Corte Madera Overnight

Six weeks ago I had two vertebrae in my neck fused, and now I was about to set off for my first backpacking trip. In addition to the new hardware I was internally sporting, I was also testing out several new pieces of gear. I decided to switch to a Gossamer Gear The One tent, a NEMO Tensor sleeping pad, and replace my JetBoil with an MSR Pocket Rocket 2. All told I shaved about 2 pounds off my base weight. In addition, since this trip was so short, I opted to use my Osprey Stratos 34 pack instead of my bigger Osprey Atmos 65. That pack change took almost another 1.5 pounds off my base weight. 

I pulled into the small pullout for Corte Madera in the mid-afternoon. One other car sat there under the warm sun. As I finished getting ready to set off, I drank the last of my pre-hike water. There are no water sources on this hike, so I was being mindful of my hydration needs. I closed the hatch of the Subaru and set off! The first part of the hike is along the road that leads off to several properties to the north. The shade from the oaks was certainly welcomed, as well as a light breeze. Once I reached the turn-off to the Espinoza Trail, I knew I was about to start gaining some elevation. Wildflowers would occasionally dot the side of the trail, making for a pleasant trek up toward the saddle. Once I at the saddle, I turned toward the hard part of the trail—the steep climb up and around Coulter Peak. Having done this peak before, I knew what lay ahead. At the split rock, I took a well-earned rest under the shade of some Coulter pines.

Soon, I found myself nearing my planned campsite. Unlike my REI QuarterDome SL1, which uses a traditional frame for the tent, The One is supported by using your trekking poles and tie-downs. What I was fearful of was that the dirt at the campsite would not allow me to properly stake down the tent. Well, it turns out I was right. The dirt was not deep enough. So I instead had to use heavy rocks to keep the anchor lines in place. With the tent, and the rest of my camp set up, I hiked the 1/3 mile over to the summit to take my summit photo. It felt so odd not to be using my trekking poles even for such a short distance. I did not hang out long on the summit, as I wanted to be back at camp well before sunset.

Once back at camp, I relaxed a bit before making dinner. I did bring a can of “Nature Calls” from Burgeon Brewery to enjoy along with my Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. As the sun sank below the marine layer, I put on my new puffy jacket I plan to use on my Alaskan cruise. Since there was a quarter moon, I knew I wasn’t going to have any great star gazing until the very early morning. So, I turned in for the evening, wondering how my new sleeping pad was going to do. At around 2 in the morning, I awoke wondering why my hip was against the hard ground. It turns out my brand-new sleeping pad had a slow leak. I fumbled around for the sack used to inflate it and got it back to an acceptable level. I was not pleased. 

Around 5 am, I awoke again, as the pad had deflated enough again to cause me some discomfort. I knew the sun would be up soon, so I decided to get moving. I brewed a cup of coffee as the sun slowly rose. One of the ways I opted to keep my water load a bit lighter was not to have breakfast at camp, but instead just some coffee and a breakfast bar. I would enjoy a proper meal at Janet’s Montana Cafe in Alpine. One of the camp treats I like to enjoy is a small apple pie for dessert. I was too full yesterday evening to eat it, so I still had it in my food bag. I figured it now counted as a pastry instead of a dessert, so I had it with my coffee instead of the Nutri-Grain bar. I broke camp, but before I headed back to the car, I grabbed just my trekking poles and returned to the summit. I watched the morning light spread out across the landscape.

