I haven’t really had a difficult hike in about a month. Today, I took a step toward getting back into the swing of things.
My friend Jason and I had planned to venture up to the newly reopened Crystal Lake area and to hike up the Crystal Lake Ridge Trail (Wawona Trail on some maps) to Mount Islip, and to continue on via Windy Gap to all 4 Hawkins’s Mountains and then back down to Crystal Lake via the South Mount Hawkins Fire Road. However, our plans were detoured (more on that later).
I met Jason at the Crystal Lake snack shop. We left my car in the day use lot near the Crystal Lake Snack Shop (now open!) and took his car down the road almost a mile to the small lot across the street from paved road that goes to Crystal Lake (3N09 I think its called). We began hiking at around 7:40 a.m. or so. We took the paved road to Crystal Lake and then around the lake to a steep class 3 slope on the southwestern side of the lake. It was a little tricky finding the trail but about 100 feet above the lake or so, it became obvious. We ascended the Ridge Trail (unmarked) a couple miles and marveled at the job the trail builders have done to restore this trail since the Curve Fire tore it up. After about 2 miles or so, the trail began to vanish in places… so Jason and I did some trail maintenance, moving away dead trees from across the trail and building trail borders and such. Hopefully our small efforts will help subsequent hikers on this trail.
We passed cool plateau after cool plateau (so many awesome places to create a campground on this route!) until we linked up with the Mount Islip Trail at around 5.5 miles in. From here, we began to hit some really deep snow, but it was packed down enough to make it accessible enough. Note that neither of us had crampons because every report we’d heard for this trail reported that we’d hit tiny patches of snow but nothing significant. We traveled .2 miles or so in the snow to the gentle summit of Islip. I had an intense headache at this point…probably from overexertion…but I took some Ibuprofin and that helped. We ate a bit and rested for 5 or 10 minutes before continuing on in our adventure.
I began to worry a little bit because I knew we’d hit some snow on the Windy Gap trail, which lies on the colder north facing slopes of this area. We passed the junction with the trail that goes down to Crystal Lake Campground (La Cienega Trail?) and almost immediately had our trail covered by volatile slopes of snow. We navigated up to the ridge to avoid this snow and hit some steep class 3 areas. After 30 minutes or so of doing this, however, we hit some really steep and sketch areas and neither of us felt particularly thrilled to continue on via this route. Hastily, we turned around and took the aforementioned Crystal Lake CG trail down a few miles to the South Mount Hawkins Fire Road.
We ascended the South Mount Hawkins Fire Road up nearly 4 miles to South Mount Hawkins. By now, I was pretty tired – the wedding laziness definitely hit me here. In addition, there were a couple of washouts where we had to be very technical in our crossing. One area especially featured a significant rock slide that had taken out about a 20 foot or so section of the road and had some sketchy snow in the middle of it. We traversed this area packing down some firm footsteps but both of us were a bit on guard because it was pretty warm out and the snow was melting very fast. Nonetheless, we made it across and took the long road up to South Mount Hawkins.
Once up to South Mount Hawkins, we chilled for a bit and then began the descent back home. We saw a fox run down the fire road .2 of a mile ahead of – that was cool. We took that road to the Windy Gap Trail/La Cienega Trail back down to Crystal Lake Campground, through some significant burn areas and back to the snack shop. I was thrilled to see it was still open (at about 6:something) and I bought two ice cold cans of Sprite. I earned those for sure today. And now I sit at 2:30 a.m. writing up this trail report, with some sort of sun poisoning from missing a couple areas with sunscreen, but with a joyous attitude to share this epic adventure with you, my reader.
Total Distance: 18.04 miles (TH to snack shop) – this could be shaved by a few miles if there was no snow on the trail.
Elevation Gain: 4,514 ft
Temperature: 40’s in the morning, warmed up to 70’s where it was sunny and 60’s in the shade.
Terrain: tricky to navigate trail, some class 3, some dirt road
GPS log:Garmin Readout
Calories burned: 7,593 (note my extremely high heart rate on the GPS readout. Definitely pushed myself too much today but it felt soooo good!)
Backpack: REI Flash 30
Shoes: Salomon Quest 4d boots
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Contour Elliptical
Water consumed: 3 liters. Could have stood to bring a filter to drink some more and take advantage of seasonal water sources.
Electrolyte beverage consumed: 52 oz of Hammer Heed/Perpetuem/Crystal Lite
Food consumed: 9 Hammer Gels, a few peanut butter crackers, 1 pack of Lime Clif Shot Bloks
Estimate of calories consumed: 1600