Week 2 – 1000 Miles Challenge

During Week 1 of the challenge, I was struggling and recovering from our 5 days of snowboarding. In return, I put in absolutely no mileage. Week 2 was almost a success reaching a mileage of 15.68. The average daily during this week only ended up being 2.24 miles per day because we went snowboarding this weekend both Saturday and Sunday in Mammoth. I hope to get stronger and be able to do more mileage as I time goes on. I think a good goal for next week is to get 20 miles in. This will keep my on track to the 1,000 miles.

My runs this week:

Date Mileage Ran Total Mileage Mileage Left
1/12 6.38 15.68 984.32
1/11 4.86 9.26 990.74
1/9 2.4 4.4 995.6
1/8 2 2 998

Anyone else doing a challenge like this? Let me know how it is going, very interested in hearing about it. Follow more on my journey here to 1,000 miles: 1000 Miles in 2018.

Cactus to Clouds – Mt. San Jacinto from Palm Springs

Where: Palm Springs/Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mileage: 23 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 10,400 ft
Type: Out-and-to tram

Cactus to Clouds isn’t just some hike you wake up and say I feel like hiking 23 miles today. Do not consider this hike unless you are prepared and well trained to do it. It is a very difficult and long hike.

Training:
Some training hikes I would recommend that helped me get ready for this hike are:
1. Iron Mountain
2. Mt. San Antonio
3. Mt. Wilson
4. Mt. Baden Powell
These are just a few, but I recommend doing longer hikes over 10 miles to train you with high elevation gain as you will be going from sea level to the 3rd highest mountain in Southern California.

Description:
Cactus to Clouds is a term for the hike going from where cactus lay to where clouds hover. The trailhead is at 470 ft. and Mt. San Jacinto peers out at 10,834 feet.

Important Points Along Trail:
I’ve found that the table below has helped me with the points, I checked a few sites before and had some of these printed out and updated them with what my gps showed.

Points Along Trail – to keep an eye on Elevation Mileage
Trailhead: Palm Springs Art Museum 470 ft 0 mi
Picnic Tables 1,340 ft 0.8 mi
North Lykken trail junction 1,400 ft 0.9 mi
Rescue Box 1 2,450 ft 2.2 mi
4,300 ft Pebbles 4,300 ft 5.1 mi
Rescue Box 2 5,400 ft 7.4 mi
Flat Rock 5,900 ft 8.4 mi
The Traverse Start 7,400 ft 9.5 mi
Coffman’s Crag 7,800 ft 8.8 mi
Grubb’s Notch (entrance to Long Valley) 8,400 ft 10.5 mi
Long Valley Ranger Station 8,380 ft 10.8 mi
Round Valley Campground 9,060 ft 12.3 mi
Wellman Divide 9,710 ft 13.1 mi
San Jacinto Peak 10,834 ft 16 mi
Tram Station 8,400 ft 23 mi

Parking:
We parked just outside of the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Address:
101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA, 92262, USA
Directions:
From 10 East take exit 111 and continue on this for 9.4 miles until it turns into N. Palm Canyon Drive. Continue for another mile. Turn right onto W Alejo Rd. drive a few hundred feet and turn left onto N Belardo Rd. Continue for .4 miles and N Belardo will turn into Museum Dr. Find some parking here on Belardo and not in the museum parking lot as it is free. There is a lot that used to be free across the street, but now has a 4 hour limit on it. Make sure that you do not park in the parking lot, but on the street.

Helpful Links:
Mt. San Jacinto State Park
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – for times and tickets
Hiking Guy’s Description of Cactus to Clouds
Mt. San Jacinto Message Board
Hikin’ Jim’s Skyline Page – original blog I used to help me prepare
Palm Springs Weather
Mt. San Jacinto Weather

This hike was absolutely epic. We started at midnight and reached the tram for a quick stop and breakfast, perfectly around breakfast time and a gorgeous sunrise. With that said, the hike wasn’t easy. As I’ve stated before, please do not take it lightly because there have been some instances where fatality has occurred because of not being prepared enough.

Before we headed to the trailhead we slipped into a Mexican restaurant to get a quick bite to eat. Oh how I wanted those chips and salsa, but I stuck to a couple tacos with some rice and beans and no salsa that would upset my stomach later. Should be just enough to get my juices flowing for the epic, long, extreme hike that we were about to embark on.

To find the trailhead, cross the parking lot of the museum. You will see a large sign that says “Welcome to the Museum Trailhead”. We took a couple of shots of our group and finally headed out around 12:20am. It was complete dark and headlights were on with our group. The first part of the trail is quite the climb. Follow signs and the white dots are going to be your best friend until the sun comes up.

The lower parts of the trail here are fragmented and it is easy to get lost in the dark. Again use the white dots to help you. If you don’t see take steps back and forward a little to find the next white dot. I had my gps and a map and we never seemed to lose the trail the entire time. At some point we were able to see the light at the Mountain Station. It looked abominably far away from where we were. Palm Springs was lit up below us, but the lights slowly faded as the sun started to come up.

The first part of the trail is called the Museum Trail until it passes the picnic benches and hits a junction. The trail to the left is the North Lykken trail and to the right is the Skyline Trail. Make sure you veer to the right and stay on the Skyline Trail. The junction sits at about 1.9 miles from the trailhead.