Once back at my campsite, I put on my pack and set off. Just past Coulter Peak, I heard voices from some early morning hikers. I stepped aside as they continued their climb toward the summit. They mentioned they wondered who was already parked at the trailhead this early. I told them I had camped near the summit. Internally, I knew my car was still there. The rest of the return was uneventful and I had about 1/4 liter of water left when I reached the car. In retrospect, I could have taken a bit more to reduce my water anxiety, but I never felt thirsty. I do need to figure out my electrolyte system if I am going to continue to use bottles and not a reservoir, but that is a problem for another day. With a clean shirt and some of the dirt and sweat wiped off, I drove on down to Alpine and enjoyed some delicious biscuits and gravy and a couple of eggs. Except for the sleeping pad issue, the trip went really well. My legs are a little sore, and in looking over my moving time, I think I actually was hiking too fast with my gear. In the end, it was great to be backpacking again. Now to swap out that pesky sleeping pad…

Update

I tested my sleeping pad again to verify the leak. I inflated it at 8am, and at 4pm the pad was still fully inflated. So, what happened while I was out camping? What I think happened is when I was inflating the pad, I overfilled it, so the valve on the pad popped off. Maybe I did not put the value back one correctly. When I testing, I made sure that value was properly seated, and I did not over-inflate, so maybe that was the source of the slow leak.


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. 

Wave Cave

Since my son would be at work all day Monday, I decided to bring my hiking gear with me to Arizona and try to get in some early morning hiking. I wanted something relatively short, but interesting, so I decided to hike up to the Wave Cave. I drove to the Peralta trailhead parking lot. This was the same road I used when I hiked the Hieroglyphic Trail a couple of years ago. A couple of hikers were starting out when I pulled into the dirt lot. It was a chilly 47°F as I grabbed my gear, but I knew that cold feeling would soon fade into memory. The trail headed across the flat desert floor, but off in the distance I could spot the cave up on the hillside. After about 0.6 miles, the trail reaches the boundary of the Superstition Wilderness. While a trail does run along the fence, I continued north through an opening. In another 0.2 miles, the trail to Carney Springs forked to the right, but I stayed on the more used trail to the left. At this point, I would start climbing toward the cave.

The trail now passed into a ravine and began to climb in earnest. The trail crosses over the ravine and makes the final push up to the cave itself. As I got to the cave, the couple who were ahead of me were just about to leave. I asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a few photos of me on the “wave” before they left. Once they left, I had the cave to myself (since this is a popular hike, it was a rarity, which is one advantage of starting at dawn). After exploring the cave and having some water, I headed back down the trail.

The views out across the desert were lovely, and as I made my way back toward the car, I passed several more hikers heading up. Unfortunately, I made a misstep with about 0.5 miles to go and rolled my ankle. Thankfully, I was able to keep going with just a little discomfort and got back to the car without any further issues. Back at the hotel, I wrapped my ankle and kept it elevated and iced for the rest of the day. This was a fun little hike (despite the rolled ankle). 


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. 

Papago Park Loop

Near the hotel where we were staying for my son’s graduation (go ASU! Forks Up!) is Papago Park. Since I had brought my hiking gear, I decided to wake up early and explore it before it became too warm. I parked near the Hole-In-The-Rock and set off. The Hohokam Tribe used this hole in the rock as a calendar to mark the summer and winter solstice. The hole is directly visible from the parking lot, and a few folks were already exploring it. I did not see a path from this side and followed the trail to the backside. On reaching the backside, I also did not find a route to the hole. I must admit, I did not do my usual research for this hike, as I should have found a trail on the backside. Next time when I visit my son in Tempe, I will do the trail correctly. I wasn’t too disappointed, as I was more interested in seeing the park. I headed to the northwest to loop around the Papago Buttes, then down to Little Butte. The trails were nicely defined and several folks were out for their early morning run or walk. I hiked part way up Little Butte to take in the views of Phoenix. I was starting to get hungry, so I headed back to the car. 


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. 

Cedar Creek Falls

** WARNING **

This is not an appropriate hike for hot weather!!

Temperatures in the San Diego River Gorge frequently reach well over 100 degrees. While hiking out to the local swimming hole for a refreshing dip may seem like a good idea on a hot summer day, each year dozens of hikers regularly succumb to heat exhaustion while trying to hike back out to the trailhead. Several heat-related fatalities have occurred on this trail. In the summer, the waterfall does not flow, and the little water that is in the pool is usually stagnant and green with algae, so it’s really not worth risking your life for.


