Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 14 - Summiting Mt. Jacinto

May 8, 2012
Day 14
Miles:  5
Total Miles:  184
San Jacinto Peak!

An amazing day!  I summited my first major peak on the trail - Mt. Jacinto.  Mt. Jacinto is the second highest peak in southern California at approx. 10,800 feet.  The miles above do not reflect the miles hiked today as they exclude the 2.5 mile climb from Idylwild to the PCT.  From the junction, the trail continues on an alternate PCT route that is 6.2 miles (skipping about 4 PCT miles) that summit's Jacinto.  The trail reconnects to the PCT at mile 185.  So in total, I believe I hiked close to 10 "vertical" miles before camping about a mile or so before the alternate trail reconnects to the main PCT trail.

I arrived at the summit late - at about 7 PM - which forced me to make a quick decent down the other side to find a flat place to camp before it got completely dark.  Snow covered up to 50% of the ground at that altitude and often disguised the trail's zigs and zags, forcing me to carefully observe footprints in the snow to avoid going off trail.  This can be a bit scary when you're the only one at the top of a mountain in the dark with the temperature beginning to plummet.  I missed the main spur trail connection coming down off the peak and went a quarter mile in the wrong direction (which would have brought me down the mountain the same way I had come up) before I realized my mistake and backtracked.  Even a quarter mile is a costly mistake when you have to climb UP in the dark to find the correct trail and you are already dead-tired.  I found the sign marking the western descent just barely visible a foot above the snow line with a red hanker-chief tied to the top.  Relieved, I quickly moved down to find a suitable camping spot which I found at 8 PM in a designated camping area requiring a state permit.  Nobody was there and most of the ground was covered in snow, but I decided that to keep hiking in the dark could be a big mistake, so I setup my tent and set in for the night.

Just a day earlier near this same spot a hiker had gone missing and search teams were sent out.  This same night as I began to fall asleep in my tent, I heard a helicopter fluttering above in the dark and mega-phone blaring into the night.  I could not make out what was said but I can only imagine another day hiker lost and cold and without the proper gear stumbling around in the cold dark forest.  I slept comfortably knowing I had everything I needed in my pack.

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Cabin built by the Peace Corps on the top of Mt. Jacinto

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PCT Northern Terminus

PCT Northern Terminus
On September 30, 2012 I reached the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Thanks to everybody who supported and followed my journey. It was a life-changing experience!