Mt. Baldy via Bear Flats Trail

June 15, 2012 in Hiking, Home Page, Mt. Baldy, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Once again, I find myself standing at the Bear Flats trailhead before dawn. Although it has only been a month since my last Bear Flats run, I can already tell this trip is going to be different from the last.

Fore one thing, its not going to rain all day and we aren’t going to be lashed by 50 mph gales. Today, you might say we’ve won the weather lottery; it’s clear and cool… perfect hiking weather. With conditions like these, it’s hard not to push myself to improve my ‘summit and back’ personal best. Another difference this time is a pretty big group! Three times larger than last time. The more the merrier usually – and this time too. But it also means a longer caterpillar on the trail. To avoid breaking the caterpillar in two by puling too far ahead, I decided to bang out sections of the trail, then stop and regroup. Given the relaxed and jubilant demeanor of my trail mates, I know they won’t mind keeping their own pace or my temporary absences if I disappear around a corner up ahead.

The sun came up as we passed through bear flats, and some of us stopped on the switchbacks to take a few photos. In the summer months, the switchbacks can be brutally hot if you ascend in direct sunlight. For summer ascents, I typically try to start early enough as to make the ridge before sun up. Given the steep grade and loose marble sized detritus that makes up the foot path, there is no need to make this section more dreary.



Even though it was still fairly early, the shade provided by what few trees there are on the switchbacks was welcome. Upon making the ridge, we relaxed a it, ate and waited for our more leisurely companions.



Here’s an arty shot though a key hold left in a burnt stump. pretty nifty huh?



Onward and upward. Technically, it’s winter and so we were pleased to encounter a little snow here and there. I’m glad I didn’t bring my crampons or wear my heavier mountaineering boots.



Our next stop was at a rocky outcropping along the ridgeline traverse. The sun had warmed the rocks surface which, when combined with the breeze and the view, made for an ideal spot to stretch out.



A short distance further and the views really open up. This particular spot is one of my favorite overlooks along the ridge. Great photo opportunity. If you need a new Facebook profile photo, this spot seems to please. Down below the ridge is a small mining operation of some sort. Frankly, its not that interesting to look at but the tiny little yellow dot of a bulldozer stands in stark contrast with the gray and barren canyon. It simply draws the eye.


Here is an awesome shot!. Although I have mixed feelings about this word, I think its far to say it’s “epic”.

As the day wore on, the caterpillar started to more closely resemble … a much thinner and longer caterpillar, I guess. What’s thinner and longer than a caterpillar? A worm? Nah, a worm at this altitude would be dried up and shriveled. ew. Anyways – the group up front continued to pull away.


Excited by the thinner air in my lungs, I plugged in my mp3 player and blasted out ahead. Some people object to the use of mp3 players on the trial. Personally, I find that it can instantly re-energise, motivate and simultaneously provide focus and distraction and break the monotony of the trail. Sure, I certainly enjoy the sounds of nature, but the sound of the wind, the scrape of my boots and the sound of my own panting breath can get old too. That being said, I can understand why someone else’s mp3 player might be annoying (especially if you can OVER hear it) or if you are traveling in close proximity and want to talk to a person who has to constantly pull an ear bud out to mutter, “huh? I can’t hear you with my music on. What did you say?”

“I said ‘Look out! Don’t step on that angry looking snake!! I’m pretty sure it’s poisonous!” :P

Before too long I was nearing the summit. I’d better hold up, I though, to summit with some of the others. Its always more fun to summit with others, especially when its their first time up the Bear Flats trail. Besides, its not a race (despite my urge to push my output). A short nap later and the team was marching by.


Again, I have to reflect how drastically the conditions can vary on Mt. Baldy. The summit on this occasion was perhaps just as pleasant as any time I can remember. Low 70s maybe, barely a breeze. Contrast that with a trip just about a year earlier (1 year and 20 days to be exact) when it was windy and frozen with snow. And even just a few weeks before, when the wind and rain spiced the trail.

One by one the team arrived, tired – but happy to be there at the summit. The altitude had it’s effect, but most of the crew seemed content and without malady. Nothing a snack, a few panoramic photos and a nap wouldn’t fix.


