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. 

Kitchen Creek Falls

Since we just had some rain recently, I figured why not go see one of our few waterfalls? The hike to Kitchen Creek Falls seemed mild enough for my neck, so Ted and I headed out for the trailhead. We pulled into the parking area just before the Boulder Oaks campground, grabbed our gear, and darted across Old Highway 80. It was still a bit nippy as we cruised along the PCT. The trail took us under the 8 and then began the steady climb toward the falls. Soon we spotted our first NOBO hiker. PCT season had just started, so I fully expected to encounter a few while we were along the trail. We chatted with the gentleman from Florida for a bit. He was planning to hike as far as Kennedy Meadows. We bid him a good journey and continued on ours. 

A PCT marker denoted the turn-off down to the falls. We spotted a few empty campsites near the junction. The trail descended steeply toward the falls, which came into view fairly quickly. They certainly were flowing nicely.

We poked around the area, enjoying the sounds of the flowing water. There was a nice campsite on the other bank that would be lovely to pitch a tent on. But soon it was time to climb back up to the PCT and down to the car. Along the way, we passed quite a few folks headed to the falls. We also stopped and chatted with several more PCTers making their way northward. Finally, back at the car, we tossed in our gear, changed, and set off to Hess Brewery in Alpine for some well-earned pizza and a flight of their beers.


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. 

Corte Madera

When I set out to do another round of the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, I wanted to try to do some of the peaks in different ways, whether it was a new route or an overnight trip. I had initially planned to do Corte Madera as an overnight trip. I knew a few camping options along the route that would be perfect. In fact, one of Derek Loranger’s friends had done just that. With my back issue, however, I was not allowed to carry any weight on my back. I had been doing all my hiking with my Osprey Talon 6, and it was working out pretty well. So, if overnighting on Corte Madera was not an option, maybe there was something else. I had seen vehicles on Los Pinos Road near the Corte Madera trail, so maybe I could drive up Los Pinos, then down to the spot and start from there? I set out solo to give this a try. I was a bit apprehensive, as I was unable to get any details on the road after Tropical Storm Hillary hit San Diego. The road to the top of Los Pinos was in fair shape, but the road up Palomar was certainly worse. At the junction, I switched the car into X-mode and began the descent. The road was rockier, but seemed to be ok. Then I heard a very loud bang! I stopped, got out, and saw that my right front tire’s sidewall had completely blown out. Well, that really sucked. I nursed the car to the side so as to possibly leave some room for a car to pass (honestly, I doubted it was big enough for a car, but was enough room for a motorcycle). I then set about swapping out the tire. Unfortunately, the Outback does not have a full-size spare, so I was left using my ‘donut’. Once the tire was swapped, it was on to the next problem–there was no way for me to turn around. So, do I continue down to find a place to turn around and climb back up, or carefully back out? I had not gone more than 1/10th of a mile, so I thought that backing out was a better option. So, I worked my way back to the junction and headed down. I had a cell signal, so I called my wife to inform her of the issue and to have AAA meet me at the Buckman Springs Rest Area, as the donut needed some air to make it back into town. I made it down with no issue, and Bruce from Campo Towing arrived soon after I did and aired up the tire. Once back home, we upgraded the tires to a more off-road capable style, so as to lessen the chance of this occurring again…

Fast forward two weeks. I finally had a chance to return to Corte Madera and decided to try the road again. I did bring my compressor this time, just in case. A bit of rain had come through the day before, so I wondered what the road would be like. As I drove up toward the lookout tower, a few puddles remained, but overall, the road seemed okay. The new tires felt great. Once at the summit, I stopped and got out. I started down the road, focusing on the challenge ahead. I decided to walk it for a bit just to get a feel. That is when I got a good sense of how muddy it was and that a nice layer of pine needles also covered the road. The road up is almost completely exposed so that part had dried out more, while the west side of the mountain was fairly well covered in trees. I did not want to risk getting stuck in the mud or worse, end up sliding into something. So, with that, I retreated to the standard starting point for Corte Madera. I made a quick pit stop at the vault toilet at the Corral Canyon Staging Area. When I drove past it on the way up, it was empty. Now a minivan was there. Hum, I wonder if I would catch them. They had at best a 20-minute head-start. I grabbed my gear and opted not to put on my light fleece. While it was chilly, I knew I would warm up soon.

