North Fortuna

I needed to think through a presentation I was making the next day, so I figured a nice hike would help me focus. Since I needed some photos for some trail guides I am writing, I decided to hike up the Fortunas in Mission Trails. I wanted some better photos of the “infamous” South Fortuna stairs and the new summit marker atop North Fortuna. As I neared the parking lot, I remembered there was some construction happening on this side of the park, courtesy of the San Diego Water District. I looked over the map and realized that I wasn’t going to have an easy route to get to the South Fortuna stairs, but I still had a route to North Fortuna. 

I crossed the bridge into the park and headed north toward the Rim Trail. Clear signs warned me about various closures and detours. Cruising along the trail, I could see two work areas, to the northwest and southeast. The work was supposed to be done in early 2022, but construction is rarely on time. I reached four corners and had a decision to make – I could take the Suycott Valley Alternative Trail to connect to the Fortuna Saddle Trail and then the summit, or I could take the Shepherd Ridge Trail to approach the summit from the north side. Since I had never done North Fortuna from the north side, my choice was an easy one. 

I had passed a few folks on the trail, but as it was about 4 pm on a Thursday, I did not expect to see many. The trail took me northward, getting closer to the northern edge of the park and the 52 freeway. The evening commute was starting to pick up. The trail connects briefly with the Perimeter Trail before turning southward to begin the real climb up North Fortuna.

While it wasn’t the South Fortuna Stairs, I did have a small section of stairs to assist me. After crossing a false summit, the real summit was just a short bit away. I snapped my photos and took a short break before continuing southward toward the saddle. 

I took the saddle back down to the west until it reached Suycott Valley Alternative Trail. Normally, I would stay on this trail, but the construction closure prevented that. As I made my way on the trail back toward Four Corners, it was clear that this trail was heavily favored by mountain bikers, and was glad I was here on a weekday. I would not recommend this trail on a weekend. Once back at Four Corners, I retraced my route to the car. Just before I started the short climb from Four Corners, two mountain bikers came screaming down the wide trail, reaffirming my thoughts about weekend use. As I made my way back to the car, I passed several more mountain bikers. Back at my car, I saw that both sides of the street were now packed. This route was 5.75 miles with 1,195 feet of elevation gain.  

Heller’s Bend

One of the things I tried to do, while working on the San Diego North County Sierra Club’s 50 for 50 Challenge, was to hike trails I have not hiked before. Since I was only doing half of them to earn the patch, I could be afforded that luxury. My wife had made plans with some friends for Mother’s Day morning and would not be home until the afternoon. My son had come home for the weekend from Arizona, and joined me in a couple of short hikes I needed to do. The first hike was Heller’s Bend. 

Once we found enough space to pull off the road (there is no set parking for this hike) we set off. Technically, this is the “Karen Tucker Preserve at Heller’s Bend”, but that is quite a mouthful. It is managed by the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, which also manages several other hikes and preserves in the area. We followed the paved road down and across a small creek. Oaks hung over the path, giving us some nice shade. The road then made a few small turns before beginning to head southward. We climbed up the steep road that served as our way up toward a small ridge. 

At the top, two benches allowed my son to take a breather, while I chose to explore around the area. The paved portion of the trail ends here, with a nice vista of Fallbrook. The trail did continue, but I didn’t feel the need to take it. We carefully worked our way down back to the car. I logged the round-trip at just under a mile, but with a nice 295-foot gain.

Corte Madera

I had hoped to squeeze in one more desert peak, but with my daughter leaving for DC for the summer, I could not afford the time. Instead, I opted to knock one of the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks off my list. Corte Madera would fit the bill nicely–not too long and not too far of a drive to the trailhead. I pulled into an empty parking area and hung my Adventure Pass from the mirror. While the car’s thermometer read 37, it did not feel that cold, plus I knew both I and the day would be warming up.

I grabbed my new trekking poles, as I had worn the tips down on my previous pair, and set off. The route to the summit began along a nicely shaded road for about 1/2 mile before I reached the Espinoza Trail. Now I would begin climbing up toward the saddle, with some nice wildflowers scattered along the trail. Once at the saddle, I got my first view of the impressive rock face of Corte Madera. A warning sign had been posted for anyone continuing on the Espinoza trail, to be careful from the fire damage. Off to my left stood the Los Pinos lookout tower and to my right was the road I would follow for a short while.

Another sign pointed to the trail branching off to the left from the road. This portion of the hike would have the more “challenging “ portion of the hike. The gentle climb up the Espinoza would be replaced with a steeper and rockier one. In addition, the overgrowth was also heavier through here as well. 

I passed by a jacket and bag off to the side, which I assume were left by a migrant. After climbing down the rocky section, the trail would now roller coaster toward the summit. My left calf was starting to tighten, so I slowed my pace to give it some relief. I recognized that I was almost at the summit and would have a chance to give it a rest.

