Kwaay Paay

Another peak I needed some more photos for my trail guide on SoCal Hiker was Kwaay Paay. This is a short 2.8-mile hike, so I decided to do it over a long lunch break. Ted Markus was off, so he joined me in doing this peak.

We cruised up the trail to the peak, encountering a few hikers here and there. Ted did comment that he wishes he brought his poles (hum, might have mentioned that in the trail guide…).

The summit was nice, I had not been here since the new summit marker was installed. This was one of the reasons I needed to do this peak again. We hustled back down, grabbed lunch at Mi Ranchito in PQ, and enjoyed their fine Mexican food in my backyard.

Monserate Mountain

I needed to return to Monserate Mountain to take some updated photographs for a trail guide I am writing from SoCal Hiker. Since I had the day from work, I thought would make the short drive up and snap a few photos that I needed.

After taking a few versions of the new sign, I started up the trail. Since a portion of the trail is closed until December 2022, I was hoping to photograph the closure signage at the junction for inclusion in the guide. Plus, I need some ‘trail’ shots to reflect what the trail looks like. My two previous times up this peak were a bit light on photos.

At the first junction, there was no signage, but I was really enjoying the hike, so I kept going. Finally, at the final junction, there was a closure warning. I continued onto the summit and snapped more photos. San Gorgonio and San Jacinto’s snowcapped summits stood off to the north.

I certainly had a much better set of photos for the guide, so I headed back down to the car. All in all, a nice hike of 3.1 miles in 1:34 with an elevation gain of 1,148 feet.

A Ghost of a finish…

The original plan was to drive out to Ghost Mountain and join Erika, Tara, and Kali as they complete the 100 Peak Challenge! Then afterward we had planned to head down to Diablo Benchmark, but my car had a battery issue, so we had to switch into Susie’s car which would not be capable of the drive up June Wash. Oh well…

Kali drove out to the entrance to Blair Valley and shuttled us back to the Marshall South trailhead. Once we were all assembled we trekked up to the Marshall South homestead. After some exploring of the ruins, we Kali drove out to the entrance to Blair Valley and shuttled us back to the Marshall South trailhead. Once we were all assembled we trekked up to the Marshall South homestead. After some exploring of the ruins, we headed on to the summit. Unfortunately, just before the summit, I got stabbed by an agave! While our finishers scrambled up the summit block, I took care of my wound. Once I was patched up, all the finishers posed together!

We then cruised back to the homestead and rejoined those who chose not to continue. Once back at the trailhead we shuttled back to Susie’s car. Since my daughter was coming home from college (and I now had to deal with my car trouble), we skipped the pizza back in Wynola.

Big Congrats to all the finishers!

Sheephead Mountain

Today’s adventure was doing Sheephead Mountain for a third time, as Ted Markus needed it for his effort to finish the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list. We drove down the semi-paved Kitchen Creek Road off of Sunrise Highway. The dirt road to East Butte was in better condition than this one. Pine needles again crunched under our boots, as we made our way to the other Kitchen Creek road. Once there, I again made sure to leave a mark to find the use trail back up the ravine. I missed it the first time I summited.

We climbed the improperly placed fence/gate and continued down the road a bit before heading off to locate the use trail that would take us up to the summit. Now the real effort would begin, the trail would climb some 600 feet in about .3 miles. The trail has become a bit overgrown, and in fact, it did rip the left sleeve of my shirt. 

We hung out at the summit just for a bit, taking in the views and having a quick snack before heading back down. The descent was uneventful which, given some of the steep sections, was a good thing. We cruised home and grabbed some burritos from Mi Ranchito in PQ. My tracker logged the hike at 3.2 miles in 2:08 with 928 feet of gain.

Oriflamme Mountain

After I finished the 100 Peak Challenge back in 2019, a couple of the peaks were swapped out. SquareTop and Rock Mountain were dropped and Paradise and Oriflamme Mountains were added. While I had previously done Paradise, I had never hiked to the summit of Oriflamme. While it can be done as a side trip when doing Roost Benchmark, I never made the extra effort. So, I finally decided to cross this peak off my “unclimbed” list. I drove up in the early morning and parked next to the Lucky S Ranch. While it was in the upper 30s as I passed through Julian, it warmed up to the upper 40s as I set off down the dirt road toward Oriflamme. 