After the benches and junction the next major point will be the first rescue box. We took a short break here since we had gone about 2.2 miles and 2000 feet in elevation gain. I didn’t know what the rescue boxes were for, but according to reading online later, they were installed after a higher volume of rescues on the trail. The boxes each contain some food, water and a cell phone to call 911. Please only use if you are in dire need of some help.

We continued after a short snack up to the 4,300 foot mark written out in pebbles. This was a little over 5 miles up, which also meant that we were halfway to the Ranger Station. From here the climb isn’t as gruesome as what we had just endured up to the second Rescue Box. We all seemed to be doing pretty well and continued on to an are where there was a Flat Rock. I actually don’t believe I saw it, but I knew we were absolutely close as we were 8.2 miles into the trip and the sun began to rise above the horizon.

We took a little longer break here to watch the sunrise and again refuel ourselves for the hike to the Ranger Station. The travers are to Coffman’s Crag view had a few rough patches of uphill. The whole group started to slow down a bit, but till the Grubb’s notch the constant elevation gain let up a little. After a few breaks along the way it was such a good feeling to reach the notch, it was a little before 9:00am when we reached Long Valley.

I really enjoyed this part of the hike mostly because we had gone into the trees, the contrast with the colors and some snow on the ground was fabulous. Not to mention few hundred yards away we saw a small group of deer grazing. With the group all together we headed up to the tram to warm up/cool off and have some lunch, ok I guess it could be called breakfast. For about an hour everyone did their own thing, either napped, chatted at the table or checked out the gift shop.

After filling up on water, we finally decided to head on the trek up to Mount San Jacinto at 10:15am. We still had just under 6 miles to reach the summit. Before continuing on the rest of the hike, make sure that you fill out a wilderness permit at the Long Valley Ranger Station. Everyone is required who passes beyond this point and heads up to Mt. San Jacinto.

After filling out the permit, head behind the Ranger Station to continue on the San Jacinto Peak Trail. The trail was a gradual climb up to Round Valley Campground and there were more people on the trail at this point. We honestly didn’t see anyone until we hit the notch earlier into Round Valley. The campground had patches of snow here and there. Round Valley Campground is one of four hike in campgrounds; it is the only one with toilets and benches in case anyone wants to take their break here.

The trail is well maintained here and signage is also very easy to find. After the campground the trail heads towards the Wellman Divide. Make sure to take the trail to the right at the fork, but before there is an area where you can get quite a view. From here you have about 2.2 miles. At this point I was leading on the trail and started to fade, literally fall asleep while walking. I asked for a short break, took some GU chews and that held me together till we reached the summit.

There will be a well-marked saddle before the summit, follow the trail for .3 miles to the summit. You will pass by a stone cabin that can be used as an emergency shelter. We took a look inside and actually left a couple of snacks that I had left and didn’t need in the shelter. Hopefully someone would need them more than I did at that point. From here the scramble up was possible about another hundred feet. There it was perched in the rocks, the sign that I had seen in pictures. The view was incredible from up here.

It was 1:45pm and we had finally made it all 16 miles to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto that lies at 10,834 feet. We waited till the entire group showed up and toasted a small shot of Hungarian Palinka while our beer cooled down in the snow in the shade under one of the rocks. Quite a few people had reached the summit at this time, but we did have a few minutes to take some shots with the infamous sign.

We didn’t leave the summit until 3:00pm, which was probably a bad idea because we still had to take the tram down, get a ride to the cars and drive back all the way to Torrance and get up the next morning for work. Though it didn’t take as long to get down, we ended up reaching the Tram at around 5:15pm. We all grabbed a beer for celebration of finishing and took the

Note to self:
I was asked if I would ever do this hike again and honestly yes I would. Maybe one day I’ll do Cactus to Clouds to Cactus. Perhaps I should add that to the goal list.

Beyond Limits on Foot: 2017 Picks

Pack up some necessities for a hike.
Light up your adventure and take some footage.
Bring some snacks.
Take a seat or lay around while you let your loved ones know your safe.
Charge your electronics while your food cooks and have a refreshing drink or two…

I’ve put together a few of my favorites from this year.  Read further for some ideas of what to buy for your next adventure or what to buy a loved one who is outdoorsy.


PACK UP SOME NECESSITIES FOR A HIKE.

1. REI Co-op Roadtripper Duffel Price: $26.93
2. Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles Pair – Women’s Price: $99.95
3. REI Co-Op Camp Roll Table Price: $64.50
4. ENO DryFly Rain Tarp Price: $79.95
5. Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel Price: $22.95
6. Therm-a-Rest NoeAir XLite Sleeping Pad Price: $159.95
7. Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol Sleeping Pad Price: $44.95
8. Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Price: $42.95
9. Leatherman Skeletool Topo Multi-tool Price: $69.95
10. Hydro Flask Standard-Mount Water Bottle – 24 fl. oz. Price: $34.95
11. REI Co-op Nalgene Water Bottle – 32 fl. oz. Price: $10.95

LIGHT UP YOUR ADVENTURE AND TAKE SOME FOOTAGE.

12. Petzl Tikkina Headlamp Price: $19.95
13. Black Diamond Moji Lantern Price: $19.95
14. GoPro HERO6 Camera Price: $500.00

BRING SOME SNACKS.

