Monday, December 2, 2013

A bighorn, a peak, and a cold night at Kelly.

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It was a cold Saturday morning at the Icehouse Canyon parking lot.  Meeting my usual backpacking partners, we chatted, stretched, and feebly attempted to warm-up before starting our hike.

Once we started our hike, we quickly warmed up and soon, shed some of our layers.


We all walked our separate paces and agreed to meet at the Saddle before pushing the last mile to Kelly Camp.  For some people (like me), the switchbacks past Columbine Springs can be a challenge.  Seeing the other hikers above you can be an intimidating sight.


Once we reached the saddle, we encountered the first signs of snow.  We decide to rest for a few before pushing to Kelly Camp. We had some time to burn and we weren't all in a rush to get to camp.  Shortly after our break, I put on my spikes - the trail to our planned destination was mostly iced up and I didn't want to take the chance of an accidental spill.



We all made quick work on the last mile to camp.  We find our spots and set up shop for the night.


Shortly after arriving at camp, we were all treated to a rare sight.  A lone Bighorn comes down 200 yards from where we were and walks past us.  What an amazing treat!


After sitting at camp for a few, I check my topo and decided to push for Ontario Peak.  Seeing how I was so close to it, I might as well bag the darn thing.  My buddy "New Zealand" joined me on this trek but quickly lost him...he's an extremely fast hiker and I typically take my sweet ol' time on ascents.

The views on the way up were magnificent and I couldn't help but stop just so I can take a snapshot of the endless views.



Made it to the peak at 4 PM and realized that I took too much time.  The sun was slowly setting and the clouds above looked like it could rain again.  I only spent 5 minutes at the peak...took a short video and didn't even bother looking for the bottle opener that was on a tree.  I had to quickly make it down from the peak at this point.  "New Zealand" was already on his way down when I was approaching the peak.

video

Despite the sun going down, I couldn't pass up not taking photographs of the amazing alpine glow.


It felt amazing to be up there...especially since I had the mountain all to myself.  After snapping a few more photographs, I make quick work of the trail and make it back to camp in under an hour.

Since a campfire is not allowed in the Cucamonga Wilderness, we drink as many warm drinks as we could to warm up.  It was a beautiful evening...a few clouds and a few stars.  Not wanting to stay out in the cold, we all call it a night and warm up in our tents.

Once in a while, I am treated to a good night's sleep in the woods...this is one of those nights.  The combination of switchbacks, bagging a peak, and a few shots of Brandy all contribute to a restful night.

The following morning, we all wake slow...coffee and oatmeal, a breakfast staple for us backpackers.  Fully awake, we pack up and head back down to our cars.


Another adventure done and another peak scratched-off the list.  Till the next adventure...see you on the trails.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A freaky weekend at Valley Forge

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Saturday morning, November 16th...packed and ready to go.  Loaded the car and drove up Highway 2 for an easy hike to Valley Forge via Red Box Station near Mt. Wilson.  I joined two friends who were willing to brave the cold weather forecasted for this weekend.  Per the weather reports, there was a 20% chance of rain.

I arrive at Red Box Station an hour after leaving my home and shortly after arriving, my friends roll in.  By the looks of it, they encountered rain on the way up - something I just missed apparently.

A fog rolls in a few minutes before our hike.  Visibility becomes poor and we start to wonder if it was a smart idea to do this trip knowing the weather forecast.  Good thing, Valley Forge was only a short 3 mile hike...mostly down-hill too.


We descend down the canyon hoping to escape the rain.  It would be a good idea to have our shelters all pitched before any bad weather rolls in.


The hike itself was very easy but hiking alone on this trip played a number in my head.  You see, I let my friends hike ahead of me.  I figured since the hike to camp was only 3 miles, I didn't have a reason to rush so I opted to start my hike a little later.

The trail to Valley Forge did not look heavily used.  A few spots required you to navigate over downed trees, overgrown brush, and cross a dry section of the San Gabriel River.  A really short trail to camp but one could get lost if not paying attention.  I had a map of the area and constantly checked my bearings to make sure I was always heading due West.






