The first snow of the year is always a special time here in Southern California. It was even more meaningful this year considering the historic drought we’ve endured. Southern California is known for year-round warm weather with plenty of sunshine, but very few know of the great snow hiking opportunities in the local mountains. My favorite has always been Mt. Baldy, and this is the mountain we decided to climb after a cold storm moved through on Friday and Saturday.
Julia, Isla, and I woke up fairly early on Sunday morning and made our way up to Manker Flat, the starting point for hikers taking Ski Hut Trail and Devil’s Backbone to the summit. Anyone who knows me or who has followed this blog knows how much I love gear, well, this love has now been channeled to Isla. For this hike she wore her Ruffwear fleece underneath her Ruffwear Storm shell and harness. She also had her Doggles on to protect from some of the suns harsh rays. To protect her feet, we coated her pads with liberal applications of Musher’s Secret. This combination of gear worked incredibly well as she was warm and comfortable the entire hike.
Starting out on the fire road from the parking lot the morning views were absolutely pristine, with snow powdering every tree, bush, and hillside. As the sun rose, it’s rays cast shadows that twisted the landscape for incredible views. The trail was in great condition as the morning temps had yet to break 32 F, and the fresh powder made for excellent walking. Our first stop for the day was at the iconic green Ski Hut, where quite a few morning hikers had congregated to take in the surrounding views.
The next few miles of the summit turned out to be some of my favorite hiking of the year. Every view was breathtaking, and although the weather was cold, the sunshine was plentiful and the wind was hardly felt. Isla’s excitement was hilariously entertaining. She was trying her hardest to maintain her off leash manners, but couldn’t help herself when fresh piles of powder were begging to be jumped in. I was walking a bit ahead of Julia, and Isla sprinted in between the two of us the entire time, begging us to hike faster.
Reaching the summit of Baldy, or any mountain, is a very special experience. This time was hands down one of my most memorable summit hikes. Everything about the day was perfect. Even though the temperature was in the teens, we spent around half an hour walking around and enjoying the views. Isla was greeting every human and the two other dogs that made their way to the top. She even coaxed one dog owner into giving her a treat, and then shortly after made an attempt for one mans PB and J sandwich! Needless to say, she had a great time!
The hike back down was a great deal more tricky than the hike up, as the persistent sun began melting the fresh snow. The huge clouds that had begun forming earlier in the day, had now completely surrounded the mountain. Even though the trail was the same, the entire landscape felt different. As slow as we had moved on the ascent, we moved equally slow on the way down to really take things in. It’s not often you get days like these, and we didn’t want to miss anything. Here’s to hoping for more snow in the near future!
More photos in the gallery below: