Why I Created My Peak Bagging Resume

My achilles tendon is almost healed and I expect to be hiking again by this weekend. It has been over a month since my last hike. Although my case of cabin fever is getting intense, I’ve decided to take it real slow and hopefully stop the barrage of injuries I’ve been dealing with over the past year. Since my IT band injury last August I’ve only hiked 1/2 the miles I hiked in 2011 (my first year of serious hiking) and 1/3 of what I did in 2012–both years injury free.

"Use trail" leading to Brown Mountain.

“Use trail” leading to Brown Mountain, April 2012

I think my impatience to get back into the shape I was in prior to getting injured has played a significant role in my continued battles with injuries. Long periods of inactivity have now resulted in my gaining back almost half the weight I’d lost since I started hiking. Looking honestly at where I’m at, I realize I need to get in shape to pursue getting in shape. It feels like I’m starting over–only worse. I’ve decided not to carry the extra weight backpacking requires for the rest of this year (though I may car-camp) and to also limit the strenuousness of my hikes (no matter how I feel) until sometime next year.

North Backbone Trail coming down from Mt. Baldy, October 2011

North Backbone Trail coming down from Mt. Baldy, October 2011

Frankly, this was demoralizing for me. However, my outlook got better as I started to plan my first return hike. There are a number of hikes I’ve avoided going on when I was training to hike Mt. Whitney or the High Sierra Trail because they would be too easy. Since I’m not going to get back into training mode until next year, it’s now a good time to explore them. A while ago my neighbor (Chuck) gave me the book “106 Tops In The Angeles Forest”. What’s great about it is that it shows a separate map with the trail (often un-maintained “use trails” that I don’t see on other maps) and a description on how to get to each peak–many of them un-named . There’s a plethora of options to get off the beaten path and explore trails most people don’t go on and many of them are short. I used that book as a reference to find my way to Pallett Mountain as both a day hike and an overnight backpacking trip this year and really enjoyed both experiences. A plan of exploration without worrying about mileage, gain, and getting ready for some other adventure has me looking forward to enjoyed the getting in shape to get in shape phase of my recovery.

Pallett Mountain, June 2014.

Pallett Mountain, June 2014.

My first hike back will be to Winston Peak and Winston Ridge (about 4 miles round trip). Since the book is over 30 years old and the trail isn’t on the maps I use for Angeles Forest, I felt I should search the internet and see what current information I could find. I came across the Iron Hiker blog which gave a good description. It’s blogger (Keith Winston) also has a link to something he refers to as his peak-bagging resume. I didn’t even know how many peaks I had summited. His resume got me curious to see what my list actually looks like.

Path to the lookout at Mt. Wilson looking toward Mt. Baldy, May 2014.

Path to the lookout at Mt. Wilson looking toward Mt. Baldy, May 2014.

Since I track my hikes on a spreadsheet, it was easy to determine that I’ve bagged 45 peaks. More interesting to me than the number is the variety of ways I’ve reached many of them–108 routes total. For example, I’ve hiked to Mt. Wilson twelve different ways starting from five different trailheads (Angeles Crest Highway at Shortcut Canyon, Chantry Flat, Cobb Estate, Eaton Cayon, and Sierra Madre). However, I’ve only blogged about one of them and I only have step by step instructions of another.

San Gabriel Peak, December 2011.

San Gabriel Peak, December 2011.

Although I repeat many of those routes often, some of them multiple times annually; it’s exploring new routes that I enjoy most. So, I thought a resume could be an effective way of sharing these routes through an outline with quick descriptions that could be helpful to others looking for other ways to explore the forest.

Middle Mt. Hawkins, June 2014.

Middle Mt. Hawkins, June 2014.

My Peak Bagging Resume is located in the Peak Bagging Routes tab in my blog’s menu area above. It’s a continuous scroll list, organized by peak in elevation order starting from the highest (to make quick work of finding high peaks for training), with descriptions of all the hikes I’ve done to each peak, and with links to other information including any step by step instructions I’ve created. At a minimum, each peak has a link to it’s own individual page that has photos from the peak and a list of hikes. Eventually, all of them will look like the one I’ve created for San Gabriel Peak that also has a 360 degree panorama view, links to posts I’ve created, and links to posts others have written on their blogs. Also on that resume page are links to alphabetical lists to make quickly finding information on a specific peak easier.

