That's the Santiago Peak marker above. Not terribly impressive as peak markers go, but still a major feat to be able to see it and take a photo in person. It took us 8 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain to reach 5,689 ft Santiago Peak, the highest point in Orange Country, while carrying 20 pound backpacks, then another 8 miles to return to our start point.
At 16 miles roundtrip, that's our longest day hike ever.
What a day, and what an output of energy it took. Our day started bright and early at 3:30 AM, as our alarms went off and we climbed out of our warm bed. I think I've previously mentioned that this is always my least favorite part of any endurance activity, but once I suck it up and toss back the covers, it's pretty much all good going forward.
We dressed in our already-laid out hiking layers, went downstairs to re-check our already-loaded backpacks, filled our water bladders, poured hot coffee into travel mugs, picked up our sack breakfast and lunch, and left for the 40 minute drive to the initial starting point. There, along with the other 27 people in our WTC class, we grouped together and got into several high clearance vehicles for the very bumpy ride to the trail head. Seriously, the dirt road we had to drive up was rutted, muddy, and about as bad as I've ever been on. And so much fun.
We were parked and gathered together in front of the trail head by 6:30 AM, ready to listen to some last minute instructions from our leader Edd . . .
. . . plus one quick, "Hi guys, look where we are!" photo before taking off:
So how did it go? Well, it went 1) great, then 2) not so great, then 3) great again!
We hiked for seven miles, continuously gaining elevation, and stopping every mile or so to utilize our compass and trail map to ascertain where we were. Learning to locate true north, take a bearing on a landmark, then use both to determine where we were on our trail maps was challenging. If I had to take a test today I'd probably fail navigation, but I'm making progress, and we still have many weeks to go, so I'm optimistic I'll nail it eventually.
Not So Great
At the start of mile eight, which, ironically, was almost the easiest part of the hike as we followed a dirt road for the last mile to the peak, I bonked.
What is bonking exactly? Here's a definition from Active.com:
What Causes a Bonk? A bonk can be described as total glycogen depletion from the muscles and liver. Glycogen is the primary fuel source for endurance athletes. This severe glycogen depletion does not occur during short duration, high intensity efforts, rather it occurs during continuous exercise at some 70- to 85-percent of VO2 max that is sustained for periods of more than about two hours.
Shots from the peak, which was colder and windier than expected at a brisk 36 degrees. Not something we experience very often here in temperate Orange County, California.
|Yeah, I made it!|
|We shared the peak with these radio towers, which provide radio coverage for most of S. California.|
|The views looking out in the other direction were a bit more dramatic.|
|Apparently I wasn't the only one in the group that struggled to reach the peak!|
|Cold, but happy to have made it.|
And book it he did. Seriously, we descended so rapidly that most of us in the front group (yep, I was in the front group with the 20-somethings on the way down) had to jog to keep up. While wearing 20 pound backpacks mind you.
It was fun. A bit tough, yes, but fun. The only issue was one of the gals in the group took a swan dive just before we reached the cars. It scared the heck out of me as I watched her go down, because her arms got caught under her body leaving her with absolutely nothing to break her fall. There was a collective holding of breath until she popped up smiling, dirt all over her face, and in her teeth, announcing she was fine.
After that, it was an easy, bumpy drive back down to our cars, followed by a group pizza fest at a nearby restaurant.
Surprisingly, I feel pretty darn good this morning, and Mike and I will be heading over to a nearby trail shortly to do a five mile easy trek so I can continue breaking in my new boots.
And although it made me laugh at the time, yesterday, as we were finishing up, one of the young guys turned to one of the gals that was sprawled on the ground, exhausted, and called out "Hey, you can rest when you're dead!"
It's possible that truer words have never been spoken.