Hike to Mt. Lukens, San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles

It was a cold, rainy, foggy morning.  I wasn’t even sure I was in LA.

view from my back deck

view from my back deck

It was quite early in the morning and therefore I was still delusional enough to make the 4-5 hour trek up to Mt. Lukens and back.  By myself.  Mt Lukens is, by the way, the highest point in Los Angeles (5,075 ft. elevation) and is no small feat.  I was itching for an adventure…and a way to help burn off my holiday excessiveness.

I packed up my bomb Osprey pack with lots of extra layers, gloves, paper towels, chapstick, gum and other goodies.  I cannot recommend this backpack enough. TONS of pockets everywhere, even on the hip belt for easy access to things such as tissues (cuz my nose is a dripper when hiking), a 3L water sack, and a well-ventilated back.

DSCN1559     Adventure Fuel! Tomato soup in the thermos

Made myself some tasty breakfast, the recipe for which you can find here.
Skillet Poached eggs atop sautéed mushrooms and greens, side of truffle goat cheese

Skillet Poached eggs atop sautéed mushrooms and greens, side of truffle goat cheese

Once I hit the trail, Rim of the Valley out of Deukmejian Wilderness Park, it was a wet dense fog the whole way.  I must say it made for some truly transporting, magical hiking.  It is what I imagine the Pacific Northwest looking like.


I've always wanted to decorate a Christmas tree on a trail like this!

I’ve always wanted to decorate a Christmas tree on a trail like this!


The rain clinging gently to everything.



It was nice to see everything come alive in the rush of rain.  Lord knows we’ve needed it. But I could see how in a really rainy year, this could get tough in places, water flowing steadily and no clear trail near the water.  That’s ok, I’ve gotten good at improvising.



Here is where an old bridge melted when the station fire from 2009 came whooshing down the canyon.  The fog was so thick, you could do nothing but focus on the few steps immediately ahead of you.  There was no way to anticipate the future of the course nor dwell upon its passing.  As profound a life lesson as any.

DSCN1585            DSCN1581

The hike to the top took much longer than I thought, but then again I was so enamored with my surroundings, I couldn’t help but stop.  I swear it wasn’t to catch my breath…at all.




You can see the towers, but I'm still so far from the top. Brutal.

You can see the towers, but I’m still so far from the top. Brutal.

There were times I was so surrounded by clouds that I could have sworn I was 15,000 ft. vs 5,000 ft. high.


When I finally reached the top, I realized it was snowing.  In LA?!  It was bitingly cold from the wind and I was too wet from sweating to stay long.

There was no view whatsoever because of the clouds.  I was at the highest view point in all of Los Angeles and could see nothing.  Most people would have been pissed to work that hard for so little.  But you know what?  It was just fine by me seeing as the journey to the top was so magnificent.

I always think, whoever said “it’s not the destination, but the journey” has never hiked to the top of a glorious mountain.  In this case, however it couldn’t have been more true and a metaphor for which my life is ripe.

I turned around quickly, downing some warm tomato soup from my thermos while hoping to thaw out my frozen fingers. I got my one and only glimpse of blue sky for the day.

DSCN1601I made my way down in half the time it took me to get up, mostly because I had somewhere to be.  I did my best not to let my haste allow for bad footing or for taking anything for granted.  My Leki hiking poles most certainly were a welcome addition both going up and coming down.


I’ll leave you with my favorite picture from the hike.  I truly felt like I was in a foreign land, whisked away to the mountains of Africa or South America.  I am so proud of my hard work on this hike and for taking the risk – not letting rain and fog and inclement weather deter me from my desires.  Another wonder-filled adventure.


Total Miles: 10

Elevation Gain: 2900 ft.

Difficulty (1-10): 7.5

Time: 4.5 hours out and back


Hike to Ball Mountain in the Southern Sierras


For this hike, we decided to try and make it to the top of Ball Mountain, 9260 foot elevation.  We started the hike at 6500 feet, so close to a 3000 foot elevation gain.

The peak way in the back is Ball Mountain

The peak way in the back is Ball Mountain

The plan was to take the Wildrose Trail up about 3 miles then bushwhack straight up to a lower and smaller peak, then follow the ridge to the top of Ball Mountain.

There was a good deal of snow and of course my hiking boots, as awesome as they are, are meant for summer…and I wore cotton socks, a big no no.

Well a little turned to quite a lot of snow and we had to take breaks for me to warm my freezing little toes.  But despite the treacherous and steep terrain, the snow made it easier to keep grip and gave a nice sparkle to the view.

I’m so glad I had my hiking poles, which look like really cool, adjustable ski poles (mine are made by Leki and are wonderful) because it really helped not only my stability but checking deeper pockets of snow for possible holes on unstable ground.

Here the snow got so deep it was up to my knees.  Boy was I unprepared for that, though I am thankful for my Christmas present of sturdy hiking pants or I woulda been a popsicle!

At a certain point we reasoned that we did not have enough time to make it to the top of Ball and home while it was still light out, but I believe we made it well over half, possibly 2/3 the way up.

We got to a small peak and took a quick break for water and snacks, knowing we needed to make quick work of our way down.  Brian’s plan was to take us  down a dry creek bed on the other side of the mountain and kind of loop around to the main road and back to the car.  I did warn him that based on previous attempts at hiking through dry creeks in this area, that they often turn into sheer-walled cavern-like creeks.

We headed down and were quickly rewarded with dry conditions and some beautiful open fields.



Not many pictures for the rest of the trip because things got serious pretty quickly, as they are wont to do in these parts. We descended into the creek covered in boulders which I am not adept with quite yet (but getting better).  As predicted, the creek grew tall, sheer rock walls after awhile and we had to make the climb out.  Boy I need to remember to take better pictures.

We stumbled across some fun and crazy terrain, each pass thinking okay this is where we will head down but we really didn’t know what we were getting into. So we kept heading across until finally we ended up back on Wildrose Trail!


Another adventure complete just in the nick of time, as usual.  We estimate that we hiked about 9-10 miles on this day, a total of five hours of hiking.