Sheephead Mountain

Today’s adventure was doing Sheephead Mountain for a third time, as Ted Markus needed it for his effort to finish the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list. We drove down the semi-paved Kitchen Creek Road off of Sunrise Highway. The dirt road to East Butte was in better condition than this one. Pine needles again crunched under our boots, as we made our way to the other Kitchen Creek road. Once there, I again made sure to leave a mark to find the use trail back up the ravine. I missed it the first time I summited.

We climbed the improperly placed fence/gate and continued down the road a bit before heading off to locate the use trail that would take us up to the summit. Now the real effort would begin, the trail would climb some 600 feet in about .3 miles. The trail has become a bit overgrown, and in fact, it did rip the left sleeve of my shirt. 

We hung out at the summit just for a bit, taking in the views and having a quick snack before heading back down. The descent was uneventful which, given some of the steep sections, was a good thing. We cruised home and grabbed some burritos from Mi Ranchito in PQ. My tracker logged the hike at 3.2 miles in 2:08 with 928 feet of gain.

Change of Plans…

The plan was to climb the ridgeline from Hellhole Canyon and summit Ted and Webo Benchmarks, but as we drove out toward Borrego Springs, neither Susie nor I had that much enthusiasm for this hike. I had already done it twice, so this hike was solely to help Susie along toward her finishing the San Diego Sierra Club 100 list a second time. We pulled into the parking area, looked at the ridge and the 3,000+ feet of gain that stood before us, and said “Let’s hike something else”. Since she did need Borrego Mountain East Butte, we picked that as our first replacement of the day. After a quick pit stop at the bathrooms at the off-road area, we drove the dirt road up toward the land bridge that I used last time. 

Susie’s other time summiting East Butte was via the rocky gully. That was the same route I had used for my first time as well. But my second time up I used the land bridge to climb it from the west side. 

After parking and snapping some photos with the Santa Rosa mountain range behind us, we climbed the steep slope toward the summit. We quickly found ourselves approaching the summit. Once there we signed the register and took in the views. Since this was such a quick jaunt, we debated what else we might try to tackle. Most of our other Sierra Club peaks weren’t an option, so instead, we turned to the San Diego Peak Club List and found Perpendicular Bluff Benchmark as a strong candidate. 

We drove back along the Highway, amazed at the string of cars and RVs heading the other way. Found a safe place to park near the start of Keith Winston’s track. After scampering across the road, we then cruised across the desert floor, passing through a nice grove of agave. In reviewing Keith’s track, we had a general sense of what he did to reach the summit. We saw a nice spot to hop on the ridge that he eventually got onto later. The ridge had no real obstacles or navigational challenges, and soon we were atop Perpendicular Bluff Benchmark. 

We found the benchmark and the register and after a short break, we headed back down, following the same ridge. Once back at the car, we both agreed this was a fun little desert peak and we’re glad about opting to do something else. The stats for East Butte were 1.27 miles in 1:19 with an elevation gain of 440 feet. The stats for Perpendicular Bluff were 2.55 miles in 1:50, with an elevation gain of 595.

Oriflamme Mountain

After I finished the 100 Peak Challenge back in 2019, a couple of the peaks were swapped out. SquareTop and Rock Mountain were dropped and Paradise and Oriflamme Mountains were added. While I had previously done Paradise, I had never hiked to the summit of Oriflamme. While it can be done as a side trip when doing Roost Benchmark, I never made the extra effort. So, I finally decided to cross this peak off my “unclimbed” list. I drove up in the early morning and parked next to the Lucky S Ranch. While it was in the upper 30s as I passed through Julian, it warmed up to the upper 40s as I set off down the dirt road toward Oriflamme. 

A lot of the route was the same we took on our first trek out to Roost Benchmark. This hike is an inverted one, meaning you hike down and then have the “fun” of hiking back up to the trailhead.

After about 2 miles, it was time to leave the road and begin the cross-country climb to the peak. A cairn marked a good opening through the brush. Thankfully the brush was about knee-high, so spying the path of least resistance was fairly straightforward. The slope posed no issues as I weaved my way up, spotting a cairn from time to time. Finally, the rocky pile that denotes the summit came into view. I scrambled to the top to soak in the views. The register can was safely tucked in a crevice. I signed my name and strolled around the summit, enjoying the panoramic view.

I needed to get back, so I headed down toward the road, again just weaving through the brush and moving mostly down and to the west. I actually exited at the same cairn I used to begin the cross-country section. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket?

The climb back up was uneventful. It certainly was easier than the last two times I trudged up that road. My tracker logged this hike at 4.4 miles in 2:00 hrs with an elevation gain of 1,288 feet.

