Raptor Ridge

Decided to hike out to Raptor Ridge with my wife and dog. The parking lot had about 6 cars in it when we arrived. Rocky hopped out of the car ready to go!

We cruised along together making our way to the end of the flat section of the hike. Several groups of mountain bikers passed us. I usually have hiked this trail during the week and rarely see anyone, so it was nice to see it being used.

Anita and Rocky took a well-earned break while I began the climb up to the viewpoint. I had noticed some tenderness in my right foot after last week’s hike, and I was starting to feel it again. Once at the viewpoint, I snapped a few photos and let Anita know I was making my way back. As I descended, I could feel the pain increase. Ugh.

I made my way back along the trail, knowing that I was now looking at an extended break to let my plantar fasciitis recover. The question will be for how long?  I caught up with Anita and Rocky as they were taking a break at the table near the junction with the Mule Hill Trail. Despite my foot, we all had a nice time on the trails. My final hike on this year’s Coast to Crest Challenge is going to have to wait, along with my various other hiking adventures. 


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. 

Blue Sky to Lake Poway

Decided to knock out another on this year’s Coast to Crest Challenge by hiking the Blue Sky – Lake Poway Loop. There were a few spots left in the parking lot around 7:30. I grabbed my gear and headed down the Torretto Trail to connect with the Green Valley Truck Trail. Once I reached the junction with the Creekside Trail, I opted to take it this time. The last time I hiked this loop, I stayed on the GVTT. The Creekside Trail was more trail-like, as it paralleled the GVTT. If there was some flow in the creek, this little section of trail would be fantastic, but the biggest concern is the large amount of poison oak along the sides of the trail.

Once the trail reconnected with the GVTT, I continued eastward until I reached the Lake Poway Trail. Now I would start climbing up toward the lake. This time I opted to circle the lake in a clockwise manner to make sure I had a little shade as I made my way around Lake Poway.

Along the way I snapped my needed selfie for the challenge and continued on. As I neared the Lake Poway parking lot, a group of hikers asked if this was the way to the “Potato Chip”. I gave them direction and silently shook my head at their lack of preparation. A new art installation of some “big” chairs were another stop along the loop. The trail then snaked its way back down toward the GVTT. Once back on the GVVT, I cruised back to the parking lot, covering the 5.3 miles in 1:41. Three more hikes to complete the 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, 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. 

Clevenger Canyon North

The North County Sierra Club has been running the 50 hikes for 50 years Challenge, where over the course of a year you hike a list of 50 hikes and earn some prizes along the way. I did not learn about the challenge until it was well underway, plus the peaks of Anza-Borrego tend to call my name during the winter. I was able to do 25 of them and earn a patch (I am a sucker for patched). But several folks were able to hike all 50! On Friday, I was able to join two of them, Yosina and Annie as they hiked up Clevenger Canyon North.

We were joined by some of their other friends at the trailhead and set off down past the graffitied boulders until we reached Santa Ysabel Creek. A trickle of water was still flowing as we crossed over and would now start our climb up the canyon wall.

Toward the summit, we spied some young turkey vultures hanging out just ahead of us. More were off to the east. They took flight once we passed, their massive wings carrying them away. Soon, we were at the summit and we took a break. The ladies broke out their signs and smiles and took their completion photo together.

After the short break, we headed back down the trail. This is the best part of the hike, not because you are headed back to the trailhead, but instead of just looking at the canyon wall, you are now rewarded with the vistas of the San Pasqual Valley.

After the short climb up from the creek, we were back at our cars and parted ways. I logged the hike at 5.3 miles with 1,490 feet of gain.


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. 

Cowles Mountain & Pyles Peak

With “May Grey” in full force, I figured an early morning hike up Cowles Mountain, and then over to Pyles Peak would be a good choice. I needed to photograph the new summit marker that now sits atop Pyles Peak, and having a nice layer of clouds to keep the sun away sounded perfect. Since Covid-19 is still an actual issue, I opted not to take the shorter (and generally crowded) route up from Golfcrest to the summit to Cowles. Instead, I planned to either take the Barker Way route or the Big Rock route. In the end, I settled on the Barker Way route, mostly since it was a bit shorter than the Big Rock route. I found a spot on the street near the trailhead, grabbed my gear, and set off.

I actually had another choice to make almost immediately—do I take the service road all the way to the summit of Cowles, or do I take the trail to my left? The trail won the coin toss. There was no actual coin tossing, as trails will almost always win for me. The trail worked its way up the south side of Cowles, passing through the chaparral. Occasional steps helped lessen the grade as I kept climbing. I passed a connector trail that I could take to rejoin the service road, but I kept going, as there was another one closer to the summit that I planned to take. The trail I was on would actually connect with the route up from Golfcrest, and I had no desire to do that. From there I followed the service road to the summit of Cowles. I had never been on the service road, and was surprised at how steep it was.

At the summit I grabbed a quick photo of the marker and continued on. The marine layer hid much of the view, plus I still had another 1.5 miles to the summit of Pyles. 