15. KRAVE Beef Jerkey Sweet Chipotle Price:
16. Haribo Gummi Bears Price: $2.00
17. Honey Stinger Energy Waffle Price: $1.50
18. GU Hydration Drink Tablets Price: $6.50

TAKE A SEAT OR LAY AROUND WHILE YOU LET YOUR LOVED ONES KNOW YOU’RE SAFE.

19. REI Co-Op Flexlite Chair Price: $49.99
20. REI Co-Op Sit Pad Price: $19.95
21. Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit Price: $23.73
22. ENO Doublenest Hammock Price: $69.95
23. SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger Price: $74.89
24. Garmin InReach Explorer Satellite Communication Price: $450.00

CHARGE YOUR ELECTRONICS WHILE YOUR FOOD COOKS AND HAVE A REFRESHING DRINK, OR TWO…

25. Goal Zero Flip 10 Portable Charger Price: $19.99
26. Jetboil MicroMo Cooking System Price: $129.95
27. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Cookset Price: $64.95
28. Seat to Summit X-Pan Price: $39.95
29. Seat to Summit X-Bowl Price: $15.95
30. Snow Peak Titanium Mug Price: $49.95
31. Snow Peak Thermal Lid for Titanium Mug Price: $5.95
32. Stanley Stainless Steel Shot Glass Set Price: $20.00
33. Snow Peak Titanium Spork Price: $9.95

Pear Lake Ski Hut – Sequoia National Park

Where: Sequoia National Park
Mileage: 12.9 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation gain: 3000 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Lottery: Every year, there is a lottery for the Pear Lake Ski Hut. The lottery opens up usually on October 16th and sometime in early November you will receive your confirmation letter or denial. If your application was accepted, your check will be cashed or your card will be charge. There is no refund if you are going to cancel, so if the date doesn’t work anymore I would recommend selling it to someone else. The facebook site (link below) is a good place to find someone to buy it off of you.

Permits: You must fill out a wilderness permit before heading to the hut. The Giant Forest Museum offers a self-registration box. Make sure that you leave one copy there and put the other in you pack.

To get to the trailhead
From Three Rivers, take 395 North. After going to the Giant Forest Museum (easy to find on the way), drive 2.7 miles and turn right onto Wolverton Rd. Drive about 1.4 miles to the north side of the parking lot area to the trailhead.
From Wukaschi Lodge, take 395 South. Drive 3.4 miles and turn left onto Wolverton Rd. Drive about 1.4 miles to the north side of the parking lot area to the trailhead.

Helpful Links:
Facebook – Before going a great resource to ask questions, check old write-ups and read about the hut keepers notes on conditions, etc.
Ski Hut Website – This is the huts official page where you can: check the calendar, register for the lottery, reserve a spot, learn more about the hut, etc.
Alta Market & Ski Shop – The Market is a great place to rent snowshoes/hiking poles and pick up anything last minute that you may have forgotten for your trip.

Description:
Pear Lake Ski Hut (also called “Pear Lake Ranger Station”) is a small ski hut nestled 6 miles deep off the highway in Sequoia National Park near Wolverton. Depending on weather (snow) and trail conditions, the hut opens its doors usually between December and April. The cabin is available to the public, but registration is required. When registering you are able to pick 3 dates that work for you best. Registration is $40 per person and as I mentioned before, if you are awarded you will be charged immediately. I found out a couple weeks after registering that I was awarded February 11th, 2017. Little did I know that this was going to be an epic winter in our California Mountains. The remaining available nights to the hut are on a first come first serve basis.

Mid-January hit and it was time to make my infamous excel sheet to send out to those who were joining me on the trip. This hike would definitely be a little more out of our comfort zone then our normal hikes. We had done a guided snow-shoe overnight hike to a hut in Austria (Bielerhohe to Wiesbadner Hutte) a little less than a year ago. The excel sheet includes: trailhead info, weather/driving conditions, tentative schedule, driving directions, permit location, trailhead parking, ski hut website, facebook site, accommodations, hiking times, emergency information, rules/regulations and the packing list. This excel sheet I put together for attendees (knowledge is key) and to send over to at least 2 people outside of the trip; anything goes wrong they know who to call and our itinerary.

Tentative Schedule:
Friday
7:00pm – drive to hotel in Three Rivers
Saturday
5:30am – wake up and drive to Giant Forest Museum (1 hour drive from hotel)
7:00am – put in permits at Giant Forest Museum, drive to Alta Market & Ski Shop (20 min drive)
8:30am – Alta Market & Ski Shop opens to pick up snowshoes, head to Wolverton Ski Area/Trailhead (10 min drive)
9:30am – Leave Trailhead
3:00-5:00pm – Arrive to Hut
Sunday
6:00am – wake up, breakfast
7:00am – head back to trailhead
12:00pm – drop off snowshoes at Alta Market & Ski Shop and head home

Hiking Times:
5-10 hours: Wolverton Parking Area to Pear Lake Ski Hut
4-7 hours: Pear Lake Ski Hut to Wolverton Parking Area
The hiking times were approximate from a ton of trip reports I read online. Something to take note is hiking times are much longer if you are breaking trail, if you accidentally veer off trail and if visibility/conditions are bad. Always take into account that your hiking speed is different than others.