Knowing that the group was intact and … I suited up and began my trot back down the trail. I wanted to let a few of our group who had taken a more leisurely pace know that we had reached the summit and were beginning the descent. It was time to turn back.

Baldy – Rain or Shine

January 21, 2012 in Hiking, Home Page, Mt. Baldy, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Most people avoid the dreariest of conditions when planning their hike. Not us! In fact, sometimes getting out into the elements is exactly what we are looking to do. Call us crazy. Maybe it’s because I grew up with more seasons and varied weather, maybe its because southern California is basically a desert, I’m not sure… but I can’t deny the cold and soggy serenity that can be found when venturing out into the rain.

You can imagine my surprise when Anis & Sahba seemed genuinely delighted by the less than optimal weather forecast. 90% chance of precipitation, 20-30mpg gales with gusts to 50mph! Despite my full disclosure, which included words like “hypothermia” and “miserable”, these two were gung-ho. I secretly thought to myself, “wow… these guys might be crazy… that’s excellent!”

So, like a pre-dawn Larry, Moe & Curly, we met in the early morning rain outside of Wardance Training Center for the drive to the trail-head. A special thanks goes to Shirley, of Shirley’s Bagels in Costa Mesa, for making our commute more bearable and overloaded with cream cheese.

We arrived as dawn broke and marched into the fog. The tree cover gave us some shelter from the wind, but staying dry was instantly an issue. I’m pretty sure rain permeated the outside layers while sweat permeated the inside layers. Gotta love 100% humidity.

Luckily, a very small break in the weather allowed us to linger at one of the lower overlook points for a few moments. Too bad we couldn’t really see anything. After reflecting on the potential breakfast specials being served fireside at the Baldy Lodge, we soldiered on.

As we switched back and forth above the bear flats, the weatherman’s prediction became increasingly accurate. By the time we reached the ridge, we were all felling the chill and needed to refuel. We turned our backs to the wind and silently ate our PB&Js.







For those of you who haven’t been up the Bear Flats trail in the winter, Baldy seems to get its fair share of frozen rain. While there can be deep snow drifts, frozen trees are also a common sight. Beware – these trees can shed chucks of ice when you least expect it. Heads up!






The wind was so strong at times, it would push you right off the trail. We looked like a bunch of stumbling drunks! I was surprised how much energy it took to deal with the wind. It slowed our progress and seemed to make us very hungry. Here is a photo of Anis leaning into the wind… doing his best “Smooth Criminal” impression.




To avoid the most brutal and chilling gusts of wind, we eventually broke off the trail and hiked over to the other side of the ridge. Once on the more sheltered side, our spirits were immediately re-energized. I was happy to learn that Anis & Sahba were thoroughly enjoying the abysmal weather. I was too. Heh, now it’s certain – we are all certifiably crazy.



After messing around a bit and eating our lunch we decided the summit was not necessary. Perhaps it was the idea of being blasted by the wind and rain again (once we crossed back to the other side of the ridge), perhaps it was because our goal (to get outside and play in the rain) had already been accomplished, but the release of a summit requirement only increased our revelry. It allowed us to relax a bit and enjoy the hunger induced shivery delirium we had created for ourselves.

As we began to descend that afternoon, a miraculous thing happened — the clouds broke, the winds calmed, and we got a solid 8 minutes of warm and beautiful sunshine. Anis, Sahba and I basically stood there for all 8 minutes, dumbfounded by the sun’s relative comfort.



When the cloud cover and rain rolled back in, we were pretty much in agreement that it was time to head out. The fog in the canyon was even thicker than when we ascended, making our exit uneventful. There aren’t many details when you are hiking in the soup.

So thanks to Baldy. And thanks to Anis & Sahba for being the type to embrace some errant adventure and all that mother nature has to offer. As cold and soggy as it was, I know you both enjoyed it. If sleep was applause, they both gave me a standing ovation for the entire ride home. HA!

I can’t wait till we get out there again!

– Chuck
WillTrek Adventurer