Volcan Mountain

After the hard climb up Sunset Mountain yesterday, I was looking for something a bit tamer. So, I decided to continue working on the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks list, and Volcan Benchmark seemed like the perfect fit. Plus, I might try to get in another WBC hike afterward, along with a stop at Calico Cidery as well. Susie was fine with this, and we set off together.

We had a slightly later start as we did not need to worry about temperatures for this hike. There were about 8 cars parked along Farmers Road when we arrived. We grabbed our gear and set off. This would be my 5th time up, and Susie has lost track of how many times she had been to the summit. After using the porta-potties, we began hiking up the familiar road. Once we reached the 5 Oaks side trail, we switched to it. We caught a couple of other hikers as we cruised up the shaded trail. 

Once we rejoined the road, we felt the infamous wind that usually blows across this ridge. We continued chatting as we came to the old air beacon that sits on the summit. Susie snapped my photo for the challenge. Off to the southwest, a nice field of poppies beckoned to be photographed. 

After snapping our photos, we headed back down, this time staying on the main road for the entire descent. We passed several folks making their way up, and one pair of hikers also descending. Once back at the car we noted that we both might have set PRs for this peak. I know I did, and Susie was pretty sure as well. Since the Santa Ysabel East trail is just a few minutes down the road, we opted to drive down and add in some more miles. For Volcan, I logged us tracking 5.2 miles in 1:59 and gaining 1,275 feet.

Cuyamaca Peak

With the desert too warm to continue working on the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak List, I decided to start working on the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. Opted to climb Cuyamaca Peak with a friend. The Los Vaqueros Trailhead was almost packed, as there was a training run for the SD100 Trail Race. We made our way along the Milk Ranch Road, along the way we spotted a herd of deer wandering by. Once at the turn, we began looking for the mountain lion prints that the training director had told us about. Sure enough, we could see a nice collection of the lion’s travels.

We linked up with the Conejos Trail and began working our way up. The trail becomes a bit rocky so we needed to be mindful of our steps. Partway up we heard the sounds of running water, the Conejos Spring was flowing, and in fact, some of the trail itself had running water on it.

As we neared the paved fire road, we noted quite a few trees had been snapped due to the high winds a few weeks back.

Once at the summit, more evidence of this as a mast on some equipment had been taken down and smashed its solar panels. We soaked in the views and enjoyed a well-earned snack before heading down.

Instead of taking the Conejos Trail again, we continued to the Azalea Springs Fire Road. That way we could skip the rocky section. Once back on the Milk Ranch Road, we spotted some wild turkeys. The entire hike took us 4:03 (including the break at the summit) and covered 8.6 miles.

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.

Roost Benchmark

Last week, Susie Kara and I hiked the peak on which she finished her San Diego Sierra Club list. It seemed obvious that this weekend we should rehike the peak on which I finished. We found parking at the trailhead to the Sunset Trail/Lucky S Ranch and headed down the old jeep road. This was also an inverted hike, so we would get the joy of having to climb back to the car.

We grabbed our gear and darted across the road to the trailhead. I had tossed on a light fleece, as it was a bit nippy. We cruised down the road to the first junction and from there we took the short, but more overgrown, route toward the summit. Finally the old road came to an end and we would begin our bushwhacking and sidehilling portion of the hike. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far to reach the summit. We looped around it for the final push and got our first glimpse of the fire damage from the wildfire that occured in May. The fire stopped almost exactly at the summit.

We took a nice break, chatted about the various peaks that filled our vista, and signed the register. Someone had been out here the day before. That would explain the fresh tracks we had seen along the way. Since we both had plans for the late afternoon, we set off toward the car, and the climb would begin.

While I did not set any land speed records during our return, we still held a nice pace. All told by my tracker; 7.93 miles in 4:41 with 1,679 of gain.

Los Pinos Lookout

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.

