Hiking to Anderson Peak with My Tribe

Looking toward Big Bear Lake from Anderson Peak

This was my first time on the Forsee Creek trail and my first time summiting Anderson Peak (elev. 10,840ft). The trail was gorgeous with lots of wildflowers along the way, creating great photo opportunities.

Purple lupine

Indian paintbrush

Columbine

Despite all the signs of life and rebirth, there were still remnants of the shadow of death and destruction that decimated the area during the most recent fire. It was a stark reminder of the cycle of life that the forest endures.

Danielle and I started early and Richard met up with us on the trail as he started hiking a little later. Since Danielle and I got a late start, it didn’t take him long to catch up to us.

Richard catches up

We kept a slow but steady pace as the peaceful and gradual trail wound through the forest with about a 4100-foot gain from the trailhead in about 6.5 miles. We stopped at Trail Fork about 6 miles up to have a snack and reassess whether we felt like huffing it off trail for the final ascent to the peak.

We were feeling good and decided we were too close to turn around, so we went for it. And we were happy we did. The reward of achieving the summit was so worth it and the views were amazing.

Going off trail toward Anderson Peak

Our sign-ins on the summit register

Big Bear Lake to the north of Anderson Peak

Mt. San Gorgonio to the east of Anderson Peak

I love hiking with my tribe.

*****Due to the Valley Fire, all trails in the San Gorgonio Wilderness are closed until further notice. Thankfully, my friends and I got to do this beautiful hike before fire ravaged the area once again, continuing the cycle of death, destruction and rebirth.

Sensational Santa Barbara Series ~ Gaviota Peak and Hot Springs

We’re teaming up with the Calabasas Day Hikers to do a new series of hikes in the Santa Barbara coastal range. In this first hike of the series, we took the longer, scenic route to Gaviota Peak and Gaviota Hot Springs. Our hike leader, Paul Taylor, led us up to two lookout points which provided incredible sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

After that, we took a steep, rocky trail up past a cool cave and then on to Gaviota Peak where we enjoyed a lunch and some more views. Our last stop of the day was Gaviota Hot Springs where we soaked our tired feet. It was an excellent way to cap off a spectacular day of adventure. Can’t wait for the next hike in the series coming up in two weeks!

Time in the Nature

Smith Mountain

Smith Mountain

This hike reminded me of the hike to Telescope Peak in Death Valley, minus the barren desert views. Our intent was to hike up to Smith Mountain and then descend down to Bear Creek, which was about a 12-mile adventure. I arrived a tad late since I couldn’t find the trailhead, but the ladies waited and told the two gentlemen (Don Viejo and David) to go ahead. They were the only two from our small group that hiked up to Smith Mountain. We waited for them at the saddle. When I saw the half-mile stretch to the summit up close, I was glad I decided to wait. The trail was steep like Mt. Baldy’s Register Ridge and involved some bouldering, which I wasn’t feeling up to.

Signs at the trailhead.

Signs at the trailhead.

Once again, we were blessed with Don Viejo’s presence on this hike. The 88-year-old energizer climbed up Smith Mountain and descended like a champ. He amazes me on every outing and I’m in total awe of his stamina and endurance. He puts 30-something-year-olds like me to shame. But seriously, there is no shame in our group. We hike as a team and the stronger ones are always willing to support the ones who are either in development or recovery.

Don Viejo

Don Viejo

The hike beyond the saddle to Bear Creek took us downhill for about a 2000ft elevation loss over four miles on an unmaintained trail. A chainsaw or machete would have come in handy because we were bushwhacking and climbing over fallen trees. It was quite a challenge. Sections of the trail were also washed out and became very narrow on steep ledges with loose scree. At times, I wondered if the mountainside would crumble right beneath my feet and send me tumbling to my death. Thankfully, no one was hurt during this adventure.

Crossing a barely flowing stream

Crossing a barely flowing stream

A harrowing section of washed out trail

A harrowing section of washed out trail

I made it to within about a half-mile of the creek when I decided to turn around and head back uphill. I knew the climb back up to the saddle was going to slow me down and we’d be running out of daylight soon. I also noticed clouds gathering and threatening of an impending storm. It was a good thing I turned back when I did because I was very slow going back uphill and the rain started just as I got into my car.

A storm coming in

A storm coming in

Smith mountain as the sun was setting and storm coming

Smith mountain as the sun was setting before the rain

Even though I didn’t make it to either of the two planned destinations along this trek, I still had a very fun day with friends enjoying our natural surroundings. During the quiet moments where I hiked alone, I spent some time in prayer and gained a new perspective on some things that were causing me a lot of worry and anxiety and now I have more peace and assurance that all is well. Time in nature is always time well spent.

Hike on!

Of Trails and Sunsets

This was my first hike to lead since mid-August and it went very well. We hiked the 10-mile Sycamore Canyon Loop at Pt. Mugu State Park near Malibu and ended our beautiful day watching the sunset on the shores of the Pacific Ocean after a feast at Malibu Seafood.

