Sitton Peak Overnight

As I finished my water and put on my hiking boots, I looked at the thermometer on the car. It read 84°F. It was going to be a warm one hiking to the campsite this afternoon. Rather than hiking Sitton Peak as a day hike again, I had the idea of doing it as a short backpacking trip. The last time I had hiked the peak, I was specifically keeping an eye out for a possible campsite. Turns out, about 0.9 miles before the summit, there is a clear and wide area to set up camp. I had gotten my Wilderness Permit from the Ranger station a few days before, so I was able to legally spend the night in the San Mateo Wilderness. With 3.5 liters of water in my pack, I carefully and quickly crossed the highway. In some ways, this is the scariest part of the entire hike. I snapped a photo at the trailhead and then signed the trail register. With the warm temperatures, I focused on keeping a reasonable pace. I had a lot more weight on my back than when I usually do this hike. 

As I came to the boundary with the San Mateo Wilderness, a small stream was still gently flowing. I was also enjoying all the wildflowers that were still blooming along the trail’s edge. That made the climb a bit more enjoyable. Once I reached the junction with Bear Ridge Trail and the Bear Canyon Trail, I knew I had earned a break. I had covered about 2.1 miles in just about 1:15. I sat under the shade of a nice oak tree and drank some water. I still had another 1.9 miles to cover, so I put my pack back on and set off. The trail was a touch overgrown, so I was glad I was wearing long pants. Once I reached the Four Corners, I looked for another spot for a short break. After a few minutes along the trail toward the summit, I found an acceptable spot for another break. The campsite wasn’t too much further, but I now needed to make a decision about setting up. One option was to simply unload my gear, and set up camp after I returned from the summit, or the other option was to properly set up camp first. I decided to do the latter. As I approached the saddle, I knew the site was just off to my left. I followed the use trail back just a few yards behind some bushes to the location I had scouted before and quickly set up camp. I am currently using the Gossamer Gear The One as my tent. For those who don’t know, this tent uses your trekking poles as part of the support structure. I was certainly going to need those trekking poles for my climb to the summit. I carefully removed them, letting the tent collapse. The test would be reinserting them after I got back. With a much lighter pack, I set off toward the summit.

Water was still seeping out at a few spots, even this late in the season. This was probably part of the reason I was wearing my bug net, and overgrowth at times was pretty significant. Nothing that truly blocked my path, but I certainly needed to take some care with my footing. At the turn-off, I began the steep climb to the top of the peak. The hike had taken a touch more out of me than I had hoped, so I just took my time. Once I reached the top, the soft evening sun lit up one of the summit signs that was perched on the register can. I dropped my pack and soaked in the view. The sun sat over the west, sinking slowly. I snapped a few photos before enjoying a summit beer and some snacks. While I had my headlamp in my pack, I had no desire to descend that steep 0.4 miles back to the main trail in the dark, so I left before the sun dipped beyond the horizon. A quarter moon was up, offering a touch of light, as the sun’s light faded. I reached my campsite just before I needed to switch on my headlamp. I changed out of my very damp hiking shirt and began making dinner. The bugs were still out, so I retreated to my tent to enjoy my dinner. After dinner, I finished getting ready for bed. I settled in, enjoying listening to Sir Patrick Stewart’s autobiography for a bit, before going to sleep.

I woke a bit before dawn when nature began calling. Since the forecast was going to be another warm one, I opted to pack up and hike the 3.9 miles back to the car. I really didn’t feel like making any coffee, so I just nibbled on my Nutri-Grain bar while I packed up. My tent had some condensation, so I was going to need to dry it out before I truly put it away. I caught the sunrise coming over the hills to the east and made sure I snapped a few photos for Ted as I cruised back along the trail. At Four Corners, I debated taking the Bear Ridge Trail back instead of the Bear Canyon Trail, but I left my wallet in the car and was a touch nervous about that. The cooler air that had settled along the Bear Canyon Trail was welcome, as I could feel the day warming up. I finally started to pass folks making an early morning attempt at the summit. Finally, the end of the trail came into view, and after carefully crossing Ortega Highway, I walked to my car, hoping that my wallet was still inside. Thankfully, it was! I changed out of my gear into something a bit drier and cleaner and began the drive home. All in all, this was a great overnight trip, and one I would do again, just when it is a bit cooler. One piece of gear I might bring next time is a chair. My only option at the campsite was my small seating pad, and that was it. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Corte Madera Overnight

Six weeks ago I had two vertebrae in my neck fused, and now I was about to set off for my first backpacking trip. In addition to the new hardware I was internally sporting, I was also testing out several new pieces of gear. I decided to switch to a Gossamer Gear The One tent, a NEMO Tensor sleeping pad, and replace my JetBoil with an MSR Pocket Rocket 2. All told I shaved about 2 pounds off my base weight. In addition, since this trip was so short, I opted to use my Osprey Stratos 34 pack instead of my bigger Osprey Atmos 65. That pack change took almost another 1.5 pounds off my base weight. 

