This year I convinced the hubs to join me in climbing the six highest peaks in Southern California. So we signed up with SoCal Hiker and started off on the trails. The challenge runs from April through October and included the following peaks (in the order we completed them):
Definitely my least favorite of all the climbs (good thing we got it out of the way early), we did this one with our regular hiking crew. This one is 14 miles round trip, but we somehow managed to add on a couple extra miles after a wrong turn. It has a steep beginning, which is killer on the knees on the way down and it was pretty warm in April. The summit is only 5,710 feet but the elevation gain is 4,200 feet. Mount Wilson is home to most of the radio and television towers for the major media outlets in LA. It also has an observatory that you can access by car. The "summit" features a snack bar that has chili dogs if you wish to partake after a 7 mile trek uphill- BARF!
Cucamonga Peak was a really cool surprise. Even though it was already May, we had quite cold temperatures at the higher elevations and had to trek through some patches of snow along the trail. As we climbed higher, the trees were covered in ice and "rained" down flakes on us. Unfortunately, the summit was thick with clouds and we missed out on some spectacular views. The clouds were so thick that we lost sight of the trail and added an extra mile. I see a pattern here... Definitely want to come back and do this one on a nice day. The elevation on this one is 8, 859 ft and is 11.6 miles roundtrip.
Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy)
I am quite fond of Mount Baldy, as it is known to us locals. I have a decent view of it from my backyard and my grandfather, who was quite the outdoorsman, created a pen drawing of it which hangs in my mother's living room. This was the first 10,000 footer that I climbed last summer. This time it felt a little bit easier- yay for conditioning! The summit offers awesome 360° views. You can even spot the 15 freeway leading to and from Vegas on the backside. We walked down the Devil's Backbone trail to the Top of the Notch restaurant, where you can grab lunch before taking the skilifts the rest of the way down.
San Bernardino Peak
This trail was fun because it had lots of different types of terrain and we spotted a deer right away. We also got a little taste of history on this trek. About three quarters of a mile from the summit we stopped to have a snack at the "other" Washington Monument. It's basically a pile of rocks with a pole and a plaque that marks the spot where in 1852 Colonel Henry Washington lead some army men to mark the spot. This is the landmark from which all future surveys of Southern California were taken. The summit was rather small and offered some foreboding views of the last two remaining beasts on the list – San Gorgonio and San Jacinto peaks.
|Crossing the riverbed at dawn|
This one was definitely the most eventful hike of the challenge. This was the highest peak at 11,500 feet and we decided to get it out-of-the-way before our late summer trip to Denmark. Upon driving up to the parking area, we saw our first bear jaunting back into the woods. We had not secured the wilderness pass that was required for a day hike and at about 4 miles in, we came across Ranger Dan, who we knew had already turned other non-passholders away. After some chat about the six peaks challenge, he gave us some professional courtesy and let us journey on. After 8.7 miles, we dragged ourselves to the summit, racing a thunderstorm headed for the top from the opposite direction. We began our journey back and got caught up in a downpour with thunder that crashed right over our heads. It didn't last long and we were making good time. That is, until the last 2 miles when I felt like my hip and knee were going to shatter (please stretch before, during, and after hiking). I was using my poles as crutches when my husband startled a thick, dark rattlesnake. Fortunately it was off to the side of the trail and I limped by, holding my breath. We made it down and were happy to have the highest peak off the list. Storms, snakes, and bears – oh my!
We decided to save this one for last so we could reward ourselves with an overnighter in our favorite desert city, Palm Springs. We took the Aerial Tramway from the desert floor up to the mountains to start the trek to the peak. We lucked out once again with perfect weather and reached the top in no time, which was a nice surprise after a 2 month hiatus from hiking. We had to scale boulders for the last 100 yards but it felt so good to get to the top of the last peak! We changed into our Six Peaks challenge T-shirts and headed down. It was fun to be stopped by other challengers or hikers who had heard of the challenge, congratulating us along the way. We stopped in a stone hut near the top and checked out the digs on the way down. Another tram ride down and we were soaking in a hot tub before dinner. This one was 11 miles roundtrip and took us 5 hours flat.
This challenge gave me a new appreciation for the gorgeous mountains that line Los Angeles and the surrounding counties. We logged over 80 miles of quality time together and can now say that we "hike peaks by the six pack." A big thanks to So Cal Hiker who put on this challenge!