I slipped past the gate to the road that the few homes back here use and cruised up the road to the Espinoza Trail. A neat mushroom caught my eye along the way and I snapped a picture. A large white sign pointed at the trail junction and I began the climb to the Espinoza Saddle. Sections of the trail were pretty muddy and I could see foot slips outlined in the mud. This reinforced my decision that not driving down was the right one. I reached the saddle and got even more evidence about the condition of some of the roads. I then turned right to continue on Los Pinos Road for a short bit. Except for one large puddle, this section seemed drivable, but it was also exposed to the warmth of the sun. There were no ruts or washouts, so maybe next year?

I began the steeper section of the hike up and around Coulter Peak. It was there I caught the two hikers from the minivan. We chatted while they were catching their breath. I let them be and continued on. The chute was in pretty good shape, although you could see that one rock had moved and was stopped by another. From there, just a few minor ups and downs to the summit. Along the way, I stopped at one of the possible campsites to examine more closely possible places to pitch a tent. There were about 2-3 that looked pretty good.

I got to the summit, my pants and shirt a little damp from brushing against the vegetation. I snapped a few photos and had a snack and some well-earned water. About 15 minutes later, the two hikers joined me. We chatted a bit, and I helped orient them to the surrounding peaks. I bid them farewell, as I went to try to find one more possible campsite. Just off the main trail, I spied the clearing and went over to survey it. It also had about two possible spots to pitch a tent. It was very close to the summit, so it might be the one I opt for when I do this hike as an overnight.

On the way back down, I passed several more hikers making their way to the summit. Once back on the Espinoza trail, my main goal was not to slip on the mud and have to deal with that. Thankfully, my footing was solid the whole way. As I cruised down the road, I could hear the occasional jet flying high overhead en route to San Diego. Then I thought I heard a small engine overhead. Nope, it was a Nissan Maxima behind me. One of the residents was driving out. I stepped aside and he drove slowly past. I caught up to him just as he was closing the gate behind him. I asked about the sign onto the Espinoza trail–did that many hikers miss the turn? He replied, “more than you think”. We chatted a bit more and he headed into town for groceries and a stop at the library. I tossed my gear in the car and headed home. One more summit to go and I will finish the San Diego Six Pack of Peaks! I clocked 6.7 miles with a moving time of 3:11.


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. 

Palomar High Point

I wanted to get a bit east to escape any marine layer to see the annular eclipse. So I opted to make the long drive up to Palomar High Point. I wasn’t interested in making the long hike up from Oak Grove (been there, done that), so instead I opted to drive part way up, park and hike from there. I stopped off at Farmhouse 78 in Santa Ysabel for some biscuits and gravy. As I passed through Warner Springs, quite a few cars were parked near the trailhead for Eagle Rock. Soon I reached the turn off to Palomar Divide Truck Trail and began the long drive up. I kept an eye on the time so I could stop and observe the eclipse. I found a nice spot to pull off to enjoy both my breakfast and the eclipse. I tried taking a few photos, but nothing turned out. One of the things I was curious about was the condition of the road after Hillary came through. I knew there was some road damage on Hot Springs Mountain’s road. For the most part the road seemed to be about in the same condition as the last time I drove it.

I parked at my usual spot, grabbed my gear, and set off. After about a minute, I had to reach into my pack to find my bug net. I had about 1.5 miles to the summit and made good time up the road. Soon the fire lookout tower came into view. Apart from whoever was staffing the tower, I was the only one there. I snapped a few photos. Looking to the west at the Observatory, I wondered how packed it was?

Gaia shows a trail leading down from the summit to the east, but I scanned the slope and failed to spot anything. Since I was alone, I didn’t feel comfortable going off trail, so I headed back down the same way. Once back at the car, I removed my bug net, stowed my gear and began the long drive back down. As I passed the Barker Valley Trailhead, three cars were parked there. One day I will have to explore that trail. A bit later a lone motorcyclist was making their way up, and a bit later a fellow Outback owner as well. Thankfully we were at a spot where we could easily pass. There are a few sections that would be a bit tricky for two cars to get by each other. A couple miles later, a lone mountain biker was making her way up! Finally I reached the 79 and began the drive home. My shortened hike was 2.84 miles with 540 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, 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. 

