San Mateo Peak

Since two of the three of us had evening plans, that ruled out any “big” hikes. So, instead, we tossed around a few smaller hikes that might fit the bill. In the end, we settled on hiking San Mateo peak, just an hour north in Riverside County. This peak is on the Lower Peaks Committee list, so we would get to cross off another one. Since the mileage for the peak was going to be just under 5 miles and the elevation gain was not too much, we had a slightly later start than our usual departure times. The drove up to Lake Elsinore and on to the 74 went quickly, as Susie, Ted, and I had not hiked together in a while, so there was a lot of catching up to do. The clouds hung low and as we neared the turn off from the 74 toward the Morgan Trailhead, I was driving in them. I pulled into the parking area and hung my Adventure Pass on the mirror. We gathered our gear and set off.

At about 2/10 mile in, we came upon a register box and we signed in. Almost directly behind is the trail o take up to San Mateo Peak. We made the mistake of continuing along the trail that we had been on for a bit before realizing we were headed the wrong way. The trail was really mellow, so backtracking was easy. The trail follows a seasonal stream for about another ½ mile. Some poison oak lined the edge of the trail, so having long pants was a good idea. We reached another junction that was well signed and the trail began to climb away from the creekbed. Along the route, we would keep our eyes open for the three dinosaurs that are placed along the trail. I have no idea why, but they are there.

The clouds slowly began burning off and the possible summit revealed itself off to the south. Further, in the distance, we could see the towers atop Margarita Peak. The trail had a few ups and downs but mostly kept climbing upward. Finally, we spotted the summit and shortly thereafter were enjoying its views. It had a nice summit block that some of us scrambled up on. Off to the west, we spotted Sitton Peak, and Santiago loomed to our north. 

After signing the register, we began to retrace our route. About halfway back, we saw a flag pole atop a small peak to our north that we had missed due to the cloud cover. I located what I hoped was the use trail and made the short climb to it. According to Peakbagger, this was Peak 3065. There was nothing there that gave us any clue as to why there was a flag pole, but a peak is a peak.

We rejoined the main trail and continued down until we actually encountered another hiker heading up. So much for checking “Only Party on the Mountain” on our ascent log on Peakbagger. Soon we were back at the car after a pleasant 4.5 miles in a comfortable 2:36. I logged the total elevation gain at 989 feet. The drive home took a bit longer due to some construction but still wasn’t too bad of a drive.


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. 

Mirror Lake

Matt’s alarm went off at midnight, and shortly thereafter it wished him a “happy birthday”. Once it was done singing to him, I did the same. Matt was getting ready to attempt to summit Mt. Whitney, while I was planning to hike as far as Trail Camp. This opportunity for me was fairly last minute, so I had not had the chance to do any training for a hike of the magnitude of the summit. I let Matt focus on getting ready, as I was not scheduled to sync up with David until around 1:30 am. Matt finished up and set off for Whitney Portal. David arrived on schedule and we tossed our gear and began our drive up.

Driving in, we could see headlamps dancing along the trail. When we parked at the portal, the car’s thermometer read 43°F. We grabbed our gear and clicked on our headlamps and set off. There was some comfort having hiked this about 12 hours earlier as we climbed in the darkness. My legs, and more importantly lungs, were feeling good as the trail climbed ever upward. I knew not to compare my pace, as night hiking is always slower. As we made our way up, David was having trouble following my pace. He said to go on and he would meet me at the Lone Pine Lake junction. I continued hiking at a nice pace, being mindful of bears that might be out. All was going well until the long log crossing near the junction. While it had not been an issue in the daylight, this night crossing was nerve-wracking. It was more of a shuffle than actually walking. I reached the junction and waited for David. I found a spot to sit and turned off my headlamp to save my batteries. The stars were majestic as there was no moon to hide their brilliance. In addition, a meteor shower was just concluding, and I spotted one very bright one streaking across the sky. As I waited, several more vaporized into our atmosphere. It had been some time sitting here and I was starting to shiver. I got up and paced a bit to warm back up. I am fairly sure it was below freezing here. Several hikers passed by, but no David. I decided to continue on, knowing David would either turn back and relax back at the portal, or I would meet up with him on my descent.

