Jaunts With Jackie

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Category: Hiking

Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Early Saturday morning Sally and I set out to hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. We parked on a residential street. Parking is limited so go early unless you don’t mind a long trek on the sidewalk. The hike starts on the corner of Lake Ave and Loma Atla Dr. in the city of Altadena.

Park along one of these streets.

The History of Echo Mountain

Today if you want to get to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point you need to hike, but from 1893- 1936 you could ride on the Mount Lowe Railway. The railway was a combination of a Funicular like Angel’s Flight that took passengers up the canyon and then a narrow gauge trolley that took them to the resort at the top of Echo Mountain. It is crazy to think that in its heyday the Mount Lowe Railway was the number one tourist attraction in California. More people went to the top of Echo Mountain than Yosemite or Catalina. Ultimately, the resort burned down in 1936 and the railway tracks were damaged in a storm in 1937. Today all that is left are the ruins.

Historic Photo of Mount Lowe Railway

The Cobb Estate

The hike to Echo Mountain starts at the Cobb Estate which is supposed to be haunted. At one point the Marx Brothers owned the estate. They were sure it was haunted and they tore down the property. The Marx Brothers tried to build a cemetery on the haunted land, but the neighbors were opposed. Eventually, a private donation allowed the city to purchase the land.

The Cobb Estate

Hiking to Echo Mountain

We started our hike by walking through the “Haunted Woods” of The Cobb Estate and luckily we didn’t feel anything weird. Our hike to Echo Mountain started on the Sam Merril Trail. It is a little over 2 1/2 miles to the top of Echo Mountain. The trail is rated as moderate and it is a single track. The elevation gain is almost 1,500 feet, but the switchbacks feel gradual. There are posts marking the 1 and 2-mile mark. You are half-way up when you are directly under the power transformer.

At the top of Echo Mountain

You know you are close to the top of Echo Mountain when you see the giant gear. The ruins are all that have survived from the Lowe Mountain Railway and the Great White Resort. This is a good place to stop and take a rest and there are usually people hanging around looking at the ruins and having a snack. Depending on the weather you might have an amazing view all the way to Catalina, however, if it’s foggy your view will be a blanket of clouds. In addition to the view, history buffs are in for a treat because there are plaques and signs with information about the Mount Lowe Railway. If Echo Mountain is your final destination then you will return on the same trail back to your car.

Hiking to Inspiration Point

After hiking to Echo Mountain we chose to continue on to Inspiration Point. We backtracked a little way to Castle Canyon Trail. The Trail is 2 miles in length and takes you to the Inspiration Point. It is rated hard and has steep inclines and you will gain about another 1,500 feet in elevation. We hiked in the winter and the trail was overgrown and there were a lot of trees down that make for interesting obstacles. You will see far fewer people on this trail than on the Sam Merrill Trail. Because the trail is in a canyon it isn’t possible to see the top of Inspiration Point until close to the end of the hike. When you have hiked about 1 3/4 miles you turn a corner and look up and see the shelter at Inspiration Point.

The Top of Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is not actually a point, it is in a saddle between two canyons, however, on a clear day the views can be amazing. There are picnic tables and plenty of spots to rest. Viewing pipes have been installed and they are labeled with the locations you are viewing. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Catalina. We hung out at the top and ate our lunches and took pictures.

We made it to the top of Inspiration Point.

Hiking Down

We decided to take a different route down from Inspiration Point. Castle Canyon Trail is step and it has lots of loose gravel and that can make it tricky to hike down. Instead, we opted for the Sam Merrill Trail. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your research and to be on the lookout for the sign for the Sam Merrill Trail. The first time I did this hike I missed the sign and ended my hike far from my car. This trail is pleasant and meanders through a canyon forested in large trees, however, the one downside is the mountain bikers. You need to keep an ear out for them so you don’t get run over. Castle Canyon Trails is 2 1/2 miles and it passes some ruins along the way such as Sunset Peak and an old observatory. The trail ends at Echo Mountain.

The sign for the trail back to Echo Mountain.

Hiking Down From Echo Mountain

From Echo Mountain we hiked down the same trail we had come up in the morning. In the afternoon there is barely any shade and the day we were there it was only in the low 70’s, but it felt really hot. Although it is only 2 1/2 miles down the trail seemed endless. Make sure you bring at least 2-3 liters of water even on a mild day because you will be working hard. When we made it to the bottom we still had to walk about 1/2 mile to our car. Our round trip from for the day was over 12 miles and we were ready to take off our boots and put on some flip-flops.

