This weekend marked our first camping trip of the season! It has been years since either of us camped, and we have never gone together. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to find a campground, or if dispersed camping would be a better idea. My vote was for the former, since I thought it would be better to get our feet wet and test our gear at a campground. Unfortunately, finding space at a campground can be difficult this time of year. Those that accept reservations are usually booked far in advance, and those that do not can fill up pretty quickly. We packed our gear and went into the mountains with plans for both, and just decided to play it by ear.
There were a few peaks that we were considering hiking, and figured we would scope out the area for camping options. We also had the Cibbets Flat Campground as our other option, which is a first come first serve campground. So we drove through Mount Laguna and checked out a few of the trails that we had been considering, and ended up at Garnet Peak since it was one of our top options and wasn’t packed at the trail head like some of the others.
It is rated Easy on Alltrails, but personally I would only consider that half correct.
It is only about 2 1/2 miles out and back, with about a 500′ elevation gain. In theory that should be pretty easy for one such as myself, who is not in the greatest of shape but still pretty capable. What they don’t tell you is that the first half of the trail is pretty flat, with only a slight incline.
This first part of the trail was beautiful though, there was so much color. I am glad that we were able to catch some of the spring bloom, especially when walking through the large patches of purple.
And of course where there are beautiful flowers, there are bound to be insects.
The ladybugs were out in full force, and I loved seeing the contrast of their bright red little bodies on the deep blue and purple hues.
The second half of the trail, after you intersect with the PCT, is much steeper and is where you’re getting the most of that elevation gain! If you were hiking this peak in the fall, winter, or even early spring I believe this trail would be much easier. Summer in San Diego starts pretty early, so though it wasn’t as hot as it could be it was still pretty intense. We ran into a couple on the trail who had their older dog with them, and the poor thing was struggling so hard. We eventually passed them and never saw them at the top, so my guess is that they turned around and took the old guy back. Please please please (no I am not going to start singing the Smiths) remember to be mindful of the heat when hiking with your pets. I sincerely hope that dog was okay, from what they told us they had a bit of a walk back to where they started. There isn’t really any shade in the area, and I watched with great sympathy and a not so small tinge of anger as this dog attempted to crawl under a tiny push just to escape the sun. I know how wonderful dogs are, and I can only imagine how much you want to bring your four legged friends on all of your adventures with you. It isn’t worth their suffering, and when you live in this region you have to be more considerate of these things. Please leave them at home, where they can stay cool and look forward to seeing you once you return.
My advice even just for you is to wear cooling clothing and bring tons of water (more than you even think you’ll need). Oh, and reapply sunscreen until you feel like you’ve developed a second skin made from it. I wore a tank top and capri yoga pants, not expecting to be out as long as we were, and got to enjoy a severe sunburn and awkward tan line after. The heat really does make this trail much tougher than it actually is for us and our furry best friends.
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have to make several stops along the way. With no break from the sun it was definitely harder with each step, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn back. I made it this far, I was determined to see the top! Yes I felt bad for making Jeremy stop so many times for me to catch my breath and drink water, but I would have felt worse ending our trip just because it got a little hairier than I anticipated.
Once it got to the point where we were beginning to see parts of the view, that was enough to push me to the end. (Side note, can’t you just hear the sound of my skin frying in the sun?)
We reached the top and were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the desert, mountains, and beyond.
Unfortunately we also got a view of the wildfire that had broken out in the distance. We saw the very beginning of it on our way up, and thankfully it didn’t seem to get much bigger than this. Shortly after we could see signs that they were getting it under control, I am glad this one didn’t get out of hand.
Jeremy is slightly more adventurous than I am at this point, so he of course had to go off and explore.
We sat up here for some time, taking in the sights, some fresh air, and energy from our packed lunch. I was too tired to muster a smile, but I guarantee you that I was rejoicing at having made it to the top! Being able to sit up here was a moment of pride for me, even if others don’t find this hike to be challenging. A year ago I would not have made it.
We finally packed up and started the trek out since it was getting later and we were going to be looking for a campground at this point. Coming down the trail was much quicker, of course, but be sure to take your time and be careful. The terrain is extremely rocky, and because I was with someone who moves much faster than I do I found myself constantly focusing on trying to keep up rather than watching my step. I caught myself several times and had to slow down to ensure I didn’t injure myself. One misstep, even on the easiest of trails, can have dire consequences.
As we neared the end I looked back and was amazed at what I had just accomplished. To think that I was just sitting atop that peak… When I finally kicked my boots off in the car and sat back I could feel the aching of muscles that haven’t been used in ages. But I also haven’t felt a satisfaction in something that I have done in a long time. Over the last few years just holding a job and going to work was a feat, and on days when I didn’t have to leave my house sometimes just getting out of bed was my high for the day. I’ve come a long way, and though I still have those days I finally feel like I could see a reward for my efforts. I could look at its silhouette against the sky and know that I tackled it. And knowing that I had accomplished this task gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
Exhausted from this hike, we headed out to Cibbets Flat Campground for our first night of camping. Stay tuned for the next post!