Happy Naked Hiking Day! June 21 is coming up soon. This is a post about what I did on last year’s Naked Hiking Day. A little NSFW near the end.
I did go on a hike on the actual Summer Solstice, which is the “official” unofficial day, but there was no opportunity to be nude. So a couple of days later I tried a trail I was really confident would be empty. I checked to make sure there were no cars at any trailheads in the vicinity and hiked in the afternoon, long after anyone else would start.
The trail I took was just a few miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from the summit of Liebre Mountain to Bear Campground, maybe five miles round trip. The temps were in the low 80s F and dropped into the 70s. It was a bright and sunny day with a strong, gusty wind that had me starting to feel cool by the end of the hike. Nothing to get dressed for. 😁
Getting up there is fun. Interstate 5 north to Hwy 138, then east to the Ridge Route. Hit your trip odometer when you get there. You head up a decent paved road until you see a sign saying, “Not a county maintained road.” Soon it turns into a mess of potholes. Take it slow!
Along the way, there are a couple of sites where hotels and businesses once existed. In the early 20th century this was the only way to get from LA to Bakersfield. Everything closed when it was bypassed by Highway 99. Then Interstate 5 passed it and 99 became known as The Old Road. The structures either burnt down or were torn down to keep hippies from squatting in them.
About 5.2 miles there’s a left onto 7N23. From here on it is mostly uphill on a gravel road. Two-wheel drive can do it if you have clearance. Somewhere around 12.7 miles, you’ll see a clear trail on your left. Turn here, drive to the end, and park. Liebre Mountain peak is 270 feet NW up the hill. The PCT is straight ahead, coming uphill and turning to go right.
The Sandberg Trail heads west, off to your left. It is popular for bikers who get dropped off here and cycle all the way down the hill to a point on the Ridge Route. Nobody cycles up that hill, only down, so it is still a safe bet for a freehike. Not that I object to meeting people on the trail during a freehike. It happens once in a while. The encounter has never gone bad but there is always that small chance…
In the past, I have hiked the PCT from Oakdale Cyn Rd. It is 4.5 miles of “up.” Starting at a much lower elevation, it is a long hard slog and not suitable for a hot day.
During April and May, this section of the PCT is alive with thru-hikers. I’ve watched as every few minutes a soloist, a couple, or a small group passed by on their trip from Mexico to Canada. Then in the fall, the hunters take over. July through September it can approach 100F, even up here. The gate near the bottom of 7N23 is closed thru most of the winter and early spring. June is the perfect time to hike here.
The PCT through here is stunning – grassy meadows interspersed with oak forest. I crossed over from the north side of the mountain to the south side and it was a world of difference. The north side had burned in the 2004 Pine Fire. The oaks had barely been touched. The few pines had fared worse, but there are plenty of young trees coming up to replace those that were lost. Everything has now pretty much recovered.
This year I see no wildflowers. It may be the drought to blame.
The south side of Liebre Mt. burned in the 2020 Lake Fire. Being a southern exposure, the flora was mostly scrub oak. Scrub oak is much smaller and more drought-tolerant. However, it burns explosively. It has a different survival strategy. The roots survive to sprout shoots that in time will become replacement trees. These old-growth live oak are on the southern side but above the scrub oak. Grass doesn’t produce much flame and fire has a difficult time making it up into the branches. The bark is an insulator and just smolders a little. Even the picnic tables here are unburned.
Liebre Mountain became known as a “moving” mountain. That is because the official “peak” keeps switching back and forth from here to another peak. I am at the actual high point of the ridge. On maps, it is sometimes labeled “Liebre Mountain High Point” while the “official” peak is 30 feet lower in elevation and about 2 miles east of here. It has no cairn to mark the high spot.
It’s been a perfect day. Five miles and three hours of bliss. Unfortunately, even perfect days have to end. At least the drive is all downhill.
October 23, 2022 at 02:55