Butt Kicker Baldy Bowl Trail - An Awesome Experience
By Ramana Katragadda - June 22, 2009

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Dattu Inampudi, Naveen Ravela and I enjoyed hiking Mt. San Antonio (also known as Mt. Baldy) yesterday and here is my BRAG about it.

Inspiration
With the opportunity and desire to hike Mt. Whitney on August 25, 2009, Dattu, Naveen, Ramana Doppalapudi and I began our hiking training on June 14, 2009 and completed the 17.3 miles Mt. Woodson hike in 5:00 Hours. Satisfied with our endurance level in covering the long distance and per Dr. Prabhakar Tripuraneni's (Chief) advise on maintaining a reasonable endurance at higher elevation while carrying at least 30 lbs backpack we decided to follow his foot prints on Mt. Baldy and other nearby mountains.

Preparation
Naveen, Dattu and I purchased a backpack, a 3.0 liters hydration reservoir, a pair of hiking boots, a pair of socks, a lotion and a first aid Kit at the expense of $298 per person.

Kelty Backpack MSR Hydration Reservoir Vasque Hiking Boots Wigwam Wool Socks 3M Ultrathon First Aid Kit

I printed three copies of the two trails (Dan's Hiking Pages) we wanted to cover- Baldy Bowl Trail (also known as Ski Hut Trail) on the way up and Devils Backbone Trail on our return. Dattu printed driving directions to Mt. Baldy Village and the Katragadda family purchased a daily adventure pass at REI for $5.

Dattu and I agreed upon the wakeup call ritual of either he or I calling each other at 3:30 AM and depart from the new San Marcos Shopping Complex at 4:30 AM.

We filled our hydration reservoir with water, loaded backpack with bananas, pears, apples, trail bars, trail mix, four G2 bottles along with some miscellaneous items to make sure the backpack weighted at least 25 lbs. And, Naveen bought over the counter tablets for dealing with a possible altitude sickness.

The Travel
We left the San Marcos Shopping Complex Parking Lot at 5:11 AM and reached Mt. Baldy Village around 6:45 AM which included satisfying Naveen's usual distractions. Stopped at a lodge nearby the Angeles National Forest Mt. Baldy Visitor Center and obtained directions to reach 'Manker Flats', the place where we decided to park our car from which point both Ski Hut and Devils Backbone trails lead to the Mt. Baldy summit.

The Hike
Without any usual Naveen's last minute surprises we tied our backpacks, locked the car and headed towards the trail head located a few yards from the place we parked our car. We noted 50oF temperature.

Concerned with locating the start of the 'Ski Hut Trail' we waited for a minute and introduced ourselves to a couple as the first timers. They lead us to the start of the trail without whose help we would certainly have missed the trail and the consquence would have been very disappointing. The key to find this trail is, walk for 16 minutes from the locked gate, notice a hair pin curve after Water Falls, look to your right for a tall dead pine tree, and a healthy pine tree approximately 500 feet after the dead tree. The 'Ski Hut Trail' is a 2 feet wide trail located on the left leading straight up from the dirt road right after passing the healthy pine tree (See surroundings in the pictures below right before and the trail itself).

Right Before Start of the Ski Hut Trail Start of the Ski Hut Trail

As Naveen lead us to the trail, I remembered the hike description by Dan (Dan's Hiking Pages), "And with 3,900 feet of elevation gain, it's not for wimps". Per Dan's observation the altitude gain is 928 feet per mile and he notes the distance from the Parking Lot to the Summit is 4.2 miles which is 0.4 miles less than USFS's publication (Reference: 3) of 4.6 miles.

After walking a few minutes and enjoying the elevation high above the cloud line, we crossed a South Korean male, probably in his mid sixties hiking at a decent pace with the help of his two hiking staff. I struck a conversation with him for a few minutes and he claimed he had been hiking Ski Hut Trail for 7 to 8 years. The Korean man pointed us to the nearby Green Hut (the Ski Hut) and said it would take him one hour to reach it. Gazing at the hut, I thought the Korean man was a slow hiker and I needed to move on. We pushed forward and had to stop hard under a tree to catch breath and relax our leg muscles. The Korean man caught up and we respectfully allowed him to pass us; he remained aloof until we reached the summit, and, we did take an hour to reach the hut.

Soon after resuming the hike, we quickly passed another veteran female hiker and took a well deserved break under the shade of a tree. As I finished gulping the 20 ounce G2 bottle we met James who hiked Mt. Baldy innumerable number of times and introduced ourselves as the first time hikers. We heard him say at least twice that it takes 5 to 5.5 hours to reach the Summit. Having seen me gulping the entire G2 bottle, James advised me to hold liquid in my mouth for a few seconds before I gulp it to prevent my mouth from drying and help conserve the precious liquid. The 5 hours hike to reach the summit and our ability to return home safe was unsettling.

After James stopped at the Ski Hut, we began following the Korean man hiking at a distance moving in and out of our view as our Trail Guide. As we proceeded Westward over Baldy Bowl, we appreciated the remarkable training we received from our Cheif while hiking Sue Side (suicide?) Hill in Torrey Pines, Cowels Mountain and Mt. Woodson.

