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Wilted on Wilson!

Peak Summited2021 Mount Wilson (SoCal)
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadMount Wilson Trail Park
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusBugs were an annoyance
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

Having done San Gorgonio last week, I was oddly comfortable with the idea of hiking Mount Wilson via the Old Mt. Wilson Trail. I thought to myself: Hey, I'm pretty much recovered from the hike last week, this trail is over 5 miles shorter than the one from last week, and there's no change of altitude sickness with the much lower elevation finish. I got this.

Oh boy, I was WRONGO!

I started the hike at nearly 8AM in the morning, having slept through my 3:30AM wake up alarm I've been very diligent about before. “No worries,” I thought, “The trail is closer and it'll be an easier hike. I got this.”

The beginning of the hike was about as expected: The trail was very well maintained. I was 95% certain I could trail run down most of the trail if everything was dry. The sun and heat was more of a challenge than I thought, but I mitigated that by freezing a Smart Water bottle plus a smaller bottle of iced tea. About a mile and a half up I took the now partially frozen bottle and just put the thing inside my shirt (held up by my bag's chest strap) and that worked well until both were melted and chugged by mile 5.

I had also heard about the bees being very aggressive on this trail. I was used to very very familiar bees from the water-hungry lot at Joshua Tree who like to land on you to drink your sweat, so I was used close buzzing bees. Let me just say, the Mt. Wilson bees made the ones at Joshua Tree look like fluffy baby seals. The ones at Joshua tree liked to just land on you to drink some sweat. These ones want to find your ancestors and sting them, too. I think the differences between the JT ones and these is that the JT ones were out scouting but the ones here had a hive in a tree right next to the trail on the one switchback right before the junction with Winter Creek Trail. Since I'm much closer to their house, they're much more aggressive. I guess I must have stood still near it too long, but suddenly I felt the “room” change. The vibe based on how they flew and the sounds they made changed everything. For the first time, I RAN up the hill away from the bees because I knew I was 2 seconds from getting a stinger in the face.

Things start getting REALLY real when I got to the old Mt Wilson Toll Road. It was around after 1 o'clock when I started this stretch of solar crimes against humanity. It was hot (around 90 degrees), it was sunny, and I found myself wishing I had one of those fancy hiking umbrellas I strapped on my backpack. I took a shade break whenever there was shade. It was rough.

Around mile 7 I got a little bit of a reprieve. This was the part that was parallel to the actual road that's open to cars. I was surrounded by trees that made for somewhat pleasantness (relatively speaking). Not 2/10 of a mile later the trees shading me were gone. Also the sun was back and it was angry. There was almost no shade to be found, very little wind for the middle of a “canyon” like area. This was the longest 2/10 of a mile of my entire life. I really thought I might have been in trouble in that stretch, and wondered if I dropped right here right now if someone would find me in time to save me. If three tree branches were close enough together I stood behind it to try to enjoy some “shade”. I felt my heart racing while trying to cool down. This part required climbing which was tiring me out, but I couldn't stop to take a break since just standing still was costing me health points, and turning around wasn't an option because I was running out of water. I slowly and painfully pressed on. I think I saw someone wearing a full cooling suit hiking down encouraging me and telling me I was really close. I might have hallucinated that. Honestly I'm not quite sure anymore.

Thankfully I finally got to a stretch with some shade and I took a sit break and more water. I felt better enough I could barely drag myself up the last stretch to the parking lot.

I have to say, for the amount of suffering I experienced, it was quite weird stepping up to the edge of a parking lot. It was like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer climbed up a mountain to find a Kwik-E Mart. Did I just hike 7 and a half plus miles up a mountain? Am I here with a bunch of people who just drove up? Why did I hike again?

Anyway, I ordered 2 cokes and the chili dog I've been dreaming about for the last six hours and wolfed everything down. Since it would not start cooling down until after 4, I decided to explore the summit area, which was quite large! I checked out the space related exhibits and even the 100 inch telescope. I got one last popsicle and iced tea to go before taking some “summit” photos by the edge of the parking lot (I guess that's the summit? Technically it was probably Cosmic Cafe, but even the wonderful food they had wouldn't make for good summit photos XD)

I started heading back down, and aside from 1 or 2 “sketchy” bits where the trail had clearly worn away and the mad dash through bee country, the downhill was pretty easy on a technical level. The ground was level, and by now I was mostly protected from the sun since it's on the other side of the mountain. My body–having suffered quite a shock with the “near death” experience on the climb at mile 7.2-7.4–did not allow me to cheerfully jog down the mountain, even if the trail made for great trail running. So I just did some karaoke while I briskly walked back down. The last 3 miles was a bit demoralizing. Despite the wonderful view of the surrounding area and the shaded landscape, I could clearly see how much trail was remaining. The addition of fresh-looking evening hikers who are just starting their hike painted a stark contrast of how trashed I must look and feel at this point.

I safely made it off the mountain. Though not the longest, this hike ranks top 2 of my “hardest ever” hikes (with Cloud's Rest as the absolute hardest since I was trying it days after a Half Ironman and not yet trailed for altitude). Definitely the bit around mile 7.2 was the worst time I've ever had on a hike. If I had to do over, I would probably have picked a week with lower max temperature to attempt this so I could enjoy my surroundings more than suffering XD

 

 

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