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Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:37 pm - Sean
Comment:The Cucamonga Fifty - An epic 24-hour hike in the Cucamonga Wilderness that I did in April 2013.
Yesterday I completed the toughest hike of my life. I call it the Cucamonga Fifty. Basically it's every trail in the Cucamonga Wilderness out and back, including the seven peaks accessed from those trails.

After starting up Icehouse Canyon at midnight, I bagged Ontario and Big Horn peaks rather quickly in the light of the waxing gibbous moon. My only issue was refilling water at Kelly Camp, which took 15 minutes due to a barely trickling spring.

Next was the long slog to Joe Elliott campground and back, while bagging Cucamonga and Etiwanda peaks, along the Cucamonga Peak Trail. Below Etiwanda the abandoned track is a pretty rough adventure through fire-damaged areas. I reopened a wound in my hand negotiating deadfall and also tore up the bottom of my pants a bit going through thorny bushes. This bit was a tad frustrating, especially on the return climb, but deep down it's the sort of wild hiking I enjoy the most.

Back at Icehouse Saddle I changed shoes because the first pair caused some blisters. I was otherwise feeling pretty good after 26 miles and proceeded down Middle Fork toward Lytle Creek. Descending this section wasn't a problem, but coming back up nearly wasted me. Stupidly I had reduced food consumption and stopped taking electrolyte supplements. I suppose I did this because at this point I was very dehydrated and not thinking clearly. Perhaps I was simply tired of eating and drinking for 12 hours straight.

After falling a half hour behind schedule, I found myself back at Icehouse Saddle and considered quitting. I felt exhausted and still had the daunting task of the Three Tee's trail ahead of me. Moreover, my feet were heavily blistered by now. But in a moment of clarity I concocted a plan. I would take an extended break and shove as much food in my mouth as possible while drinking electrolyte water. I would also duct tape my blisters and change socks.

After twenty minutes I started feeling more myself, and the idea of taking on the Three Tee's became a real possibility in my mind. Once on the trail, I felt even better and actually jogged some of the downhills to make up time lost. Also, while summiting the three peaks (Timber, Telegraph, and Thunder) I left my pack at the main trail to save energy, which had become my primary concern.

On the return to Icehouse Saddle from Thunder Mountain, the full moon appeared in the eastern sky and wished me good tidings. It occurred to me that during this one hike I had witnessed two different phases of the moon, and that simple thought kept me strangely entertained for about two miles.

After finishing the Three Tee's, I was only 12 minutes behind schedule, but my blistered feet were really killing me. And my right knee wasn't doing too well either. Still I pushed hard on the final descent through Cedar Glen camp. The last two miles were brutal and I felt like a zombie stumbling through the forest in the moonlight. My right shoulder hurt from carrying two packs since the saddle. I had kept a stashed backpack at Icehouse Saddle with supplies, and was now lugging it back to the car.

Getting through the boulder-strewn, final mile in Icehouse Canyon seemed like a hazy dream. I thought I saw a bunch of shadowy people and animals standing around in the creekbed, but thankfully I wasn't too far gone that I actually believed what I imagined. The shoulder pain was getting to me, and then I realized I could slip off the one strap and shift all the weight to my left shoulder. Duh!

At 11:47 PM I hobbled into the Icehouse Canyon parking lot, having been on the trail for 23 hours and 47 minutes. My Garmin claimed the trip was a total of 51.3 miles, but it has been known to lie to me before. Total elevation gain was somewhere near 16,500 feet.

My post-hike reward feeding consisted of Jack in the Box's Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger combo with large curly fries and a Sprite. I passed out for eight hours, woke up around noon today, and managed to walk to the computer--like a crippled old man whose legs barely function.

Starting at midnight with wilderness permit in hand

An early morning view from Cucamonga Peak Trail

Sunrise from Cucamonga Peak

In the fog at Joe Elliott campground

Flowers along the Middle Fork Trail

A hungry deer on Timber Mountain

Finished! back at Icehouse Canyon parking lot

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