North Pinyon

Today’s adventure was to have us hike to the summit of P3640, informally known as North Pinyon. All three of us, Susie, Ted and myself, all had time constraints, so this peak was perfect.  Just past the Scissors Crossing we turned off at Plum Canyon and headed south along the dirt road. After about 1.3 miles the road splits, and the right fork heads to the trailhead for Sentenac, while the left fork would take us to the trailhead for North Pinyon. Initially, we had hoped to squeeze in Sentanac since it almost shares the same trailhead, but we just did not have the time. After another 1/2 mile of driving we reached the turnaround. I parked the Outback and we began getting ready to head off.

The route begins with a short scramble over some rocks before spending some time weaving through the canyon in a nice sandy wash. Some interesting geological features revealed themselves along the sides of the wash. A standard collection of desert plants also dotted the route. Eventually, the wash turned rocky and our stroll became less gradual and more stair-like. We had a few dry falls to contend with, with only one truly needing to be bypassed. As the drainage began to end, I located the exit point I had used the last time and climbed up. 

With a commanding view of Granite Mountain to our west, we did have our first views of North Pinyon to our east. We worked our way toward a small saddle between the minor peak we were on and the final climb up. The last 4/10 of a mile would climb about 400 feet, but the terrain was easy to navigate. Once over the minor false summit, it was a simple walk over to the true summit just to the east. 

There is no benchmark here, but it does have a register that we gladly signed. The skies were pretty clear, so we had some nice views of Whale Peak to our south, Grapevine and Sentenac to the northwest, and the Salton Sea to the east. After a quick snack, it was time to head back down. The only real challenge in this hike is to make sure you drop down into the correct wash to lead you out. Once we did this, we chatted about our plans to complete the San Diego Sierra Club 100 list again. It is going to be a fun desert season for us! We made a quick stop again at Calico Cidery before dropping Susie off at one of the wineries in Ramona to meet her parents. All told the hike was about 4.25 miles in 3:30 with an elevation gain of 1514 feet.

Climb for Heroes

After spending the night in Ontario and seeing my daughter who attends the University of Redlands, I made my way up toward the start of the Climb For Heroes. It was just before 7 am and cars were already parked along the sides of the road as I passed Icehouse Canyon. Yikes! I continued on past Manker Flats and into the parking lot for the ski area. This time I was doing this hike as a member of Team SoCal Hiker, and in fact as one of the group leaders for them. I helped out at the registration table, checking in others and chatting with other Team SoCal’ers. In fact, I finally met Phil Yolo in real life. Finally, the start time was drawing near, so I grabbed my gear from the car. After a few team photos, it was time to start the climb!

I let some of the initial rush head up the trail before heading out myself. The first bit of this climb is a steep section, so I reminded myself not to let the excitement of the event push me to hike faster than I should. Along the route, there are various “camps” we check in at to have our bibs marked and receive our swag tokens.

At the Notch, I took a quick bio-break at the restaurant before continuing up the service road. At the Devil’s Backbone, a small crowd was milling around, so I skipped the photo op with the sign and continued across the ridge. Safety personnel controlled the exposed section to reduce the risk, as well as they fix ropes for those who need a little extra confidence.

I continued pushing onto the summit, enjoying it more this time, but missing my usual hiking buddies. Once I reached High Camp, I took a nice break before the final push to the summit. As I made my way up, we were treated to a flyover from the Condor Squadron.

I continued making my way up, pausing to let my heart rate settle back down. It was here I finally met the “Super Hiking Twins”, Arabella and Matthew. I chatted with their equally impressive parents and the twins some before parting ways.

Finally, the summit came into view! I took my photos at the “Summit Camp” and at the Mt. Baldy plaque. Then I found a nice spot for some lunch and rest. The views were awesome. But soon it was time to head back down.

The descent went smoothly. After grabbing a beer at Camp 3, I continued on down to the Notch. This time I decided to use the chair lift back to the parking lot. With that, my Climb For Heroes was done! Team SoCal hiker raised over $7000 toward The Heroes Project.

THE HEROES PROJECT makes the impossible a reality by empowering our injured community through physical and emotional training, allowing them to explore the farthest reaches of themselves and the world they live in. These expeditions challenge the severely wounded to redefine their personal limits post-injury. The Heroes Project inspires our injured men and women to find purpose, both physically and mentally and ignites others to do the same.

Hieroglyphic Trail

Since I was in Tempe for Arizona State University’s Family Weekend, I had limited time to get in a proper hike. I had finally hiked the “A” the day before, but on Sunday I had a bit more availability to get some trail time. I settled on doing the Hieroglyphic Trail out in the Superstition Wilderness. I had seen the signs for this trail back when I hiked Fremont Saddle. This 3-mile round trip hike was just the right length to let me get back to the hotel to shower and check out. The sunrise was spectacular, but since I was alone, I could not safely capture it on my phone. Where’s Ted when you need him!? I pulled into the parking lot and about 6 or 7 cars were already there. Both the Hieroglyphic trail and the Lost Goldmine Trail start from here.