Just past the Lone Pine Lake junction is the entrance to the Whitney Zone. I stopped for a photo and continued on. To the east, the predawn glow was starting to appear. I kept climbing toward Outpost Camp, the next milestone for me on this hike. The mountains were slowly being bathed in light. The trail eases some as it makes its way through Bighorn Park, the creek flowing next to the trail. As I neared Outpost Camp, I could see the tents scattered about and continued on, trying to be quiet for anyone who might still be asleep.

From there I would have another set of switchbacks to climb until I reached Mirror Lake. My plan was to reach it by sunrise, then enjoy a second breakfast and coffee before pushing on. Waiting for David put me behind schedule, so I watched the sunrise while I was on the switchbacks. 

As I reached the junction for Mirror Lake, I could start to feel the altitude and was glad to be taking a break. I found a nice flat patch of granite near the south shore and pulled out my water filter, but for some reason, I could not get it to work. It might have been clogged from the last time I used it or for some other reason. I had enough clean fluids to get down, so that was not an issue, but I did not have enough to continue on nor make my breakfast. I snapped some photos of the peaks reflecting down onto the water. Several groups of hikers passed by as they made their way forward. While I was bummed about not reaching my goal, this hike had been a spectacular one. I hung out here for about 30 minutes, soaking it all in.

As I made my way back, I would mention to ascending hikers to be on the lookout for a fellow in a green and white Celtic jersey and to make sure to wish him a happy birthday! One set of hikers asked if I was Chris and relayed a message from David that he would meet me at Outpost Camp. 

There, as promised, was David. He said it just wasn’t his day on the mountains, and with that, we began heading down toward the trailhead. Along the way, we spotted some deer and some pikas. More hikers continued on, some with full backpacks ready to make camp, probably at Trail Camp. In fact, one of those folks turned out to be a friend of a friend who recognized me. We made it back down to Whitney Portal just before 9 am. I hiked a total of 8.6 miles in 6:26. My final altitude was 10,655 feet, meaning I climbed 2,386 feet. After driving back down to Lone Pine, David hopped into his car to race back to his hotel in Ridgecrest to grab a shower. I gathered my gear from the hotel and set off. As I drove away, I looked off to the west, hoping that Matt would be successful and one day I might stand atop that summit. Later that evening, I got a message from Matt that he made it and 15+ people wished him a happy birthday!


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. 

Lone Pine Lake

Matt Hanan reached out to me and asked if I would be able to join him in climbing Mt. Whitney on May 31st. As much as I wanted to climb to the highest peak in the lower 48, I had not been training for it, and did not want to hamper Matt’s attempt if I ran into issues. Also, May 30th is my wedding anniversary (29 years), so I would need to make sure missing most of that day was ok. Anita gave her approval, provided I did not actually attempt the summit. We agreed that I would not climb higher than Trail Camp and at my own pace, letting Matt stay focused on his ascent. Since Matt had one more space on his permit, my friend David also planned to meet us there. His plan was to probably stick with me as he had no desire to summit Whitney again, but loved just spending time in the eastern Sierras. I left San Diego mid-morning and drove up to Lone Pine. I met Matt at the motel and quickly changed into my hiking gear. The plan was to drive up to Whitney Portal and hike up to Lone Pine Lake, which is just before the boundary of the Whitney Zone. This would give us some hiking time at some higher altitudes, before the bigger hikes the next day. We found a spot and parked Matt’s car, fully cleared out as this is active bear country and the last thing you want is to return to your car to find it had been torn open by a bear looking for a snack. 

The trail begins almost across from the pit toilets. We each grabbed a wag bag and stuffed them in our packs. The trail headed east for a bit before turning back west. This was my first time here, so I was soaking in the beauty that was all around me. The next day, when I would be on this section of the trail, it would be pitch dark. The grade of the trail wasn’t too bad, but I could definitely feel the altitude. 