Cuyamaca Peak

I have a multiple-day hiking adventure planned in a few weeks to start hiking some of the peaks on the inaugural Central Coast Six Pack of Peak Challenge. One of the peaks, Alan Peak, is an 11-mile round-trip hike. So far, I had not hiked anything more than about 6.5 miles, so I wanted to get in one longer, harder hike before I committed to the drive up to the central coast. I figured summiting Cuyamaca Peak would be the perfect test of my foot and my fitness. This was going to be a solo trip as my usual hiking partners had other commitments. I decided to do my traditional route from Milk Ranch Road. I pulled into the parking area just before 6:30. It was a little brisk, but I knew that was going to quickly change once I started. I cruised along Milk Ranch Road at a nice pace. One of the things I was focusing on was keeping a more steady and measured pace with my hiking. I am still rebuilding from almost a year off the trails, so I need to be mindful of this. Another thing I wanted to do on this hike was not look at my real pace or my location. I knew this trail well, so there was no need to know exactly where I was. I decided to just listen to my heart rate and my breathing and let the trail come as it may. 

Not long after starting up the road, a gaggle of wild turkeys ran off the road into a clearing nearby. On the drive in, I spotted a lone deer in the meadow. I wondered if I was going to encounter any other wildlife today. The nice thing about this route is that the 1.6 miles along the road is a nice steady grade and a wonderful way to warm up everything before you start making some serious elevation gain.

I turned on the Azalea Spring Fire Road and had that first steep section to push through before reaching the junction with the Conejos Trail. The beginning of the trail was a tad overgrown, and if you were not looking for it or the trail sign poles, you might miss it. The overgrowth soon faded, and the steep and rocky aspects of the trail took over. I wondered if Hurricane Hillary had done any damage to the trail, and if the storm had done any, if the repairs were already done. I kept an ear out as I passed near Conejo Spring to hear if it might still be flowing, but I only heard the sound of some birds. Along the way, I encountered a backpacker who had spent the night at the summit (which I believe is not allowed). We chatted some, and he was planning to head over to Middle Peak. While it had been a few years since I did it, I gave him a few bits of information. The key point I stressed to him is there is almost no view at the summit! He asked about water, so I told him I did not think the spring was running, so he would have to continue on to another water source.

The trail reached the service road, and I took a quick break. I needed to take care of a hot spot that was forming and to put on the rubber tips for my trekking poles. No need to wear down the tips on the pavement. While I knew I was not quite at the summit, as I still had about 1/2 mile to go, I was feeling good about the effort so far. I plodded up the road, and green pine cones were scattered around. Some damage from the storm I suspected. Soon, the end of the road came into view and after a short bit of off-trail, I was at the summit of San Diego’s second highest peak.

I found a nice shady spot and enjoyed some snacks and electrolytes. I had the summit to myself, so I just took in the sweeping views to the west. I took my photos around the summit and began the long descent. I passed the junction to the Conejo Trail and kept walking down the steep service road. The sun was making the asphalt nice and toasty, so I was looking to get back onto the Azalea Spring Fire Road and have a little less reflective heat. Along the way, I passed a couple making their way up. They were training for some hiking in Scotland in a few weeks while they visit their daughter. I wished them well as they pushed on. 

Once off the service road, I cruised on. At Azalea Spring, I met up with that backpacker again. He was filtering some water before continuing on. He decided to skip Middle Peak and was going to head over to Cush-Pi (Stonewall Peak). Being from Florida, he was certainly feeling the altitude. I left him to filter the water and continued on. The bugs were starting to become annoying in the shady sections, almost to the point of breaking out the bug net. But I knew that I did not have that much further, so I would just swish them away. Soon, the car came back into view. The parking area had filled up, including a horse trailer. Given I only saw two other hikers after Azalea Springs, I wondered where they were out exploring? All told I hiked 8.6 miles with 1,860 feet of gain. My moving time for the hike was 3:50! I was really pleased to see that. I probably spent 15-20 minutes talking to some of those people I passed on the trail. 


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. 

