Creeping up to San Jacinto

Today I hiked San Jacinto Peak with a summit elevation of 10,834 ft. The creeping doesn’t so much refer to the ascent of the mountain as the travel to reach the mountain and more specifically the lodgings of the night before. However, before I digress fully I should today like to refer you to picture of the day which leads us in nicely.

In simple terms two of the images in the eclectically combined feature image are of nature and one is a collage representation of man made delight. Quite simply as I climbed the mountain today with my heart pumping ten to the dozen, my lungs at full capacity, occasional inadvertent moans climbing over large rocks I was hit by a thought. The previous night we’d paid $90 to spend 6hrs of our lives in a man made atrocity. Then today provided free of charge we spent 8hrs in the glory of Mother Nature. In both instances I could safely use the phrase ‘lucky to be alive’, but the sentiment behind the phrase would be entirely different for the two experiences of the last 24hrs.

Our experience at the Days Inn in Hemet was questionable. If you can look into the images more closely you’ll soon see but in case you’re unable to do so here’s a low down on some of the ‘features’ of the room. Door frame clearly previously bashed in and haphazardly built back together, not securely, with the lock hanging out. Fire alarm hanging out of the ceiling, what could be fire or blood stains at the door on the carpet – perhaps the fire alarm not going off caused the issue? At the door frame a circle of grease from where repeated persons had looked nervously out the door through the peep hole – I’ll let your imagination go where it may as to who they might be expecting or trying to avoid. Our bed was dressed in ripped sheets with apparent burn marks and oil stains on the comforter whilst the bathroom door was literally falling in half. As you can tell I’m painting quite a picture and genuinely for the first time in my life (and I do realise I am privileged and blessed to be able to say this and many aren’t so lucky), I was concerned for my safety in this room and feared we may be broken into in our sleep.

Accordingly we decided to escape early was essential. So at 5am the alarm went off and we headed out to get caffeine and breakfast and to hit the trail. It’s fair to say I’m not overly entertaining in the early morning, although my friend may argue I’m more pleasant than at 9pm on the LA highways stuck in traffic, but what you gonna do?

Between 6.30 and 7am we were on the trail. It was an initial steep ascent which is always painful but we soon passed a lovely couple who we were to pass recurrently throughout the day. The mountains are full of many folk and many strange folk and then many lovely folk like these guys. It felt we had allies in our ascent and at least someone to put first as an offering should a bear appear. Amongst the other characters we met on our way was the overly keen and highly pronunciated Boy Scout, the affable older gentleman who is friendly, fun and fit as a fiddle, the excessively loud gym goer sharing stories of the exercises she’s been doing to work her glutes, to the entire mountain, the non regular hiker who’s confessing they want to die or cry but will make it to the top and the bearded hipster mountain men with a hose pipe hooked into their truck so they can shower off at the end before heading into the nearest town for margarita’s and taco’s ‘to replenish the lost salt from hiking’. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it attracts all sorts and it is pure joy. Except when it isn’t.

Today the ascent I would say felt good. Steep, steady, steep, steady, scramble over rocks, pretty much sums up the climb. We took it all steady and got up feeling good. I have to say the early arrival on the mountain meant we avoided a lot of sun which certainly for little pale me, made it much more pleasant! However, after reaching the top I think something psychological messes with me; because I get to the top and foresee that down will be easy as basically the hard work is done – yet often it is not. Especially when the descent is steep. It dragged on and on. I tried shuffling. Then my feet would hardly lift at all and I let out a series of Kevin and Perry ‘esque tantrums (British TV programme) audible beyond myself as I tripped over tree roots here and there. Utilizing mind blowing yoga styles dance moves, however, I turned each trip into a sight to behold whilst maintaining my balance and looking super cool.

I hated the downhill. Hated it. The words are strong but they are I’m afraid appropriate. All I could think about was food and then home to a warm shower. Finally we realized we were half a mile from home ie the car, and we ran with joy.

With rose tinted specs already back on I have to share the delight that the mountain holds of lush green foliage, sporadic bright flowers, large vibrant butterflies, gently swooping birds adorned with shimmering blue wings and playful chipmunks running around. I may have been emotionally empty in myself but even at this time I can’t help but be amazed with the greatness that nature itself offers. So my advice is simple – if you’ve not done it recently, whatever country you’re in – GET OUT! By which I mean get outside, away from what we’ve created and experience real earth and nature. It’s both invigorating, captivating, inspiring and in need of our support. Instead of listening to a meditation app playing softly babbling water running down the stream, go and hear it for yourself.

At the car was where we saw the hipster hikers again and gained valuable food based insight. The insight took us to IDYology in Idyllwild – a super eclectic bar and restaurant in this relaxed and charming mountain town. They had a luck tree over the bar, where you write your wishes on a monetary note, clip it to the tree on the ceiling and your wish comes true. Sadly my luck was already out as I had no notes to try with, so I need an alternative way for my dreams to come true. We did however have cards and so we purchased well deserved burger and fries which I pretty much inhaled. Great service and food, wonderful eclectic interiors, both this restaurant and the town I would go back to. To the top of Jacinto again? Maybe not.

I noted as I whined my way back down the mountain in my head, that this 6 pack challenge is like running marathons. A great sense of achievement afterwards yet in fact I can’t say I actually enjoy doing them. They take something I love and push it a bit too far; it goes out beyond joy and slightly into despair. I think the perfect hike for me is summed up by sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast or walking from Bakewell over to Chatsworth or Vice Versa with the promise of tea and cake at the other side. More undulating than mountainous, more sedate than heroic.

Nonetheless next weekend we are down to attack another of the So Cal Six Pack – yippee. Urrggh. I’m off to bed.

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