A lot of the route was the same we took on our first trek out to Roost Benchmark. This hike is an inverted one, meaning you hike down and then have the “fun” of hiking back up to the trailhead.

After about 2 miles, it was time to leave the road and begin the cross-country climb to the peak. A cairn marked a good opening through the brush. Thankfully the brush was about knee-high, so spying the path of least resistance was fairly straightforward. The slope posed no issues as I weaved my way up, spotting a cairn from time to time. Finally, the rocky pile that denotes the summit came into view. I scrambled to the top to soak in the views. The register can was safely tucked in a crevice. I signed my name and strolled around the summit, enjoying the panoramic view.

I needed to get back, so I headed down toward the road, again just weaving through the brush and moving mostly down and to the west. I actually exited at the same cairn I used to begin the cross-country section. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket?

The climb back up was uneventful. It certainly was easier than the last two times I trudged up that road. My tracker logged this hike at 4.4 miles in 2:00 hrs with an elevation gain of 1,288 feet.

Morena Butte

I wanted to hike out to Diablo Benchmark, but since we could not head out until 11, it was going to be too warm to attempt it. Instead, I looked at some of the peaks Ted needed to complete on the San Diego Sierra Club 100 peak list. But I really did not want to go bushwhacking up Middle Peak, Manza Benchmark or Sheephead Mountain. That left Morena Butte as our best option for a nice afternoon hike. We stopped at the Ranger station and got our parking permit ($3). We parked next to the trailhead and set off down the service road to the dam. A light breeze kept the temperatures pleasant. 

The road worked its way around the edge of Lake Morena, until after about a mile, we turned off onto the trail that would have us connect with the PCT. The Butte loomed over us to the west. We cruised along the PCT for a bit until we reached the turn off to the use trail that would lead us to the summit.

The trail would now weave its way upward through the manazatia. We continued working our way toward the north butte. Once on the slabs near the summit, a nice collection of cairns pointed the way. There is no benchmark on this peak, and we did not locate a register. I found a nice spot to enjoy a late lunch. We debated working our way over to the west butte, but Ted had already run 13.1 miles in the morning, so he was ok with skipping it. Plus, I was feeling a little bit from my ascent of San Ysidro the day before. 

We made our way back down without incident, opting to take the trail on the west side of the small valley this time. After tossing our gear back in the car, we stopped at the market just outside the county park and treated ourselves to some nice milkshakes. I logged the hike at 6.5 miles in 3:17 and 1,100 feet of gain. 

San Ysidro

With my peak-bagging friends busy, I set off to climb San Ysidro solo. I had planned to grab breakfast from the Jack In The Box in Ramona, but they were closed. Crud. Thankfully, Don’s Market in Santa Ysabel was open and I was able to grab some food. Just past where the Montezuma Valley Market is, I turned on to the dirt road that would take me to the start of the hike. I parked, grabbed my gear, and set off down the old jeep road. A tree had fallen since the last time had been here, so I had to drop into the stream bed to bypass it.

At the saddle, I opted to stay high and work my way toward the gully that I would follow to the base of the mountain. While it was not terrible, it was not great either. Once at the gully, the going became easy for a bit. At the base, I checked my previous track and started the climb. Some cairns were erected along the way, but the route mostly showed itself to me.

Once at the summit I took in the views. The previous time I was here they were obscured by clouds. I scrambled to the summit block and signed the register. I peered up to locate the two reference marks. I did not feel comfortable scrambling up their respective boulders solo.

My return route went smoothly, letting the mountain guide me back down. I did stay in the gully longer and it seemed to be slightly easier going back to the road. All told the hike was 4.01 miles in 3:38 and an elevation gain of 1,593 feet.

Los Pinos

After summiting Gasp Benchmark earlier in the day, we decided to see if we could drive up to Los Pinos and get that peak crossed off Susie’s remaining peaks. I had already been there twice before, so I did not need to go back, but was more than happy to act as her ‘car sherpa’. As we passed the trailhead for Corte Madera, it was full, as were the next 3 turn-outs. It was certainly a popular one today. Once we reached the junction at the Corral Canyon OHV area, we spotted a sign that indicated there was a locked gate ahead on the road to Los Pinos. We decided to venture on and see which gate might be closed. Susie thought it might be the lower gate, as that was the one that was locked the last time she was here. But as luck would have it, it was open, so we continued driving upward. Once we reached the summit, the gate for the road to continue north was locked. That was the gate I was expecting to be closed. We parked the car at the junction and walked the .2 miles to the summit. The lookout tower was manned, and Shane invited us up for a tour. Next to the tower, a memorial lookout had been built for a long-time ranger, Norman Mitchell.