View from the "use trail" following the ridge from Inspiration Point looking toward Inspiration Peak (Unofficial Name), February 2012.

View from the “use trail” following the ridge from Inspiration Point looking toward Inspiration Peak (Unofficial Name), February 2012.

Like the trail segment pages I’ve created, I’ll use the quick reference nature of the resume to help me plan new routes. I hope others will do the same.

Almost Through Another Injury Timeout

Hiking this year for me has largely been about battling through injuries. June was mostly about slowly building up mileage and increasing elevation gain after suffering my previous setback of dealing with plantar faciitis. My last hike was an excellent backpacking trip with my friend Etienne over the weekend of July 28-29th which ended with me being pain free. We hiked from Islip Saddle to Buckhorn Campground by way of Pleasant View Ridge and the Burkhart Trail with a gorgeous evening spent on Pallett Mountain. Everything appeared to be proceeding along a reasonable schedule. I was confident I’d be ready to hike the High Sierra Trail Trail at the end of this month.

View toward Pallett Mountain from the Pleasant View Ridge use trail west of Mt. Williamson.

View toward Pallett Mountain from the Pleasant View Ridge use trail west of Mt. Williamson.

On July 1st, I hurt my achilles tendon while playing tennis and haven’t exercised since (except for swimming–which I started yesterday). Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as when I’ve hurt achilles in the past and needed to wear a boot for a couple months. The good news is that It feels like I’ll be able to hike again sometime around the middle of next week. However, this setback means I’ll need to put off hiking the High Sierra Trail until next year. I’ll start up again with an easy hike (probably on flatter terrain than can be found in the San Gabriel Mountains) and then hopefully progress in time to do a short backpacking trip from Onion Valley to Charlotte Lake and meet my friend Scott for the last night (of five) of the High Sierra Trip I had planned to go on with him.

View from the west bump of Mt. Williamson from August 2012. I'm currently working on putting together step by step instructions and trail photos for Pleasant View Ridge.

View from the west bump of Mt. Williamson from August 2012. I’m currently working on putting together step by step instructions and trail photos for Pleasant View Ridge.

Right now I’m thinking about other easy trips to go on and finish out this injury filled year since hurting my IT bands coming down from Mt. Whitney last July. For sure, I plan to spend some time in the redwood forests when I drop my daughter off to college in August. It looks like there’s a plethora of options with very little elevation gain along Northern California’s Redwood Coast. Please comment if you have favorites in that area.

Camping And Walking Among The Ancients

Last Tuesday night I was planning to do a solo backpacking trip in Angeles Forest for Wednesday through Thursday. However, my daughter asked me if there was an amazing place we could go car camping instead. Of course, there were constraints. She didn’t want to get up early on Wednesday and the hiking part on Thursday needed to be fairly short so we could be home in time for her to do something she previously scheduled. Naturally, I found somewhere for us to go.

Methuselah Walk, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Methuselah Walk, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Our car camping standards from last year were very high–Giant Forest in Sequoia, and Little Lakes Valley in the Eastern Sierras. She wanted something like that! I also needed something that I wouldn’t feel like we were missing out on the best parts of the hike due to needing to stop after a short distance. I settled on the Methuselah Walk in Schulman Grove of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

Campsite, Grandview Campground.

Campsite, Grandview Campground.

We found a great campsite in the aptly named and very photogenic Grandview Campground. It is known as a great place for star gazing and anyone who enjoys using a telescope would definitely have a great time there on a clear night–which we were lucky to experience. What I hadn’t read about was the close proximity of great viewing spots to hike up to a short distance (less than 1/10 mile) to from the campsites.

View toward the Eastern Sierras from Grandview Campground--a very short hike up from the campsites.

View toward the Eastern Sierras from Grandview Campground–a very short hike up from the campsites.

In addition to the great views, the terrain itself is interesting and the plethora of uniquely shaped trees generate a dynamism to the scenery. The campground itself is a worthwhile destination as it occupies such an engrossing landscape that is easily explored without much effort. I anticipate returning there many more times.

