Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mt. Zion Loop aka "Escape From Kelp Mountain"

A girl, a camera, a hole in the trees

In preparation for our Mt. Whitney adventure last fall, Team Awesome spent the summer bagging peaks and logging miles, conditioning our quads and internal fortitude for the task ahead. One such training excursion was a 14-mile loop starting at Chantry Flats and highpointing at Mt. Wilson. Casey vaguely described that we'd go off trail for a bit, following a firebreak, and then rejoin the Manzanita trail, which would lead us to our rather civilized goal.

Having knocked off some 14- and 16-milers in the past, coupled with the relatively low-elevation profile of the trek (Chantry Flat rests at 2200'; Mt. Wilson at 5710', with lots o' miles between the two), we knew we'd come out with sore quads...but even then, we had NO IDEA WHAT LAY AHEAD.

If you're not one of the masochistic few who've put in the grunt work on this special route, let me describe the first half of the trek:

Walk on a fire road. Cut up a faint use trail. Cut up a faint use trail rife with poison ivy. Cut up a faint use trail rife with poison ivy at what feels like a 45-degree angle. Nah, make that 30-degree angle. Curse. Curse at poison ivy. Curse at incline. Curse silently at Casey.

Emerge far, far up original fire road. Apply anti-bacterial hand sanitizer to all exposed skin to ward off potential poison ivy outbreak. High-five Casey for cutting a bazillion boring fire road miles from our journey. Round a curve. Helipad! Epic view! High-five Casey again for great idea. Adventure!

Ascend firebreak. Grunt a little. Reach a lovely ridge. Notice rather large bump ahead. Propel self quickly up rather large bump. Grunt some more. Lose exactly the same amount of elevation on the way down other side of bump. Grimace.

Shower, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Make mean faces at Casey when he's not looking. Commiserate with Rebecca. Break quads. Break calves. Break hammies. Break ass. Sweat. Slide down hill. Gently turn ankle. Whimper.

The second half of the journey was lovely, full of trail dogs and resting in the sun and various degrees of eating. But man, that first half. Casey sure knows how to pick 'em.

Despite our masochistic undertaking, I fell in love with the greater Santa Anita Canyon/Mt. Wilson area. The Pack Station and its inhabitants (both human and animal) are adorable, the trails are well-signed, wet, and green, and it's so damn close to home. A few months ago, I completed the Winter Creek loop with my friend Cristin, and this weekend, we took a turn on the longer Mt. Zion loop, which went a little something like this:

Sail down, down, down the pavement, carefree and full of vim, vigor. Pass slow pokes. Crack jokes. Sneak past Sturtevant Falls crowds on the Gabrielino trail. Cross stream. Boy, the water levels are high. Cross stream. Cross stream. Wet toes.

Snack amongst the spruces. Decidedly cold when not moving. Re-wool self. Left turn from Sturtevant Camp. Is this trail? Trail covered in water. Trail is one with creek. Consider options. Begin creation of log bridge for crossing purposes. Am chastised for poor bridge-building skills. Use stick to pole vault across instead.

Mt. Zion Trail. Mt. Zion! Join Boy Scouts on top, enjoy view with about 5% visibility, thanks to decidedly non-generous ma nature. Rejoin trail. Ooooh - trail builders done good! Enjoy dirt underfoot, greenery all around. Realize that through the misty veil, mountains appear to be moving, as if they're comprised of kelp. Trip for a moment.

Refocus. Oh, trail builders stopped here. Oh, trail decidedly thinner. Oh, trail decidedly slope-y. Oh, trail decidedly thin and slope-y. Walk at 45-degree angle for a minute or two. Resume breathing. Pick way down improperly-angled rocky section of trail. Resume breathing.

Hoegee's Camp! Consider bathroom break. Oh - hot guy with dog! WAIT...HOT GUY WITH DOG HEARD EMBARRASSING CONVERSATION ABOUT INCONTINENCE. Blush. Laugh nervously. Cross stream. Cross stream. Cross stream. Balance on stick. Wet toes. Wet feet. Cross stream. Cross stream. Nearly fall in. Cross stream.

Up pavement. Ugh. Up pavement. UGH. Up pavement. UGGGGGH. Up pavement. @#$%^^^&*).

Moral of the story - it's really pretty and super wet there right now. GO!

Verdie McVerdant

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ed Viesturs Fan Club aka "I'm A Winner!!!"

With my hammies still aching from this weekend's 9.5-mile up-down-up-down loop in Santa Anita Canyon, I logged on to the ole Facespace this morning to the most awesome email from the administrator of the Ed Viesturs Fan Club, explaining that I won a set of autographed books (No Shortcuts To The Top & K2: Life And Death On The World's Most Dangerous Mountain) by none other than Ed himself!


If you're any sort of mountain nerd, I highly encourage you to check out Ed's books for yourself. The guy's a great adventure writer, with a knack for balancing out equal measures of inspiration, adrenaline, and smarts.

And on a related note - send your good wishes down to Ed in Antarctica, as he and his team hopefully summit its highpoint, Mt. Vinson, today!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Favorite Photos of 2010 aka "I Shot That!"

2010 was a banner year for waving my hiking nerd freak flag. Here are some of the visual highlights:


Kelso ridge

Dune-top handstand



Snapping our fearless leader



As viewed from Tuttle Rd.

Closing in on Consultation Lake & Trail Camp

Summit dance

Summit hut, finally!





Follow me

Through the looking glass

Arch peek

MORE PHOTOS, VIA FLICKER: flickr.com/photos/shawntesalabert


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Inspiration Point aka "Happy New Year"

New Year's Day

After a week of nonstop rain in Los Angeles, and another of wet winter weather in Milwaukee, I woke to a sunny, exceptionally clear New Year's Day and my first instinct (other than hunting down some sorely needed post-NYE caffeine) was to lace up and get high to enjoy the sprawl from above.

And so I found myself on a quick jaunt to Inspiration Point in Will Rogers State Historic Park late that afternoon, spurred on by resolution and Resolutions, clear weather and sunny skies. We trotted up the trail and glimpsed Catalina plopped down in a glittery Pacific, saw miles and miles of buildings and highways, and marveled at the San Gabriels, glowing pink in the fading sun. This never gets old. Ever.

It seems apt to kick off 2011 at a place called Inspiration Point. The last 365 days were marvelous, filled with adventures of all stripes, and I'm ready to keep moving. It's time to revisit rock climbing and snowshoeing. To learn how to procure and attach tire chains. To strap on some crampons. To aim for high peaks. To search out deep canyons. To slide on my butt down a very big hill. To fall asleep to crickets and owls. To burn out a headlamp or two. To walk in rhythms fast and slow. To spend that REI return as soon as it comes in. To help others find their place in the outdoors. To face my fears. To plant a LOT of trees. To sit for sunsets...and maybe some sunrises. To move further away from distractions and closer to inner peace.

Here's to the next 365 (well...364).