Aside from the trail condition, this was a bit of an odd hike for me.  With the weather the way it was, gloomy, the trail seemed a bit spooky.  Since I was alone on the hike in, every pebble running down the hill sides, every vocalizations you hear from the animals, and the creaking of the trees...it plays a number on your imagination.

I didn't encounter a single soul on the short 3 mile hike.  Considering the weather, I was not at all surprised.  This trail was nice though, definitely something I could take my daughter and son to - they would enjoy the cabins and the other things to see.




I arrived at camp and quickly setup my shelter in case rain were to come.  It was gloomy at camp and thick clouds covered the sun for most of the day...luckily, the rain never came this weekend.  However, the cold did greet us.  We had a full moon on this evening...enough to add to the creepiness.  Topic around the campfire was the possibility of some weirdo with a machete rolling in...I barely slept a wink.


The following morning, temps were as low as 43 degrees in my tent. For the first time, I had to deal with condensation inside my shelter.  The lack of a breeze, cold outside temps, and warm temps inside the shelter made for a perfect recipe for condensation to accumulate.

After my morning cup of coffee, the sun peaks through the clouds...enough to allow me to dry my tent before packing.


We leave our camp having enjoyed another quick overnight in our local mountains.  Happy to have survived a freaky night...seriously something about this trail that just freaked me out!  I felt eyes on me the whole time...definitely taking the kids with me here next time  

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and see you on the trails.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last minute trip to Alger Creek

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It was 9:00 PM on a Friday night (Oct. 25th) when I found out that my original plans for that weekend had suddenly changed.  I was supposed to go to a grand opening for a shop but things changed and it was canceled.  My buddy Pete caught wind of this and sent me a text and said "Drive to my house Saturday morning and we'll head to Alger for a quick overnight".  Seeing as I haven't backpacked in a month, I figured "Why not?".

Went through my gear closet and packed all the things I needed for this trip.  Luckily I always have my gear ready to go.  By 10:30 PM, I am all packed and weighed (13.3 lbs. incl. food/water).  Off to bed...

Saturday morning, doing my usual pre-hike routine...breakfast, gear check, etc. before heading down to my buddies house.  This was a no-rush trip so we both took our time once I got to his house.  It was actually very nice not to rush...didn't feel so pressured to get somewhere at a certain time.  We figured it's only around a 4 mile hike to camp so we made sure to just enjoy the day.

We arrive at the Momyer trailhead around 10:15 AM and started our hike soon after.  The weather was absolutely perfect...sunny, mid 60's, and mild cool breeze.


The hike to Alger was pretty grueling for me for some reason.  I have done many hikes with a significant elevation gain but this was strangely challenging.  Maybe because it was a last minute decision? My body wasn't prepared for what was ahead? Who knows?

It was nice to get back on the trail again though since visiting Ediza Lake last month.  It was also nice to backpack again with my buddy who I haven't seen since July.

We were able to catch up and talk about everything and anything - this helped keep my mind off the elevation we were gaining as we head towards camp.


I was actually very unprepared for this trip, which is unlike me at all.  I always have a map on trips and I pretty much can say that most of the time, I know where I'm going.  Luckily, my buddy knows this trail very well so I was not concerned - I highly suggest that before heading to the back country, do some research and know where you're going.

After maybe an hour or so, we reach a junction.  There were no mileage indications on the sign but I was sure we weren't that far from camp.


Not long after the junction, the trail finally flattens before we head down the canyon to Alger Creek.  I was really struggling on this hike and it was not like me at all.  To some standards, this isn't really a strenuous trail at all compared to say, Icehouse Canyon to Timber or Ski Hut Trail to Mt. San Antonio.  In any case, I was glad to see the sign indicating we were almost at camp.


We arrive at Alger Creek after hiking two and half hours (needed quite a few stops along the way), we meet up with the rest of the group who had an earlier start than us.

For this trip, I left my camera at home on purpose and decided to use my cell phone camera instead.  I didn't plan on taking a whole lot of pictures on this trip...I was really after just catching up with old friends and enjoying some time in the woods.

Hopefully next season, I can visit this area again...there are quite a few loops that could be done here and all are worth exploring.