Volcan Mountain

Today was going to be a real test of my foot. I have to admit, I was nervous.  It had been almost a year since I had done any real hiking and today’s hike up Volcan Mountain was going to be my longest and highest effort. My primary goal for the rest of 2023 is to try to complete several Six Pack of Peak Challenges. Ted pulled up to my house just before 7 am, and I tossed him the keys to the Subaru so he could make the hour-long drive to the trailhead. I did not want to over-exert my foot by driving. The drive was uneventful–the familiar road passing quickly by. I still can’t believe they haven’t finished rebuilding the McDonalds in Ramona yet. When we arrived at the trailhead, there were only about 4 cars parked along the road. I was a bit surprised that there were so few cars, but a quieter summit is always welcomed. We gathered our gear and set off. After a quick bio-break at the porta-potties, we passed through the ornate gateway and the hike began.

I had thought that my hike on Volcan Mountain back in 2022 was when my plantar fasciitis became an issue. Turns out I was off by a couple of weeks, it was actually when we hiked Santa Ysabel East, which is just a few miles away, that the injury occurred. Nevertheless, I was going to be pushing my foot and my fitness on this hike. The well-groomed dirt road quickly gained elevation and I could feel my heart begin to beat faster. This was going to be my 7th time climbing this peak, so I was quite familiar with what lay before me. My heart kept pounding away while my lungs kept working overtime. We opted to stay on the main road and not use the Five Oaks Trail like we normally do. The foot was doing well up the steep grades, each step closer to the summit. I pushed through the tougher sections, knowing that an easier section was just over the rise or around the bend. Soon, we passed under the pines, and the open meadow near the summit came into view. I knew that in a few minutes, I would reach the summit! 

I sat in the shade on the picnic bench next to the abandoned aerial navigation tower and enjoyed my well-earned rest. After a bit, it was time to set off back down from the summit. In many ways, this was the bigger test of my foot. We stopped off at the actual benchmark and grabbed a few photos with the summit signs and one with my Six-Pack-of-Peaks tag. One down, five to go!

The weather was near perfect, with nice temperatures, a light breeze, and fairly clear skies. More importantly, not a lot of bugs. The descent went well as we retraced our route and a few more folks were making their way up toward the summit. The nice thing about descending was I was no longer breathing so hard that you could hear me all the way in Julian.

Soon we were back at the car. It was still too early for a sandwich at Dudley’s or a pint at Calico Cidery, so we headed directly home. During the hike, I purposefully did not look at my tracker, but now that we were done I wanted to see how long it took. Back in 2022, Ted and I did this hike in just over 2 hrs. (using the slightly longer Five Oaks Trail). AllTrails reports the average time for this hike at 2:41. We clocked our active hiking at 2:11! I honestly did not believe it. This really made me feel a lot better about the whole journey. 


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. 

Laguna Meadow

High wind warnings on Father’s Day kept us from driving up to Laguna Meadow for a hike. Thankfully, this past Sunday the weather looked almost perfect. The three of us drove up to the Laguna Campground and found some parking near the trailhead. After applying a good covering of sunscreen, we set off along the trail. We did not have an exact goal in mind, more letting my foot tell me what it could handle. I was hoping that I might break the 3-mile mark. 

I opted to take the trail to the right, as it would pass closer to Little Laguna Lake. It still held water, along with a few ducks as well. We continued walking along the trail, stopping at times to let mountain bikers pass by. Just before we reached Big Laguna Lake, we climbed a small knoll to stop under the shade of some pines. This gave everyone a nice breather. Once everyone was rested and hydrated we set off to cross the small dam that forms the southern end of the lake. A herd of cows was milling around. I took the lead and had my wife hold our dog close. I slowly began crossing, giving the cows plenty of room and time to “moo-ve” along. The trail here was narrow and as you might expect a bit overgrown. Carefully looking down in the grasses to the side of the trail, tiny frogs could be spotted hopping around. I tried to grab a photo but had no luck in capturing anything. 

About halfway across the dam three mountain bikers, who had stopped at the end of the dam, decided they needed to cross while we were on it. So they forced us to stop off trail, while they rode past. I guess they never bothered to read those “who yields to whom” signs… I debated mentioning something but had a feeling it would fall on deaf ears.

Once across, we continued southwest toward the Water of the Woods and the Los Rasalies Ravine. At the junction with the Sunset Trail, we found some rocks to sit on under the shade of the trees. The meadow, the pond, the smell of the forest—this was what I have been missing for almost a year. While I wanted to keep going and turn this into a large loop, I felt it would be wiser for my foot to just return back the way we came.