Don’t judge me, but in all my years hiking in San Diego, I had never hiked out to see Cedar Creek Falls. I was close when I summitted Peak 1546, but never continued on to the falls themselves. Since I wanted to continue to test out my recovery by wearing my daypack, I thought the trek out to the falls would fit the bill nicely. I paid the $6 to obtain my permit and headed out to the trailhead in Ramona. A marine layer would keep the temperatures down on what is typically a very warm hike. I pulled into the parking area and one car sat alone in the lot. I had picked up breakfast on the way out but wasn’t hungry yet, so I tossed the biscuit sandwich into my pack and set off. The kiosk was filled with warnings about the difficulty and the dangers of the heat. The lure of a waterfall and swimming hole is incredibly strong, which is why a permit is needed to help defray the impact on this destination. The trail began working its way down towards the San Diego River Gorge. As I cruised along, mileage markers dotted the side of the trail indicating the distance to the waterfall and back to the trailhead. Given this is mostly an inverted hike, the real effort is in the return to the trailhead. Wildflowers lined the side of the trail and bird songs filled the air. Every so often, shade shelters would be found. Each had rescue information attached for those who might need it.

Soon I reached the end of my descent and would start the next part of the adventure–the water crossings. To reach the falls, I would need to first traverse the San Diego River, then Cedar Creek twice. This was a perfect time to test out the new waterproof hiking boots I bought for my upcoming trip to Alaska. The first crossing took a little care, as the creek was still flowing nicely, and not all the rocks were above the waterline. My foot did get a tad wet on one rock but otherwise had no issues, and mainly because these were low-rise shoes and not high-topped. The second and third crossings were handled without incident.

he flowing falls came into view, and they were a sight to see. I scrambled over the smooth rocks to take a few photos. Three young women were enjoying their morning snacks nearby. I broke out my biscuit and ate some of it while enjoying the falls. Since I still needed to work today, I said farewell to the others and began my trek back.

Safely staying mostly dry across the crossings, I started my ascent. I now started to encounter more folks making their way out. The only unexpected sight along the way was a wild turkey running down the trail, but otherwise, the climb back to the trailhead was a nice steady one. Back at the car, I changed into a dry shirt and drove home. Since Kit Fox Outfitters was not open, I would have to stop by another time to get my sticker for the Ramona Trails 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, 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. 

Oceanside Trail

The long-awaited trail from the Pt. Loma Lighthouse down to the tide pools finally opened.  This trail was constructed by crews from Joshua Tree National Park, the California Conservation Corps, and the San Diego Urban Corps. We drove out and parked near the western end of the parking lot and followed the trail beyond the Military History Exhibit toward the Lighthouse. Just past the Kelp Forest overlook, the trail began its 350-foot descent. We passed by one of the World War II observation posts, and the trail provided a sweeping view of the coast and the current lighthouse. A couple of benches were strategically placed, probably more for those making the steep climb back up. Soon we reached the end of this trail and the start of the Coastal Trail. We wandered along for a bit, before beginning our climb back up the point.

Just as we set off, a rattlesnake slithered off the trail. Our wives were not pleased. As we neared the top, a man was walking down the trail with his two dogs. I stopped to inform him that dogs are not allowed on the trail and he responded, “that is in dispute “. I responded, “no it is not, so feel free to enjoy a ticket from the Ranger. By the way, there is a rattlesnake near the trail.” He continued on down the trail, and when I glanced back, another hiker was also speaking to him. We then wandered over to the newly reopened Visitor Center for a bit before heading down to Shelter Island for a picnic. It is nice to be able to more fully explore Cabrillo National Monument on foot.


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. 

