Sometimes when I’m hiking with Alicia I feel like my calve muscles are about to explode. Its not exactly a good feeling, but it means we’re out in the forest hiking and not sitting in front of the T.V. on a seventy degree fall day, probably, knowing us, betting on horse racing, and probably, knowing us, losing money.
|One of the first little hills, Snow Valley in the back ground|
The running joke is that Alicia always tells me what ever ridge or peak or creek or El Burrito we’re looking for; its always just around the corner. Just a few more steps to go and my heart will stop pounding, my lungs will stop burning and my calves will feel a little relief, right? Right?
On this gorgeous fall morning we decided to hike Craft’s Peak, six miles west of Big Bear Lake. Crafts Peak is the sister Peak to Butler’s Peak, one of the tallest in our area. When you finally happen to crest Craft’s Peak you can look right across at Butler’s and it looks so very close. Alicia assures me its hell to walk the ridge line over to Butler’s, though. You have to walk through fields of Buck’s Brush and I learned at the beginning of our hike today, Buck’s Brush is a bitch.
With every hike I do in these mountains, I want to learn a few new plant names. Today I learned I hate Buck’s Brush, although we had a fun time coming up with witty slogans about it
“Bucking Buck’s Brush!”
|The view of highway 18|
The first part of this hike this morning we decided to take the short cut. The short cut goes straight up a wash to about 7700 feet, this hill is so bucking hard! My lungs were on fire by the time we got to the top, and I asked
“Okay was that it, are we there yet?” I was happy to think the radio tower was Crafts Peak.
Umm, no. The first “little hill” Alicia and Johnny’s words, obviously not mine, was so hard, I was beginning to re think scaling a mountain at nine A.M. I asked Johnny, if that was the worst hill, and he didn’t exactly answer my question. Uh Oh.
From the radio tower we made our way through the first field of Buck’s Brush. I was cursing myself for not wearing bucking long pants, as the thorny bushes scratched up my legs and arms. There was a trail through the Buck’s Brush, but it was about a foot wide and there was no way to avoid being stung with the sharp plants. It made me wonder okay buck the short cut, we should have just taken the actual trail, that wound its way through the forest and not gone straight up a nearly impossible wash. I would be okay with walking an extra four miles round trip.
|I went up the hard way. The very hard way.|
After you crest through the second field of Buck’s Brush the road goes up some more, and up more, and keeps climbing. Through my delirium I thought I could make out a view of Big Bear Lake in the distance, but that could have been my poor oxygen deprived brain. At this point we might have started calling the top of the mountain Crap’s Peak. Yeah, that sounds like me when I’m tired. At this point Johnny ditched us, as the car might or might not have been locked and Alicia and I continued ahead and for some reason she let me lead.
Now Alicia has done this hike before, because well, she has done every hike in these mountains. Last time she did this hike was well before the Butler Fire, both one and two, and what ever other fire scarred up this area of the forest pretty good. So what I’m trying to say is the trail was gone. So we just guessed and kind of followed the ridge line above the highway a bit. That is the awesome thing about this hike. We could watch all the traffic in the Arctic Circle section of highway 18 below us. This being a Saturday that means watching 18 wheeler’s chugging their way up the mountain at twenty miles an hour with twenty cars behind them. No joke, we could make out multiple lines of cars stuck behind bucking jerks in big trucks, driving really bucking slow. It was so awesome to look down at all that traffic hundreds of feet below us,
“They have no idea we’re up here!” We hollered as we climbed straight up yet another mountain. At this point the trail was history, we just kept pulling ourselves up in the dirt trying to get to the next ridge above us and sinking back into the sand giving away under our hiking boots. We finally crested this hill, that had gone straight up and rested by a group of boulders. When I got back, I looked this hike up on the Internet, and one website listed it as easy. Easy? Really? six or seven hills straight up in an eight mile hike? How on earth is that easy? And you can see in the pictures, they are not small hills, either. The pictures hardly do those bucking hills justice. I realized right as we parked the car down below that my camera was dead, so all these pictures we’re shot with my cell phone camera. Not to bad for a cell phone camera. They did turn out a little bit hazy. Once we again topped the ridge line we had an epic view from here of Big Bear Lake, and highway 18 cutting through the forest on one side of the ridge. On the other side of the ridge we had a view of the valley below us and an awesome view of Snow Valley, the local ski resort right in front of us.