As expected, I had the summit to myself. A new wooden sign had been left next to the register. I signed in and snapped my photos, then found a spot to enjoy my orange and take a breather.

I pulled my pack on and began to retrace my route. Not long after leaving the summit, I met my first other hiker. He looked a little lost, as he was staring intently at his phone. I gave him some guidance for the last bit. It turns out he started at Corral Canyon. We each went our separate ways. As I neared that one climbing section, I met the second set of hikers. They recognized me from my blog, and we chatted a bit before continuing. I would encounter another 10 or so by the time I reached the saddle.

Once back on the road to the Espinoza trail, a truck passed me, as did a motorcycle. I had wondered about driving back here for some car camping. Given that the truck looked almost stock, I could probably get my Subaru back here for an evening.

As I made my way down the Espinoza trail, I could feel the day getting warmer and my calf getting tighter. I knew I didn’t have that much further, plus the last 1/2 mile would have some shade and was mostly flat. The car said it was in the low 80s and I would believe it. This time my tracker logged me traveling 6.8 miles in 3:41 with an elevation gain of 1,557 feet.

Volcan Mountain

After the hard climb up Sunset Mountain yesterday, I was looking for something a bit tamer. So, I decided to continue working on the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks list, and Volcan Benchmark seemed like the perfect fit. Plus, I might try to get in another WBC hike afterward, along with a stop at Calico Cidery as well. Susie was fine with this, and we set off together.

We had a slightly later start as we did not need to worry about temperatures for this hike. There were about 8 cars parked along Farmers Road when we arrived. We grabbed our gear and set off. This would be my 5th time up, and Susie has lost track of how many times she had been to the summit. After using the porta-potties, we began hiking up the familiar road. Once we reached the 5 Oaks side trail, we switched to it. We caught a couple of other hikers as we cruised up the shaded trail. 

Once we rejoined the road, we felt the infamous wind that usually blows across this ridge. We continued chatting as we came to the old air beacon that sits on the summit. Susie snapped my photo for the challenge. Off to the southwest, a nice field of poppies beckoned to be photographed. 

After snapping our photos, we headed back down, this time staying on the main road for the entire descent. We passed several folks making their way up, and one pair of hikers also descending. Once back at the car we noted that we both might have set PRs for this peak. I know I did, and Susie was pretty sure as well. Since the Santa Ysabel East trail is just a few minutes down the road, we opted to drive down and add in some more miles. For Volcan, I logged us tracking 5.2 miles in 1:59 and gaining 1,275 feet.

Sunset Mountain

I had pretty much written of any more peaks on the San Diego Sierra Club 100 list this desert sI had pretty much written off doing any more peaks on the San Diego Sierra Club 100 list this desert season but much to our surprise we had some nice weather here at the end of April, so Susie Kara and I decided to knock Sunset off our to-do list. We had done this hike with Matt Bennett back in January 2020. While the actual distance from the trailhead to the summit isn’t that far, this hike is one of the more challenging ones on the list. We drove out to Anza Borrego turning onto Pinyon Wash and drove down the rather nice dirt road back to a good spot to pull over and park the Subaru. Off to the east loomed Sunset Mountain. We gathered our stuff and set across the flat desert floor to the start of the grueling climb. We had a few cactus flowers scattered along the way offering a little bit of joy to offset our climb. The route up is basically a straightforward assault on the mountain. Both Susie and I remembered how much we disliked climbing a mountain due to a large amount of poor footing. We carefully worked our way up the very steep slopes to the first minor, and I stress, MINOR plateau and had a short breather. We had gained almost 700 feet in just over .2 miles. Neither one of us was looking forward to descending this section.

We checked our location against our previous route, and we were basically right on track. Since We checked our location against our previous route, and we were basically right on track. Since there is no defined trail, it is up to you to plot your route up the mountain, hoping to follow the easiest path you can see. I led us up the steep slopes ever closer to the summit. So far, my route finding had been going well. I would like to think all this time in the desert has helped improve them. 

Soon we reached the last bit of the climb and pushed on. Susie had the lead, as I did pick a slightly slower section that I had Susie skip. After hopping over the rocky summit, there stood the wooden post denoting the summit. The register can was tucked next to it. The benchmark, stamped as Yak, was also right there. Off to the east and west were two reference marks as well. We took a short break and did all the usual summit activities before heading back down.

I had parked near a couple of smoke trees that grew next to the main road. This gave us a great landmark to keep aiming toward as we slowly and carefully worked our way back down. Last time when we climbed this peak, our descent time was longer than our ascent. 

