Adventure, and the stench of sardines.
The break of dawn found me sleepy eyed and hurdling towards the rendezvous point. As per usual, my friends and I's ability to organize had seen to it that our group was split into two vehicles, James, Sam pup and I in one, and Dom, Ruckus hound and Zach in the other, leaving from two separate start points at entirely different times. The other group had not a clue where they were going and were apparently having difficulty utilizing their smart phones. Maps are hard. Upon setting out for Idyllwild our belief was that our partner vessel would end up in Texas.
We set out with little hope of meeting our friends in the mountains. As the drive began we quickly realized this was no simple drive. Our mental fortitude was going to be pushed to its very limits. Sam pup, The Balrog dog, was not happy with the seating arrangement and showed her displeasure with obsessive whining and overall madness inducing restlessness. I should also mention James, Balrog dog and I were crammed into a itty bitty 2 1/12 seater toyota truck. Misery was our constant companion and anxiety our dearest friend. After over an hour and a half, Dogicide came to mind more and more. Luckily the spectacle of the rising sun over a frosty, snow covered mountain landscape had enough awe inspiring wonder to keep the murderous thoughts at bay.
Pictures taken from a moving vehicle while restraining a anxious pup really can't do it justice. We had left early enough to be one of the first few up the mountain. Even the snow on and along the roads was relatively untouched and pristine. Soon enough we found ourselves at the ranger station, got our permits and set out for the trailhead. Moments later, realizing we weren't able to depart from the ranger station due to the icy conditions of the road we were forced to break out the chains. Chains in and of themselves aren't all that troublesome but the ambient temperature and the blood abandoning your phalanges with great rapidity does make it a daily annoying experience. Chains equipped we proceeded to crawl our way up the mountain. After nearly having to get out and push the truck made it up the first hill of the park entrance and we decided that the side of the road was a perfect parking spot.
Veiled in the shadow's of mountains and forest we began gearing up for our expedition. Balrog dog having been finally released from the dreadful confines of her prison began to frolic about and devour as much snow as her tummy could contain.
We spent a fair amount of time plodding around in search of cellular reception in hopes of contacting our second vessel. We were just about to give up when the Taliban showed up in their Subaru Baja complete with arctic dog.
Turned out it wasn't the Taliban, only our friends. By looking at the picture you might assume that there was little hope in parking correctly in a space. Seeing as how there was a thick blanket of snow obscuring everything that would be a logical conclusion; However, The park ranger disagreed and decided to write a ticket for parking in a "Handicapped zone". Despite the fact of the sign being a great distance away, the car was pointed towards it. In reality the car was more in the middle of the road than in the space, but that's just semantics.
Finally we set out for Tahquitz peak. Little did we realize just how difficult trail blazing through freshly fallen snow would be. One person had set foot up the trail prior to us but they had only gone a few hundred feet probably turning back due to having a rational mind that realized it far too much work trudging through deep snow. We however were far to stubborn. Even after Dom was nearly defeated by a terrible headache and Ruckus Hound suffered from Icy build up on his paws we pressed on. Derpy Dogs love the snow.
The dogs were far better equipped to deal with snow than any of us. While we trudged on burning calories like a Hummer burns gasoline they ran and frolicked effortlessly around us. To be honest, the actual hiking wasn't the most fun I've ever had but the views more than made up for it. The virgin snow was so pure it sparkled like and endless sea of diamonds. When the wind picked up snow flurries rained down from the trees. The snow was so powdery it wasn't even possible to make it into a snowball. I've hiked up Devils slide many times, In good weather, fog, and ice. But freshly fallen snow is unparalleled in its beauty. While incredibly beautiful, the snow slowed our progress to a crawl. In addition to the impeding snow, Dom's earlier ill feelings, and Ruckus's need to stop every so often and eat the ice build up on his paws slowed us down considerably. The trail was easy to discern for most of the journey. Being familiar with the trail certainly was a great help. Several times we were forced to stop due to the snow cover obscuring the trail into oblivion. The treacherous nature of the ordeal made it just that much more exciting! Had we not completed this hike multiple times we probably would of ended up on the news. Missed out on some great publicity there. Darn.
On a lighter note, about half way up to saddle junction, which was supposed to be our halfway check point, we all decided to have a snack and hopefully restore a little of the energy we had burned. I had brought a meal replacement bar, James had hard boiled eggs, and Dom a sandwich. Zach on the other hand, had brought canned sardines in tomato paste.
If that doesn't sound appetizing, it's because it's absolutely disgusting. But Zach for who knows why swears it's delicious. So he repeatedly affirmed his belief in his snack's deliciousness by making all manner of noises proclaiming satisfaction while we gagged at the mere sight of it. Zach has a history of making poor choices in his hiking foods. Sixteen cans of chili being a past one. So lightweight! But this wasn't one of them,
Until it was. A side affect of this horrific meal was breath that smelled like death itself. So unless you want to hike alone and throw up all the while, please don't bring sardines. After all these delays we finally arrived at saddle junction. The longest two and a half mile hike ever. Exhausted by the ascent we decided to abandoned our hopes of reaching the peak. We finished off our food, took our group photo and began our descent.
It took us five hours to cover the five mile round trip the snow. In december James and I had made it to San Jacinto peak and back in eight and a half hours, A hike more than three times longer than this one. Snow shoes would have made the going significantly less tough, sadly we are stupid. Our suffering did make this hike all the more memorable. Plus, the views were well worth the effort. I would of loved to have reached the peak but I'm quite happy with the shots I managed to get along the trail. I look forward to my next mountain adventure with great anticipation. Lastly, dogs perceive slipping on ice as both a comical moment and as a opportune time to consume you.