Backpacking Solo

While reading LA mag’s issue of The Best of LA, I came across a blurb talking about the Angeles National Forest. Intrigued I did more research, went to the information center and planned a one night backpacking trip.

Distance driven: West LA to Arcadia – 35 miles
The trail head was ~5 miles from Arcadia. That’s nuts! It’s literally in the backyard of LA.

I parked in Chantry Flats, proudly displayed my new, shiny annual parking pass on the rear view mirror and strapped on my pack. The trail was the Big Santa Anita Canyon Trail.

Pack contents: Tent (2 lbs), Sleeping bag (3 lbs), Sleeping pad (1 lb), Hammock (1 lb), Backpack (4 lbs), Misc stuff like first aid, glasses etc (3 lbs), Food (2 lbs), Water 2 Liters (4.5 lbs)
Total weight: Roughly 20 lbs.

Spruce Grove Camp

I hiked to Hermit Falls then double backed to Sturtevant Falls and Spruce Grove Camp. In total I covered about 5 miles from 12:30pm to 3:00pm and then thought about hiking some more for about 5 mins before deciding “no thanks”. Despite being the middle of the week, there were plenty of people for the first 3 miles of my hike. Luckily it thinned out significantly about 4 miles in. Then when I was about 1/2 a mile away from camp I ran into a family. A FAMILY. Never in my life have I met a family of backpackers. Keep in mind that backpacking means that you carry all your stuff with you into your camp. There’s no driving up to the camp site and then unloading your cast iron dutch oven. This camp was 4 miles from the parking lot and a total of 900 ft of elevation gain.

Also this family was Mom, Dad, and 3 kids aging from 6 yrs to 11 yrs old. So mom and dad were carrying majority of the gear. But when I saw them I thought to myself, “Wow there’s hope for me and having a family that loves to do this sort of thing.” I said hi too them, found out we were heading for the same camp ground and bid them adieu for now.

The family and I were the only ones at camp which made it nice. Probably the most secluded I’ve ever been in LA. I love the fact that you can do so much here, but sometimes the density can be overwhelming. Anyway I spent the rest of the day wandering around the campsite, reading in my hammock, napping in my hammock and trying to start a fire. After giving up on the fire I decided to crawl into my sleeping bag and read with my headlamp. That’s when mom (Angie) came over to ask if I wanted to join her family for smores. Hell yes. I got to meet dad (Grant) and kids (Natalie, Mandy, and Ben). They were so friendly and welcoming I was really heartened. They were the kind of family that cuddles up when it’s cold and tells stories around the campfire. The kids told me all the things they found and saw that day. I told them I was from Texas and am trying to start a new career. It’s days like these that remind me why I love people.

LA is just beyond that mountain behind me

The next morning I got up around 730am, packed up, ate then said goodbye to the family of backpackers and headed out to a different trail that would take me back to my car. I hit Mt. Zion, a 3500ft peak and then headed back down through the Upper Winter Creek Trail. By 11am I was eating nuts and stripping off my hiking boots. I had half a liter of water left too. I think the whole trip took 24 hours.

Why did I go? Because I can. Because I wanted to explore LA. Because I wanted to try hiking by myself with all my gear. Because I wanted to be alone and without the internet for a little while. I spent a lot of time thinking and talking to myself. I read The Book of Secrets and Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Did I come to any amazing revelations? Not really, just better understanding of things I guess.

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