Californian hiking

I get up when I want, except on Saturdays when I’m rudely awakened at 5am by Robin’s sick joke of leaving the heating on overnight. I seized the opportunity to catch up with the online world, and once Jamie had left for work at 6am, I had a good shower and felt decent for the first time since I left the UK. Today was always planned to be hike day, so at around 9am Robin and I headed to Sierra Madre to meet up with his friend Will. We weren’t looking for an all day hike, but Robin wanted to show me close up the magnificent mountains which can be viewed from his porch. On the way there I spotted some deer on the side of the road – something that Robin hadn’t seen before (but then, he doesn’t see much).

Here’s a Google map view of the area. We were setting out to explore the beginning of the trail up Mount Wilson, in the San Gabriel mountains. Mount Wilson’s peak is at 5,710 feet (1,740 m), and we started from Will’s house which is conveniently situated right at the end of the trail road, at around 1,000ft above sea level.

It has been a reasonable day in Pasadena – around 19 degrees with sunny spells. As such, the going was immediately hot work.

We were soon able to take in fantastic views both over the city and of the landscape.

After half an hour or so we had covered about a mile and a half, so we stopped at a stream. We had only intended to go this far – a 3 mile hike sounded fine – but we had plenty of time so decided to go further up Mount Wilson. The next stop was at a disused camp site another couple of miles up the trail, so that’s where we went. The going immediately got a bit tougher: the track was narrower, steeper and rockier. There was plenty of evidence of wildfires in recent years, and it wasn’t hard to see why they weren’t quickly contained – we really were in the wilderness. These mountains got it all: hot sun, snow, wind, and fire. Here’s Robin under a fallen tree just near the disused camp site:

From that check point it was another 2 miles to a ridge point, so we decided to soldier on. However, we soon changed our minds after about a mile! I was reminded of a comment recently made by the H-man: “it’s not a proper walk unless I have to use my hands”. The path was very narrow, very steep, rocky and slippery, with a sheer drop to one side. With altitude our lack of fitness was more obvious, and in the clouds it grew cold with very little visibility. So like a bunch of girls, we turned around – but not before confirming that we had climbed to over 4,000ft – a 3,000ft delta. I was pleased enough with this as it is significantly higher than Snowdon, my previous highest climb. Perhaps one day I’ll return and reach the summit!

Going down was fun though! Bounding down the same slopes that we had laboured up was extremely rewarding. At pace it was of course a little dangerous – put a foot wrong and it would have been all over – but that’s part of the fun. I would describe it as being the on-foot equivalent of rallying! We managed to descend 500ft in 15 minutes – at which point I captured Robin looking radiant in his sun-hat.

Here’s a graph of our descent over 90 minutes captured on Robin’s iPhone.

Once we had finished retracing our steps and had said goodbye to Will, there were only two things on our minds: beer and burgers. So first stop was ‘Tops Burger’ – for my inaugural gen-u-wine American drive-thru fast-food experience. What a menu!

We both opted for a 1/4lb Tops avocado and bacon burger, and we chose to share a large fries. This turned out to be a mistake: we should have shared a burger, and shared a small fries! We drove straight home to crack open some beers and enjoy our meal on Robin’s porch.

The burgers came pre-cut with ‘Fancy Ketchup’. Just look at all that filling!

Lunch time!

The burgers were thoroughly enjoyable! We did manage to eat them both, but there was no way we were going to eat all of those fries. We ended up throwing most of them in the compost bin, but before doing so we weighed them: 538 grams. That’s right – the remainder of one large portion of fries, having been attacked by two ravenous hikers, weighed over half a kilo. Astounding!

Thoroughly full we tidied up, and I showered leaving Robin to do a spot of gardening.

The rest of the day had been spent mooching around the house and the ‘hood. Robin made a lovely sausage goulash:

Jamie arrived home from work, and we enjoyed a smashing meal. Here are my wonderful hosts:

So now for my final mountaineering act of the day, I’m off to the highest non-bunk bed in the world:

2 comments so far

  1. Robin Willis » Blog Archive » Puppy Blog on November 21st, 2010 10:03

    […] 25/10/2010: Bringing him home. After a frenetic hour of leaving his mum and adventuring with us in the car, he’s out cold! Neil was visiting us at this point; I needn’t blog much more about his trip, as he’s already done the honours with his report of arriving and the subsequent hiking adventure. […]

  2. […] sister Jenny came to visit us a couple of weekends before Christmas. As with Neil’s visit, she was here for a weekend and a Monday – long enough to see the place and have some fun, […]

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