Three years ago, SoCal Hiker was officially launched. I’ve hiked many miles since then, and I wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the highlights, and say thanks to some of the people who have shared the journey.
The idea for SoCal Hiker came as I was planning to backpack the John Muir Trail. I first hiked the JMT back in 1980 and fell in love with the Sierras. As the thirty year anniversary of that epic trip approached, I decided to re-hike the entire trail. I knew a long backpacking trip like this would require extensive planning, training and preparation. I’d have to plan training hikes, get into condition for the long miles at elevation, obtain permits, plan meals and much more. The planning itself would require a lot of documentation, so why not share that know-how with others? And so I did.
I was inspired by some of the other great hiking blogs, including Casey Schreiner’s Modern Hiker with great depth and variety; Kolby Kirk’s The Hike Guy, sharing a genuine passion for hiking; and Derek Loranger’s 100 Peaks, which was similarly motivated by a larger goal. When I started SoCal Hiker, I wanted to capture something that I would find useful myself, with trail maps, photos, a narrative for the trail, and other useful bits sometimes missing (like where to get a great fish taco after the hike).
Weekday Training Hikes
In the beginning, I was living in San Clemente and looking for others to hike with. I joined Meetup and organized my first Wednesday night hike on a popular south OC trail affectionately named the Roller Coaster Ridge. It’s not the official trail name — you won’t find in on a map — but an accurate description of the ups-and-downs of the 4.6 mile loop. As fate would have it, the first hike I led was attended by exactly one other person. Fortunately, Joan and I got along quite well. Her sense of adventure was piqued by my description of the John Muir Trail, and soon we were much more than hiking partners. But more on that later.
As daylight savings time came around, I added a Monday night hike on the Colinas Bluff Trail in neighboring Laguna Niguel. Very similar terrain, but six miles long. The two weeknight hikes provided a solid base for the training to be supplemented with longer hikes on the weekends. Both hikes proved very popular, and we had a growing group of regular hikers, including Kathy Sue, Vanessa, Doug, Alan and Ina, Ammie and Eric, Paul and Yoko and many more than I can remember.
I started tackling longer trails on the weekends, but even with the added mileage, I knew I’d need to add altitude. That meant heading for some serious mountains. Thus was born “The Six Pack.”
The Six-Pack of Peaks
The Six Pack of Peaks is a series of hikes up some well-known Southern California mountains: Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Mt. San Antonio (“Baldy”), San Bernardino Peak, Mt. San Jacinto and culminating with San Gorgonio Peak – the highest peak in Southern California. Each hike added elevation and brought new challenges. And while the hikers who joined me on these trails varied, there are a few who qualify as regulars: Jim, John, Tyler, Emily and many others from the HikingOC Meetup.
The John Muir Trail
While Joan and I were prepared for the JMT, I was hoping to round out the group with a couple more people for the trip. And thanks to SoCal Hiker, we met the other two guys would would round out our party: Jeffrey Aller and Harikrishnan Jayamohan.
Together, we spend countless hours preparing food, planning, and finally, putting one foot in front of the other over three weeks and 211 miles. The JMT was by all measures an epic trip. My only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time out there — but this is easily remedied with return trips in the future.
Last year I connected with Ric Serena from The Muir Project. Their group of multimedia artists hiked the JMT one year after our trip, and have documented the journey in a film that you have got to see when it’s released! They’ve done an amazing job of capturing the essence of hiking the JMT, right down to the title: Mile…Mile and a Half.
While hiking the JMT was my original goal, I haven’t stopped there. My hiking partner Joan (from my first Meetup) became my fiance, and last year, my wife!
I’ve had a chance to meetup and hike (and eat!) with other hiking bloggers from SoCal — first with Peter and Derek on Whale Peak in Anza Borrego, and then with a much larger group, including Jeff and Colleen Greene (GreeneAdventures), Peter (East-West Hike), Traci (Walk Simply), David (Red Tail Trails), Josh & Amie (California Through My Lens), and Zac (Ransomed Man).
Now we’re planning our next big backpacking adventure, and taking time to explore more of the trails in Los Angeles. We’re fortunate to be so close to so many great trails, from the coastal mountains to the San Gabriels. Even the Sierras are less than a day’s drive away.
Thanks to everyone who has supported SoCal Hiker by reading, commenting and sharing with your friends. To give something back, I introduce our newest feature – the hiking forums. Ask a question. Share a trail report. Check out the forums.
Special thanks to Kolby Kirk for use of his “Three” image from one of his latest projects: 100 Hikes.