posts below. I have added a few tips and commentary to let you know the real deal about what to expect.

 

General Advice:

Three day plan: So the first piece of advice I will give you if you’re looking at doing this in three days is: DON’T.

Do it in four days, guys. Seriously. You should do it in four days. Don’t drive 5.5 hours back after doing Flat iron. Stay another night. Have some beers at Four Peaks. Get a good night’s sleep so you’re not dozing off while driving home and you have to pry your eyes open Clockwork Orange style.

Really.

Truly.

Do it in four days.

Timing: Now that I still haven’t talked you out of doing it in three days, my next word of advice is that it’s going to take you longer than you think it is. You’re going to be looking at a 6 mile hike and think “Yeah so that’ll be three hours.” But it’s not going to be. It’s going to be 4.5-5 hours. Because these trails are difficult.

Lodging: Don’t ask me about where to camp. Because we, my friends, stayed in hotels. Hotels with marginally comfy beds and showers. Did it cost more? Yes. But for $90 each for two nights WE LIVED LIKE KINGS!

Temperature: Newsflash: the desert is cold in the winter. It never got over 50 degrees, and most mornings it was in the 20’s. IT WAS COLD, Y’ALL. Bring layers.

Okay,  now that those items are covered, onto the schedule. This is based out of my condo in Riverside, so don’t be mad at me if you live in San Diego and it takes you longer to get there because contrary to what you might think, I don’t know where every single one of you lives.

 

Day 1
Leave Riverside 6:00 a.m.
4 hrs 49 min 

 

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Piestewa:
Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,126 ft.

2701 East Squaw Peak Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85016

This was one of my least favorite of the peaks. It was super crowded and I felt like I was a Hollywood wannabe startlet looking to get discovered while hiking (that’s a Runyon Canyon joke, people).

The parking for this one is fairly challenging if you get there later in the day. As we made our way down the road we began to see a long line of cars parked on the side, which is never a good sign. Luckily we sharked the small parking area for awhile and we snagged a spot.

Fun tip: the trail head is on the left, just after the gate next to the parking lot. It was also under mega construction so a lot of it was fenced off.

(14 min drive to)


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Camelback:
Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation: 1,246 ft.
6131 E Cholla Ln, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253


Soooo you can’t park at the trail head–you have to park on 64th street and walk up. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a spot near East Cholla Lane and you’ll have a 0.3 walk to the trail. If you’re Sheri and me, you’ll be .7 miles a way and you’ll have a mile walk to and from the trail head. On the plus side, there were quite a few Lime and Bird scooters laying around so you can use one if you’d like to take a scooter to your hike. Sheri kept suggesting Lyft, but ride sharing less than a mile to a 3 mile hike was beyond my capacity of acceptance. 

Of the two urban hikes, this was my favorite. It was, what I thought at the time, a challenging hike. But I was young and naive then, and had no idea what challenging was.

 

Stay night in Tucson (2 hr drive)

 


Day 2
Leave 6:00 a.m.
(26 min drive to)
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Wasson Peak:
Distance: 7.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,886 ft.
King Canyon Trailhead, Arizona 85745

 

Wasson Peak was a nice reprieve from the crowds and steepness of the day before. The peak is located in Saguaro National Park. When we went it was during the #TrumpShutDown and when we went to turn off to the trail head the road was closed.

Determined not to let Trump ruin our hiking, Sheri and I basically became Galileo and navigated ourselves to the Sendero Esperanza trail head. While it added on about another mile (rt), we were able to take this easy going, meandering trail to the peak which lulled us into a false sense of security that “maybe this challenge won’t be so bad after all!’

LOL, dummies.

Pro tip: the drive to the next peak has… not a whole lot of eating options. Unless you want to stop at the one McDonalds on the way or have gas station Subway, you should probably bring your lunch.


(1 hr 21 min drive to)

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Picacho Peak:
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,986 ft. 

Hunter Trailhead, Picacho Peak, Arizona 85141 

Imma be straight up with you when I say I’m not sure how this is a hike sanctioned by a state park. This is the most cuckoo bananas hike I’ve ever been on and I hiked Cactus to Clouds which is supreme cuckoo bananas. Sheri accompanied me about half way up before she tapped out due to height-a-phobia, so I completed it by myself.

