Finally, Some Momentum

I’m feeling good about my last two weeks of hiking. For the first time since last August I’m not injured and haven’t had any setbacks over a two week span. My current  weekly schedule is to do a training hike (for the High Sierra Trail in late July) where I push myself, rest two days and then do an easy hike, rest one day and then play tennis, rest one day and repeat. This is now working well and I’m settling into having a routine. Of course I’ll need to break that up periodically with some backpacking, but it feels solid right now and I’m pain free!

Mt. Wilson Trail (14 miles, 4,750' gain)

Mt. Wilson Trail (14 miles, 4,750′ gain)

It’s been frustrating how long it’s taken me to get going again. Recovery has been painstakingly slow. I really felt like I was back in 2011 just getting started. What last July would have been an easy warm up portion of a hike recently required a ridiculous amount of stops just to catch my breath. Five miles felt like fifteen. It was great to be back in the forest but also discouraging to see how out of shape I now was.

View toward the Channel Islands from the Jesusita Trail in Los Padres National Forest (7.4 miles, 1,350' gain).

View toward the Channel Islands from the Jesusita Trail in Los Padres National Forest (7.4 miles, 1,350′ gain).

So, getting my last training hike up to 16.2 miles with 4,849′ of gain felt terrific. Finishing with that oddly refreshing tiredness that comes with appropriately pushing oneself, and with no knee pain or blisters was invigorating for me. I even felt great the next day.

Idlehour Trail (16.2 miles, 4,849' gain).

Idlehour Trail (16.2 miles, 4,849′ gain).

Balancing training hikes with more leisurely strolls through the forest is working well, especially when family and/or friends join me on these easier ones. It’s extra special when my daughter joins me (like last Sunday on the Pacific Crest Trail), this being her last year before going away to college in August.

Pacific Crest Trail between Cloudburst Summit and Cooper Canyon Campground (5.2 miles, 1,400' gain).

Pacific Crest Trail between Cloudburst Summit and Cooper Canyon Campground (5.2 miles, 1,400′ gain).

A Calm Between Two Storms

I went hiking last Thursday between the two storms that finally brought some rain to drought stricken California. My hike started with the clouds from Wednesday’s storm slowly breaking up and giving way to mostly blue skies as I made my way from the Cobb Estate Trailhead to Mt. Lowe.

Lower Sam Merrill Trail

Lower Sam Merrill Trail

 

With a freshness to the air that comes after a rain and the corresponding intensified smells that damp ground and wet vegetation produce, the landscape felt more alive to me than usual. The interplay of sunlight breaking through and then being hidden by clouds added a compelling dynamism and energy that clear skies don’t produce for me.

View coming down the Upper Sam Merrill Trail from Mt. Lowe.

View coming down the Upper Sam Merrill Trail from Mt. Lowe.

By the time I made it down to Mt. Lowe Campground and found the water tank Chris told me about, the sun was out and the skies were mostly clear. I enjoyed a short rest sitting at one of the picnic benches feeling confident I was going to see a fantastic sunset on my way down the Middle Sam Merrill Trail.

Water Tank above and behind the remains of the concrete retaining wall of the Old Alpine Tavern.

Water Tank above and behind the remains of the concrete retaining wall of the Old Alpine Tavern.

It’s just over a mile from Mt. Lowe Campground to Sunset Point along the Middle Sam Merrill Trail. The terrain is easy hiking but views are blocked by the north face of an unnamed mountain (that I sometimes refer to as Inspiration Peak for quick reference). While I covered that short amount of ground, the weather changed dramatically. I arrived at Sunset Point to discover it was engulfed in the foggy moisture of clouds making their way over the mountain. The coming storm was making its presence felt. Further down the trail, light from below began breaking through foretelling my pending descent below the clouds.

Light breaking through the clouds from below along the Middle Sam Merrill Trail.

Light breaking through the clouds from below along the Middle Sam Merrill Trail.

When I got below the clouds, the view was clear and expansive. With clouds forming above the mountain but not off in the distance, the nuanced subtle changes in light made the night portion of my hike extra special.

View from the Middle Sam Merrill Trail close to Echo Mountain.

View from the Middle Sam Merrill Trail close to Echo Mountain.

Not being able to predict what I’m going to experience is part of what makes hiking so enjoyable for me. Every hike seams to produce it’s own story. Starting my day with clouds breaking up from Wednesday’s storm and ending it with the arrival of clouds for the storm that started late Thursday night intensified the feeling that I was just able to squeeze this one in–a calm between two storms.

Feeling Better on Vetter Mountain

I’ve been sick with the flu for the past couple weeks. Last Sunday I finally felt good enough to exercise and was joined on a short hike of the Silver Moccasin Trail to Vetter Mountain with my friends Etienne, Camila, and Chloe. Although I was still coughing up mucus (aka lung cookies), it felt fantastic to be in the forest again. Barring any other setbacks, I think I’ll be able to work in two hikes a week for the foreseeable future.

View from Vetter Mountain

View from Vetter Mountain

Whenever I look out and can’t see any peaks from my house because the clouds are too low, there’s a great chance that I can go above the clouds by getting myself up to 4,000 or 5,000 feet. It’s an experience I can’t seem to get enough of and looking down on the clouds made my hike even better. There’s something about deciding to be in different weather by simply going into the mountains that appeals to me–especially on days when I can see the difference. Although I was already tired by the time I made it to Vetter Mountain, I felt so much better physically and mentally than I have in weeks that it was very uplifting to be there (especially with such great friends). Vetter Mountain is a fire lookout (that burned in the Station Fire) and a high point with an expansive 360 degree view towards taller mountains that surround it off in the distance (an unusual view in the San Gabriel Mountains).

View toward the Mt. Wilson Crest including Occidental Peak, Mt. Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment, and Mt. Deception from the Silver Moccasin Trail.

View toward the Mt. Wilson Crest including Occidental Peak, Mt. Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment, and Mt. Deception from the Silver Moccasin Trail.

From the summit and along the Silver Moccasin Trail, there are views of so many of the peaks I plan to hike (from Mt. Wilson to Mt. Baldy) this year that I began planning out my training to get ready to hike the High Sierra Trail in July. In addition to distance and gain, a key consideration is season. For example, the stretch of the Silver Moccasin trail I was hiking was extensively burned by the Station Fire and has no shade making it a hike for cool days only. I found myself hoping that we would get some snow. This has been another very dry winter so far in Southern California. With that in mind, it was nice to see some water flowing in Tujunga Creek.

Tujunga Creek crossing along the Silver Moccasin Trail.

Tujunga Creek crossing along the Silver Moccasin Trail.