Monday, June 29, 2020

Mount San Jacinto Hike

A few weeks ago the hubby and I hiked Mount San Jacinto (also known at San Jacinto Peak) and I thought I'd share our adventure - that way, if you're considering doing it yourself or you're just interested in our journey, you can see what went down (and up... literally ;)). It is the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains, and of Riverside County, California.

Hubby and I at the summit

With the weather getting warmer and the crowds hitting the trails more regularly (we waited until everything was officially open after the COVID closures), we knew we wanted to get an early start on our hike. The drive to the trailhead is approximately 75 miles away (a little over an hour and a half), so we set the alarms for EARLY and hit the hay.

At least I was in bed early ;)

We got to the trailhead in Idyllwild with no problems (we even stopped in town to use a port-o-potty and then swung by the State Park Headquarters before we started the trek to the top). Note - normally you need to stop by Headquarters for a wilderness permit {or apply for one online} but due to the pandemic this permit was not required (but they did strongly urge you to tell at least one other person where you were, what you were doing and when to expect you back).

The hubby has done this hike before when he tackled the Three Peaks Challenge back in 2017, but I hadn't been to San Jacinto before. When he did it, they tackled the climb from the Palm Springs side of the mountain and used the tram for part of it (the challenge allowed this option and since they were attempting to tackle the three highest peaks in SoCal within 24 hours this was the best way to do it). The hubby and I did hike the first few miles of this trail (Deer Springs Trail) during our Thanksgiving camping trip this past year, but only until we veered off to Suicide Rock.

Much colder and with more snow a few months ago ;)

The parking area (which is technically just along the side of the street near the trailhead) was fairly full when we arrived around 6am, but thankfully the trail seemed pretty empty for the majority of time we were hiking it. We met a friend and his son there (but we drove in separate cars, made sure to stay at least 6 feet apart the entire time, etc to adhere to the social distancing orders) - but other than those two, we only seemed to come across a handful of folks on the hike up.

When we started the hike it was pretty foggy and soggy. I had made and attached a sign to my hydration vest so I could have it at the summit and was slightly nervous it'd get ruined by the mist we were walking through (thankfully it held up). Once we started climbing in elevation we got ABOVE THE CLOUDS and didn't have to deal with the "weather" any longer.

Making it above the clouds!

When the guys stopped to catch their breath or grab a snack,
I took the time to snap selifes, HA!

I have a thing for trail signs...

Isn't nature awesome?!

Got a little artsy with this one ;) but the pine cones were EVERYWHERE!

The trees were so tall!

If you remember, the hubby and I hiked Mt. Whitney last year, which was gnarly, but I've gotta say, although the challenge and burliness of the hike for Whitney (you are peaking out at over 14,500 feet above sea level) is greater, the views and enjoyment of Jacinto are much preferred. (Surprisingly the hikes aren't that crazy different - Whitney was 21 miles round trip with close to 7,000 feet of elevation gain and Jacinto was close to 19 miles round trip with 5,500 feet of elevation.)

Another sign shot because I love them so!

We try to take fuel every hour or so. Our go-to is PROBAR BOLT chews.

The PCT

Even dead trees are amazing!

I'd say the weather was almost perfect for hiking. Like I mentioned, it started off pretty misty and foggy, but once we broke through the clouds it was sunny and gorgeous. When we got closer to the summit it got chillier and windier, but we packed jackets in preparation for that. We stopped at the stone cabin shelter to add our layers before venturing to the peak.

The emergency cabin near the summit

Had service near the top, but not sure how accurate the temps were.

Again, the guys were adding their layers, so I was snapping selfies... 

The summit sign has been destroyed, but thankfully a new one (no longer attached to a pole) has been left in its place. The hubby and I waited our turn, snagged the sign and took a couple shots. The wind was really howling at the top, so we took our photos and found shelter amongst some of the boulders so we could eat a few snacks.

I wore my #BlackLivesMatter sign on my hydration vest because although I wasn't
able to attend the protests I still wanted to have my voice (and stance) heard.

Summit selfie!

Apparently you can see San Gorgonio Mountain, the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and much of the Inland Empire on a clear day.

Although the 360* views from the peak may not be as epic as John Muir once observed (due to the urban sprawl and worsening air quality {aka SMOG!}), I would still venture to say his quote about the area and the sights still stands - "The most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth." #JohnMuirWasTheMan


The views on the way down were just as stunning as on the way up. Normally if it were just the hubby and I, we probably would have ran some of the downhill, but since we were with friends we kept it mellow and chill. Well, that is until about 3 miles from the end, when my left foot was on a rock that started to move so I jumped off it... and landed with all of my weight on the side of my left foot. OUCH! I heard and felt something pop/crack and immediately felt the pain. As any stubborn runner would do, I tried to "walk it off", but quickly the hubby told me to stop and take a second. The tears welled in my eyes and I sent up a quick prayer that A. I could make it back to the car and B. that I didn't break it. After a few minutes I knew I needed to keep moving or else it'd tighten up and getting back to the car might require a piggy-back ride.

I used paperclips and safety pins to attach my sign to my hydration pack.

The flowers were pretty spectacular as well.

Some of the pine cones were HUGE (and sappy... as I found out when I picked these up!)

The last three miles were painful and slow-going, but I kept chugging along. I knew the adrenaline was helping to get me back to the car. The guys kept the pace slow enough so I wasn't too far back and kept asking to make sure I was okay.

This is a shot of my ankle after I got home, took off my shoe (and showered)... It swelled to about twice its normal size.

By the time we got to the car we were at about 19 miles with 5,4595 feet of climbing. It took us 8 hours and 35 minutes total (I don't stop my watch when we are hanging out at the summit, snapping pictures or having to take a breather for sprained ankles). The route we took was San Jacinto Peak via Deer Springs Trail (there are other trails, including ones from the Palm Spring side, but with COVID the tram is currently closed so all paths to the top require your own two feet).

It took about 4.5 hours to get up and then 4 hours to get down.

Trying not to grimace in the picture...

If you haven't hiked San Jacinto, I would highly recommend it. It isn't an easy walk in the park (AllTrails considers it "hard"), but if you have the physical fitness and ability to make it happen, you should absolutely do it. (And, if you are looking for a hiking buddy, you can always let me know and I'll meet you at the trail ;)) Don't forget your water though!

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What is your favorite hike you've tackled thus far?