She was the smart one here.

This hike involves vertical climbs where you cling to cables and regret every decision that you made that led to that moment in time. I felt like I was at the climbing gym but I didn’t have a harness or mats to save me from my inevitable plummet down the side of a cliff. This video does not really do it justice.

This was just one of the very many obstacles I had to climb solo. The only people nearby was the weird family that was ahead of me that gave me the creeps, and I was gonna be super bummed if they were the ones that found my body.

Once I made it up, I sat for a good 20 minutes knowing that the way down was going to be 1,000 times more terrifying than the way up. After a few deep breaths, I stood on my wobbly legs to make my way down. As I left the sanctity of the only flat part of that trail, was confronted by a family that had three women in BONNETS AND DRESSES huffing and puffing on their way up who looked at me as if to say “Suck it up, pant lady.”

I somehow made it down the trail without dying.

Pro tip: While I’d brought gloves, they were the thin kind you’d wear hiking in marginally cold weather. I highly recommend wearing work gloves as mine kept slipping down the cables I was desperately gripping to avoid my death.

(1 hr. 15 min drive to)

Stay night in Tempe

 

Day 3
Leave 6:00 a.m.
(1 hr. drive to)
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Fremont Saddle:
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 1,496 ft.

Peralta Trailhead, Peralta Rd, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118 
*Get there early to get parking

The day before we were to finish the challenge, my friends Tom and Kristal messaged me and told me they were planning on completing it, too. Tom offered to drive to the trail head, which I was stoked about because I was garsh darn tired of driving. I was less stoked that I ended up forgetting my hat in my car and had to buy a black sequined hat from a gas station. Why did I choose that hat? Because it was the best option.

Despite that, this hike ruled. It was nice, and gentle, and had a cave, and cool stories about the Lost Dutchman‘s treasure buried in them thar hills and it didn’t demand I stair step at all!

Unfortunately, Sheri’s knee became injured and this was the last hike she was able to complete. Although now that I think about it, maybe she knew what was coming…

 

(42 minute drive to)

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Flatiron:
Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3,147 ft.

Siphon Draw Trailhead 6109 E Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 

Oh, Flat Iron. Flat Iron, Flat Iron, Flat Iron.

Flat Iron goes like this: an almost flat trail for a mile that then leads to a super steep slip and slide section and then class 2 scrambling for an hour and a half. The route up is both physically and mentally exhausting as it’s not so much a trail as you trying to figure out which rocks you might actually be able to climb if you can angle yourself a certain way and hold on for dear life. I recommend you use gloves for this hike as you will use your hands almost as often as your feet as you scowl at some brightly dressed trail runner hopping boulders and passing you with ease.

The “scary” part is known as the wall, a 10 ft vertical climb that is scarier going down than coming up. There is an alternative route off to the left that is marginally better and you can use it if you’re stuck behind a never ending stream of 10 year olds wearing Keds, or whatever version it is that kids wear these days that are inappropriate for such an excursion.

While Tom, Kristal and I were crab walking up and down rock slide city, Sheri lounged around ghost town that was a little bit down the road, drank a beer, watched a fake gun fight, and pursued the mineral shop for overpriced gems. We kind of hated her. We took solace in the fact that our view was probably better than hers.

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We finished with the hike around 4:45 for a total of about 5 hours for the climb. Sheri and I left Tom and Kristal who would continue the challenge with Wasson and Picacho the next day. I definitely think that getting Flat Iron out of the way on day one and finishing with the two urban hikes before heading home was the smart decision, and it’s one I would recommend if you can stay three nights instead of two.

So there you have it. The AZ Six Pack of Peaks. I was happy to crawl into my bed after 5 hr. 32 min. drive home and the next day I didn’t get out of bed until 4:30 p.m. 

One might say I was tired.

Total climb for 3 days: 27 miles/11k ft. vertical gain.

