Stranded In The Southland

Friday, August 12, 2005

Jean Peak, Marion Mountain, and Drury Peak

My hiking pal PV is leading his 'I' provisional backpacking trip this weekend, at the same time as I am leading my far easier, 'O' provisional day hike. (The 'I' leader rating is tougher than 'O' and can lead off-trail.)

I scouted my hike Wednesday (dang, it was hot!), and PV invited me to help him scout his trip (minus the camping) yesterday. Unfortunately, I'd just got back from a long trip to the Bay Area, and I didn't get a chance to read much of the write-up for the hike. All I knew was that we'd be taking the tram up to Mt. San Jacinto, and bagging a couple of peaks.

Since the tram drops you off at 8,500 feet or so, and the peaks were all above 10,000 feet, I figured this'd be a perfect test for my new prescription for Diomox for fighting altitude sickness. I didn't realize exactly how much off-trail wandering this was going to involve.

Since the first tram up goes at 10AM, we got a pleasantly late start, and drove to Palm Springs with no problems. The tram wasn't that crowded, and we got to the ranger station up top ahead of the other hikers on the tram, so we didn't have to wait in line to get our permit.

We took a pleasant use-trail up to check out PV's selected campsite for the night -- he wanted to make sure that the nearby stream was running strong enough to provide water for the campers. Thankfully, it was. Then we hiked up along the regular trail to within a mile or so of San Jacinto.

At this point, we headed off-trail, scrambling over big boulders to get to the top of Jean. It was a really tough slog, but at least we skipped the heavy brush that was evident farther down the trail.

Alas, after Jean it got even tougher. We followed a compass bearing roughly down a ridge to the south of Jean, and traversed to the west of a big bump, again wandering through big rocks. I grumbled alot about PV losing too much altitude, but it turned out that his navigation was perfect -- we wound up in a small saddle, and then headed up to Marion Mountain.

Marion has a Class 3 summit block, which requires about 20 feet of climbing with hands and feet to reach the top. PV wisely decided that he didn't want to bother with it, but my experience with rock climbing made me anxious to try it. Going up wasn't bad, but the down-climb scared me a bit. I wasn't likely to fall, but worrying about it really tuckered me out.

Then, PV led us back over all those rocks that had been tough the first time, and through a bit more brush, to a saddle and on to Drury. This was a fun little peak to pick up.

Alas, it was a total pain to get back to the trail from Drury. We had to slog up another steep slope to a saddle, then hike along a ridge to get back to the San Jacinto trail.

When we finally found the trail, we were three tenths of a mile from San Jacinto. PV had already been there several times, but he was happy to let me just jog up there and bag the peak. Alas, I was down to only a liter of water, it was five miles back to the tram (and the nearest safe water), and my feet were already killing me. I bailed, ready to come back another day to pick up San Jacinto.

It was a tough hike back -- both of us had foot trouble, and all that slogging through (and climbing over) boulders really took it out of us. While the whole off-trail excursion couldn't have been more than four miles, it involved constant ups and downs and scrambling. Really exhausting!

Anyway, I got back with a few small scrapes from the summit block on Marion, a huge blister on my toe, and some sore feet. Oh, yeah, and a patch of skin pulled off when I yanked off the tape I usually use on my arches to make hiking more bearable. All in all, it was worth it, but what a tough hike!

Why I Haven't Been Hiking For The Last Week

I managed to bang up my shin a week or so ago, messing around on a solo hike. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I was about half-way up Mt. Baden-Powell (yeah, named after the founder of the Boy Scouts), when I came up on a tree blocking the trail.

The tree was nicely balanced over another fallen tree, with the long part leaning out over the trail. I figured that I could do my good deed for the day by moving it. Doh.

I managed to stand on the end of the log, raising the other end a bit. I could tell that it was going to be possible to move it. Then my foot slipped off and I fell down and banged my shin and all was for naught.

The bummer about banging your shin is that it immediately swells up in such a threatening way. It looked to me like there was a three-inch long, quarter inch high bump on my shin in about 20 seconds. How can it fill up so quickly! Argh.

Add to that the somewhat ugly-looking cut that accompanied this, and I knew I was done for the day. It turned out that the cut wasn't bleeding that badly, and that the bump went down after I applied some pressure.

Still, I headed down, rather than finishing the hike, as I was alone, and, in the past, I've had some shock-like symptoms from whacking my shin. This time, it wasn't too bad (although it looked bad), and I probably could've finished the hike. Oh, well.

Lesson learned -- don't mess around with rolling logs, but especially not when you're hiking solo! If I'd really screwed myself up, I could've been stuck up there for awhile.

Oh, yeah, I passed four nuns on the way back down -- it was really funny, as from a distance, they sorta looked like a Wookie -- those long, flowing brown robes looked like long hair. I briefly wondered about Bigfoot sightings in the San Gabriels, but as I caught up, I discovered the more prosaic reason for the effect. :-)

[And, to be complete, I took a brief hike Saturday, July 30, up Marshall Canyon, near Claremont. I went along to meet the evaluator for my provisional hike as a leader, and to pick up some tips on leading. It was hot, hot, hot, but other than that it was a fine hike.]