Pyramid Peak

Hiked: March 7, 2020
Summit: 3,480 feet
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,810 feet
Round Trip Time: 5 hrs 42 mins

With Susie, Matt, and Greg off on a backpacking effort to summit Cody, Pike, and Palm Mesa, I opted to attempt Pyramid Peak. They had done it last December while I was madly racing to finish the 100 Peak Challenge. Since there were some winds forecast for later in the afternoon, I knew this was going to be a sunrise start. As I headed down from Ranchita, I caught another stunning sunrise. Usually, I let Ted grab those photos, but he had to work, so I had to pull over to snap a few shots.

After a quick pit stop at the parking lot for Maidenhair Falls for a bio-break, I kept heading east to the trailhead. Pulling into the turnout, another car was parked there. Since this is the same one for Villager and Mile High, I wondered what they might be off exploring? I grabbed my gear and headed northeast across the desert floor toward Palo Verde Wash.

As I neared the wash, the ground became rockier. I remembered from our ascent of Mile High that the wash was not one of those nice sandy ones. Once in the wash, my next landmark would be a cairn that would mark the mine trail I would take to the east. Checking my route, I knew it to be close. I had spent some time on Google Earth to get a feel of where I should look, as solo hiking takes some extra research. Susie had mentioned they made it larger when they took it. Sure enough, I spied it and scrambled up the side of the wash onto its well-defined path.

I would follow this trail until I reached the Smoke Tree Wash. A few flowers would line the trail along the way. I dropped down into the wash and continued north. I finally caught my first glimpse of the peak and the ridgeline I would take. I stayed in the wash for a very short time. While the exit did not have a cairn, the terrain made it pretty clear where the exit was.

Here I was able to pick up the use trail that I would follow all the way to the summit. The first section crossed a fairly steep and rocky scree section, I was not looking forward to descending this later. Once past this section, the terrain was far more manageable––somewhat rocky but without causing issues. I reached the top of a minor bump and took a short breather before the final push to the summit.

Once I crested the Ridge, I could feel the winds pick up. Here I turned north onto the new ridge and the last few thousand feet to the summit. Once there, I soaked in the views. Today, I think in part due to those winds, the skies were clear. The Salton Sea spread out to the east, and Travelers Peak somewhere to the south. To my north, I think stood Rosa Point. There is no Benchmark here, but a register filled with many familiar names. What was most impressive was the number of times Steve Fausett has been here!

The winds were building and I slipped on my windbreaker while I enjoyed my snack before heading back down. I retraced my route, and the use trail was even clearer on my descent. As I neared that section near leaving Smoketree wash, I cautioned myself to watch my footing. Sadly, my foot slid on the rocky scree and I took a tumble. Thankfully, just a few minor scrapes.

Once safely back in the wash, I again found the mine trail. I had considered taking the other branch of the wash to explore the natural stone tanks, but my tumble aborted that plan. I cruised along the trail, the occasional lizard scampering by.

Clark Dry Lake Bed

Soon the Clark Dry Lake Bed was visible to the west as I made my final descent back into the Palo Verde Wash. From here, I again crossed the 1.4 miles back to the car. With that my 88th Peak was completed!

Groan Benchmark

Hiked: February 23, 2020
Summit: 2,732 feet
Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,724 feet
Round Trip Time: 4 hrs 51 mins

Initially, we thought we would have to summit Groan Benchmark as part of a long hard loop from McCain Valley, but thankfully Matt Hanan offered up a ride in his 4X4 Jeep to take us to the better trailhead for Groan Benchmark. I met Susie and Matt Bennet. in the parking lot at Grossmont Center and headed off to meet Matt H. at the turnoff to Carrizo Creek. As we drove through the clouds and lingering rain, we hoped that the skies over the desert would be clear (as predicted). Nearing Boulevard, the skies began to clear and were greeted with a lovely sunrise.

