Never before in my wildest dreams would I try to accomplish a feat that most are afraid of when they hear 31 miles as the distance of the hike. It is considered to be Southern California’s toughest 50k course and the Beast by Ultra Runners, the Los Pinos 50k. The trails are located in the Cleveland National Forest, between Rancho Santa Margarita and Lake Elsinore in Orange County, California.
I already had in the bag for the first time this year the 21 to 23 mile day hikes such as Cactus to Clouds and Mount Whitney. The unknown does make me wonder. Ultimately, accepting the challenge of doing the hike, satisfies my curiosity and at the same time improves my health when done the right way. Los Pinos Peak has an elevation of 4,510 feet. It does not even come close to the peaks that I or the others had been to that are above 10,000 feet, but it is one of the toughest hikes I had done so far due to its steepness and distance.
Hiking for Health and Happiness (3H) created the event led by Ricardo Cruz with the support of Maglory Maza, Sergio Cruz, Dora Cruz, Tony Delgado, Lissinia Aguilar, Ricardo Hernandez, and more. This would be their third year of hosting the event and is becoming a tradition of ending the year with a final hike. They called the hiking event La Bestia or The Beast. Our theme for this hike was wearing red shirt and Santa’s hat which are optional for the group.
This year, we had 37 awesome hikers. Our meeting place was at the US Forest Service Fire Station, 35505 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 at 3:30 am. Some went to park ahead at the bottom where the trail starts. An Adventure Pass was needed to park here. Our hike started a little past 4 am near the bottom of the San Juan Trail which was our end point with Sergio leading us and Ricardo being the sweeper. We head northeast of the Hot Spring Canyon Road and passing by some residential houses. Ricardo and Sergio told to us to keep our voices down so not to wake the homeowners. We made a quick stop near the sign of the Lazy W Ranch Camp for a group photo.
Close to the end of the Hot Spring Canyon Road, we turned left and started our first ascent on the Los Pinos Trail, passing by some wooden steps. It rained a few days earlier which explains some puddle of mud and water on the ground. We also saw some few frozen water on the trail and some sparkling bushes too. Although, we passed a lot of hills on the ridge which we lost count, the first 8 miles is a continuing climb to the peak. Our calves got a lot of workout done. One hiker got cramped, but continued all the way to the peak. The trail is exposed to the sun. Luckily, we were hiking in December with the cold breeze. We had a really fast pace going up that kept us warm.
All of us got to the peak of Los Pinos. Had some snacks, relaxed, and had a group photo. The view was spectacular all around. We got to see Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio from afar.
After the break, 9 hikers continued down the trail to the Blue Jay Campground and completed their 12 mile hike. They prepared our meal break for all of us.
The rest of the 28 hikers continued the hike, turning left on the Main Divide Truck Trail creating a loop and coming back to that point. In that loop, we saw some colorful fall foliage. Along the way, we got to see Mount Baldy from afar too. We stopped at an area where we decorated a pine tree with Christmas decorations. I just wondered who is going to take those down after the season. 😀 LoL There was also a steep hill that some hikers went up and down from it. As we got back to the Main Divide Truck Trail, we continued the hike down to the Blue Jay Campground, met the others, and completed 19 miles.
Our meal awaits us as we reached the campground. We had hot Pozole Mexican soup mixed with pork, lime, and chili sauce, was so delicious. We also had buns of bread and Mexican Atole which I really loved. For the vegans and vegetarians, 3H brought mixed salads. Gatorade and water were our drinks. We were stuffed as we rested.
After we got our bellies satisfied, we were ready to hit the road to finish and slay the Beast. As I heard before the hike, it is all downhill from here. Not quite, but just a little hill. The San Juan Trail coming down was rough terrain due to some trenches in the middle of the trail that were caused by cyclists and water coming down. The sun was setting and we had to hurry down the mountain. There were some minor slips or falls, but were okay to continue. We came across the switchbacks on the final miles of the trail.
We got back down to the parking area at the bottom of the San Juan Trail around 8:20 pm. Every hiker formed in a straight line as part of the 3H tradition and congratulated each of the 28 hikers who finished the 31 miles and slew the Beast. We had our final group photo before saying our goodbyes. La Bestia was really a challenging hike. A huge accomplishment to all of us. Thanks to the 3H Coordinators for creating the event. I had such a marvelous time and so did the others. Until next year when the Beast awakens.
Here are the wonderful people who were in the event.
The 20 Female Warriors:
Always more women who accept true challenges!
Antonia Magana 30 miles
Alicia Q Quiroz 12 miles
Anelia Nunez 12 miles
Beatriz Ceballos 30 miles (2015, 2016)
Bella Gissel Martinez 12 miles
Dalila Santamaria 30 miles
Dolores Grant 30 miles
Dora Silva 12 miles
Edith Climaco 30 miles (2015, 2016)
Jelsomina Elsasser 30 miles
Junie Wood 30 miles
Letty Rios 30 miles (2015, 2016)
Lidia Ordaz 30 miles
Lissinia Aguilar 30 miles
Maglory Maza 12 miles (30 miles 2015)
Melevy Osorio-Sorto 12 miles
Meredith Crane 30 miles
Mi Hoang 30 miles
Monica Giron 30 miles
Yola Carbajal 30 miles
The 17 Male Warriors:
Alfredo Alvarez 30 miles
Dave Rucker 30 miles
Francis Wang 30 miles
Gerardo Perez 30 miles
Gil Memo Ramirez Figueroa 12 miles
Ismael Simpson Cardenas 12 miles
James Bong 12 miles
John Michael Patero 30 miles
Jose Beltran 30 miles
Jose Ramon Lira 30 miles (2015, 2016)
Qiang Xie 30 miles
Ralph Mancia 30 miles
Ramon Hortega 30 miles
Ricardo Hernandez 30 miles (2015, 2016)
Sergio Cruz 30 miles “The Main Leader” (2014, 2015, 2016)
Tony Papucho Delgado 30 miles (Ultra Runner) (2015, 2016)
Ricardo Cruz 30 miles (2014, 2015, 2016)