Monday, September 26, 2011

La Jolla Valley to Sandstone Peak

I decided to change the trip for this weekend to something a bit more local and with less altitude gain. My buddy who was supposed to go with me broke his finger a couple of days ago so this also served as my first solo backpacking trip. For a first solo trip this was a perfect choice. Not too secluded, yet secluded enough to get away. 

The reports from the rangers was that there was no water at all so I had to pack in all my water. I carried 4 Platypus bottles at 1L each and 2 1.5L Camelbak bladders. This made my starting pack weight 45 pounds which is heavier than I like. Considering almost 16 pounds of that was water and almost 4 pounds was food I am pretty happy.

I started at Thornhill Broom Trailhead in Pt Mugu State Park and took the La Jolla Canyon Trail. The trail climbed steadily up the canyon for a couple of miles to La Jolla Valley. I spoke with some day hikers on the way up who were fascinated by my pack. They did not know there was camping back in the valley. I arrived in La Jolla Valley after an hour or so and made my way to Upper La Jolla Trail camp. I went back to camp 9 which I had heard was really nice and secluded. The site was perfect! It had a little flat space under an oak tree for a tent, and a picnic table to cook on. I could see that someone had a fire here before, but everything I read said no campfires so I broke the ring. 

I set up my tent and unpacked my backpack. My tent was easy to set up, I had never set it up before and it only took a few minutes. I realized that my sleeping pad had been ripped on a branch or something on my hike to the site. I did not bring the repair kit on this trip so I had to deal with it. This taught me to always have the repair kit with me and to consider a non-inflatable pad instead. I could also keep it in my pack if needed as well. These lessons are exactly why I am doing these trips. I went through my stuff and re packed anything I needed for a day hike. It was a little after noon at this point and the marine layer had not burned off yet. I figured it would make the hike easier so I took of to La Jolla Peak. I took the fire road toward the peak and climbed steadily up along the hillside. It was really misty out which gave the mountains a very mystical feel.

Once I reached the junction I realized that the path I wanted to go on was very rough. I started down for a few, but soon decided that this was no longer intended to be used as a trail. I figured I had enough for the day and went back to camp. I estimate about 6 miles today, maybe a bit less. Back at camp I organized my things and changed into warmer clothes. The clouds never let up today so I expected a misty night. I ate dinner and cleaned up by six and just relaxed for an hour or so. I could hear a few day hikers here and there, but it was very peaceful. I decided to call it a night around eight so I could get an early start the next day. 

Losing my pad made a difference, but I managed to get a decent nights sleep. When I woke up I could tell it had been a wet night. The inside of my tend had some condensation from me breathing, but the outside was soaked. I dressed in all my warm clothes and got everything out of my tent. There was a light mist falling and I suspect in drizzled a bit in the night. I ate some oatmeal and used my towel to dry the tent as best as I could. After ringing it out 4 or 5 times I figured it was as dry as I was getting it today. I packed everything up and took off down the trail.

I took the backbone trail which descends into Sycamore Canyon on a gradual trail. The mist was heavy still and a bit chilly. I was glad I had decided to stay in my long sleeves for the time being. I got to the canyon floor after a bit and immediately saw a few groups of bikers and runners on Big Sycamore Trail. I hurried to the next junction to get away from the crowds faster. I took Old Boney Trail after less than a mile. This trail was very under maintained, but not unmanageable. It climbs immediately up the hillside and never really stops climbing. The thick brush encroaching on the trail had tons of dew on it so my pants were soaked, but I was not wet or cold at all. The pants I got work very well. I changed into my short sleeves as my body heat went up due to excursion. 

I met with the Backbone trail eventually and continued to climb. The trail opened up often to what I am sure is a beautiful view, but with the mist it was a a peaceful view of a mountainside with mist creeping along it. I really felt like I could be in the middle of a rainforest at that moment. As a continued to climb I started to wonder if the mist would relent. Was I hiking to a high peak to see mist? I figured it didn't matter, it was the nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain I was after anyway. The trail went trough many "tunnels" of trees that had a creepy look to them with the fog. Shortly after taking notice of a huge spider, I took a web to the face on the trail. I'm sure if anyone saw me dancing around to make sure there was not a spider on me, they'll remember it for a while.

After even more climbing I broke through the mist into a high valley. I took the trail to Tri peaks and was amazed at the view. The valley I was in appeared to be an island in the clouds. The mist would waft up from below and recede back down like waves. I didn't stay long because it was already after 2 and I still wanted to get to Sandstone Peak and down to the trailhead. A short hike across the valley took me to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. I sat up there an and ate the rest of my food while looking out at the ocean of clouds. I signed the register and sent my wife the pick me up message with my SPOT.

From there it was a mile and a half of downhill hiking to the trailhead. I waited at the table for Caryn for maybe ten minutes before she pulled up with a Dr. Pepper and a Snickers bar. I enjoyed this weekend very much. I plan on doing this hike again when I can soak in the views a bit more, although this was a unique trip with the mist. I enjoyed the solo aspect of the trip as well and no longer feel I can only go backpacking when I can find another person to go with me.

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La Jolla Valley and Sandstone Peak

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