Matt is an easy fellow to spot, as he is usually in a Celtic jersey and shorts. We piled into the Jeep and set off down the dirt road. Last weekend, Larry Edmonds finished his 100 by summiting Grunt Benchmark, which shares the same trailhead as Groan’s. Matt had joined Larry on that hike, so he was very familiar with the road and its challenges. As we bounced along, it was clearly well beyond what I would take my Subaru on.

We reached the end of the road, and thus our trailhead. We geared up, and there was a bit of breeze, so I made sure to have a windbreaker in the pack. I figured it would be handy up on the summit. The trail follows a cobble filled wash for some time. About a quarter-mile in, Matt H asked if we wanted to see the pictographs in the cave then or on the way back. No time like the present, so we scampered off up the rocky side to see them. What a well-preserved collection! A few morteros were nearby as well. We did not linger too long, as we still had about 6 miles of hiking to do.

Once back on the route, we eventually found a nice use trail for a bit, which was a relief from stepping on and around the rocks in the wash. After about two miles, it was time to leave the wash and begin the major portion of the climb to the summit. We plodded our way upward, trying to avoid the ‘anger bushes’ (as Scott Turner likes to call them). Sadly, I got hit a couple of times, despite my best efforts. Our route took us side-hilling for a while. The summit was now finally coming into view.

After crossing a small ravine, we began the final push to the summit. The true summit was just behind the top that was visible to us from our ascent, but an easy walk to it.

Once there we took a nice break, and since there was a bit of breeze, I did break out the windbreaker.

To the southeast, the Goat Canyon Trestle was clearly visible, as was Puff Benchmark. Back to the northwest, stood Gasp Benchmark.

We munched on our snacks, we signed the register and took our photos. In addition, we found the benchmark and reference mark.

One thing to note about this benchmark is it is mislabeled as Moan. In fact, Larry kidded that “We would Moan at Groan…” After about 30 minutes, we decided it was time to head back as it was warming up some. As we made our descent, we looked over the map and decided to explore an alternate route back.

As we worked down, we passed a couple of California Palms, so Susie made us take a group shot of the guys.

The desert floor was green from the recent rains and almost seemed unnatural as we worked our way through the canyon. Along the way, we had two dry waterfalls to descend. Both posed no issues for any of us. The other surprise along the way was the various piles of sheep bones that we spotted.

There were also flowers along the way. Sadly, we all agreed that this year’s desert flower season will not be like the ones in year’s past.

Our alternate route eventually rejoined our initial track. We all agreed that it was so worth the little bit of extra distance. We picked up the use trail again, noting that some of the brush had been cut with a saw. We wondered about the why and the who behind that. The day was heating up, and the sun was reflecting off the sandy ground. Soon, Matt’s Jeep was spotted in the distance and our trek was done (except for the bouncy ride out). Just before we reached the S2, a truck was parked directly in the road! We were about to drive around them without incident, as we did they had a whole table of food set up behind them. We were not impressed by the Cal Tech Geology team and their choices.

Our original plan was to drive back up to McCain Valley and try from Gasp Benchmark, but we decided against it. Susie opted to save it as her final peak so that more folks might be able to celebrate with her. Instead, I convinced the group to take a short stroll to the top of Egg Mountain which was just across the road (Matt did it while waiting for us in the morning). More of a bump, it is listed on the Borrego Benchmark Club list, so why not?! We grabbed some trash along the way to the summit, but could not find a register nor any other marks. We strolled back along the road (yes, we could have driven to the top). We said goodbye to Matt and thanked him for driving us to the trailhead.

Since we still had some time, and Matt B. had not done Mt. Tule yet, I offered to drive to the trailhead. This is also a modest portion of the road to the trailhead to Gasp Benchmark, so it would be worthwhile to see its condition. It was like I remembered, bumpy and at times a bit rutted. I pulled into the same spot I parked last time. Susie opted to tag along with Matt, but I was more than happy to grab a nap. They found the use trail to the summit without a problem and were back before I really started snoring (I think). I dropped them back off at their car and headed home. Unfortunately, Susie’s house keys had fallen out (thankfully in the car), so she and Matt had to drive all the way to my house in PQ to get them. Nevertheless, that was my 87th peak of my #SD100! With luck, I should hit 90 before this desert season ends.

