Palomar High Point

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, 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, 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. 

William Heise County Park

Joined Larry Edmonds’ Hike of the Month for a group hike through the various trails of William Heise County Park. I hadn’t been there in a long time, so this was a perfect opportunity to explore the park. The basic plan was to meet at the Day-Use parking area and then follow a mostly counter-clockwise route along the trail system.

Our first section to explore was the Fern Trail. We followed the Kelly Ditch trail for a bit, crossing over Cedar Creek. At a nicely signed junction, we turned onto the Fern Trail. Wildflowers still dotted the sides of the trail and we would stop from time to time to photograph them. The Fern Trail reconnects with the Kelly Ditch trail. For the very adventurous, you can hike this trail all the way to Lake Cuyamaca! 

Once we turned north, we headed toward the east and began hiking the Potter Loop. We had some lovely views of the surrounding mountains as we completed the one-mile loop. Once we were together again we began the short climb back toward the campground. Here we followed the Cedar Trail’s eastern section. After crossing back over the dry Cedar Creek, switchbacks made the climb a bit easier. The next trail we set off for was the Self-Guided Nature Trail on the east side of the campground. The smells of breakfast filled the air as we walked along the roads toward our trailhead.

We would take this trail for a short while until it connected with the Desert View Trail. Along the way, signs would identify the various trees and possible wildlife that could be found here. While we had a few short climbs so far, this section of our hike would have some measurable gain. Susie and I soon found ourselves at the front and cruised upward toward Glen’s View. We reached the end of the short spur trail and dropped our packs. The Salton Sea’s blue waters shone off in the distance. Familiar peaks rose around us—Granite, North Peak, Villager, and many more. The rest of the group arrived and took a nice break at the summit. 

After swapping tales of other hiking adventures for a bit, we set off to continue westward along the Desert View Trail. Some nice westerly views were spread out before us as we hiked down the rocky trail. Susie and I had once again pulled far ahead of the group. We came to a junction that could take us on a more direct path back to the campground or continue on to the Canyon Oak Trail. We both were a bit hungry, so we opted to skip the longer option and go on toward my car. Once back at the parking lot, I left a note for Larry on his car. After a quick stop at Calico Cidery to fill our growlers, we popped into Dudley’s for some sandwiches. While we waited for them, we chatted about our upcoming trip to climb Half Dome. This was a nice saunter through some nice trails with some lovely fellow hikers.


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. 

Kwaaymii Trail

Tucked just behind the Mount Laguna Visitor’s Center is the Kwaaymii Trail, a very short interpretive loop that one can explore. After our jaunt on the Desert View Trail, we weren’t ready to leave the Laguna’s yet, but our dog had enough adventure for the day, so my wife and he hung out at the Visitor’s Center while I took off.

The trailhead is located at the northwest edge of the Visitor’s Center parking lot. A wooden box holding trail guides is attached to the signpost but was unfortunately empty. I passed a large stone marker labeling this trail as the “Indian Trail”. Thankfully, this trail has been renamed. If you are not familiar with the Kwaaymii, those people were a subset of the Kumeyaay that once inhabited the area.

The trail passes by some cabins, and you are reminded to stay on the trail. Soon, the trail began a short climb to Pinyon Point. I quickly took in the views before continuing on. Off to the north, I had a great view of the FAA station atop Stephenson Peak. The trail descended along the east side of the hill and I was quickly back at the Visitor Center. 


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. 

Desert View Nature Trail

After having a nice picnic lunch at the Desert View Picnic area, it was time to burn off a few of those calories by exploring the Desert View Nature Trail. This trail is just over a mile in length and has minimal elevation gain, but it offers some incredible views despite those small stats. Starting from the southeast edge of the picnic area, we began hiking south. 

Soon, the views to the east opened up and the Anza-Borrego desert was spread out before us. I could see Red Top and Sawtooth directly in front of me. We continued on until we reached a junction in the trail. From our starting point, this trail is basically a “lollipop”. We soon passed a nice wooden bench nestled under some shady Black Oaks, taking the right fork. The trail continued on until it reached Burnt Rancheria Campground, the other starting point. We walked briefly along the road eastward, until we picked up the trail again. Upon leaving the campground, we found a “water drinker” that had been installed, along with a water trough for horses. To the east was a barbed wire fence and a sign denoting the land beyond was an Indian Reservation.

We followed the trail north back to our trailhead. This portion of the Desert View Trail is also shared with the PCT. Soon we found ourselves back in our car after an enjoyable little jaunt. Either a day pass or Adventure Pass will be needed to park at either the Desert View Picnic Area or Burnt Rancheria’s Day Use area. Dogs are allowed on leash. 


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. 

Hot Springs & Corral Benchmark

Since I am halfway done with the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks, I figured I would cross another one off the list, Hot Springs Mountain. If I was going to do this peak, I had to sync up with Gina Norte and do it with her again. I met her at her house and then drove up toward the summit. The upside of being the trail manager for Los Coyotes is you have some additional access. We parked the car, grabbed our stuff, and headed toward the summit. The bugs were out and I had a few extra bits of protein along the way. I almost broke out the bug net but opted not to.

The summit was empty and we spent just a little bit of time here before heading over to the abandoned lookout tower for a bit. We surveyed possible routes for an attempt to summit Obie Benchmark, but that was for another day. As we cruised back down from the summit, the first wave of hikers began to make their way up. We chatted with some before parting ways.

Our next goal was to visit Corral Benchmark. This peak sits off the main trail. Since I was with Gina, we could climb it. The route up was pretty straightforward and we soon found ourselves at the summit. A register sat off to the side, and a tribal benchmark was affixed to a nearby rock. We had a snack and took in the views. May Grey socked in the coast. In fact, I had a little rain on my way here. Off to the west stood SquareTop, Collins, and Knob. To our southeast, Cody, and Pike. These were some stunning vistas. I was honored to be able to view them.

We grabbed our packs and rejoined the main trail. Soon we were back at Gina’s car and making the drive back down. I bid farewell and began driving back home, with a stop at Dudley’s for a well-earned sandwich.


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. 

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 1,241 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. 

Cuyamaca Peak (via Conejos Trail)

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 8.7 miles.


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. 

Inaja Nature Trail

I can’t count the times I have driven past the Inaja Memorial Picnic Ground on my way to and from my hikes. But, this short 1/2 mile hike was included on the North County San Diego Sierra Club’s 50 hikes for 50 years Challenge, so when driving back from hiking Cuyamaca Peak, Ted and I made a quick stop. Next to the parking lot are several covered picnic tables, and a small monument dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives battling the Inaja Fire. In 1956, 11 firefighters lost their lives while battling the Inaja Fire along the San Diego River outside of Julian. 

Just past the pit toilets, the nature trail begins a short climb up around the hill. Off to our left was the San Diego River Gorge. As the trail looped north, we were greeted with some beautiful views of the Santa Ysabel valley. We spotted a small use trail that led us toward the “summit”, where we found a viewfinder, allowing us to locate various landmarks across the horizon.

The trail continued working its way around and soon we found ourselves back at the trailhead. If we had been smarter, we should have run down to Dudley’s, got our sandwiches and made the short drive backup and enjoyed them here.


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.