Stranded In The Southland

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Strawberry Peak and Brutal Climb Up Mount Lawler, Plus Sorta Getting Mt. Wilson

Okay, I admit it, I got excited about this hike. I looked up the directions to Strawberry Peak, and checked it out on the map. I saw how close Mt. Lawler was to the trail, and I figured I could get both. On the map, it certainly looked doable. Those little topo lines didn't look at all intimidating.

I was ready to go. Last time, I got to the meeting point 10 minutes late. I left 15 minutes earlier, and got there 12 minutes late. Hmmm. Anyway, I managed to haul ass up Angeles Crest Highway, and catch up with the folks at the trailhead. The hike started out at a pretty good pace, but I managed to keep up easily.

As we came up to Mt. Lawler, several people pointed out a narrow, twisty, very steep path leading up to the summit. Others talked about alternate, less crazy steep paths. Somebody pointed out that the dirt was the perfect consistancy to go up the path, not too slippery dry and not too slippery wet. Several people talked about going up there. Finally, once older guy said he was up for it, and wondered if anybody else was.

Here's where I made my mistake. I was anxious to climb Mt. Lawler, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Doh. I pointed out to Brooks, the other guy who wanted to do it, that I wasn't in great shape, but we did it anyway. Dang, it was tough.

I slogged and slogged and slogged and stopped and rested and slogged some more. It was definitely steep, although not unsafe steep, just really tough steep. Yow, I had no idea Mt. Lawler was so high. It definitely sucked. Yet, it was cool to make it up there, and I enjoyed signing the register.

We took the much less steep (yet still steep) back path down to a saddle, and Brooks started wondering where everybody was. I figured that I was slow as the itch, and they were half-way up the mountain. He was a bit less sure (turns out that Brooks generally hauls ass, so it would make sense that if he was on his own, he mighta beat 'em all there). Anyway, we dawdled a bit, until he raised 'em on the radio and found out they were half-way up the mountain.

Then we started hauling ass up the mountain. Brooks did a much more impressive job of this than I did, and he kept stopping off to prune twigs from bushes that were poking into the trail. I kept falling farther and farther behind. I tried to hike at my own pace, but I was definitely doing it faster than I had intended.

The cool thing about that was that I was definitely doing better than I was a month ago when I started hiking in earnest. I'm definitely seeing some improvement. I can now sustain 160 bpm, or at least hit it without wondering if I am gonna burst a seam. I'm able to really stress myself without getting a migraine, which is a big and wonderful improvement.

OTOH, by the time I made it up to the summit, everybody was up there, and had been waiting for awhile. I've been picking my hikes very carefully to try to ensure that I won't be the last one up. Then I screw it up by being too anxious to pick up another peak. Argh.

Everybody seemed cool with it, but I definitely won't make that mistake again. I really don't want anybody to have to wait for me. As soon as I arrived, the whole group got ready to head down again. I went ahead and left with them immediately so that I wouldn't be any further problem.

Anyway, barring that it was a good hike, and everybody seemed to be happy for me to show up again next week.

After the hike, I took off to Mt. Wilson, to check out the geek sights. Unfortantely, the observatory is open from April through the end of November. And this was December 1. Doh. I wandered around the roads winding through the antennas (there is definitely some weird looking shit up there) and wound up talking to a guy who used to live up there.

He was cleaning out his garage and getting out of there. It turned out that he ran the US Post Office on Mt. Wilson for 14 years or so, living in an apartment up behind the Post Office. It sounded really fun; he was talking about taking observations for the National Weather Service as well, since you could clearly see for hundreds of miles up there. Very cool.

In any case, I didn't manage to make it onto the grounds of the observatory, so I suppose I didn't actually get the official HPS highest point. I'm not too upset about it, but it would be cool to actually make it up there from the bottom some time.