Mount Baldy Revisited

Sometimes all it takes to rediscover an old friend is to see her under a new light.

I've been hiking Mount Baldy for years now. Mostly I've used the hike as a decent local training hike, to work with some fairly steep terrain and to get a little bit of altitude acclimatization before heading off to higher, tougher mountains in the Sierras. This weekend however reminded me of the value of climbing Baldy for it's own sake.

I joined a group of friends Saturday afternoon for an easy overnight backpacking trip on the summit. While they were training to hit the four peaks of the Palisades next weekend, I was just enjoying the company. We hit the summit just in time to watch the sun set and set up camp before dark. Hunkering down to take shelter in one of the several wind breaks, we toughed out the cold continual high winds to trade stories and pass around snacks, a couple of beers and a flask until it was time to head to our sleeping bags.

Sunrise was stunning. While I've hiked Baldy at least 10 times before, I've always gone late morning to mid day, just out of convenience, and it has never struck me as a particularly pretty mountain. Under the warm glow of a clear sunrise though, the true beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains is revealed. It starts with the soft blues and purples appearing in the sky. Then as the sun peaks its face over the far ridges, the sky blazes orange, while the shaded mountains in the distance take their turn at the royal colors. As the sun streaks through the valley mists, ethereal gradients and shapes present themselves, fleetingly, before they are lost to the heat. Even as the sun rose higher into the sky, on the morning hike back to the trailhead, the ridges created shadows that highlighted the trail back.