The Scenic Mt. San Jacinto - A Thrilling Experience
By Ramana Katragadda - June 29, 2009

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Ashok Challa, Dattu Inampudi, Naveen Ravela, Raja Kolli, Ramana Doppalapudi (Ramana-D) and I enjoyed hiking Mt. San Jacinto yesterday and here is my recollection of our illustrious experience. Even though, Sreedhar Kommineni joined us, he reportedly decided to return after hiking for 5.3 miles.

Ashok Challa Dattu Inampudi Naveen Ravela Raja Kolli Ramana Doppalapudi Ramana Katragadda Sreedhar Kommineni

On June 14, 2009 during our Mt. Woodson Hike Ramana-D suggested that Naveen, Dattu and I should hike Mt. San Jacinto during June last weekend as a part of our training to the planned Mt. Whitney hike on August, 25, 2009.

A Google search revealed Matthew Haughey's blog containing a map of the trail divided into three segmens and offering enough details on the elevation along with the complexity of the course. Armed with a few copies of the Trail Map published by Eurek Cartography, Berkeley, CA for California State Parks in 2002 and the details on filling in the form for day hiking at U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station, Idyllwild we decided to hike at 5:00 AM on June 28, 2009.

I printed the driving directions and two copies of the trail map. And, I amanaged to convince Raja, a marathon runner who has been idling for a couple of months to hike with us.

San Jacinto - Devil Side Trail Map San Jacinto - Elevation

The Travel
Ignoring my hints, my friend Dr. Sreedhar Kommineni from Bakersfield who was visiting my family expressed his interest to hike with us. And, from Ramana-D, I learned his brother-in-law Ashok Challa would also be joining us on the hike which doubled my worry on the group's ablity to complete the hike in a reasonable time frame. We began our journey to Idyllwild at 3:27 AM from Escondido with Ashok's self introduction. He is a down the hill marathon runner, bicycles to work 7.5 miles away from home, and etc. We recahed Ranager Station at approximately 5:40 AM, filled in the required paper work (we later realized that filling in the permit is extremely important as rangers do conduct inspections on Mt. San Jacinto). Along with Raja, we arrived 'Humber Park' from which 'Saddle Junction Trail head' begins.

The Hike
At the precise time the daylight broke, we parked our cars at Humber Park. Everyone that drove in the Van quickly grabbed their backpacks. However, Raja apparently influenced by my cautionary advise, brought a ton of food and drinks. He offered Muffins and Donuts to everyone. I ignored Raja while he was handing off a few pounds of yogurt rice, a hat and Donuts to unsuspected Dattu and Sreedhar as his bag was full with water, potato chips, and etc. We waited for a few seconds and touched the trial head at 6:00 AM sharp and began the hike.

I noticed everyone waiting for slow hiking Sreedhar after walking every 0.1 miles and they were delighted to leave him behind as soon as Sreedhar informed the rest that his slower pace shouldn't slow them. A group of four caught up to us as we were pushing forward and I was happy to learn that 'Saddle Junction', the end of segment one gaining 1,600 feet elevation was nearby.

At approximately one mile from 'Saddle Junction' as we gained 600 feet elevation my shoulders started feeling the weight of the backpack filled with the additional items I added to the backpack during this trip: two extra water bottles, tamarind rice, and two apples. I felt happy to honor Raja's request for a 10 minutes break after hiking for 1.8 miles from 'Saddle Junction'.

Raja, Naveen, Dattu, Ashok and Ramana-D Raja, Naveen, Ramana, Ashok and Ramana-D

As we ascended another 600 feet in the next one mile reaching Wellmans Divide, the ever smiling and joking Raja complained on his frozen quads, threw his bag on the ground and rested for a few minutes. Naveen began worrying on Sreedhar's status.
Dattu, Naveen, Ramana Dattu, Naveen, Ramana
Ramana-D Raja

After the 20 minutes break, as Ashok and Dattu began pacing, Naveen and I decided to walk with Ramana-D and Raja which apparently forced Ramana-D to increase his pace. After 1.0 mile at an approximate elevation of 10,000, Ramana-D felt uncomfortable with his increased pace. I decided to join Ashok and Dattu who were waiting for us. Ashok assured Ramana-D that the trail wasn't that bad, he probably could finish it in 3 hours solo.

Leaving Ramana-D behind, I followed Dattu with Ashok leading the hike at a moderate pace. After 0.75 miles, when we paused momentarily, Ashok remembered his NASA aspirant daughter, his academic background and the reason for migrating to the USA. Having felt that Dattu and I were having a hard time matching his pace, Ashok told us that he would increase his pace to limits. Worried that Dattu and I might run into trouble, I requested Dattu to slow down. However, within a minute, I increased my pace as I noticed Ashok slipping out of my view. After 0.25 miles of pacing we were stopped by two rangers who checked our permit Dattu was carrying and lectured us on the importance of staying with the group. Realizing Ashok was almost 3 minutes ahead of us, we quickly reached the junction from where the summit is 0.3 miles away. We increased our pace to the maximum possible and reached the summit at 10:52 AM. We learned Ashok reached the summit at 10:45 AM. Ramana-D and Naveen reached next followed by Raja. Raja enjoyed his accomplishment the most and we all had a great time, except Naveen more worried on Sreedhar's status after learning that Sreedhar didn't have his mobile phone with him.
Raja Having A Great Time Ashok At the Summit
San Diego Hikers on the Summit

The Descend
At 12:06 PM, we began the descend with Ashok, Dattu and Ramana-D as one group lead by Ashok and Raja, Naveen and I lead by Raja. The descend was quite a boring experience indicated by Naveen's fall in my absence giving an opportunity for Raja to lecture Naveen. Naveen took the lead after Raja lead us for 3 miles and as the temperature began rising, I ignored Raja's frequent conversational initiatives including his request for a break by convincing him that 'Saddle Junction' was near by. After reaching 'Saddle Junction', I realized Naveen was beat, Ramana-D was resting as Ashok and Dattu left him 3 minutes prior to our arrival and Raja as usual threw his bag and laid his back on the ground leaning on to a rock. We left 'Saddle Junction' after resting for 15 minutes. As my urge to finish the hike in 9 hours became stronger and the thought of Ashok and Dattu beating me forced me to run to the parking lot. Ashok and Dattu apparently returned to the parking lot in 8:42 hours, I reached at 8:58 hours, followed by Naveen at 9:12 Hours and Ramana-D and Raja at 9:24 Hours.

Ramana-D and Raja reportedly engaged a conversation with a Newspaper reporter and managed to get their picture taken for publication: PE News Local Hiking

The Statistics

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