The trees have interesting individual characteristics as slightly different locations as well as obviously different age ranges generate uniquely sculptural forms.

The trees have interesting individual characteristics as slightly different locations as well as obviously different age ranges generate uniquely sculptural forms.

The Methuselah walk exceeded my expectations in large part due to descriptions I’ve read by others who had been there and felt that it was a place that one should visit if one was already doing something else in the area. Supposedly very interesting, but not much to it. At 4 miles with only 800′ of gain, the largest hike isn’t very long or strenuous. As a result, my experience was like going to a movie and being pleasantly surprised because it was far better than the reviews suggested it would be.

Like a landscape of ancient architectural ruins, only most of the trees are still alive.

Like a landscape of ancient architectural ruins, only most of the trees are still alive.

I think this forest has an obvious beauty to it as well as a subtlety that requires some personal reflection to begin to experience fully. For me, the landscape was simultaneously ancient and contemporary like no other I’ve experienced. Perhaps it was the knowledge that a large percentage of the trees were thousands of years old that made me feel that way. So many of the trees were around when places like Athens were being built that my mind wandered to thinking about architectural ruins. There were many spots along the trail that had some of the look of such ruins. Trees (like buildings) separated enough in the landscape to have an individual identity with nothing (or little) living between them. Some trees whose branches are currently largely devoid of needles but still possessing enough to give a sense of what they looked like when needles occupied most all of their branches. That there are also places in the forest where many of the trees still have most of their needles assisted in making these kinds of visualizations.

Trees whose branches are almost completely covered in needles provide an interesting contrast to those whose branches aren't and deepen the sense of age in the forest.

Trees whose branches are almost completely covered in needles provide an interesting contrast to those whose branches aren’t and deepen the palpable sense of age in the forest.

The presence of so many younger trees, so many trees of differing heights, thicknesses or some other feature (e.g. lack of needles) next to one another underscores the forests age and youth. This also conveys a key difference between ancient ruins and this living forest–the trees are still alive, growing, and reproducing. Their environment, though changing and evolving, is far more similar than the cultures of modern and ancient Greeks.

A "baby", perhaps several tens of years old.

A “baby”, perhaps several tens of years old.

I had read that one of the living trees is over 5,000 years old. Trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea of something living that long, I started thinking about things I knew about in history. As a result a profound sense of timelessness emerged. In a way, I felt like I had gone back in time. I also knew that the landscape was meaningfully different 5,000 years ago. To a degree, the vast time period of life creates a forest texture which allows one to imagine the order each tree came into being relative to one another in close proximity.

Dramatic forest texture allows one imagine the evolution of the forest to a significantly greater degree than other forests.

Dramatic forest texture allows one to imagine the evolution of the forest to a significantly greater degree than other forests.

As much as the experience for me is about the trees and thinking about time, the views are also pretty spectacular and expansive.

One of the many expansive views with an interesting juxtaposition of comparatively old and young trees. There are also 24 markers that go along with a self guided tour booklet available at the trailhead.

One of the many expansive views with an interesting juxtaposition of comparatively old and young trees. There are also 24 markers that go along with a self guided tour booklet available at the trailhead.

The trail has a variety of orientations which end up generating different enough micro-climates that the forest is meaningfully different although only changing in elevation by 800 feet. With views toward the Sierras and Death Valley, I found the experience was unexpectedly varied.

View toward Deer Springs Lake with the mountain ranges of Death Valley in the distance.

View toward Deer Springs Lake with the mountain ranges of Death Valley off in the distance in the second major sub-alpine zone of the trail where Sagebrush, Mountain Mahogany, Long-leaved Paintbrush, and Golden Forget-me-not grow.

There’s a lot to this four mile hike. Is it worth an approximately 5 hour drive from Los Angeles to experience and return home without going anywhere else? I think so, and I’ll be back. Heck the drive up the mountain is pretty amazing as well. There’s even a nice lookout between Grandview Campground and Schulman Grove with a trail to a vista with an epic view of the Sierras.

View from vista point

View toward the Eastern Sierras from vista point