Monday, May 25, 2009

Back on the hiking trail

So, on Memorial Day, after taking 7 months off for nothing more than sheer laziness, I cracked out the poles, backpack, Camelback, and my hiking garb to head back out into the Angeles National Forest.

Of course, hiking on Memorial Day was not the smartest thing in the world to do, especially since I decided to hike out of the Chantry Flat Ranger Station, which is only the busiest spot in the whole San Gabriel Mountain Range. If you're not there by 7am, you will not park in the lot; you have to park down the mountain road, and walk up to the trailhead. And today was no exception; I got there around 8:40, and had to park about a half mile down the road. The place was crammed with cars, 80% of them having forest day passes. I felt so smug as I put my annual pass on my dashboard and set off for the forest primeval.

The vast majority of hikers were headed for Sturdivant Falls, an easy 1.5 mile hike in. I was going for a more vigorous hike; one with fewer people to contend with. The reason that Chantry Flat is so popular is twofold; 1) It's really accessible; take Santa Anita Avenue north, where it turns into the road that, 3 miles later, takes you right to the station, and 2) You have numerous hiking options. I decided to do the following: Upper Winter Creek Trail to Hoegee's Campground, about 3 miles, then take the Lower Winter Creek Trail back to Robert's Camp, which was about 2 miles. That left me with killer part of the hike; from Robert's back to Chantry Flat is an asphalt road, about .6 miles long. But, you climb about 700 feet in that distance. No switchbacks, just climb. I call it the stairmaster. Usually, I stop twice on that stretch. Today, I tried to stick with a nice, steady and slow pace. I stopped once for a couple of minutes, and then made it up to the station, where I still had another half mile back to the car.

So, all told, I did about 6 miles. I did that in a little over two hours; considering that I haven't hiked in months, that was a really good pace. So, I'm looking forward to hiking again on a somewhat regular schedule. I'd love to go out every weekend, but if I can go 2-3 times a month, I'll be really happy with that.

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