I led this same hike three years ago for a team I organized to train to conquer Mt. Whitney. This was our inaugural hike in the training series. It’s a good hike for those who aren’t used to hiking long distances in that it begins at sea level and is pretty flat for the first few miles until is begins the 700-foot plus ascent to a breathtaking overlook of the ocean. For that reason, I knew it would be a good re-introduction to long distance hiking for me after my injury.

Our hike took us through a peaceful wooded canyon on relatively flat terrain initially, which provided a great warmup for us, as well as a chance to get to know some new friends. It was a pleasure having “Don Viejo” along on the journey. Now at 88 years young, he is quite a trooper and an inspiration to all of us.

After meandering through the canyon, we took a turn to the south, where the real hiking began as we ascended a fairly steep but well-graded path to a junction that provided access to nearby LaJolla Canyon, which is also a gem.

My friends, Danielle, Jeanette and I took our time on the steeper segment and just enjoyed the views around us. We were shocked when we saw Don (who had gone ahead) hiking downhill toward us and told him he was going the wrong way. He said he came to check on us to make sure we were alright. What a gentleman. He had already made it to the junction, backtracked downhill to check on us, and then went back uphill with us. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Don told us that there was a bench up ahead from where he had just come, which motivated us to get up the hill. However, we didn’t see that bench until about 2 miles later. But when we did, it was a great opportunity for me to take my boot off and rest my foot, which still sometimes swells up due to the effects of the DVT in my calf that continues to heal.

My Low Rise Trail Socks from Minus 33 were an excellent choice  for the day. Made of merino wool, these socks are comfortable, lightweight, and built to go the distance. Not only was there no swelling in my foot, but I also had no blisters or hot spots due to the full cushion of the socks. They were perfect for the 85-degree weather we experienced.

Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock

Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock

The Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Sock is thin and lightweight, but durable, providing me with great comfort over all 10 miles of this trek. Although there are other more expensive socks on the market, for half the cost, the Minus 33 Low Rise Trail Socks are solid performers. These will be my go-to socks from now on.

After taking in the beautiful ocean views at a popular overlook, we descended back down into the canyon and went to Malibu Seafood for a sunset dinner. After that, we followed a short path leading us through a tunnel that provided direct access to the beach. It was an unusually warm evening, so we were able to play in the waves a bit without freezing our little toes.

It was a fabulous day all around.

Happy Trails! 🙂

Back to Blazin’…Well, not Exactly

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Bottom of the Chair Lifts

I hadn’t been to the Mt. Baldy area for at least a few months as I was leading a series of hikes in the Sierra over the summer. While in recovery from my calf injury that occurred in late August, it’s been slow going, but I’m gradually assimilating into the outdoors again and this was the perfect opportunity to test myself at high altitude.

We took the ski lift up to the Notch, which is at 7,800 ft above sea level. As soon as I got out of the car at the bottom of the chair lift, I felt the altitude. I moved slowly, giving myself a chance to acclimate.

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On the Chair Lift Going Up

When we reached the top of the Notch, I had to take a minute to pause and take it all in, the pine trees, the surrounding peaks, the cool, thin air that gently caressed my face. Tears welled up in my eyes because I was so grateful to set foot on the mountain again. I was home.

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The Notch Burger

We ate a rather undeserved lunch at the Notch restaurant. I called it undeserved because usuallly when we enjoy a meal there, it’s after finishing the grueling Mt. Baldy hike. After burning 3,000-plus calories, it’s justifiable to indulge in a high carb meal and perhaps enjoy a beer afterwards.

This time, we did things in reverse and hiked AFTER we ate. We started up one of the gentler ski runs and made our way toward the Devil’s Backbone Trail. We didn’t have much time because I had a party to attend in the evening, but I just wanted to see how far we could get with the time we had. I was also wearing sneakers instead of hiking boots, so I didn’t plan to go far. Hiking on a steep, rocky trail in sneakers is a no-no for me.

SONY DSCI could feel the altitude with each step, but I paced myself and walked slowly uphill. It took a little getting used to, but I felt like I was being welcomed back to the wilderness. I came across multiple random hearts on the trail and took the time to cherish every one of them.

I hope you enjoy the pics!

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Anza-Borrego Desert Adventure Part 1 – The Slot

This is the first part of our series of adventures in the Anza Borrego Desert. On this first day of the adventure, we caravaned from our campground at Borrego Springs and explored a narrow slot canyon that featured some extraordinary geological formations, such as a huge balanced rock and a cave.

 

For more information on hiking The Slot, visit hikespeak.com.

To find out how you can join a domestic or international adventure with 1000 Treks, please click on the following link: 1000Treks.

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No Boots? No Problem!

A few weeks ago, I was on my way north toward the Sierra for the fifth time this summer. I’ve organized what I’m calling the Summer Sierra Series, which is a series of some of my favorite hikes in the Sierra geared toward people who can cover a great deal of distance and elevation, but not necessarily speed.

Group shot at Agnew Meadows

Group shot at Agnew Meadows

I had gotten so used to being left behind on hikes with groups and always the last one to finish that I had decided to hike on my own for a while. I spent the last two years making adventure trips to the Sierra, sometimes on my own, sometimes with company, but I had come to love hiking and camping solo.