Vallecito Mountains High Point

Hiked: February 17, 2020
Summit: 3,583 feet
Distance: 5.63 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,178 feet
Round Trip Time: 4 hrs 20 mins

With the day off for President’s Day (or as I call it, my distant cousin’s day), I rendezvoused with Susie and Matt to tackle Vallecito Mountains High Point. The real challenge of this hike is not the 5.6 miles nor the two boulder fields you need to navigate through, but rather the 18 or so miles of pure off-road driving. We had decided to meet at the bathrooms at the Ocotillo Wells Ranger Station and transfer into my Subaru. Susie and Matt had been camping since Friday out in various spots in Anza-Borrego, making a serious dent in the Sierra Club 100 list.

The beginning of the drive was very familiar as it is the same one we did just a few weeks back when we summited the Split Mountains. As we zoomed past them, we continued on Fish Creek Wash, heading deeper and deeper into the heart of Anza Borrego. The terrain and geology were fascinating, to say the least. There were certainly sections of the road that took a bit of skill and patience to navigate over. Finally, after about an hour of driving, we came to sign pointing the way to Dave McCain Spring, our trailhead.

Once there, we quickly geared up and were ready to head out. We passed by the remains of the water tank for the spring, as we crested a small saddle. The pipe that carried the water from the actual spring still sat upon the desert floor.

Upon reaching the crest, we dropped down and followed a small wash, which took us around a small hill. From there, our first challenge stood before us–the first boulder field. We worked our way to the south and followed the gully for a while. Eventually, we moved out of it and on to the slopes to the south. Matt found a nice path over the rest of this initial climb and we soon found ourselves descending about a mile into the wide plateau that we found.

We cruised along the fairly firm sandy wash toward the northeast of this section. We wondered exactly which of the boulder-filled slopes we would attempt. Finally, we reached the end of the wash and began our climb up toward the summit. Stowing our trekking poles, we opted to stay to the north of the gully for the ascent route. Matt would seem to almost effortlessly lead us along a great route up through the maze of rocks.

Just before the false summit (I hate those things!), was a small flat spot, perfect for a short break. We found a nice sized boulder and sat in the shade for a few minutes. We knew we were close, so we pressed up and over. Upon reaching the saddle, Matt scoured the terrain and plotted our path to the true summit.

The views were tremendous! Whale Peak rising to our east, Sunset Mountain to the north-west. The Santa Rosa Range to our north, and even though the haze, San Jacinto could be seen as well. There is no benchmark here, but we proudly signed the register and took our photos atop the highest rock.

After a nice break, we slung our packs back on to begin our descent. We were able to mostly follow the same-ish path down and up to the top of the false summit. From there, we kept slightly more to the north, as the route seemed to be a bit better. So far, the boulders were not too difficult.

Once back on the plateau, we opted to make our way to the western wash instead of the one we followed initially. We reached the junction of the initial wash and turned to the northwest. This time we decided to follow it further before making our way over the final boulders.

As we approached the top of the boulder field, we decided to stay to the north and work our way down from there, rather than work our way south across one section of boulders and back to the route we took on the way up. This proved not to be the best choice. Our route was tough, all the easy bouldering we had done until now was but a distant memory. We carefully worked our way through them. At one point we actually crawled through a small boulder cave. Finally, we reached the end of the boulders and were back in the initial wash. We worked our way back along the same route, knowing that soon we would be back at the car. While we still had an hour of off-road driving, we had summited Vallecito Mountains High Point. This was peak #86 for me, and #92 for Susie. I think we just might finish before this desert season ends!

