This Sunday I finished hike number 33/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015. This hike was special, as I camped at the summit of Mt. Baldy with Julia, Isla, and Lilly. It’s always a lot of fun to kick off the first day of summer and enjoy the longest day of the year.
We wanted to make it a speedy ascent and decided on taking the 4 mile Ski Hut Trail to the summit. It was also a great opportunity to get some John Muir Trail training in, so we packed our bags in the same way that we would for the trail. The trek up was fairly void of hikers, which we expected with a 3:30 PM start time. Having hiked this trail 10+ times, it was really cool to see the different colors and shading from the afternoon sun. It made it feel like a brand new hike.
I knew this was going to be a great day early on, as we saw a deer drinking from the stream just after the iconic green ski hut. Isla and Lilly were alert, but very relaxed in the deer’s presence. We continued on, and made our way up the shaded switchbacks to the saddle beneath Baldy Bowl.
Just as we left the saddle, we passed two groups who said they were planning to camp on the summit as well. They looked to be struggling a bit with their heavy packs, so we passed on and made our way towards the summit.
We were the only ones standing atop Mt. Baldy when we took our final steps to the summit. Isla and Lilly started sniffing around in a familiar way, and it was really cool to see how familiar they’ve become with hiking Mt. Baldy.
Being the first ones to reach the peak, we had first choice of summit campsites. Julia just purchased a new tent, the Tarptent Double Rainbow, so we picked a spot we knew would be windy to test it out. The north ridge of Baldy always gets blasted with a sweeping wind from the high desert, or from the direction of the Santa Ana’s. Either way, we set up the tent knowing it would be a baptism by fire.
After setting the tent up, we fed Isla and Lilly and then made ourselves some dinner. The timing worked out perfectly, as we finished eating just as the sun began to disappear on the Western horizon.
As soon as the sun went down and we began to settle into our tent for the night, we realized that the wind test could have been a mistake. We were hoping for gusts in the 20-30 range, what we received was a constant blast of 50-60mph winds all night long. The gusts were so strong that I couldn’t stand upright outside. I’m a pretty strong guy at 185 lbs, but I was no match for the wind. Luckily for us, the tent was! Although it was noisy, the tent had no trouble keeping stable in the howling flood of air.
Being that we hiked up on a Sunday, we had to wake up at 5 am to hike down in time for work. Fighting the wind, we hid Isla and Lilly behind the break, and packed up our camp. Just as we began our descent from the summit, the morning sun began to rise from the east. The colors were spectacular, with photons of light fighting through the hazy smoke of the Lake Fire in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.
The temperature began to rise just as quickly as the sun did, and we had our jackets off in no time. We always reward Isla and Lilly with a big meal of their favorite wet food after hikes, and I think they’re starting to anticipate it. They always get overly excited and giddy on the downhills which makes for a lot of fun.
We made it to the parking lot in time to clean up and make it home before the start of the workday. This was an incredible way to start the week, and the perfect way to kick off the summer.