The Worst Mile

We’ve been telling each other every weekend that we need to get out and camp at least once more before we hit the trail. Plans fell through for a trip with some friends of ours, and we started getting anxious that we wouldn’t be able to. Luckily, we found someone willing to stay with Ransom (thanks Theo!) for a night so we could get away. The week before, we had done a day hike on the Gabrieleno Trail, just about an hours drive from our apartment. That day, we turned around after reaching the second of 3 backcountry camps that are all about a mile apart from each other. There were a good number of blowdowns and stream crossings leading up to there, but nothing too difficult- we didn’t even have to get our feet wet. The plan for this trip was to continue on to the third camp, sleep there overnight, and climb up Mt Wilson and back out the next day. We both felt pretty confident that the trail would be in similar shape for the last mile leading up to the campground. It was not. It was, indeed, The Worst Mile.

I know there’s a trail somewhere under all those trees…
Immediately upon reaching the second camp, we noticed we’d no longer be able to boulder hop the river we had been following- the trail would basically just criss cross it about 6 times on the floor of the canyon, where it’s at its widest and deepest. No big deal, we thought, and rolled up our pant legs and waded across. And it wasn’t, truly. The water wasn’t too cold, it was only about ankle deep, and it was moving pretty slow. After we crossed we walked down the trail a few hundred yards and encountered our first BIG blowdown. We legit had no idea where the trail was. Being the prepared hiker that I am (thanks Boy Scouts!) I consulted my map and determined that as long as we follow the river east, we’d find the next camp. The one we had just left was pretty full anyway, and we wanted a more solitary evening if possible.  It was only a mile away, so we figured we’d be there in 30 minutes or so.

As we continued on, we quickly learned that the only “clear” section of trail would be whenever we crossed over the river- everything on either side was covered in debris every 100 yards or so. We just kept telling ourselves “It can’t be too much farther!” as we scrambled over/under trees and branches, our shoes and socks completely soaked through. 30 minutes passed, then another 30, then ANOTHER 30, and we both started wondering if we had somehow made a wrong turn. I knew that it was not really possible, because after the last camp the river and the trail split into different directions, and we DEFINITELY hadn’t seen anything that looked like a trail camp.

Jill’s face accurately depicts how we’re both feeling
We finally decided that if we didn’t find the camp in the next 30 minutes we MUST have done something wrong, and that if so we would turn around and go back the way we came. Neither of us really wanted to do that, but daylight was waning and we had to be safe. Luckily, about 10 minutes later we finally reached the trail camp. Not surprisingly we were the only people there. A couple hours later 2 more hikers arrived and looked just as shell shocked as we had felt, and soon after that a large group of Boy Scouts came down the trail that we’d planned on hiking up the next day. I asked one of their leaders for some beta on that section, and he said it wasn’t too bad, just pretty steep. We were both pretty tired from the days ordeal, but decided that steep, clear trail would be better than reliving The Worst Mile again.

Halfway up the climb to Wilson, the next day
We got a fire started (after more time than was reasonable…), ate some dehydrated rice with tuna, drank some whiskey, and settled in for the night. The next day was not too bad at all- and we ended up catching up to the Boy Scouts on the way back out. They all looked pretty disheveled- The Worst Mile lived up to its name for them, as well.


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