Trip Report
We didn’t leave Los Angeles until about 8:30pm on Friday night. It was a long rainy drive the entire way and we didn’t get to our hotel in Three Rivers until 1:30am. The next morning was tough, but the 6:00am wake up call wasn’t impossible. We dressed up exactly in what we were going to hike in order to not spend extra time on that when we would arrive to the trailhead. After grabbing a cup of coffee at the local store that was open, we headed up towards the epic adventure that was to take place. The rain let up and was drizzling lightly during our drive. I’ve driven 198 numerous times and this was the first time I had seen water everywhere. I swear every big curve in the road there were waterfalls peaking through the trees, even water flowing off them into the road.

Just about a mile from the Giant Forest Museum was the first signs of snow. 7:00am hit as we reached the Museum to fill out the self-issuing permit. One copy in the registration box and one copy straight into my pack. I had to drive quite slowly because the roads hadn’t been completely cleared yet. We reached Alta Market & Ski Shop around 8:00am, which was fine because at this point we had to put our tire chains one. We picked up our snowshoes and some essentials for the trail and by essentials I mean a couple bag of chips.
*Note: Alta Market & Ski Shop is inside Wukaschi Lodge and opens at 8:30am. If you are renting snowshoes, you cannot reserve ahead of time it is on a first come first serve basis. The lady I spoke to over the phone also mentioned if you get there at 8:30am you should have no problem getting snowshoes.

The trailhead was a bit difficult to find because of all the snow. We located some footsteps from days ago near the trailhead and found the sign a few feet away. Something that doesn’t happen very often near a trailhead is to find a spot right at the trailhead. Due to the winter conditions I’m guessing, we got the first spot and we were the only car in the parking lot. I guess we were the only crazy ones out there. But you know what this meant, we were going to be breaking trail the entire route to the ski hut as it had snowed 6-12″ in the past 24 hours.

The clock was ticking and we finally hit the trailhead at 10:30am and this was a much later start that I had expected/hoped for. The beginning of the trail is quite easy to follow. The winter trail to Pear Lake is similar to the summer route. There are small yellow triangles affixed to the trees every 100-200 yards or so. Since the snow covers the trail, this is the route to follow (note: they are quite hard to find, so keep very alert during the entire hike). Bring a gps, compass and a map as all saved us in finding our way a couple of times.

The first mile and half was a gradual climb, nothing too difficult through a dense forested area. We were in a winter wonderland, it was quite, all white everywhere and just perfect the way the snow sat on the ground and sprinkled on top of the trees leaves. After 1.5 miles you will reach a junction Panther Gap is straight, you will continue left on Pear Lake via The Hump Trail. We stopped here for a bit as we saw a bit of a climb ahead of us on this beautiful untouched snow covered slope. We took turns breaking trail as the 1700 ft climb was pretty brutal over the next couple miles. This section of the mountain is called “The Hump”. With no switchbacks to follow, we had trouble a couple times finding those triangles on our way up, because of this I am sure we added a little more mileage onto the direct route. About halfway up we decided to take a break and have some lunch.

We continued on and during this part of the climb it had started to snow on us; it was so picturesque. We reached the ridge and at this point we ran into the one other person that would be joining us for the night. He was a split boarder and was making much better time than us up the mountain. Once we finally reached the top of the Hump we were sitting at around 9,400 feet. We ran into him again as he was getting ready to drop into Heather Lake Basin by snowboarding down. Of course my sister and I were absolutely jealous because this was a perfect pow day out there. Instead we trotted down in our snow shoes in knee deep snow. At the top of the Hump, the views were glorious as the clouds rushed out of site allowing us to see much of Pear Lake Basin and Tokopah Valley.

We slipped ever so quickly down the slop full of fresh snow reaching Heather Lake just as the split boarder was splitting is board up for the walk across the lake and to another climb section. We opted to cross the lake as well, I can’t say I have ever walked on a lake before. It was a more direct route than going around, this took us to the other side where we had another bit of a climb up a steep, but short incline. For another mile or so we had to work our way into another downhill section. It was getting pretty late at this point, meaning that we only had a couple hours of sunlight left and the cold would come in fast after the sun set behind the ridge.

The rest of the way up to the hut was a gradual climb, we guessed we had a little less then a mile. This portion of the hike we were exposed on the mountainside and it offered vast views around. We saw little signs of avalanche activity on the other side of the valley, but nothing on this side. I couldn’t believe the beauty we were in and took many moments to stop and look around a little. We were literally steps away from the hut as the sun set behind the mountain, it was perfect timing. The hut was covered with over 10-15 feet above it, we could literally walk form the snow onto the hut.

The hut is nestled perfect inside the trees just off a slope up to the lake. “Pear Lake Ranger Station” was built during 1939-1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The hut sits at 9,200 feet and sleeps up to 10 guests. We sat around the table inside while we cooked and waited for our socks/wet clothes to dry. Mmmm chips never tasted so good. Couple hours later we ate dinner. There is a guest book that each of us made sure to sign before retiring for the night.