I worked my way down the trail, losing about 300 feet of elevation before making a small climb and then more descent. Finally, I reached the start of the climb to the other summit. Once I reached it, two other hikers were taking a break here. I was on a work call, so I couldn’t stop and chat. I photographed the new marker and began back down.

The towers atop Cowles loomed to the south and I climbed back toward them. So far my neck, which had been giving me issues, was feeling ok. Once back at the Cowles summit, I snapped a few more photos. In case you are wondering, crossing back over a summit does not count as a new ascent.

I followed the service road back toward the connector, but instead of completely retracing my route, I opted to stay on the service road all the way down. Once back at the car I tossed my gear in and headed home. The peacefulness of the hike let me explore some ideas around a new interface design I am creating at work. Sometimes it is best to step away from the screens to give yourself some time to focus. I logged my hike at 5.8 miles in 2:39 and over 1,764 feet of net elevation gain. Now to finish that trail guide…


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. 

South Fortuna*

Since all the construction blocked my access from the West Fortuna Staging area last week, I decided to use the southern approach. This route crosses the San Diego River, since we hadn’t had any rainfall in some time, I knew it would be safe to cross. This is not a route to take if there is any real water flow. Sadly, this crossing can be deadly. 

Once safely across, I began the steep climb to connect with the Suycott Valley Trail and then dropped back down to link up with the South Fortuna Trail. From there I started climbing up toward the infamous “South Fortuna Stairs”. 

At the base of the stairs, I took the photos I needed for the trail guide I am writing for SoCal Hiker and headed back. I really had no desire to summit this peak again, as I had been there since the new summit marker was installed. The return to the car went quickly, and a few more folks were milling around the river as I crossed back over. 


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. 

North Fortuna

I needed to think through a presentation I was making the next day, so I figured a nice hike would help me focus. Since I needed some photos for some trail guides I am writing, I decided to hike up the Fortunas in Mission Trails. I wanted some better photos of the “infamous” South Fortuna stairs and the new summit marker atop North Fortuna. As I neared the parking lot, I remembered there was some construction happening on this side of the park, courtesy of the San Diego Water District. I looked over the map and realized that I wasn’t going to have an easy route to get to the South Fortuna stairs, but I still had a route to North Fortuna. 

I crossed the bridge into the park and headed north toward the Rim Trail. Clear signs warned me about various closures and detours. Cruising along the trail, I could see two work areas, to the northwest and southeast. The work was supposed to be done in early 2022, but construction is rarely on time. I reached four corners and had a decision to make – I could take the Suycott Valley Alternative Trail to connect to the Fortuna Saddle Trail and then the summit, or I could take the Shepherd Ridge Trail to approach the summit from the north side. Since I had never done North Fortuna from the north side, my choice was an easy one. 

I had passed a few folks on the trail, but as it was about 4 pm on a Thursday, I did not expect to see many. The trail took me northward, getting closer to the northern edge of the park and the 52 freeway. The evening commute was starting to pick up. The trail connects briefly with the Perimeter Trail before turning southward to begin the real climb up North Fortuna.

While it wasn’t the South Fortuna Stairs, I did have a small section of stairs to assist me. After crossing a false summit, the real summit was just a short bit away. I snapped my photos and took a short break before continuing southward toward the saddle. 

I took the saddle back down to the west until it reached Suycott Valley Alternative Trail. Normally, I would stay on this trail, but the construction closure prevented that. As I made my way on the trail back toward Four Corners, it was clear that this trail was heavily favored by mountain bikers, and was glad I was here on a weekday. I would not recommend this trail on a weekend. Once back at Four Corners, I retraced my route to the car. Just before I started the short climb from Four Corners, two mountain bikers came screaming down the wide trail, reaffirming my thoughts about weekend use. As I made my way back to the car, I passed several more mountain bikers. Back at my car, I saw that both sides of the street were now packed. This route was 5.75 miles with 1,112 feet of elevation gain.  


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. 

Heller’s Bend

One of the things I tried to do, while working on the San Diego North County Sierra Club’s 50 for 50 Challenge, was to hike trails I have not hiked before. Since I was only doing half of them to earn the patch, I could be afforded that luxury. My wife had made plans with some friends for Mother’s Day morning and would not be home until the afternoon. My son had come home for the weekend from Arizona, and joined me in a couple of short hikes I needed to do. The first hike was Heller’s Bend. 

Once we found enough space to pull off the road (there is no set parking for this hike) we set off. Technically, this is the “Karen Tucker Preserve at Heller’s Bend”, but that is quite a mouthful. It is managed by the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, which also manages several other hikes and preserves in the area. We followed the paved road down and across a small creek. Oaks hung over the path, giving us some nice shade. The road then made a few small turns before beginning to head southward. We climbed up the steep road that served as our way up toward a small ridge. 

At the top, two benches allowed my son to take a breather, while I chose to explore around the area. The paved portion of the trail ends here, with a nice vista of Fallbrook. The trail did continue, but I didn’t feel the need to take it. We carefully worked our way down back to the car. I logged the round-trip at just under a mile, but with a nice 286-foot gain.


