The hike of bike to hike San Gorgonio

The night at approx 8000ft was chilly, but I slept well in my zero degree bag. I slept well, that is, until the pack of boy scouts came tramping in super loud around 12am. These little brats decided to set-up camp practically on top of my tent. I was still up early; I wanted to summit and get back down and be on my bike back to the train before dark.

I got packed up and was on the trail before the OC guys. The weight of my pack was wearing on me and I was starting to feel the altitude. It was not affecting my head yet, but the thin air was making it hard to breath. Being a Saturday morning each viewpoint was (nearly) filled with day hikers and the rest of us who had camped at one of the three campsites. The sites were beautiful and the effort needed to keep climbing was extraordinary; both of which I was looking forward to. But, I really don’t like hiking that much. It is so slow! On a bike you can coast or speed up with minimal effort. Not so with hiking! About 6 years ago I was talking about hiking the Appalacian Trail. Boy am I glad I am over that nonsense.

Near the top my pace is slowing considerably. I am being passed constantly. At a fork about 300 vertical feet from the summit I decide to leave my pack. My head is aching a bit and I know it is going to get worse the longer I stay up. Picking up my pace, I soon arrive at the busy summit. Maybe hiking is more about the destination than the journey? I was happy to be there and look down in every direction.

Going downhill is not much easier than going up AND it is harder on your knees. I am going slow, being passed, etc and then I took a long break at one of the viewpoints. The OC guys ask me if I am feeling okay and I respond honestly. They say I should hike with them just to be safe. It ends up they are training for a climb up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in California. We are chatting away about gear, etc and they tease me about my antiquated water purification method (iodine tablets). I should also mention that my feet are destroyed! Hiking in cycling socks is not a good idea. By the time I am back in LA I’ll have 6 blisters, some of which are quarter size.

Meanwhile I am being challenged to stay on pace. When I am cycling it is hard to push myself to where I am uncomfortable. But I was at this point hiking down this mountain. Crazy thoughts start to go through your head about motivation. ‘Why would anyone do this?’ ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ Looking back I understand better the importance of mental preparation. When this type of situation arises I bet most people talk themselves out of things they are capable of. Amazing!

Eventually we get down to the parking lot. I am stoked that my bike is still there. I hadn’t mentioned that I had ridden my bike there. Suddenly these guys thought I was the macho one doing ridiculous feats. I laughed and told them how riding was the easy part. Then they laughed at me when I unloaded my pack and panniers, bike shoes, and a pump came out.

I cruised the 25 mile downhill at dusk and then into dark. I went back to Jen’s since I missed the last train to LA, but it was probably for the better. We cooked some food and I crashed out. Next day back to LA and then back to work…..

Ride from LA to hike San Gorgonio

After two months of having a real job and working regular hours I was itching to get away. I finally was able to do the 120-mile, 11,500ft bike to hike trip I been sleepin on for about 2 years.

After the usual pack till 3am the night before routine, I left Los Angeles at about 1130am, heading east. I had put on a front rack with panniers and I strapped my hiking pack to my rear rack. Unfortunately the 70 miles from LA to Loma Linda are not very interesting. Basically flat and easy and not much to look at. When people say LA is ugly with strip malls and industry they are really talking about the suburbs east of the city that span the whole 70 miles I rode. My neighborhood in downtown is much greener and nicer! I ended up in Loma Linda at my friend Jen Heine’s house in about 6.5 hours (5 hours pedaling).

When bike touring a 3-day trip requires almost the same amount of stuff as a 30 day trip! All of the bike and camp basics plus I needed my hiking pack and boots. At night we sessioned the Redlands market which was a regular event for me when I lived out there before I crashed out on her floor.

Friday I woke up early, got some coffee and started on my 20 mile, 5200 foot climb to the mountain town of Forest Falls. If you live in the so cal area please go visit the San Bernardino Mountains. Fantastic scenery! This unrelenting climb is one of the hardest I have ever done. It parallels the hardest climbs we did in Mexico two years ago. At the edge of town is the trailhead for the Vivian Creek trail to the summit of San Gorgonio mountain. A 7.2 mile hike that gains 5300 feet (up to 11,500 ft).

Why this hike? Two years ago my friends, Jen Heine (same one) and Tim Radak, and I decided to climb this in one day. I was set on riding to it then, despite my ill preparation. I read that to summit you need to leave the trailhead by 7am to make it back before dark. Realizing I would have to leave at 330am to ride there in time I decided against it. That trip was a nightmare anyway! We ended up not leaving the parking lot till 10am or so and racing up to the summit. Jen and I soon started falling behind Tim. Then we both began showing symptoms of altitude sickness: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, suppressed analytical skills, and blurred vision. We were in bad shape! I had thrown up everything I had eaten and Jen’s vision was blurry. Then she hurt her knee!

This story is so ridiculous it is almost embarrassing. It was starting to get dark, Tim was no where to be found and then I lost the map. The batteries in Jen’s flashlight dies. We lose the trail. I go and look for help and cannot find the people I swore I just saw. Jen is mumbling about setting a fire so the helicopters can see us. My head is pounding from the elevation. Eventually we find the trail and I help her walk on her hurt knee. After hours of stumbling in near darkness (I had a headlamp) we make our way back to the trailhead. Where is Tim? There is a note from him that he left to go let his dog out (1 hour away) and that he would be back at midnight to see if we were still there. What time was it? 1230am. We could not believe it. By this time it is freezing out and we were not prepared for the night. We ended up making a bed of leaves in the women’s bathroom and spooning all night to stay warm. Got a ride back in the morning to end our disastrous trip. So I wanted to do this climb right.

Chillin in the parking lot I unpack my panniers and load EVERYTHING into my hiking pack. I reluctantly lock up my bike to a gate and start hiking. The first mile of the trail is out of a valley and is STEEP. I am stumbling with my heavy ass pack. When was the last time I hiked with so much stuff? I could not remember. It took me 3 hours to go the 2. 5 miles to halfway camp. I set-up camp and was hanging out with a couple of guys from OC who hike often. They volunteered to hang my food with theirs, giving me the opportunity to go to sleep around 930pm. Exhausted!