As we neared the bad section, we made the call to take the gully that was to our south instead. While we still had a steep and difficult descent to reach it, we felt once in it, our stress levels would ease. Susie and Matt took that route last time while I stayed on the same route I used going up. I did have one large rock break out from under me, we made it safely to the gully. While it was rocky, there was nothing that posed any challenges. In fact, we had a couple of sections that we just slid down. Who doesn’t like a nice slide!?

The gully opened back onto the desert floor, and we began weaving through the various pointy plants scattered across the landscape. Once back at the car we were glad to be done with this peak. The entire hike was just 3.7 miles, but we gained over 1,900 feet. And to further add to that, the first 1/2 mile was mostly on the flat desert. Our complete time was 5:09, including our breaks. It was a touch slower than last time, but we were without the awesome route-finding skills of Matt. Just 21 more to go!

West Side Road

The original plan was to meet up with someone I used to admin with on the San Diego Hiking Society Facebook group. I left that role a few months back and wanted to catch up with her. Unfortunately, work got in the way and she had to cancel. I had never done the West Side Road Trail and still wanted to cross it off my list. I drove out through Ramona and toward San Diego Estates. Mt. Gower loomed over me to my north as I made my way to the trailhead. I parked and grabbed my gear. The trail begins along a paved road next to a house. I crossed over the road-closed gate and continued making my way up the road. Some bits of graffiti lined the road. The paved road became dirt as it still climbed up. I was rewarded for this effort with some nice views of the mountains. I could see Cuyamaca, Middle Peak, Viejas, and Volcan with ease. With some care, I could spy Eagle Peak and Peak 1546.

The road eventually turned northward and I could see more of Gower off to my left. While I had passed another hiker just as I began, I encountered one more out enjoying the trail. We chatted for a bit. He moved down from Riverside and was getting to know the area. We said our goodbyes, as he still had a ways to go to return to his starting point.

Eventually, the road came to an end, and the trail turned into a single track before coming to a very clear No Trespassing sign. I snapped a few photos and retraced my route. Soon I found myself back on the pavement and nearing my car. I could see a couple of miles away from the trailhead to Ceder Creek falls. That is one hike I have never done. In part don’t want to deal with the crowds and when it is flowing it usually means it is desert hiking season. I logged this hike at 4.5 miles and I covered it in 1:39 (including the time spent chatting). There were almost 870 feet of gain, so I did get a nice workout from it.

Raptor Ridge Trail

As I continue to work toward the 25 hikes goal and the patch, I wanted to grab a hike before work. I decided to revisit another one of the hikes that I had done for one of the Coast to Crest Challenges, Raptor Ridge.

Parking at the trailhead, I grabbed my gear and set off. I had my headphones in my pack just in case I was not back in time to dial into my first meeting of the day. I cruised along the nice flat trail for about 1.5 miles before it would begin the climb up to the viewpoint. Once there I snapped my photo with a blank sheet of paper. I forgot my sign and would have to paste it in later. After taking in the views of San Pasqual Valley, I retraced my route. Met three others out enjoying the trail with their dog. Made it back to the car just before my meeting, I tossed in my gear, called in, and began the drive home. The hike was 4.7 miles in 1:35 and had 440 feet of elevation gain.

Santa Fe Valley Trail

Decided to hike the Santa Fe Valley Trail once again. I hiked this trail as part of the Coast To Crest Challenge a number of years back. This time I was hiking it as part of the Sierra Club North County Group’s 50th Anniversary 50 Hike Challenge. As I drove down toward the parking area, two deer darted into the nearby brush. Was not expecting to see them in the mid-afternoon. 

The trailhead is shared by both the Santa Fe Trail and Del Dios Gorge Trail. I headed toward the west and onto the Santa Fe Trail. For much of the trail, it is nice and flat, I was cruising along, crossing the numerous small bridges along the way. After about 1.4 miles, the trail will begin a short climb. Thankfully, the switchbacks help ease the climb. It drops back down some, before making another climb up toward the ‘end’ of the trail. I snapped my required photo and retraced my route.

Twin Peaks

Having mostly recovered from hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, it was time to set my focus back on some of the ongoing challenges I am working on. So, I scanned the remaining hikes on the Sierra Club NCG 50th Anniversary 50 Hike Challenge list and settled on hiking up Twin Peaks again.

I parked near Silverset Park, grabbed my gear, and set off. I followed the same route as I had done twice before. As I neared the summit, another hiker was making his way down. So much for checking the “Only Party On The Mountain” box on I got to the summit and snapped my photos. It seems the summit sign disease has arrived here as well. Leave No Trace…

I really did not linger and opted to return back down following the same route this time. Previously I had made it a loop but wanted to get home and start grilling my birthday dinner. Just 10 more hikes and I can get the patch. I am a sucker for a patch…