This Saturday morning I finished hike number 18/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015, and have now completed 207 of my goal of 1000 miles for this year. It’s that time of year when aspiring thru-hikers start putting their final plans in place to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m fortunate to live so close to the PCT, and have access to some of the most beautiful sections within an hours drive. I’m really looking forward to getting a lot of miles in on the PCT this Spring and Summer, and hope to meet a lot of the thru hikers making their way to Canada. I’m thinking I’ll get my weight training in by stuffing my pack full of candy and treats to drop off at their camp sites. As someone who has been on a few long backpacking trips, I know how delicious a bag of peanut M&Ms can be after a long day on the trail.
This weekend Julia and I drove up to Vincent Gap to hike to the summit of Mt. Baden Powell on the Pacific Crest Trail. The main reason we wanted to hike in this area was that we hadn’t taken a hike on the PCT in a very long time, but the more important reason was that we had record breaking heat here in the valley. 90 degrees is expected in the summer, but it’s just a bit too much for mid March. These north facing slopes of the San Gabriels always hold on to snow much longer than the southern facing front range, as the lack of direct sun exposure keeps the temperatures down. It was perfect for us, as we left the scorching valley for temps in the 40s. The total distance for this hike is just under 8 miles, and it gains 2800ft of elevation to the summit of Mt. Baden Powell at 9,406 ft.
The parking lot at Vincent Gap was fairly empty with only 3 cars when we pulled in around 9am. We got the dogs ready to go and hit the trail. The first mile or so was free of snow or ice, but that changed fairly quickly as we made our way up the switchbacks. Isla and Lilly had energy to burn and were doing sprints back and forth on each switchback, covering each one 3 or 4 times before I could catch up. Hiking with dogs can be humbling in this regard.
At about the 3 mile mark, the switchbacks were completely covered, leaving the trail to the summit hard to follow. Luckily, there are numerous use-trails showing the way. We choose a path that was direct and more towards the west, knowing it would offer the best views. Most of the snow was compact and shallow, but we did a little post-holing in areas where the snow was deeper and softening by the second under the rising sun. Beautiful wispy cirrus clouds began to form overhead and made for the perfect backdrop on the mountain.
The final stretch of trail to the summit of Baden Powell breaks off from the PCT. When the PCT turns right towards Islip Saddle, the trail to Baden Powell keeps straight along a ridge. This hike takes your through a number of limber pines, some more than 1500 years old. On this ridge, you’ll pass the Wally Waldron Tree, one of the oldest trees in the San Gabriels.
We made it to the summit after hiking for about 2 hours and let the dogs rest up as they devoured their kibble and guzzled their water. It didn’t take long before they were sprinting around and playing tag again. The hike back down was a fun one, as we made our way through the snow back to the trailhead. It was a great day on the Pacific Crest Trail, and I look forward to logging many more miles on the PCT in the coming months.