Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mount Laguna PCT Loop - Training Hike!

I decided to sell my truck in December in order to cut expenses and help me save for the PCT. This has been a great decision, but it means there are no more point to point training hikes, they now need to be loops. Lucky for us, the PCT runs through our local Laguna Mountains which has a network of connecting trails.

Josh and I loaded up our packs with all of our gear and set out on the trail around 10am. We made a loop by connecting portions of the Noble Canyon, Indian Creek, Pine Mountain trails, and the PCT. This loop was about 10 miles and took us through a large portion of the burn areas from the Chariot Fire, which burned back in July 2013. That blaze was rumored to have started from a spark off of a jeep fire at the base of Storm Canyon and wiped out vegetation and structures, ranging from the Anza Borrego Desert up through the Mount Laguna Recreation Area.

We started on the Noble Canyon Trail heading west toward Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The network of trails we are intending to hike are primarily used by mountain bikers, so we kept our ears open to avoid being run over. As we climbed the ridge we had a broad view of the end of the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area and Cuyamaca Peak in the distance. My pack felt amazingly light and comfortable, a result of the new Tarptent that replaced our Big Agnes.

After crossing the road Josh adjusted his shoes and socks hoping to avoid blisters, and I took off my pant legs. We junctioned with the Indian Canyon Trail and lost elevation only to gain it right back as we trudged over Champagne Pass View.

There were mirages waving off the hot rocks and I wished I had remembered to bring my trekking poles. Even though there was no snow, there was water in the creek bed, perhaps fed by an underground spring. The views to the south were amazing as we climbed out of the canyon.

At last we leveled out and met with the Pine Mountain Trail which would lead us to Pioneer Mail Picnic Area and the PCT. We pulled up a rock in the shade and to eat lunch and change our socks while letting our feet dry out. Avoiding blisters has become our new top priority.

As we packed up to hike down to Pioneer Mail, Josh checked out the power on our new solar charger. 5 miles in it had only gained 5% charge. That is not going to work at all! We hope it is due to the haze and the trajectory of the sun in winter, but aren't holding our breath.

We descended rapidly off the ridgeline crossing a network of dirt roads. The air cooled as we neared the Sunrise Hwy.

We crossed the Sunrise Hwy into the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area. There was a weird vibe here and we watched other hikers run around like something was up. We let them do their thing and continued on about our business and set up our brand new Tarptent and checked out all its features. We bought the Double Rainbow model which is a larger footprint and saves us about a pound in base weight. Gotta love that!

We think it looks like a stingray or some other ocean creature.

The Tarptent is awesome, you can read about it here.
When we set up the tent at home, we attempted to do the freestanding method but had a hard time getting the trekking poles to stay in the loops. Josh emailed Henry Shire, the maker of Tarptent, and asked him what we were doing wrong. It seems the pouch is not sewn correctly so we will send them in for a replacement. The customer service has been awesome. They even sealed the seams and put a coating on the bottom of the tent to keep our sleeping pads from sliding around, at a minimal cost!

 Now better versed in our new tent set up we headed on to the PCT and through the worst of the burn area above storm canyon.

 It is really sad to see it burned out and I wonder how brutal this section is going to be in the spring with minimal brush to absorb the heat.

There were several areas that remained green. I don't know if this was natural or from backfires set to contain the blaze.

Even with the fire damage, the views of the desert are amazing. I've hiked up here a million times and it still inspires awe.

There was a lot of strange new foliage growing in the burn out. I wonder if some of these are baby Poodle Dog Bush. I've encountered a lot of Poodle Dog Bush in Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca and Arrowhead but have only seen it full grown.

We originally planned to take the side trip up to Garnet Peak which is only .5 miles off the PCT but decided against it. If you've never been to Garnet Peak it is worth the side trip. The views are amazing as you are literally standing on a cliff over Storm Canyon.

At last we turned south and arrived back at the Penny Pines trailhead.

I found a discarded Orange peel in the brush, which makes me insane.
It may seem OK to drop these in the dirt, as they are a natural material but please keep in mind that they do not biodegrade in the desert, they turn to leather after a VERY, VERY long time.
Nothing biodegrades here, it only mummifies. True story.
Thank you, that is all. :-)

Back at the truck, we go for some dinner and then home to plan our next hike. It was a great day on the mountain!

Happy Hobbit feet. :-)

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