Mt Lowe Brewing Company

Sally and I have a hiking rule any hike over 10 miles and we stop at a local brewery and get a beer. Today we stopped at Mt Lowe Brewing Company in Arcadia. Mt Lowe Brewing Company has a cool vibe, it’s big, clean and the one beer I tried was good. I had to try to the Inspiration Porter because of its guarantee to ease my sore hiking muscles and my chapped lips. I love the giant pictures of the Mt Lowe Railway that they have hanging inside their brewery. The afternoon we were there a large crowd was playing bingo and a food truck was serving nachos and tacos. I will definitely be back and it was the perfect way to end our hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Out and About in Riverside, California

Riverside, California

Riverside, California is located in the Inland Empire about 55 miles East of Los Angeles. Downtown Riverside is home to the University of Riverside, the famous Mission Inn, and Mount Rubidoux. There is plenty of street parking and parking garages or there is a Metro Stop that offers shuttles to local downtown areas.

Mount Rubidoux

Mount Rubidoux has been designated as a park and a landmark. At one point the land was purchased by the owners of the Mission Inn. The land is now owned by the city of Riverside. Mountain Rubidoux is known for its Easter Sunday services. In 1909 the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux.

Parking at Mount Rubidoux

It is easiest to park your car at Ryan Bonaminio Park. The address is 5000 Tequesquite Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. Ryan Bonaminio is a sports park and it has a lot of parking spaces. From the park, there is easy access to the mountain. Head up the street about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you will reach the start of the trail. There are no bathrooms at Mount Rubidoux, but there is one at Ryan Bonaminio Park. At the beginning of the trail at Mount Rubidoux, there is a place to fill your water bottles and there are trash cans along the trail.

Hiking in the City

Mount Rubidoux boasts over 3 miles of hiking trails. There is a 2.7-mile round-trip trail. The trail is paved which makes it a great choice for days when your normal trails are covered with mud. The trail only gains a little of 350 feet in incline, so it is rated as easy. I have seen numerous people pushing baby strollers up to the top. When you get to the top there are a few areas to explore. The World Peace Bridge is a beautiful place to stop for a photo.

The World Peace Bridge
Under the World Peace Bridge

The Top of Mount Rubidoux

Once you reach the top of Mount Rubidoux there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view. There is built-in seating in the rocks for the sunrise services. We climbed up to the stairs to the base of the cross. The cross is dedicated to Father Serra. According to some old newspaper articles there was some controversy about the separation of church and state and now the small plot of land that holds the cross is owned by a conservancy that is responsible for its upkeep.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos in Riverside

After hiking back to our car we decided to drive over to Tio’s Tacos. I had driven past Tios when I was on the way to The Mission Inn and the large art out in front of the restaurant piqued my interest. The restaurant is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

Tio’s Taco

Eclectic Art in Riverside

We found street parking across the street from Tio’s Tacos. We wandered around the entire outside before we ordered out lunch. The art is all made from upcycled materials. One of my favorite pieces of art at Tio’s is a Christmas tree made from recycled Dos Equis beer bottles. There is a little chapel complete with an altar and pews. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the little details.

You can’t miss the art from the street.
A Christmas tree made from Dos Equis bottles.
Popeye The Sailor Man
Inside the chapel
Information about the artist.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos

After hiking and walking around Tio’s looking at the art we were hungry. There is both seating inside and outside at Tio’s and the day we were there it was chilly and extremely windy so we opted for inside.

We went to the counter to order and although it was after 1 pm, I asked if I could order breakfast. The good news is they serve breakfast all day. I ordered Chilaquiles with green sauce. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish with fried corn tortillas simmering with green or red sauce topped with an over-easy egg, sour cream, and cheese. I was happy to see an Aqua Fresca Bar at the front counter therfore I ordered a Mango Agua Fresca and it was very sweet but tasty. After ordering they give you a number and you seat yourself. I am a Chilaquiles connoisseur and my lunch was good, but definitely not the best Chilaquiles I’ve eaten. I would go back to Tio’s again just to see the art and maybe I’ll try a taco next time.

Chilaquiles Verde

Exploring Riverside

We had a good morning exploring Riverside. Mount Rubidoux was a scenic place for a hike and we all enjoyed the art and our lunch at Tio’s Tacos. We will have to plan another day to see some of the other things Riverside has to offer.

