4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

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4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby mattytreks » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:35 pm

Skyline Trail is one-of-a-kind. Each ascent brings new discoveries, realizations, and curiosities to a degree higher than any other trail I've done multiple hikes on. Yesterday (Saturday, 4/23) was certainly no exception.

It was my seventh excursion up Skyline, and my fiancée’s third. Earlier in the week, temps were blistering in San Diego and the evening prior to our hike, we'd heard a number of high-wind advisories for the weekend...hence I was slightly concerned. At that moment it was possible we'd be postponing our hike, which certainly wouldn't have been the first time I've had to change Skyline plans due to inclement weather.

For each of my past six Skyline trips I remained at home in San Diego that night prior, then would wake up around 12:45 to make the drive up to Palm Springs with an arrival time of 3. This was not ideal on so many levels. First of all, I'm WAKING UP when some people are going to bed! Secondly, I then have to make a 2+ hour drive, in the middle of night, on a few hours sleep. Now not only am I battling exhaustion, but I have to contend with the possibility of God-knows-how-many drunk drivers speeding around the freeways of southern California. The only good that comes out of this approach is that I get to listen to over 2 hours of Road Dog Trucking on Sirius radio, which I happen to find listening to America's truckers solving life's problems with one another highly entertaining. Fellow Road Dog fans, who's with me?

This time, however, I decided to book a room at the lodge on-base at the military base in Moreno Valley. Additionally, I planned for us to start at 5am instead of 3 like I'd usually done before. This meant I/we could wake up at a much more reasonable 3:45am and start our hike shortly before sunrise.

Now back to the weather conditions...I made the executive decision to press on after determining temps were actually cooling down as the week had progressed. As for the wind advisories, we just packed an extra fleece layer and headed out for the base lodge. After a great night's sleep at the lodge, we headed out for the desert museum. Here are some of this trip's observations:

Sleep Time & Travel Time
I cannot describe to you how much more energized and refreshed I felt waking at 3:45am instead of 12:45am. Those extra sleep hours proved invaluable, to me at least. And I will never, ever again embark for Skyline with that level of sleep deprivation. Furthermore, I will never again hike Skyline when sleeping in San Diego the night prior. Having to only drive 50 minutes to an hour to the trailhead felt significantly less demanding than the marathon drive from north county San Diego. We arrived at the trail with a very apparent pep in our step, to say the least.

*Seeing* Skyline, Not Just Hiking It
With my prior 3am starts, I hiked the first two-fifths to one-half of Skyline under the shroud of darkness. This meant I was missing up to half of the beauty Skyline offers. Not this time. Who knew chaparral and other desert flora could be so darned beautiful? Not me, apparently. It is so much more pleasurable to hike during sun-lit hours, and this will be my norm for all future Skyline excursions.

What's That Smell?
From just past the picnic tables and up until Grubb's Notch, both my fiancée and I encountered the smell of french fries on at least three separate occasions. This is something I never recall experiencing before and am wondering if there's a particular plant or flower responsible for creating this odor of deep-fried goodness? Would love to know the ID of such a specimen, for any botanists or horticulturists out there.

Short-Cutting Is OK, Or So He Says
It took seven trips up Skyline, but this time I finally witnessed two incredibly blatant examples of people route-cutting. Both offenses took place on the Never-ending Ridge in areas where there was not so much as a hint of another trail leading up the ridge. The first shortcutter was a lady who literally popped out right in front of me and looked at me as if she just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Of course, I was polite, said hello, and kept plugging along. The second shortcutter came not long after. The moment I noticed him trudging along, blazing his own destructive path up the ridge, I said "hey buddy, how’s it going?", to which he replied jovially, "oh, hey...just taking a shortcut". I then fired back, "you know you're not supposed to be doing that, right?", with his last response back to me being "ahh...it's OK", after an audible chuckle. So there it is. According to this fellow, it's "OK" to shortcut on Skyline. *double facepalm*

Going Down, Down, Down...
Moments before arriving at Flat Rock, I came upon an individual descending Skyline. And wouldn't you know, it was the gentleman I'd seen minutes earlier shortcutting. Years ago I made three additional daytime picnic table recons to familiarize myself with that area of the trail before attempting full Skyline trips on my own. I cannot imagine how my knees would feel after a nearly six-thousand foot descent from Flat Rock. Actually I can because I did Whitney back in 2004, however the steepness with which you lose that elevation on Skyline make it seem even more formidable. What's the farthest any of you have descended Skyline? Have you ever done a full "out and back" Skyline or C2C?

