Lately I have been tending to turn typically grueling day hikes into somewhat easier overnight backpack trips. Everyone defines “easier” on their own terms, however.
Overall, my backpacking buddy and I did a similar route to what Mike and Mighty did a while back along Devil’s Backbone. We started late in the afternoon on a recent Friday on the first day of fall. The weather had already made the subtle change in SoCal from warm and humid to a bit more cool and dry. Being Friday afternoon, the trailhead parking lot at Manker Flats had only a few cars, mostly people heading up the ski lift to Top of the Notch for live music. We put on our packs and headed up the main road as the sun got lower in the sky. It was calm and cool until the chilly breeze picked up just as we reached the last bend to the Notch, approximately our goal for the night. We grabbed some water inside at the fountain by the bathrooms and took a look to see if there was any 24/7 water access as well. There did not appear to be.
Before the sun set, we found a flattish campsite sheltered from the cold wind up the mountain a bit further, but close enough that after our camp dinner we were able to wander down and enjoy a beer and live music at the Notch, just as backpacking was meant to be!
After a couple light sprinkles during the night and listening to an owl in the early morning, we ate, broke camp, cached the heavy stuff in the bushes, and headed up, taking the “long way” yellow path that Mike suggests in his Baldy post to the left of the fence at Chair lift 4 that makes this section a lot easier. Yes, it’s good!
After this, our experience was pretty similar heading to the peak, except for seeing a bobcat trot across the trail and down into the scrub. What a sight! He was a beautiful, big cat just doing his thing completely in the wild just as one would have before LA was even just a single mission on a dusty trail. As expected, the views were stunning to both the north and south of the backbone. About every several hundred feet of elevation change, the temperature would drop noticeably, and the wind would get a bit stronger. We made it through to the last final steep climb to the peak and were rewarded with amazing views, a cold wind, a nice trail lunch, and camaraderie with fellow hikers. We then gave a wave to Mike and Mighty over on Mt San Jacinto, wishing them the best on their epic Cactus-to-Clouds journey in progress. Then I broke out my trekking poles for the steep descents and we headed back down to Manker Flats, gradually peeling off layer after layer and looking forward to a shake down in the urban jungle of LA.