Viejo San Juan, El Morro and Shopping

imageTuesday we took to the streets of Viejo San Juan to see the sights and visit El Morro, the fort that guarded the island back in the day. It is a must see if you come to the island.

Restaurant Barrachina

Restaurant Barrachina

We also saw the birthplace (1963) and home of the Pina Colada.
Parque de las Palomas

Parque de las Palomas

We took my Mom to see the Parque de las Palomas as it was on her list of things to see. We followed that up with some shopping and then lunch at a local cafe that the trolley driver recommended. I think I have had my fill of tostones (fried plantains) and arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans).
Carne Frita, rice, beans and tostones.

Carne Frita, rice, beans and tostones.

imageWhen I was here many years ago and I tasted passion fruit juice aka Parcha. This time around I had it in a sorbet and also as a juice, it is my favorite and also an island favorite.

It’s been a great trip and the weather had been great. January is definitely the best month to visit as the humidity is not a problem at all.

Not for the faint of heart

South Fork Trail in Pearblossom, almost 12 miles on the side of a mountain, elevation gain 2,200.  And in some places I do mean the side of a mountain.  If you read the write up from another perspective you might think this is a relatively easy hike for someone who is a pretty seasoned hiker.  What the article doesn’t say is that if you are nervous about heights and do not enjoy hiking on the side of a mountain for 7 hours this hike is not for you.

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We had the best of the best hikers yesterday.  It was a small group of 6. We met in the Cajon Pass to carpool to the trailhead.  The group came from the Inland Empire, the San Bernardino Mtns. and the High Desert. We set out at 9 am and reached Islip Saddle, another point where the PCT intersects Highway 2 near Wrightwood.

The trail starts in a wash for about 1/2 a mile and then crosses a nice creek with a good amount of water and then heads up the side of a hill with a just a few switch backs and then begins the long climb along the west side of the mountain.  We pretty much walked on a ledge most of the way up.  The first mile was the most treacherous for me.  There were plenty of places where the mountain is mostly made of rock with lots of Slickensides and scree.  Ok, maybe not plenty but the first trail mile was mostly covered with it.  Focus was imperative to keep me from freaking out.

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Mark and I making our way up the trail. Slow and focused.

Once past the first mile the terrain changed from rock to forest and trees and some rock faces and became somewhat more enjoyable. The additional four miles on the ledge seemed like it took forever.  We reached the top in about 3 1/2 hours.  We took a nice lunch break and we headed back down the hill which I thought would be more difficult and I was dreading it as I knew I had to travel the same path and over those scary and what I felt were dangerous spots.

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We did enjoy some beautiful views.

I had realized  I had gained some confidence on the way up and the first 4 miles down the hill went by quickly and I was able to relax somewhat and enjoy the hike. Of course, the last mile was once again a challenge but we all made it down safely and I was so grateful for that.   I followed Mark  up and down the hill as he had a calming stride and gave me confidence as we crossed the difficult places on the trail.  He really helped me with this hike.

I have gained so many friends over the years while out on the trail.  Many I believe have been brought into my life for a reason and I have been truly blessed.

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He created this beauty for us to enjoy.

On a side note,  Thursday night I watched Grey’s Anatomy, coincidentally the episode was about a women hiker who had fallen off a mountain and ended up in the hospital and died.  This is what was going through my mind for the first part of the hike.  Not a nice way to start a hike like this one.  It is amazing how the mind works and can take over if you let it. Don’t let it.

Of course,  my strength and courage to complete this hike came from God.

Happy Easter.

 

Mexico to Canada on the PCT or Not

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The view of Big Bear before we disappear to the North side of the mountain.

This past weekend we hiked from Big Bear to Lake Arrowhead on the PCT.  It was a 24 mile journey and another opportunity to see how I feel about taking on the entire 2600+ miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

RC, WG and myself left on March 21, a Saturday morning around 9:30 from the trailhead at Cougar Crest near the Big Bear Discovery Center.  The weather was perfect with sunny skies, no wind and rather cool.  The plan was to hike 12 miles a day.  We had our maps, apps, WG’s hand-held GPS and my GPS watch.  We were each carrying about 32-34 pds in our backpacks including food and water.

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WG and RC making their way over the snow-covered trail.

We hiked 2.0 miles up to the PCT and started around mile 276.4 on the PCT. The trail was clear for a while and then we reached the north side of the mountains where we encountered our first snow.  We walked in and out of snow on the trail most of the first day.  It slowed us down some but we made it to Little Bear Springs in about 6.5 hours and to our surprise found an outdoor bathroom which opened up to the stars (no roof).   It was super clean.  We had only walked about 10 miles and decided that this was a nice place to set up camp for the evening.  The camp also included a picnic table,  fire ring and a spring nearby to filter or boil water.  We setup camp, RC (aka Firestarter) started a nice fire and we each ate our own dinners that we had packed in.  It was a great first day.  We also had a guest camper from Ohio who was traveling through western United States.

The night was crisp and I thought I would sleep well, but I didn’t.  If I was able to sleep a couple of hours I would have been happy.  The moon was almost full, so it appeared like the light was on all night from the inside of my tent.  Finally around 4 or 5 am the moon went down behind a mountain and it turned dark. Still no sleep.  The temperature dropped below freezing at one point as some bottled water left on the table was frozen.  I was pretty warm in my down sleeping bag.  Not sure why I haven’t managed to sleep while camping in the last year and a half.  I was not going to let it ruin my second day.

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We all got up around 7:30 or 8 am and packed up our tents and backpacks and headed down the trail again.  If I remember correctly the snow was behind us and now it was time to cross Holcomb Creek a few times.  We also started to see hikers coming from Mexico.  They had begun their journey around March 2.  They were traveling light and moving what I thought was a much faster than us.  However in the last 3 miles we had caught up to one of them taking a break and getting fresh water from an underground spring.  So, slow and steady still makes good time. The three water crossings were quite the challenge as the water was deeper than we expected.  At the last water crossing, we ended up taking our hiking shoes and socks off and walking through the cold water which was super refreshing.  We left our shoes off and walked to a nearby place to enjoy a snack.  It felt great to take a break and ground my feet with the earth for about 15 minutes.  It gave me the energy to finish the hike.  We were now about 5 miles from the end of the trail.  The last mile was a bit difficult as my feet were pretty tired and my brain was trying to tell me I wasn’t going to make it and my heart was telling me to push through to the end.  We finished 14 miles in 6.5 hours.  Super happy with the second day and being able to do an additional 4 miles in the same amount of time.

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I made an interesting comparison to my time on the Camino.  I was worried about the last two miles as we would be arriving in the late afternoon and walking through a desert like landscape.  As on the Camino, my God was with me and provided a nice breeze all the way to the car. Amazing……. There were a few other places on the trail when I felt Him with me as He was with me in Spain.  I made some great strides and conquered some fears, washed out trails, crossing a creek via a log about 2-3 feet above the water and hiking over snow-covered trail on a ledge without micro-spikes.  It’s amazing to me how my relationship with my heavenly Father seems to grow out on the trail. Why was I worried?  He always takes care of us.

As for taking on the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada… the jury is still out.  We are planning another 3 day backpacking trip to San Bernardino Peak in May.  I would like to see if I can sleep better.  I will be making some adjustments to my sleep system.  A wider airpad  and a flannel insert for my sleeping bag.  As for my food I was happy with my choices.

Until the next adventure…..