I pulled into the small pullout for Corte Madera in the mid-afternoon. One other car sat there under the warm sun. As I finished getting ready to set off, I drank the last of my pre-hike water. There are no water sources on this hike, so I was being mindful of my hydration needs. I closed the hatch of the Subaru and set off! The first part of the hike is along the road that leads off to several properties to the north. The shade from the oaks was certainly welcomed, as well as a light breeze. Once I reached the turn-off to the Espinoza Trail, I knew I was about to start gaining some elevation. Wildflowers would occasionally dot the side of the trail, making for a pleasant trek up toward the saddle. Once I at the saddle, I turned toward the hard part of the trail—the steep climb up and around Coulter Peak. Having done this peak before, I knew what lay ahead. At the split rock, I took a well-earned rest under the shade of some Coulter pines.

Soon, I found myself nearing my planned campsite. Unlike my REI QuarterDome SL1, which uses a traditional frame for the tent, The One is supported by using your trekking poles and tie-downs. What I was fearful of was that the dirt at the campsite would not allow me to properly stake down the tent. Well, it turns out I was right. The dirt was not deep enough. So I instead had to use heavy rocks to keep the anchor lines in place. With the tent, and the rest of my camp set up, I hiked the 1/3 mile over to the summit to take my summit photo. It felt so odd not to be using my trekking poles even for such a short distance. I did not hang out long on the summit, as I wanted to be back at camp well before sunset.

Once back at camp, I relaxed a bit before making dinner. I did bring a can of “Nature Calls” from Burgeon Brewery to enjoy along with my Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. As the sun sank below the marine layer, I put on my new puffy jacket I plan to use on my Alaskan cruise. Since there was a quarter moon, I knew I wasn’t going to have any great star gazing until the very early morning. So, I turned in for the evening, wondering how my new sleeping pad was going to do. At around 2 in the morning, I awoke wondering why my hip was against the hard ground. It turns out my brand-new sleeping pad had a slow leak. I fumbled around for the sack used to inflate it and got it back to an acceptable level. I was not pleased. 

Around 5 am, I awoke again, as the pad had deflated enough again to cause me some discomfort. I knew the sun would be up soon, so I decided to get moving. I brewed a cup of coffee as the sun slowly rose. One of the ways I opted to keep my water load a bit lighter was not to have breakfast at camp, but instead just some coffee and a breakfast bar. I would enjoy a proper meal at Janet’s Montana Cafe in Alpine. One of the camp treats I like to enjoy is a small apple pie for dessert. I was too full yesterday evening to eat it, so I still had it in my food bag. I figured it now counted as a pastry instead of a dessert, so I had it with my coffee instead of the Nutri-Grain bar. I broke camp, but before I headed back to the car, I grabbed just my trekking poles and returned to the summit. I watched the morning light spread out across the landscape.

Once back at my campsite, I put on my pack and set off. Just past Coulter Peak, I heard voices from some early morning hikers. I stepped aside as they continued their climb toward the summit. They mentioned they wondered who was already parked at the trailhead this early. I told them I had camped near the summit. Internally, I knew my car was still there. The rest of the return was uneventful and I had about 1/4 liter of water left when I reached the car. In retrospect, I could have taken a bit more to reduce my water anxiety, but I never felt thirsty. I do need to figure out my electrolyte system if I am going to continue to use bottles and not a reservoir, but that is a problem for another day. With a clean shirt and some of the dirt and sweat wiped off, I drove on down to Alpine and enjoyed some delicious biscuits and gravy and a couple of eggs. Except for the sleeping pad issue, the trip went really well. My legs are a little sore, and in looking over my moving time, I think I actually was hiking too fast with my gear. In the end, it was great to be backpacking again. Now to swap out that pesky sleeping pad…

Update

I tested my sleeping pad again to verify the leak. I inflated it at 8am, and at 4pm the pad was still fully inflated. So, what happened while I was out camping? What I think happened is when I was inflating the pad, I overfilled it, so the valve on the pad popped off. Maybe I did not put the value back one correctly. When I testing, I made sure that value was properly seated, and I did not over-inflate, so maybe that was the source of the slow leak.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

