We were somewhere around 5500 feet on a mountain road when the coffee finally began to kick in. The only signs of life around these parts were the suicidal squirrels who would dart in front of the truck, racing to get to the other side across the uneven asphalt. As we pushed deeper into the forest, the few creeks that appeared as blue lines on the map were devoid of any water as we crossed over them, a sign of the major drought we're facing in Southern California. Granite peeks towered above the road.
The parking at the trailhead was concealed under a canopy of pine trees, evidence that we were still below the timberline. A trail began at the end of the forest road, heading east towards the confluence of a major tributary and this area's largest drainage.
This particular day trip was going to be used as more of a test run more than anything else. With my Yellowstone trip planned for September, and my need for hiking away from paved roads reaching epic proportions, we needed to make sure that our bodies and gear could handle a longer than average day trip, especially with the extra amount of weight that usually never comes along on a local trip to our familiar grounds.
The day pack did a great job of distributing weight, so it didn't feel like I had a sack of rocks 45 pounds heavy on my back. Simm's engineering on the straps make them extremely comfortable, and not once did I experience any discomfort. The placement of the straps make tightening or loosening them a cinch. It definitely will shine come September.
After a series of switchbacks, the valley became visible and the roar of the river below became louder with every approaching step. The topography became familiar, as what was seen in two dimensions countless times on Google Earth finally was in front of my own two eyes. Unfortunately, once we got down to the valley floor, reading the terrain became a nightmare, and I completely lost any sense of direction. Instead of venturing up the smaller tributary, I ended up bushwacking into the main fork, which was roaring in this particular area due to the usual early summer snow melt. Instead of regaining my bearings and trying to find a trail to head towards the right direction, I said, "the heck with it," and made the best out of the situation and managed a good dozen fish out of this stretch, nothing of particular size.
Wading was nearly impossible, and the current pushing against me walking upstream made it feel like I was pushing against a freight train. After 75 yards of wading upstream, my body was beat, and the mid 90 degree air temperature did not help situations either. The promise of a 2 hour hike back to the vehicle later in the day also was lingering in the back of my mind.
My better and saner half had set up camp along the river, and we spent the afternoon having a picnic and enjoying the scenery. We were startled at a low fly by what looked like an FA/18 Hornet, who did his best Top Gun imitation and "buzzed the tower" at 500 feet elevation, and then roared his way up the canyon. Aside from air shows, I have never seen a jet that low before, and something I didn't expect in this particular area.
We packed things up and decided to make our way back up to the trailhead around 3 pm. It was about 5 when we finally reached the vehicle, completely exhausted, and out of water. Our legs hurt, our backs were aching, and I had new bumps and bruises to commemorate today's hike. I also developed a nasty blister on my small toe, evidence that my hiking boots have been shrinking due to them becoming wet from time to time. Looks like another item to add to our list of stuff I'll need for my trip.
We took our time on our way out, admiring the beauty of this area, and even making a side trip to visit a grove of giant sequoias. I haven't seen one in person since I was a kid, and the majestic appearance of these ancient trees was a great way to end the day.
Just another amazing day in SoCal.