We observed the trail becoming a steep upslope. Naveen yelled at Dattu and I for breathing through our mouths and advised us to hold water in our mouths for as long as we could thus forcing our breathing through nose and decrease the stride as well. I found this trick avoids the bloating stomach as well as conserves energy.

After walking a few minutes on a down slope, Naveen and I realized we lost the trail. Under an apparent overwhelming panic, in stead of returning back to the trail, we hiked the 50o upslope using rock climbing techniques to the top of the ridge with a hope that we would be able to find the trail. Fortunately, we ended up on the trail as the trail happens to run over the same ridge.

Noticing 2.35 hours elapsed we guessed our elevation to be around 8,500 feet. We felt comfortable on our hiking strategy and expressed confidence that we have the energy and desire to reach the summit in the remaining 2:25 hours.

We inquired a woman apparently returning from the summit on the time it would take to reach the summit. We were delighted to hear that we were only 35 minutes away from the summit. We thanked the woman and began hiking. We saw the Korean man approaching the summit and 10 minutes later we were on the summit. I marked our hiking time as 3:18 hours from the Parking Lot to the Summit. The image below I found (Local Hikes - Mt. Baldy) yesterday night made the 2009 Father's Day a memorable day indeed:
Kelty Backpack

The Festivity
We met the Korean man on the Summit and James arrived 15 minutes later. We spent 45 minutes taking a few photographs, enjoying the views, refueling and conversing with several individuals including an European couple with 20 years of hiking experience and two other hiking veterans from Long Beach. I bragged on our 3:18 hours finished time, our desire to hike Mt. Whitney, our Marathon background and every positive aspect of our lives to all those veterans in my usual exciting manner. James suggested to hike Baldy Bowl Trail at least three alternate weeks as a part of the training for Mt. Whitney.

Dattu, Ramana and Naveen on Mt. Baldy

The Descent
We bid good-bye to all our new acquaintances and began our descent via Devils Backbone Trail to Baldy Notch (the Ski Lift Area). Dattu took the lead for a mile and slowed down which forced Naveen to lead. As we approached Baldy Notch, I noticed Dattu limping. When inquired, he recalled the possible aggravation of his blistered foot during the last week's Mt. Woodson hike.

Baldy Notch (Ski Lift Area)
Thinking that we were only 0.25 miles away from the 'Manker Flats' parking lot where we parked our car, we freshened up. Naveen tended to Dattu's punctured blister using the material from the First Aid Kit we carried. As we decided to leave after resting for almost 30 minutes, we met our friend James again. We were surprised to hear from James that Manker Flats parking lot is 3.6 miles away from Baldy Notch. Since we didn't feel the hiking strenuous and Dattu refused to ride down the Ski Lift, we followed James.

To The Parking Lot
Surprised by the pace at which we completed the hike James inquired the reason for the heavy backpacks. After learning the list of contents, James went on a non-stop rampant bragging on his hiking history. He began with his humble beginnigs of hiking experience in Taiwan with his father and continued with the past 29 years of hiking in the USA. James is 60 years old LA Resident, veteran hiker, Engineer by profession in the field of Satellite Communications who hiked Mt. Baldy innumerable number of times, hiked Mt. Whitney a few times and Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim solo.

Impressed by James' background, I asked him to enlighten me with a few tid bits on preparing for Mt. Whitney hike. Repeating the same information over and again on the list of items I should keep handy for day hiking, back packing, and the type of food I must consume from eating candies to taking two Aspirin tablets every night during the backpacking, breathable quick dry clothing, tying laces tighter during the descent, hiking Baldy Bowl Trail at least 3 alternate weeks, and etc. Dattu and Naveen not pariticipating in our conversation chimed in every 20 minutes with a question and drifted away from James not caring to listen to his response.

My head was ready to blow up by the time we reached the parking lot filled with James' overloaded information as I had to respond with yes/no answers to his intermittent queries. Realizing God laughing at my situation, I reminded Him that I cleared my dues on my 20 minutes unsolicited brag on the Summit and it should even cover the readers of this blog. smiley

The Conclusion
We look forward to hiking Baldy Bowl Trail and any other difficult trails on Mt. Baldy except Devils Backbone Trail as we felt it was boring.

Reference:
  1. Dan's Hiking Pages
  2. Local Hikes - Mt. Baldy
  3. Trail Map, Distance and Elevation of each trail map published by Mt. Baldy Recreation Area, San Gabriel River Ranger District - Angeles National Forest
Hiking Details
Total Distance 11.0 miles
Altitude Change 7,808 feet
Total Time 6:45 Hours (Start: 7:15 AM, End: 1:59 PM)
Moving Time 5:30 Hours
Statistics
Item Distance Elevation Gain
From Manker Flats to the Summit via Ski Hut and Mt. Baldy Bowl Trail 4.2 Miles +3,904 feet
From the Summit to Baldy Notch (Ski Lift Area) via Devils Backbone Trail 3.2 Miles -2,262 feet
From Baldy Notch (Ski Lift Area) to Manker Flats 3.6 Miles -1,642 feet

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