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. 

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. 

Rancho Mission Canyon

After enjoying a nice biscuit I picked up from Rise, I grabbed gear and set off up Middle Rancho Mission Canyon. The trail was nice, with a few wildflowers here and there, and the sound of flowing water from time to time. Soon the trail made its short climb up to Cabaret Street. Two workers were there doing some trail maintenance, and we chatted a bit before I thanked them for their efforts and retraced my route. I wanted to log each route fully so I passed the junction to Lower Rancho Mission Canyon, went back to the trailhead, and reset my tracker.

I again walked for about 1/10 miles until I reached the junction for Lower Rancho Mission Canyon. The trail turned south and quickly encountered the stream that was flowing through the canyon. Thankfully the stream was not flowing too heavily so crossing it was easy, and from there, the trail climbed up a ravine. It was clear that the trail had been “upgraded “ for mountain bikers enjoying their downhill ride. Being mid-week, I doubted I would encounter anyone. The trail eased and passed some nearby houses for a bit before continuing to work its way toward Navajo Road. Some palm trees rose in the distance and from scouting this hike on Google Maps, I knew I was almost at my turn-around point. I tapped the sign at the trail’s end at Navajo Road and returned back down the canyon.

Back at the car, I checked my watch and had a little bit of time before the scheduled lift-off of the last Delta IV Heavy rocket from Florida, but would need to be mindful of the time while I hiked Upper Rancho Mission Canyon. This trailhead was next to the playground, which was just above the other trailheads. After a short climb from the playground, the trail eased up and worked its way along the side of the hills. As the countdown neared zero, I found a shady spot to watch the launch. Once the broadcast was done, I continued cruising along the trail. Soon I was greeted with a sweeping view of the Mission Trails Regional Park, just to my north. Finally, I reached the trailhead at Hemingway Drive, tapped that sign, and retraced my route 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. 

Walker Preserve Trail

I wanted to get something in before the rains came later in the day. So I decided to go explore the Walker Preserve Trail out in Santee/Lakeside. I convinced Jeremy to join me on this adventure. The gates to the parking lot were closed, so we found parking along a nearby street, as all the parking along Magnolia Avenue was taken. I later learned that this parking lot is used for staging for the restoration and clean-up efforts. After passing under a nice trailhead sign, a nice gazebo stood off to the side, along with some picnic benches. Just beyond that, a water fountain for humans and another one for your dog are available. The only bathroom appears to be a port-a-potty. We passed a large group of hikers that were milling about and set off down the nice wide and well-groomed dirt path.

Houses lined the left side of the trail, but the San Diego River would appear from time to time behind the brush. The sound of various birds would fill the air as we cruised eastward. There were several informational panels posted along the way, explaining some of the history of the area, most notably the sand mining that used to occur here. There was a short spur that led to a nice bench and a lovely view of the river. It is possible to access the river at certain points, where you might find some trying their luck fishing.

The trail splits at one point and makes a tiny climb to reveal two more picnic tables under some trees. The trail rejoins again and continues onto toward the Lakeside Baseball Park. There is water here, and when the field is in use, the bathrooms are available. We continued eastward, technically leaving the Walker Preserve Trail and joining the Lakeside River Trail. The houses to the north were now replaced with warehouses. We went under Riverford Road and then passed by a pocket park. The trail made a short dog leg and then passed by the Willowbrook Golf Course. We also came across a nice wooden view deck that has a nice view of the river. There was an unhoused person sleeping there, so we let him be and continued on. When reached Channel Road, we took a short break and worked our way back to the start. On the way back, we saw someone sitting in that pocket park with their binoculars scanning the field to the west for birds. We got back to the car, having beat the rain. The entire hike was 5.9 miles, with a whopping elevation gain of 34 feet (the short climb on the side trail was really something), and we did it in just under 2 hours of moving time.


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. 

Sweetwater River Trail

Dictionary HillAfter hiking some of the Sweetwater River Trail the day before, I decided to hike another section today. I started at Eastview County Park, which is next to the Sweetwater Campground. I spoke with the Ranger at the entrance kiosk who helped direct me to the proper parking lot. Several families were setting up for their children’s birthday parties. I wondered if I might be able to get a slice of cake when I get back from the hike? Since I hiked Dictionary Hill earlier, I needed to top off my water bottle before heading out. The trailhead was just a bit north of the entrance kiosk. I scanned the trailhead board for any notices and then paused to let two trail runners come up the trail. The ranger mentioned that I should keep an eye out for any ‘danger noodles’ along the trail, as it was starting to be snake season. With that in mind, I set off down the hill toward the river bottom.

