The last couple of months, Alex and I have been training for the Mt. Whitney hike. It feels so much more real having just said that. I’ll admit that I’ve only been saying “hoping to hike Mt. Whitney” lately to whoever finds out what we are training for. I haven’t exactly been very open about this “plan” of ours, partly because I don’t particularly like commitment and partly because I’m a little terrified.
Well now that the truth is out there, yes, we have been training (the best we can with our schedules of course). This past weekend we hiked Mt. San Jacinto, something just the day before I didn’t think “I” would be able to accomplish. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t constantly asking God to give me immense favor on this hike. Leading up to his hike I was a bit nervous because the previous hike we had done (Mt. Badly) I didn’t do or feel my best. Funny enough, we had actually beat our time on Mt. Baldy just the week prior, but for whatever reason I felt off and very fatigued the entire hike. Luckily for me, I didn’t feel that way during this hike on Mt. San Jacinto.
We decided to drive up to Idyllwild (where the trailhead for Mt. San Jacinto is located) Friday after work. Not surprisingly we caught a lot of traffic going up, so we had to setup camp pretty late that night. Not too worry though! My dad’s cousin, Al, was there to help Alex setup tent, so naturally I didn’t have to do much. Perks of being a woman with two men around! Side note: Al has been joining us on some of the hikes as well, as he is planning to join us on Mt. Whitney. Anyhow, we setup tent and went straight to bed and arose the next morning at 4:30am. We were out of the campground by 5am and headed straight to the trailhead located about 15 minutes away. Unfortunately for us we had forgotten that all hikers need permits to be on the Mt. San Jacinto trail. Note to self, always be prepared with mandatory permits! Because of this, we had to drive back to the campground where the ranger station is located and pick up a permit. After all our back and forth, we finally arrived and were ready for our trek up at around 6:15am.
Mt. San Jacinto peaks at 10,834 feet, and is considered the 2nd highest peak in Southern California. You can summit Mt. San Jacinto a few different routes, including the aerial tram that most people opt to utilize. That option cuts off a good portion of the hike, so you can easily reach the summit in no time. Because of our training, we chose to go up via Marion Mountain, which is the shortest route but is also the steepest. This route totals out to be a distance of 11.4 miles roundtrip with a vertical gain of 4,689 ft.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a bit nervous leading up to this hike because I didn’t know how well or bad I would perform. The first half mile or so I was trying to find my rhythm and control my breathing (something I’m not so great at). Luckily I found a good pace and made it up to the campgrounds (Little Round Valley) not feeling fatigued. Oh, I forgot to mention that this trail includes a lot of shade and protection from the trees. Not only do the trees help from feeling beat down from the sun, but they also serve as great scenery. Not too long after the campgrounds, we were met with a series of switchbacks. During this time, I mostly kept my head down, (prayed quite a bit), and kept on trekking. I was surprised how well I did during this part of the hike, considering how intimidating the switchbacks looked on the map. I guess listening to my husband’s advice on putting your head down and putting one foot in front of the other does work!
After the switchbacks, you hit the junction where the hikers using the aerial tram come up from. You continue to hike up until you see the stone hut and then a little further until you’re met with a pile of huge rocks to climb up to make it the summit. I found it odd that these boulders were the only way to make it up to the summit, but hey! anything to make it to the top! We arrived at the peak by 10:50am, so it took us around 4 1/2 hours to reach the summit. We spent 40 minutes up top, taking some photos and enjoying our lunch. It was such a great feeling to make it to the summit without feeling so fatigued or no energy. It’s always great to summit and still be able to talk about the journey.
After our time enjoying the view and eating our lunch, we decided to make the trek down stopping at the hut first to sign the summit book and leave a Gatorade for whichever hiker may need it. This hut is equipped with 3 beds and other supplies/tools/nonperishable foods left over from previous hikers. I thought this was such a great and thoughtful place to have on this trail.
We finally arrived at the parking lot a couple of hours later and headed straight to grab some more food. We enjoyed some vegan lunch and a few pieces of chocolate at the Idyllwild village. We didn’t have time to explore the village but hope to be back in the future to do so. It reminded me a lot of big bear, very quaint and charming. All in all, this past weekend we had a great time visiting a new location and getting to check another summit off our list. Hopefully in the very near future, I will be sharing our experience on Mt. Whitney.