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. 

Corte Madera

I had hoped to squeeze in one more desert peak, but with my daughter leaving for DC for the summer, I could not afford the time. Instead, I opted to knock one of the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks off my list. Corte Madera would fit the bill nicely–not too long and not too far of a drive to the trailhead. I pulled into an empty parking area and hung my Adventure Pass from the mirror. While the car’s thermometer read 37, it did not feel that cold, plus I knew both I and the day would be warming up.

I grabbed my new trekking poles, as I had worn the tips down on my previous pair, and set off. The route to the summit began along a nicely shaded road for about 1/2 mile before I reached the Espinoza Trail. Now I would begin climbing up toward the saddle, with some nice wildflowers scattered along the trail. Once at the saddle, I got my first view of the impressive rock face of Corte Madera. A warning sign had been posted for anyone continuing on the Espinoza trail, to be careful from the fire damage. Off to my left stood the Los Pinos lookout tower and to my right was the road I would follow for a short while.

Another sign pointed to the trail branching off to the left from the road. This portion of the hike would have the more “challenging “ portion of the hike. The gentle climb up the Espinoza would be replaced with a steeper and rockier one. In addition, the overgrowth was also heavier through here as well. 

I passed by a jacket and bag off to the side, which I assume were left by a migrant. After climbing down the rocky section, the trail would now roller coaster toward the summit. My left calf was starting to tighten, so I slowed my pace to give it some relief. I recognized that I was almost at the summit and would have a chance to give it a rest.

As expected, I had the summit to myself. A new wooden sign had been left next to the register. I signed in and snapped my photos, then found a spot to enjoy my orange and take a breather.

I pulled my pack on and began to retrace my route. Not long after leaving the summit, I met my first other hiker. He looked a little lost, as he was staring intently at his phone. I gave him some guidance for the last bit. It turns out he started at Corral Canyon. We each went our separate ways. As I neared that one climbing section, I met the second set of hikers. They recognized me from my blog, and we chatted a bit before continuing. I would encounter another 10 or so by the time I reached the saddle.

Once back on the road to the Espinoza trail, a truck passed me, as did a motorcycle. I had wondered about driving back here for some car camping. Given that the truck looked almost stock, I could probably get my Subaru back here for an evening.

As I made my way down the Espinoza trail, I could feel the day getting warmer and my calf getting tighter. I knew I didn’t have that much further, plus the last 1/2 mile would have some shade and was mostly flat. The car said it was in the low 80s and I would believe it. This time my tracker logged me traveling 7.0 miles in 3:41 with an elevation gain of 1,633 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, 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. 

West Side Road

The original plan was to meet up with someone I used to admin with on the San Diego Hiking Society Facebook group. I left that role a few months back and wanted to catch up with her. Unfortunately, work got in the way and she had to cancel. I had never done the West Side Road Trail and still wanted to cross it off my list. I drove out through Ramona and toward San Diego Estates. Mt. Gower loomed over me to my north as I made my way to the trailhead. I parked and grabbed my gear. The trail begins along a paved road next to a house. I crossed over the road-closed gate and continued making my way up the road. Some bits of graffiti lined the road. The paved road became dirt as it still climbed up. I was rewarded for this effort with some nice views of the mountains. I could see Cuyamaca, Middle Peak, Viejas, and Volcan with ease. With some care, I could spy Eagle Peak and Peak 1546.

The road eventually turned northward and I could see more of Gower off to my left. While I had passed another hiker just as I began, I encountered one more out enjoying the trail. We chatted for a bit. He moved down from Riverside and was getting to know the area. We said our goodbyes, as he still had a ways to go to return to his starting point.

Eventually, the road came to an end, and the trail turned into a single track before coming to a very clear No Trespassing sign. I snapped a few photos and retraced my route. Soon I found myself back on the pavement and nearing my car. I could see a couple of miles away from the trailhead to Cedar Creek falls. That is one hike I have never done. In part don’t want to deal with the crowds and when it is flowing it usually means it is desert hiking season. I logged this hike at 4.5 miles and I covered it in 1:39 (including the time spent chatting). There were almost 848 feet of gain, so I did get a nice workout from it.


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. 

Raptor Ridge Trail

As I continue to work toward the 25 hikes goal and the patch, I wanted to grab a hike before work. I decided to revisit another one of the hikes that I had done for one of the Coast to Crest Challenges, Raptor Ridge.

Parking at the trailhead, I grabbed my gear and set off. I had my headphones in my pack just in case I was not back in time to dial into my first meeting of the day. I cruised along the nice flat trail for about 1.5 miles before it would begin the climb up to the viewpoint. Once there I snapped my photo with a blank sheet of paper. I forgot my sign and would have to paste it in later. After taking in the views of San Pasqual Valley, I retraced my route. Met three others out enjoying the trail with their dog. Made it back to the car just before my meeting, I tossed in my gear, called in, and began the drive home. The hike was 4.6 miles in 1:35 and had 362 feet of elevation gain.


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.