Backpacking Mt. San Jacinto

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We
made it!  Check it out… we hiked Mt San
Jacinto:  10,834 feet and back again in 2
days!  Read on for all the exciting
details…

 

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It
all started Saturday morning when we left for the hike.  We stopped by the rangers’ station to use the
restroom one last time and to find out if there was anything else we needed to
know about the hike.   It was going to be
long, and when we asked the ranger how long it should take to climb to the top
he responded “If you ask me, 7 days”.  He
was being facetious, but towards the end of the hike I realized there was some
validity to his statement. 

To
hike in California you need a permit.  We
secured ours months ago…

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I
bought a couple of patches that said “I climbed Mt San Jacinto” and we were
off.

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We
parked one car at the Deer Springs trailhead and took the other to the Fuller
Ridge trailhead, which happened to be about 8 miles down a dirt road.  We parked the car, displayed our forest
adventure pass, and donned our hiking gear.

 

I
held the water, snacks, and first aid kits. 
Matt and Tim had packs too.  I had
the least to carry out of everyone, which is why I didn’t tire as fast as
everyone else.

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Matt
and Tim did their exercises while I took some pictures.  I should have warmed up, but I foolishly didn’t
think it was necessary for a hike.  That
would come back to haunt me later.  We
began the hike at a pretty steady pace. 
The elevation began to climb continuously, and after an hour we realized
this was going to be harder than expected.

 

After
about 2 hours of steady climbing we reached Castle Rocks, which was an
elevation of 8600 feet, and had a great view of both sides of the
mountain.  At about this time I noticed a
sharp pain in my right thigh (by the Iliopaoas and Pectineus muscles… in other
words, right where your pelvic bone and thigh meet).  It hurt, but I figured if I just kept walking
it would smooth itself out and eventually go away.

 

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We
continued hiking.  After about 2 more
hours we found a spring with running water! 
The guys rushed down to it and began soaking their head.  The water was ice cold but felt great!  It was a nice, refreshing interlude.  And, since our campsite was supposed to be
near a spring, we figured we must be getting close.  My thigh was really starting to hurt, and I
was beginning to think “walking it out” wasn’t going to work. 

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We
finally hit the “5 mile mark”!  Oh boy,
were we excited!  This junction meant we
were more half way and we might even make it before dark!  Before we’d set out, our plans were to hike
to the campground, set up camp, and then hike to the peak.  Then in the morning we were going to hike
back down, make a side trip to Suicide Rock, and head back.  However, by this time we were revamping our
plans.

From
the 5 mile junction things got a little more difficult.  We began another ascent, this time to the top
of Newton Drury Peak, and every 5 minutes or so we kept thinking “We have got
to be almost there…”.  We passed a lot of
people who were hiking back down.  All of
them had smiles on their faces (while ours were set in determined lines) and
they promised us we were “almost there”. 
It was amazing how they all seemed to be enjoying ourselves, when we
were crawling along, taking breaks every 5 minutes to catch our breath. 

We
came to despise those overly optimistic people. 
Especially when we didn’t make it in the hour in a half they’d promised
us it’d take.  Why did they have to lie
to us?  Couldn’t they have told the truth
and said it would be another 3 hours of grueling, uphill switch backs that
never seemed to end?  Literally, these
switchbacks were killing us!  They were
probably only 10 feet long and seemed to climb forever!  They just kept going, and going, and going…

 

We
struggled up the last mile.  There were
times we seriously didn’t think we were going to make it.  I knew from the beginning this was going to
be a difficult hike, but this was getting ridiculous!  We could hardly breathe, let alone move our
feet.  By this time I was using my hands
to help lift my right leg over each and every uphill step, which was every step
I took.  I could only lift my right leg
about 2 inches off the ground if I didn’t use my hands to help.  It was awful. 
I hurt.  I hurt.  I hurt!!!

 

And
I wasn’t the only one!  I could only
imagine how much the guys were hurting, since they were the ones carrying the
packs!  I tried not to complain, but
complain I did.  Luckily for them I wasn’t
complaining as much as I’d wanted to.  I
was screaming and cursing inside but I felt like I had nothing to complain
about, considering I wasn’t wearing a pack. 

 

The
last mile was a killer, and once we finally found the campsite we crashed!

 

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There
were patches of snow around where we were sleeping, so I figured it was going
to be a bit cold. 

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We
hurriedly set up our tents, had a quick canned dinner, and fell asleep while it
was still light out.  It couldn’t have
been later than 5pm.  Gone were our plans
of setting up camp and hiking to the top. 
We just wanted to sleep.  I don’t
think any of us could have made it to the top, no matter how much we’d wanted
to.  I was sore from head to foot, and I
thought (hoped) sleeping would help my thigh 
After lying down in the tent I knew I wouldn’t be getting up for quite a
while.  It hurt just to roll over!

