Lily Rock from On High
Leaders: Tom Hill and George Wysup
The trip to Lily Rock from Tahquitz Lookout is a hike that I have been aching to try (yes, I'm weird.) Tom Hill had scouted it last year with Virgil Popescu so Tom and I hooked up to lead it. Throw in Red Tahquitz to turn the trip into a nice loop hike - because it's there and we "need" it. The outing attracted 12 unsuspecting responders.
How does one accurate describe this trip? "Strenuous... rocky... 12 miles, 4200' gain", just doesn't tell the story. The initial participants were:
(the long lost) Sonia Arancibia (a list finisher who keeps on going!), Patricia Arredondo, Patricia Brea, Tom Connery, Lilly Fukui (yes, Lilly was on Lily), Joanne Griego, Rhonda Longmore, Zobeida Molina, Ping Pfeffer, Val Saubhayana, Gary Schenk, and Joe Whyte. Later we picked up Gerry Ovieda - more later.
I cringed when I saw Rhonda's knee brace. I tried to tell her what was in store; I wasn't scary enough. Ping was SO HAPPY to have #257 in the bag after the trip. Ping didn't need Lily, but she did it anyway, "No problem, I just go slow."
Here is the plan: First, we lull them with an easy trail hike up the Devil's Slide and PCT to Red Tahquitz, then more trail to Tahquitz Lookout. Then down the South Ridge trail to the tenth switchback, where some ducks can be seen; then... then all hell breaks loose... then we get back to Humber Park. We executed the plan to perfection.
Traveling at moderate pace through the lush fern forest of Tahquitz Meadow and then around Little Tahquitz Valley, we were overtaken and quickly passed by a young man. (That will be Gerry.) Later, at the trail junction just below T., we met this young man on his way down. We got to talking and I suppose he was intrigued by our plan. I signed him in, concerned that he appeared to be too fast for the group. He had just quit his job to live in Idyllwild, which he loves. I can understand that. How does he make a living? I don't know, maybe itinerant knife sharpening?
Reaching the summit of Red T., I was reminded that the can is on the second bump, just south of the first rocky outcrop. My altimeter recorded that this second bump is perhaps 10 feet higher. A long lunch break among the multitudes atop Tahquitz left us feeling lazy. I tried to warn them, getting replies of, "yeah, sure."
We skipped/trotted down to the ominous switchback with the ducks and received a remonstration from Tom to scream "rock!" whenever we kicked a deadly boulder toward the corpus of a fellow hiker beneath. Shortly there was a steady chorus of "rock!" with the occasional shout of "cone!". We went downhill, steeply downhill, going around and over several rocky ribs, scrambling over obstacles, slipping and sliding on the ball bearing-covered granite slabs, our route 2 finally meeting route 1 just before the saddle adjacent to Lily. The route was not at all well ducked, so we added considerably to its general duckiness. Nature has a way of dispensing with ducks on steep slopes such as this.
Most of us dropped our packs and poles at the saddle and hydrated for a few minutes, then began to negotiate the summit block. Some of us had heard the scary tales, and seen the steepness from afar, and were worried. Others had no clue. I heard one curse to the effect that, "this isn't class 3, it's class 4!" I have to admit, he has a point. 12 of the 15 made the summit. I won't say who the 3 wise ones are. A bit of high-fiving and photographing on the summit, then back down, thanking the gods for providing the gnarled mountain mahogany at the critical spot. What will we do when the plant perishes?
I explained that there was still ample opportunity for us to die on the way back to the Ernie Maxwell trail. The route is indeed steep. It becomes better and better defined as one gets lower and lower. This is a climbers' use trail, and most climbers actually climb the rock, so upper trail is quite faint. The maxim is stay close to the rock, except where you shouldn't.
Well, we all did it. Tired but proud back at the cars. Young superhiker Gerry was wiped out; the downhill cross-country we did uses different muscles than trail hiking.