Oh...on a sad note, after 2 years of serving me, my DIY Fosters pot finally gave out :)  Here's my last photo of it paired with my DIY Esbit stove and DIY Caldera Cone - can you tell I like to make my own stuff?


Well, this has got to be my shortest post ever! I wasn't actually going to post this trip but I figured I need to record all of my adventures.  I hope you all enjoyed...

See you on the trails...
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A weekend at Ediza Lake

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When I first began backpacking in 2011, one of my goals was to backpack in the Sierra Nevada.  A few weeks prior to the trip, I received an email from a good friend of mine inviting me to a multi-day trip to Ediza Lake.  This past year, I had to pass on a few Sierra trips due to family and personal obligations.  The summer season has been tough for me and finding time to backpack has been a challenge.  This trip fortunately, was scheduled on a perfect weekend and I couldn't pass it up.

Trip Schedule:

  • September 26 - Drive to Mammoth and spend the evening at a friends cabin.
  • September 27/28 - Meet at the Mammoth VIsitor Center to arrange carpool, etc. to the Agnew Meadows Trail Head.  Then hike to Ediza Lake and camp. 
  • September 29 - Hike out and head home to Los Angeles.

It's been a while since I've done a multi-day backpacking trip so I had to plan the gear I would bring along with the food I would need to bring.

After packing everything the evening before the drive, I weighed the pack and I was surprised that I was at 18.8 lb.s (not counting water) with 3 days worth of food and a bear canister.


Day 1: Thursday, September 27th.

I drove to my friends house and we leave Los Angeles at 2PM.  The drive to Mammoth took us around 5 hours.  We did the whole tourist thing and stopped for gas, snacks, etc.


USPS Independence CA

We arrived in Mammoth around 7:40PM and happy to have made it to our friends cabin.  We had warm beds waiting for us, it was wonderful.  Thank you for your hospitality...you know who you are ;)

Day 2: Friday, September 28th.

It was a sleepless night for me despite our comfortable accommodations.  I guess I was anxious and excited for the trip and I couldn't sleep.  Thoughts of "Did I bring everything I need?" and "Did I pack enough food?" kept racing in my head.

Before meeting with the rest of the group, we decided to grab some breakfast at The Stove.  We needed a good breakfast  before our hike...we would need it.


We drove to the Mammoth Visitor Center to meet everyone at 8AM and drove to the Agnew Meadows trail head by 9AM.

At this point, I'm getting excited...I was really looking forward to this hike and seeing my very first Alpine Lake!  Once all parked, we load up our packs and start are hike...we started hiking approximately at 10AM.



The weather when we began hiking was a bit brisk.  It was 38 degrees when we began our walk.  I did shed some of my layers a few minutes into the hike.  The last thing I needed was to sweat with all my layers in this cold.

Ansel Adams Wilderness...I'm here!

The first few miles of the hike was really nice.  It was really easy for the most part as we descend towards Olaine Lake.  Once you pass the wooden bridge to head to Shadow Lake, this is when the hike kicks it up a notch.  Oh how I love stairs...


After going through the stairs, we finally made it to Shadow Lake.  It's amazing how the Sierra mountains can punish you with a tough hike but you seem to forget that pain once you are treated with a view such as this...

First glimpse of Shadow Lake

We stopped at Shadow Lake for a quick snack before heading to Ediza Lake.  From the photo above, you can get a glimpse of the Minarets.  After taking an hour break, we all regroup and continue on with our hike.

We continue hiking via the Shadow Creek Trail till we hit another wooden bridge.  At this point, the directions to Ediza seemed confusing.  After consulting our topo's we figured out where we were supposed to go.


The trek to Ediza Lake was a bit funny.  For some reason I kept on reading the topo incorrectly.  I was looking at it and I kept on telling people "oh, yeah the lake is just around the bend"...boy was I wrong.  Headed to the right direction though, but my estimated time of arrival was way off.

Once again, like the hike to Shadow Lake, the Sierra blesses us with more tough uphill stairs.  After a bend, we can finally view Ediza Lake from a distance...tired but not dead, I smile. We made it!!!


