One of the things we wanted to do while in California was to hike Mt. Baldy. The day after we got back to the mainland after being on Santa Cruz Island for 2 days, we did just that. We had a route in mind that included going up the ski hut trail and coming down the devil’s backbone trail.
After parking the car and loading our packs, we set off to find the trailhead. The beginning of the trail was a service road, and from our understanding, the ski hut trail took a sharp right turn and was easy to miss. But, we found it – or so we thought.
We hiked on this service road for 4 miles, until we got to the ski lodge. We had to pop in to ask for directions to the ski hut trail and this is where we found out that we were headed for devil’s backbone, not ski hut. Oh well! We continued on this extremely steep trail, slipping and sliding on the loose rock.
Between the steepness of the trail, the uneasy footing, and the altitude (Floridian here!), I was a mess. But, I kept on keeping on. The portion of the trail deemed “Devil’s Backbone” definitely lived up to its name. It was a steep, narrow trail that literally looked like you were trekking on the backbone of the devil – with steep drop offs on either side of the trail. When we saw another hiker coming the other direction, we had to very carefully stand on the edge of the trail to allow them to pass.
The last portion of the trail was probably the worst part and I kept thinking “what comes up, must come down and I am probably going to end up falling and doing somersaults down this thing.” I was dreading the hike back down. We spent some time at the summit, had lunch, and took in the views.
Usually on hikes with elevation gain, you are faster on the way back down. This was not the case with this hike – we were slower on the descent. Every step had to be placed cautiously as to not step on loose rock and take a tumble. There were times when I felt like I was skiing down the trail because I just kept sliding.
We reached the ski lodge again and decided that a strenuous 15 miles was a good enough hike, and took the ski lift down, surpassing the 4 mile service road that we hiked up.
Walking back to the car, exhausted and achy, we were elated with what we had just accomplished – both agreeing that it was the toughest hike we’ve ever done.