Puff & Moan Benchmarks

Hiked: February 16, 2020
Summit: 2,716 feet (Puff), 2,939 feet (Moan)
Distance: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,394 feet
Round Trip Time: 7 hrs 42 mins

Today’s primary summits were to be Puff Benchmark and Moan Benchmark out in southern Anza-Borrego. Susie and Matt were in that part of the desert after successfully summiting Red Top and Sawtooth the day before! We rendezvoused with them at the turn off onto Dos Cabezas road and piled into the Outback. The hopeful plan was to be able to drive past the water tower to about where the jeep road intersects with train tracks and then set off from there. Hitting X-Mode on the Outback, we easily climbed the small incline to continue on to our starting point. As we neared the parking spot, there was a group of campers enjoying their morning. Since they were up and moving about, I did not feel bad about parking nearby. Once we geared up we headed off to the east along the jeep road. Indian Hill was our first landmark.

Neither Susie nor I needed to summit this peak again, so we opted not to. However, Matt did need this peak for his list. Rather than just scramble to the top and rejoin us on the jeep road, Matt decided to make his own way from there onto Moan Benchmark and then onto Puff, where we would meet up. Knowing his skills, we wished him well as he set off. It seems that we barely passed to the west of the peak when we hear him call out from its summit! We were amazed and jealous of his climbing speed.

Our route continued ever westward along the jeep road. A motorcycle passed us coming from the east, then a bit later it cycled back. As we neared the junction of the road with the train tracks, a group of campers had set up atop a nice cement pad. We chatted a bit, and they kindly offered some water and bananas, but we were fine. From here we continued our journey to Puff Benchmark to the south.

Puff Benchmark sits just above the famous Goat Canyon Trestle, the world’s longest wooden trestle. We climbed up the steep ridge, avoiding the various cacti toward its summit, and as we neared it, there stood Matt. We sat around at the summit, marveling at the wooden structure below us. Calling this the “Impossible Railroad” certainly seemed like the right choice. Looking back to the north, we could see the tracks as they hugged the side of the steep slopes. What it must have taken to construct this line.

After a nice break, it was time for the three of us to set off toward Moan Benchmark, Matt was continuing his solo journey to summit Piedras Grandes. He would meet us back at the car (of which we had no doubt). Upon our descent from Puff, we found two shovel blades on the desert floor and as we made our way up to Moan, we passed what must have been a work camp.

Water cans were neatly stacked, rusting quietly away. Unlike the clear summit of Puff, Moan proved to be slightly more challenging. After some incorrect route finding, we eventually dialed ourselves in and pushed upward. We crested over a peak, and a higher peak stood ahead of us. Assuming that was Moan, we continued on, knowing we were close. We paused for a quick route check, to discover that little peak we passed was it. Looking back at it, a wooden stake was clearly marking the peak. So we retraced our steps, and a few minutes later we were atop Moan Benchmark. I CAN say the two of us were certainly moaning over this ascent!

The view was outstanding from its summit. There is something deeply satisfying about looking out and knowing you have stood atop these peaks. Water was still filling several small pools around us. We signed the register and took our photos. We considered fully retracing our route or working our way down the north-east face of the peak. In the end, though, we decided to opt for the shorter route.

Unfortunately, this route was a steep mess of bouldering, Susie’s least favorite thing. We kept checking and rechecking our position as we carefully made our descent. About halfway down, Susie took a small fall. Thankfully she was ok, but it certainly made us aware as we scrambled down from rock to rock. Finally, we reached the desert floor and headed back toward the jeep road and eventually the car. Although we passed by Indian Hill once again, no one had the desire to summit it. Just past 4:00 pm, we reached the car and found Matt enjoying a nap in the shade. With that, Susie and I had ticked two more peaks from the San Diego 100, while Matt was able to remove 4! It was a fun 7 hours of hiking, covering just over 11 miles. Really glad to finally see the trestle in person, even from a distance.

