South Ridge (3E08 via 5S11)


Our house from here...


The journey of beautiful places I've been putting off since I was 12 continues. This week, the notorious South Ridge, via a forestry department (not very well) maintained control road, winding around various campsites, to the trailhead.

We immediately came to a road wash out with some SUVs stuck in the sand, but we pushed passed them in Cricket, the Subaru tank. The trail head had about 6 cars, but we decided to do it anyway. It starts off pretty steep, then levels out through a quaint little meadow, then gets really steep in the last mile up to Tahquitz Peak, which is about a 3,000 ft. gain over about 4 miles. A definite highlight was passing an older gentleman on our way up. My wife asked if he made it all the way, and he just shook his head and said, "Yeah, but it wasn't that steep in the 70s."

Our destination was the beloved fire lookout, just shy of the peak, but about the same elevation (8,846). During the Cranston fire a couple years ago someone posted zoomed in photos of the fire kissing the lookout, and I assumed it was going to be another thing I would never see because I waited too long. Later, photos were posted of the lookout still standing, and our little community rejoiced. After the exhausting-for-me hike, we got to see how close the fire actually got. This was, of course, after arriving to a dozen tourists lounging around, so once we found our little spot to relax, we could really take it all in, and it was pretty epic.

I finally got my chance to look Tahquitz in the eye. This was from a magical little spot we found over some rocks in the meadow. The hard part of the hike was still to come, as the lookout and peak are 1,200 feet above our famous rock and its infamous legend and curse. We could have hung out at this little spot for much longer, and ended up stopping there for a while on the way back.

Once we did make it to the top, I just wanted to keep going. We talked about doing the whole loop, back through Saddle and down Devil's Slide, but this would be a near impossible trek with the kids, and with things like they are, we don't get much time away from family time, which is fine by me. I'm loving this little world I've found myself in, and since I've been able to step back and look at it, I can see that this has been one hell of a journey. I've been so stuck on extraordinary and accomplishing something that I was looking right past the extraordinary we have here and what we've accomplished. I've also been able to focus more on the bigger picture, instead of doing these baby steps in circles.

This doesn't really do how close it got justice. I didn't get many shots because of the human traffic, but I snapped a couple from the rock where we took it all in. There were blackened skeletons of Manzanita right next to the tower, with little regrowth this far up, but the lookout appears untouched.

This truly is a magical place, but that will always be relative to perception. I spent over 20 years feeling like I was stuck here. That has evolved into a deeper appreciation, and need to explore more. The only two big spots left for me up here are Suicide, our other popular climbing spot, which always has a dozen cars at the trail head, even at the peak of the lockdown, and Jan Jacinto peak (10,833), a popular photo novelty for PCT hikers. Bring it on.

I am still wrapping my head around where I'm going with all of this, but also still just appreciating this. I imagine a community here that is more about wellness and happiness; exploring for the sake of the journey, not what is being accomplished, so I guess this is all just one foot in front of the other, stop to catch your breath, and just keep going.

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