Shane gave a full tour of the tower and how it operates. I had been here before, so I hung off to the side to let Susie and Alberto have front-row seats to the lecture and demonstrations. After soaking in the views and all the great information, we bid farewell and headed back down. With that peak, Susie is now under 30 more to go to complete the San Diego Sierra Club 100 list a second time. 

Eagle Peak

Today’s adventure had Susie Kara and I heading out to hike Eagle Peak. After some navigational errors on my part during the drive (that I atoned for by buying a flight at Calico Cidery), we pulled into the parking lot. There were a couple of cars already there, including a ranger. After grabbing our gear, we set off down the trail, stopping to chat with the ranger for a bit. He informed us that they are hoping to make some major improvements to this trailhead, pave the parking lot (which is very rutted), add a pit toilet, and some picnic tables. If the budget is approved, work might start in 2022. 

For those unfamiliar with this trail, it shares the same trailhead as Three Sisters Falls, hence why there is a need for the improvements. After about 6/10 of a mile, the trail comes to the junction — to the left is the descent down to the VERY DRY waterfalls and straight onto Eagle Peak. In fact, there is a sign near the start of the trail with a photo of the state of the falls.

Initially, it felt a bit warm and we were glad this hike was just over 4 miles in length. Luckily, a nice breeze picked up and kept things pleasant. The trail is a little overgrown, but not too bad. We quickly worked our way up toward the summit, passing over the minor false summits. We signed the register and stood out on a boulder for some nice photos. We did not linger too long, as we really wanted to sample those ciders back in Wynola. Once back at the car, we estimated it was now in the mid-80s. A few more cars had arrived since we had left. Never can understand hiking in the heat to see a dry waterfall. We did the 4.2 miles in 2:04, including the time on the summit. My tracker reported just over 1,000 feet of gain. 

Our post-hike stop this time was the Calico Cidery in Wynola. This is a really cute tasting room. We each had a flight of the three ciders that were available, and enjoyed them on some nice shaded benches. I filled my growler with “The Granny” and Susie opted for “Fieldblend”. With a little luck, we might be able to do one of my remaining peaks next weekend.

Ranchita Benchmarks

Operation: Help Susie to 100×2! continued today with a return to Ranchita to hike out to White and Bonny Benchmarks. These peaks sit on the very western end of Anza-Borrego State Park. In fact, our initial route from the car parallels the border fence. I had done these peaks several times, so like yesterday I took the lead. Our path weaved around the various bushes and cacti following the animal trails that criss-crossed the desert floor. The plan was to hike out and up to White Benchmark, then work our way back down to pick up Clyde and Bonny Benchmarks.

We would gain almost 1,000 feet by the time we stood atop the summit block of White. The last push to the summit took a bit of effort, as it did become a bit steep and sandy. The skies were still hazy like the day before. It appears the register has been lost, so if anyone reads this and is planning to climb White Benchmark, bring a new one. We both again stared at The Thimble to our north and wondered how people climb it from the south or east side. Susie was so thankful that my route yesterday was 100x easier than her first time up it. 

As we made our way back down, we set off toward Clyde Benchmark. We made it part way up, but did not feel the need to reach the top. Again, no register was found where we thought one should be. Bonny was a short distance away. I lead us around the south side to the ledge on the west to the summit. Susie recalled working her way up a crack when she did it in 2017. We sat here for a bit taking in the views. Bonny still had her register, so we dutifully signed it. I opted not to crawl over the reference mark this time. 

We scrambled down and continued making our way back to the car. There is yet another benchmark nearby, Hut. But, neither felt the urge to go get, as I recalled the descent was a bit brushy. We stayed heading east to avoid some of the heavier brush that tends to grow in the drainages that seemed to always pull you in. So, we were back in the car and headed home. Normally, we would have grabbed a cold drink at the Montezuma Valley Market, but sadly it burned earlier this year. They are hoping to rebuild. Instead, we made a quick stop at Don’s Market for some cold drinks, and Dudley’s for some sandwiches. The entire hike was 4.6 miles in 3:24 (including stops) with 1,130 feet of gain.