Matt had been here several times before, so he led the way. Lone Pine Lake sits about 1,750 feet above Whitney Portal, so we had some gain before us. We continued plodding along, taking some short breaks to let me catch my breath. We crossed the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek with no issues. Matt said the fun crossing was just before the junction with the trail down to Lone Pine Lake. As we climbed up the switchbacks, the views to the east were breathtaking. Soon, we came to the main crossing of Lone Pine Creek. This crossing is a long series of logs spanning the wide flow of water. Matt mentioned in previous years water had been flowing almost over the tops of them. Sadly, now it is well below that level. Once across, we reached the junction and made a short 0.1 mile jaunt to the lakeshore. A few folks were milling about, including one person hoping to catch some fish.

With a very early start time, we did not linger as we wanted to get back down into Lone Pine, grab dinner and hit the sack. I tracked our hike at 5.7 miles in 3:05 with 1,750 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. 

Gaviota Peak

After watching the SpaceX launch of the NROL-87 mission up in Lompoc, I decided to add in Gaviota Peak before heading back home to San Diego. I pulled into the parking lot at Gaviota State Park around 1:30 pm and changed into my hiking gear. There were about 4 other cars parked in the small lot. The park does charge a $2 self-pay fee to use the lot. There are no bathrooms here or any other amenities. While there is parking outside the official lot, I felt like supporting the park.

The route to the summit has two options–the slightly more direct fire road or the Trespass Trail. I was a little tight on time due to a slight delay in the launch, so I was going to take the fire road both up and back. Many hikers take the fire road up and return down the Trespass Trail. 

The route immediately begins its climb right at the start. After a short while, the noise from the 101 faded away, and I was left with just the sounds of my boots on the dirt. At the 1/4 mile mark, the trail splits between the Trespass Trail and the fire road. I kept to the left to stay on the fire road. 

As I worked my way up to the summit, a few wildflowers would dot the side of the road. I saw the side trail to the hot springs but didn’t have time to go visit them. The route is a steady, constant climb. I later reviewed my route in CalTOPO and the grade was an average of 20%. So you will get a nice workout as you make your way up, but you are rewarded with some really nice views of the surrounding area while you keep climbing.

The road came to a T junction just before the summit. This gave me the first real view of the coast. Simply stunning! The last 2/10 mile to the summit is a bit steeper. Once at the summit, the large metal can that serves as the register was clearly visible, signaling the summit of Gaviota Peak. I did locate the reference mark, but the true benchmark is either lost or under that can. The can holds a large collection of registers, so I opted not to sign in. After snapping my photos, I retraced my route back down to the car. If I was going to take the Trespass Trail, I would have continued over the summit. That trail follows the ocean side of the ridge, so you will have more ocean views to take in, but it is about another mile longer. 

This hike is #70 on the Sierra Club Lower Peaks Committee list, and my 12th summit. I logged 5.8 miles in 2:34 with 2,111 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. 

Petit Jean State Park

While visiting my sister in Little Rock, my wife and I drove out to Petit Jean State Park. This park is about an hour west of where we were staying. Our first stop was the Cedar Falls Overlook trail. This short trail takes you down to where you can see the falls. Unfortunately, there was no water flowing, but it was still a lovely view.

We drove down to the lodge and took a look around. From there we drove a short distance to hike the Bear Cave Trail. We did the small loop, before retreating to our air-conditioned car.  I would love to come back during some cooler weather and explore more of the park.


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. 

Mount Magazine

Might not have scored a permit for Mt. Whitney, but I was able to summit another state’s high point, Mount Magazine in Arkansas. Towering at 2,753 feet, this was a short hike from the trailhead. The entire hike was under a mile and had about 140 feet of elevation gain. The summit had rocks arranged in the shape of the state. Unfortunately, there is no view from the summit.

