My trip started off with a knock on my brothers door on Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. I was unannounced and uncertain if he was even home. He answered the door rubbing his eyes as though he was just waking up. I was having none of that on Memorial Weekend. He had no plans for the rest of the day or the next so I told him to get his pack we were going on an overnight trip. A 1/2 hour later we were on the road heading up the Cajon Pass towards Wrightwood.
We took the 2 which I have never been on. The area was beautiful and so close to home. With living in So Cal all my life you would think that I would have at least been on this highway once. As we started to round the corner to the trailhead the Summit of Mt Baden-Powell towered high into the sky. I finally let my brother know that we were going to summit that peak. He started to laugh like I was joking but when I told him that I was serious the cuss words replaced the laughing.
It only took us about an hour to get to the trailhead. The parking lot was pretty full but we were able to find a spot so late in the day. Most people I seemed to do this as a day hike but I wanted to try out my new gear including my new Lowa Renegade Hiking Boots and thought that it would be fun to do it on the peak of the mountain. The trail to reach Mt Baden Powell follows along a short section of the PCT. The parking lot for the trailhead also doubles for Big Horn Mine, Vincent Gulch and High Desert Trails.
We started up the trail with some thunder in the clouds above. I was a little wary about going on but as we looked around the there were blue skies all around and the thunderhead was moving away pretty fast. The trail was brutal from the start. The switchbacks started with a 20-40% grade. I had over packed my backpack with almost everything including a kitchen sink and a toilet, not really but it sure felt like it. At each turn I would look down at the road below and be amazed at how far we had climbed but then I would look up and see that we still had so much more to go.
I have not gotten my pack fitted and I have not done enough backpacking trips to know how to truly get the right fit. With the over weight pack and the poor fit, my shoulders were killing me only after an hour in. I had to rest and move the straps around. We stopped for a moment to adjust but kept moving on. My Fitbit said we had gone 2.5 miles and at that point it felt like we had gone 2 miles. I was excited that we were half way and we were going to make it to the top before the sunset. After another hour had passed my brother got ahead of me and waited at an end of a switchback. The break was welcoming until I looked at my GPS and figured out that my calculations were wrong. When I thought we were 2 miles in an hour prior we were only just getting there. We were nowhere close to the top. After 2 hours we were only 2-1/2 miles up and the sun was starting to set.
We continued on passing other hikers that had settled in for the night at some camp spots with great wind shelters already built up on the north side of the trail. We got to the last long switch back with only .8 miles left to the top but decided that because it was starting to get dark we should camp just below the switch back for the night.
The spot we found was large enough for both of us with room to move around. The flat area then dropped off the small cliff into a canyon of forested trees. It was so nice to get my pack off. I was also relieved to have no foot pain. I hadn’t broke my new boots in and I was expecting to have some blisters but I had nothing! I started to put up my new tent. I haven’t put up a tent in years and the one we got, the Sierra Designs Lightning 2 FL Tent, was super easy to figure out. My brother decided to act like he was on Naked and Afraid, without the naked part, and “Make Shelter” as he called it. He found a flat spot next to a truck of a tree and started to build up his shelter. He wanted to keep the wind off of him.
Once our shelter was done it was already 8:30. I climbed into my cozy tent and enjoyed the view of the changing colors in the sky as the sun disappeared behind me. Even though I brought enough food to last 2 people 4 days I only ate a string cheese, a granola bar and some jerky and then I was out. An hour after I feel asleep I was woken up by the hollowing wind above in the trees. We were spared from the wrath of the wind with only a few gusts but above us you could hear its fury. At that moment I realized that it wouldn’t have been a smart idea to sleep on the summit. I was so happy at that moment that my pack was way too heavy and that kept us from summiting that night.
The next morning I woke up just in time to see the sun rising right in front of my eyes. I had the best seat in town. It made me thankful for living in such an amazing country. I had a chance to reflect on the Memorial holiday and what it meant to be free to do things like this because of the sacrifices many men and women made to make that happen for me. The colors glowed twilight blue to a deep pink as the sun woke up from its nap. Then as the sun popped out from behind the mountain it put on a show of different oranges in the sky. I grabbed our new Jetboil Flash Cooking System. It took me a minute to get it lite but once I did the water for my coffee boiled within a few minutes. I couldn’t ask for a better morning. I started to munch on another string cheese and a granola bar. I peeked out of the tent to check on my brother. He was curled up in a ball unwilling to move. I tried to wake him so we could get to the summit early, but he wasn’t having any of the beautiful morning.
I decided to leave my camp setup and summit Mt Baden Powell myself with just some water and my GoPro. I started the .8 miles with a spring in my step. There wasn’t anyone on the trail but me. I wasn’t too far from our camp when I came across some snow on the trail. It wasn’t much but it made the patch of dirt on the trail muddy. Hopefully that would be all the I would encounter. The switchbacks became short and the sky became bluer as I got closer. I came to another patch of snow that was 3 feet tall and blocking the trail. There was a short cut around the snow keeping people safe from falling from the snow and ice mixture. After passing the last bit of snow I finally came up to the ridge of the mountain giving me views to both the desert and Inland Empire/Pasadena area. It was beautiful. The ridge reminded me of Devils Backbone on Mt Baldy. The drop from the trail on both sides could send you to your death if you were not careful. I finally came to the split in the trail where you can continue on the PCT or detour to the summit of Mount Baden Powell. At the split there is a Limber Pine that was named The “Wally” Waldron Tree, estimated to be over 1500 years old. The tree stands alone teetering on the ridge stretching it’s roots over each side.
The sign is weathered and could use some TLC but you can still barley make out the saying. “The “Wally” Waldron Tree. Dedicated as a tribute to Michael H “Wally” Waldron for his untiring efforts for the Boy Scouts of America. The Waldron Tree is estimated to be 1,500 years old.”
After I oohed and awwed over the tree I made my final steps to the summit. As I turned the bend to the top I came to the log book and the memorial for the Robert Baden Powell. It was 7:30 am and I was the only one up there. I got my name in the log book and my summit pics handled and I made way to the southern part of the summit. This gave me an amazing view of the southern valley. Once again I was above the clouds from down below and it felt like I was on top of the world. The wind was hallowing at the top and there was still a chill in the area.
I spent about an hour at the top taking pictures and videos when people started to come up. I got a text from my brother asking where I was so I decided to make my way down. As I got back to the switchbacks more people started to make their way to the top. I finally reached my brother and got my heavy pack loaded. I dumped most my water I brought up so that helped a little. We worked our way down passing groups of people making their way to the top. Many of them making it only a day hike but a few you could tell were on the trail for the long haul. I started to countdown switchbacks on the way down when I got to the 2nd to the last one I could see my car. It’s the small things that make you happy. I loved coming down the trail during the morning seeing it in a different light. The red dirt against the green trees was so beautiful. I finally made it to the car and was able to get the heavy pack off my shoulders. Surprisingly my knees and feet felt great but my back and shoulders were in pain.
All is all we did a total of 8 miles in 2 days with a total of 2818 feet elevation gain. The summits elevation is at 9399 feet.
County: Los Angeles
Miles: 8 miles round trip
Permit: Wilderness Permit needed for parking
Elv Gain: 2818 Feet Gained
Elv Peak: Summit at 9399 Feet
Trail: via Vincent Gulch – Section of the PCT