Yesterday, Emmett and I ignored the world and headed out into the San Gabriel Mountains for our first hike of the year. It’s hard to believe that we’re four months into 2011 and we haven’t been hiking yet. But in our defense, there was that two-month stint I did in Minnesota (I’m gonna milk that excuse for all it’s worth!) coupled with Emmett’s ridiculous work schedule the beginning of the year (which has since slowed, thankfully) that sort of put on hold all things in life for the first quarter.
But now we’re back in the game and more than a little wound up to hit the trials. Emmett has been wanting to do Sunset Peak for a while now, a relatively easy 8-mile out-and-back trail ascending a modest 1300’ in elevation. The top of the 5800-foot peak is supposed to offer up the most spectacular views of the Mount Baldy Bowl which includes Iron Mountain, Baden-Powell, Mt. Baldy, and the “Three Ts” (Timber, Thunder, and Telegraph Mountains). In other words…one hella peak to bag.
The trail wasn’t so much a trail as it was a not-so-useful fire road. We’re generally leery of hikes on fire roads as they have a tendency to be boring, hot, predictable, and well, boring. But this one was a true departure from the norm (Emmett boldly declared it the best fire road hike ever) and many times throughout the day we felt like we were either in Hawaii, deep in the heart of Uni-bomber land, or on a secret miner’s trail from 150 years ago. We hiked through chaparral, huge clusters of huge oak (and I mean HUGE), acorn-carpeted ground, wildflowers, granite and sandstone, Douglas fir, Jeffrey Pine, rock slides and downed trees, sheer cliffs, an abundance of wildlife, fern-filled washes dotted with variegated green moss…have we sold you on this place yet?
From the beginning we were socked in by a thick marine layer/dense fog/low clouds (or whatever the weather people out here call it) which obstructed every possible view except for what was 20 feet around you. At first, Emmett said it was sort of silly of us to be doing this peak hike when clearly (pun not intended) our efforts were not going to be rewarded with grand views. But I’m a sucker for rolling fog, enjoying the show as things are revealed (or remain a mystery) according to the whim of Mother Nature. Besides, we were both just so happy to be in the San Gabriels hiking again that it didn’t really matter. All we cared about was grabbing our poles, putting one boot in front of the other, and feeling our hiking muscles come to life again.
We took our time on this hike (four hours!) stopping to watch caterpillars eat fresh green leaves, smell the flowers of blooming Manzanita, admire bird feathers found along the path, watch quail zip their way across the forest floor, look closely at granite rocks with designs that caught our eyes, touch wildflowers so tiny they didn’t seem real, watch a stink beetle make its way from one side of the path to the other…all things we may have missed had the fog not forced us to look down and near rather than on a clear day when we would have been looking up and out at the sweeping views.
That being said, we are eager to do this hike again…on a clear day. We want to test the peak’s name and hike in carrying a bottle of wine and a few delicious munchies, watch the sun set on the Baldy Bowl, and hike back down under the light of a full moon. Anyone who wants to join us is more than welcome to. Just be sure to bring your own wine glass.