If you’d like to sign up for the Arizona Six Pack of Peaks you can do so here. The challenge runs until April. 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

San Bernardino Peak

TrailheadSan Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Length: 17 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 4700 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 9 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Dirt lot at the trailhead that fills up quickly on weekends. I was able to navigate it in my Hyundai Elantra but I also scraped up the side of my car trying to avoid a large hole which is definitely going to help the resale value.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/17 permits are no longer subjected to a quota. You don’t need to acquire a permit in advance; however, they do ask you to fill out a self permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone. Be sure to bring a pen with you or you have to use your snake bite sharpie like I did which doesn’t work well on carbon copy paper. You can also fill out the permit via PDF, email it in, and print a copy for yourself.

 

San B is probably my favorite trail of the Socal Six Pack for no other reason than the elevation gain is pretty gentle. The bummer part is that it’s 17 miles.

This was the last of the Six Pack that I needed to do this year for my three-peat and I decided to summit solo. Even though I’ve done gazillions of solo summits, this one gave me a bit of the heebies to do alone due to the length of the trek and the fact that I was beginning in the early morning which, as we all know, is prime time for murderin’.

The first mile of the hike are arguably the hardest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly as you climb switchback after switchback. These are the switchbacks you’ll hate on your way back because they seem never ending.

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After the switchbacks, you’ll curve around the west side of the mountain and then begin heading east again. Soon you will come to one of my favorite parts of the trail, the manzanita forest:

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This part of the trail is relatively flat and enjoyable. Keep heading along the trail and you’ll end up at a three way fork in the road with a sign and a random rusty wheelbarrow. Follow the middle trail towards Limber Pine:

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After this sign, you’re going to hike and hike and hike through a little valley area and then up switchbacks to Limber Pine Campground which is apparently one of the best places to camp and see a sunset IN THE WORLD. Or at least in the San Bernardino Mountains. You do still need a permit for overnight stays.

You’ll then get to the next benchmark, which is, haha, a bench. Get it? I’m very clever.

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Limber Pine Bench offers the best view on the hike, and is where I would stop and eat lunch if I’d bothered to eat lunch on my hike.

After the bench you’ll encounter a few more switchbacks until you get to a fairly flat area where you’ll come to the Washington Monument.

It took the third time on this trail for me to actually see the Washington Monument. I always thought it was the pile of rocks with a plaque on the trail. Not so! It’s actually a bigger pile of rocks that used to be a cabin about 300 feet off the trail! I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did get a picture of this view, so there’s that:

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After the Washington Monument you’re on the last leg of the trip. The trail once again begins to climb and the very last .1 miles is very steep because apparently you haven’t done enough already.

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The peak itself is much less impressive than you’ll see at Limber Pine bench, but it’s got an ammo box, so you know, cool. And there’s a sign which was donated by @sdhiker which, if you’re solo hiking like I was, makes it super fun to try to take a picture with.

 

After you’ve rested, go ahead and head back from whence you came.

I’m going to be honest with you in saying that this is a long trek back. Like, WAY long. The last mile especially. It’s switchback after switchback. And if you hike it solo, you’ll be looking for ways to entertain yourself. Like I did when I composed this little ditty:

This is the trail that doesn’t end
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because
This is the trail that doesn’t end…

I ended up getting back to my car at about 1:30, p.m., making my summit just over 7 hours. However when I hike solo I take breaks for no more than 30 seconds and spent just over 10 minutes at the peak trying to take a selfie with the sign.  I’m not joking. It took me 10 minutes to take a selfie with the sign. So if you do plan to hike this one, I suggest you plan for 9 hours or more.

Additionally, with the end of the permit quota, this trail is going to be very busy on weekends. When I spoke with the ranger, he said that both San B and San G parking lots are full by 7:00 a.m., so either get there early, or even better, go on a weekday. I only saw three people on the trail the entire time I was there.

‘Cause when you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to see people, amiright? How dare others be out there hiking in nature? That’s MY thing!

 

San Jacinto Via Tram

Trailhead: Palm Springs Tram
Length: 11.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2500 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Nope
Parking: Free, but $25 for the tram

Want to try your first peak but still need to work up to true peak bagging? Then San Jacinto is a great first trek for you.

The first tram ascends at 8:00 a.m. but you can arrive at 7:30 to purchase tickets. I’ve heard that the line is crazy, so you may want to get there even earlier to avoid the crowds. Please also note that this tram rotates your view as you go up, so if you’re afraid of heights this might not be your favorite thing ever.