 

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Sleep
proved difficult.  It was indeed cold,
and I was in pain.  The one thing I didn’t
pack was the painkillers.  I had
EVERYTHING else you could possibly need, but the painkillers I’d forgot.  However, I did get more sleep than I would
have at home with the kids… it was just more painful.  And cold. 
Water droplets formed inside the tent and seemed into the sleeping bags…

 

In
the morning (the sun wasn’t up yet) some adventurous Boy Scouts began hiking by
our campsite… multiple times.  These guys
had to be crazy, hiking (LOUDLY) before the sun came up.  I wanted to yell at them to go back to
bed.  However, I got another 1-2 hours of
sleep, only leaving the tent when I had to pee so bad I couldn’t wait any
longer.

 

Matt
and Tim had been up for a while already, so I got ready to hike the peak.  I didn’t actually think I was going to make
it due to my thigh.  It wasn’t any
better, and I knew it was only going to get worse.  But I’d bought those patches, and gosh darn
it, I was going to make it!  I wanted to
be able to wear the patch proudly, knowing I did indeed make it to the top. I
wasn’t going to get this close and not finish. 
Matt and Tim decided they weren’t going to hike to the peak (altitude
sickness) so I decided to hike it alone. Nathan didn’t want me doing that, so
he set out with me.

That
last 1.6 miles was the hardest of the entire hike.  It felt like 5 miles, and I wanted to cry in
pain with every step I took.  I’m sure I
uttered a few explicative’s along the way. 
I don’t know who came up with the idea of switchbacks, but they should
be shot! 

 

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We
finally made it to a little cabin and looked inside.  It seemed to be a place to crash if you made
it to the top and got stuck in a storm, or if it was too late to hike back to
camp or something.  It was a little cabin
with two sets of bunk beds.  No lock on
the door, and a lot of names on the walls obviously written from others who’d
made it this far. 

 

There
was a log book to sign your name, and some Boy Scouts had left a piece of wood
to carve your name into.  I got out my
sharpie.

 

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Now
for the ascent to the top.  There was no
trail to the peak but we could see it 20 yards away so we began climbing.  It was basically an all out, have fun finding
a steady rock to climb on scramble, but we made it!

 

I
spent about 15 minutes taking pictures and resting with a view from one of the
highest mountains in Southern California: 10,834 feet!  It was awesome!  Since it was a clear day I could see Big
Bear, my house, the desert, and all of Southern California!

 

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I
sat down for a minute, and suddenly bees came almost out of nowhere.  There were dozens of them, and that was enough
of a reason to begin the descent. 
Immediately I noticed how much easier it was to hike down than up.  It took about half the time to hike back down
to camp, where we had breakfast and took down the tents.  We all wanted to get back down the mountain.  Soon.

 

Everyone
was tired and sore.  We unanimously
decided the Devils Slide trail would have to wait for another time. We realized
why everyone hiking down when we were hiking up had smiles on their faces:  hiking down was easy!  No problem! 
We were still tired, but hiking down was much preferable to hiking
up.  We exited through a different trail
than we’d entered.  The last 2 hours or
so were difficult (due to my thigh), and I just wanted it to be over with.  Everyone was hurting, I had 7 or 8 blisters
(tried not to complain too much).  I
noticed everyone else was having a much more difficult time than I was, so
while I wanted to yell and gripe and complain I tried to keep it low.  I’m sure I was annoying everyone anyway.  

 

Matt
had blisters.  Tim had blisters.  I had blisters.  When we spotted the car I wanted to cry.  I was aching all over.  I had a hard time just getting myself into
the car.  My left side was no problem,
but I could barely lift my right leg without screaming.  We drove back to the second car, raced out
the 8 mile dirt road, and went to a late lunch. 
We were filthy, but apparently they were used to hikers.  At least they let us eat inside…

 

After
lunch we drove home and the guys went in the spa.  I am really glad I went.  It was tough, but definitely a conversation
piece.  How many people can say they did
what we did?  It was a real learning
experience for me.  I tested my
endurance, and didn’t give up when I could have.  I made it, and I’m proud of myself.  I plan on taking my Girl Scouts when they get
older. 

 

Yes,
I would do it again, but at a slower pace. 
19 miles in 2 days on this trail was grueling.  “Strenuous” and “Aggressive” don’t begin to
describe the difficulty of this hike.  It
was wonderful!  I learned a lot about
myself and what I can do.  I can’t wait
to go backpacking again!  Next time I
want to carry a pack and distribute the trip over more days…

Author: Laura M Clark

Mom, Solo Colorado 14er Finisher, Outdoor Enthusiast, Traveler, and Girl Scout Leader with an MBA in International Business and Marketing. I value adventure, growth, courage, wisdom, integrity, accountability, and family. I enjoy yoga, wine, whiskey, traveling, reading, and the outdoors. I strive to be the person who inspires and motivates myself and others to succeed.

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