The next morning we woke at 6am to get going. The sun wasn’t shining on us yet and it was incredible cold on our first hour or so until finally warming up one set up at a time. About an hour later the sun, the sun, the sun shined on us and it never felt as good as it did. The snow was a bit harsher the way down and after a bit we had to delayer as it warmed up quite a bit. It took us over 8 hours to get to the hut and we got to our car within 5. The way down wasn’t as nice as the way in as we were walking on much more icy terrain. Once we got halfway down the Hump slope, the ground was very icy and much less enjoyable. At the junction we ran into a few people who were doing day trips out there. The trail was easy to see where cross-country skiers had made their tracks. We actually missed the turn off to where the exit was to the trailhead so we had to take a quick cross-country climb up to the main road. We finally reached our car and it wasn’t alone, much more cars in the ski area. We headed to drop off our snowshoes and were on our way home by 12:45pm.

Note to self: I definitely need to get better shoes for these kinds of trips. Next buy: insulated snow boots.

What is available at the hut?
10 bunk beds with mattresses – we only had 4 people at the hut so we used one mattress against the was and 1 mattress under us. I’m pretty sure that that helped keep us warm even when we had to turn off the wood pellet stove for the night.
Wood pellet heating stove with fuel – this was pretty awesome, we were able to hang anything that go wet just above it to dry. It was quite cold when we were out there, so having this was a luxury. The wood pellet stove must be turned off before you go to sleep for the night and before leaving the premises.
Composting toilet – just outside the main room, very easy to access and perfect during the night not to have to turn on a light and wake up anyone or go outside in the cold ha.
Coleman cook stoves – they had 2 of these that we used to heat our water and dinner.
Solar lighting – once it got dark, we turned this on for a little and made sure to turn it off once the meter shows yellow. There are propane lamps that can be turned on.

Housekeeping rules
There are there for a reason and there is a list that they keep at the hut. Please make sure you follow these.

Pine Creek to Honeymoon Lake – Inyo National Forest

Where: Inyo National Forest
Mileage: 12 miles, option to do Pine Creek & Italy Passes adding 19 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation gain: 3000 ft to Honeymoon Lake
Type: Out-and-back

To get to the trailhead: Coming from Los Angeles from the 14 take 395. Once you pass Bishop northbound, about 12 miles down the road turn left onto Pine Creek Canyon Road (West). Take the road all the way to the end and park in the dirt lot near Pine Creek Pack Station. You will have to walk through the pack station to the base of the hill to find the trailhead.

Description: Our Labor Days are typically spent backpacking due to the extra day we have off from our jobs. Most places like cities, famous national park monuments and beaches get so crowded. Something pleasant: the backcountry does not. We had a couple weeks left till our Mt. Whitney trip and decided to use this trip as a training opportunity. We climbed two passes and even in the meantime managed to relax and enjoy this portion of the Inyo National Forest.

Day 1: Trailhead to Pine Lake (3.6 miles)
We arrived at the trailhead around 6:15pm on Friday night and after some last minute packing and frolicking we headed to Pine Lake for the evening. Pine Creek Canyon sits at 7,400 feet. For the first mile or so there is a jungle-like feeling with Juniper, Jeffrey Pine, Aspen, Birch, Red Fir shading our path following a small creek. The trail then merges with an old mining road and emerges out into a more open area with a view of the mine (Pine Creek Tungsten Mine).

For the next mile, the trail climbs about 1700 feet until a nonfunctional and unused mine (Brownstone Mine), which lies about 2 miles into our trek. We kept at it, so we could try to get to Pine Lake before complete darkness. At about 2.25 miles we passed a sign that showed that we were entering John Muir Wilderness, which we could barely see as darkness turned upon us, but we were only about a half a mile from the Pine Lake.

9:45pm hit when we reached the lake. Took about another mile to finally find a wooded area off the trail a bit. We set up camp, had a warm miso soup before passing out quite fast.

Day 2: Pine Lake to Honeymoon Lake (2 miles)
Ha, woke up only to find ourselves with rather pleasant view of Pine Lake. Good Morning Pine Lake (9,942 feet)! The view of the lake and the valley below was a perfect spot for us to have some coffee and cast out. With no quick luck, we packed up and headed to Honeymoon Lake. 500 feet later there’s a fork in the road that leads up to two passes (Pine Creek and Italy) and a turnoff to the west side of the lake.

Found a spot on the Northwest portion of the lake. Set up camp for the 3 nights we were to spend here. Today was different than most of our trips, because our main objective of the day was to try to catch fish and relax and that is exactly what we did. The ENO rain tarp came in handy as a lean-to for cooking and hanging out in this cold and windy weather.

Day 3: Honeymoon Lake to Pine Creek Pass/French Canyon (8.2 miles)
After an early breakfast we packed up our day packs to head up into French Canyon. We left camp at 8am, giving us perfectly enough time to head up to Pine Creek Pass and check out a waterfall in French Canyon, before meeting up with another person who would join our group. Our goal for today was to get some elevation training in for Whitney.

Pine Creek Pass (11,140 feet) was a gradual 1,000 foot climb over 1.5 miles from Honeymoon Lake. 1,000 feet to get the Pine Creek Pass from Honeymoon Lake. Pine Creek Pass is quite picturesque with the two small lakes at the pass itself. Heading into French Canyon we were offered 360 views of the mountains around us. Perfect spot for a short rest and snack.

