Finishing SoCal Hiker's Six Pack of Peaks, I completed the challenge with the toughest climb of them all...San Gorgonio Mountain. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, the trek is 17 miles and takes you through rugged rocky patches, steep woodlands, lush forests and hot, exposed stretches to the top. This trail is quite the journey and as prepared as I was, so much of its landscape and difficulty took me by surprise. But the first step is getting your permit. I would try to fax a request at least a month in advance to ensure getting the dates you want. Check out all the info for your permit here! Arriving to the trailhead around 5:30AM, I suited up and began my morning as the sun began hers. Walking down Falls Road, I arrived to signs for the Vivian Creek Trailhead. I then crossed through a beautiful expanse of a typically dry river bed and began the first ascent towards the lush Vivian Creek, with sprouting wildflowers above the surrounding creek.

Breathing in the damp forest air was an enchanting way to wake up on my early morning trek. Not seeing any other hikers on this Sunday in October kept my pace leisurely and enjoyable, but once the sun sprayed its rays along the trail I started to energize.

Passing some good looking campsites a few miles in, I continued at a steady climb while embracing the heat. Quite a few switchbacks brought me to gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Hearing the minor trickle that is known as High Creek, the switchbacks continued past High Creek Camp where I found myself staring at Mount San Jacinto.

The last leg of the trail was ROUGH. I would recommend taking a long break before continuing because there aren't many rest options beyond this point. Completely exposed, I didn't have too far to go to the top, in fact I could see it for most of this leg, but climbing up a steep grade with boots that were ready to be replaced in a fierce wind was unexpectedly difficult. Once I made it up the hot gravel in one direction, the trail would take me in the other direction until I zigzagged my way to the rocky peak. The wind was ferocious and bone-chilling, even though the sun was beaming ceaselessly. I took shelter in the rock barriers to warm my body back up and enjoy the view. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep for a bit and I'm pretty sure it was great. 

San Gorgonio is a wild mountain right in my Los Angeles backyard. The challenge was empowering and a complete surprise. I'm glad I saved this monster for last and hope to return for some primitive camping!