Road-Tripping to June Lake

June Lake is just a short 5-hour drive from the Los Angeles area on Highway 395, but it seems a world away. June Lake is popular in the spring and summer with the fishermen, during the fall for the leaf peppers and during winter for skiers. The first weekend of October we took a trip to June Lake over a long weekend. We were a little bit early for the peak leaf viewing, but it was beautiful.

Breakfast on the Road

We left the Los Angeles area at 5 a.m. Our first stop was at Great Basin Bakery in Bishop. Great Basin Bakery is a small bakery that bakes delicious, breads, cookies, pastries and serves breakfast and lunch. If you want to avoid the busses full of tourists at Schat’s Bakery, then Great Basin is your place. I ordered two breakfast bagels with eggs, coffee and two giant cowboy cookies to go. I’ve had both breakfast and lunch at Great Basin and both times everything I’ve ordered has been delicious.

Hiking at Little Lakes Valley

After leaving the bakery we continued driving to Little Lakes Valley Trail. The exit is off of 395 at Tom’s Place Resort. After passing Tom’s Place you drive on Rock Creek Rd to Mosquito Flat Trailhead. In the summer I backpacked all over Little Lakes Valley, but this day we were there for a day hike. We hiked into Heart Lake. Dylan spent the morning fishing in the beautiful Alpine Lake and I spent the morning reading. In the afternoon we hung up our hammocks and ate our cowboy cookies and took a little nap. When the wind picked up and we were frozen we hiked back down to the car and drove to June Lake.

Heart Lake
Little Lakes Valley
Little Lakes Valley

June Lake Motel

We had reservations at June Lake Motel. Our room had 2 beds and a small kitchen. During the night a vehicle struck a power transformer close to the Nevada border, but the entire area lost power. We woke up with no power, but the owner of the motel used her generator to make coffee and tea for all the guests. She also told us that they had lanterns for us if the power didn’t come back on before nightfall. I highly recommend the June Lake motel and I will definitely stay there again next time I’m at June Lake.

Gull Lake

The first night we were starving after all of our hiking and skipping lunch. We walked from our motel to The Tiger Bar. It is the quintessential small-town bar. They serve bar drinks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was packed when we arrived. They had the Dodger playoff game on the television and people were shooting pool. We finally got a table. We ordered a couple of beers a burger and a sandwich. The food was good and the servers were friendly.

Saturday morning when we woke up to no power we walked around the town and there was nowhere open to serve breakfast. The hotel owner told us that we should be able to get a sandwich at the June Lake Junction Cafe. She said that they run on a generator. We drove over there and unfortunately they were not serving any food. We bought some gas station snacks for breakfast and we learned an important lesson. Always have cash. They couldn’t process any payments except for cash and there were cars parked outside at the gas pumps and unfortunately, they don’t work without power.

Passing the Fall foliage on the way to Parker Lake.

Hiking to Parker Lake

We had a full tank of gas so we headed out to hike to Parker Lake. The trailhead to Parker Lake is located at the end of the June Lake Loop. After the turn off there is a 2-mile dirt road, that is passable with a normal car. The trail is 3.6 miles out and back. The first mile is the steepest part and then it levels out. The trail is suitable for all levels. The trail starts in the sagebrush and then heads into a nook in the canyon. We were there in October and we walked through a grove of Aspens that was changing colors. After the Aspens, the trail runs parallel to a stream and then straight into a forest. The payoff of the hike is the lake. Parker Lake is on the backside of Yosemite and the views are jaw-dropping. We spent the day fishing and exploring. There were a few people that were camping at the lake. There are no bathrooms and fires are not permitted at the lake. At the end of the day, we hiked back down. We were treated with great views of Mono Lake off in the distance.

Parker Lake
The view on the hike back to the car from Parker Lake.

Dinner at June Pie Pizza Co.

We drove back to the hotel through the June Lake Loop. We got to look at the other lakes in the loop and the fall foliage that was just starting to turn golden. After driving around all the lakes we parked at our hotel and walked over to T-Bar Social Club. We were following the signs for June Pie Pizza Co. The pizza place is downstairs inside the Social Club. We sat at a table for two and ordered a local hard cider and a beer that were both on tap and a large Margherita Pizza. Our expectations were not high for the pizza and fortunately, we were 100% wrong. That was some of the best pizza that we have ever had. The crust was thin and it was cooked perfectly. It tasted like authentic New York Pizza.

June Pie Pizza Co.

Breakfast To Go

Sunday morning I woke up and took a walk around the village. All the stores had pumpkins sitting out front and looked very festive. I walked over to The Lift to get some breakfast to go. I wanted to pick up 2 breakfast burritos that they usually have in the case, but even though it was only 8:30 a.m. they were already sold out. Instead, I order 2 breakfast sandwiches and a latte. I waited 30 minutes for my sandwiches, but they were tasty when we at them and everyone that works at the Lift was very nice.

