Backbone Trail Thru Hike Day 5: Finally Cruising

I was supposed to be finishing the trail on this day. It’s hard to get that out of your head once you realize it, that if you hadn’t taken a zero day, the worst would already be behind you.

Instead, I woke up at 5am on day five, ready to start on my longest day on the Backbone Trail (BBT) before the sun was fully up. I dropped down into my first canyon of the day from Kanan Dume Road, and after about thirty minutes, found myself completely alone, in a bowl between mountains, watching a special coastal version of alpenglow touch the Santa Monica Mountains.

Road Crossings

Something that is fairly characteristic of the Backbone Trail is road crossings. The trail’s longest section between roads is 16 miles. And while I’d crossed plenty of familiar Los Angeles canyon roads throughout my hike already, I hadn’t had a day with so many of them as day five. It seemed like every couple miles, I would reach another road.

The trail on day five was surprisingly flat and fairly gradual when it did climb up or down. This, paired with all of the road crossings of the day, made it easy to feel like I was moving quickly, and I was.

The many road crossings made for a lot of mile marker signs along the trail, which meant I could easily keep track of how far I’d gone.

10 before 12

I know the goal is 10 before 10, but I was proud of my first 10 before 12. Honestly, I think the thing most people don’t expect about the BBT is how rough the terrain is. This trail is extremely steep in parts, rocky in other parts, and both in over half the trail. This made for a lot of very slow travel, especially on downhill sections.

Cruising along this section and hitting mile 10 well before noon felt like a huge accomplishment, especially since this was going to be my longest day on trail of the entire trip–between 16 and 17 miles.

Seeing the sign that Mishe Mokwa, my big goal for the day, was only 6.6 miles away, felt like a relief, even if I still had a lot of trail to go.

Trail Magic!

I wasn’t expecting trail magic on the BBT, especially since I never saw another thru hiker my entire trip, but day five brought me some unexpectedly. The section leading up to the Mishe Mokwa trailhead is one of the most beautiful prior to the Boney Mountain Wilderness (day 6). It’s green this time of year, has amazing views, and the trail is relatively flat, but it’s also extremely exposed and sunny, and my fifth day on trail was one of the hottest.

I passed a woman hiking the opposite direction of me who stopped me and asked if I was thru hiking. It turns out, she’s section hiked the entire BBT over the years, and she asked me if I needed water. I had some water, but I was running out quickly due to the sun and the heat. She pulled out a liter of ice water and insisted that she pour it into my empty bottle.

It was easily the best water I’d ever tasted, and helped me get through the last 3 miles to Mishe Mokwa, where I’d sit, anticipating the climb up Sandstone Peak, the highest mountain in the Santa Monicas.

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Comments 4

  • Steve Hall : Feb 23rd

    Nice to share your hike Thru and show people that can do small 5 days trips. In our local Sandra Monica mountains. I live near devil punch in Pearblossom. I did a 5 days hike in 2014 from Horseshoe meadows Lone pine to onion valley. It was amazing hike. I want to go go back and hike up in the Sierras again. When growing up in Northeast LA did a lot of hiking above JPL and Millard canyon. Big Santa Anita canyon. Use to cowboy camp with my Dad at Buckhorn in Angeles National Forest. We would do training clean and paint fences for the Forest Service and get out camp site for Free we had a contract with the US Forest Service. From 1980 to 1985. I have hiked and camped at Little Jimmy campground and have hike across to Baden Powell while doing training hike for my trip to the Sierras in 2014. I for years I didn’t hike life got in the way. Your mental health needs you to be outside more. If I was 25 years younger I would hiked it with on your trip. I will follow you on your future hikes.

  • SandalZ : Feb 23rd

    Thank you for bringing attention to this trail! I live in the desert close to big bear. My dad and I do overnight sections on the pct (he’s 78). We can’t afford to do longer than a few nights time wise. Had never heard of the bbt until I saw you post it. Me and him are gonna give it a shot! Carefully though and picking up trash using you as inspiration

  • RC : Feb 28th

    Hey Halle, did you get to finish, or did you get rained out?

    • Halle Homel : Feb 28th

      Hi! I did finish! My posts are just a little delayed.


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