Monday, May 12, 2014

San Gorgonio (Day 1: To High Creek Campsite)

This hike was awesome in the literal sense of the word: it inspired a sense of both reverence and fear.  The way to the peak was, once again, spectacular.  The forest path lined by centuries-old cedars and mottled with sunlight; the trail above tree line over slopes of rust, tan, and blue-gray; the gnarled junipers defying the elements.  And the wind -- the wind that reached roughly 80 miles per hour on the exposed ridgeline to the summit.  Hurricane force.  Forceful enough to knock every single one of us off our feet.  Strong enough to freeze the water in our water bottles even though it was 40 degrees.  Of all the 10,000 foot peaks I've climbed with Webb students, this was the most difficult.

It was a fitting way for six students to earn -- and I mean earn -- their 10,000 Foot Club medals. The students who made the peak on this hike -- who camped out in freezing temperatures, who climbed 5,500 feet over eight miles -- pushed themselves to their limits.  And they were suitably rewarded, not just with the scenery, but more importantly with the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that accompanies a grueling hike like this.  

As we were watching the sunset on San Gorgonio Saturday night, a phrase came to mind that seemed to capture the many trips we've taken there over the years: reliably magnificent. Just down the trail from the High Creek campsites, there's a spot overlooking the valley that seems to yield spectacular views no matter the weather.  See, for example, the footer at the bottom of this blog.  On this particular night, we watched as the clouds that covered the valley all the way back to Claremont made their way up through a rift in the mountains, obscuring and revealing the distant ridges as they explored the topography of the surrounding area. The students, too, lifted themselves above their surroundings, exploring their environment with an indomitable spirit.

Entering the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area

Flowers for Mother's Day

Ray always brings an appetite for fun, this time in the form of a frisbee.  Last time he went to San Gorgonio, he brought a stripped down skateboard to use as a snowboard.

Lauren, Chris and Dolly.  As the trail ascends, it passes through an old growth forest, accompanied by the burble of Vivian Creek.

Clearing the treeline now on the way to High Creek campsite

Once we set up our tents and ate a hearty dinner (Why does food always taste better outside?), we were treated to the sunset clouds rolling up the valley.

It's not too often that we get to sit with silence.  A group of us sat for about 45 minutes Saturday night watching the clouds.

Dolly found a nice perch to watch the show.

Sunset Saturday night.  For the hike to the summit, see the next post.

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