Vivian Creek Adventure Hike
August 16, 2009 by Bryan
A good friend of mine, Jay recently started what he terms “Adventure Friday”. See, he works Saturday but always gets Friday off. He already completed one major hike about a month ago and was looking to go on another. I took him up and we applied for a permit to hike the Vivian Creek trail which leads eventually to Mount San Gorgonio. As we set out on the trail I was excited and about as prepared as I thought I should be. I carried two liters of water plus an 8 oz chocolate Silk soy drink. Jamie made me two sandwiches and packed me trail mix, dried fruit, Shot Bloks, and Gu. Jay was even more prepared. He packed a full U.S. gallon of water plus he had trekking poles and a water filtration pump. More importantly, Jay is in much better shape then I am.
So we set out on our hike at a few minutes past 7AM. The trail starts flat, crosses a riverbed for Mill Creek and then shoots up into seriously steep switchbacks and loose rocky terrain. Jay and I were both feeling great as we crossed Vivian Creek and continued on a slight uphill. As we were going I mentioned to Jay that I smelled smoke but he couldn’t smell it at the time. We kept going and even though it was some seriously steep and technical hiking I was feeling great. We passed Half Way Creek feeling good. We continued up to another switchback which took us around to a great view of the valley. It was then that we could see the typical thermal inversion layer in the atmosphere and below it this cloud of thick black and orange smoke. This spooked Jay and concerned me as well. My first though was “let’s get away from the smoke”. I wanted to summit and then decide which side of the mountain to come down. If there was fire nearby we would see it and we could go down the other side. Jay reminded me that this would make it a 23 mile hike. “Good Point” I said and so we went down. We got about a mile and a half down or almost 1200 vertical feet and we happened across the first hikers we had seen on the trail so far. They didn’t know where the smoke came from but were not concerned. Then another couple came up and continued on. Jay and I decided it must be safe to continue so we went back up.
The second time doing that ascent took it’s toll on me. We went slightly above where we turned around the first time and stopped to eat lunch. Then we continued on past High Creek. By this time I was really feeling it. We got a few hundred feet vertically above High Creek when I decided to call it quits. We could have reached the summit but we would have gotten back to the car around 7PM and I had no cell service to tell Jamie I would be late.
It felt really good to be going downhill and we made great time. Then my body just hit a wall and every step was a major effort. I had forgotten how steep the switchbacks above Mill Creek were. Jay lent me his trekking poles and that helped me get down. Then we crossed the creek and made it to the car. I was never happier to see a car in my life and I thought for a moment about kissing it’s steel skin; then I decided not to.
Be sure to check out my GPS information and the photos I took. Also make sure to check out Jay’s Adventure Friday blog here. Oh, by the way the fire was all the way up in Santa Barbara County and nowhere near us.