Almost There Adventure Podcast

I had an awesome time talking with Jeff Hester, Jason Fitzpatrick, and Saveria Tilden on the “Almost There Adventure Podcast” about the 100 Peak Challenge! I, along with Derek Loranger, (creator of the 100 Peak Challenge as well as a good friend) and Susie Kara, my often hiking companion (in addition to being the first finisher), talked about completing it and what that adventure has meant to us (plus other ramblings).

Hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed recording it. 

Listen here

Planning…

Well, since I just finished the 100 Peak Challenge, I thought I would offer some guidance to those who might be looking to attempt it in some fashion. I was able to complete it with a combination of luck and planning. Now, I can’t help you with the luck part but I can go into detail about my planning. Two factors that will have the most impact on how you do this challenge are the weather, specifically for those hikes in Anza-Borrego, and the difficulty of the hike. Remember just because the mileage is low, it does not mean those are easy miles (either of the Sombreros come to mind).

When I knew my first attempt at completing this challenge was not going to happen (due to my final peaks all being in the desert and it becoming too warm to safely hike them), I took a look at the peaks I would need to revisit. I grouped the 100 peaks into three categories: desert, in-town and general. The desert hikes were pretty self-explanatory. In-town hikes were any hike that it took less than 1 hour to get to the trailhead. General hikes were all the rest. Since the desert window had closed until the fall for me, I focused on the general hikes on the weekends, and the in-towns were before or after work, or if a full hiking day wasn’t possible. During the first attempt, I did many of these on the weekends. Now that I knew the trail, the difficulty, and was in better shape, I tried not to ‘burn’ precious weekends on them.

Another thing I was able to do was summiting multiple peaks in one day. While some are natural doubles, Lawson and Gaskill for example, once you know where the trailheads are, along with what the trail is truly like, you can start to combine them. For example, Manza Benchmark and Sheephead Mountain are about 10 minutes apart by car. But with a nice breather in between, these are doable in a single outing. Another thing I did was to have backup peaks ready to go. Routes loaded on my phone, paper maps printed and extra food and water. Sometimes a peak might not be doable, and/or if you are lucky you might be able to squeeze in a second or a substitute.

If you are starting the challenge now, I would focus on peaks out in Anza-Borrego. For some, desert hiking is scary, and often these peaks have no trail and take more skill than hiking up Iron Mountain or any of the more popular peaks. Here is what I would recommend cutting your teeth on:

Borrego Mountain – West Butte: Great trail to the top, easy to drive to (you get some intro to dirt driving). 

Ghost Mountain: A good trail to the homestead, then you get to test your navigation skills to the summit.

Mine Benchmark: Once you are ready for some trail-less desert adventures, this short hike is a good one.

Red Hill: The trailhead is right off S-2 and the route is pretty easy to follow.

Once you are more comfortable in the desert you can start in on some of the others, such as:

Sentenac Mountain: A bit of canyoning and dry waterfall before reaching the summit.

Piedras Grandes: A good intro into some of the terrain on other peaks.

Indian Hill: A good intro into working through larger boulders.

However, Anza-Borrego is also home to some of the tougher peaks on this challenge. Know that there are some that will certainly test you…

For the general peaks, the temperature is still a factor. There were several times I turned back from a summit due to the heat (during my first attempt). Knowing this will factor into your planning. There were many days with sunrises at the trailhead. I would recommend trying to get more of the inland and lower foothill peaks in the spring. One thing about many of the trails is the lack of shade, so you will feel the sun. Good examples of peaks that fit into this category are Mt. Gower, Monserate, and Gutaty. Another factor to be aware of is the hunting season. I had to be a bit more aware of my surroundings on some peaks near Julian during the hunting season.

If you are like me, you probably have done the ‘in-town’ hikes more than once. I tried to find ways to do them differently. Sunset hikes or full moon hikes are good examples of this. Plus, you can get some experience using a headlamp, it will be needed for some of the tougher ones. Also, look for alternate routes, remember it is only the summit that matters, not the trail.