Time to Head Out

We had an amazing time in the June Lake area and I can’t wait to return. The village is quaint with amazing scenery, comfy accommodations, and a few good restaurants. I’m looking forward to planning my next trip to June Lake.

Hiking From Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak…..

Day 2 Of Our Backpacking Trip

Hiking from Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak was our goal. Friday morning we had backpacked from South Fork trailhead to Dry Lakes. We woke up early on Saturday morning. I had actually woken up a few times during the night. The first time was to a chorus of coyotes. The second time I woke up because something was sniffing around my tent. I almost had a heart attack and was way too scared to look and see what it was.

Backpacking Breakfast

Even though it was only 6 am we climbed out of our tents to make coffee. The only problem was it is so hard to open a bear canister when your hands are cold. I couldn’t get mine open and thank goodness for Sally being able to open mine or I would have starved to death. After a healthy breakfast of Pop-Tarts and coffee, we decided we would try to summit San Gorgonio. We have both summited from Vivian Creek, but never from this side. We packed up a lunch and put our supplies in small packs. The day before we had stopped at REI and picked up microspikes.

Heading up Mine Shaft Trail

Using Microspikes

We were following Alltrails. There are two ways to go. One is to hike back to the saddle of Dry Lake and Dollar Lake and head up from there or to start the trail near where we had camped and headed up Mine Shaft Trail. We opted for the closer trail. Within a 1/4 of a mile of camp we were in serious snow and we had to stop and put on our microspikes. It was early in the morning and the temperatures had been cold the night before so the snow was still solid and we had no problem walking on it with the microspikes and our poles.

First time using microspikes.

Navigating In The Snow

The real problem became navigating. It’s impossible to follow a trail that is covered in snow. Every couple hundred yards we had to stop and see how close we were to the red line on All Trails. After we made it to the top of a canyon we found out that we somehow got off course. At the top, we were on dirt and we had to sit down and take off our microspikes.

Using All Trails

Using the red line on All trails we went straight up a side of a mountain and somehow found our trail. We were at 9,960 feet above sea level, which meant we had 2,000 feet more to climb. Sally had a huge blister on the back of her heal and she wasn’t feeling it. We decided that San Gorgonio wasn’t in the cards for us that day. I again looked at All Trails and saw that we could continue on the trail we were on and we would be able to loop back to camp.

At the saddle.
Way too much snow.

Looking Up At San Gorgonio Peak

When we made it to the saddle we could either continue on Sky High Trail and in another 3.6 miles we would be at the top of San Gorgonio or we could take Fish Creek Trail and eventually end up back at Dry Lake we opted for Dry Lake. When we looked up at San Gorgonio there was so much snow we couldn’t even see the switchbacks. We were pretty confident that we could make it to the top, but we were scared of what it would be like coming back down after the sun had been out all day.

A New Plan

Fish Creek Trail had way less snow than the way we came up, but unfortunately, we ran into 100 feet of dirt and then huge mounds of snow completely covering the trail. We tried going over the snow, but we would either post-hole or start sliding downhill. Eventually, when we got to the snow we either went up or down the mountain to go around it. On the way back to camp we found Lodgepole Spring that we had looked for the day before. All together we hiked 8 miles and made it back to camp in one piece.

We spent one more night at Dry Lake and hiked back down to our car the next morning. We hiked a total of 25 miles and got experience with our bear canisters and microspikes. It was a good practice trip for the Sierras.

San Bernardino Forest Service

Backpacking to Dry Lake

Backpacking to Dry Lake was a real surprise. One benefit of the wet winter here in Southern California is that Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is not dry, it is currently full. An average Spring will bring some water to the lake, but it quickly dries up with the warmer temperatures. The past few years Dry Lake as been that very dry, but this year it looks spectacular.

Backpacking to Dry Lake

My fellow adventurer, Sally and I are training for a trip to the Sierras. We decided on a 3 day 2-night backpacking trip to Dry Lake. The trail starts at the South Fork Trailhead in Angelus Oaks. This the one lot that has plenty of available parking spaces. Adventure Passes are required to park in the parking lot. At this time permits are not required for day hikes, but permits are required for an overnight.

