Gorgonio in 11 Hours - Vivian Creek Trail
I'm an average hiker city slicker type. I have two kids, 3 and 1, so I only get to peak about 5 mountains a year. This was my first attempt of San Gorgonio. My friend, Eric, and I left El Segundo at 5:30am and reached the trailhead at about 7:45am. We crossed the wash that only had a couple of streams running through it and started up the "difficult" 1,000 ft ascent in 1/2 a mile. This part of the ascent didn't strike me as too bad given all of the press it had received. It reminded me of Mt. Baldy before the ski hut. We reached the top of the ascent and went past the Vivian Creek trail camp. Our first break was at "Halfway Camp" which is no where near halfway. We stopped for a snack and were back on the trail 15 minutes later. The scenery through the canyons was beautiful, and camera pictures could do not do fair justice. An hour later we were at High Creek Camp where we stopped for another sustenance break.
After 20 minutes we were back on the trail again and we didn't stop until we reached the saddle at about 10,000 feet. By this time, we had been on the trail for about 2 and a half hours and had already walked about five miles. Only about 3 miles remained. A few hikers were coming down and they told us that the toughest was yet to come and we had another 2.5 hours to go. Eric and I looked at each other and thought we could make it in less than 2 hours. We idled here for a while because the view was amazing. It was a crystal clear day and the temperature felt perfect, about 55 degrees.
We followed the ridgeline. At about 10,500 the breathing started to get really tough. My average fitness level was now hurting me badly. I struggled to go 20 steps before stopping to catch my breath. After about 45 minutes, Eric went ahead. After another hour, I reached about 11,000 feet. I could see what I thought was the summit and it still seemed so far away. I trudged on and could see Eric about half an hour in front of me. There were parts of the trail that seemed to get a little screwy, but newly created cairns marked the correct path. I reached the trail crossing and knew the summit was only .6 miles further. I struggled on, but to my dismay, the "summit" I had seen before was not the summit. There was still further to go. I finally reached the top after 6+ grueling hours. I wrote my name down on a piece of paper in the register box (there was not really a book like normal) ate a sandwich, and tried to keep the chipmunks at bay. We stayed on top for about 40 minutes and then began the long hike down. We ran in spots, but mostly did a quick walk and we were able to make it down in about 4.5 hours. The knees amazingly didn't hurt too bad, but the legs as a whole were like jelly. The final descent down to the wash only took about 20 minutes, but it wasn't fun.
Overall, this was one of the hardest but at the same time most enjoyable hikes I have done in So Cal. Contrary to what was written about Old Grayback and the lack of views, the views on this day were amazing. San Jacinto looked like the next door neighbor it really is, to the north, off in the distance you could see the lower Sierras, and you could clearly see the Palm Springs area. Off to the west, Baldy was in view and Big Bear Lake looked like a long hike away. The day of the hike, I was telling myself that I didn't want to do that hike again in one day, but now, less than a week later, I can't wait to tackle Old Grayback again.
Oh, on a side note, it turns out I was hiking San Gorgonio with Strep Throat. I thought I only had a minor sore throat/cold, but it turns out I was much more sick than I thought. Hopefully next time I'll be in better health.
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