Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Trail To Enlightenment


Today was probably my favorite hike I've done so far this year. It was fairly long, it was high and it had incredible views. If I didn't have to work, I'd do it again tomorrow; OK, the day after tomorrow. I need an easy hike tomorrow to rest up a bit.

I started at the Mountain Zen Center in Apple Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains. The Zen Center is a private Buddhist meditation retreat. The word had been passed around to locals that they are kind enough to let hikers pass through their property so long as they observe complete silence, no talking, out of respect for meditation practitioners. Now, I am not a Buddhist and meditating all day is not my thing--hiking is my meditation--but I can respect their wishes in return for their graciousness in allowing others to pass through their property.

You hike along the road for a while until you get to this sign letting you know you are on the trail. It is my kind of trail, no nonsense, no big switchbacks, straight up.

It is hard to tell from this picture but this trail is STEEP. I start slowing my pace and using the rest step. Although I'm not a Buddhist I can appreciate some of the wisdom. After all, Confucius said, "It doesn't matter how slow you go, so long as you do not stop".

I get to the top of the trail and hit the PCT which is, mercifully, fairly level.

After hiking a little on the trail, I get a nice view of my destination, Red Tahquitz.

The trail is in fairly good shape--TOO level for my liking--but could use a little work.

Here's a section that was blasted out of solid rock. It's a good thing some of those whiners who hike the Bump and Grind Trail in Palm Desert don't ever come here. They'd never make it.

Especially since there's a steep drop off if you step off the trail.

The trail continues to get me closer to my goal.

And then it goes right on past it! I didn't really see a good area to go up.

So it's time for a little cross country travel. Now it's getting fun!

There are lots of fallen logs to climb over here. The high winds up here does a number on these trees. There's little wind today so I've got nothing to worry about.

I get to the top and there are two guys sitting there having lunch. It makes me wish I'd brought one. I ask them where the summit register is and they say there isn't one. I then notice that just a few hundred feet away is a rock outcropping that looks just a little higher.

I make my way to it and whaddaya know: a summit register.

The view from here is tremendous. You can look over and see the Tahquitz Peak Lookout.

And you can look down the Desert Divide to all the peaks there.

Just below the peak is a big patch of snow and a view of the desert below.

Heading down, I cut through the forest not quite as far up the trail as where I came up. It's really pretty easy going with soft dirt and pine needles.

I think about cutting through here but I prefer my legs with skin so I go another way.

I get back on the trail and head back to where I started.

It's that little saddle WAY over there. On my way there, I pass two Pacific Crest Trail through hikers on their way to Canada. I get off the trail and let them pass because they've got much farther to go than I do. The trip back goes fairly quickly since it's mostly downhill.

I get to the saddle and probably the hardest part of the trip, going down the steep trail to the Zen Center. It's a bone jarring, knee tweaking descent but I make it OK.

I didn't see any people at the Center but at least someone was there to see me off.

Although I got a later start than I wanted to, this was a great hike and one I look forward to doing again. If I can arrange a shuttle maybe I'll hike down to Idyllwild or over to the Tram so I don't have to hike down the Zen Center Trail again. My old knees just don't like it

Thanks to the Zen Center for allowing quiet, respectful hikers pass through their property. Your kindness is appreciated.

And yes, I know Confucius is not Buddhist. I was joking.


Till said...

Great post - and what a great hike! For us children of asphalt, does the summit register give you the elevation? What was it?

Hal Summers said...

A summit register is a small notebook that allows summiteers to write their name, the date and any pertinent information (the weather, the number of times they've climbed, etc) for all to see. There are quite a few peaks in the local area with registers and probably thousands around the country.

A register sometimes tells you the elevation but generally climbers know that before starting.

darlene said...

i loved that pic of the desert divide peaks! what was the name of the mountain you summited? how long does it take to get the zen mountain retreat? i agree with gambe... great post!

Hal Summers said...

Red Tahquitz was the peak I climbed.

It takes about 45 minutes from Palm Desert to get to the Zen Center. It is on the road near Herkey Creek.

Mary H. said...

Thanks for this really helpful info & pics. I've been looking for a way to take the tram from Palm Springs & get to the Zen Center from there, instead of driving around the mountains. I'm still not clear if that's feasible. (I do practice Zen.(*:)I have some hardware in one ankle, so glad to see this! Grateful for any info. Mary

Hal Summers said...

You can certainly do the hike from the Tram to the Zen Center. It's beautiful the whole way. However, unless you stay at the Center you will need a ride back. It would be a VERY long round trip for a day hike.