Hope this helps some. Please feel to reach out and ask questions. All my routes are on peakbagger.com, so you can use them as a reference. 

100 Peaks: A recap…

For much of 2019, I have been wandering in the mountains of San Diego, sometimes alone, and sometimes with good friends. I have journeyed to these peaks in an attempt to summit 100 of them within the calendar year. As I approach the end of this journey, I have to pause and reflect upon it. When I am out hiking toward some distant point on a map, to sign some register or photograph a metal disc cemented onto a rock, there is time to think about life, family and friends. I realize that each step I take is a gift and these adventures are not to be taken for granted. Unfortunately, I am now of a certain age where mortality begins to show its unforgiving face. So, instead, I soak in the beauty of the trail, the vistas from the summits, and the companionship of my friends. All these miles have given me a different sense of purpose and passion. I know that this challenge has served as a remedy for me as well. We lost a bright and unique soul in my good friend Mark Kerbel, z”l.

Although I never had the chance to go hiking to one of these peaks with him, I know he would have loved to be there with me. I have dedicated this effort to his memory. 

I do have to personally thank some folks along this journey:

My lovely bride Anita for letting me spend all this time hiking…

Ted Markus for tagging along for so many of these adventures…

Susie Kara, the first finisher of this challenge, and sometimes hiking companion, for giving me so much encouragement throughout the year…

Derek Loranger for creating this challenge…

Greg Gerlach for all his information on peakbagger.com and joining me on some of the big ones…

Lastly, all my friends and family who have suffered through me blabbering on and on about this.

Now that this challenge is complete, here are the stats and my answers to the common questions:

Total Miles Hiked: 512.2

Total Elevation Gained: 138,254 feet

Hours Spent Hiking: 313 hours and 18 minutes

These include the A16 3-Peak Challenge summits as well.

Hardest Hike: Without question Square Top. In our 10+ hours of hiking, we only covered 5.4 miles but gained some 3,300 feet of elevation. There was no trail and some serious bouldering to reach the summit. Ted Markus and Greg Gerlach kept providing encouragement along the entire way. I almost ended my attempt at this challenge on this peak, but I made it to the summit.  

Proudest Hike: The Thimble! It took three separate attempts to reach this summit. On the first attempt, the rocks were covered in ice, so Susie Kara and I decided it was not safe to attempt it. For the second attempt, Gail Welch and I got close, but an impending rainstorm drove us back down the peak. My third attempt was a solo one, and I thought the brush near the top might block me, but I found a route through to the top.

Favorite Hike: Picking a single favorite is almost like picking a favorite child. Each peak was unique and had something memorable about it. I think our July 4th hike to Eagle Rock might be my favorite. Juliet Grossman drove down from Temecula to join Ted Markus and me, and we were able to do this hike as a point to point, rather than the traditional out-and-back from Warner Springs since we had two cars. The section from Montezuma Valley Road to Eagle Rock was one of the most beautiful bits of trail I had been on. A close second was Mile High Mountain. This was a full-day hike, where the four of us started and ended in the dark after covering some 15.8 miles and 6,100 feet of elevation. Unlike Square Top, I had the strength and the will to do it! 

What’s Next?

Well, the peaks are still calling me… I have signed up for the 6 Peak Challenge. In reality, this will be 12 or more peaks. The challenge just expanded into San Diego, so I will revisit 6 of the peaks I did in 2019. I also hope to summit the challenge’s original 6 as well. I did three of them in 2019 as part of the A16 3 Peak Challenge. 

The 2019-2020 Coast to Crest Challenge will also be on my plate. This will be my third year doing this one. Each year a new set of trails is selected, and I am looking forward to exploring them.

But wait! There’s more! There is another 100 peak list here in San Diego. This one maintained by the Sierra Club. I have 28 peaks left on it, so I will start to pick those off. They are all in the desert, so I hope to get a few in during the early part of the year and some toward the end. That list does not have any crazy time limits on it.