South Clevenger Canyon

It was finally time to try hiking with an actual daypack on my shoulders. Since the surgery, I have been using my Osprey waist pack (which I am really liking), but I needed to test out my neck a bit if I hope to go backpacking soon. As I am a sucker for stickers or patches, I decided to do the other trail for the Ramona Hiking Challenge for April– South Clevenger Canyon. Ted and I pulled into the parking lot a bit after 8, with overcast skies and air a bit more humid than usual. We cruised up the trail at a comfortable pace, stopping to photograph some of the remaining wildflowers. A few people passed us as we continued climbing, returning from the chairs. Soon the chairs came into view, and we rounded the backside of the boulder to which they are affixed, with ropes to scale it. I missed the wooden ladder…

We enjoyed the view of the San Pasqual Valley for a bit before scrambling down. We cruised back to the car, passing several folks beginning their journey. All in all the checkout hike went well. Now to keep building up my neck and shoulder muscles for heavier loads.


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. 

Ramona Grasslands

After the pair of adventures the day before, I opted for something a bit more on the mild side. Since the Ramona Trails Challenge was underway, why not tackle one of the April trails? Ramona Grasslands seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I opted to hike the route clockwise, doing a section of the preserve I had never explored. The grass was still green and there were still a few flowers out. While the sun was warm, there was enough of a breeze to keep things pleasant. A few others were also out enjoying the trail, including some horseback riders. All in all, it was a lovely 3.4 mile hike along the trail. Afterward, I headed over to Kit Fox Outfitters to get my challenge sticker for the hike.


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. 

Ruffin Canyon

We still had some gas in our legs after hiking Rice Canyon, so we opted to explore Ruffin Canyon in Serra Mesa. The trailhead was next to Taft Middle School and began by wandering through a small garden before passing by the school and then dropping into the canyon. Wooden stairs helped guide us down the canyonside. After ducking under some overgrowth, the trail kept working its way south.

Finally, we came to the canyon floor and the trail became very rocky. This was common along canyon floors, but usually, the trail would leave the stream bed. As we kept pushing on, no such luck. Checking the map, we knew we were almost at the trail’s end, so we kept trudging along. Finally, we reached the northern end of Portofino Apts. Neither one of us had any desire to walk back up the canyon through those rocks, so we opted to hail a Lyft to take us back to the car. I know my ankles thanked me.


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. 

Rice Canyon

I decided to explore another one of our urban trails – this time Chula Vista’s Rice Canyon. Ted and I pulled into the parking lot for the Rice Canyon Demonstration Garden. The trail headed almost due west, and brown wooden posts capped with yellow let us know this section of the trail is a part of the California Riding and Hiking Trail. We cruised along the wide, well-groomed trail until we reached North Rancho Del Rey Parkway. The trail picked up on the other side and continued west until it ended at East H Street.

Then, we followed the road to the Snake Canyon trailhead. Unlike Rice Canyon, this trail is a single-track, and judging by how it’s been modified by mountain bikers, we kept an ear open for any that might be riding down. The trail finally popped out of the canyon near a fire station, and from there it was a short road walk back to the car. 

Tecolote Canyon North

I decided to explore Tecolote Canyon North today. While I had hiked Tecolote Canyon South a few weeks ago, roads and a golf course prevent you from easily hiking it end to end.  I found the trailhead at the south end of a field behind the North Clairemont Rec. Center and took the steep and rocky trail down into the canyon. Once there, the trail quickly became a lovely stroll under the canopy of oaks and other trees.

The stream flowed along the trail, fed by the recent rains. The trail mostly continued south, with the occasional runner passing me. I had one stream crossing that took some care, as the banks were a bit slick from the mud. Once safely across, I kept enjoying this trail’s scenery. Eventually, the trail ended at Balboa Ave. While you can walk along Balboa Ave, to Clairemont Blvd., then back again to explore, I choose to take the trail that led up to Mt. Etna Park.

After a short climb, the trail sidehills along Balboa Ave. for about ¼ mile before dropping into another side canyon. I cruised along this trail, crossing over a nice steel-framed bridge. Once at the park, I began to retrace my route. It was then I remembered we have our mobile mechanic coming to my house to work on the car that was parked at the trailhead. I picked up my pace, and thankfully made it home only a little late (I did text him of my forgetfulness).


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.