The Sounds Of Nature, Interrupted
One of the greatest inventions this world has seen is headphones, because they allow a person to enjoy their music without exposing others to potentially undesired decibels. Upon cresting at Grubb's and resting briefly near the ranger station, we headed up the summit trail. Unfortunately, the stars aligned (im)properly and we positioned ourselves behind quite possibly the loudest on-trail music I have ever heard anywhere. From Yosemite to Point Reyes and Anza-Borrego to Torrey Pines, I've heard bluetooth speakers blaring with significantly increased frequency in recent years to the point that I wish park rangers would restrict any on-trail music, with headphone use of course being the exception to this rule. Don't get me wrong. I love music, and a world without Pink Floyd or The Beatles or whatever else you listen to would be a less enjoyable one. However, nature is to be experienced with the eyes as well as the ears, and I would never want to encroach on someone else's enjoyment of the outdoors. Does excessive/loud trail music issue bother anyone else to the degree it bothers me?

Altitude Sickness Blues
I've experienced altitude sickness on a few occasions before, namely at San Gorgonio and Mount Whitney. But never at such a low elevation as I experienced on Saturday. About a half-mile past Round Valley (likely around the 9,200-9,300 foot mark??), both my fiancée and I started feeling shortness of breath to go along with stomach uneasiness. Obviously, our initial goal was to complete a C2C, however we just decided it would be best to head back and call it a day. Minutes after turning back, we both started improving, and by the time we had gotten to the Tram Station, we were feeling dramatically better. In the recent past, I'd been using Diamox, prescribed by my physician. The first and only time I'd used it was last year when summiting SanG via South Fork Trail. I really didn't care about the side-effect of increased urination frequency...the little pill made me feel a billion times better at the top of San G than my previous summits there. Never would I have thought I'd need it on SanJ, and most especially when doing so via Skyline, where I am gradually hiking my way up the mountain so as to slowly acclimate. It's not like I was driving my car up Tioga Pass to start hiking Mount Dana with a starting elevation of 10,000 feet. It really was a bit puzzling, and perhaps next time just to be safe, I may take a Diamox at Skyline Trailhead so that it will take effect when I need it later on. Has anyone else used Diamox or anything similar?

All in all, it was an amazing trip. The weather was pleasant, and the wind was a non-issue. One logistical challenge I imposed on myself was forgetting the poles and spikes at home. However, any snow and ice that we did encounter past the ranger station was safely navigable and at no point did I feel we put ourselves in danger. Having said that, we turned back before getting to Wellmans Divide. So I do not know if the conditions might have deteriorated further beyond that point. My guess is probably not. But I'll defer to others that may have indeed made it to the summit this past weekend.

Am definitely looking forward to an eighth Skyline some time very soon!
Last edited by mattytreks on Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby zippetydude » Mon Apr 25, 2016 5:35 pm

Hi Ohiker. Nice write-up!

I've only started in the dark a few times and normally the sun is brightening the horizon before I get to the picnic tables, so I generally have enjoyed the scenery the whole way. It's kind of weird when you do several hours in the dark, almost like you got dropped off at the point where it became light. I like the sunrise from up on the trail though.

With regard to the french fry smell, I have noticed something similar around certain bushes on San Gorgonio, although I thought of it as resembling the smell of Saltine crackers. Another time that I have noticed a similar smell, as strange and gross as it sounds, is when the Santa Ana winds cease and the front wave of returning smog comes over me. It actually smells kind of the same and is surprisingly rather pleasant.

About the trail music, I absolutely agree. No one has the right to ruin the silence of the wilderness for everyone else. Oh, and you're right about Pink Floyd too! :D

As far as altitude sickness, it may have been just a bit of dehydration and heavy exertion that caused the feelings. Normally (though not always) you'd experience some kind of headache as well. One time when I was doing a long run over on San G I started to feel a bit ill going uphill at only around 7000' elevation. When I turned around to head back (going downhill) I started to feel better...so I turned around to go back up, only to find the feeling returned. So I called it a day, but the turning around reduced the strain enough so that I was better within just a few minutes. I've never used Diamox. Sounds like it's really helped. BTW, have you tried prepping with beet juice a few days before going to high altitude?

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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby pkirkham » Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:29 am

You would have encountered some icy snow above Wellman's...however, later in the day it would probably have softened up some. Microspikes are still the ticket up there in the shady areas above 9000'. Doing it in more light is definitely the ticket! Nice climb. BTW, I did Skyline a number of years ago up to the Ranger station and then ran back down...it freaked out a lot of people going up!
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby Ed » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:08 am

pkirkham wrote:BTW, I did Skyline a number of years ago up to the Ranger station and then ran back down...it freaked out a lot of people going up!