The trail works its way toward a massive collection of petroglyphs near the mouth of the canyon. Clear signage was in place at the junction for the two trails. The trail is a typical desert trail, with some rocky sections and some dirt sections. I scrambled down one minor section just before reaching the petroglyphs. 

I carefully explored the petroglyphs carved into the surrounding rocks, watching my footing, as the rocks were slick from water flowing down the canyon. I certainly did not want to slip into that pool of stagnant water. Since I did have a timeline to stick to, I did not linger as long as I might have wanted to. I passed more and more folks heading up the trail. It was certainly a popular one, as the parking lot was almost completely full upon my return. 

Hayden Butte (aka The “A”)

While my son has attended Arizona State University for two years now, I never seemed to have to the time to hike up The “A”. On my last visit I made sure I got the quick hike in. Located next to the football stadium, it is just 3/4 miles round-trip. I opted to approach it from the west trail to the summit. This is just a paved service road to the water tanks. Once it reaches the tanks, the trail becomes a mix of concrete stairs and railroad ties almost the summit. It is a popular work-out trail for students and nearby residents.

I made my way to the top with no issues. I was surprised to see the benchmark still embedded on the summit. I made my way back down using a different route for the second half of the descent. Maybe next time, I can wake up my son and have him join me :).

Morena Butte

I wanted to hike out to Diablo Benchmark, but since we could not head out until 11, it was going to be too warm to attempt it. Instead, I looked at some of the peaks Ted needed to complete on the San Diego Sierra Club 100 peak list. But I really did not want to go bushwhacking up Middle Peak, Manza Benchmark or Sheephead Mountain. That left Morena Butte as our best option for a nice afternoon hike. We stopped at the Ranger station and got our parking permit ($3). We parked next to the trailhead and set off down the service road to the dam. A light breeze kept the temperatures pleasant. 

The road worked its way around the edge of Lake Morena, until after about a mile, we turned off onto the trail that would have us connect with the PCT. The Butte loomed over us to the west. We cruised along the PCT for a bit until we reached the turn off to the use trail that would lead us to the summit.

The trail would now weave its way upward through the manazatia. We continued working our way toward the north butte. Once on the slabs near the summit, a nice collection of cairns pointed the way. There is no benchmark on this peak, and we did not locate a register. I found a nice spot to enjoy a late lunch. We debated working our way over to the west butte, but Ted had already run 13.1 miles in the morning, so he was ok with skipping it. Plus, I was feeling a little bit from my ascent of San Ysidro the day before. 

We made our way back down without incident, opting to take the trail on the west side of the small valley this time. After tossing our gear back in the car, we stopped at the market just outside the county park and treated ourselves to some nice milkshakes. I logged the hike at 6.5 miles in 3:17 and 1,100 feet of gain. 

San Ysidro

With my peak-bagging friends busy, I set off to climb San Ysidro solo. I had planned to grab breakfast from the Jack In The Box in Ramona, but they were closed. Crud. Thankfully, Don’s Market in Santa Ysabel was open and I was able to grab some food. Just past where the Montezuma Valley Market is, I turned on to the dirt road that would take me to the start of the hike. I parked, grabbed my gear, and set off down the old jeep road. A tree had fallen since the last time had been here, so I had to drop into the stream bed to bypass it.

At the saddle, I opted to stay high and work my way toward the gully that I would follow to the base of the mountain. While it was not terrible, it was not great either. Once at the gully, the going became easy for a bit. At the base, I checked my previous track and started the climb. Some cairns were erected along the way, but the route mostly showed itself to me.

Once at the summit I took in the views. The previous time I was here they were obscured by clouds. I scrambled to the summit block and signed the register. I peered up to locate the two reference marks. I did not feel comfortable scrambling up their respective boulders solo.

My return route went smoothly, letting the mountain guide me back down. I did stay in the gully longer and it seemed to be slightly easier going back to the road. All told the hike was 4.01 miles in 3:38 and an elevation gain of 1,593 feet.

Strawberry Peak

Strawberry Peak

I needed one more peak to climb to complete the 2021 Six Pack of Peaks SoCal Challenge. While I am planning to climb Mt. Baldy as part of the Climb For Heroes, that hike has already been postponed once due to the forest closure orders. With that hike now slated for Veterans Day Weekend, there is a chance of weather impacting it. Heck, the first time I did CFH, it was delayed due to snow! Although we might be near the end of the fire season, there is always a chance for a repeat. Therefore, I chose Strawberry Peak to ensure my challenge would be completed.