Welcome to the winter wonderland that is the Cucamonga Peak hike. Let me just start by saying a huge thanks to my buddies Ronny and Carlos. Thank you for the invitation, thank you for the guidance in purchasing gear and the guidance on the trail. I learned a lot about what the elements can do to your body and how to navigate some sketchy terrain. I couldn't have asked for better guides to share this with, also helps these guys are friken' hilarious!
Now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to how it all began. Truthfully, it began after I shared what I felt was one of my coolest shots to date.
I posted this on Instagram and I don't know if it inspired my buddy Carlos or what but he decided to message me, he asked if I wanted to go on a hike. I had never really done any big hikes before but I felt ready to give it a try, I mean YOLO right? I said yes and the planning began to go on this winter adventure. I was happy I got such an advance notice because it gave me time to mentally and physically prepare for this hike. This almost hit a snag when I hurt my knee a week after his invitation, I did rest it as much as I could and luckily I was able to rehab it back to good strength.
The advance invite also gave me time to go ahead and pick up some gear and really take my time in the selection. I went to REI, that store is pretty awesome and the people that worked there were super helpful when it came to finding my gear. Finally, I was ready for the hike and finally came the night before the hike.
I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but I couldn't sleep that night. All I could think about was if I had enough gear, if my knee would hold up and if I had the mental ability to push through the cold. Luckily I had a little school project I had to help my daughter with, so that kept me occupied while I couldn't sleep. If you want to know, I had to make her a giraffe hat or mask from scratch, it came out okay I guess. Once I was all done with that, I finally decided to lay down and really try to go to bed so I wouldn't be tired during the hike. I sent one last text to the guys to let them know how excited I was and then fell asleep.
I had set my alarm for 5 am and surprisingly I woke up very refreshed. I made my coffee, got all my gear together and headed out the door. I noticed the sun was rising through the clouds (there was a storm inbound) and I was blown away by the beauty of the sunrise. I've mentioned before, sunsets are gorgeous but sunrises are something different. I hopped in my car and started the drive to Ronny's house, the designated meet up spot.
On the way there I realized I hadn't purchased any food or drinks for the trip, so I stopped at the Ralphs by my house to grab some grub for the hike. This little detour made me a little late to Ronny's house but no big deal, we were still going to make good time.
Finally I arrive to Ronny's place.
This is when I start feeling very excited, now it felt real. We stopped for some gas and water, then to McDonald's for breakfast. I'm not really a huge fan of McDonald's but according to my boy Ronny, I was going to need the calories on this hike so I was down. They ended up jipping Carlos on a hash brown and forgot to call out his order, haha. We discussed some movies and current events over breakfast, once we were all done we started the drive up to the mountains.
The drive up was actually quite spectacular, this is where we got a real good idea of what the conditions were going to be like for the day. We were literally right in the clouds, the storm that came in the night before seemed like it got stuck in the mountains. It was an inspiring sight and I couldn't wait to get out of the car and start this adventure.
Oh yeah baby, it was gorgeous out, cold, but gorgeous. We finally reached the starting point for our hike and parked. The moment I got out the car I felt the cold, I remember my first breath was like a mini cloud. Grabbed all the essential stuff, food, water, camera (yes my camera was essential here, haha). Tied my new hiking boots and started down the trail, here we go. I was blown away at the beauty of all the trees, snow and mountains. The colors were spectacular and completely different than my last adventure, which was Joshua Tree.
I fell in love with this place right away, the views were spectacular and fresh snow was everywhere. We started up the first short climb of the trail and that's when I got a little nervous. First, there was ice everywhere, you really had to watch your step or you could take a nasty fall. Luckily the problem was almost nullified thanks to some hiking poles the guys brought along, life savers.
That's them right there, they really helped balance your weight and in the long run really helped save your legs. Then, the second thing that made me nervous was that I quickly started to lose my breath. I started feeling my heart beating faster than normal, my muscles were fine but for some reason my lungs and heart couldn't slow down. I got worried that I wasn't fit for the hike and that I was going to make the guys turn back right away. After that first little climb we finally came to a little stop and I was finally able to catch my breath and slow down my heart rate. This is where I felt I had acclimated to the altitude and knew I was going to be ready for the rest of the climb. The water break was nice and also provided some excellent views.
You can't completely tell in these photos but there was a nice mist out and I was scared about my camera. I wanted it out the whole time and I wanted to record so much video and take so many pictures. Only problem was my camera isn't really weather resistant, so as we were climbing, shooting had to come down to a minimum. On we went to the next little climb, this is where we really started to see the weather coming in and as you got higher up the trail you could start feeling the colder air.
Then, after another good climb, we took another water and picture break.
Those were Ronny and Carlos's prom pictures, haha. You have to take a look at all of them. There were a couple hikers that passed us by and chuckled at their poses, classic. Then of course it was my turn to get in front of the camera.