It always freaks me out. I tell people they are going the wrong way. The last time it happened, it was a pair of lightly-dressed and lightly-equipped young men I encountered not far below Grubbs Notch. It was late in the day, turning cold, fair amount of snow below. They may have been to the summit, I did not ask, but hard to explain otherwise why they were so high so late in the day. But they knew what they were doing. There was a long delay at the tram station, cars not running for some reason, so they arrived at the museum at the same time I did. One of them did admit that coming down was a bit on the tough side.
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby GoPlayer » Tue Apr 26, 2016 2:52 pm

ohiker wrote:.....
Going Down, Down, Down...
..... What's the farthest any of you have descended Skyline? Have you ever done a full "out and back" Skyline or C2C?
......


Since you asked....

It was a busy day on the trail last Saturday. We may have crossed path with you as we also started a little after 5 am. I have never seen this much traffic out there in the 8 years that I know the trail. There were only very brief intervals during which one would not hear or see other hikers. Lots of people doing C2C too.

It was much quieter on our descent down Skyline in the evening. We had never done a C2C2C and wanted to give it a try. I figured we'd have the trail to ourselves, but we met 2 parties going up. I'm not sure I need to do the down Skyline again, it got pretty tedious. :roll:
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby mattytreks » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:30 pm

zippetydude wrote:Oh, and you're right about Pink Floyd too! :D

BTW, have you tried prepping with beet juice a few days before going to high altitude?

There can never been too many Pink Floyd fans in the world, Z. And fascinating about the beet juice. I will definitely look into this. Thanks for the tip!

GoPlayer wrote:We had never done a C2C2C and wanted to give it a try. I figured we'd have the trail to ourselves, but we met 2 parties going up. I'm not sure I need to do the down Skyline again, it got pretty tedious. :roll:

One of these days this year or next, I am going to do a "Double Skyline". That is, doing Skyline twice in the same day.

I would easily choose gaining 16k versus having to hike down the 10k needed for a C2C2C.
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby cynthia23 » Wed Apr 27, 2016 1:39 pm

I have never smelled potato chips but there is an area, about 2900 feet, what I called 'the second and a half Shady Slope"--the area after the Shady Slope when you finish traversing across the ridge and are again going up next to the canyon--where it always smells like coffee beans.

Farthest I've ever descended was from 7000 feet. Very very long day and I had to lie down a couple of time to rest my legs.

Music on the trails--I've encountered people playing music at lower elevations (i.e. below a thousand feet) who evidently viewed the trail as just a very large, plant-ridden piece of exercise equipment. However I'm surprised and shocked to hear that you encountered it up beyond the tram station in a state park--that's outrageous and clearly a violation of their rules. It's also PATHETIC--people who are so without any inner resources that they can't endure a few minutes of silence, and people are so without any empathy they are unable to understand other's feelings.

Skyline in the dark--it's pretty horrible. I feel it's like swimming uphill. There is nothing visual to distract one from one's physical discomfort. It's so much better with the lights on :D

Shortcutters--good for you for calling them out. With our never-ending drought, meaning our new, dry, hot climate, the terrain of Skyline is going to grow ever more fragile, and the ever-larger numbers of people who want to climb it mean it's VITAL that people stick to the trail. The time for shortcutting Skyline is OVER, and this means several posters on this board need to acknoweldge this means them, too. In wetter and less traveled times it might have been okay, but now, anyone who still shortcuts is simply a selfish ass. :evil:
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby mattytreks » Wed Apr 27, 2016 4:25 pm

cynthia23 wrote:Farthest I've ever descended was from 7000 feet. Very very long day and I had to lie down a couple of time to rest my legs.

Wow, that means you came relatively close to cresting at Grubb's Notch.

I'm curious, what compelled you to turn around so close to finishing your ascent?
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby cynthia23 » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:58 pm

There was snow (which I knew in advance) and I had only planned on going to Flat Rock and then turning around, rather than continuing in snow (which I didn't feel comfortable tackling that day.). But I felt pretty energetic at Flat Rock and decided to go just a little bit further. Would not make that choice again. :D

But it's also that I'm a local and view Skyline more as my local trail than a 'destination' trail, so I don't feel a strong need to go all the way up. People who are from out of town feel more compelled to finish it, I think, since they've taken the trouble to drive here. (which, imho, leads to many of the 'exhaustion' rescues--people who keep going even though they're in trouble, because it's been such a hassle just getting here--as you pointed out, it's a real pain to drive here from the coast.)
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Re: 4/23 Skyline/C2C Trip Report + Other Observations

Postby mattytreks » Fri Apr 29, 2016 8:26 am

cynthia23 wrote:But it's also that I'm a local and view Skyline more as my local trail than a 'destination' trail...

Is it crazy that I'm potentially basing where I retire on a single trail? I've got a long ways to go until then, but Skyline is that meaningful to me.

I definitely want to either be in the Inland Empire closer to San J/G/A, maybe Clovis (Yosemite), or possibly even Bishop (Eastern Sierras).

Until then I'm "stuck" in San Diego for the next 20 years. Certainly not the worst place to be 8)
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