(7/19/05) Many were a little apprehensive and nervous during the first grinding, steep mile of the unrelenting ski hut trail. Although all twelve of us knew that the hike was rated on the upper end of the strenuous rating (debatably, "very strenuous"), the challenge of climbing Mt. Baldy quickly became reality. I was nervous as well because I was still recovering from a thirteen-mile scout trip from two days prior with little sleep between them, and I remember how Baldy kicked my butt the first time. I'm sure no one appreciated my slightly faster, slave-driver pace in the first mile (for which I must apologize to the group), as I was running off a full tank of testosterone along with some spillover from all the sweaty, testosterone-charged guys accompanying me. But the whole crew was in-shape, experienced, determined, and ready to top Mt. Baldy.

Fortunately, after the first mile and rest break, the hike eased slightly as we made our way to the ski hut; conversations picked up and smiles appeared. Panoramic vistas began unfolding as Gorgonio and Jacinto raised their majestic heads above the horizon. The day was hot, yet playing in the patches of snow near the top offered welcome respite from the soaring heat. We bumped into some very friendly hikers along the trail who picked out our group rather quick, including our captivatingly-smiled new friend, LJ.

The last half mile was endless; even my GPS unit seemed stuck on 0.4 mile. My legs started to cramp as much of the group passed me. The hike grew to almost race-intensity proportions and I could only feel pride for everyone on my "team" as we summitted the highest peak in Los Angeles. A true sense of athletic respect among us helped drive everyone forward. Amazingly, we made it to the top in the planned time of exactly 4 hours.

At the peak, we soaked in the breathtaking views, the sunshine, additional playtime in the snow, and each other's company. Luckily I had an extra gallon of water stashed in my pack as many in the group, including myself, were running low on water.

On the return trip, we sailed down the mountain. Stopping halfway at the stream near the ski hut, we cooled our heads and splashed around in the invigorating cold water. Unfortunately the stream was not deep enough for skinny dipping! ;o)

At the end of the trip, the boys gave me the new nickname "Becka Homo-Eca" as I presented the mobile cafe. Scary... I hope that doesn't become my trail name, too. Thanks for a great day, guys -- and congratulations on your accomplishment. You're all awesome!

Special thanks to Jimm for his fabulous additions to this photo album.