Tahquitz Peak (8,846 – give or take) & Lookout – trip report!

Nate_SOTA_TahquitzOn Monday, The Yank and I hiked up to Tahquitz Peak & Lookout Tower via the Devil’s Slide Trail. Once we reached Saddle Junction in the San Jacinto Wilderness, we skirted south along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for a mile, and then took a quick .5 mile (but snowy/icy/exposed!) bit of trail up to the peak. The Yank wants me to add that we “section hiked” the PCT; at this rate, we’ll finish the 2600-mile trail in approximately 750 years.

It was fabulous.

My legs – notably my lateral quads – felt otherwise.

Okay, okay, my glutes hated me as well.

The day after a race day can be, err, either horribly painful and awful or not that bad. If it’s the second, then you’re really screwed, because the DOMS are certain to set in at any moment. I pretty much knew even before I finished racing that my legs had checked out, and while my right IT band and hamstring are barking at me even today (3 days post-race), I figure that’s pretty normal. I’m still not at the point of bracing myself against the wall when settling on the commode and never was, for what it’s worth.

Anyway – any day that we get to head out hiking is (usually) a great day. Days with a mountain lion stalking, angry bears, and charging cows are considered not-so-great days, just to clarify. But seriously, we’ve been looking forward to this peak for a while and Monday was our time to head out.

After picking up our self-issued permit at the Idyllwild Ranger’s Station, we parked at Humbler Park and sorted out our gear (do you have my microspikes? Sunscreen? Should I wear one layer or two??). As the temperature was somewhere around 40, and we were headed 3K feet up in altitude, selecting proper clothing was important. I don’t know about you – being cold is NOT fun.

And for everyone living in places other than SoCal right now, I’m sorry. I totally realize that 40 degrees is NOT cold, by any means.

Anyway – the Devil’s Slide Trail is beautiful with lots of great views of the surrounding peaks, rocks, forrest, and all other great-things-nature. It’s hard to remember that we’re still in SoCal, just a stone’s throw away from Palm Springs (okay, 6,000 feet higher and on the other side of the mountain). And it was a good thing we had our permit, as we were stopped by Rangers. Otherwise, our trip up to the junction was uneventful, slightly painful on the legs and lungs, but otherwise beautiful.

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We made an easy go of it to Saddle Junction; I was curious about how the area would look after last year’s devastating Mountain Fire. A few trails throughout the forrest were closed off, and while hiking along the PCT and then at the peak, it was easy to see the devastation to our east and then south.

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About two hours after setting out, we reached the peak, with it’s old, but most-excellent fire lookout tower. The Tahquitz Lookout is the highest of the seven fire Lookout Towers in the San Bernardino National Forest, and part of the National Forrest Association. These important watchtowers are strategically placed and staffed during certain times of the year in order to spot and alert for fires. We are grateful for our forest service volunteers who stand watch! Anyway, the final half-mile section was a bit icy, but with microspikes and poles, totally manageable. I’m sure one could navigate it without the technical gear; I’m just a fraidy cat with exposure, steep drop offs and ice. Plus, with wibbly post-race quads, I needed all the help I could get to NOT trip myself up and go flying off the cliff. But eventually we made it – and spotted the Fire Lookout!

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Once at the top, The Yank pulled out his short-wave radio and worked for a time with Summits On The Air (SOTA).

What the heck is SOTA?

Here’s the wiki definition:

Summits On The Air (SOTA) is an amateur radio operating award program. Its aim is to encourage operation from mountainous locations. Licensed amateur radio operators combine mountain climbing with operating their radios from the summits of hills and mountains.

Those who set up a station on a summit are known as activators and those who work, or contact, summit stations are known as chasers. Similarly, there are two types of award that can be received: One for the activator of the summit and one for the chaser (the operator in contact with the summit).

Points are awarded for operating from a summit or for working a station on a summit. The higher the mountain is, the more points the operator receives.

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For the record, The Yank is an activator. I think it’s pretty cool, and it’s been neat to see him develop his skill since returning home from deployment last year. He’s had an amateur radio license for 20+ years, but recently returned to the hobby. Listening to him tap out morse code is fun, and I’m learning some of the radio lingo, too. Plus, he combines his love of radios and bouncing radio waves across the world (literally!) with hiking… something that we can do together. What’s not to love?

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Anyway, while he worked the air waves, I took a few pictures, tried to not get super antsy about the time, drank peppermint tea to stay warm, and generally enjoyed the views. There’s something so incredibly peaceful and quiet about a random mountain summit away from civilization, it’s like you can hear the mountain breath.

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To the south, I had clear views of the burn path from the Mountain Fire – hard to see, as several peaks that I’ve hiked to were overrun by flames, including Spitler and Apache Peaks, along with several others. I will be curious to see what happens to this section of the PCT, as the area is closed in order to recover. I know fire is a natural part of the cycle of life and nature and all that stuff – but it’s still awful to see an area that you love, completely burned. After activating the summit (8 points! Plus a 3-point winter bonus), we packed up our stuff, snapped a few pictures together on the tower, enjoyed the views and made our way (carefully!) through the icy sections of trail back towards the PCT.

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We made quick work to Saddle Junction, and then motored our way down the Devil’s Slide Trail, no Rangers in sight. This is where my quads decided they hated me, hiking, downhill, and especially the fucking mountain. I used my poles to help support the weight of my impact, but I knew they were shot. The Yank sped ahead of me and I took plenty of “opportunities” to “stop and take pictures.” More like “rest and stretch” with the occasional 4-letter word thrown in for good measure.

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Aside from my quads NOT liking the 3,000+ feet of descending, it was a great day. Total hiking time was just shy of 4 hours – so naturally we headed to Pizza Port. Just because.

Tahquitz_13Overall, it was a great day…any day that I’m able to spend with someone I love, doing something that I love is special. Even if my quads are going on strike. I’m definitely looking forward to my upcoming hike this weekend with C – lots of mileage and 4 OR 5 peaks around Lake Arrowhead, if we can make everything work. Last time we attempted this hike, it was opening day of California’s Hunting Season. That in and of itself is enough to make me become a vegetarian. Anyway – we kept seeing random trucks parked in the middle of the dirt road we were hiking up – thankfully some hunters stopped and warned us after only 45 or 50 minutes of hiking. Our turn-around was hasty and we ended up heading to the Angeles National Forrest instead. But enough about that….. only two more days until I get to head out again – hooray!

Loving it while we live it – Happy on Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout! Hooray!

Tahquitz_8Thanks for stopping by!

 

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3 thoughts on “Tahquitz Peak (8,846 – give or take) & Lookout – trip report!

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