The Peaks of San Ysidro

Hiked: February 2, 2020
Summit: 4,240 feet (Goat), 4,401 feet (The Sirens), 3,587 feet (Kay), 1,510 feet (Ode)
Distance: 9.35 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,710 feet
Round Trip Time: 8 hrs 17 mins

The final day of the weekend of desert peak-bagging was to be an epic attempt at 5 summits along the San Ysidro mountains; Goat Benchmark, San Ysidro East Peak, The Sirens, Kay Benchmark and Ode Benchmark. With the unfortunate blisters on my foot, I was uncertain as to what I might be able to do. A bit before 6 am, I picked Susie Kara up and headed over to the dirt lot next to Jilbertos in Borrego Springs. There we synced up with Matt Bennett, who got in Bonny and White Benchmarks after we did Stage Benchmark yesterday, and with Greg Gerlach, who summited The Thimble the day before. The plan was to drive Matt’s car to the Anza-Borrego Springs Visitor Center parking lot and leave it there (paying the $10 parking fee), then transfer to my Outback and drive up to Ranchita to start hiking.

We parked just a bit further down the road from the BLM sign and began gearing up. Following the all too familiar route toward The Thimble along the road through Cherry Canyon. I could feel some slight discomfort from my foot, but I was confident that I could make our first peak, Goat Benchmark. After about a mile, Matt headed off to summit both The Thimble and San Ysidro. From there he would attempt to rejoin us before we ascended San Ysidro East Peak. With his fast pace and strong route finding, none of us doubted this would not be the case. I gave him some guidance on the route I took up The Thimble, and he was off. Greg, Susie and I then continued on to the east. Rather than stay on the road and cause any private property issues, we kept traveling cross-country.

Once we crested the ridge to the south of The Thimble, the chimney route was clearly visible from our vantage point. Susie recounted her ascent that way, and the challenge it posed her. As we began our descent, we heard a voice call out, and there on the summit of The Thimble stood Matt! We stared in disbelief and in awe. We waved, knowing we will be seeing him probably even earlier than planned.

The three of us stuck to a gully which gave us fairly easy passage as we made our gentle descent. We kept scanning to the south-east, wondering if we could actually spot Goat Benchmark amongst the rocky bumps. It has a history of being hard to locate. However, with Greg’s track loaded on our devices, plus having him along, this became almost trivial.

We sat at the summit and took a nice break. The register was located atop the same boulder as the benchmark. Thankfully nature had provided a nice rock step, so climbing it was a simple task. After signing the register and taking some photos, it was time to head out. From here we would continue descending down into Hellhole Flats, before making the ascent up to San Ysidro East Peak.

Just as we crossed into Hellhole Flats, Matt gave out a shout to let us know he was rejoining us. We passed by Lookout Knob, just to the south of our route. Greg had summited it in the past and offered a few suggestions as to the route to the top. We all declined this time and continued on.

Once we reached the eastern edge of Hellhole Flats, we took another break before the ascent. I re-evaluated my foot’s condition. I added some additional padding, hoping it might reduce some of the pressure, and thus the discomfort. After some discussion, I felt I should not attempt San Ysidro East Peak. Instead, I would leave the group and head toward The Sirens. Once there, I would leave my arrival and departure time in the register, so the rest would have a sense of my location. Also, we knew once we reached that point, we would have cell coverage if needed.

So, I set off up a gully toward the saddle before turning southward. The Sirens were about a mile or so south at this point. I would follow the contours of the ridge as I drew closer to the summit. While I had Greg’s track loaded, I knew as I reached its base that it was now really my own navigation skills that I would take to the top. I plotted a route and began working my way up. As I drew closer and closer, I hoped that I had picked a route that would work. At one point, I was uncertain as to the path forward, however, there was a small cave that seemed to provide an option to explore. I worked my way through it and found myself much closer to Greg’s track. This gave me hope that I would find my way. After carefully traversing up a rocky slab, I found myself atop the summit. While I was not with the rest of the group working their way up to San Ysidro East Peak, I was feeling proud of making this one solo.

