Hiking Tips: San Gabriel Mountains

Rick and I are the kind of people who are always on the go. It's not usual for us to sit at home and do nothing. Why stay at home when there is so much to do, to learn and see? Since we had nothing planned this Friday, our day off, we decided to go out for a day hike in the San Gabriel Mountains near the Mount Baldy area. When there's no traffic, the mountains are barely 45 minutes away from where we live. 

The last time we were here was in October of 2010, when we camped out for 2 nights at Manker Flats. There was no snow then. We came out yesterday, hoping to see snow. But we were a little disappointed. It hasn't been a good year for snow in Southern California. There is a ski lodge called "The Notch" near Mount Baldy. We had to hike passed 7,000 ft. at least to see actual snow. But the weather was beautiful. Forecast showed moderate winds, but that never materialized. I was so glad because it would've been sooo cold!

Instead of writing a play-by-play story of what happened yesterday, we will use this opportunity to share some tips on hiking. Personally, I have been hiking on and off for about seven years now. It's something that I really love, and I'm glad I am able to share it with Rick. He teaches me hunting. In turn, I share my experiences in hiking and backpacking with him. You don't have to go hunting to enjoy nature. Hiking in the off season allows you to stay in shape for hunting season, and it's a great opportunity to enjoy the wilderness through a different perspective.

I. Footwear

Like in hunting, having the correct gear is essential when it comes to hiking and backpacking. (Since backpacking gear is much more extensive, we will save that for another post. Rick and I hope to go backpacking sometime this spring.) Let's start with footwear.

Rick used yesterday's hike to break in his new Danner boots. If you decide that you want to become serious about hiking, it is highly recommended that you buy yourself a pair of high quality boots. It's one of the best investments you can make. A good pair of boots will last you years. And let's face it. If you don't take care of your feet, you ain't gonna get too far. Do your research, read reviews and talk to experts when shopping at outfitters.

More than likely, you will get a few hotspots and possibly blisters when breaking in new boots, especially since we hiked about 10 miles round trip. Unfortunately, this usually is unavoidable. But here a few tips to make breaking in your boots as easy as possible. 

To prevent blisters, you must catch them before they start forming. Once you start to feel a hot spot coming on, immediately take off your boots and socks. Cut out a piece of moleskin that is a little bigger than the spot that is bothering you, stick it directly to your skin. To prevent the moleskin from slipping or moving around while you walk, wrap medical tape over it to keep the moleskin in place. Moleskin and medical tape is essential in every outdoorsmen's First Aid Kit. If you have no moleskin, use duct tape. It's true. Duct tape fixes everything. Do whatever you can to minimize friction at the affected area.

II. Layered Clothing 

Always take careful consideration of the weather to bring the appropriate clothing. For some outdoors activities, this doesn't matter as much. But when you're hiking miles into the wilderness, away from your car and all you have is what you carry on your back, choosing your clothing wisely is extremely important. 

Here a few good rules:
1. In cold weather, wear clothing made from materials such as fleece, wool, nylon and polyester. Basically, clothing that easily wicks away moisture and retains warmth, even when wet. There is a saying, "Cotton kills." Cotton becomes a poor insulator when wet and it also takes forever to dry. Avoid hypothermia at all costs.
2. In hot weather, cotton is great. It stays wet longer and keeps your body cool. 

3. Always bring layers just in case. You can always remove or add on layers. For this hike, the weather was fair. Typically, I like to wear a shirt underneath, an insulating layer above that, and then a waterproof and windproof jacket over everything. You should only buy breathable clothing, especially for hiking.

III. Essentials

I can't stress enough how important it is to always bring a First Aid Kit with you. You NEVER know what will happen out there. On top of that, other items such as a flashlight, compass and map are also very important. Here is a basic list of items, essential in every pack. The link leads to an article from REI that expands on more first aid items. Add or subtract items based on your personal needs.

First Aid:
1. Anti-septic wipes
2. Anti-bacterial ointment
3. Assorted adhesive bandages (cloth preferred)
4. Gauze pads (various sizes)
5. Non-stick sterile pads
6. Medical adhesive tape
7. Moleskin/blister treatment
8. Pain reliever 
9. Allergy medication
10. Tweezers (for splinters)
11. Sewing kit (This can come in handy in all kinds of emergencies)
12. Large bandana (to cover wounds, to use as an arm splint, etc.) 

Other Essentials:
1. Map and Compass - Always, always know where you are and where you are going.
2. Headlamp/flashlights - I prefer a headlamp. It allows you to work hands-free. Not to mention ... it makes going to the restroom in the dark a whole lot easier. ;-)
3. Fire starter
4. KNIFE!!