A few more bikers, along with some fellow hikers, passed us as we made our way back to the car. Instead of taking the exact same route back, I opted to have us cross over the meadow to the eastern side and use the Laguna Campground Spur Trail instead. This trail had a bit more shade, and since the day was warming up, it was welcomed by everyone. Soon, we spotted the glint of sunlight bouncing off the windshields of the cars at the campground. We stepped through the gate, and our hike was done. All told, we hiked 3.4 miles. With all the stops to allow folks to pass, the time was a tad on the slow side. But more importantly, the foot felt pretty good. A couple more hikes about this length and then it will be time to start adding some elevation gain into the adventures again!


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. 

Palomar High Point Lookout

After hiking the Santa Ysabel East Loop, Ted and I continued our adventure by driving up toward Palomar High Point. Like before, we drove up the Palomar Divide Road toward the summit. This is a 13-mile dirt road that can get a bit rough from time to time. After about an hour of driving it, we came to where we usually park and then make the short hike to the summit, but the gate to the actual summit was open, so we continued on up. We parked under some shade, as the temperatures were already approaching 90°F! Some motorcyclists were enjoying their lunch nearby. We wander around a bit snapping a few photos.

Once we were done, we began the long bumpy drive back down. We were both getting hungry and sandwiches from Dudley’s were calling our names…

Santa Ysabel East Loop

With the Excessive Heat Warning in place, I knew that whatever hiking I did need to be early in the morning and not too strenuous. I still had some hikes left on this year’s Coast to Crest Challenge and the Santa Ysabel East Loop fit the requirements perfectly. Ted and I arrived just before 7:30, and there was one car parked at the trailhead. We gathered our gear and set off, the day was already warm as we made our way past the herd of cows munching away on the grasses.

After safely passing the cows, the trail began its climb up toward the top. We would gain over 500 feet is just about 1/2 of a mile. That certainly got our heart rates up, plus we could feel the warmth of the day.

We came to the junction of the loop and decided to take it counter-clockwise. After a brief flat section, we had a small climb to the next junction. Here a couple of picnic tables are tucked away under the nice of some oaks. I took my selfie for the challenge. Ted had never hiked here before, so I point out the trail leading off from here that would connect to the Kanka Flat section of the preserve. I have yet to hike this section, maybe this fall I will…

Everyone who hikes this trail is duly impressed with the signage that marks each junction. A lot of love and care went into making them. We continued on the loop, heading northward for a bit, before circling back. Some more views of the Santa Ysabel were spread before us.

We kept cruising along until we again reached the base of the ridge. The cows had moved on, probably looking for shade, as were we. The temperature had already hit the mid-80s in just the 1:35 we had been hiking. The entire loop is about 4.2 miles and does have a nice 900+ 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, 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. 

Volcan Mountain

This year’s Coast to Crest Challenge is a collection of their 5 favorite hikes from previous challenges; Volcan Benchmark, Santa Ysabel East, Blue Sky Preserve, Raptor Ridge and Bernardo Mountain. I figured I should start with the “Crest” of the trail, and that was Volcan Benchmark. This was going to be a solo hike as Ted was working and Susie had family obligations.

There were a few cars at the trailhead, less than I expected for the holiday weekend. I cruised up the main trail until it reached the Five Oaks Trail. This year’s challenge does not have fixed Selfie spots, so I found a nice view and took one.

The rest of the hike to the summit was mostly uneventful until just near the summit. I was “chasing” down a pair of hikers ahead of me. When they stopped for a bit, and I caught up to them, they pointed to the small rattlesnake on the side of the trail. Since we were back on the main trail, there was plenty of room to walk past it.

At the summit, I snapped a few photos before heading back down. As I looped around the east side of the summit, I spotted a bench I did not recall being there the last time. I took a quick look but wanted to keep on moving.

The descent went quickly, and I let hikers heading up know I had seen a snake today. Soon I found myself on the gravel road heading to the trailhead. My final stats were 5.2 miles in 2 hours flat, just one minute off from last time. I had thought about getting another one of the Coast To Crest Hikes done, but it was warming up, and I did not want to push 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, 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.