The way to the waterfall is on a well maintained trail with little to no elevation gain/loss. The waterfall was a bit off-trail, but we could at least see it from a distance. The water from the falls comes from Royce Lakes another option of an off-trail destination that I’d like to come back to. French Canyon is lucky enough to have many lakes that are accessible off this main trail.
We turned around at the waterfall and I just so happens that when we reached back to the junction for Honeymoon Lake/Italy Pass, we ran into the last of our party to join us. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the lake, fishing and relaxing. It was another tough cold and windy night.

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Day 4: Honeymoon Lake to Italy Pass (11.6 miles)
We woke up with unfortunately another day of smoke. There were some fires in the area and we actually had to move our hike more North and found this trail. Too bad we had to hike in this smoke as the views were not so clear. We packed up our gear, fishing stuff and some snacks. After reaching the junction, Italy Pass trail climbs just above Honeymoon Lake. The trail offers place to stop by a small waterfall, some off trail surprise ponds some good looking fish swimming in them.

Once we hit above 11,000, we hit the beautiful alpine meadows above tree-line and some stunning lakes where my sister and I left the rest of our party to climb up to Italy Pass for Mt. Whitney training. The trail is definitely harder to follow in Granite Park. The smoke rose from the wind, which created a much clearer afternoon for our climb up to Italy Pass.

From Granite Park to Italy Pass, it took us a lot longer than we thought because of an unmaintained trail. This part of the trail we were hunting for cairns on granite slabs. The view behind us was of two more vast lakes along the trail before hitting the granite rocks.

We were greeted at Italy Pass by another group of hikers that approached from the other side and quite a bit of wind coming from the west. Italy Pass sits at a mere 12,408 feet and this is the first time my sister and I were above 11,000 feet. We took a short break hiding from the wind behind a big rock stuffing some electrolytes into our system for the return back to Granite Park to meet back with others. It took us 1/3 of the time it took from Granite Park to Italy Pass, back down the Granite Park and trotted down just in time before the day got colder/windier.

After returning, we decided to try fishing on the other side of the lake while enjoying the beautiful sunset. Tonight dinner was rather tasty: chili and chips. Even though I managed to drop the chili bowl, we were able to save most of it. The chips, the chips. Let me tell you about the chips. Our friend who came a day later, literally walked the bag of chips in his hand the entire way up from the car to the campsite. Well, let me tell you after being out for a couple days, it was the best tasting food we had.

Day 5: Honeymoon Lake to Trailhead (5.6 miles)
We dressed in layers this morning. The way down took us a little over 2 hours and by the time we reached the cars we were all ready for that burger we salivated to on the entire downhill. It was a lot of downhill a little of 3,000 feet.

Till next time Eastern Sierras! You always make us happy!

Note to self: FOCUS and listen when passing food. *this was the second time I dropped a whole pot of dinner.

My Picks – May 2017

1. REI Co-op Sit Pad

> >>that pad you buy in order to not sit on a hard surface on your hike

There’s been plenty of times that I have been on backpacking trips and have to either bring out my mattress from the tent or sit on my rain jacket. Even while taking a quick break on the trail it would be nice to not have to sit and squish all of your food or on that hard bear box. Pull out this sit pad and in a matter of seconds you will be able to blow it up.

The idea came from a trip out to Monarch Lakes about a year and a half ago. We had reached the lakes and saw a couple gentlemen enjoying the sun by the lake. One was sitting quite comfortably on a rock. I then saw under him was this sit pad. I forget which brand it was when I got back home, but I definitely wanted to go shopping for one and found this one.

The Sit Pad deflates and folds down into the size of a 16 oz. water bottle. Quite small for fitting it in your pack and would be perfect for those day hikes if you do not want to pack on extra weight on your backpacking trips. Although it only weighs 4.4 oz.

Available in two colors: Dark Gray and Teal Surf

For more REI-Coop products click here: https://www.rei.com/b/rei-co-op

>>$$19.95 – @REI

2. Autana SKY 3 Person Roof Tepui Tent

>> >>that tent you buy so you can be on top

Not really, there are many more reasons. From what I see there is a trend going on buying these roof top tents and they aren’t cheap. But it is an investment, honestly the camping tent that we have we bought 15 years ago and still use it. So all in all even if it’s above 1500, it’s about $100 per year if you look at it like an investment.

So, what’s so cool about it?
– Being lifted off the ground gives you a different perspective of camping.
– If you have it installed, you can take the tent out for lunch and hang out in it (not that we have ever done this).
– Space, it is very spacious and it is easy to sit up in.
– Rooftop screens – you can open up the top and look at the stars from the inside of your tent.
– 4-season – take it out in the winter too

See more Tepui Tents here: https://tepuitents.com/

>>$$1,850 – @tepuitents

3. ENO DryFly Rain Tarp

>> >>that rain tarp you buy as an add-on for either your tent or your hammock

There’s been a lot of trips where we take a tarp, but really those things are bulky and we’ve had them for over ten years. I decided to shop around and look for something. What’s lightweight that has a couple uses instead of just a rainfly? Then there it was the idea, I have an eno hammock. Why not buy the tarp for it and be able to use it as a rainfly as well when needed?

So I bought it. I took it on our first backpacking hike up to Pine Creek Valley area in the Eastern Sierras. It was a cold Labor day weekend and quite windy at times. So guess what we did with the tarp. We set the rain fly up as a shelter so that we can cook comfortable outside when it was quite windy. It was perfect and I am going to take it on every backpacking trip from now on. Why?

