This Sunday I finished hike number 23/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015, and have now completed 265 of my goal of 1000 miles for this year. Of all the hikes I’ve done this year, none have been overnighters, and only one destination involved camping. Now that Winter is over and Spring is in the air, it’s time to really start training for John Muir Trail. Cucamonga Peak is probably my favorite overnight camping destination in the San Gabriels, as you get beautiful sunset and sunrise views of the Inland Empire, Orange County, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto. This hike is 12 miles round-trip, and takes you to the summit of Cucamonga Peak at 8,858 ft. The nighttime temperature for this overnighter was 28 F with a chill to 15 F. I was accompanied by Julia, and my two dogs, Isla and Lilly.
We started hiking at the Icehouse Canyon trailhead just after 2 PM. Hiking Icehouse Canyon in the afternoon makes it feel like a brand new trail, as I usually do this one early in the morning to avoid crowds. This is one of the tougher overnight hikes, as there are no water sources at the summit. It makes for great training, especially being that I already have to carry extra gear for the dogs. I like to train hard for trips like John Muir Trail, so I can really enjoy the hiking without any physical struggle. For this training hike I carried 7 liters of water and some extra gear to get my pack nice and heavy. With a light pack, I can make it to the summit of Cucamonga Peak in about 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes. For this hike, it took us 2:45. We were moving at a pretty relaxing pace with the dogs, and it was nice to have the weight on my shoulders for a prolonged period of time. We were standing on the summit of Cucamonga Peak just shy of 5:00 PM and got to setting up camp.
The first thing we did after setting up the tent was get food out for Isla and Lilly. They plowed through a bag of treats and a can of wet food before wrapping themselves in a sleeping bag and conking out in the tent of a nap. It was so funny to see these two little dust bunnies so tired after such a great hike to the summit.
After a really nice nap, the dogs were awake and full of energy, just in time to watch the sunset. The visibility was not very good at the summit, but valley smog makes for spectacular evening colors. This was coupled with a brilliant glowing full moon that was rising over San Gorgonio in the east.
The head of a cold front was blowing in to Southern California just as the sun went down. The wind on this night was constant, and the temperatures pretty low. We woke to find that the water we left outside the tent had frozen. The great thing about having small dogs is that they fit in our sleeping bags. Julia had Lilly in hers, and I had Isla in mine. Isla is a warm sleeper though, and she didn’t stay with me for long. I let her leave, but wrapped her in my down jacket at the foot of my sleep pad. Sleep was hard to come by for me with the wind making so much noise, but I was able to rest my body a little, and was up to see the sun rise.
Seeing the sunrise and the sunset is one of my favorite parts of camping and sleeping outdoors. There are few better places to see this than at the top of a mountain. Isla always gets really excited when she wakes up and does sprints wherever she can. On this morning Lilly joined her as they dashed back and forth on the summit. They got a hundred or so yards away and disappeared from sight for a second. I walked over and saw a one person tent on the ridge between Cucamonga Peak and Etiwanda Peak. There was a guy inside trying to watch the sunset from the comfort of his 1P tent, and Isla and Lilly invited themselves in to take a peek!
We packed up the tent as the wind tried to thrash it from out grip, and were heading back down the trail before 7:00. We walked at a very relaxed pace and enjoyed the empty trail. Not only was it empty due to the early morning, but Sunday was Easter. This was an incredible overnight hiking weekend, and I’m looking forward to many more in the near future.