Once you get to the top, you’ll head down a never ending, windy, paved road that is super fun to come back up when you’re tired. Head toward the right to the ranger station where you’ll fill out a permit to enter the San Jacinto wilderness. Keep the permit with you and you’ll return it in a mailbox on your way back.

The trail to the peak will be on your right. It’s fairly well marked except when you come to round valley and you come to a juncture with no sights that say “Peak this way, bro.” Stick to the right, and you’ll get there.

The trail meanders along with a relatively easy elevation gain. There are some spots where it does climb fairly quickly, but take heart, traveler, as it will calm back down again.

About 3 miles in you will reach Wellman Divide which has a preview of the sights you’ll have at the top.

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After Wellman Divide, you will enter the switchback section of the trail, which, again gains elevation fairly gently and offers great views of the valley below.

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The switchbacks on this section are quite long, but there are only two of them. It was at this time we also heard a search and rescue helicopter overhead that was blasting its siren above us. I later found out it was one of our friends from Instagram, who didn’t even offer us a ride. THANKS A LOT, ERIC.

Once you finish the switchback section, you’ll go to the right and meet up with Marion Trail, and you’ll only be .3 miles from the top. When you reach the end of this trail you’ll see a big rock heap that you get to climb for the rest of your summit. Once at the top, head to the left and you’ll see the San Jacinto sign, where if it’s like when Boo and I went, people decide to sit right by or walk through because they like to ruin your pictures.

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One of the best places to take in views is at the far side of the rock mound, which is a bit harder to get to which means you’ll have fewer people.

There are a lot of haters out there for people who do San J via the tram, including one at the top who got all judgy with me and Boo for not climbing Marion. I informed him that I’ve actually done the Marion trail four times, and climbed San J via Cactus to Clouds (one of the hardest day hikes in the US), so I’ve suffered quite enough on that mountain, and he can just mind his own business.

Also, it’s a 11 mile trek so it’s still a workout and a great option for people who are new to peaks as a first try.

Also, who asked you for your opinion, Mr. High and Mighty?

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And for more aggression, on the way back down, Boo and I ended up running into THE Marion for whom the trail was named. I mean, we assume it was her because when we passed her she passive aggressively threw up her arms and sighed in annoyance for reasons we didn’t quite understand. We figured that she must own the trail and our presence there must have annoyed her so I apologized, letting her know we didn’t realize she owned the trail.

Hopefully you won’t run into so many haughty people on your climb.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t live here.

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

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

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So overall, what did I think?

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

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

 

Gear I Used:

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

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

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

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

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

Register Ridge

All pictures by Tony Tellez

 

Trailhead: Manker Campground, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA
Length:
 9 miles, depending on your route
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft.
Difficulty: Very strenuous
Total time: 6-7 hours
Dogs: Not a good idea
Parking: Parking is $5 at the ski lifts. If you out to park at Manker Flats, you’ll need an Adventure Pass which you can find at any sporting goods store or ranger station.

Spend any amount of time with @lazyasshiking and one of the first questions you’ll be asked is “So, have you done Register Ridge yet? When are you doing Register Ridge?”

Register Ridge is a death march up Mt. Baldy where you climb 2750 feet in less than two miles. It is grueling, and it sucks and I don’t know why these people like it so much. Tony, the organizer, posts it every six weeks or so on Lazy Ass Hiking.

After a year of peer pressure and canceling three times, I finally climbed it, and now I never have to do it again, ever.

In order to do Register Ridge you need to be in outstanding physical shape. Or at least the physical shape I’m in, which is that I hike three to four times a week. And like, legitimate hikes, guys. Not strolls up Mt. Rubidoux (sorry, Roobs, you’re just not that difficult). I’m talking like, real womanly hikes that make you pump your fist in the air kind and shout “Suck it, mountain.”

And at least one hike a week up peaks at elevation. I spent the last 5 weeks doing peak climbing before I felt good at attempting this.  Actually, “good” is too strong of a word. I just felt like I was less likely to die.

So what I’m saying is, if you’re not doing those kind of hikes, don’t do Register Ridge, mkay?