Earlier this year, I was promoted to assistant organizer of a hiking and adventure group. I decided to organize hikes tailored to suit people like me. People who can do big hikes, but need extra time to accomplish the task. I led my first hike in early March in the San Gabriel Mountains and then came up with the idea for the Summer Sierra Series.

Thousand Island Lake

Thousand Island Lake

We started our hikes in Mammoth, California with a day hike to Thousand Island Lake. From there, we moved further south along the Highway 395 to the next hikes in the series. It was on my way to the fourth hike, the Big Pine Lakes, that I had to utilize a little improvisation. I didn’t leave LA until around 8pm that Friday night because I had just started my new job at one of the studios in Burbank and didn’t leave work until 6pm that evening. I had to go home first and pick up a few things, put gas in the car and then I was able to begin the 3-1/2 hour drive to Lone Pine where I was staying.

About an hour out of LA and as I was approaching Palmdale, the last stretch of civilization before heading into the Mojave Desert, I realized I had forgotten to pack a very important accessory, my socks. I was going to have to make a stop in Palmdale and pick up a pair as there was no way I could hike 15 miles in those boots without socks.

Boots? I couldn’t remember grabbing my boots and then it dawned on me that I also left the boots behind, along with my trekking poles. I was so concerned with making sure I had all my camera equipment packed (because that’s more important to me, obviously) that I completely forgot the rest of my gear. I couldn’t believe my absent-mindedness.

While the trekking poles were optional, there was absolutely no way I could hike without boots. The only other pair of shoes I brought were the flip flops I wore at the moment. I had already driven too far from LA to turn around, go home and get the boots, socks and poles. If I had gone back home, I would have stayed there and would have only been able to sleep a few hours before getting up to hit the road at like 3am to get to the trailhead on time. That was not going to happen. It was 9pm, and I knew the outdoor sporting goods stores were all closed at that hour.

I first considered Target, and then remembered I had seen hiking boots in Wal Mart a while back when I was shopping in the store. I knew there had to be a Wal Mart in Palmdale, so I plugged it into the GPS on my phone and it led me to the nearest one, only a few minutes away. I used to love shopping in Wal Mart years ago, but now the experience just frustrates me. It’s usually too crowded and you can never just go in there, find what you need and leave. The times when you’re in the biggest hurry is when you end up in the longest line. Shopping at Wal Mart is just not the adventure it once was for me.

The boots were fairly easy to find in the store, but they were only available in men’s. I knew I couldn’t walk out of that store without a pair of boots. I tried on a couple of pairs (without socks on) and landed on the Ozark Trail Men’s Bump Toe Hiking Boot. I wasn’t familiar with the brand as I do my boot shopping at REI and Adventure 16 and normally go for the higher quality boots like Vasque, Lowa and Scarpa. I also usually read and compare reviews on boots, but reviews didn’t matter at this point. They could have all had terrible reviews, but I still had to leave that store with a pair of boots.

The Ozark Trail Men’s Bump Toe Hiking Boot was pretty comfortable for a cheap pair of boots (I paid $24 for them) so they are the ones I purchased, plus the random thick pair of socks I bought along with them. I knew I was breaking one of the cardinal rules of hiking by breaking in a brand new pair of boots on a 15-mile hike, but I really had no other choice, so I crossed my fingers and just did it.

Ozark Trail Men's Bump Toe Hiking Boots on my feet

Ozark Trail Men’s Bump Toe Hiking Boots on my feet

The boots faired very well, actually. I could definitely feel the jagged rocks beneath the soles as these were not the Vibram soles I’m accustomed to. However, for a cheap pair of boots, they were pretty comfy. I barely noticed the one little hot spot on my big toe while trekking past the beautiful turquoise colored Lakes 1-3, but by the time we reached Lake 5 and took a swim, I decided to take my friend up on her offer for some moleskin, just to be on the safe side. We still had about 7 miles to go and I didn’t want to have any issues. At the end of the day, my feet were in good shape and did fine.

I wanted to share this story not so much as a product review, but as a way to encourage people out there who may be interested in hiking, but using lack of funds for a decent pair of hiking boots as an excuse to not get out there. You don’t have to go to the stores that carry expensive name brands and spend a small fortune on your first pair of hiking boots. A cheap pair will serve you well, initially. My first pair of hiking boots was a cheap pair that I bought from Sports Authority. They were only a few dollars more than I paid for the Ozark Trail boots from Wal Mart.

So if you’re one of those people using this as an excuse to not hike, go down to the local Wal Mart or your discount store of choice and get yourself a pair of boots. The longer you put it off, the more you’ll be missing out on some of the most spectacular adventures like the ones in the pictures below.

Hike on!

Hiking the North Fork of Big Pine Creek

Hiking the North Fork of Big Pine Creek

At First Lake

First Lake

Temple Crag

Temple Crag

Fifth Lake

Fifth Lake

Overlooking Fourth Lake

Overlooking Fourth Lake