San Jacinto Overnight

I pulled into the overnight parking lot at the Palm Springs tram station and got myself ready for another overnight on San Jacinto. This was going to be my first overnight and major peak since my foot surgery in April. Having done this trip 15 months earlier, I knew what lay ahead for me. I pulled on my hiking boots, slung my pack onto my back, and headed up to the tram station. I was also trying out my new smaller bear canister (Bear Vault 425) for this trip. It is just the right size for a quick one- or two-day overnight trip. The tram car was only partially full as we made our ascent up from the desert. Once at the station, I walked down the concrete switchbacks and over to the ranger station. I checked in with the ranger and got some last-minute information about being mindful of camping under trees. Tropical Storm Hillary has done some damage to the mountain, and recently a tree limb fell and injured a camper. I certainly was going to be inspecting my possible campsite a bit closer before pitching my tent.

Long Valley Creek was flowing nicely as I made my way up to Round Valley. I passed a few hikers along the way, including one who had attempted Cactus to Clouds (C2C) that day. We chatted about his attempt, and he told me he had some trouble just before the tram station (a section known to be difficult), and once he reached Round Valley, he knew he was done. C2C is one of the hardest hikes in the US, so just doing Cactus to Tram is a major accomplishment. He headed back down the trail and continued upward toward the campground. I decided to stay at the same site I stayed at last time—Buckthorn. The forecast called for some wind, so I was looking for one of the more sheltered sites. I surveyed the various tent spots and opted for a different one from the last time, in part not to be under a tree. I set up my site, grabbed my water bags, and returned to the water spigot at the trail junction. The water was flowing well and I quickly filtered my water needs for tonight and tomorrow. I relaxed for a while and enjoyed my dinner and the beer I hauled up (for 2 miles I’ll carry a can of beer). Soon after the sun dropped behind the mountain, I turned in. The general plan was to be at Wellman Divide around sunrise.

The winds weren’t too bad. Once in a while the tent got a good shake, but it was nothing like the winds I had when I camped at Parson’s Landing on Catalina. The bigger issue was I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and could not get comfortable to really fall asleep. Ugh! It finally relaxed enough for me to get some sleep before my alarm went off. I had a nice warm breakfast. I am guessing it was about 40°F as I finished loading my slack pack. I began my climb up toward the Wellman Divide. From Round Valley, it is just about 1 mile, but you are going to gain about 800 feet of elevation. I briefly lost the trail a couple of times in the dark, but just for a minute or two. I would stop, turn about, and take in the beautiful colors that were appearing to the east.

At the Wellman Divide, I took a well-earned break. I am trying to be better about taking rest breaks and eating snacks along the way. I mentally broke the hike into three parts; Round Valley to Wellman Divide, Wellman Divide to Miller Peak, and then Miller Peak to the Summit. Each section was about a mile in length, so a perfect way to balance the effort out.

The trail up Miller Peak went well. This section is more exposed, so I got some nice views of the sun as it rose up through the bands of clouds. While the air was getting thinner, the grade wasn’t as bad as that first mile. Soon Miller Peak came into view. I was considering adding it in, but was going to wait and see how I felt after the summit. I took another break when the trail turns back southward, knowing I had about 8/10 of a mile to the summit. I continued my steady pace and at the junction with the trail from Little Round Valley, I took another quick rest break before the final push. I was feeling the poor sleep affect me some and I was at over 10,400 feet. I continued climbing, scanning the trail ahead for that first glimpse of the rescue hut. That was the sign that the maintained trail would end, and then the final rock scramble to the summit would begin. I picked my way up the rocks, following a path that I remembered, and soon the summit came into view.

I scrambled up the rocks to the benchmark and took my photo with my challenge badge next to it as my summit proof. I surveyed the views for a short while, then ducked down to find a spot out of the wind and take a VERY well-earned break. I looked around to see if any of the summit signs were around, but I suspect the high winds yesterday and last night might have blown them away. After a nice break, I knew it was time to head down the mountain. I still had to pack up camp and hike back to the tram station. At the Wellman Divide, I met two hikers who had come up via Devil’s Slide. We chatted briefly. One was heading back, while the other was going for the summit. We said our goodbyes and took off down our respective trails. As I made my way down toward Round Valley, I wondered if I might encounter someone attempting C2C today. It was still too early for any hikers to have come from the tram station. Alas, my descent was one of solitude.

