By: George Schroedter
Leaders: Frank Goodykoontz, George Schroedter
It had rained all day Thursday and most of Friday morning. Frank had received more than the usual number of cancellations. I was quite eager to make this hike as long as there was a reasonable chance that we'd be able to make it without too much trouble from the elements. Shortly after 4 PM, Frank called the ranger station and was told that the rain had stopped, that they thought there still might be a little more rain during the night, but that by morning it should be clear. "Lees go", I told him over the phone.
I picked up Walia Ringeler at her place and by 5 PM we were rolling up the 210 freeway. The radio reported all sorts of traffic jams on the freeways, so I decided to go all the way on the 118 to 126 just above Ventura. I had driven that way only once before, so I wasn't sure that I wouldn't make a wrong turn in the dark.
We found the route okay, but we were delayed 15 or 20 minutes by a four-car tangle in the pass above Chatsworth. Then on to Ventura where we turned off to find a place to eat. Having no place in mind, we wandered around until Walia spotted the Ventura Spaghetti Company. It was on the south side of Loma Vista just east of Main St. A very good place for hikers to load up on carbohydrates. Good and reasonably priced. Several variations of spaghetti dinners were offered as well as choice of white, brown, or green spaghetti. The most expensive was $6.25.
We had a little trouble getting back on 101, because the on-ramp on the west side of Ventura was closed for some reason. It was 8:35 when we turned off of 101 onto Salinas St. The drive up to Agua Caliente Hot Spring took just an hour and fifteen minutes; not the two hours we were expecting. It was a bit cold up there, but we had a bright moon. In no time we were sacked out. Frank arrived with Diane Dunbar in the wee hours of the morning.
Around 6:30. Rosina Mueller and Bart Bartlow drove up and parked, but no one stirred. Frank had wanted to get started on the trail by 6:30, but it was 7:30 before we headed out. (Then yours truly had to run back for forgotten medication, causing a further delay.) By 9:30 we had made all the stream crossings (14), had a good rest, and were ready to start up the ridge. There was a bright sun shinning and it promised to be a nice day. (We thought of those who had cancelled.)
An hour later we were up at the top of the ridge (3510'). I foolishly offered to lead the group over to the jeep road - not knowing that this was the toughest navigation on the hike. I had assumed that there was a good trail cut through the high brush. There wasn't! I didn't go far before I told a grinning Goodykoontz to take back the lead.
About the time we headed up the jeep road we noticed clouds building to the west, and by the time we got to Hildreth we were concerned that we might get rained on. So we didn't spend a very long break up on the peak. Since it was 1:45, we were also concerned about the darkness. Except for climbing the two bumps just west of Hildreth, it was fairly easy getting back down. The temperatures were in the mid40s, but there was almost no wind. By the time we got back to the bottom of the ridge, the sky had started to clear. Soon the moon appeared.
The last 40 minutes we hiked in beautiful moonlight. No flashlights were necessary. We had all been worried about slipping on the rocks into the water, but the water was quite low. With one crossing left, I jokingly remarked that if I was going to slip in the water on this hike, it was going to have to be here. Guess what? Yup! Fortunately, this last crossing was wide and shallow. This had been my first climb of Hildreth and it had turned out much better than I had expected. Sure, we had made 28 stream crossings, hiked 16 miles, and gained a total of about 4000', but I really think now that Hildreth is one of the best hikes on the list. Probably because Frank set a very comfortable pace and did a fabulous job finding our way through the trees in the dark near the end of the hike. He's simply terrific!
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