Sunset and sunrise, dusk and dawn. I experienced both on two different peaks with the UC San Diego Hiking Group, walking around a total of 10 miles.
A friend recently introduced me to the hiking club. So, when I checked on Monday and saw two hikes on Saturday and Sunday, I quickly put my name to sign up for rides. Thankfully, I was quick, because the limited spots filled up within minutes.
That Saturday afternoon, October 15th, I arrived at Pangea parking, a bit confused about where exactly to wait.
But, I found my carpool, and thank goodness we made it safely. We parked somewhere farther and walked a bit to finally meet up with the rest of the group. And off we went!
First, we went downhill. My knees could feel the impact, and I wished I had hiking sticks. It started drizzling. Then, the drizzle turned into a light rain. Some people did not bring raincoats and got soaked. One brought an umbrella and some walked in their underwear. I had my rain jacket and draped it over me and my backpack like a hooded cape — kind of like what Little Red Riding Hood wears. It does well to keep the rain out while allowing ventilation from the wind.
The slope got steeper and steeper. There was one part where we had to scramble up by using our hands and feet. When we got to the top, we realized there was an easier path. We let the people behind us know.
At the summit, we saw a bit of the sunset and the red sun peeking through the clouds.
We still had a ways to go and we wanted to make the most of the daylight. It would be difficult going downhill because the rain made everything slippery. So, we took a quick group photo, then made our way down. Of course, some people slipped and fell in the mud. Fortunately, there were no injuries since our descent path was much gentler than our ascent — just a lot of laundry to do afterward.
Now, it was completely dark outside, and we turned on our phone lights. Good thing we were a large and loud group — that way the mountain lions wouldn’t come. Someone mentioned telling ghost stories. Walking at the front of the pack without the comfort of being surrounded by smartphone lights, I’ll admit I jumped at a few shadows.
After all that, we went to La Jolla Village for dinner. I returned to my dorm, did some follow-ups on our hike, showered, and went to sleep. I had my alarm set to 4:30 a.m., but changed my mind and set it to 5 a.m. instead.
I woke up the next day feeling like I was going to the airport — that feeling when you’re committed and have to wake up no matter what. After all, the people driving and organizing the event were so kind, I couldn’t let their time and effort go to waste. I had a speed-walk race against time to the Price Center loop. My body was feeling alright from yesterday, and I got there just in time.
We drove to the trailhead. It was dark when we arrived, but cars came by every now and then. You could tell how popular this spot is. We grouped up, and I ate the hotdog buns I had hastily thrown in my bag. By the time we set out, we could kind of see each other’s faces.
We hiked up the misty mountain. Most people didn’t talk that much, perhaps because the uphill was tiring. I’d talk to some people, power up, and talk to others until I was near the front.
We reached Potato Chip Rock, still shrouded in mist. The Potato Chip is slippery, perhaps because of the rain yesterday plus the mud on everyone’s shoes.
As people reached the summit, we took turns on the Potato Chip. I went on twice to check out both ways of getting on and off. Then, we socialized and explored other areas, climbing here and there and taking photos.
I was one of the last to leave because I wanted to make sure everyone was there. By that time, another large group had arrived. We were all a little hesitant to leave and potentially forget someone, and that groupthink kept us just standing there waiting for nobody for a while. But in the end, we left. I didn’t hear of anyone being left behind.
The walk downhill was slower than I expected. The clouds cleared up and people wanted to explore the stuff along the way that they were too tired to explore when coming up, taking every chance to scramble up rocks and take selfies with the panoramic view of San Diego.
We went to Philz Coffee afterward. I almost never drink coffee, but I thought I might as well try. I got a latte because someone told me it’s less strong: more like coffee in milk than milk in coffee. I burnt my tongue.
A girl and I did a post-hike walk back to campus. I got back to my dorm and shared my pictures with the group discord.
Then, I hand-washed my clothes in the sink and shower. They were muddy, and I’d feel bad for the next person using the washing machine if I had used that instead. Handwashing gave me quite a workout — especially wringing them. Now, you know what to do if you ever want strong fingers, wrists, and forearms.
I showered and hung my clothes under my bunk bed using metal clips. I’m an out-of-state student, and I flew here with nothing but a backpack and carry-on bag, so those were pretty much the only clothes I had. While I waited for them to dry, I attended The UCSD Guardian lifestyle meeting on Zoom in my spare underwear, took a nap, then started typing away for this article.
Photo Via Benjamin Liou