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Iron Mountain Hike

(10/9/07) Written by Jim R

Saturday's hike to the summit of Iron Mountain was my first with Perfect Pace, and it was a memorable experience. Mike B. and I arrived at the trailhead at 7 am to find Glen O (with one n) waking up in his car with a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast. It was cold that morning, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and Glen was bundled up in a parka. He was talking with a guy named Steve who, it turns out, was not a Perfect Pacer at all but a gold prospector who has spent the past two years panning the San Gabriel River for a whopping one ounce of gold.

The hike started along a fire road which ran parallel to the river and quickly turned into a mountain trail of fairly mild switchbacks at an idyllic campground on the river nestled in a grove of trees. We made our way up to a ridge and followed it in a winding path for about two miles to a saddle which led toward the peaks of Iron Mountain. At one of the saddles we dropped off some water for consumption on the return trip and took a deep breath and a quick pit stop. This is where the real experience of the Iron Mountain hike began. We descended into the next saddle and the slope quickly turned very steep. With Mount Baldy in breathtaking view off to the east we hiked/climbed our way up what was for me a very challenging trail. At points we had to scramble up rocks and through some pretty rocky terrain and my legs and cardiovascular system were quickly put to the test. It has been almost a year since I last did a 15-mile hike, and I must admit that taking on Iron Mountain was an ambitious way to start getting in better shape.

But that is not to say the Iron Mountain experience was solely one of challenge, endurance and a sense of conquest. The views of the surrounding ranges were stunning and Mt. Baldy was covered in the morning with what appeared to be a blanket of snow until the frost cover magically burned off in the early afternoon. By 11:30am we took our first major break, and Glenn N (with two n's) and I separated from Mike and Glen as the two of them made a faster pace toward our goal. By noon Glenn and I were both winded and we stopped for a quick lunch break. Glenn found this to be a prudent time to lie down for a nap and I continued up the trail exhilarated and optimistic, but also a little apprehensive at taking on a new mountain alone with my somewhat notorious acrophobia as a companion. As Mike predicted my fear of heights turned out be no problem at all, and as 1:30 pm came around the only real challenge I faced was one of endurance. I climbed along the second final major ridge before the summit and really started to take in the views of Mt. Wilson, Baldy, Baden Powell, the Inland Empire valley and the surrounding environs. As I got closer to the summit I began to struggle physically, but was driven by the anticipation of seeing what I imagined would be a unique view of the desert vistas on the other side of the San Gabriels. Alas, as 2 pm rolled around, even my longing to see the other side was not enough for my poor tired legs. On a steep slope about a half mile from the top my legs finally got the better of me, and I had to stop for a quick nap of my own. After a short rest I turned back to descend the trail and quickly ran into a couple of straight guys with Wisconsin accents and a cute little dog. Inexplicably they were not carrying a chronometer. They asked me what time it was, and when I told them "2 o'clock" they were noticeably relived and felt they had time to reach the summit after all. As the good cheerleader that I am, I encouraged them to continue up the trail and told them they could make it to the top without difficulty, without sufficiently alluding to the fact that I myself had just turned back, had never been to this particular summit, and did not really know how far it was or what conditions awaited them.

On the hike back to the trailhead Glenn and I met back up with Mike and Glen. We made it back to our cars just as the sun was setting over a nearby ridge. Within 15 minutes the Wisconsin guys also made it back, tired and complaining, but happy to have made the trip. All in all Iron Mountain was a great experience and a wonderful introduction to the Perfect Pace lifestyle. Three cheers for Perfect Pace. - Jim R