After packing up camp, which is much easier in the daylight, I sauntered back toward the tram station. I passed a lot more folks this time, including 10 or so backpackers heading to Round Valley. As I neared the Ranger station, my eye spotted something moving on the trail. I looked down and it was a Western Mountain Toad. I grabbed a photo or two before continuing on. There had been a sign to be aware of them at the Ranger station and I was happy to actually see one. I checked back in with the same ranger as the day before. I also let him know they were down to one roll in the pit toilets near the Gooseberry campsite. I then made that long climb up the concrete switchbacks to the tram station. It certainly was busier than the day before. I got a nice cold soda and waited for the next tram. I always feel bad for folks riding down and having to stand next to stinky hikers and backpackers. 

Once back at the car, I let Anita know I was skipping going on to Baden-Powell, as I was a bit wiped from the hike, and I would be home in time for dinner. While certainly not my fastest time up the mountain, it was a solid hike for me. 

Ranger Station to Round Valley Campsite: 2.27 miles, 1:19, and 800 feet of gain

Summit: 5.81 miles, 4:30 (moving time), and 1,648 feet of gain.

Round Valley Junction to Ranger Station: 1.94 miles, 1:09, and almost all downhill :).


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Little Lakes Valley

After spending the night at the Grandview Campground, I made my way toward Mosquito Flat Trailhead to begin my backpacking trip in Little Lakes Valley. While I could have made breakfast at the campground, I had a recommendation to stop at the Rock Creek Lakes Resort and have breakfast there instead. After enjoying some eggs, toast, and coffee out on their deck, I hopped back in the car and continued driving toward the trailhead. While it was just after 9:30, I got the last available parking spot. There were some available in the overflow section about ¼ mile back down the road. As a point of trivia, this parking lot is the highest paved trailhead in the US at 10,200 feet!

My basic plan was to saunter along the trail, soaking in the views until I reached Chickenfoot Lake, and then find a campsite. Once I had my camp set up, I would then continue exploring the valley up toward its end at Gem Lakes. After taking advantage of the pit toilets at the trailhead, I set off down the trail. The sounds of Rock Creek flowing past me filled my ears. The trail would take me past several lakes, each with its unique beauty. 

Since I was in no hurry, I made sure to keep my pace relaxed. This was in part to manage my foot, but also to remember the fact I am hiking at over 10,000 feet. The trail would gradually climb for a bit, then rise up a bit as it neared a lake, then it would mostly level out again as it passed by it, then repeat the cycle again.

After formally entering the John Muir Wilderness, the next milestone was the junction with the trail that could take you up to Ruby Lake and over Mono Pass. But that was for another adventure. Soon, my first lake, Mack Lake, would come into view. This lake sits down a bit from the trail, so I did not go exploring it. I could see some folks trying their luck in fishing. Over the two days out in Little Lakes Valley, I saw quite a few folks with fishing rods along the trail.

Continuing on, I soon came to my second lake, Marsh Lake. I left the main trail and followed a small spur trail to get an even better view of the lake. I had barely begun this hike and was already blown away by the beauty of the area. Once back on the main trail, and after a short climb, the next lake would open up before me. The trail now hugged the shoreline of Heart Lake. Here a string of Boy Scouts passed me, returning from their overnight adventures. 

Side streams would flow into the lakes. Some of them had real bridges, while others were just rock-hopping across. My next lake along the trail was Box Lake. Much like Mack Lake, this one sits slightly below the trail. Checking my tracker, I had covered about half of the planned 3-mile hike to the campsite.

So far, everything was feeling good as I made my way up toward Long Lake. The trail passes on the left side of the lake, along a rocky shoreline. I could start to see the landscape changing, transitioning from the forest into the alpine. I knew after Long Lake, I would reach the junction with the trail that would take me over to Chickenfoot Lake. 

One of the reasons for picking this lake to set up camp is that it sits off the main trail and is a bit more secluded from the main trail traffic. I worked my way up and over to the lake. While the gain is not much, being at altitude certainly has an effect on the effort needed. I passed several sites but wanted to survey my options before picking one. I found a nice one with a good view of one of the “toes” of Chickenfoot Lake and began to set things up. As I headed down to the lake to filter some water, a couple of hikers were nearby enjoying their lunch in the shade. It turns out one of them was the volunteer at the Bristlecone Forest Visitor Center and the one who swore me in as a “Junior Ranger”. Small world… I quickly filtered some water, as I was hungry as well. I tried a new method of filling my ‘dirty’ Sawyer bags by using a Ziploc bag to scoop the water from the lake, then transfer it into the Sawyer bags. This worked like a charm. No more struggling to fill them via their small openings. 

