Sunday, May 10, 2009

What goes up... must come down!

The Trip to Butler Peak
May 9th 2009

(A picture of San Bernardino Peak and the ridge to San Gorgonio.)
This story has it all: crying, laughing, screaming, blood, ash,fire ants, avalanche chutes, snakes and even a little bit of bragging. So read on if you are prepared.

I decided that I needed a long workout hike to get in better shape. Cameron has been itching to go up to this place called Butler Peak and I figured that this would be a good choice. Last fall he did a lot of hiking up that way and never had time to make it all the way to the Peak. So we arranged a baby sitter for the older two who whine too much when hiking and move too slowly. We consulted the map and went on a drive and decided the best way to hike it was cross country. There is a road that goes to the top but we weren't sure how long the hike would be or where exactly to go and besides hiking on roads is just not cool. I was reluctantly optimistic about this cross country hike because Cameron had promised "trails" and "roads" and it was all burnt out from the fire in 2007. I figured it couldn't be too bad to hike on roads, trails and burnt out cross country. I guess I should have know better.

We drove to a place called Lake View point and parked. I got Annika out of her car seat and she smiled at me and I realized that she had a very poopy diaper. So we changed her diaper glad she had taken care of business before we began hiking. We started hiking up the trail. I think the fire fighters cut the trail out when they were busy trying to stop the fire from burning down running springs. It was straight up the side of the mountain. They did not bother with switchbacks or anything. After hiking a little ways we came upon about 100 yards of bramble bush. Cameron swears that last fall this was not as grown in but now there was only a faint trail over grown with bushes that sliced up our legs. We struggled through the bushes and finally got on the other side of them.

We made it to the ridge of the mountain after lots of huffing and puffing as we mostly hiked up fire break roads and faint animal trails. (This is a picture of snow valley from the top of the ridge)

At the top of the ridge we realized that now we would have to hike down hill after gaining lots of elevation. We hiked up and down the ridge of the mountain getting closer and closer to the top. At one point Cameron thought we were probably only about a half hour from the top. It looked that close to me too... but looks are very deceiving!(This is a picture of me with lots of burnt out bushes that we had to hike through.)
(A picture from the ridge of Big Bear Lake in the distance)

Annika started to be hungry and we looked for a place to feed her. Cameron found a nice rock in the shade and waited for me to catch up with him. While waiting he realized that the rock was covered in ants. He moved to another rock. The ants came after him there too. I joined him on a third rock but there were ants all over that one too. We abandoned the area. We were on the run trying to find a place without the large fire ants but there was no place. I guess they call them "fire" ants because they like places where there has been a fire and not just for the way they burn when they bite you. One of these creatures make it all the way to my arm and bit me in my arm pit!

Finally we found a small rock in the shade and while I nursed and Cameron tried to fend off the bugs. He did a pretty good job! With Annika fed we began hiking again. This part of the hike was hard because there were burnt out bushes everywhere! Each bush was tall and the ground was littered with branches and small bramble bushes that you had to avoid. I have never had to think about hiking so much! We hiked down into a valley and then hiked up on the ridge. It was slow going though.
(picture of bramble bushes and burnt out bramble bushes that we hiked through.)
(more bramble bushes and steep ridge to the top.)

Finally we saw the road and we found a trail to the top. We quickly hiked the last 200 yards with ease. We climbed up the latter like stairs and walked around the top of the fire lookout placed on top of the peak. We sat down on top and looked out at Lake Arrowhead and Mt. Baldy in the distance and rested.
(we are resting. Can you see how dirty I am? I am relatively clean compared to the end of the hike!)

The feeling of accomplishment was overshadowed for me by the sense of doom that would follow trying to hike back down the way we had come. I couldn't imagine anything worse than have to go down the steep hillsides that we had just hiked up. I really wanted to hike down the road. We called Cameron's dad and had him look at a map and came up with an alternate plan. We would hike "down the ridge" and then catch up with road 2N13, hike about 3 miles and Mike would meet us in Green Valley. I thought that this would be the easy way out.

We took some pictures of us at the top. It is hard to see the acomplishment since we are on a man-made tower and there is a road to the top. But the way we went did not have any roads or trails but was all cross country.

(view to the West. You can see the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.)
(view of San Grogonio and San Bernardino Peaks.)

(The road we should have hiked up.)

(3 accomplished cross-country hikers.)

(Cameron and Annika at the top.)

(I'm resting and holding Annika.)

We then got off the peak and started hiking down the ridge. We hoped it would be just a little ways out of the way and hiked down another fire break road. It didn't last long and soon we were on the steepest ridge I have personally ever been on without a trail. Cameron says it was about a 40 degree angle slope. I thought it was more like an 80 degree slope. Not an actual cliff but very close to one. Then Cameron pointed to the road at least a 1000 feet below us and told me that we had to go there. So we started hiking.

I am a great up hill hiker. I often hike faster up hill than anyone else in the party. I do not like hiking down hill! What I hate even more than hiking down hill is hiking down hill not on a trail! I also do not appreciate hiking down hill not on a trial, with ants, and ash as my closest companions and burnt out sticks tripping me when I walk. Add to that the beating hot sun and the rocks that trip and slip you as you walk and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. We finally hiked into a chute where there was still snow from the winter's avalanches. I was so tired that I sat down on my butt and slid down about a 100 feet of snow. It was wet but I was hot and didn't care!

At this point the already steep descent became even more steep or I was just too tired and exhausted, hot and dehydrated. I started crying and wanted it to end. We were still quite a ways up and I thought we would never make it down. Yet eventually after lots of crying and Cameron yelling at me that I could not sit down we arrived at the road.

I would love to say it was easy going from there but we were exhausted. We hiked at a very fast pace because we knew we were late for meeting Mike. We were running out of water and we were very hot but we didn't really stop to rest. It was a very stark environment along the back side of the mountains. The fire had burned out everything. All the trees were dead and nothing was growing except along side the creeks. I was surprised by the number of small creeks we crossed and Sierra was happy to have some water to drink since we were drinking the water we brought for Sierra. By one creek we saw a very large rattlesnake that Sierra wanted to play with. Sierra obeyed when we called her away and we moved away from the snake quickly.

After hiking for about an hour we passed a mile marker that said we had 2.75 miles to hike to get to Green Valley. Cameron looked a little green and said he didn't feel too good. He asked me to call his dad and see if he could drive down the dirt road. But we couldn't reach him so we just had to keep hiking. I put Annika on me and Cameron continued to look sick. All of a sudden I heard Mike yell, "Cameron." I was sure I was imagining things but then we heard his name yelled again.

We met Mike on the road and he had a cooler in one hand with gatorade and chocolate chip cookies. He was a lifesaver! I felt like the Martin Handcart company must have felt when they were met by the people from Salt Lake on the trail. Yes we still had to hike another 1 1/2 miles or so to the truck. But he was there to give us encouragement and supplies and he led us back to the truck. It was quite an adventure and although I don't intend on redoing it anytime soon I am definently bragging that I accomplished the hike!


Mama Bean said...

Holy cow miss adventure!!! Not a situation that I would ever want to be in, but you are a superwomen!!