Local Trails

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This year was really our first full fall season on the East Coast, so we tried to do a few hikes and activities to enjoy the weather and changing leaves. The warm weather of summer lingered this year, which extended the fall foliage season, but also meant there wasn’t a real ‘peak’ to the color. Still, before we knew it, the leaves were falling and winter was setting in! So we were glad to get out on the trail a few times.

Tohickon Creek Gorge & High Rocks Trail

Tohickon Creek Gorge is over an hour north of Philadelphia near the New Jersey border.  This was a short 4.5 mile hike starting from the Pleasant Valley Park parking lot winding through the woods to the High Rocks Trail.  There were a few nice views overlooking the Tohickon Creek Gorge, but the best colors were at the edge of the creek.

 Overlooking Tohickon Creek Gorge


Pulpit Rock & Pinnacles Loop

This hike is about an hour and a half northwest of Philadelphia.  This was a longer 8.7 mile loop with 1,300 feet of gain.  Much of the trail follows the AT (Appalachian Trail) including the two best views on the entire Pennsylvania stretch!


 View of Lehigh Valley

 Pulpit Rock

After reaching Pulpit Rock and Pinnacles we headed back down along Furnace Creek.


On our way back we ran into a couple lost kids about 10 years old who got separated from their mom and other siblings.  Luckily we were able to point them in the right direction, and their mom was eagerly waiting a mile down the trail.  The boys were only wearing shorts and looked very cold, definitely not prepared to spend the night out there!

This was our first hike over 5 miles in almost 2 months, so we were feeling pretty out of shape, but we kept a steady pace and still had smiles at the end!


Canoeing the Brandywine River

Nathan’s parents came to visit us and see the fall colors in October.  We thought what better way to see the leaves then from the slow moving Brandywine River in our own backyard!  This was our third time down the river this year, but it was our first time with the autumn colors.



Making it Challenging

Paradox Winery

We also all met up with Katharine’s parents at a local winery and enjoyed a few fall activities.

Nathan’s parents first corn maze after living in Iowa for almost 30 years!

Pedal Go-Carts!

Corn Cob Sling Shot!

Corn Cob Air Cannon!

It was a great fall season, but felt like it went too fast… We already have ideas for what we want to do next year!

Check out some of the other photos.

On Memorial Day weekend, we originally planned to go backpacking, but life sort of got in the way so we decided to do a local hike up to Inspiration Point with some of Nathan’s coworkers. We followed Modern Hiker’s route, which is a strenuous 10.5 miles with 2700′ gain. We’ve been up as far as Echo Mountain before, but we’ve always wanted to go all the way to Inspiration Point, especially since the trailhead is only 10 minutes from our apartment.

Luckily we got an early start and enjoyed the shade most of the way up. The climb was tough, but the group kept a nice pace and made good time.


The view from Inspiration Point really is great and worth the extra effort although it was pretty foggy when we were up there. There are a bunch of viewing tubes which would have been fun on a clearer day.


View-tube humor

We also appreciated that there are much fewer people willing to go so far, so you can enjoy some peace and quiet (while Echo Mountain is more of a zoo).

The hike back down felt a bit long, but the views overlooking Pasadena were great and kept us going.


It was a perfect day in the local mountains, thanks to Nathan’s coworkers for joining us!

In May we revisited a couple local hikes because we needed to get out on the trail, but didn’t have time for long drives or lots of research.

One weekend we returned to everyone’s favorite peak in the LA area, Mt. Baldy. Last year we did it as an intense training hike, but this year we decided to take it easy and use the Chairlift to skip the more boring parts. We had a pretty uneventful hike and made good time despite a late start. The chairlift was definitely a good choice, but we were a little surprised how expensive it was ($25/person roundtrip).

The following weekend we returned to Switzer Falls, along the Arroyo Seco. We actually skipped the side trail to falls, intending to go to Royal Gorge (per Jerry Schad’s Afoot & Afield), but unfortunately the trail we planned to take was still closed due to the Station Fire of 2009. So instead we just continued along the regular trail towards Bear Canyon and still enjoyed the stream-side trail and beautiful pools.

We also got a chance to test how how we can upload tracks with photos to google maps using the Accuterra/NeoTreks App on our iPhones. We’ve been using the app for a couple years now as our only hiking GPS and highly recommended it. We hope to use this uploading feature with the photos to share some of our hikes from our epic trip this summer/fall.