I'm not used to being in front of the lens so excuse my cheesy poses. At this point I was really able to take in the environment and I can't stress enough how beautiful the view was. Being in the middle of the cloud just gave this place a feeling of solitude. It felt as if it was just us and the elements, it really makes you feel small and appreciate nature that much more.
Again we hiked.
This is where the trail started to get a little trickier, there was ice everywhere and the rain started coming down hard. As we elevated higher and higher that rain became snow, it was amazing. It amazes me how soft snow is and how gently it was falling down. The only thing that started to bug us a bit was the wind, it wasn't harsh wind at this point but those gusts would shake ice off trees. That ice hit Ronny and Carlos a couple of times, I was lucky enough not to feel nature's strikes. We climbed and climbed some more, experiencing more snow and wind as we got higher.
The trail would get small and big again, some parts covered in snow and others with rocks and ice. Ronny was leading the way and made sure to inform me to lean towards the inside of the trail in case of a slip. I made sure not to look down too much, haha, I know you're probably not supposed to look down but I did. I'd say at this point we had trekked for about 3 hours, some hunger started setting in and we were ready for a lunch break.
I kid you not this little spot we decided to eat at offered some amazing lunch time views. I had brought along some delicious steak jerky and a protein bar for lunch. Then I topped it all off with coconut water, bomb! It was one of the best little lunches I've had in a while, after I ate I took out the camera and started snapping away.
At this point there wasn't much more elevation to reach a spot called Icehouse Saddle (if I remember correctly). So we trekked on, full of energy and ready to continue up until we reached the peak. Again, conditions started to get worse as we got higher up the mountain. The main culprit was the wind which started blowing ice and snow in our face and knocking down ice from the frozen trees. I'm not kidding either, the leaves on the trees were frozen solid.
Being in the middle of this frigid weather and storm was awesome though, I'd never experienced weather like this and I was loving it. As you can see I was pretty well prepared for the cold but that wind was something else.
As we reach the Icehouse Saddle we start experiencing some major wind chill. It was crazy up there, I had on some solid gloves and gear but I realized it may not be enough. We reach the Icehouse sign and trailhead map and begin to analyze if we can continue the hike. The wind was the determining factor here and we decided it was time to call it. It felt good to have reached this point of the hike in spite of the conditions we experienced but it would have been awesome to make the peak. My biggest concern were my hands and fingers which started going numb and I started feeling some grueling pain on the tips of my fingers.
That didn't stop us from taking a few shots at the saddle though.
Right after this I ended up taking one of my favorite shots of the trip. It really comes to show you the beauty of nature and all the surprises you can find if you just keep looking.
It was time to head down the mountain and to get away from the wind. We started back down the mountain which was awesome because this really allowed me to see the scenery a lot more. On our way up we had to pay a lot of attention to where we were stepping so I had my head down a lot.
There was definitely a different challenge when going down the trail to coming up the trail. Going up I found myself able to use more glute strength which didn't seem to bother me too much. Going down hill though, I started to feel it a lot in my quads and calves, it burned alot. I guess slowing my weight down is harder than pushing it up. Going down we took a few breaks, mainly for me to take photographs and I caught some cool stuff.
Those were all shot off my phone which really took some great pics. It was still raining a bit and I didn't really want my camera to get too wet (I really need to upgrade by the way).
I really felt like I was slowing us down so I put the phone away until we got really close to the end of the hike. I found some really cool structures, an amazing tree line and a beautiful little pond with some great contrasting rocks at the bottom so I had to take some shots.
Capturing these shots was awesome, I felt like I really captured the essence of the trail. It was even more special because of the conditions we had faced to get to this point in the hike, I still can't get over how badass the whole mountain looked covered in clouds.
As we were nearing the end of the hike we had an impromptu photo shoot in front of this amazing rock formation.
It's majestic right? So first up in the photoshoot was Ronny with the ultimate thinker pose...
Then it was my turn...
Then Carlos went full GQ on us and went with some daring poses...
At this point I was feeling the pain of the hike on my feet. Trekking for that long is something I wasn't used to at all but I would definitely do it again. My goal is to come back and complete the hike and hopefully the weather is slightly forgiving. We kept heading down the trail and finally we reached the end of the hike, not before I grabbed a few more pics though.
Finally, reaching the car was awesome, although I didn't want to leave the scenery it was great knowing we could get some real food in our system.
We drove down the mountain and decided we would finish the day with some bomb sushi. Took us a while to find a good sushi spot but we found it and it didn't dissapoint.
It was a great spot to refuel and to discuss the hike. We each had our favorite little spots of the hike and yes we were definitely talking about doing one again. I really learned how grueling a real hike can be and how the elements can change your situation right away.
Nature really makes you feel small, makes you think about all the important stuff and really helps you relax. There's an indescribable beauty in it and I can't wait to do it again. Of course, I will be happy to document it and share it with you guys. Thank you so much for reading this and for taking a look through all the photos. Don't forget about the little things in life, you'll often find that those little things have a lot more to offer than you thought. Until next time...