October 15th, 2018
Three Points trailhead mm 403 to Grassy Hollow Visitor Center mm 370
Distance: 33 miles plus 1 extra mile on mandatory alternate
0610 – 1855
The wind rose up fierce overnight and I had a hard time sleeping. My tent was pretty protected but I still had to get up to search for rocks to cover the stakes. Even then, the fabric was vibrating violently and bashing me in the head. I was awake at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I started my routine at 4 am. During that time, my front stake pulled out twice and the tent swallowed me. Then I thought my tent stuff bag blew away and I spent some time looking for it. Then it turned out that it was in my pack. I couldn’t wait to get the tent down and get out of that spot!
It was still dark as I headed out but I could see that everyone else was struggling with packing up. Stellar’s tent was getting battered too and he expressed concern (jokingly) that he might get smothered. Tents withstand the cold and rain well, usually, but not strong gusts.
I walked uncomfortably for a long time, wishing for the sun to come up and warm things. Not only was the wind strong, it was frigid. I had on all my layers, including my puffy and gloves, and was still cold. I knew I wasn’t crazy when I saw a frozen puddle at a road crossing. The ‘desert’ continues to surprise me.
But this wasn’t the desert anymore. The trail climbed to over 7000′ today and would top off at 9300′, the highest point since the Sierra and in this whole southern California section. I was also walking through pine forests, which cast a lot of shade. What a day for it. The sky was clear and the sun trying to work its magic, but it never warmed up all day. The wind was robbing me of all my energy…and I hate being cold. I could probably say this was the toughest day on the trail so far, just because of the frigid wind.
It also didn’t help that the trail went along ridges most of the day. It was incredibly gusty and took concentration just to stay upright. Sometimes it was blowing me towards steep drop-offs. I was by myself and wished I wasn’t. I had gotten an earlier start than the others and had taken few breaks since it was so cold. I did eventually catch up to The King and it was nice to share in the suffering. Being from NZ, I figured he was used to the wind, but even he was having a hard time with it.
There were several options for alternate trails today. There is a 4 mile closed section to avoid the endangered yellow-legged frog. I chose the road-walk option and enjoyed a traffic-free highway for about 3 miles. Only one car passed in that time and the road-walk might have been one of the best parts of the day. There is also a trail that goes way down to the valley floor and skips many of the climbs, including Baden Powell. Stellar chose that one and avoided much of the cold and wind. He wound up about 40 minutes in front of us, even though the distance walked was about the same.
To say I did a lot of climbing would be an understatement. I hadn’t planned the day very well and realized only later that I did just shy of 10,000′ in elevation gain. Whoa. A new record for sure. But I actually enjoyed the climbs because I was able to warm up. I would even have to shed layers…but then put them all back on for the downhills. That aspect was very tedious.
Near the end of the day, I reached the top of Mt. Baden Powell, the highpoint. There were some grand views along the way. On one side, I could see the sprawling metropolis of LA, the downtown skyline, and the ocean. On the other side, the Mojave desert and northbound line of mountains from which I just came. I could even make out a few of the last high peaks in the Sierra. In essence, I was able to look back at the previous 300 miles of trail. That was pretty grand. But it was too blustery to linger for long.
The mountain in the background has fresh snow on the top!
Looking back at Mt Baden Powell the next morning.
To end the day, I bombed down a million switchbacks, did another short climb and walked into the dark to get to the protection of a visitor center. I found the perfect spot in the lee of a big building, partway under the porch. The wind could howl all it wanted. I nestled into all my stuff, closing off the tent as tight as I could to a very cold night and long, hard day.