At this point Alicia started whistling for Johnny and he eventually caught up with us, one because he’s really fast. When Alicia and Johnny don’t have me holding them back, they usually run these trails. Two because I stopped to take a million pictures and drink lots of water. We were worried what with the trail being gone and Alicia and I just guessing where were going, Johnny wouldn’t be able to find us. Luckily Johnny said even before he heard us talking (Because we never shut up) he could smell my coconut lotion. Good thing an animal’s not trying to track me! Just follow the smell of SPF!
That’s when we decided that that huge mountain we had just scaled was the wrong way and we had to go back down it and around this other mountain, at that point there was no trail, we were a little lost, but stumbled on a animal trail in the burnt part of the forest so we just stuck to that, figuring the coyotes probably knew the way to the summit, right?
We followed the animal trail for a while through the burned and not so pretty area of the forest and that led us back to the actual road and we crested one peak, it actually had the yellow peak sign, declaring U16, what ever that means. We looked all over the boulders for the coffee can with note book that hikers leave at the peak so you can “sign in” Didn’t find it. Damn, every peak I’ve done I have not been able to find that can!
We gave up on finding the can eventually and made our way over the saddle and we were back in green un burnt forest again, yea. At this point we found the jeep road coming up from Green Valley Lake, that turns into a trail that actually leads you up to the top of the peak. I was so happy to be back on a actual road and then trail and not just mountaineering up the side of a hill, holding onto roots to pull myself up!
|At the top|
We went up another extremely tough all in the sun hill but at least it was actual trail this time. At this altitude the mountains were way prettier. The crest of Craft’s Peak is 8,353 feet; it must be right at 8,000 feet that the mountains get so much prettier in an alpine forest, sierras kind of way.
So I was once again fighting to catch my breath, wheezing pretty hard as we climbed higher and higher. I was wheezing so hard I couldn’t laugh, and that just made me want to laugh harder! It was pretty hilarious! The views were amazing all around us. As we reached the saddle we had a view of Lake Arrowhead and the high desert on one side and another view of Big Bear Lake on the opposite side.
At this point we just had to make our way over some boulders to reach the top. The trail was pretty much gone by then. The mountain was all white rocks, with some Buck’s Brush thrown in and a little manzanita. We looked down below us and commented that Alicia looked like moses cresting Mt Sinai with her walking stick. So I had to take this picture of Alicia and Johnny, with his tablets. We also came across this super cool bean bag chair rock. In all actuality, I’m sure it had been used by Native Americans to ground acorns and what not. It was a pretty cool discovery.
The view from the top of the mountain was truly amazing. This is the 881 tallest peak in the United States; I know that sounds so pathetic, but I did it, I made it to the top! Only a little over 870 mountains to go! Just kidding, I think. As we sat on the top of the mountain and took in the whole Big Bear Valley below us we were rewarded with a truly amazing view of Glory Ridge across the forest by Big Bear. I’m dying to make it over there and do the Castle Rock hike, and then Bluff Lake after that. We watched a Cooper Hawk flying free in the autumn breeze. Oh yeah, I was really hot the whole hike of course, because seventy degrees is blazingly hot to me! Every ridge line we came to had a cold breeze blowing and believe me, it felt SO amazing! As we rested on the top of the peak we could even see the cut of highway 38, all the way across the mountains from us, snaking across the alpine covered forest. We could see water shining in the sun at the Snow Valley Preserve, and all the way at the very bottom… Was the car.
The hike back down the mountain was much easier; we just hugged the ridge line, and didn’t get lost at all, yea. Although I did fall once and wrench my knee. There was also rock climbing, boulder scrambling involved, which was not at all easy and ended with getting lichen in my bra, ew. Rock climbing would be so much easier if I just had longer legs!
It took us over four hours to do this hike. All the web site’s say its a eight mile hike round trip, but we did get lost and go the wrong way for a while, so I figure we did at least nine miles. What a day! I’m so glad I get dragged on these ass busting hikes constantly!
|In the middle is Butler’s Peak|
And I’ll feel much better when I go wash my extremely dirty feet and legs and throw away my socks that I just walked through!
|Scrambling down rocks|
|Pointing at the Peak we we’re just on top of!|