Initially, we thought we would have to summit Groan Benchmark as part of a long hard loop from McCain Valley, but thankfully Matt Hanan offered up a ride in his 4X4 Jeep to take us to the better trailhead for Groan Benchmark. I met Susie and Matt Bennet. in the parking lot at Grossmont Center and headed off to meet Matt H. at the turnoff to Carrizo Creek. As we drove through the clouds and lingering rain, we hoped that the skies over the desert would be clear (as predicted). Nearing Boulevard, the skies began to clear, and were greeted with a lovely sunrise.
Matt is an easy fellow to spot, as he is usually in a Celtic jersey and shorts. We piled into the Jeep and set off down the dirt road. Last weekend, Larry Edmonds finished his 100 by summiting Grunt Benchmark, which shares the same trailhead as Groan’s. Matt had joined Larry on that hike, so he was very familiar with the road and its challenges. As we bounced along, it was clearly well beyond what I would take my Subaru on.
We reached the end of the road, and thus our trailhead. We geared up, and there was a bit of a breeze, so I made sure to have a windbreaker in the pack. I figured it would be handy up on the summit. The trail follows a cobble-filled wash for some time. About a quarter-mile in, Matt H asked if we wanted to see the pictographs in the cave then or on the way back. No time like the present, so we scampered off up the rocky side to see them. What a well-preserved collection! A few morteros were nearby as well. We did not linger too long, as we still had about 6 miles of hiking to do.
Once back on the route, we eventually found a nice use trail for a bit, which was a relief from stepping on and around the rocks in the wash. After about two miles, it was time to leave the wash and begin the major portion of the climb to the summit. We plodded our way upward, trying to avoid the ‘anger bushes’ (as Scott Turner likes to call them). Sadly, I got hit a couple of times, despite my best efforts. Our route took us side-hilling for a while. The summit was now finally coming into view.
After crossing a small ravine, we began the final push to the summit. The true summit was just behind the top that was visible to us from our ascent, but an easy walk to it.
Once there we took a nice break, and since there was a bit of breeze, I did break out the windbreaker.
To the southeast, the Goat Canyon Trestle was clearly visible, as was Puff Benchmark. Back to the northwest, stood Gasp Benchmark.
We munched on our snacks, signed the register, and took our photos. In addition, we found the benchmark and reference mark.
One thing to note about this benchmark is it is mislabeled as Moan. In fact, Larry kidded that “We would Moan at Groan…” After about 30 minutes, we decided it was time to head back as it was warming up some. As we made our descent, we looked over the map and decided to explore an alternate route back.
As we worked down, we passed a couple of California Palms, so Susie made us take a group shot of the guys.
The desert floor was green from the recent rains and almost seemed unnatural as we worked our way through the canyon. Along the way, we had two dry waterfalls to descend. Both posed no issues for any of us. The other surprise along the way was the various piles of sheep bones that we spotted.
There were also flowers along the way. Sadly, we all agreed that this year’s desert flower season will not be like the ones in years past.
Our alternate route eventually rejoined our initial track. We all agreed that it was so worth the little bit of extra distance. We picked up the use trail again, noting that some of the brush had been cut with a saw. We wondered about the why and the who behind that. The day was heating up, and the sun was reflecting off the sandy ground. Soon, Matt’s Jeep was spotted in the distance and our trek was done (except for the bouncy ride out). Just before we reached the S2, a truck was parked directly on the road! We were about to drive around them without incident, as we did they had a whole table of food set up behind them. We were not impressed by the Cal Tech Geology team and their choices.
Our original plan was to drive back up to McCain Valley and try from Gasp Benchmark, but we decided against it. Susie opted to save it as her final peak so that more folks might be able to celebrate with her. Instead, I convinced the group to take a short stroll to the top of Egg Mountain which was just across the road (Matt did it while waiting for us in the morning). More of a bump, it is listed on the Borrego Benchmark Club list, so why not?! We grabbed some trash along the way to the summit, but could not find a register or any other marks. We strolled back along the road (yes, we could have driven to the top). We said goodbye to Matt and thanked him for driving us to the trailhead.
Since we still had some time, and Matt B. had not done Mt. Tule yet, I offered to drive to the trailhead. This is also a modest portion of the road to the trailhead to Gasp Benchmark, so it would be worthwhile to see its condition. It was like I remembered, bumpy and at times a bit rutted. I pulled into the same spot I parked last time. Susie opted to tag along with Matt, but I was more than happy to grab a nap. They found the use trail to the summit without a problem and were back before I really started snoring (I think). I dropped them back off at their car and headed home. Unfortunately, Susie’s house keys had fallen out (thankfully in the car), so she and Matt had to drive all the way to my house in PQ to get them. Nevertheless, that was the 87th peak of my #SD100! With luck, I should hit 90 before this desert season ends.
I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.