The hike goes like this:

You start up the fire road by the port-o-potties, say hey to the cute little waterfall, and then connect to the Ski Hut Trail which is further up, on the left hand side. You’ll recognize it by the fact that the sign for the trail is broken in half. Way to go, jerk that broke it.Go up Ski Hut, and not far up, you will see a metal register box on your right. About 25 yards up from that, you’ll see a water run off on the right. Except that’s not a water run off, that’s the Register Ridge Trail. And that’s where the pain begins.

You will spend the next 2 to 2.5 hours Spider Man-ing your way up this trail. It is like scaling a building and it never levels off. I must say, that while it is extremely steep, I never felt worried I would roll off a cliff, just that I might collapse and die.

When you are about .25 miles from the top of the trail, you will begin to see the best sight EVER: heads bobbing along the Devil’s Backbone and you know you have arrived.

From here, you can either connect to the backbone to make your way up to Baldy, OR head up Harwood trail off to the right for extra credit, which I agreed to for some dumb reason.

After sumitting Harwood, we made our own trail back down to the backbone and summitted Baldy which was just the icing on this terrible cake. The some of the group then went to West Baldy- I opted to roll my eyes at them and plop down at the wind shelter.

While technically you can go back the way you came, that would be dumb. I suggest heading your way back down the Devil’s Backbone and stopping off at the Notch. You can then either take the ski lift down from the lodge or walk the 3 miles back down to Manker Flats, like I did, again, due to peer pressure.

 

 

Some other notes:

Weather:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but this is an extremely strenuous hike. Don’t do it when it’s hot. The group has done it in the snow, as well, but if you do, be careful on the backbone on the way back

Wildlife
Because this is less trafficked than other trails, I am told that this is the best trail if you want to see big horn sheep, which I still haven’t seen, so thanks for nothing, Register Ridge.

I’d suggest parking in the lot at the ski lifts and walking down to the trailhead because you’ll be tired by the end. I didn’t do that and made my friend drive me two tenths of a mile to my car because I was over it #lazyasshiker.

 

San Bernardino Peak

 

Photo credit @michaelpowellphotography and @broloelcordero

Trailhead: 5766 Frontage Rd, Angelus Oaks, CA, 92305 
Length: 
17 (ish) miles
Elevation Gain: 4650 ft.
Total Elevation: 10649
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 9-10 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: There is parking in a dirt lot after a long, bumpy ride down a dirt road. You can definitely make it in a regular car, but it’s not a great idea. Also, I’ve heard conflicting reports on needing an adventure pass, so just put one up. Hiking Guy has excellent instructions on how to get there.

HIKING PERMIT REQUIRED.
You can request it online to be mailed to you, stop in and get it on your way there, or, if  you’re stuck in 1996, fax your request to the station and they’ll fax a permit back. Here’s the link to the Mill Creek Ranger Station.

San Bernardino is probably my favorite of the #SocalSixPack. The trail is the most gentle of all the peaks with a very steady incline throughout and with a rather flat part in the middle when you go through the forest of Manzanita trees. The only part that was particularly steep was the very last .2 miles to the peak which is super of you, San Bernardino Peak. Go ahead and put the hardest part at the very end when I’m tired. ‘Preciate it, sir.

Some other things of note:

Ho Hum Peak
The peak’s view is rather lackluster. You’ll find the best view is on the way up at Limber Pine Bench which gives one of the most spectacular views of the Inland Empire you’ll ever see. I’ve also heard that camping at Limber Pine is an amazing experience. Many call it the best campsite in Southern California. I don’t call it that, though, because I hate camping.

Covered in Bees!
When we went in August there were a lot of bees. I mean A LOT OF BEES. Everywhere. All buzzing around, like they own the place. I hate bees. I mean, I get we need them and all but they FREAK ME OUT.

Washington Monument
Less than a mile from the peak you’ll see Washington Monument. Or, if you’re smarter than me, you’ll see it. I’ve gone twice and just passed the plaque, not realizing that there’s an actual structure off the main trail. I am not observant.

The Descent
The last two miles of the trail is a soul sucking, switch back after switch back journey with zero scenery change. I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day except without Bill Murray to make me laugh.

Seasons
Best time to go is June – October. Otherwise you’re going to hit snow. And not like “Hey, look at that pretty snow over there” kind of snow, but “I’m so cold that I can’t feel my feelings any more” kind of snow.