Sometimes planning a backpacking trip doesn't take all that long. Aaron James and I figured out where we were going and what we were doing at 11:00am Friday morning (3.28.08) and we were on the trail at 6:00pm that evening! There were only three of us: Aaron James, Tyler Schemper, and Mark Vander Pol so it was easy to plan and get ready. We decided to go to the Mount Laguna area in the mountains of San Diego's East County. We started out on the Noble Canyon Trail, hit the Indian Creek Trail (set up camp once we hit the creek), took the Pine Mountain Trail up to the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area where we got on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We took the PCT south and took a side-trip up to Garnet Peak and finally ended up back where we started. All in all we did about 9.5 miles. Just over 3 miles Friday night, and just over 6 on Saturday morning.
Just a word of "warning"; most of the area we were going through was devestated by the 2003 Cedar Fire and therefore, most of the big trees were completely burned and fallen or cut down. Although the trip was still beautiful we were wondering how much more so it would have been before the fires.
Starting out along the Noble Canyon Trail. This trail is very popular with Mountain Bikers, although we didn't see any until making it back to the trailhead the next morning. The trail was in great condition and gently gained and lost elevation.
Looking north from the trail into the area we would be hiking through the next morning. You can see all the burnt trees.
Tyler along the trail with Aaron behind him.
Walking into the lowering sun through some Jeffrey Pines.
Our campsite (Tyler and Mark were in the tent and Aaron in the bivy). We arrived here around 7:30pm, just light enough to set up our tents and begin getting dinner ready. There was a little stream flowing fairly well through the valley, although since we were uncertain about the availability of water we brought enough for the trip and didn't need to filter any from the stream.
The evening was a little cold, but sitting out under a gorgeous star-filled clear sky smoking a cigar made it a great evening!
Sunrise with the moon.
While we were waking up making coffee and eating breakfast we heard a weird bird sound coming from down the little valley. We couldn't identify it as either a turkey, quail, or pheasant. A few minutes later a pair of hunters came up the valley! This morning was the beginning of shotgun turkey season (something the ranger station neglected to tell us!).
Although it cannot be seen in the photo, this is looking north towards the snowcapped San Jacinto and San Gorgoinio mountains. At this point we were on the PCT southeast of Pioneer Mail, starting our way back south to our car. Within the first 50 yards of being on the PCT we met a thru-hiker! We didn't catch his name, but he started a few days earlier at the border on his way to Canada!
As soon as we got on the Garnet Peak Trail the wind started to pick up. One of the guidebooks for the area's hiking trails said that Garnet Peak has to be one of the windiest spots in the county - well we could attest to that! Especially with a pack on, the wind was really pushing us around! On the summit we figured wind speeds of 50 miles per hour with gusts above that. Here is Mark trying to remain standing in the wind.
Looking east into the desert. Being that it is spring, the desert floor had a nice green tint to it.
Looking north from where we came. The road on the very left is the Sunrise Highway, and the cut seen in the middle is the PCT. The tallest peak left of center is Cuyamaca Peak.
Aaron on the summit.
Heading down the Garnet Peak Trail.
Aaron looking east down into the desert from the PCT.
Tyler on the PCT.
As I mentioned before we made great time on the trail, and were back at our cars around noon. We didn't see any more PCT thru-hikers, and went to the Mt. Laguna Store to look at the PCT Trail Register, and there were a few people that have come through in the past few days. Although our trip was much, much shorter than the PCT, we had a great time and hope to be doing something again soon!