South Fork Trailhead

We struggled to get our packs on. They were heavy. This was our first time hiking with bear canisters. Black bears are prevalent in the San Bernardino National Forest, however, bear canisters are not required for Dry Lake. If we didn’t carry a canister we would have had to hang our food. This trip was a practice run for the Sierras so we opted to add the extra weight of a bear canister. I could feel the extra weight and it took up so much room in your backpack, but I wouldn’t want to have an encounter with a bear in the middle of the night.

South Fork Trailhead

A Little Detour

This winter’s weather played havoc on the beginning of the trail. The first 1/4 mile of the trail has too much debris to make it safe. Forest Service has marked an alternate starting point. It is easy to follow, you can follow the pink ribbons until you meet up with the original trail.

Horse Meadow

The trail to Dry Lake is 6 miles. At the 1.5 mile mark you find yourself in a meadow with some old structures. This is Horse Meadow and it is a beautiful spot for a picnic. There is a picnic table, but there is no overnight camping allowed. We took a little break and enjoyed taking off our backpacks and getting a drink.

Horse Meadow
My very heavy backpack.

Poop-Out Hill

After leaving Horse Meadow you walk through low brush on the way to Poop Out Hill. At 2.5 miles you can take a slight detour to take you to the top of Poop Out Hill. There is a sign for San Gorgonio Wilderness and an amazing view of San Gorgonio.

The junction to Poop-Out Hill.
At Poop Out Hill

Water Crossings

We got back on the trail that was heading up, through an area that burned in the 2015 Lake Fire. We spotted plenty of wild flowers, mushrooms growing on the dead trees and carpets of green grass. After you get to the junction of where to turn off for either Dry Lake or Dollar Lake we had to cross the river 4 times. Some of the crossings were easier than others. One crossing required us to walk all the way across on a downed log. Luckily we made it across without falling in.

Switchbacks All The Way To Dry Lake

After the water crossing, it’s just straight up the switchbacks until Dry Lake. On the way up we had to climb over two large trees that were blocking the trail. It wasn’t easy getting over the top with full packs on without falling down the other side of the mountain.

A First Patch Of Snow

A little before the 6-mile mark we started to see patches of snow. At 6 miles we could see Dry Lake. We walked on the right side of the lake looking for a place to camp. The next day when we walked around the entire lake we found out we should have walked along the left side of the lake. On the left is a sign with a map showing where the designated campgrounds are and also where the Spring is.

Dry Lake was actually full of water and beautiful.
Dry Lake
A nap of Dry Lake, the campground, and the spring.

Finding The Campground

Since we walked the wrong way and missed the sign we set up our tent closer to Lodgepole Springs Campground. A large group that we had walked up behind sat up their tents on the edge of the lake. No camping is allowed within 200 feet of the lake, stream, spring, meadow or other campers. The following day when we got back from hiking the large group had relocated farther back away from the water. We assume a ranger had come and asked them to move.

Our tents. We made sure they were more than 200 feet from the edge of the lake.
We could still see the lake from our tents.

Filtering Water

We didn’t bring a lot of water with us, so we had to filter water. The first night we couldn’t find the spring so we used our Sawyer Water filters to filter water from the lake. After our camp chores were done we sat down to heat up our dinners on our camp stoves. No campfires are allowed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. While our meals were rehydrating I made us some Trail Margaritas. I mixed one packet of Crystal Light Lemonade with with a 1 1/2 shots of tequila, a slice of lime and lots of fresh snow. They were seriously the best margaritas I’ve ever had. We called it an early night and got in our tents and read. We had big plans to try and get to the top of San Gorgonio the next day.

I used a Sawyer squeeze filter to filter water.
Filtering water using the Sawyer.
Cooking dinner
Supplies for backpacking margaritas.
Making Margaritas
I made backpacking margaritas using 1 packet of lemonade, 1 shot of tequila, fresh lime and snow.
Trail Margaritas
The sun setting on Dry Lake.
Goodnight!

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Henniger Flats…..

On a Saturday in April Sally and I decided to go on an overnight backpacking trip to Henniger Flats. We are training for the Sierras and trying to get in lots of practice packing and carrying our backpacks. We started on Pinecrest in Altadena. There are strict parking rules on Pinecrest so we parked a few blocks away on a city street. The trail from Pinecrest to Henniger Flats follows a fire road. It’s a steady incline all the way up. It is about 3 miles from the start of the trail to the lower campground. I would rate this hike as moderate. Lots of casual day hikers passed us on the way up, but we were carrying heavy backpacks. I weighed my backpack before I left and it was 37 pounds. That is really heavy for overnight. The main source of weight was there is no water at Henniger. You have to bring everything all with you. This includes what you need to drink, cook and brush your teeth. I carried up 9 pounds of water plus my hammock and book. All things that I don’t usually have with me.

