By now, you may have already heard about the research that shows that spending money on experiences is more conducive to happiness than spending money on “stuff”.  My friend Pietro understands this concept well.  Last year, he organized a birthday party for a group of family and friends at the San Antonio Ski Hut on Mount San Antonio (aka “Old Baldy”).  His only request, besides showing up: bring a bottle of wine and glasses to drink it with.

Three miles and 2,200 feet from the trailhead

Mount San Antonio, at a little over 10,000 feet, is the third highest peak in Southern California.  With its close proximity to Los Angeles, high elevation, and ample snow, it’s a popular training ground for mountaineers.  On a nice spring or summer day, it can also get extremely crowded.  On my way to the hut, I encountered solitary amblers, regimented groups of Mt. Baldy regulars marching up the trail, and even the occasional trail runner (which left me feeling just a bit sheepish).

Admiring the view from the San Antonio Ski Hut

Off to find some boulders!

Once we arrived at the ski hut, the more ambitious hikers led a sortie to the top of the mountain.  I elected to explore the boulders, about 10 minutes up the trail.  We enjoyed some old school climbing–knees and shoulders make excellent footholds.

To the top by any means necessary

We all had a great time, but the youngest member of our party was definitely the most intense climber.  He also enjoyed playing in the puddles on top of the boulders.

Game face

We found bolts at the top of the tallest boulders

Later that evening, we enjoyed a delicious dinner, made all the more scrumptious by the fact that a hired llama had kindly carried most of the fresh ingredients up the mountain.

Beginnings of dinner

Thank you llama, for the fresh asparagus

Pietro’s birthday party was certainly one of the most memorable and fun birthday parties that I’ve attended.  It was also a reminder that the best gifts in life require only a bit of imagination, some advance planning, and a quick Evite to friends.

Friends and family toast the birthday boy, and his great idea

If you’re interested in hiking Mount San Antonio, or staying in the ski hut, detailed directions to the trailhead are available here.  The ski hut includes solar lighting, an outhouse, bunks for 24 people and a fully equipped kitchen with wood stove.  Best of all, a natural spring feeds fresh, potable water into the cabin 24 hours a day.  To confirm availability in the ski hut or to book a date for a larger group, contact the scheduled hut host.  Better yet, volunteer for hut maintenance trips and become a host yourself!

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