One of the newly dominant themes in my life has been a quest to find more age-appropriate human interactions. Most of my interactions with other humans over the past year have occurred in the company of a toddler. As good as he is at using sign language to indicate that I’m pooping when I go to the bathroom or that he wants an avocado when we go to the grocery store, I find the rest of our conversations somewhat limited and one-sided.
Astonishingly, I’ve spent two of my last three big hikes in the company of adults, whom I’m relieved to rediscover are capable of holding interesting conversations about a variety of subjects that rarely include poop and only touch on avocado at the tail end of a hike when hunger becomes a pressing concern. This is quite a development for a chronic solo-hiker who turns off most potential hiking companions with the promise of pre-dawn start times and ambitious routes through little traveled areas.
I enjoyed today’s social hike in the company of two old friends whom I have known long enough to have achieved the social equivalent of that feeling when you put on an old pair of jeans. It fits, there isn’t a ton of awkward wiggling, and the chafing is minimal to non-existent. We met up at the ever-bustling Icehouse Canyon Trailhead to take a shot at Ontario and Bighorn Peaks, which are the only peaks in the greater San Antonio Canyon region that I haven’t summitted.
I got there about an hour early since I can’t seem to shake that pre-dawn habit. Given that I had some time to kill, I went down to the banks of Icehouse Creek to enjoy the sound and sights of running water. Columbine and lupine bloomed on the banks, and the creek’s modest drought-year flow gurgled and splashed over gneiss, granite, and marble. I spotted the remnants of a party in the form of empty Corona bottles, and I did some thoughtless vandals the courtesy of cleaning up after them.
Once my friends arrived, we set off toward the peaks at a brisk pace along a trail that was steeper and harder than I recall when I was 25 pounds lighter and six years younger. I managed not to embarrass myself in the company of fitter hikers, and we made great progress on our way to Icehouse Saddle. We caught up about our primary relationships (they with ladies, me with my wife and son), and we started talking about food (donuts in particular) far too early.
We decided to forego Bighorn Peak since Ontario Peak was offering us plenty of work. The 12 mile hike gains 3,800 feet in the no-bullshit manner typical of the San Gabriel Mountains. The most enjoyable part came after Kelly Camp when the trail reached the summit ridge and we got a peak into the obscuring haze blanketing the Inland Empire. Ontario Peak is a much quieter summit than the nearby traffic snarl at Cucamonga Peak of Six-Pack of Peaks fame. While there’s no overhanging rock for people to take cool Instagram shots, the views toward Mt. Baldy and south across the L.A. Basin were preferable to my tastes.
I’ve got to voice an opinion about the San Gabriels here, with apologies to my friend Kyle. Although there are many parts of the range that I enjoy, including the riparian forests in Icehouse Canyon and Santa Anita Canyon, the high ridge traversed by the PCT between Islip Saddle and Mt. Baby-Powder, errr, Mt. Baden-Powell, and some of the summits above Icehouse Canyon, I find the range a hard one to love. It’s a very severe place to hike, and so many of the trails seem designed to punish your calves and quadriceps. While I’m being a bit of a baby about the relentless inclines, I also find the scenery to be just a little less enjoyable than the gentler, broader mountains in San Diego. While I don’t wish to engage in a pissing contest over which metro area has the best scenery, I find that the Palomars, Lagunas, Cuyamacas, Volcans, and San Ysidros offer so much more to my sensibilities than the big wall of hurtfest bounding the L.A. Basin.
If you’re interested in the hike, check out this Modern Hiker write-up for details.