Those of you who know me know that I'm more of an ocean person than a mountain person. Growing up in coastal South Carolina, I found mountains to be fairly foreign, so this isn't an earth-shattering revelation. Since being transplanted to the west coast, I've realized that one of the nice things about southern California is that you don't have to choose between mountains and ocean--you can have them both. We can also have cake and eat it too.
A few weeks ago, some friends and I* hiked Mt. San Antonio, affectionately and locally known as Mt. Baldy. It's the highest peak in Los Angeles county, measuring in at 10,068 feet. For those of us who don't have a great reference point for 10,068 feet, take my word for it: it's tall. The experience level of our group varied-- some of us had never done much hiking before, while one of us summited Kilimanjaro over the summer. I'm somewhere on the lower-mid range of that scale-- at Dartmouth we hiked often, but since then my major hikes have been few and far between, bordering on nonexistent. But we wanted to do this, and we wanted to do it together, so we agreed to take it slowly.
*Disclaimer: we actually started the day out as a group of 21--a.k.a., my worst nightmare. I can't handle going out to dinner with a party of 8, much less undertaking strenuous physical activity with 15 people I've never met before. Luckily, the group naturally divided into two smaller groups-- the six of us, and the rest. Each group had someone who had done the hike before. So, for all intents and purposes, I'm just going to pretend like it was only the 6 of us. Sound good? Great.
We took the ski lift part way up the mountain, which shaved off some elevation. Plus, it was fun.
About an hour into the hike, the sole of my left hiking boot completely fell off. Luckily, we brought MacGyver with us. Pranav, our resident expert hiker and sole (ha!) Y chromosome, was able to rig the boot back together using a combination of medical tape, gauze, and the string from Kelsi's emergency whistle (for some reason it didn't occur to us to remove the whistle from the string, as you can see above). About half an hour after that, the sole of the right boot fell off. Pranav fixed them again, but we were all crossing our fingers that they would hold, because we were running out of cobbling supplies. A note: these boots and I have had a long relationship-- they went with me to Dartmouth for my freshman hiking trip. Apparently, boots are not meant to last 14 years. I'm sure the dry rot from the last decade spent predominately in the closet didn't help matters.
As we got closer to the top, the vegetation thinned out and the landscape became a bit more desolate.
Thanks to the boots, it took a bit longer to make it to the top than we were anticipating. Once there, we celebrated with sandwiches and little boxes of wine (classy, right?) while we rested before heading back down.
While tiny boxes of wine were nice, we eventually headed back down the way we came. There's an option to take a different trail down, but it's more difficult and less clearly marked, so we opted to retrace our steps.
The boots continued to make things interesting… note to self: always travel with duct tape.
Baldy was a turning point for me; I'll always be an ocean person at my core, but I finally had a taste of what mountain people feel. You can't overstate the sense of accomplishment you feel once your feet hit that summit; time stands still for a moment while you humbly take in the vast amounts of earth spread out around. Unlike surfing, which is very moment-to-moment, hiking is very goal-oriented; there's a definite beginning (up), middle (summit) and an end (down). We may have all had slightly different goals for the day (granted, they were probably all different variations of "don't die" and "get to the top"), but we accomplished them together.
Special thanks to Krista Melbardis and Chelsea Kitchens for providing some of the photos for this post. They're the best! Thanks girls.