The trail cruised, and just before a bridge that spans Hwy. 125, a connector trail from the actual campground joined. Once across the bridge, a large plaque told the story of Mary Augustine, who was instrumental in getting a trails system in place throughout Bonita. In fact, this bridge was named in her honor. The trail descended a bit more, with another trail joining, this time from the nearby baseball field. Once at the river bottom, the trail passed a set of horse stables before following the Bonita Golf Course. I cruised along the flat, wide trail and did indeed encounter two women on horseback. I stepped aside and hid my trekking poles from view, as I have learned that trekking poles can spook a horse. A few other folks passed by, some running, some on mountain bikes. I came to my turnoff onto the Blue Heron trail which would take me to Morrison Pond, my intended destination. I had hiked around the pond a couple of years ago for the Tour Our Trails Challenge. The trail was now a narrow, sandy one as it drew closer to the water. I reached the junction with the trail that would take me to the north side of the pond, but like yesterday the river was flowing too much to allow me to cross. In fact, there was another hiker on the other side who stopped at the water’s edge. We chatted a bit before we both retreated from the river.

I continued westward, where I knew I would have some nice views of the pond. From there I kept going until the trail turned southward and rejoined the wide trail I was on earlier. I retraced my route, climbing back up the hill to the trailhead. When I reached the trailhead, I went to turn off my tracker, only to discover it had glitched and not recorded. Instead, I snapped a photo to use its timestamp to figure out my hiking time (I had taken one at the start). I would have to draw my route in GaiaGPS to resolve my distance. On the way back home, I stopped at Han’s & Harry’s Bakery for a nice apple strudel, since I did not score a slice of cake from the birthday party.


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. 

Steele Canyon

I have driven past this trailhead numerous times, as I headed out for some of the peaks located further east. Finally, I had a chance to stop and explore the trails here. One of the main attractions for this hike is the historic bridge at the trailhead. I pulled into the smaller parking lot as there were a few spots available. I grabbed my gear and strolled across the bridge. The Sweetwater River flowed underneath it. Just past the bridge, was the larger parking lot. I wandered over to the signboard and checked out the plans to extend the trail system. It is always great to see new trails being planned.  

The trail crossed a small stream, and off to the side, a horse and its rider were taking a break. Once over the bridge, I began noticing signs along the sides of the trail. One of the trail options is to take an interpretative nature trail, and these signs highlight the local flora and fauna. Some were created as part of an Eagle Scout Project, and others by a collection of agencies.

I cruised along until the trail reached a marked junction. Here you could continue back along the nature trail, viewing the southern portion of the area, or keep heading west. After about .2 miles I reached the other bridge that crosses back over the river. Once across I stopped to see explore my options, when a couple and their dog caught up with me. We chatted a bit, they actually hike these trails a lot and invited me to join them. Rosci (named after the ship from The Expanse) trotted along ahead of us. The trail was now the service road for the water district, so we had plenty of room to chat about the network of trails and other hikes. Soon we reached where the road was gated. Rosci had a well-earned drink. My new hiking companions told me more about the plans to connect the trail to the west. We headed back once we all had a nice drink. They pointed at a small trail that goes down to the river and a spot that was crossable, but once there the river was running too high. I returned to the service road, and I caught back up with them, as they stopped to give Rosci another break. We chatted some more until we reached the junction again. They stayed on the service road while I crossed back over the bridge and followed the trail to the river and west. After crossing a small stream, the trail climbed a small distance to a nice overlook. From here you can get a great view of the valley. I kept on hiking west for a bit, but it was getting closer to lunch and some chicken enchiladas from Mi Ranchito were calling my name. 

Back at the initial junction, I took the trail to the south. The interruptive signs, once again started to dot the sides of the trail.   I took a side trail up to a nice shaded bench near one of the other trailheads. I cruised back to the trailhead tossed my gear into the car and headed home. This hike was another great reminder that San Diego is filled with so many great trails tucked away throughout the county.


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. 

Monserate Mountain Loop

With some unpleasant weather in the forecast, our planned hike out in Anza-Borrego seemed not to be the wisest option. So, instead, we decided to do something shorter and closer to home. Rick suggested, “Why not do Monserate Mountain?” That hike worked for me. As I pulled into the parking area a bit before 8, there were a lot more cars than I expected. I spotted a tent covering set up near the trailhead, so something organized looked to be happening. I grabbed my gear to investigate. It turned out that this was the conditioning check hike for the Wilderness Basics Course (WBC) participants. While hanging around I spied Casey Wear-Molean milling about. We had a brief chat before I spotted Rick and Andrea pulling in. I headed over to them and filled them in on the extra hikers this morning. They quickly grabbed their gear and were ready to head off. Most of the WBC hikers had left, so we weren’t in the thick of it. Andrea was feeling a little off, so she hiked her own hike. Rick and I would stop periodically to let her catch up. Meanwhile, I picked Rick’s brain about my water caching idea for doing the CRHT. He said it sounded solid, too bad my neck issues are keeping a backpack off me for the time being.

He picked my brain about various desert peaks that they need (and I need again for my x2). Once at the summit, we took a short break, had a quick snack, and snapped a few photos. I learned that the WBC hikers needed to summit within 55 minutes (1.5 miles), but since we stopped several times to regroup with Andrea I could not simply look at my elapsed time and see if I made the cut-off. Thankfully, Strava calculated “moving” time, and according to it, we made it to the summit in 43:23.