Almost to the campground.

Hauling My Backpack to The Top

We started up in the early afternoon knowing that Henniger gets crowded on the weekends. There are about 30 spots spread out over 3 levels and they are first come first serve. When we arrived there was only 1 tent set up at the lower campground and the coveted spot #1 was unoccupied. We decided that was where we were going to camp. Spot #1 is popular for its spectacular views of Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and Catalina. It was a little cool and overcast so we could see Los Angeles and the ocean, but not Catalina. We were thankful for the cloud cover because there is no shade on the hike up. It would be a scorcher if the sun was out. Currently, you are allowed to have a fire at Henniger, but it has to be in their fire stove and not on the ground. In order to have a fire, you need to check in with a fireman that is on duty 24 hours a day. He will issue you a free permit to camp and make a fire. We found him inside the little museum that is at the top of the lower campground. There are bathrooms at the Henniger. I thought they would be vault toilets, but they’re flushing. Unfortunately, there was no toilet paper or running water.

Downtown Los Angeles is the little dot under the orange clouds.
Inside the Museum
An old fire look-out that has been relocated to Henniger Flats.

Setting Up Camp

After checking in we set up our tents and then tried to set up our hammocks. I might need to invest in some strap extenders. We had a hard time hanging our hammocks up, because the trees were either too close or too far away. I finally got mine up and enjoyed laying in it and reading a book.

The view from my hammock.
It was hard to concentrate on my book with this view.

Making Dinner in The Woods

We each made couscous for dinner. We’re trying out different backpacking meals for our longer trips this summer. After dinner, we noticed we only had a few pieces of wood by our stove. We had read that the Los Angeles Fire Department – Forestry Division provides firewood. We walked back over and talked to the fireman and yes, they do provide firewood. He was so nice that he offered to load some up in his truck and drive it over to our site. Sally had made some firestarters at home. She mixed vaseline and dryer lint together into little balls. It worked great and we had a fire going in no time. We sat around the firebox and enjoyed the warmth while we had shots of Patron. We stayed up long enough to see Los Angeles lit up at night. Eventually, we crawled into our tents. The temperature wasn’t bad, the low was 50 degrees. I woke up lots of time, mainly because of a crow flying above us screeching about “murder.” All in all, I slept better than I have on some of our trips.

Firewood that the fireman delivered for us.
A nightcap next to the fire.
The view of Los Angeles.

Good Morning

I woke up Sunday morning to three deers munching on the grass in camp. We watched them until they moved on. For breakfast I made coffee and I tried out making instant oatmeal by just adding the water to the little packet and it worked. No need to use a bowl, this is good information for our trip to the Sierras. After breakfast, we packed up our backpacks and headed down the hill. It took us less than an hour to get down and it was still early so it was cool outside. We didn’t see any snakes, but we talked to a man that saw a baby rattler. Again, we were thankful that it was cool outside. Overall, this is a perfect hike to test out your backpacking gear and practice packing and carry your backpack up an incline. Henniger Flats was pretty and I would go back again.

Two deer heading out of our camp.
Ready to hike down.

Poppy Fever & Waterfalls

Southern California has received a significant amount of rain this winter and as a result there is  a “Super Bloom” happening and lots of water in our local falls.  The poppies are looking amazing. The hills are a lush green and in some spots they are carpeted with poppies.

When the sun is out you can see them glowing a brilliant orange from the freeway. You can get up close and personal with the poppies in Lake Elsinore at Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve.

The land is owned by the preserve, but there is a 4 miles loop that you can walk around and see an amazing display of spring flowers. It seems that most of Southern California is trying to talk selfies with the poppies. If you visit on the weekend, I suggest you go early and bring plenty of patience. Exit at Lake St. off of the 15 Freeway and head towards the poppies. You can park along the side of the rode in either direction. The city of Lake Elsinore has put out a few porta-potties and trash cans. The first part of the trail is a little steep, but we saw ladies in sundresses and fancy shoes heading up along with several people with canes and one man with a walker. The further you walk up the trail the less people you will see.

A Common FIddlehead

We wanted to see the poppies up close, but soon realised there is a variety of different flowers to enjoy as well. It was partly cloudy the day that we went, so we spent some time waiting for the sun to poke out from the clouds. To get the full effect you should try and go on a sunny day. Poppies only open up when it’s sunny. 

Look closely to see the flowers close to the ground.

