I needed a good hard hike to keep training for upcoming my Red Top/Sawtooth attempt. I considered some of the harder desert hikes as an option, but Ted needs most of those peaks and he was going to be unavailable on Sunday. I was able to convince my friend Dave to tag along for some company. Initially, I wanted to hike Agua Tibia again, but Dave’s time constraints were tighter than mine, so that was not an option. Since I signed up for the San Diego Edition of the Six-Pack of Peaks and am doing the Tour Our Trails challenge as well, I figured why not just do “The Hardest Hike in San Diego™”, aka El Cajon mountain.
We wanted an early start as we both wanted to be home to watch the game. As we drove out to the trailhead, I snapped a photo of the morning sky for Ted, one of his favorite parts of our adventures. The parking lot was not open yet, and a modest amount of cars lined the road. We quickly geared up and set off. The fruit stand was open and looked tempting.
We shed our jackets after about a mile. I was all set to stuff into the sleeping bag compartment in my pack, only to discover I never took out the windbreaker from last weekend. So into the main part of the pack it went. The miles ticked off fairly well as we made our way up and down the trail. A few folks passed us returning to the car from probably being at the summit for sunrise.
Stopping for a quick snack just before the old jeep, we hear the sounds of someone sharing their music. This behavior annoys me to no end. I came out here to enjoy nature, not your favorite jam. We let them pass, along with their unleashed dog, then waited a bit before resuming. Finally the summit came into view and we began the last bit.
Once at the summit, there were a few people scattered about. I found a spot off the side and enjoyed my PB&J and a few orange slices, while Dave had to take care of some work-related issues. The summit sign was no longer in the ground, but it was still attached to the pole. I snapped a few photos and was ready to head out. Since folks were hanging out where the marks are located, I skipped them this time.
As we headed back down, we encountered more folks making their way up. Also, the day was warming up a touch. I had to think some of the folks are not going to like their hike back to the car. El Cajon is known as a hike that is “uphill, both ways”. I did regret not wearing a lighter shirt and pants, as I was starting to feel a tad warm. We plodded our way back to the car without any real issue. All told our active hiking time was 6:15, not too bad. I think if we had stayed longer at the summit, and I had some more recovery time before setting off our time could have been under 6 hours.
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.