Wild Horse Peak

While I only have one more peak to summit to complete the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, fighting the crowds on the ones that are open was something I did not care to do. So, instead, I turned to summiting one of the mountains on the Sierra Club Lower Peaks Committee. This is a collection of peaks whose summit is below 5,000 feet. Some of these I have done while completing the 100 Peak Challenge. However, there was still one remaining to be climbed in San Diego, Wild Horse Peak in the Agua Tina Wilderness.

I drove up to Dripping Springs Campground, with Ted following in his own car. The three free spots were already full at 7:30. I put up my Adventure Pass and Ted grabbed one of the Self Pay slips. The skies were still overcast, but we knew this should burn off as we rubbed on the sunscreen.

We passed through the campground, where breakfasts were being made over the campfires. The smell reminded me of so many mornings at my parents’ cabin. I signed the register and we set off. This is the same trailhead for Agua Tibia and for the very adventurous Eagle Crag. After crossing the dry creek bed, we turned onto Wild Horse trail and began our climb.

The trail was a nice shape. Wildflowers still dotted the side of the trail. At times, some growth did extend onto the trail, but nothing bothersome. We did spy some poison oak at times, so know your plants! We kept on cruising up the trail, enjoying the views spread out before us. Off to the east, was one impressive orchard. 

After a while, we spotted the cairn that denoted the use trail to the summit. The pleasant grade we had for the last 4.5 miles was to be replaced with a steep climb on loose decomposed granite. Descending this was not going to be fun. We made our way slowly up to the Ridgeline. The trail was fairly easy to follow, thanks in part to Kelly Laxamana who routinely hikes these trails and maintains them.

Now on the ridgeline, the grade eased and the summit was clearly in view. Before long, the familiar red register can stood nestled amongst a pile of rocks. We shed our packs and took in the sweeping views; Vail Lake to the north, with San Gorgonio far beyond that, to the northeast San Jacinto stood, calling for our return. Off to the south was Palomar High Point. To the Southwest, Agua Tibia.

I signed the register and saw that the last person to add their name was our good friend Susie Kara. There really isn’t a good place to sit down on this summit, so after a snack and some fluids, we headed back down the mountain.

Thankfully, the descent we worried about was not too bad. Slow and careful, as this was not a race. Once back on the main trail, we could return to a nice steady pace. The sun had broken through earlier, but we still had sections of shade and a light breeze to keep us comfortable.

Finally, with about two miles to go, we encountered our first set of hikers. I SO wanted to check the “Only Party On The Mountain” checkbox on peakbagger.com, but it was not to be. It was a large group, but they quickly passed as we turned our faces away. By the time we reached the end of the trail, we met four other groups working their way up the trail.

As we passed back through the campground, it had become mostly empty, although the day-use lot was completely full. With that, I completed my 8th Lower Peaks Committee mountain! I logged the hike at 10.1 miles in 5 hours with an elevation gain of 2,049 feet. 

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, Central Coast, 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. 

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