We tentatively hoped to squeeze in Buckman Benchmark after crossing Otay Mountain and Tecate Peak off Susie Kara’s San Diego Sierra Club 100 x2 attempt. But we did not feel that we had the time given Susie needed to get back in town to teach yoga in the late afternoon. After dropping her off back at her place and grabbing lunch, I was itching to get some actual hiking in. The San Diego Sierra Club-North County group had kicked off a Wilderness Basics Challenge, so I decided to explore one of the hikes on that list. One that caught my eye was the Mule Hill Trail. This relatively flat-out and back hike was just about 15 minutes from my house. I parked in the large lot near the Sikes Adobe, grabbed my gear, and set off.
After passing by the restored farmhouse, the trail arches around the shoreline of Lake Hodges before heading mostly east. This trail passes by the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Mexican War. A number of interpretive signs along the trail tell the story of a group of US soldiers surrounded by enemies after the Battle of San Pasqual. This is where US troops (including Kit Carson) retreated after the Battle of San Pasqual a few miles away. The US troops held the hill for four days awaiting reinforcements, while surrounded by enemies. They had to resort to eating their mules, and thus the small promontory earned its name. The US troops had just about given up all hope of rescue and were about to try and fight their way out when a group of Marines came to their aid.
After cresting a small rise, the fields of the San Pasqual Agricultural Preserve spread out before me. The trail continued straight along the edge of the fields for over a mile. Around 3.2 miles I came to a “Y” junction. To the right was a connector trail leading to the Old Coach Trail on the opposite side of Highland Valley Road. The Coast to Crest Trail continued to the left, heading to Raptor Ridge. I took my required photo for the challenge and retraced my route. There were a few folks out enjoying the trail, but for most of the hike, I was able to enjoy the solitude. I am guessing that this trail will be on next year’s Coast to Crest Challenge.
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.