Mount Baldy and Wildlife Sighting

It was the perfect day for a Baldy hike. Not too warm or too cold, but just right. Since we got such a late start at 11am, we took the ski lift up to the Notch and hiked from there to the summit and took the lift back down. Even though this is considered the “gentler” route, it’s still pretty brutal when you’re out of shape and haven’t been hiking at altitude very much. It’s hard to admit that I’ve grown a bit lazy in terms of hiking, but I have. Part of it has to do with the DVT I had back in 2015. Some have noticed that I’ve dialed it down quite a bit since then and haven’t been going on the big adventures I used to do.

As many of my hiking friends can attest, once you stop hiking, even for a little while, your body reverts back to its pre-conditioned state. Beginning again is almost like completely starting over, which is discouraging because you put in so much work to get to where you were. Now you have to push through all the pain and resistance in your body once again to help it reacclimatize. That’s how I felt on this hike, as well as on my last two high altitude outings.

The hardest part of this hike is always the first mile or so, and this time it seemed ten times harder. Taking the ski lift up probably didn’t do me any favors besides shortening the distance because my body didn’t have a chance to acclimate before beginning the hike at 7,800’ elevation. It’s almost like taking the tram up from Palm Springs to hike Mt. San Jacinto.

My heart started racing the minute I stepped off the ski lift, and with each step after that, so I stopped frequently to let it slow down. My pack was pretty heavy since it held three liters of water, plus an additional 20 oz bottle of Oxigen water which I received at the recent Climb for Heroes event. I also carried food. To lighten some of the load, my partner offered to take the water bottle and carry it in his pack, which helped, but I still struggled and took a break in every piece of shade I could find along the way.

After huffing and puffing uphill for a while, I finally gave in and decided to drink the Oxigen water, along with the tube of saline solution meant to go with it, and have a little snack (some almond butter.) According to the information on the bottle, this Oxigen water contains the O4 molecule rather than the O2 molecule, which means the oxygen stays in the bottle after you open it. I had never heard of that, but with my free bottles, I tested it out on two recent high altitude hikes.

On the Anderson Peak hike, I didn’t feel a difference at all. On this hike, I was able to hike a lot stronger after drinking the saline and chasing it down with the water. I don’t know if I can attribute my second wind to the Oxigen water and I’ve now used up my freebies. At $3/bottle, I don’t think it’s worth further testing when I already know Trader Joe’s Electrolyte Enhanced Water does the trick at a much cheaper cost. I just didn’t have any this time.

When I reached the saddle between Mt. Harwood and Mt. Baldy, I noticed about five bighorn sheep grazing on the western slope of Mt. Harwood. I had seen bighorn sheep near the ski hut before, but never on this side of the mountain. Of course this happened the one time I decided to leave my big camera behind and use my phone for pics. Needless to say, I was kicking myself, yet still happy to be able to see those beautiful creatures enjoying their habitat.

When we reached the summit of Baldy, we were shocked to see that, in the middle of the day, there were so few people up there. It was in stark contrast to the last time I hiked Baldy last month. Granted, that was a special event that draws in thousands of hikers annually, but on a typical day on the mountain, you can see scores of people milling about on its barren summit. A wave of people showed up about ten minutes before we left, so our timing was perfect.

After spending about an hour on the summit snacking and comparing our O2 levels with my oximeter, we descended Baldy’s rocky, scree-laden eastern slope, said our goodbyes to a lone bighorn sheep on the side of Mt. Harwood and made our way to the Devil’s Backbone Trail. I didn’t get an altitude headache this time and traipsed down the trail feeling pretty good.

Hike on!

~J

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! 🙂