Back on Top
Mount San Jacinto Peak
November 2, 2018
16.6 Miles, 5,219’ Gain
Three weeks after summiting Mount San Jacinto I was back. When I was there the first time it was with my friend Dexter. This time I went solo, and it was twice as far and twice the elevation. John Muir said the view from the top of this peak, one of the most prominent in the lower 48, was the most “sublime on earth”. Well, when I was there last time there was a monster storm rolling in so the view was less than stellar. Then my college friend, Jean Howarth Lindberg (Delta Gamma, OSU), jokingly commented, you took the Palm Springs tram to 7500 feet? She had done the Oregon portion of Pacific Crest Trail, and was not impressed, (of course she was probably in her 20’s). So this trip I left from Idyllwild, and the weather and the views could not be better.
I have been plagued the last few months with a racketball knee injury, but straight line seems okay even with a heavy pack. But it was hard last time, and it was hard this time. Last time I might have been dehydrated, and I definitely was feeling the altitude. When I arrived at camp in the dark last time I felt a little sick, and skipped dinner. I was better hydrated summiting this time, and perhaps a little more acclimated. But there were times, as I was being passed by 20 somethings that I was not sure I would make it. Like before near the top I was taking frequent breaks and breathing pretty heavy nearing the summit. But the big thing wasn’t the physical part because hard or not I knew I could do that, but I was also fighting the sinking sun. I did not want to be hiking in the dark again. Since I was taking another route, from the other side of the mountain, I made a deal with myself. If the trail I was on intersected where I thought it would, close to the top, I would finish. If however, it intersected much lower and I still had a long ways to go then I would skip the top. Because I certainly did not want to arrive back at camp in the dark again.
You see, on the first day once again I was caught after dark on a pitch black trail. I backpacked 5 miles to where I was camping. I left Idyllwild mid afternoon, but it was steep, the going was slower than I expected, and I had more weight, as I had to carry more food and water since this was a 3 day trip. I had two issues, both had to do with my camelbacks. One leaked in the trunk all over my backpack, so when I put it on it was wet. So I replaced the needed water with water bottles. Then while hiking my second camelback was leaking, again making me wet, and I was losing precious water. (I ended up having to ration the last day.) Anyway, the going was steep and slow with the heavy backpack, and I found myself hunting and pecking in the dark trying to make sure I was still on the trail. The trails are not always easy even in the daylight. At night, especially with it being Fall with lots of pine needles covering the ground, it can be quite difficult at times with a little head lamp. The temperature was dropping and I had a slight chill from being wet, mostly from the leaking camelback, but possibly from perspiration as well. Finally I was not sure I was still on the trail, and decided I would just pitch my tent and stay put until day break. When I turned around there was a sign saying Strawberry Junction, which was the designated camping area for the wilderness, sweet! So I made camp, fired up the stove and had 3 Sisters Stew. The boiling water in the pouch warmed my hands and I held it against my chest which was warming me up. Once I got in my tent and sleeping bag I was nice and toasty.
Day two was a 10 mile or so hike. It was a loop so I would have maximum views from all sides of the mountain. When I finally made it to the summit I did not enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. There were a lot of people up there since the weather was so nice. Almost all of them were from the tram and so their journey was much shorter than mine. I had to wait my turn for a picture with the summit sign. Also I was pressed for time as I was burning daylight and I did not want to be hiking in the dark again. So strangely enough I am enjoying the view from the top the same as you are through my pictures.
I made it back to camp 30 minutes before sunset after enjoying some great views I had not seen before, although speaking of places where the trail is hard to see… I was so enthralled with the view that I missed a switch back. I thought to myself, this is like the worst trail ever. It is steep, loose dirt and rocks, the stickers are overgrown, hold it… this can’t be the trail. Obviously someone had been where I was before, but this definitely wasn’t right, so I back tracked and sure enough I had missed one of the zig zags.
After a great sunset and some backpack cuisine delight, I curled up in my sleeping bag. While backpacking it seems like I just cat nap all night. Which I suppose is better than last trip with the pouring rain and thunderclaps all night where I did not sleep wink. The funny thing is I would be thinking, okay it should start getting light out so at least I can get going and be doing something. I would check the time and it would be like 11:30 PM.
Day three was five miles back to Idyllwild. Another nice day with great views enjoying God’s creation.