we arrived at the manker flats campground shortly after 8am to temps in the low 40s, but between deciding on what to wear and hitting the bathroom one last time, we ended up departing the trailhead closer to 9am.
since vim and i had done the trail once before, it was amusing to hear the incredulous tone in everyone else's voice when told that the ski hut trail we were taking was, in fact, a tiny sliver carved into the steep side of the mountain, and not the wide fire road we were just on.
most of the trail the entire way up was shrouded in fog, which was not only neat visually, but can you imagine making your way up in 80+ degree weather?
we made it to the ridge (9,000ft) at around 11:30am, which meant we still had a little more work to do to make it to the top.
the encouraging thing for me was that the elevation didn't seem to hinder my breathing, and i felt like i could power up the hill at any time. it showed that i was definitely in better shape now than i was two years prior, when just getting up the trail was quite the chore. seeing the end in sight, i gave my camera up to heidi and decided to sprint the remaining portion.
heidi and i arrived first at 1pm, followed by tara & jimmy just a few minutes later. they mentioned they had waited for vim & cheryl for close to 15 minutes, but they were nowhere to be seen. we decided to break for lunch with quite the eclectic menu - tara brought trout, jimmy had some spam musubi, and heidi & i split a godmother from bay cities deli, with a whoopie pie from susiecakes for dessert for good measure.
while we were enjoying our feast, cheryl & vim finally appeared, so we all hunkered down in a circular bunker to take refuge from the cold and swirling winds.
we pushed off close to 2pm and came down via the devil's backbone trail, which is a slightly longer (6.8M) yet less steep descent back to manker flats. both the ski hut trail and the devil's backbone trail cover 4,000ft in elevation - only the former does it in 4.2M.
despite the ever-increasing fog, we made good time heading down and managed to stumble upon the baldy lodge at around 4:15pm.
a mulled wine, an IPA and one hot chocolate later, we were basking in what we had accomplished so far. 3.5 easy downhill miles to go and we were home free. lo and behold, cheryl & vim arrived just as we were leaving, so we kicked it for a few more minutes before opting to head out. they decided to take the ski lift ($10) the rest of the way down, so we bid adieu to our warm surroundings and braved the cold one last time...
tara, jimmy, heidi & i made it back to the car just shy of 6pm, amidst a bounty of high fives. it was the first hike to 10k that either one of them completed, so it was great to see the excitement on their faces for accomplishing such a feat. sufficiently juiced, our next target is mount san gorgonio, the tallest peak in southern california at 11,503ft...