After stashing my bear canister, I tossed some items into my slack pack and set off to explore the rest of the valley. I rejoined the main trail and headed toward the Gem Lakes. Rising to my left was Morgan Pass. Apparently, there was an effort to have a road cross it and come into the valley from that direction. In fact, the frame of one of those cars sits rusting by the side of the trail. I gave serious thought to climbing up to the pass, but the desire to see the lakes won out.

Gem Lakes is a small collection of about 5 or so lakes at the end of the valley. The two main lakes sit almost next to one another at the actual end. A few wildflowers dotted the trail as I hiked toward it. The steep walls of the valley gave me a clear idea of how much further I had to go. I came up over the small rise, and the main lake spread out before me. Some snow still remained tucked against the rocky talus of the northside of the slope. Some folks had pitched their tents at some of the available spots along the shoreline. I followed the trail along it until I reached the western shore, then found a comfortable spot and just relaxed. 

I decided to head back to my camp. I kept eyeing the climb up Morgan Pass and gave it one last consideration at the junction, but I knew I needed to stay conservative as I still did need to hike out tomorrow. Once back at the camp, I gave my feet a nice soak in the cold lake. I figured they had earned that reward. I found some shade, kicked back, and listened to an audiobook for a while. 

As the sun began to set behind the mountains, I left the shore and began making dinner. I sat against some rocks, gazing at the water while eating my meal. The bugs started to come out, so I opted to retreat to my tent and continue my audiobook for a while. Soon, I could feel sleep coming on and I drifted off. Since it was one day after the full moon, I knew I was not going to have a dark sky to enjoy. Around midnight I woke up and poked my head out of the tent to be rewarded with a magical sight. The glow of the moon was lighting up the mountains and I hoped my phone’s camera captured it. Thankfully, it did.

I woke a bit before sunrise, which was fine as I had hoped to also capture some of the early morning aspenglow. I tried to have some breakfast, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I guess the altitude was getting to me a bit. As I was packing, I got the moon setting behind the pointed peaks to the west, and a few minutes later, I got my aspenglow.

Those pancakes back at the Rock Creek Lake Resort were sounding really good, so I set off. The air was calm as I neared Box Lake, and its smooth surface was a wonderful mirror of the majestic mountains behind it. While the hike out was going to be mostly downhill, I did have a few small bumps to cross over. Several of the other lakes also provide similar shots as I drew nearer to the trailhead. About halfway back, I started to encounter some other hikers, and quite a few dogs as well. I stopped and chatted with some, as they inquired about where I had camped, much like I had done the day before.

The sun finally rose above the high valley walls just before I reached the trailhead. With that my adventure in Little Lakes Valley was drawing to a close. As I made my way to the parking lot, a couple in a truck asked if I was leaving. I told them “yes, in a bit”. They swung around and politely waited for me to switch out of the hiking gear and clean up a bit before heading out. The parking lot was once again full. As I drove away, I saw several folks walking up from the overflow lot to begin their hike. I once again sat on the deck, enjoying a warm breakfast, scrolling through the hundreds of photos I took across the three days, being ever thankful for the opportunities to find peace and joy in this world.

The drive home was uneventful, just long. I made a quick stop at Erick Schat’s Bakery for some bread to bring home and picked up my other Junior Ranger badge at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center. Once home, I unloaded the car and gave it a good airing out as we needed it to pick up my daughter later that night from the airport. Another great trip was now in the books. And as an added bonus, my foot did ok. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Backpacking San Jacinto

Earlier this year, Jeff Hester, the founder of the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenges, asked if I would be interested in joining a group to scout out a new set of peaks for a New Mexico based Challenge. I immediately said yes! However, New Mexico had to close all its National Forests, as several wildfires were raging across the state. That meant we would have to postpone the trip, possibly to Fall. Since I had the time off, I decided to turn my focus to either working on the SoCal Six-Pack, or the Arizona Summer Six-Pack. In the end, the SoCal trip won. One of the biggest pains of the SoCal is all the driving to and from San Diego, but by turning it into more of a camping road trip, it would take some of the sting out of the effort. Plus, this would let me have an adventure! The first peak on the list was San Jacinto, but instead of hiking up via Devil’s Slide or the Marion Mountain route, I would do this peak as an overnight trip. I sent away for my overnight permit (yes, you still have to apply for the permit via the mail). Once I received my permit, I secured campgrounds near the other two peaks I wanted to climb, Baden-Powell and Sawmill. This trip was going to be a blend of backpacking and car camping, so I had an interesting collection of gear in the back of my trusty Outback. With everything loaded, I set off for Palm Springs and the Aerial Tram.