– Lightweight (22 oz)
– Can be used as a rain fly and wind breaker
– Compact and easy to fit in your pack

See more on ENO (Eagle Nest Outfitters) items here: https://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com/

>>$$79.99 – @REI
>>$$79.95 – @ENO

Monarch Lakes – Sequoia National Park

Where: Sequoia National Park
Mileage: 11.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 3000 ft
Type: Out-and-back

 
To get to the trailhead: From Visalia take the 198 East for 31.5 miles. Turn right onto Mineral King Road. It is not easy to find, but if you hit the Park Entrance where you have to pay to get in you have gone too far. There is a green sign on the side of the road at the turn that says “Mineral King 25 miles”. Take Mineral King Road all the way to Timber Gap & Sawtooth parking areas. There are two parking areas on both sides of the road. Trailhead is located on the north-side of the parking area. There is a big sign “Sawtooth Trailhead”.

Description:
Mineral King is an extremely windy road. It is a one way road, but is a very picturesque drive. Once we finally got to the trailhead, we parked. The lot was pretty full being that it was already 10am, because we missed the turn and went too far and had to turn back around to find Mineral King Rd. It was okay because the hike wasn’t too long in just above 5 miles to the first of the lakes.

The first mile or so was unforgiving as there were many steep switchbacks that got you breathing hard and your heart pumping. A little less than a mile in there is a junction to either go to Timber Gap or Sawtooth Pass. Turn right onto the Sawtooth Pass trail. The area had no trees giving us shade and it was getting quite hot. This area is known as home to the yellow-bellied Marmots.

After a strenuous mile and a quarter climb there is a perfect spot to take a break and have a snack. We crossed over a small creek, before realizing there was a beautiful waterfall just above us hidden by all the green scenery around. This is where you hit the shadier part of the trail. We took a small break right by the creek and after cooling down headed onward. All I wanted to do was get up there, set up the tents and jump in the lakes. That’s what was on my mind.

The ascent was a little easier at this point turning away from the valley below (carved by the East Fork of the Kaweah River). There are a series of switchbacks in this DENSE forest area that we had to climb. About 1000 feet over 1.7 miles. Along these switchback you can catch glimpses of jagged peaks through the trees. The climb was interesting because the switchbacks were pretty long and one second we turned north and the other west. One way you were able to see Timber Gap and the other direction Mineral King Valley.

Before hitting another junction the trail sort of straightens out in elevation into a bowl called “Chihuahua Bowl”. The junction is about 3.5 miles in. One way leads to Cobalt and Crystal Lakes and if you continue straight it will lead straight up to Monarch Lakes. There are a few more switchbacks after the junction and the trail then finally hits Monarch Creek drainage. This area was very picturesque as we walked over several areas of the creek drainage and the trees were more scarce but you could find fox tail pines here and there. Gorgeous trees I must say. You could feel the cooler air from the lake above. 1 mile later we took our last few steps away from the site of the valley below and found the western shore of Lower Monarch Lake which sits at 10,390 feet.

It was time for us to find a campsite. There weren’t that many people around which was nice, but we found a perfect spot with a view of the lake. Remember you have to camp at least 100 feet away from any water source. The lake sits in a perfect bowl shaped area surround by orange, red and brown rock formations. What’s nice about this camp is that they have a bear box where you can put all of your food and scented items for the night. Once we set up a camp, we packed up a day pack and headed up the trail to Upper Monarch Lake 300 feet above its sister. There is a lot of scrambling and we lost the trail a few times, but finally hit the lake about 15-20 min later.

Southern California Edison built a dam for this lake and is used to hold back water. There was a small family (Dad and two daughters) who had just been fishing. The smaller one of the daughters was holding about 4 to 5 fish up and said to us “look what my dad caught. we’re going to have them for dinner, would you like to share with us?” She was quite the chatter box and invited us for dinner a few times. After a fun quick dip in the extremely cold water of Upper Monarch we headed back down to Lower Monarch and also took a swim there. This lake was much warmer and we stayed in the water a lot longer. There are a few places where you can jump off rocks.

That night we cooked some mac and cheese, unfortunately we dropped a lot of it as I was passing it on. We ate other snacks that we had and shared whatever bit of the mac and cheese we could save. Too bad I was a clutz because it tasted so good. All two bites that we each got (shared between 4). There were several groups around watching the sunset on the west. It was incredible as you can see in the pictures we took. This is one of the four of us that I’d like to blow up on canvas and throw up on a wall somewhere in my place.

The nights sleep was quiet and the next morning we headed down the trail early. I’d like to come back to this area and explore the other lakes and peaks around.

Note to self: Get up there earlier in order to hike up to Sawtooth Pass or hike into Crystal Lakes before heading up to Monarch.

Steelhead Falls – Deschutes River

Where: Crooked River Ranch
Mileage: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: Little to none
Type: Out-and-back

 

To get to the trailhead: From Terrebonne on Hwy 97 North, turn left onto Lower Bridge Road. In 2.1 miles turn right on 43rd St. 1.8 miles later to left onto Chinook Drive. 1.1 miles, make a left on Badger Rd. 1.8 miles, turn right on Quail Rd. 1.2 miles left on River Rd. River Rd will end after .9 miles at the Steelhead Falls trailhead.