Hiking San Juan Loop

After walking around and enjoying the flowers we decided to leave and try and hike to a nearby waterfall. When we got to the car it was a complete zoo. There were people parked on both sides of the rode for over 1/2 mile. Again, go early. We drove up Lake to Ortega Highway. It is about 15 miles from the poppies to the parking lot for Ortega Falls. There is a parking lot across the street from the Candy Store. This is part of the Cleveland National Forest so you need to display your adventure pass. If you didn’t bring one they sell them at the candy store for $5.00. To reach Ortega Falls you start out on Old San Juan Loop. It is only .3 miles to the top of the falls.

Ortega Falls

We only stayed up top, because the water was roaring and muddy. It was too cold for us to make our way down to the bottom and playing in the water. We decided we would continue on the trail and head to Chiquito Falls.

A little plant growing on a rock.

This is as close to the water as we got.

Time Time To Turn Around

It was 3 miles further, unfortunately after a mile we came to an impasse. San Juan creek was roaring from all the rain and there was no safe way for us to cross. We walked upstream and found a log, but it didn’t look like we could make it across. We figured it would be a bad idea and we didn’t want to be one of the people that rangers are rescuing every weekend. We continued hiking on San Juan Trail and ended up back at the parking lot. 

Ortega Oaks Candy Store 

We were back so early we went across the street to the Ortega Oaks Candy Store. When it’s warmer they serve refreshing rootbeer float, but the day we were there it was way to cold for that.

Ortega Oaks Candy Store

We settled on coffee and brownies. We browsed all of their candy selection and I settled on sour watermelon gummy bears. 

Jawbreakers

We had a great adventure and because we didn’t make to the falls we have an excuse to go back again soon. 

The One Hike I Don’t Ever Plan on Doing Again

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. 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. 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 months 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 Jimmie instead. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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.” 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 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 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. We were being stocked by little trail bandits.

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 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 toe nail. 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 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 toe nails. I had to dig deep to keep going. 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 over shadowed 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 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 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. 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 toe nails 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.

Whitney Portal Trail to Lone Pine Lake

Monday morning I woke up at 5:00 a.m. in my tent at Lone Pine campground and decided it was too cold and too windy to try and go back to sleep. I turned on my headlight and packed up my tent. At 6:00 a.m. when I heard Sally walk by I got out of my tent and then packed it up too. We had plenty of time to make coffee and try to warm up. As we were drinking our coffee the sun started shining the most amazing light on Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains.

Sunrise hitting Mt. Whitney

Sunrise at the Base of Mt. Whitney.

A Beautiful Sunrise

The view just kept getting better and better.

It was sunny but cold.

We were in awe, it was truly breathtaking. After lots of coffee and a breakfast of an almost frozen protein bar, we headed up Whitney Portal Road to hike 3 miles to Lone Pine Lake.

The Start of The Whitney Portal Trail.

Whitney Portal Trail

We started our hike where hikers that summit Mt. Whitney start and we foolishly thought that this hike would not be too tough considering we were only going a little over 3 miles each way. Wrong. We underestimated the effects of hiking at such a high altitude. The entire 3 miles was uphill and the entire time it felt like I was trying to suck air through a straw. We had to stop many times to catch our breath and to peel off layers of clothing because although it was cold outside we were working hard.

Looking back into the valley of Lone Pine.

The higher we hiked the more snow and ice we encountered.

Lots of snow & ice.

Hiking in Snow and Ice

There were a few sketchy parts where we had to walk very carefully because the entire path was ice. One of the craziest parts was the iconic log bridge that we had to cross. We got halfway across and realized that there was ice on top of the log. I was sure that I was going to slip on the ice and fall into the frigid water.

I made it across the log bridge.

It was a big relief when I made it to the other side.

Sally navigating the ice.

After the bridge, it was another uphill slog and then we saw the glorious sign for Lone Pine Lake.

We’re always happy to see a sign.

Lone Pine Lake

We stopped to talk to some fellow hikers and then headed down to the lake. The lake is beautiful, but it is very different looking than the Big Pine Lakes. The entire lake was in the shade, even though it was close to 11:00 a.m.

Lone Pine Lake, CA

We did not have a thermometer, but it was the kind of cold that makes your skin sting. I boulder hopped around the lake looking for a camera angle that showed a little more light.

