Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mount Zion, 24 November 2012

Mount Zion
24 November 2012
Loop: Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Trail, Lower Falls Trail to Upper Zion Trail Junction, Winter Creek Trail back to Chantry Flats
8 miles
3,575 feet above sea level with 1,500 feet of elevation gain
3 hours

After doing this lovely walk with a group, I wanted to do it again on my own for time. It was already 72 degrees when I arrived at the trailhead. The air was hot and dry until I crossed the footbridge into the woods. The path was crowded with walkers going to Sturtevant Falls, but once I was on the Lower Falls Trail, I encountered fewer people and had good portions of the route to myself. I needed the solitude and was glad to find it. Clearing the initial jumble of thoughts and impressions out of my head, I concentrated on my form and pace, envisioning my mind connected to the vastness of the sky opening out above me and my body using every muscle to move through space, carefully, steadily, and swiftly. The autumn light filtered through the treetops, the smell of campfire smoke, the occasional rain of falling sycamore leaves, and the rushing streams reassured me that I am at home in the world.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mount Zion, 18 November 2012

Mount Zion
18 November 2012
Loop: Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Trail, Lower Falls Trail to Upper Zion Trail Junction, Winter Creek Trail back to Chantry Flats
8 miles
3,575 feet above sea level with 1,500 feet of elevation gain
About five hours
Olivia Booth, Anne Ellegood, Nick Herman, Kristin Beinner James, Aandrea Stang, Corrina Peipon, and Siggy

The air at Chantry Flat was damp and cool and fresh as can be after Saturday's rain. Our band set out down the Sturtevant Trail only to be overtaken by another, enormous group. Nick wisely urged us over to the side, and we let the whole lot of them pass. After winding down the paved fire road, we reached the green bridge. Crossing the bridge to the Sturtevant Trail feels like passing into another universe. The verdant forest with its community of tiny cabins is so close to the city but offers a kind of beauty and peace that is found nowhere else in the area. We quickly arrived at the junction of the Sturtevant Trail with the spur trail for Sturtevant Falls and both the Upper and Lower Falls Trails. We took the Lower Falls Trail for a lovely view of Sturtevant Falls from above.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mount Baldy, 7 October 2012

Mount San Antonio (Baldy)
7 October 2012
Out and back: Bear Canyon Trail
12 miles
10,064 feet above sea level with 6,000 feet of elevation gain
About eight hours
Corrina Peipon and Ellen Donnelly

When I was walking on Mount San Gorgonio in September, I decided that I want to do all of the summit trails on four local mountians: Wilson, Baldy, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio. I had already been to the Mount Baldy summit twice, but I had used the same route both times. This time, we took the Bear Canyon Trail. Starting out right in Baldy Village, the trail snakes through a lovely residential area before making a quick rise over several switchbacks. The scenery changes dramatically after Bear Flat: exposure increases as the thick woods give way to low desert shrubs. The walk gets significantly more difficult from there on out, as well. There were a number of times when I looked up and thought that relief might be just around the bend, and each time, I allowed myself to be deceived. I should know by now that it's never possible to see what really lies ahead. After what felt like hours of inching ever upward over rocky, dusty ground, fighting sharp branches with nothing to look at but a dry, featureless canyon, we were finally rewarded with a view back down over the valley. Boulders and pine trees added welcome dimension and scale to the scenery on the trail, and I felt my energy renewed. Though the trail leveled out slightly for a few hundred yards, it wasn't long before we were walking straight up again, often sliding back on loose rubble. But now and then, a bend in the trail would open out to some gorgeous vista, and we pressed on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mount San Gorgonio, 1-3 September 2012, Part II

We weren't even out of the canyon before I had to stop to remove a couple of layers of clothing. Back on the main trail, the sun was already high, and the air was thick and warm. And so, we walked. With each rest, I examined the map and was humbled. I'd become accustomed to keeping up a three to four mile per hour pace on my walks. Wearing my home on my back, however, I was slowed down to about one and a half miles per hour, and on a good incline, of which there were many, I was resigned to an even slower pace. Jennifer, Peter, and I fell naturally into a pattern of walking on our own and meeting up now and then to rest, replenish our water supplies, and eat a little something. At Saxton Camp, we ran into the worst kind of backcountry dudes, self-styled wilderness survivalists who, upon hearing that we were aiming to summit later in the day, were happy to express their profound doubt at our ability to do so. Jennifer was right to be friendly, but I was put off. "We'll be fine," I spat, and marched away to steam, perched on the root of a huge tree. I would walk miles before I shook their bias and ill will. But leaving Saxton, I felt rested and strong. I was so excited to reach the summit, and I imagined walking back down another side of the mountain, setting up camp, and digging in to a warm supper. But until then, I walked. And walked.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mount San Gorgonio: 1-3 September 2012, Part I

Mount San Gorgonio (Old Greyback)
1-3 September 2012
Shuttle: Momyer Trail to summit, Vivian Creek Trail back to Forest Falls
23 miles
11,500 feet above sea level with 6,060 feet of elevation gain from the Momyer trailhead
Camps: Dobbs and High Creek
Corrina Peipon, Jennifer West, Peter West

With all of the walking I'd been doing, I'd begun to daydream about staying out on the trail overnight. While I'd done a lot of car camping, I had never been backpacking. Rather than borrowing and renting gear to try it out, I'd decided to build a kit from scratch. By the middle of the summer, I was just about ready. I was lucky that the Wests were free on Labor Day weekend and even luckier to get a permit to walk and camp on Mount San Gorgonio. Jennifer and Peter have both been taking backpacking trips since they were kids. I couldn't imagine better people to go on a first backpacking trip with. And while the available campsites weren't ideal (the first day's walk was too short and the second day's was too long), we would make do. I was determined to climb the three highest peaks in the region in succession this summer, and after San Antonio and San Jacinto, Old Greyback was waiting for me.