Mount Baldy & The Convenient Hiker
Mount San Antonio, or better known as Mount Baldy, isn’t the highest mountain in Southern California but it’s the highest in the San Gabriel Mountain Range. Mount Baldy is visible from much of Southern California and on a clear day you can see much of Southern California. The peak stands at 10,064 feet above sea level and is a formidable hike. It can be a dangerous hike during inclement weather as hikers have perished on this mountain.
I consider myself a convenient hiker, hiking trails within a short drive and of certain ability levels. I mostly hike beginner and intermediate trails in and around the Southern California area, enjoying the outdoors and the great form of exercise. The challenge of summiting a mountain doesn’t usually enter my mind. Already challenged by arrhythmia, metabolic syndrome, and a slight case of asthma, my abilities have limits. Although, I don’t let these limitations consume me I do have to keep my conquests within these limits. I did my research and calculated the distance and the elevation required to hike to the peak of Mt. Baldy and came to the conclusion that it would be a challenge I could complete.
I chose to do the loop that would take from the Manker Campground to the peak. The campground is at an elevation of about 6,000 feet so the elevation gain would be roughly 4,000 feet to the top at a distance of 6.3 miles and a total distance of 10.25 miles. The hike to the top was my concern and but it seemed manageable. Little did I know that majority of the incline was within the last 3 miles of the peak. The hike was much tougher than I expected because of this. In addition, the wind picked-up along the exposed, and narrow, Devil’s Backbone Trail.
Devil’s Backbone Trail
I didn’t feel like my life was in danger but it did give me one more thing to think about along with the hikers coming down the same narrow trail at a much faster pace. The last section is the steepest consisting of boulders and small unstable rocks and stopping every 50 feet to catch your breath is common. Or, I would like to make it seem that way as I had to use this method to get to the top, along with a puff on my inhaler.
Finally, I made it. I was standing on the Pinnacle of Mt. Baldy. The feeling of accomplishment had transformed my face of pain into one large smile. I looked around and as I stood in one spot, my legs were shaking from the climb. I quickly found a spot to sit behind a barrier, a pile of rocks that served as a wall against the wind. I replenished my body with a bag of trail mix and Gatorade in preparation of the hike down the mountain. It had taken me 3.5 hours to get here so I was in no rush to leave.
After resting and taking photos, it was time to make the descent down the Ski Hut Trail down the opposite side of the mountain. This trail is a shorter way up to the peak in distance, just under 4 miles but is a more difficult one in ascent and slope. This side of the mountain also has more trees and well shaded most of the way. I don’t have to tell you how happy I was to only have the descent portion left on my hike. With my over-exuberance, I sped down the mountain and quickly found myself on my back as I slipped on loose rocks and slid down the trail scraping my legs on the rocks. I picked myself up, gathered my senses, and continued down the mountain enjoying the view and the wooded trail. By the time I made it to this section, it was between 1 and 3 p.m. and the trail was sparsely in use with only the occasional hiker making the ascent. Taking breaks under the large shady trees was a peaceful experience being so quiet I could hear the wind blowing through the trees.
Summiting Mt. Baldy turned out to be more of a challenge than I originally expected and it was a great conquest and experience. It wasn’t quite the Everest experience but a memorable one, all the same. Every now and then, it’s great to take myself out of my comfort level and push my limits. It’s even better when I don’t have to travel to far off corners of the earth to reach these limits as I have been. The accomplishment, the conquest, and the thrill will definitely motivate me to do more similar activities within my area.