Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Santiago Peak Hike 2010 (Saddleback Mtn.)

August 28, 2010

Saddleback Hike via Maple Springs

Zack, Trent, and I woke up at 4am for our adventure to the top of Saddleback Mountain…specifically…Santiago Peak. I had ridden this many times before, but I was a lot younger and of course…I was on a BIKE. This time I was on foot. Zack and I had climbed the peak two years earlier via Holy Jim trail. Holy Jim trail is 16 miles round trip and Maple Springs is a whopping 24 miles round trip. What was I thinking? From my fading memory of the past I remember Maple Springs trail to be a lot flatter and less technical. (Rocky) What I didn’t put into the calculation was taking Trent (more food and water to bring with us) and of course the extra 8 miles of hiking. Mother Nature smiled on us today, it was not nearly as hot as last weeks near triple digit temperatures. We got on the trail at 6am and started our hike to the top. This trail has only been re-opened since May due to the fires back in 2007. We were literally above the clouds below. Climbing up and up…it wasn’t too hot or too cold. The packs we carried were heavy, after all we had to carry enough food and water for all three of us all day. I figured if we averaged 3 mph it would take us 8 hours of hiking…probably 9 hours total. (1 hour at the top) We finally arrived at Four Corners which lands you at an intersection of four trails at the main divide.
The ranger we spoke to said we were about 3 miles from the peak. This basically means 1.5 to 2 hours. This area of the trail is a little more steep and rugged compared to the rest…so I think it took us a little longer. The extra time was nothing a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich won’t fix. I’ve been to the top many times before, but this time I learned a little more. We met up with the rangers again. He talked about a few things I never knew before. He showed us the marker that designates the actual peak at Santiago Peak and he showed us the decommissioned fire look-out post. He also pointed out San Jacinto Mtn, Big Bear, Banning Pass, and the convergence zone where a lot of summer weather is formed. It was nice having them around just incase we needed anything. There is not really any kind of cell phone service. Most of the time I just turned my phone off to save the battery. We looked around a little more and then at 1:30p we started heading down. We had been hiking now for 7.5 hours and we were still at the top. My 8 hour estimate was going to be a little off. The fatigue was starting to kick in now. We just wanted to get down.
Hiking down was a lot faster than heading up. Gravity was helping us now, but our muscles and joints were nearly done…but we still had a LONG ways to go. We moved down away from Santiago, then down into what I call the saddle. There I showed the boys the Joplin drop in trail. This is an advanced single track down the canyon. Then we started walking back up from the saddle towards Modjeska. That really made our legs burn and really slowed us down. We still had plenty of water, but we were not even to four corners which I knew was 9 miles to our car. We had a battle in front of us. A battle of mind over pain. You just keep telling your self…another step towards our goal, another step towards our goal, etc. You just keep walking and forcing your way down the mountain.
We finally made it to four corners. Now the energy level was way down, so we had ourselves our last energy Goo. We knew we had 6 more miles of dirt and then 3 miles of paved. We kept trekking as fast as we could.Where is the paved road? Are we there yet? Every little step that we had to go up (mini rock slide) caused a great deal of pain and the sun was starting to go down. I think it was 5:40 when we make it to the pavement. The sun was beginning to go down behind the canyon walls. We still had 3 miles to go.You can not imagine how long that paved road lasted. Many cars drove by us asking if we wanted a ride down to the parking lot. I did think about it a couple of times, but thought that would be throwing our huge accomplishment down the drain…so I thanked them and we kept walking. Finally at 7:10 pm we made it to the parking lot and the car. We walked 24 miles in just over 13 hours (with an hour or so at the top.) It never felt so good to sit down in my car. It was so nice to get home and eat a real meal and take a HOT shower. We were very dirty and tired but glad to be home.

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