Day 1: Mountain Station to Round Valley

The first day was actually going to be pretty mild. I parked my car in the overnight lot at the tram station and grabbed my gear. While I had a reserved ticket for 2 pm, I was there a bit early. There was room on the tram, so I headed up away from the heat of the desert. After my 12-minute ride, I headed to the ranger station to check-in. The ranger went over the basic rules and showed me how the campsite actually worked. I must admit, in planning this portion of the trip I did not really understand the layout of the Round Valley campground. Along the trail, there are posts, each marked with an R and a number. These serve as junction markers to trails that lead back to the various campgrounds, which are all named. He told me to avoid R1-R4 as they are just off the main trail to the peak. Since there were some winds forecasted for the evening, he also suggested not staying at Upper Chinquapin. Now that I understood the campground, and carrying a much better map that came with my permit, I set off. 

The temperatures were in the mid-70s, but the light breeze and the shade made for a pleasant time. Since I was early, I debated heading to the campsite, dropping my gear, and heading up to the summit, but I knew I had several more days of hiking ahead of me and did not need to rush. Once at Round Valley, I began to explore some of the options to set up camp. In the end, I picked Buckthorn, as there was a spot sheltered by some boulders which could offer some additional protection from the wind. I walked back down to the Seasonal Ranger station and marked on the map that I had taken Buckthorn for the evening, then went over to the faucet to filter water. 

As evening came, I made my dinner and enjoyed a nice beer I carried up. Since I had to only cover just over 2 miles with an elevation gain of about 800 feet, I was willing to have the extra weight for a nice Victory at Sea from Ballast Point. A quarter moon hung in the sky as I crawled into my tent and drifted to sleep.

Day 2: Round Valley to Summit

I woke just before dawn, and the forecasted winds never seemed to come. I had my oatmeal and a couple of cups of coffee while I broke down camp. My plan was to stash my backpack, while I slack-packed up to the summit. I found a nice nook near the ranger station and set off up the trail toward Wellman Divide. Since the first tram up wasn’t until 10 am, I doubted I would see anyone for quite a while. I felt great as I made the climb up from Round Valley. I suspect that spending the night at 9,100 feet helped my body get a bit more used to the altitude. I reached Wellman Divide still feeling great. I stopped for a bit to grab some photos before continuing upward.

The trail was familiar, as this was the third time I had covered this portion of the route. Unlike last time, where I had been feeling the climb, this time I just kept cruising along. I reached the turn near Miller Peak and kept trucking along, knowing I was almost there. I came to the junction with the trail that connects up from Little Round Valley. If I was going to see anyone this early, it would be anyone who might have camped there. Although I suspect, if they had camped there, they might have tried for a sunrise summit. There was a tiny patch of snow nearby, and I wondered how much longer it would last?  

I set off for the final 3/10 mile to the summit. I briefly stopped at the Rescue Hut but was starting to run low on energy. Since I had a short scramble to the top, I pushed on. Someone had spray-painted blue arrows to help guide you up the rocks. I could not recall seeing this the last time. 

Once at the summit, I stood alone. I snapped my photos, enjoying not having to wait for others. I then found a nice spot to take my well-earned break. With a little bit of food in me, I was feeling great again. I took in the views some more, then headed back down the trail. As I neared the turn near Miller Peak, I decided to hike over and check it out. I got close to the true summit, but it would have been a bit of a scramble to the top and I just did not feel like doing it. After rejoining the main trail, I cruised back down. I would look at my watch and wonder when I might encounter my first day-hikers. My best guess was just around Round Valley. The return to Round Valley went smoothly, stopping only for photos. 

Once back at Round Valley, I switched back to my backpack, securing my slack-pack to the outside. I thought about transferring my water bladder back into my backpack but figured I had just about 2 miles of downhill ahead of me and I would be fine. Just past the first campsites, I met my first day-hikers. My guess had been correct as to the timing. We chatted a bit, then each went our separate ways. About every 15 minutes or so, I would pass another set of hikers making their way toward the summit. Some seemed a bit more prepared than others. Finally, I reached the ranger station. I checked in with the ranger to let him know I safely returned. As I enjoyed a nice cool drink of water, I listened to him caution a group of hikers about the warm day. Feeling a bit refreshed, I set off on the hardest part of the entire hike, the climb to the actual tram station. I plodded my way up the 120 feet of steep concrete switchbacks. Once there, I bought a cold soda and waited for the next tram down. With one peak down, it was off to drive over to Table Mountain Campground and tackle Baden-Powell via Dawson’s Saddle tomorrow.

