With both Susie and Ted unavailable to tag along for Sunday’s adventure, I had some choices to make as to what peak I was going to climb. I could try for Groan Benchmark, which Susie did a couple of weeks back when I was in Joshua Tree but did not like the 6+ miles of off-road solo driving to the trailhead. That really only left Coyote or Travelers Peak as options. I settled on Travelers Peak since it was the shorter of the two.
Passing through Ramona, I caught a wonderful pre-dawn glow. Too bad Ted wasn’t along for the ride, as he would have been all over it. I could see the snow still up on the mountains as I neared Santa Ysabel. Hopefully, I will be done before all the folks who will be heading to the mountains to play in the snow head back into town. I snapped a few photos of the snow-capped Thimble and San Ysidro before making my way down to the desert floor. Just about halfway down, I quickly stopped as some borregos (sheep) were making their way across the road. I grabbed my camera and began snapping away, and managed to get several nice shots. This was the first time I had seen them up here, as my previous sightings have all been further south. I took it as a good omen for the day’s adventures.
After making a quick bio-break at Hellhole Canyon, I cruised through town and out toward the turnoff to the Calcite Mine. The first time I hiked this area, we had parked right next to the road. The second time, I drove partway in before stopping. This time, I figured I could drive all the way to Calcite Mine and start from there, saving some mileage and elevation. As I made my way up the road, it was in great shape. In fact, about partway up, a minivan was parked at a turnout. I thought, “What is Leslie Adams doing out here…?” I had recalled there was one possible rough spot near the end of the road, but it appears that has been resolved. Another Subaru was parked there when I arrived. The driver was just making his way down from exploring partway up the use trail. We chatted a bit, then I set off.
The weather was pleasant as I began working my way up the use trail. The first part of the hike has a very nicely defined use trail from folks exploring just a bit of the ridge once they make it up here, but after the first bump or so, it begins to fade a bit. The route basically follows the ridgeline the entire way to the summit. The challenge of this hike is three-fold, with the first being the steepness. In the 1.3 miles to the summit, I would climb over 1,600 feet. The second challenge is the nature of the Santa Rosas. The geology of this range tends to be crumbly earth, so that is something to contend with. The final challenge is this ridge is often quite narrow. If you have done Mt. Baldy via Devil’s Backbone, that is what you can expect for several sections.
I kept a careful and measured pace as I worked my way up. There is very little plant life on this trail, so at least I did not have to worry about that. Several times the route encounters a section that will give you pause as to how you are going to overcome it. The first two, I took a route to the right. This allowed me to safely avoid a real up-climb.
I continued plodding on toward the summit, pausing to snap a photo from time to time. As I neared the summit, I stood before a doozy of a challenge, but I recalled that the way to bypass this was to take the route to the left. Even the bypass was still a real challenge, as it required using my hands to safely navigate it. Ted is going to hate doing this peak…
Finally, the summit came into view. I slipped off my pack and soaked in the view. The Salton Sea was very clearly visible to my east. I forget how big it is. Usually, I am looking from much further west. Off to my north was Marble Peak and beyond that Rosa Point. My views to the south and west were equally stunning. The snow-capped mountains were a nice treat. I signed the register and enjoyed a snack. I realized later I forgot to snap new photos of the reference marks…oh well. Once I was ready I began my careful descent.
I took it slowly and carefully, and in fact several times, I sat down and worked my way down a challenging section or two. The sun would glint off my windshield way down below. It is always nice to know it is still there.
Soon, I was back at the car and had crossed another peak off my x2 list. A Jeep had driven up and we chatted a bit while I was stowing my gear. It was still early and I debated if I wanted to go explore something else. I considered driving out to Fonts Point, or maybe hiking out to Hans Benchmark. But in the end, I decided to explore a small section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail near Ranchita. This would let me have a little fun in the snow. The entire hike logged in at 2.6 miles with 1,664 feet of elevation gain. Including my time at the summit, it took me 3:26 to complete.