5 for 5: The Dragon Hike

Yesterday I hiked 5 Peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. 5 Peaks for 5 Deployments – that’s what I’m telling myself. Last time he left, I hiked 4; three were the same as yesterday, but this time I added on two new peaks as well and took a different route. There’s a beautifully tragic symmetry in there that I can’t quite wrap my head around.


My GPS track on “The Dragon Hike” or “5 for 5”

Months ago, C had agreed to co-lead this hike with the Sierra Club and I jumped at the chance to participate. We both figured it would be excellent training for future hiking endeavors; it promised to be a long day above 10K feet and I would add Bighorn (10,997) & Dragon’s Head (10,866)  to my HPS Peak List (not that I’m counting – but those suckers are numbers 116 & 117). The catch?

I would have to ascend Dobbs Ridge.


Dobbs Ridge – the first 4 miles of awesomeness. I like how our pace resembles a seismograph.

Two years ago, during my 4 Peaks for 4 Deployments hike, I had the distinct pleasure of descending Dobbs Ridge. My knees hurt for days. And I swore that I would never ascend that thing because I just knew it would just be too fucking painful. It’s interesting…how we don’t think that we’ll ever do something or end up going somewhere specific and WHAM! – life changes, and there you are. I guess the lesson is to never assume. I never would have assumed that I would sign up to climb Dobbs Ridge – but yesterday saw me doing just that.

And you know what? I was surprised, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.


Dobbs Ridge slopes up to the right. From the Vivian Creek Trail

I think that’s another interesting thing about life – sometimes we build up stuff to be way way worse in our mind than it really is. But once I was actually doing it, climbing up up up the loose, rocky, sandy ridge – I had a good time.

I loved being outside, in one of my favorite wilderness areas, doing something that I love with really good people. I have no idea how long it actually took us to reach the four miles to Dobbs Peak but it didn’t really matter. There were definitely bits that were uncomfortable – my calves were barking at me, the insertion point between my left glute and hamstring was tight (no, I wasn’t grabbing my ass, I was just working out a knot), and the extra seven pounds of water (96 oz) or so that I was carrying to cache for a future hike made my eyes sting with salty sunscreen. Regardless of discomfort, I kept going – methodical, taking my time – one foot in front of the other. Sometimes that’s just all you need to do.


Climbing out of The Tarn, a dry lake at 10,600 feet to Bighorn Peak.

Pretty quickly, the scenery changed and once we got above 10K feet in elevation, the trees thinned out. It was fun to visit peaks that I’ve been to before, take snapshot images of the terrain in prep for future adventures, sign completely new registers, and enjoy some of THE BEST views in all of Southern California.

Overall it was a fantastic experience. While we didn’t cover a huge number of miles, the day was a long one with plenty of cross country, off trail travel. It can be tedious and side traversing along the loose, sandy bowl of San G was not always fun and I ended up with more sand and rocks in my shoe than what we’ve got in the kitty box (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration). Regardless – I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

San_G_Greats_small There was definitely a point though where I was done for the day. I had managed to save myself from a magnificent face plant with my left forearm (totally bruised today), and at mile 15, with just over an hour of hiking to go, the group I was with waited for the others to catch up. It was 20 minutes of being attacked by mosquitos and the point where – even though I was carrying 38 essentials – I realized that I did NOT have essential # 39 (a mesh bug cover) and therefore enjoyed being eaten alive by mosquitos. I found myself pacing just fast enough to stay ahead of the buggers. Just as soon as the others caught up, my group was off – so fast that we missed seeing the largish bear near one of the creek crossings.


So there we have it. My 5 for 5 hike – The Dragon Hike. Today I’m tired, or “rundown” as C reported. We spent a solid 12+ hours outside, with 6500 feet of elevation gained and 18-ish miles covered. And as such, I’m still wearing my pjs and have consumed way too much tea today. It was a LONG day – but a GOOD day.


Last rays of the sun hitting the Yucaipa Ridge. From the Vivian Creek Trail.

You know, I’m going to remember this hike, not only because I love the fact that the GPS track resembles a dragon…. but more seriously, because it served as a reminder that sometimes what I’ve built up in my head is way worse than what the reality is. And at the beginning of yet another deployment, that’s a good lesson to keep in mind (although it doesn’t take away the suck factor). But – things can be different, life is in constant flux…terrible symmetrical beauty and all. Maybe I need to work a little more on my own internal dragon and not be so scared of that other, uncontrollable stuff – it just might not be that bad. And I shouldn’t avoid doing something or be fearful, just because I’m afraid of what might be. Because at the end of the day, everything was okay…I had a lot of fun, hiked hard with great friends, learned a valuable lesson, and loved spending my day climbing big peaks. If that isn’t what life is about, then I don’t know what is.

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