Mt. Baldy Trail to the San Antonio Ski Hut July 2008
Mount Baldy could easily have taken me out; but unlike a quarterback unprepared for the sneak attack that hits when you least expect it, I was determined not to be sacked!
As a 'VH' (trail name - "virgin hiker"), I had no preconceived notions about Mt. Baldy or what I was in for my first time on the "trails". My only "hiking" experience had been limited to the occasional laps run around my hill-ridden gated community. So, the images I'd conjured up in my head for this "level 4" hike was of a tree-lined, asphalt path that would lead me up a 'hill' to a destination which would reward me with an amazing unobstructed view of the valley below.
Our group arrived at Mount Baldy Village early in the morning. We parked at the base of the mountain (that should have been my first clue!) and began our journey. Our trusty veteran guide then informed us that we would take the path that leads up to the hiking trail (a path that leads to the trail?--My second clue) Okay, so I've been walking on this asphalt "fire road" for twenty minutes and my lungs are celebrating after being victimized by the Southern California thick and smog filled desert air and yet I'm already winded and thirsty...and this isn't even the beginning of the hike? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I trudged on. Our trail becomes barely distinguishable from the rest of the mountainside except for a large patch of orange wild flowers and our guide proclaims “Okay, you ready?" I should have turned around right then. Too late now.
Onward and upward we trek and my fear of heights kicked in. It's not a debilitating fear, but at times I had to remind myself not to look down and keep breathing normally. We took as many breaks as necessary (and they were necessary) and more than once I somehow resisted the overwhelming urge to ask”Are we there yet?" and "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?"
Moments later, our guide pointed to a tiny shiny pinprick of - something -against a green backdrop of trees and rocks near the top of the mountain and proudly announces "That's our first stop, the San Antonio Ski Hut!" With sheer unbelief, my face expresses my thoughts. UNBELIEVABLE. I'm supposed to hike all the way up there??!! A spot so high that it's barely visible sans a telescope? I should have done my homework. I drew in a deep breath of the fresh mountain air, which added to my dizziness, and we continued our trek. The constant edification, expletives and beatings by my companions convinced me that I could do it, so, I trudged on.
The view of the Ski Hut became more visible as we passed and are passed by several animated hikers who seem thrilled and exhilarated by the journey and the clean mountain air (delirium is my guess; is this some kind of outdoor mountain-esq sanitarium?).
The last twenty minutes seemed endless and although the Ski Hut was in sight, it would just as quickly disappear as the trail we hiked would switchback directly under it and become an endless zigzag of twists and turns, seemingly coming full circle to where we had already been. I am ready to quit; my lungs are completely transfused by the thin air (VERY thin air), and my legs are screaming for relief and the jacuzzi back home! I a, not amused, thrilled or exhilarated.
I adamantly announce "I can't do this!" but my team, ignoring my wails and pleas to"please talk to me" physically and verbally urge me on by boxing me in, closing off all avenues of escape while the guide wielded a large whip (okay not actually a whip but...) and FINALLY--Eureka!! I finally reached the Ski Hut and although I am relieved, the thought that now consumed me is the trip all the way back down! I shake it from my mind so that I may enjoy the moment and rest amongst nature in all its glory. (Actually sleep overtook me as soon as stretched out on the tree-shaped bench because I was physically and emotionally drained.)
The return trip was much faster but no less intimidating as my fear of heights kept my eyes glued to the pair of shoes in front of me. I thought going up was hard and the only thing that kept me from losing my grip on sanity was the fact that I would have to keep going if I was EVER going to get back to the car. My hiking buddies told me they were impressed with my stamina and speed I displayed on the way down the mountain. I didn't have a choice, so it was either keep going or get left behind and the latter did not appeal to me in the least.
I was eventually able to enjoy the beauty of the world that surrounds me and the 4 photos I took will remind me that with sheer will, determination and a "can do" attitude, anything is possible! However, I will definitely research the next hike! UNBELIEVABLE!!!