Trailblaze Challenge Finisher!!!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! On May 20th I was the 3rd to cross the finish line at San Diego’s inaugural TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE, a one-day, 26+ mile hike to raise awareness and funds for Make-A-Wish San Diego.  It was an incredible journey following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ending at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.

Mission Accomplished! 3rd to the Finish Line // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

I had so much fun with my girlfriends and loved meeting the other participants; we really created a little family, encouraging each other and drawing from each other’s strength and positive energy.  It was inspiring to hear the participants’ pasts and stories. Hikers varied in age and hiking experience — 21 to 75 and Mt Whitney veterans to brand new hikers, and most special of all was meeting fellow hikers who were parents to Wish-kids and learning how the organization has brought such happiness to their lives.

Get all the race day feel-goods with this video captured by the event’s photographer and see my race-day recap below. Stay tuned later this week for my Top 7 Tips for a Hiking Race if you’re ready to sign up for this challenge or a similar one soon.

San Diego Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge from Travis Rieth on Vimeo   (catch me at 40 seconds and 1:30 🙂 )


We started this long but glorious day at 3:15am when the 80 hikers, event staff and medics met for roll call and breakfast. We were soon out the door for the starting line with our headlamps on. My girlfriends and I started in wave 7 at 4:15am, and in the pitch black night it was so much fun to see the string of lights below and above us on the trail. Before long, the light was breaking and we watched the sun rise over Big Bear Lake, a truly beautiful sight.

Starting at 4:15am, 80 Hikers took on San Diego’s first Trailblaze Challenge // May 20th 2017
Team Adventure Appeal ready to start this epic journey! // Big Bear California, May 20th 2017

The race course included 3 aid stations and they were the perfect markers for recapping later with our fellow hikers and friends. Before the 1st aid station we acclimated to elevation, navigated the trail in the dark and were moving quickly, high on coffee and race-day adrenaline. Next, we hit our stride for a 7-8 miles, going long stretches of slight incline and steady downhill. These provided gorgeous viewpoints of the valley and lots of Mojave yucca spotting.

Mojave yucca and valley views // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th, 2017

At the 2nd aid station there were Make-a-Wish cheerleaders, friends and family with signs and cowbells and a feast of snacks. Everyone partook in some much needed restoration here and I shed a lot of layers as the sun become stronger.

The next stretch was long and solo. I hit my stride and saw few race-day or PCT through hikers for the next 9 miles. Following the race map, PCT markers and taking countless pictures and funny videos I kept on track and in high spirits. The terrain was a mix of narrow dirt paths and wide loose rocks with seemingly endless views of the Johnson Valley.

All about that view from above // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

Clocking in at the 3rd aid station, I was mindful not to spend as long as I did at the 2nd, since there were just 5 miles left of the race. These 5 miles were the toughest yet, a steady climb uphill precisely when your body and mind start to break down. I kept repeating positive mantras in my head and seeing the friendly face of a fellow race-day hiker at mile 27 really motivated me to keep going.

5 Miles left, repeating my silly, playful mantra “PCT ain’t got nothing on me” 😉 // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

1 mile from the finish line, the extra adrenaline and excitement of finishing was taking over and views of Onyx Summit were starting to form. We even passed the famous couch rest stop (next time ;)). Because this was a hiking race, the finish line wasn’t as clear, and myself and a fellow hiker wound up passing it, increasing our mileage and our excuses for lots of delicious treats later.

Fancy a seat or a snack? PCT Trail Angels fill this dumpster with water, snacks and inspiration for through hikers // Onyx Summit, May 20, 2017

Happy, hungry and in awe of the process, I ended the race at 10 hours and 15 minutes, clocking in 29.15 miles and finishing 3rd. It was exhilarating, humbling and altogether such a push mentally and physically. Thank  you for this incredible opportunity, Make-A-Wish and to all those that provided encouragement and support!

29.15 miles later, happy sweaty and ready for to celebrate // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017


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Cedar Creek Falls to Devil’s Punchbowl

We all hike for something, be it for strength building, gorgeous viewpoints, to clear our minds or burn calories. But what about hiking for floaties? That’s right, FLOATIES!

Devils Punchbowl at Cedar Creek Falls in Ramona, California

One of my favorite hikes of the year has been Cedar Creek Falls Trail to Devil’s Punchbowl. Located in Ramona, California, this 5.2 mile out and back trail has a fantastic midpoint complete with 75 foot cliffs and an active waterfall.

My friend and I quickly made our way down to the waterfall and were so excited for shade and the cool water.  Be sure to go in the springtime when water is flowing and plentiful and bring (or wear) your bikini. Other hikers were so sad not to partake in the fun!

Ta-da! 5.2 mile reward

After our relaxation in the falls we headed back up to our cars. The return is straight up, so be sure to keep extra water on hand and take breaks as needed. Ramona is about 40 miles from San Diego and the temperature reflects this more dessert-like climate. That’s when we spotted the rattlesnake.  A good reminder to keep your wits about you and stay on the path — they’re there for a reason.

It was a such a fun adventure and a wonderful day exploring a new trail. Check out my quick and dirty review below:


Best Time of Year To Go: Springtime when there’s plenty of water in the basin and it’s not too hot

Hiking Distance: 5.2 miles out and back

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Insider tips:

  • 75 Permits are allotted per a day and easily acquired online for $6 here.
  • Be sure to bring or wear your bikini and an extra quick dry towel.
  • If you bring your dog in the summer you will be turned away — it’s just too hot for the pooches.
  • Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen as the hike down and back from the Falls is shade-free.
  • Watch out for rattlesnakes along the path. We spotted one!

Rating: Loved it! (4.5/5 stars)

Maps & additional reviews: All Trails, Modern Hiker, San Diego Magazine

Let’s connect…What was your experience like at Devil’s Punchbowl? Any waterfall hikes in your town I should add to my wish list?

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