View Switzer / Arroyo Seco / Bear Canyon in a larger map

Back in early May we re-visited Mt Islip, a hike that we failed to summit on our first attempt last year due to snow and ice on the trail. Mt. Islip is actually in a really nice area of the San Gabriels so we were glad to have a second chance at it. This time we tried a different route, from the south at Crystal Lake (rather than from the north from the Angeles Crest Highway). We always like to take a new route when we repeat a hike if possible, and the southern approach is longer and requires more elevation gain, so it was a good conditioning hike (7 miles, 2200′ gain). It was a very cold and foggy day, similar to the weather on our first attempt, but this time there was no snow so we started up the quiet trail.


Low fog hung just a few hundred feet above us so even with the elevation gain we were about to attempt, it was obvious the view was not going to spectacular.  


The trail is like most higher altitude Angeles forest trails where the plants struggle to survive.  The granite gravel soil arid weather, and occasional fires keeps the vegetation to a minimum.  Today the cold winds pummeled us against the mountain causing us to wear all of our layers of clothes along with hats, gloves and ski masks.  


We were able to witness a phenomenon that we’ve heard of, but never seen before – in the extremely foggy air, the evergreen needles collected enough moisture to cause rather significant showers behind (downwind) of each tree. The process was efficient and pretty amazing to watch, but actually managed to get us quite wet.


At the higher altitudes, the condensation was actually freezing on the trees and then would get blown off the trees, causing small showers of ice shards.


We finally made it to the top and like most trails in LA, even though we didn’t see many people on the trail, there was a huge crowd at the peak! 


Although the weather was miserable and the views were non-existent, we were glad to summit and check this one off our list!

The first real hike that we ever did together was about 4 years ago, in May 2009. Based on Katharine’s research on Modern Hiker, we did the 7 mile loop to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains during a hot May day.  Like many beginner hikers, we didn’t bring quite enough water for the hot day and found ourselves exhausted at the end, but that didn’t stop us from falling in love with hiking.


Photos from our 2009 hike

Video from our 2009 Hike

Now, 4 years later, we consider ourselves avid hikers and backpackers and have bagged many of the highest peaks in southern California.

Since we are planning to move to the East Coast at the end of the summer, we thought we should hike Sandstone Peak one last time.  This time we were in better hiking condition and the weather was much cooler.  4 years ago it was a challenging hike to reach the top and return, but this time it was just a stroll in the park.

2009 (I sense a little more enthusiasm)


While eating a snack at the top we were entertained by a small mouse gathering grass, so of course now we have 84 photos of a mouse thanks to Nathan!


A couple weeks after our hike, the Springs Fire swept through just northwest of the trail, charing all the chaparral. Luckily this section of trail was apparently not affected, but we expect the views of the surrounding hills may be quite altered.


It was fun to return to where all our hiking began and see how far we’ve come!

Our friend and coworker, Jim celebrated his 60th birthday with a day full of outdoor sports.  Since he’s Irish, it was only fitting the celebration was on St. Patrick’s Day.  The day was perfectly planned and scheduled chock full of various outdoor activities, one right after another. Jim outdid everyone, completing each event with energy to spare while the rest of us played tag team trying to keep up with him.

The morning started with open ocean swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding in Malibu.

Followed by kayaking with friends.

Although some gave it their best shot, no one capsized

Slightly more dramatic than in real life

It’s good to have friends that enjoy the same hobbies you do

We then drove ahead of the group and hiked a little ways down a nice trail and played on a rope swing waiting for the rest to bike by.

It’s amazing how just a simple rope swing can keep you entertained for hours…it’s fun to be a kid again




The final activity was a 4 mile hike in Temescal Canyon ending at Jim’s house for drinks, food, and storytelling.

Coming down the final switchbacks of Temescal Canyon

We thought it was a great way to celebrate a birthday, we only hope we will be as fit and energetic when we turn 60! Happy Birthday to Jim!


Back in February we took an afternoon to hike the famous Vasquez Rocks seen in Star Trek, Friends, Power Rangers, Outer Limits and many other tv shows and movies.  The unique rock formations were caused by the San Andreas Fault and erosion of the San Gabriel mountains.


We started the hike late in the day and covered 3 miles in 90 minutes to return to our car before the gate closed.  The rocks are very accessible from the parking lot and don’t require a lot of hiking, but we wanted to hike along some of the higher ridges to get a better view.  We climbed on a few of the rocks, but didn’t have time to scale the large peak.



The people on the left give a sense of scale of these giant rock formations

Along the path there are also a few clearly marked pictographs.

Although it was a quick hike, it was a good warm up for the many hikes and backpacking trips we have planned for the year.