Final Stats

Day 1:

Ranger Station to Round Valley: 2.25 miles, 1:17, and 795 feet of gain.

Day 2:

Round Valley – Summit: 5.9 miles, 3:39 (excluding time at the summit), and 1,735 feet of gain 

Round Valley to Ranger Station: 1.9 miles, 1:03, and 795 feet of loss. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 5

I woke up just before dawn. I grabbed my phone and snapped some photos of the glorious colors of the morning sky. My heart and soul were full. I made breakfast and broke camp for the last time. Some were staying two nights, adding in the hike to StarLight Beach, the old end of the TCT, while others were like me and returning to Two Harbors and back to the mainland. I left my fuel and my remaining water for one of the others. 

With a much lighter pack, I retraced my route from yesterday. The only difference was I did need to make it back in town by 11:15. The miles flew by, and I could still feel the day warming up again. One of the campers had a thermometer, and said the low at Parsons was 71! I passed a few folks, one on a gravel bike, a couple of runners getting their miles in, and one fellow heading out to see a buddy who worked at one of the camps. 

I decided to follow the formal route into town and did not take the shortcut, plus I got to see a little bit more of Two Harbors. Once at the pier I got my ferry ticket, cleaned up a bit, bought a couple of cold drinks, and last but not least, 2 patches to add to my collection. As I boarded a ferry, I knew this adventure had come to a close. Soon Anita would be standing on the dock waiting to greet me. I am proud of this journey and what it gave me. When all is said and done, I hiked 39.7 miles over the five days. I logged 19 hours of actual hiking time and measured 6,998 feet of elevation gain.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 4

I woke to foggy skies, my rainfly was damp, as was the rain cover on my pack. I made my breakfast and broke camp. I enjoyed my breakfast and strolled into Two Harbors at 8 and double-checked the supply drop. With confirmation, I set off toward Parsons. I really wanted to take the other route and cross Silver Peak off the list but I knew better. Plus it’s easy enough for me to get back here, and maybe next time with some friends. The road out to Parsons traces the contours of the island. Meaning it goes in and around steep and deep ravines. Usually tucked in the bottoms of these ravines were various camps. The heat was really bearing down on me. I hoped those coming up and over had enough fluids.

I crested the final hill and saw Parsons before me. Seeing the campsite, moved me. While I knew I still had to hike back to Two Harbors, reaching Parsons meant I had effectively trekked the entirety of the TCT. I hung out at the shelter, as there was not a lot of shade to be found. The water had not yet been delivered, so I took some from the containers that had been left to quench my thirst. After a while, I went down to my campsite on the actual beach and began to set up. Since my rain fly was still wet, I put it out to dry but I hoped I might not need it. Once I finished, I put on my bathing suit and enjoyed the cool Pacific waters again. I did find some shade beneath a large rock and had a nice nap. Later I wandered back to the shelter and the lockers. Many of the hikers I’d been traveling with were here as well. A lone bald eagle was spotted in the distance. We chatted about things for a while, then we departed with our water and firewood back down to our respective camps. 

Each campsite has a rock windbreak and a firepit. The sun began to set behind the hills and I started to feel a bit of a breeze begin to pick up, so I added an extra rock to each tent stake to hold them down.

The sound of the crashing waves and the glow of the sunset were making this a memorable evening. I reflected on this journey and on other things. My campfire danced in the pit and off to the distance the lights in LA shone. The breeze became stronger and I could see my tent begin to sway. I debated removing the rainfly since it was just acting as a sail but realized if I did I would be hard-pressed to put it back on if needed. The real problem was the direction of the wind, as that nicely constructed rock wall was on the wrong side. I crawled into the tent knowing my weight was helping keep the tent in place. I tied a part of the rain fly back to allow me to look out into the evening sky. If the wind was going to keep me awake, at least let me have a view. I did drift off to sleep, and those winds did eventually calm down.

Day 5: Parsons Landing to Two Harbors


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 3

I awoke just before sunrise, after a fairly good sleep under the stars. I had gotten a little damp overnight, but nothing too troublesome. Today was going to be a warm one, as the forecasts for the rest of the week was going to be unseasonably hot. So I wanted to get an early start to get the climb out of Little Harbor done before it was too warm. I made a cup of coffee and ate a breakfast bar while I broke camp. I still had a coke that I had bought the day before, so I drank it down for some extra “go” juice. I waved goodbye to the woman at the next site, as she was just starting her day. My plasma lighter had trouble last night igniting the tinder, so I borrowed her traditional lighter, and that coupled with the bag my oatmeal-raisin cookie came in let me enjoy my campfire.