The rains had not come yet, so we opted to do the loop now that it was reopened. We made our way down from the summit and made a left turn toward the water tank. Part way down, a small spur trail led off to the side for about 20 feet, and according to Peakbagger, this tiny bump, Peak 1309, was in its database. Ascent recorded! 😉

We made our way down the stair section and soon found ourselves on the road that services the water tank. Following it down a bit, another trail to our right caught our eye. Checking out maps, this was a shortcut back to a trail that would loop back to the beginning, so off we went. It had a “fun” little bit of steep rocky section, but I prefer that over boring pavement any day.

Once on the connecting trail, we passed a wire-fenced trail to our left. Continuing our theme of exploration, we took it. After a short bit, it linked up with what appeared to be a trail that starts in the development to the south. We instead turned right, back toward the Monserate Mountain trail. The trail hugged the contour of the mountain and crossed several gullies with some nice wooden bridges. We reached a junction, and the main trail appeared to continue westward back to the development, while the other trail, we assumed, linked with the trail we started on. Our assumptions were correct, and we found ourselves back on the familiar trail. Once at the trailhead, Rick and Andrea offered me a cold Diet Coke, which I gladly accepted. We chatted a bit more, but soon those forecasted showers started, so we bid farewell before it really started coming down. Hopefully, the weather will be better next weekend and we can go climb something in the desert. The discovery of this new alternative section for the Monserate Mountain loop has my full endorsement. I logged this route at 3:93 miles with an elevation gain of 1,234 feet. The moving time was 1:51.


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. 

Woodson Mountain (via Fry-Koegel)

With my usual hiking companions busy, I decided to start working on this year’s San Diego Six Pack of Peaks challenge. I debated between Volcan Mountain and Woodson. Since I did not feel like making the long drive out past Julian, so Woodson it is. I opted to ascend via the Fry-Koegel trail and descend via the service road. Unlike last time, I started after the sun rose. While cars lined the road near the usual trailhead, no one was parked near the trailhead for Fry-Koegel. It was chilly, so I did slip on my light fleece before setting off. The trail follows the backyards of some homes for the first part of the trail. This time there were some lovely smells of breakfast cooking…

Some mushrooms lined the side of the trail as I worked my way westward. After a bit, I shed my fleece and secured it to my waist pack. 

A few folks passed me returning either from their earlier summit or a morning walk with their dog. 

Reaching the junction with the old Fry-Koegel trail and the new Fry-Koegel trail, I opted to take the old route again, in part to compare my times.

Once on the trail that leads up from Lake Poway, I cruised toward the summit. But first I would pass by the “famous” Potato Chip. I have been out on it several times, so I could bypass the Disney-like lines to climb out on it. Now I did snap a photo with my San Diego Six Pack of Peaks Challenge Legacy badge before cresting the summit.

I slipped my rubber tips onto my trekking poles, as the rest of the hike would now be on asphalt. Streams of hikes huffed and puffed their way up the road. Some were clearly not happy about the steepness of the route they were taking.

Soon I found myself back along the road. A sheriff’s car was parked right at the trailhead, and almost all the cars had a warning flyer about keeping valuables either at home or out of sight. In fact, there was broken glass from two smashed windows near where I parked. Thankfully, I had no issues upon my return. I tracked my hike at 5.3 miles in 2:19, with an elevation gain of 1,410 feet.


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. 

Goat Peak

With Ted needing to be home by noon-ish and the predicted warm temperatures, we settled on hiking Goat Peak as our adventure. I have done this one twice already, but Ted had never done it. We parked at the trailhead and gathered our gear. Since this hike was about 3 miles round trip, we both went lighter on our gear, with Ted wearing one of his running vests, while I opted for my new Osprey Waist pack. My upper back has been bothering me since my overnight trip to San Jacinto, so not having a pack on my back was a good thing. The trail starts off nice and mellow, crisscrossing the currently dry Sycamore Creek several times before beginning to make a steep climb toward the summit.

As we neared the start of this section, we heard some voices ahead of us. I was a bit surprised, as this peak is a little off the beaten path. It turns out it was a group of about 10 women hiking to celebrate one of their birthdays! They kindly let us motor past.

Soon we found ourselves at “The Wall”, and scaled it with no issue. Finally, the summit came into view, and shortly thereafter we were scrambling to its summit. There is no benchmark here, but there was a wooden sign and register box. We relaxed here a bit, and soon the women reached the summit as well. After chatting a bit, Ted and I began our careful descent. At one point I mentioned to Ted “Aren’t you glad you have trekking poles?” To which he answered with a resounding, “yes”.  Soon we were back on the mellow section and cruising back toward the car. The entire hike was 2.8 miles with 1,105 feet gain and in 2:19.


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.