Amazing...isn't it?
A bit more of a hike was left till we stopped.  We had to walk around the lake to the West most side to find out camp spots.  I found a suitable campsite on a slope that had a flat spot - I was too tired to really find an ideal spot but I knew I would be fine for as long as it didn't rain.  My tent was situated near a slop that if it did rain, my tent floor would've been soaked.

Home for the weekend
The hike from Agnew Meadows to Ediza took us around 5 hours or so.  We took many stops and tons of photos.  I didn't mind taking my time at all, I enjoyed taking my time.  We arrived at Ediza around 3PM, we had enough daylight to setup camp and relax to rest our tired bones.  At this point, I decided to just soak in the view and be amazed at where I was.  I could not believe I was actually finally in the here...it was breathtaking.  This is only really our "Day 1" on the trail.

Day 3: Saturday, September 28th.

The first night was cold.  Temperatures dropped to 28 degrees Friday evening.  I wore all of my layers and I was happy to have kept warm.  I slept comfortably with no cold spots...it was wonderful.

I woke up at around 6AM to experience my first Sierra sunrise.  Walked around Ediza and just enjoyed the views.  The alpine glow in the Sierra is simply a sight to see...


Everyone at camp wakes up eventually.  No one is rushing, everyone at their own pace.  The beauty of a base camp.  We all gather at our camp kitchen and decide what the group wants to do for the day.  We noticed as we hiked in the day before, the trail to Iceberg Lake was not far from where we were.  A few of us decide to check it out after we had our breakfast.


The trail heading to Iceberg Lake isn't that difficult but the first 600 feet of the trail can be quite a climb.  Luckily, it's only for maybe half a mile or so.  At this point, I didn't really care...I was excited at the prospect of seeing another alpine lake.

After the uphill climb, we reach a plateau and the views open up.  Both Banner and Ritter peaks on your right and the beautiful Minarets right in front of you.  I have to say that I had a "God" moment on that section of the trail.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of where I was...I couldn't help it.


The hike to Iceberg Lake was by far my favorite throughout this whole trip.  It's difficult for me to find the words to accurately describe what I felt, what I saw, and what I experienced.  The photos I took of what I experienced cannot possibly express what it felt being there.  For the lack of a better word, it was awe-inspiring.

Iceberg Lake
After reaching Iceberg Lake, I checked my map and noticed that Cecile Lake was nearby and it didn't appear to be that far.  Perhaps, another mile?  I decided to check the trail leading up to Cecile Lake, from the distance, it already appeared to be too technical due to the snow covering the rock trail.  Upon closer inspection, I decided it's not worth the chance of injury.  I didn't have crampons (nor did I bring them) or my trekking poles with me for this day hike...i was ill prepared to even try this section.

Approach to Cecile Lake
This will be a thorn on my backside for sure but I was not disappointed.  To this point, I have seen 4 alpine lakes and I could not be any happier.

The hike back to camp was anti-climatic, knowing that what lies below us cannot compare with what we just saw.  Arriving back at camp, we found out there were others in our group who were heading to Nydiver Lakes...I missed that chance - this would be another lake for me to visit next year hopefully.  We spent the rest of the afternoon day hiking around the surrounding hills near Ediza and just enjoyed where were as a whole.


As everyone returns from their hikes for the day, we gather for the last dinner of the trip.  We talk and discuss the trail, we talk about food, and we plan our next adventure.  I really had a great time with everyone on this trip and I am so thankful to have been part of such an awesome group of backpackers.  It was wonderful to be able to share my first Sierra experience with everyone...this is by far my favorite trip in a long time and one that I will always remember.

The following morning, we have a leisure breakfast before packing it all up.  We all leave Ediza around 8AM.


Three fast hours later, we reach our cars...ending another trip.  Sad to leave but as much as I fell in love with the Sierra Nevada Range, I have a family and obligations to go home to.  I did leave inspired knowing that I can accomplish anything in this life.  I have set goals since starting backpacking and it all lead to this.  I got in shape, lightened my gear, improved my health and my overall life...it's paid off.

Till the next adventure, see you on the trails.

My feeling throughout this adventure in one picture!

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