Monday, September 7, 2015

Backpacking San Gorgonio Mountain

 Friday night we hit the trail around 6:30 pm
 Permits are required for this trek
 1st night's camp, 2 French boys posted up next to us
 Tizzy thought it was a bright idea to strap the tent on top....
 Beautiful trails
 Just keep on hiking
 2nd night was spent at Halfway Camp. These signs brought so much joy to us Saturday night!
 2nd night setup, no neighbors
 Lunch break
 Tizzy's 15 minute nap
New trail friends, Don & Joe!
What the trail looks like above the tree line
San Jacinto Mountain right in front of us
 My #1 Adventure Buddy
 8+ miles later, we made it to the top:)
San Jacinto peaking in the background
 Golden Hour
 Last mile and a 1/2 was spent hiking in the dark
 Our 2 night trip coming to an end
San Bernardino Mountains

Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness (the mountains behind Big Bear)
Days: 2 nights backpacking (9/4-9/6)
Distance: 17.3 miles
Elevation gain: 5600+ ft 
Highest peak in SoCal: 11,503 ft
Pack weight: 30 lbs each
Is there water? Yes, at Vivian Creek and High Creek as of September 6, 2015

Ever since Tizzy and I hiked Mt Baldy and San Jacinto Mountain last year, San Gorgonio has been on our radar. So this past weekend we finally made it out to San Gorgonio Wilderness and summited the highest peak of Southern California! But the journey to the top was not the easiest....

Planning our 2 night backpacking trip required submitting for a permit first. You can either mail or fax the permit form into Mill Creek Ranger Station, if interested, go to the following link. So I submitted for the permit 2 weeks in advance, our first option was taking the Vivian Creek Trail, and our 2nd option was the Fish Creek route (which is 5 miles longer). A few days after I mailed in the permit request, I got a call saying we were granted the permit for Vivian Creek Trail, but High Creek camp was full for the 2nd night, so we had to settle for Halfway camp. Woohoo! The first hurdle was done, now onward to the actual trip!

After working a full day Friday, we hit the road around 3:00 pm from Carlsbad and got to Forest Falls around 6:00 pm. We hit the Vivian Creek Trailhead around 6:30 pm. In which we successfully took the wrong road and had to back track a lil to find the trail. If you go to the right you will end up walking through some cabins, don't go that way, go to the left closer to the river wash. As you follow along the wash you will eventually come to a sign to cross the wash, once you cross the wash, the trail continues on the other side. You pretty much gain 1,000 ft in elevation your 1st mile. The plan was to hike 1.2 miles the first night to Vivian Creek campgrounds, but of course we hiked passed them since it was dark and we didn't see any signs.... but we came across some campers (who looked straight out of Duck Dynasty with full camo and deer hunting arrows) who told us that we had passed the campgrounds but if we backtracked a few feet we could find a clearing and that we could set up camp there, which was what we ended up doing, it was already 8:00 pm and dark out. While setting up camp, we saw two hikers approaching and they ended up setting up camp right next to us. They were two French exchange students, Thomas & Simon, 20 & 21, who were conquering Mt Baldy, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto in 3 days.... kudos to them! We helped them set up camp since they were struggling with their tent a bit. After grubbing on some dehydrated backpacking food, chili mac & cheese (which was pretty delicious), and Backpacker's Pantry mashed potatoes (which was disgusting, go save yourself some money and buy the $1 packets of instant Idahoan mashed potatoes instead, which are 10x more yummy), we called it a night after Tizzy made us tie our food to a tree, and went to bed around 10:30 pm. It was pretty cold that first night, around 40-45 degrees. 

Saturday morning, we packed up camp and hit the trail around 8:15 am. From Vivian Creek, we hit Halfway camp which was 1.3 miles away by 9:30 am. We unloaded our tent and some other stuff to lighten our packs and were back on the trail again shortly. As we were approaching High Creek campground, we made some new trail friends Joe & Don. We chatted with them for 15 minutes and continued on our journey to the peak. We hit High Creek around 12:30. Right past High Creek, the elevation gain gets a little more intense with numerous switchbacks.  By 1:45- 2 pm, we posted up for lunch at a spot that overlooked the 10 freeway and San Jacinto Mountain. As we finished our tuna packets, we came across the French boys again who were headed back, and a very informative old man who had mentioned to us he had done San Gorgonio trail before in the 60's and he was also the one who told us where everything was, the 10 freeway, the Palm Springs Airport, and other spots. As we hit the trail again, I was struggling to keep a steady pace, which never pleases Tizzy, so as we rested on a log, Tizzy told me to hike ahead while she took a little nap. She eventually caught up to me with Don & Joe in tow! At this point we were an hour away from reaching the peak. We hit the peak around 4:20 pm. The temperature dropped to the low 50's with 20 mph winds, the wind chill was the worst! But we made it! Woohoo!!! We left the peak around 4:45 pm and hit High Creek by 7:30 pm, where we parted ways with our trail buddies. Our trek back to Halfway camp was a bit rough, I underestimated the mileage and thought we would get back to camp in 45 minutes, but it was a mile longer than I thought, and we didn't get back to camp until 9:20 pm with headlamps. So Saturday we logged 11 miles of hiking which took us 13 hours in total..... haha Tizzy was not happy with my pace. Hey, slow and steady wins the race right? ;) We ate Backpacker's Pantry Lasagna that night (it wasn't bad, but the chili mac was better) with some Idahoan instant mashed potatoes and called it a night.

Sunday morning we slept in till 8:30 am and took our sweet time with breakfast and packing up camp. As we were packing up camp, some volunteer rangers came down to our campsite and checked our permit. As Tizzy and I were closing our packs up ready to hit the trail for the day, Don & Joe spotted us from the trail! We ended up hiking back to the car with them. Tizzy and I love hiking with each other, but it's always nice making new trail friends, and hearing their thoughts and ideas, and what trails they've done. We got back to the car around lunch time and said our goodbyes to our new trail buddies, and headed to the local Mexican restaurant, El Mexicano I, for some much needed refueling. 

It was my first time backpacking, and it turned out great! A few scratches here and there, and some blisters, but definitely an amazing time. Hope you guys had a great Labor Day weekend!

Until next time Forest Falls!

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