Santiago Peak via the Holy Jim Trail in the OC was #6 of 10 in our training for Whitney and it was not exactly our most favorite hike…  To start we had a pretty long drive down to the OC, then there was a fun few miles of off roading in our Subaru but the majority of the time was spent behind a Hyundai that looked lost amongst the Rubicon Jeeps.  Once we finally made it to the trailhead it was already quite hot and we knew the lower elevation wasn’t going to give us any relief.


The hike was long and slow, winding our way up the chaparral paths and sharing the fire road with pickup trucks leaving us in the dust literally.  The 5,689′ peak didn’t have a spectacular view compared to the 10,000 foot mountains we were used to.  The peak was covered in utility buildings and groups of off roading vehicles.



Although the view and terrain were by no means spectacular, the hike did what we needed it to do… kick our butts.  It was a long 15.5 miles and 4,450 feet of gain.  We left sore, hot and tired, but were looking forward to taking on Mount San Jacinto, a mountain that denied us a summit a couple years ago.

San Bernardino Peak was number 5 on the list of training hikes for Mt. Whitney.


Since the round trip distance is over 16 miles, we decided to do it as weekend backpacking trip. We got a relatively late start on Saturday, but only had to hike 6 miles to our campsite at Limber Pines.  The trail was well maintained with a nice manageable slope, although we had 3200 feet to climb.  The first half of the trail was soft dirt shaded by large trees, the second half was lined with boulders and manzanita.



After 5.5 hours we made it to the empty campground and chose the most remote site off the trail and overlooking the valley (Inland Empire).  As the sunset behind Mt. Baldy, we climbed up on the boulders and enjoyed a dessert of freeze dried chocolate cheesecake!




Sadly the city lights below washed out most of the stars, so we took photos of our glowing tent.


The next morning we prepared for the 2.1 mile hike to the peak (and the hike down) with a mocha made with filtered mountain water.


The hike to the peak was easy in the cool morning we even stopped to take some photos on the way up.


San Bernardino Peak is at 10,650 feet and has an incredible views of mountains we’ve bagged and planned to summit this summer.


Since we reached the summit of San Bernardino Peak pretty early in the morning and we were feeling good, we looked east to East San Bernardino Peak. The East Peak is actually slightly higher (10,690′) and is also on the “100 peaks” list… and it was only a mile away with a couple hundred feet of gain. So we checked our water and headed to East San Bernardino.


After bagging both peaks we headed back to camp, enjoyed a hot lunch, and hiked back to the car completing 14.5 miles for the day. This was one of our favorite hikes so far because the views were beautiful, the trail was well maintained with a gentle grade, and we had perfect weather.


We are headed out to Idyllwild this weekend for a backpacking trip to summit Mt. San Jacinto, hike #7 of our “10 Pack” of training hikes. We decided to hike the peak from a different approach so that we wouldn’t have to re-live our previous attempt. Plus this is actually a longer and more challenging route that is better suited for backpacking.

We will be carrying our SPOT personal locator device, so if you want to monitor our progress, check out our location updates on this map.

So far we’ve been on schedule and successful with all our other training hikes. We are managing to speed up our pace a bit and are gaining a lot more experience with much longer hikes requiring more endurance. Last weekend we hiked Santiago Peak which was longer mileage and more gain than Mt. Wilson, but we finished in less time and much less exhausted. It still wasn’t our most enjoyable hike as we’ll post later, but we definitely feel that we are on track to Mt. Whitney!

Here’s a quick look at what we’ve done so far and what’s left for the summer:

Mt. Wilson (5,710’) – 14 miles, 4000 ft gain [completed April 1]

Mt. Baden Powell (9,400’) – 8 miles, 2800 ft gain [completed May 13]

Cucamonga Peak (8,859’) – 11.5 miles, 4300 ft gain [completed May 19]

Mt San Antonio aka Baldy (10,064’) – 10.5 miles, 3900 ft gain [completed June 3]

San Bernardino Peak (10,649’) & East San Bernardino (10,691′)– 16.5 miles, 5500 ft gain [completed June 16-17]

Santiago Peak (5,689’) – 15.5 miles, 4450 ft gain [completed June 24]

Mt. San Jacinto (10,800’) – 19.3 miles, 5200 ft gain (updated route for this weekend)

Telescope Peak (11,050’) – 14 miles, 3000 ft gain [scheduled July 14]

Mt. San Gorgonio (11,502’) – 21 miles, 4600 ft gain [scheduled July 28-29]

White Mt. (14,246’) – 14 miles, 3300 ft gain [scheduled August 11]

Compared to: Mt. Whitney (14,504’) – 22 miles, 6600 ft gain [scheduled August 26-28]

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