As I write this, it’s not clear to me whether or not my hikes of the last six weeks have been as challenging as the logistics involved in planning them. Numerous surprises (e.g. my car breaking down) and reasonable changed circumstances by others (not just fellow hikers) has made some of our trips a logistical exercise in simultaneously hitting multiple moving targets. It’s been worth the effort though. In the case of our summiting Mt. San Jacinto, the numerous changes of plan turned out to yield a wonderful experience I wouldn’t have planned for in advance.
Of the five of us who originally planned to go, two needed to cancel and one needed to leave by 10 am on Sunday. This meant the long shuttle hike I had a permit for was no longer feasible. Unable to change my permit from camping at Little Round Valley to Round Valley (which turned out to be a good thing), we settled on hiking up the Marion Mountain Trail. A key factor in our choice was my having read a recent account of the trail from The Late Bloomer Hiker which reported the presence of filterable water.
Heading up the Marion Mountain Trail, our goal was to make it to Little Round Valley, set up camp, and then summit Mt. San Jacinto. The fact that the trail alternated between steep and more comfortable grades surprisingly didn’t make it faster to traverse. There were many subtle changes in surroundings to keep us visually engaged—my favorites being interesting rock outcroppings, boulders, and a meadow.
By the time we made it to the Pacific Crest Trail we were behind schedule to summit and return back to camp in daylight. Fortunately, the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mount Marion Trail to Fuller Ridge is comparatively easy to traverse and refreshingly different in features that we felt a little recharged hiking through it. Since we had talked to several people on the way up and knew of the presence of water above Fuller Ridge, the muddied condition of Deer Springs wasn’t cause for concern.
About halfway between Fuller Ridge and Little Round Valley is Bed Springs where we stopped and replenished our water supply. We drank a lot on the way up and needed extra for cooking dinner, so our stay at Bed Springs was pretty long. By the time we were done it was clear we couldn’t summit and return to our campsite in daylight. During the hike up to where we set up camp I recalled reading about how that night was going to have the largest full moon of the year–referred to as a supermoon 2013. So, I started mulling over the possibility of completing our hike under the light of the supermoon.
After setting up camp and having an interesting conversation with the ranger who stopped by to make sure we had a permit, we headed for the summit. Having been there before, I felt it was important to make it to the summit before dark because of the peak scramble involved to reach it. On my other trip I found it significantly easier to find my way down from the peak than it was to make my way up to it. Although we felt a little rushed, we were still able to enjoy the changing light as dusk approached.
We reached the peak shortly after the sun was visible but still early enough to see its glowing light emanating from behind Mt. Baldy and Mt. San Gorgonio.
We had enough time to capture some photos before it got too dark for our point and shoot cameras to handle the subtle moonlight. Shortly thereafter we cooked dinner and enjoyed a wonderful experience on the peak under the light of the supermoon. While enjoying my dinner, I thought about how much more I enjoyed being on the peak for dinner and taking in the night view than I would have liked being down at the campground. It took a myriad of logistical changes to get me there to enjoy those moments. This got me thinking about how much I still need to learn to be able to plan to have more experiences like this. I find hiking to be an amazingly expansive endeavor constantly yielding opportunities to take a next step in deepening my connection to the natural world.
The peak scramble down was a little tricky and the trail back to Little Round Valley was rocky and potentially elusive enough in some places that we decided to use our headlamps instead of relying on the light of the supermoon. The next day, we made it down before our 10 am deadline and found this to be an excellent backpacking trip as well as good training for our upcoming trek to Mt. Whitney.