By the time I stood up from behind the rocks, I was a little wobbly and my fingers were clinically numb. Where do your fingers go numb in the middle of summer on a sunny afternoon in Southern California? That would be on the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, where cold winds blow relentlessly at 30 miles an hour. I guess sitting down and enjoying the view for 40 minutes at 11,500 feet after climbing for three hours didn't help my situation. Now I needed to get down.
Once in a while we all experience something that reminds us why we do what we do. Why we wake up at dawn and drive for miles, only to get out of our cars and hike and run for hours into places most people will never see. From the comforts of our modern society, into nature's den, where nothing is given, but something can always be taken away.
When the sun rises in late Summer over the San Bernardino Mountains, the light is crisp, softened by the branches of tall pines and looming mountain ridges. From this setting rises Old Greyback, or San Gorgonio Mountain, Southern California's highest peak. I've lived most of my life in Southern California and, until now, I have never been to the summit of San Gorgonio. It was worth the wait.
By the time I hit 9,000 feet, it was exactly 9 am. To the south of me was So Cal's second highest peak, the 10,800 foot Mt. San Jacinto. When I stopped to get a good look at the view, a grey cloud was billowing into the sky. It was the Silver Fire burning its way up the side of San Jacinto, at least 50 miles from where I stood. Smoke enveloped the sky and everything else in its path. I pushed on.
The higher I climbed, the greater the views became. By the time I reached 10,000 feet, then 11,000, I had to tell myself to keep moving, because every time I glanced over the horizon, I could see that much more. As I approached the summit, I turned and saw the distant hump of Saddleback Mountain. It was nestled in a curved horizon, a reminder of how high I really was. Can I really see the curvature of the earth up here? I think so.
The purpose of this day was to get a "feel" for climbing, running, and just being over 10,000 feet. I'm learning that I have to be patient, because everything happens a little slower up here. My movements, whether climbing up a trail, or running down one, must be done at their chosen pace. Yet it is not me who choses, it's the mountain.
On my descent, I decided to test my luck with a water filter. I've always wanted to run in the mountains and not be dependent on whatever water I could manage to carry. Water weighs a lot and when carrying too much one can easily be reduced hiking just to a mule enough H2O to get from point A to point B.
I stopped at High Creek which crosses the Vivian Creek trail around 9,000 feet. I pulled the pump out of my pack and quickly filled a water bottle to the brim. Within a few minutes I was back on the trail sipping nice cold spring water. No symptoms. Just another first for me, which made the entire 5 hour and 58 minute effort all the sweeter.
Keep it real!