I can’t tell you the number of times my roommate, Karla, and I said that we were going to sign up for a hike with SC Outfitters last year. Unfortunately, talk is cheap and we never ended up actually acting on our desire to hike it up. Fortunately, Karla and I are still roommates, and so, this year we were able to rectify our mistake. Consequently, on September 7 we went to our first ever SC Outfitters meeting with the intention of just seeing what the club was all about. We ended up leaving the meeting not only as full-fledged members of the club, but also having signed up for a 12 mile hike up Saddleback Mountain the following Sunday. I guess you could say we went all-in.
I found myself awake at 5am on Sunday, September 11 (the morning after a particularly exciting football game against Utah). Karla and I had 30 minutes to throw on some clothes, brush our teeth and bike to TroGro to meet the rest of our hiking group. After scurrying around like crazy people trying to get all our stuff together (most importantly the 4 liters of water we were each told to bring) we biked as fast as we could to TroGro, worried we were going to hold up the group. Our mad rush ended up being in vain, because we were among the first ones there. The rest of the group trickled in and by 6:00 we had introduced ourselves and were heading out on the road.
About an hour, one pit stop at Starbucks/Subway and a sketchy off-roading experience later we made it to the bottom of the Holy Jim trail and started our long hike up to the summit of Saddleback Mountain. The weather was ideal, a bit overcast for the first little while, followed by clear skies and moderate temperatures. We hiked up switchbacks and through caves carved through thick foliage. We witnessed breathtaking vistas of the canyons and eventually could even see Mt. Balby and Mt. San Jancinto off in the distance. It was absolutely gorgeous. We crossed a few small streams and stopped in shady spots for water breaks and snacks. The hike up was a strenuous 6 miles long and 4000’ in elevation gain. However, it didn’t feel too long, because of the fantastic company and the fact that we played “contact” at least half of the way up. In fact, our group managed to walk at such a steady rhythm that we made it to the top about 40 minutes earlier than the guides anticipated.
Once we were at the top we sat down and admired the incredible view. We also ate the lunch the guides had brought for us consisting of pita sandwiches with chicken, tofurky sausage, salami, humus, cheese and my favorite part, sundried tomatoes. I discovered food tastes especially delicious when you eat it after hiking for 6 miles up a mountain. After we ate, we explored the rest of the summit, took some photos and then headed back down. 5 miles down we decided to take a small detour to a nearby waterfall. It was beautiful and definitely worth the extra 7-minute walk. All in all, I had an amazing time hiking up Saddleback Mountain with SC Outfitters. I was surrounded by gorgeous scenery, I met some incredible people, I gained some bizarre backpack tan lines, my big toe pretty much doubled in size, I am now down one pair of white socks and up a pair of brown ones, and I can’t wait for the next hike I signed up for with SC Outfitters!