Description:
When we went to Steelhead Falls it was the dead of summer. I think that that’s one of the most perfect times of year to go, but I suspect on the weekends it would get busy. We had gone on a Friday mid-day and saw a couple groups hiking the area as well, but still felt as though we were in our own world.

The trail itself is a hike down on the way in, therefor making the way back an uphill trek. This doesn’t matter, because the surrounding area and canyon you are hiking in is quite beautiful.

The trail goes another mile past the falls and offers a ton of swimming holes, fishing and picnic sports and canyon walls similar to high desert. The falls are about .6 miles in from the trailhead and the sight of the Deschutes River plummeting down 20 feet was riveting.

Just past the falls there is a perfect spot to do some cliff jumping with the falls in sight. The jump itself is a mere 25 feet above the water and providing a perfect cool off the short summer hike. The water felt amazing as it was 80 degrees outside. We even jumped in a few times for the fun of it. Of course I put up my hammock to relax a little before heading back to the trailhead.

Note to self: Bring fishing poles as down the stream and up stream from the waterfall the river offers very nice swimming holes.

San Ysidro Trail – Los Padres National Forest

Where: Los Padres National Forest
Mileage: 10.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Elevation gain: 3000 feet
Type: Out-and-back

To get to the trailhead: From US 101 South take San Ysidro exit. Turn left on San Ysidro. East Valley Rd. make a right. Park Lane. will be your next left, but keep an eye out because it’s not well marked. Park Lane make a left. East Mountain Drive turn left. Park at the end of the road. Make sure you read the signs, because it is in a residential area. The trailhead is well marked by a sign at the end of the road.

Description:
I was itching for a hike and was willing to drive a couple hours. San Ysidro Trail is about a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles. It’s located in a beautiful mountainous neighborhood called Montecito. From what I hear, the waterfall is best to visit after a strong rain. There were no rains recently, but I was willing to take a chance to see even was little trickle of water flowing in the area.

The trailhead begins in the backyard of some residential homes and offers shade for only the first part of the trail. Because of this, I would recommend bringing a hat for cover. After about a half a mile of traversing through the neighborhood back trails, I reached a part of the trail that begins the treacherous uphill. At this point it was no more houses, the brush became thicker, but no trees overhead to give shade for those on the trail.

There wasn’t much water flowing, but on the way up I did see an area where I would be able to take a quick swim on the way back down. Took about 2 hours to get to the top. The elevation gain is about 3,000 ft especially high amount within 5.1 miles. When you get to the top, you get quite the view of the beach and the surround area of the Los Padres National Forest on the other side. I spent a good half hour basking in the sun at the top, ate a quick bite and headed down back to the small little swimming hole I found earlier on the way up.

After a quick refreshing swim, I went back to the car and finished up for the day. Took about a two hour drive home. Not too far of a drive for a good amount of mileage.

Note to self: Come back after a rainfall or early spring to experience more water.

My Picks – February 2017

1. Oakley Flight Deck XM Goggles – Women’s

> >>those goggles you buy for all weather use

I had a couple goggles over the years and it was time to get a perfect pair because I have a season pass and go snowboarding a lot. We were at Bear Mountain a couple weekends ago and were in line to get some burgers. My sister mentioned that she loved the look of goggles a gentlemen had in front of her in line. He explained to her that they were such good goggles, not only did they look cool, but they were good for so many reasons. Comfort, visibility in any type of weather, lighting and easily swappable lens.

oakley-flight-deck-xm-linsey-vonn-snow-goggles-womens

Yes, the item is a little expensive, but you pay for your money and you’ll be able to use these for seasons to come. Make sure you take care of them and keep them in its bag case that it comes with.

Pros: Antifog coasting, comfort because of its triple-layer face foam, easily swappable because of its ridgelock lens and 100% UV protected.

For more Oakley products: www.oakley.com

>>$$210.00 – @rei

2. REI Co-op Trek Pole Large Snowflake Baskets – Pair

>> >>that extra item you need when you are snowshoeing, especially in powder

Funny thing, I’ve had the REI Carbon Poles for 3-4 years now and have never used the snow baskets I bought for them until this past weekend when we went up the Pear Lake Ski Hut for our overnight hike and boy were they awesome.

rei-co-op-trek-pole-large-snowflake-baskets-pair

Pros: Your summer poles can become your winter trekking poles, easy to attach by just one turn, can be used for REI and Komperdell trekking poles.

>>$$8.99 – @rei

3. SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger

>> >>that electronic item that you take on adventures so your family can follow your tracks

I’ve been inching towards getting a satellite messenger and ended up going with the SPOT GPS. My first use was last weekend on our overnight snowshoe hike. Ideally you would explain to your family/friends who you shared the link with that you won’t be checking in that often, maybe give time frames or possibly say you’ll press track when you leave, when you get to where you’re supposed to be and when you get back to the car. Any extras are just nice.

spot-gen3-satellite-gps-messenger

The big plus of the satellite gps is the S.O.S. button to alert authorities you are in a life-threatening situation. Or you can use the HELP that will alert your personal contacts (2 people) that you need help, but not life-threatening.

Learn more here on additional specs: http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=100

>>$$149.99 – @REI
>>Plans not included, go to www.Findmyspot.com to find what suits you.