Last year Sally, Jeff, and I started hiking the peaks for the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. We did our first peak in May. It was Mt. Wilson and we continued on from there. Sally ended up doing four of the peaks and Jeff and I finished all six. The day that Jeff and I finished San Gorgonio we sat in Jeff’s truck beyond exhausted and we decided that it was a miserable hike and we did not want to do it again.
Planning to Do it Again
Well then 2018 rolled around and we all decide that we were going to complete the Six-Pack of Peaks and finish in enough time to get invited to the finisher’s party. To score an invite to the party you have to finish all the hikes by September 30th. San Gorgonio is somewhere between 18 and 21 miles. My Fitbit registered our hike as 21 miles. San Gorgonio is the tallest peak in Southern California. You climb 5,390 feet to reach the peak at 11,503 feet.
Turning the Hike Into A Backpacking Trip
Sally and I decided that we would try and break this hike up into two days and backpack up six miles and spend the night. I applied for an overnight permit month in advance and we hiked the other 5 peaks that were part of the original challenge. Unfortunately, 2 weeks before our trip a fire broke out in the area and the Forest Service had to close both San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peak. The ranger called to cancel my overnight permit. We ended up backpacking to Little Jimmy instead.
A Change in the Six-Pack
A few weeks later Jeff Hester of Six-Pack of Peaks added alternative peaks to replace the ones that were closed due to the fires. One of the alternatives was Sitton Peak. Sally and I had already hiked Sitton in the spring. We logged on to the Six Pack web site and logged our hike and we were officially done with the challenge. Although we were done, it felt like we had cheated.
San Gorgonio Opens Up
At the end of August the Forest Service opened the San Gorgonio area again for hikers. We did not have a weekend to make it into a backpacking trip, so we decided we were going to tackle it in one day. We chose to hike it on Labor Day. The day before we hydrated, hydrated and hydrated. That night I ate mac-n-cheese to try and store up some carbs.
The Day of the Hike
Monday morning we left at 4:30 a.m. We got to the Vivian Creek Trail Head at 5:30 a.m. and it still was dark. We started hiking a little before 6:00 a.m. The first part of the trail is on an access road walking past cabins. We crossed the dry Mill Creek Bed. Once we got across it was time for uphill switchbacks. The next mile was tough. We had a plan that we would not stop in the middle of the switchbacks. We tried to make it to the end before stopping. It did not take long for us to get high enough to start getting some amazing views.
Looking back towards San Bernardino.
After the switchbacks we ran into a sign, we were entering the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
San Gorgonio Wilderness
I still looked perky at this point.
Sally loves a sign
The next few miles were some of the prettiest of the hike. We saw giant trees and little meadows. We crossed the creek a few times. We passed Halfway Camp, which is not halfway and we came upon a doe and her fawn. The fawn still had her spots and they both had the biggest ears. They were not overly concerned with us and we stopped and took a few pictures.
Time for a Break
We continued hiking up at a pretty good pace. We stopped at about mile 6 and had a little snack. I was starting to have bad visions of what was yet to come. Before the hike Jeff had reminded me to tell Sally to not look up and the answer to all questions about the summit is, “no that is not the summit.”
Hiking in Altitude
The next miles were tough. We continued going up, eventually, we got up above the tree line. At this point in the hike altitude started to come into play. We were over 10,000 feet and breathing in enough air is a struggle. It looked like we were walking across the moon. When we looked up in the far distance we could see a summit, but of course, it was a false summit. The summit seemed so far. We were now hiking very slowly, probably less than one mile an hour. Sally asked if we should turn around and not continue on to the summit. I assured her that we were getting closer and we were going to make it.
A Little Encouragement
A very enthusiastic man stopped to chat with us. He told us that we were doing great and that we were probably 20 minutes from the top. Feeling reassured we continued on averaging 100 steps before we had to stop to catch our breath. Well it was not even close to 20 mins, more like an hour and a half. We passed one false summit and we could finally see the real peak of Mt. San Gorgonio. We boulder hopped up to the top. We found the metal box and signed the trail register. We took pictures with the summit sign.
My second time at the summit of San Gorgonio
I won’t be back!
We were relieved that we made it up there.
We Made it to The Top
We had made it to the top of the tallest peak in Southern California. We sat down for a much-needed break. It was warmer at the top than we had anticipated. We did not even have to put on our puffer jackets. We had our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some jalapeno chips while we were being stocked by little trail bandits.
The chipmunks wanted these chips.
These chipmunks wanted us to feed them and they were not scared of us. We spent less than 30 minutes at the top because we knew how far we still had to hike and we wanted to get back to the car before dark.
The view from the summit.
We started way down there in the valley.
The Way Down
The way down seemed steep and endless. I tripped on a rock and splayed out in the middle of the trail. I cut my hand and knee. It seems like one of us always falls on our hikes, the trails are full of obstacles like rocks and tree branches, and if you look up to see the scenery that is usually when it happens.
I did not know it at the time, but when I tripped I injured my toenail. When we had 6 more miles to go my toenails felt like someone was jamming bamboo shoots under them. With every step it brought a new swear word out of my mouth. I decided I could not take the pain anymore and I sat down right in the middle of the trail. I would have cried, but I’m sure I was too dehydrated for tears. I unlaced my boots and re-laced them using a surgeon’s knot. I tried to get them tight enough for my toes not to hit the end of my boots, which is hard to do when you heading down such a steep incline. I had visions of how ridiculous it would be to call for an emergency rescue for toenails. I had to dig deep to keep going.
The Last Mile
The last mile on the mountain was treacherous. The trail losses about 1,000 feet in less than 1 mile. Our joy of making it down the mountain was overshadowed by the fact that we still had to walk back across Mill Creek dry bed and another mile to the car.
Walking across Mill Creek on the way to the car.
On the way I saw something moving along the trail and when I got closer I saw that it was a baby King Snake.
A baby King Snake.
It was not scary, because it was tiny and we were exhausted. It took us 12 hours and 45 minutes.
We Made it to the Car
We got back to the car around 6:15 p.m. At the car we peeled off our boots and put on flip-flops. My toes felt so bad that I left my socks on for the drive home. We had an hour’s drive and Sally and I had plenty of time to discuss the hike. We decided we are done with San Gorgonio. There are plenty of other peaks to do and there is no need to repeat this one. The thing about San Gorgonio is that it is not very pretty, It has some beautiful parts, but the peak is not spectacular. The positives of this hike were we had a lot of good laughs and it felt good to finish the Six-Pack of Peaks, even though this was actually our 7th peak for the challenge.
Finishing the Six-Pack of Peaks
We have now finished 9 of the peaks and we have 3 more to go before December 31st, however, one is still closed because of fire damage. I lost two toenails and Sally lost one from this hike. In October Jeff, Sally, and I went to the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge Party.
Jeff, Sally & I at the Finisher’s Party.
515 people completed the challenge and we felt excited and proud that we did it too.
We all found our names on the finisher’s list.
At the party we added our adventure goals for 2019 to the Wish Tree.
The Adventure Wish tree.
Jeff wrote that he wants to hike Mt. Whitney. Sally and I want to hike the JMT and meet Jeff at Mt. Whitney. We will see what 2019 brings our way.