The trail doesn’t waste any time and starts climbing directly from the campground. Why the trail builders did not use switchbacks, I will never know. While it was steep, it was not too awful.  I did remember to stop and turn back toward Little Harbor for a few more photos. As I continued climbing, the views of the coast to my left were stunning. After about 2 miles, a shade shelter came into view, which indicated that the summit was almost there. I paused and shared with another hiker that I’d been “chasing” for much of the climb, but the draw of the General Store in Two Harbors was strong, so I said my goodbyes and continued down the trail. I had another almost 2.5 miles to go, but I did make a very short side trip to the top of Banning House Mountain. The extreme heat forecasted for the next day meant that it was highly unlikely I was actually going to try and summit Silver Peak if I took the high route out to Parsons Landing.

The descent was pleasant and seeing Cat Harbor was a welcome sight. I dropped my pack near the General Store and grabbed some cool drinks. After that, I made the ¼ mile walk over to the campsite. This time I’d be right next to the water. Once I was set up, I headed back into town for lunch and exploration. Between the campground and town, there’s a small hill that you go up and over. I had my lunch and then inquired about the locker key for Parsons Landing. Instead of putting my water and firewood in the locker, it would be marked for me placed next to one. I strolled back to the campsite and then went down to the beach below me to find a spot to relax. I also took some time to rinse my clothes and grab a simple shower. While you can pay for a warm one in town, the warm day made this cold one feel very refreshing. Since the store closes at 5, I made my way back over to grab a beer and hopefully some Fritos to go with dinner Sadly there were no Fritos to accompany my chili mac. I also opted to grab a Detour IPA from the excellent beer selection. It seemed appropriate since I was making a detour on the TCT.

Some of the other hikers I had met along the way were also in town waiting until the restaurant opened. They invited me for dinner, but I really wanted to eat and enjoy the view from my campsite. So I compromised and had a cup of chowder with them instead. I was hoping to sleep again without the rain fly and enjoy the night sky. However, the fog started to roll in, so on it went. I also brought the rain cover for my backpack and slipped it on as well. Once again I enjoyed another fire as evening fell. 

While I did debate an early start to try to take the high route, I knew that the additional 2 miles to also climb Silver Peak might be too much in this heat. Even so, I still wanted an early start to go to Parsons Landing. While the road route was mostly flat, it was still nearly 8 miles. One downside of the Two Harbors campground is it can be quite noisy in the evenings. And true to those warnings, we had some campers making a bit of a racket into the evening. Thankfully they did quiet down before I got too grumpy.

Day 4: Two Harbors to Parsons Landing


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 2

One of the tests for this trip was changing my sleep setup. Given I mostly sleep on my side, I decided to switch to a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag. It works so well! No longer was I fighting with my sleeping bag during the night. I was able to also solve my pillow height issue as well. For sleeping in a tent, I did fairly well. 

Today’s route was really one of two parts; the first is a short 2.1-mile jaunt to the airport and the second is 6+ miles of mostly downhill into Little Harbor. I wanted to arrive at the airport closer to lunchtime, so I took my time enjoying my coffee and oatmeal. Once done with breakfast, I loaded my pack and headed out.

When I saw the airport the previous night when I tried to climb Mt. Orizban, it did not look too far away. Like many things on Catalina, however, nothing is a straight line.

I had some water in my internal bladder, but my side bottles were empty to save a little weight for a while. The route took me down a ravine before climbing back up again. Since I was in no hurry, I took a leisurely pace. I actually had a small water crossing. It had rained the week before and some of the water was still around. As I made my way up, I spotted 3 hikers heading toward me. It was a bit early for anyone coming from Little Harbor. It turned out they work for the conservancy and they were out counting snakes. I happily informed them that I had neither seen nor heard any today.

Once at the airport, I dropped my pack, found some shade, and enjoyed a cold soda. While the TCT is quite challenging, it intersects with civilization quite often. The airport was one of those intersections. After that cold drink, I ordered my bison burger with fries and another soda. I was here before when the twins and I had flown over with my friend Susan Bell for the same lunch. I let lunch settle a bit before starting to head out. Little Harbor is said to be a fantastic campsite so I wanted some time there. I filled my side bottles and bought two more sodas and an oatmeal raisin cookie for later. With mostly a descent ahead of me, the extra weight was fine.