Laguna Mountains: Rainer Hike (13 photos)

Early in May on a wonderful cool and quite windy day, I hiked one of the “classic” loop hikes up at the Laguna Mountains, which was first introduced to me by my friend Hans. It begins near the Horse Heaven Campground at Sunrise Highway, touches the eastern portion of the Laguna Meadows and continues into the Agua Dulce ravine briefly, but then follows the Pacific Crest Trail back to Sunrise Highway, which it crosses, before continuing northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail for a while, with an option to include Monument Peak (which we did).

I forgot why it’s called “Rainer Hike”, I think it was one of the folks that Hans hiked it with at first, when they found that they can combine the different trails into a nice loop-hike. At ~8 miles (including Monument Peak – don’t forget to pose long enough for a webcam selfie!;-) it’s just right for a nice half-day outing with some “real forest” relief from the lowlands.

For me, it was also interesting to do this hike again, to see how nature is doing this year. And I wasn’t really surprised, but still disappointed that yet another dry winter in Southern California had taken it’s toll (unlike in Northern California, the 2015/2016 El Nino didn’t bring us much precipitation, unfortunately). The meadows were more brown and beige than green already, when usually May is really the most beautiful time of the year there. Wildflowers along the trails were also particularly sparse.

Little Toni enjoyed the hike tremendously. At her age – she’s 13 now – she really doesn’t like the heat anymore, but an air temperature just below 10C (50F) with considerable windchill really invigorated her, and she happily hiked with us, and a bit ahead most of the time too. 8 miles for a 13 year old dog! It was great to see her in such good spirits.

The photos are a rather mixed bag – I made one single photo at the meadows that I truly loved (and promptly declared “photo of the month” for May) but other than, that I only began to really “see” things that I wanted to photograph when we got higher up, into the clouds and towards Monument Peak, which is the Pacific Crest Trail section of the hike. There, I was reminded why I’ll always love the Laguna Mountains – little meadows along the trail, wildflowers, the fresh leaves on the Black Oaks, the beautiful Jeffrey Pines, the Manzanitas…

East of Sunrise Highway and where the Big Laguna Trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail, we left the relative shelter of the forest and entered the more open mountain chaparral, to continue to Monument Peak. The wind was quite brutal there, and visibility was really limited. The desert appeared for a second or two as the wind ripped the clouds apart as they passed the Pacific Crest, and we quickly made our way back to the Pacific Crest Trail to finish our loop hike in the fading light of day.

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