Date: April 20th, 2016 Distance: 8 Miles (Out & Back) Elevation: 9,406 Feet Elevation Gain: 2,900 Feet Difficulty: Strenuous Parking: Adventure Pass Required Location: Vincent Gap Trail Head, California
We can finally confirm that in August we will be on the John Muir Trail going North Bound towards Happy Isles in Yosemite! After several failed attempts at getting a permit we were finally able to obtain one. The excitement is overwhelming and the training is in full force! YAY! I understand that most people begin their training and preparations about 6 months in advance but we only have 4 months. This is doable though! Especially now that the snow is melting and our snowboards are being packed away. We decided to start our training with one of Luke's favorite hikes, Mt Baden-Powell.
Mount Baden-Powell is a gorgeous hike, consisting of 40 tree lined switch backs leading up to gorgeous 360 degree views at the summit. It is named for Lord Baden-Powell who started the Boy Scouts in 1907. It follows the PCT from Vincent Gap near Wrightwood nearly all the way to the summit. The day we hiked couldn't have been more perfect. The sun was shinning with a nice, cool breeze coming through the trees. The beginning of the trail was the most difficult for us. It starts off with a pretty intense incline. By the time you are ready to take your first break and catch your breath, a bench appears out of no where. This is about 1.6 Miles into the hike. Taking a breather on the bench was needed and let us get a good look at the valley below. Whoever put that bench there is a life saver!
After that the trail became pretty steady with a gradual climb. We saw a few patches of snow here and there but nothing too concerning. A hiker that we passed on the way up had suggested that we carry micro-spikes for the top due to the amount of snow. At first we didn't believe there would be THAT much snow, but we were definitely wrong. About a mile and a half from the summit we started to lose the trail under all the snow. A bit hesitant to continue, Luke convinced me to push on. We hunted for the trail for a bit until we saw a couple above us. The idea was to head straight up in their direction in hopes of finally finding the trail. Once we reached them we quickly found out they were in the same boat as us. After a few laughs and a quick breather we learned this couple was training for a 500+ Mile hike along Spain's Camino De Santiago De Compostela. The way they described the trail caught our interest as we marveled at their plans on getting there and how they would spend their time. Once rested we continued ahead of them, creating a bit of a trail for them to follow. There was one other person we saw ahead of us and we could see he had Micro Spikes on. We headed in his direction, catching up with him right below the false summit where he was chit chatting with an elderly lady who was taking a break.
This lady was hiking the PCT and had started in late March. I believe she was heading towards Tehachapi, where she would finish her long trek. We were thoroughly impressed with how far she had come and how far she had yet to go. She is the 4th PCT hiker we have seen that week. Its always awesome getting to meet these amazing people and hearing their stories of their travels thus far. The four of us continued on past the false summit towards the real summit, only stopping for a quick second to say goodbye to the PCT hiker who was continuing her journey passed the summit while also admiring the Wally Waldon Tree. The Wally Waldon tree is said to be the oldest tree in the San Gabriel Mountains at 1500 Years Old and was named for a Boy Scout leader/Volunteer.
Once at the top we were engulfed in the breath taking views that surrounded us. To the south you could see the Inland Empire below us; to the North you could see the snow capped peaks of the Eastern Sierras far off in the distance; To the west the north side of Mount Baldy looked beautiful still covered in snow; To the east, endless trails and peaks calling us to explore them. The hike through the snow and losing the trail a few times was definitely worth it for these views. The summit itself is very exposed with only a few clusters of trees which provided us shade while we ate our lunch and chatted with our fellow Hiker Tom.
We told Tom about our training for the JMT which he responded with stories of the time he had Hiked it himself. He provided us with great tips on where to camp, his favorite lakes, and some great advice to just take our time and enjoy it while we're there. After talking to him we were completely inspired and (if its possible) more motivated! We can not wait for this trip. With every hike we do to prepare, we get even more anxious to start. After lunch (and our amazing conversation) we headed back down the mountain.
I was a bit nervous about the hike down, but it turned out to be easier. We constantly had to keep an eye out for the trail since it had completely disappeared under the snow. In the process of looking for the trail we met another hiker who was on his way down as well. We helped each other find the trail and continued to hike most of the 4miles down together. There is nothing better then meeting new people on a hike and being able to share stories of past hikes and adventures. We spoke of wild animals we have encountered and trails we suggested to each other in the area.
All in all this hike was fantastic. It was challenging but worth it. This hike was a perfect way to start our training for the JMT. We will most likely be hiking this trail several more times before we go. If you do not feel comfortable hiking through snow then I would suggest waiting to hike this in June-October. It takes a while for the snow to melt due to it being on the North facing side of the mountain and being shaded by trees. If you have Micro Spikes then you will have absolutely no problem.