Lone Pine Lake, CA

Lone Pine Lake, CA

We took pictures and tried to eat a protein bar, but they were frozen solid. We decided it was too cold to hang around. Lone Pine Lake is as far up the Whitney Portal as you can go without a permit, so this was the end of the road for us. We headed back down. Thankfully, the sun had started to warm up the trail and melt some of the ice that was on it. We came down much faster than we had hiked up.

Heading back down.

Hiking Down Whitney Portal

When we got to the bottom we decided that we would go to Alabama Hills Cafe once more. We had some delicious sandwiches and even though it was warm in town we were still frozen from that hike. On the way out of town, we stopped at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center in Lone Pine to buy some stickers. While we were there I bought a book about the JMT (John Muir Trail.) A seed has been planted and Sally and I are considering doing either the JMT or the High Sierra Trail this summer. We are going to apply for permits and wait and see how much snow the Sierras receive this winter. Luckily, we had an easy 3 1/2 hour drive home to a nice warm shower and a comfy bed.

Big Pine Lakes Lived up to The Hype

Sunday morning we woke up early and crawled out of our tents. When the sun camp up we could see that it had snowed all the way down to the base of the mountain. No wonder it was so cold in my tent. Instead of cooking breakfast we took advantage of being so close to town and we picked up coffee on the way out of town. We headed back on 395 towards Big Pine Lakes. We parked at the trail head then walked over to look at the trout ponds at Glacier Lodge. The view was amazing.

The Trout Ponds at Glacier Lodge.

Hiking On The John Muir Trail

We started off on our hike. We soon came across the sign that we were entering the John Muir Trail.

Me on The John Muir Trail.

Sally on the John Muir Trail.

Blue Skies & Yellow Trees

I had an agenda of seeing blue sky, yellow trees and turquoise lakes. The storm from the day before had blown out and the sky was a brilliant blue. About a mile into our hike we started seeing fresh snow on the ground. This hike is on the tougher side of moderate, lots of uphill switchbacks. We hiked next to Big Pine Creek the majority of the way.

Big Pine Creek

At about 2 miles in we got to a meadow of Aspen trees and the leaves were magnificent yellows and oranges. We stopped and took millions of pictures. I must have muttered, “This is so beautiful” a hundred times.

The Aspen Grove

The view of trail.

Lon Chaney Cabin

We stopped and took a break at the old Lon Chaney Cabin. The cabin was build by the actor, but it is now owned by the Forest Service.

The view from the front porch of the cabin.

We Found The Snow

After the nice break at the cabin it was back to more uphill and lots more switchbacks. We started to see a lot more snow. Every hiker we saw that was heading downhill stopped to tell us about their overnight experiences. The consensus was that nobody slept, because it was freezing cold and the wind was howling. We were warned to expect more snow the higher we got.

Lots of snow

Big Pine Lake

Just when we thought we could not go another step uphill we saw a sign. Sally always gets excited when we see a sign, because that means we’re close to something. This sign was for Big Pine Lake. We hiked up over the ridge and then caught a glimpse of lake number one through the trees. Que the singing angels. The lake is stunning. The lakes get their color from particles from Palisade Glacier. The blue is so blue.

Big Pine Lake #1

The trail is above the lake and we decided we would hike to the second lake instead of stopping. Lake number two is even more amazing, because Temple Crag is the backdrop.

Big Pine Lake #2

Looking at Temple Crag

I could look at this view all day.

We scrambled down a trail to the shore. Again we took hundreds of pictures and we sat down to have a picnic lunch. While we were eating we could see the wind blowing snow on Temple Crag. Shortly after the wind started blowing across the lake and we were freezing. We decided it was time to head back.

On the shore of Lake #2

A picture for Carey.

One last look.

Heading Back Down

There are five more lakes, but we decided that we would save those lakes for a day that was warmer. The hike back was just as amazing. This was one of the first hikes I have ever done that I did not want it to end. We hiked a little over 12 miles and it is safe to say that this hike is now my favorite one I have ever done.

Looking at where we had come from.

We found Fall.

Blue skies and yellow leaves.

Our Campsite at Lone Pine

We drove back to our campsite in Lone Pine. We still had plenty of daylight so we decided that we would cook dinner and make a fire. Sally and I split a big beer that she had brought for us as treat. It was so cold that we started our campfire while it was still daylight. We ate rehydrated Mountain House Pasta Primavera and it tasted delicious after all our hiking. We sat around our campfire with big jackets and down blankets until we could not take the cold any longer. We climbed into our tents and got ready for another very cold night. The wind was howling again, but this time I toke Alleve PM and wore earplugs. Thankfully I was finally able to sleep, because Day 3 we were heading up the Whitney Portal.

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