Kanaka Flat Loop

Decided to return to the Santa Ysabel East Preserve and hiking the Kanaka Loop again. Two fellow peak-baggers had just hiked this as part of their attempt to do the Julian Hiking Challenge in a day. One of the issues they ran into was the gate to the parking area doesn’t open until about 8 am. Since it was Labor Day, I had no problem “sleeping in” before driving out to the trailhead. As I made my way onto Wyola Road, I spotted the County Park Ranger’s truck two cars ahead of me. Passing the trailhead for Volcan Mountain, there were already about 15 cars parked along the side of the road. The ranger unlocked the gate, and I followed him in. I gathered my gear, then chatted with the ranger for a bit before heading off.

The trail initially follows Santa Ysabel Creek for the first 1.5 miles. A few cows milled about chopping on the dried grasses. The trail would duck in and out of the shade from the oak trees. There were some bugs buzzing about. Initially, I ignored them, but I finally stopped and broke out the bug net. Along the way, a new throne had been created from the stump from a fallen red oak.

I crossed over the creek and began the climb up to Kanaka Flats. The trail climbs about 300 feet in just under 7/10ths of a mile, so you will get a nice workout after the relatively flat first section.

The Kanaka Loop is about 2.5 miles total. I debated if I want to go clockwise or counterclockwise. I opted to go clockwise. This meant continuing to climb a bit more to the high point on this trail. Once near the selfie spot from the Coast to Crest Challenge, I found some shade under some nearby pines and took a short break. The day was getting warm and for much of the loop, there was going to be no shade.

After the break, I set off again. I was surprised I had not seen any more cows. As I approached the western end of the loop, I saw two ranchers tending to the herd that was currently corralled. I guess that answers that question about where the cows were. I gave a friendly wave to the ranchers and continued on.

As I descended back down to the creek, I kept an ear out for the ranchers, as I knew they would be driving back out. At the creek, I spotted the bridge just to the west of where I crossed, so no need to rock hop this time.

The hike back to the car was uneventful. One runner and two e-bike riders did pass me. The day certainly was heating up, and the idea of getting in a second hike quickly was dismissed. The heat is also was stopped my friend’s attempt as well. Back at the car, a family was just about to head out and asked if I had any sunscreen, which I glad lent to them. They were hoping to still find some berries to pick. I wished them good luck and to be mindful of the heat. I popped into Don’s Market and grabbed a cold soda and headed home. All told the hike was just over 7 miles with 1,050 feet of gain. I did the lollipop in 2:37 including my break.

Boucher Hill

Initially, I had planned to hike Guatay Mountain as part of helping Ted Markus complete the Sierra Club, but with all the National Forests closed due to fire danger, we had to pivot. Between the closures and hikes that are located in Anza-Borrego, we were left with just a couple of options. Since his knee was feeling a bit sore, we decided that Boucher Hill would be a good call. In fact, we both brought our wives to tag along. 

We drove up the mountain and paid the $10 day-use fee at the ranger station, then parked at the Silvercrest picnic area. I brought some spare hiking poles for the ladies, just so they would not feel left out. While you can drive to the actual summit and fire lookout tower, we planned to hike from the picnic area, up to the lookout, then loop back passing the Scott Cabin site.

We made our way up to the lookout tower without issue. There were a few folks hanging out. Due to Covid-19, access to the tower was restricted, so we did not go up this time. From there, we set off on the loop, enjoying the nice trail. Once we reached the Ceder Grove campground, we began the climb back up. The heat, elevation, and altitude slowed the ladies down some, but they took breaks in the shade and continued on. Soon, I spied one of the power poles and knew we were almost down. One final short but steep section and we were done. All told, we hiked 3.6 miles in 2:25, with a respectful 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Since they had earned their hiking chops, lunch at Burger Bench seem like the right call.

Pine Mountain

After climbing Cush-Pi (Stonewall), we headed over to the Lagunas to summit Pine Mountain. Some recent reports of this peak spoke of bushwhacking to reach the peak. I did not recall this when I did it in 2019. There were a couple of cars in the Pioneer Mail campground when we pulled in. We cross Sunrise Highway and set off on the trail. A light breeze help keep the temps to a mild level of warm.

When we reached the turn off point from the road, it was fairly clear of brush as we made to the top. We took a short break and made our way down. Instead of retracing our route, we opted to use the dirt road instead. We had planned to toss in Wooded Hill as well. A small blister had formed on my toe, so I sent Ted Markus off on his own. With that he is three peaks closer…