Nopal Benchmark

Today’s adventure was a combination of climbing some peaks listed on the Borrego Benchmark Club list and some fun off-road adventures in the Valley of the Moon area. Dave picked Ted and me up in his Rubicon and headed down the freeway toward the Valley of the Moon. Ted has been wanting to climb Blue Angels Peak to cross another SoCal county high point off the list.

After climbing Blue Angels Peak and Whip Benchmark, our next destination was Nopal Benchmark, which sits to the southwest of some communication towers. We drove up past them to a small turnout. A small fire ring had been built and next to it was a small frying pan. We wondered who would have left it behind. I spotted a use trail that led up the slope of the peak and began following it toward the summit. Not more than a minute later, a car pulled up and out hops a kid to retrieve the frying pan! He had slept there last night and missed it when he packed up. We asked how it was overnight, and he replied it was nice except for being a bit windy. He hopped in this car and drove off. We continued upward following the use trail. We had to climb over a couple of rocks, but other than that it was a straightforward ascent.

The summit did not have a benchmark nor a register, but it had great views of the 8 freeway just below us. 

Once back at the car, we saw that it was getting close to lunch, so we decided to skip Quirk Benchmark and Smuggler’s Den. There are a couple more benchmarks back here (Gold and Tehe) and I am sure I can convince Dave to go driving back here again. We hit The Outpost in Alpine for some great pizza and a beer before heading home. A great day to cross two more of my Borrego Benchmark Club list and have some fun in the Rubicon!


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. 

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