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Walk Up Hill First!

Peak Summited2022 San Gorgonio
Type of HikeMulti-night backpack
TrailheadVivian Creek
EncounteredWildflowers blooming
Hiking CompanionsHiked with children (12 & under), Hiked with a partner
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusBugs were an annoyance
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

My 10 year old son decided he really wanted to climb San Gorgonio, so we decided to make a family challenge out of it and join the 6 Pack Challenge!  My dad once told me, that if you take a walk in the woods, always walk up hill first, that way the trip home is downhill! As a mom of 4 kids, I applied that to this challenge!! We started with San Gorgonio. I figured if my kids could make their way up this monster, they could handle the others just fine!

June 8, 2022: Plans don't always work out, but sometimes that's a good thing! By the time we made it to Vivian Creek Trailhead, it was 8 PM. After our long car ride, we had dinner in the picnic area and geared up for a night hike, and what a wonderful night hike it was! First, it wasn't hot! It was a beautiful night with a half moon and the rocks and boulders along the trail sparkled under our headlamps. Second, there were very few biting insects and no crowding since we were basically by ourselves! And finally, we got to see the night critters. My son spotted a scorpion and there we some cool spiders crawling around as well. We didn't travel fast, but we made steady progress through the night. By the time we made it to Vivian Creek Campground and got all the kids snuggled into their beds, it was midnight. The kids, 12 year old boy, 10 year old boy, and 8 year old girl/boy twins, crashed immediately, and my husband and I followed shortly after.

June 9, 2022: The mosquitos were determined to eat us alive! My husband stood guard over me while I cooked breakfast, swatting mosquitos at almost a constant clip! Our daughter suffered the worst with large, swelling bites everywhere she had exposed skin. We broke camp as fast as possible just to escape the onslaught! The kids enjoyed filling the Katadyns in the creek, and the hike to High Creek Camp was beautiful. We took a lot of “pack off” breaks as the day warmed and the trail steepened. It was a slow go, but we made steady progress and arrived in plenty of time to pick a site, make camp, and explore the creek before bed.  There were mosquitos, but not bad here.

June 10, 2022: Everyone woke up excited to make the summit hike today! We knew we would be traveling heavy, and we knew the climb would be steep, but we had no idea how tough it would actually be! We filled out Platypus bags with water, enjoyed a warm breakfast, added a waypoint on the Garmin for the bear canister we stashed in the bushes full of what we didn't absolutely need, and started our trek with full packs. The kids actually did amazingly well! The older boys would walk ahead of us and wait for us to catch up, but my youngest and I were slow. It was hot. It was hard. My pack was heavy, and I had to focus. I started setting a timer to take a short, 1-2 minute break every 10 minutes, which eventually became every 5 minutes, and by the time we passed the tree line and reached the exposed stretch along the steep, decomposed granite grade, I was literally picking a rock 10 to 15 feet in front of me and telling myself I could make it to that rock before I had to stop and catch my breath! The two older boys were at the top of the steepest part cheering for the rest of us, but it was still a daunting go! There was a decent sized  patch of snow toward Mineshaft Flat, so we took a much needed respite and had a snow ball fight! We built a little snowman and enjoyed the break from climbing. We eventually resigned ourselves to donning our packs again to renew our journey. Just before we reached the false summit, our youngest really started to run out of gas, but he remained determined. With tears streaming down his face and hiccupping breaths, he refused help and marched on. The relief was clear in everyone's body language when we could finally see the top and knew our stopping point was within reach! We did it! We took pictures with the summit sign and the kids ran around deciding which enclosure to make camp in. We were the only ones camping on the summit, so we had the whole place to ourselves! We spent most of the day on the trail, so by the time the tents were up and beds were made and fluffing, the sun was setting. Our middle son happened to look behind us as the sun set, and pointed out the shadow of Gorgonio to the east. Watching “The Pyramid” shadow shrink across San Jacinto was one of my favorite things from the whole trip! It was a little windy, but nothing troublesome, and I was easily able to make us some dinner before we hunkered down for the night.

June 11, 2022: The wind was cold and gusting!! The corners of the tents were lifting even inside the stone walls! Despite that, I had everyone up at 5 AM, wrapped in a down blanket, and nestled together in the stone enclosure that faced directly toward the sunrise. I am convinced that that is it's purpose! The kids grumbled a bit, but we watched a slow and spectacular sunrise over the desert. There were a few clouds, but otherwise the view was clear and beautiful! We all crawled back in bed and snuggled before I eventually got up to make breakfast. Our 10 year old got out his melodica and played for me while I cooked. He taught his little brother a tune as well! Then the kids played their own version of Battleship with the cobbles! On each side of a tall bush they built ships with the rocks. Then they would stand aside while one kid tossed a large cobble over the bush to see if it “hit” or “missed” the ship and broke it apart! Fun times! The also added some rocks to build up the walls around the campground. The altitude wasn't too bad, but we all ended up with varying headaches and fatigue. We took our time breaking camp in the gusty wind and didn't start our way back down until noon. I enjoyed the time at the top so much that I forgot to put a waypoint in the Garmin while we were there! Oops! My calculations were correct though. We had exactly the right amount of water with us! The packs felts so light coming down, I felt like I was practically floating! The fact that we had gravity on our side probably helped too! We had lunch at the notch at the end of the burnt section overlooking the desert, and then we rested and let the kids play for a while at High Camp while we retrieved our stash and rearranged the packs to accommodate it all. We refilled water as well. The kids lead the way to Half Way Camp, which felt far, but we eventually got there! There were a lot of people on the trail today, many more than the previous days, and even Half Way Camp pretty full. We found a spot on the trail-side of camp under some trees and pitched the tents. Everyone was warn out tonight, so we didn't stay up to chat and hang out, we just crawled in bed and conked.

June 12, 2022: Our last day on the mountain! Oddly enough, we were all looking forward to today because it would be sort of a new hike for us! Since we came up to Vivian Creek Camp by at night, that stretch of trail would be new to us in the daylight! It ending up being a beautiful day with a slight breeze and the hike was really pretty. We stopped and took some family pictures and let the kids run far ahead of us. We could see them down the switch-backs having joyous, parentless time! The trail was clear, but it was steep! My toes were definitely feeling it by the time we reached the dry creek bed at the bottom, but thankfully, the mosquitos let us pass! As soon as we made it back to the car everyone dropped their packs and peeled off their shoes! Our oldest son lost one of his flip flops on the trail on the way up in the night, but he found it hanging from the “Messages” board upon our return. He was delighted to have it back, so Thank You to the kind soul who left it for him!

Overall, we had a fantastic family adventure! Our next stop is San Jacinto via the Aerial Tram!

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