For a more comprehensive list, click here.

IV. Food

There's no need to get fancy when you're out on a day hike. Pack foods that are high in energy. And I don't mean candy bars.

We love going to Target to get Archer Farms snacks. In the picture, Rick is holding up bags of freeze dried peaches, Cocoa Pomegranate Granola Cluster Mix and a Cranberry Raspberry bar. We also brought a bag of trail mix and beef jerky. You get my drift.

Trail mix is so classic because it provides protein, healthy fats, vitamin C, fiber and carbohydrates all in one package. That's all you really need to survive. We also like to make our own trail mix. But the idea is to eat healthy foods that will give you the energy you need to keep on going. So leave those bear claws at home ... :-)

For lunch, here is an easy, but substantial meal to bring: crackers, deer sausage/salami, cheese and pickles. Bring a knife to cut off salami and cheese. Bring zip lock bags to store pickles and any extras. These items are great because they will keep for a few days without refrigeration. Of course, sandwiches are always good for lunch.

We don't recommend drinking while on trail, but we stopped to rest at the Mount Baldy Bar or "The Notch," located at the top of a ridge. We couldn't help but wet our whistles. 

Meet "Romey Boddington," The Roaming Red Fox. We picked him up on our way up here, found him loitering in the visitor's center. He joined us for a pint as well. 

I suppose he had one too much ... what do you think?

V. Hydration 

Remember to always bring extra water, in case of an emergency. We love storing our water in Nalgene bottles, because they are leak proof and extremely durable. 

Our preferred method of packing water is by hydration bladders or reservoirs. Our favorite brand is from Camelbak. These are great because you can fill them up with water, place the bladder into your backpack and drink from a tube that extends from the bladder. No more trying to reach for your bottle in that hard-to-get-to side pocket. It also decreases pack weight and bulkiness.

On long hikes, we both bring a bladder and a bottle. Bottles are also great if you want to add electrolyte supplements such as Gatorade powder. We don't recommend doing that in a bladder because it will be hard to clean.

 VI. Do NOT Litter

It really irks us when we see trash in the outdoors. Be responsible. Allow others to enjoy the outdoors the way it should be enjoyed. The last thing anyone wants to see while hiking or camping are empty beer cans and other filthy souvenirs from the city. Allow others the same escape that you went out to seek. 

VII. Last but not least, have fun! 

Here are a few pictures from the hike that we thought you might enjoy. If you have any questions on hiking, feel free to ask us at foodforhunters@gmail.com 
We hope you found this post useful! Thank you for looking at our blog!

We enjoyed great weather yesterday. It was nice and sunny, but not hot. The weather was perfect for hiking. 

Rick and "Romey." The ski lodge is in the distance. Almost there!!

We reached "The Notch" and saw kids tubing in the snow. Lucky for them, there's a ski lift that can take you from the parking lot below to the lodge. It took us about 3 hours to get there by foot. 

Stunning view of the mountain.


Californians get really excited when they see snow. 

Being silly. Rick says I have horns instead of bunny ears. :-(

"Romey" enjoys the view as well. :-)

Rick is a little sunburned. We are enjoying ourselves at the lodge.

After a little break, we hiked up further. There was more snow the higher we went up.

Rick enjoying his winter wonderland.

Hmm ... I think Big Foot was here. 

Beautiful view of another mountain on the other side.

We saw a crack in the snow.

On our way down, we found a dead squirrel. Poor thing probably got ran over. So we cut its tail off to remember it by. 

We will post up instructions on how to clean and dry the tail soon!

Is it really weird that I got really happy when my boyfriend gave me a dead squirrel's tail?
We got to the Buckhorn Lodge just before dark. More information about the restaurant coming soon! Ya'll should go check it out!

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  1. I have a pair of Danner boots, it took over 2 hunting seasons before they stop giving me blisters. I think getting them really wet and muddy finally did the trick and broke them in.

    I highly recommend the duct tape, the mole skin always comes off. I think that its because the duct tape has a slippery surface and so it doesn't rub off like the mole skin. This year I had the idea to just leave the duct tape on my feet for days of hunting, but now I know that I have an allergic reaction to the adhesive which creates another problem.

    Great article guys!


  2. Yeah, it takes awhile to break in leather boots. You gotta hike miles and miles. Or.. get them wet and muddy like you did. It seemed to do the trick in softening up the leather for you.

    Glad you enjoyed the article!

    -Rick and Jen

  3. Thanks for the post! By the way, is there any chance of running into dangerous animals in November?

    1. Unlikely that you will see them, but there are black bears and mountain lions in SoCal.


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