After signing the register and taking in the views. I turned my phone’s cell service back on and sent a text to the group (and my wife) of my current status. I was now going to continue on down toward Kay Benchmark. I took a more direct line with my descent from The Sirens. Now for probably the hardest part of the entire hike—the descent from The Sirens to Kay Benchmark. Every trip report I had read about this section spoke not only of the steepness but of the large boulders that also needed to be overcome. I tried to follow the track that Greg had done during his last trip, but at times I would drift off the track and would have to correct.

After almost 2 hours of careful route work, I found myself standing atop Kay Benchmark! I slid off my pack and leaned against a rock. As I sat there, I looked back to the west at what I had just navigated down solo. The plan was to wait here for Greg, Susie and Matt to rejoin me. I checked back in with my wife, as the wind was starting to pick up some. Way off in the distance, I would hear the faint sounds of Matt and Susie, but even though Susie was wearing a bright pink top, I could not locate them. Finally, I spotted them! Turns out, they opted to follow the route Matt used on his previous trip. According to Greg, this was far superior to his previous route. He thought it only took them just over an hour to descend.

The winds continued to gust, even blowing my hat off at one point. Thankfully, a cholla caught it for me. We still had several more miles to go until we reached the visitors center, and about 2,500 feet of elevation to still lose, so we headed off. The terrain continued to be steep and rocky, but we were able to generally follow the ridgeline the entire way.

Off in the distance, we could see Ode Benchmark, our final peak of the day, poking up from the spine of the ridge, way below us. We continued working our way down. The terrain thankfully finally eased up some, as all the miles and climbing were taking their toll. With one final bit of climbing, we reached Ode Benchmark! Since I had previously summited this peak about a year ago, I snapped a quick photo of the benchmark and kept on trucking.

My foot was starting to hurt a bit more and I was looking forward to a nice cool drink of water at the Visitor Center. There was finally a decent use trail to follow, so my pace quickened slightly. The sun was setting, and the Santa Rosa mountains were beautifully lit in its fading glow. Soon, we reached the desert floor and I motored across it, to the promise of that cool water. We had done it! Our 10:35 hour day was done.

We headed back into town for some well earned Mexican food, then Greg drove me back up to Ranchita to retrieve my car. While I had to skip the ascent of San Ysidro East Peak, I was still happy with my trek. I now have just 17 more peaks to climb to complete the Sierra Club-San Diego 100.

Final Stats

Start: 6:45 am
Reached Goat: 8:55 am
Reached The Sirens: 11:40 am
Reached Kay: 1:50 pm
Reached Ode: 4:50 pm
Visitor Center: 5:20 pm

Stage Benchmark

Hiked: February 1, 2020
Summit: 2,816 feet
Distance: 9.56 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,816 feet
Round Trip Time: 5 hrs 13 mins

When I dropped Susie and Matt off at their campsite, we agreed to meet back up at 7 am at the trailhead for Stage Benchmark. I was uncertain if I was going to join. In part, I was still adjusting to my new shoes and wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this hike or sit it out since we had a big 5 peak day planned for Sunday. As the predawn glow spread across the desert hills, I figured I would try it. So, I ate my breakfast in the peaceful quiet, then broke down my camp and drove the few minutes to the trailhead.

Matt and Susie were waiting for me at the turnout. We grabbed our gear and set off again across the desert floor. After a short stretch, we entered a wash that would take us through the Tierra Blanca mountains and into the Inner Pasture. The wash was nice and wide as we snaked our way through it. A few motorcycle tracks cut through the desert sand. The miles quickly passed by, and soon we were greeted with the wide expanse known as the Inner Pasture. From here our route would turn south to approach the summit from the southwest.

The slopes were rocky, but not the crumbling kind we had during our ascent of Sunset Mountain. However, the firmer footing was offset by all the chollas dotting the slopes. We were all hit multiple times, despite our caution.

About halfway up, we froze in our tracks, as a bighorn sheep stood before us. It stared at us for some time before bounding off to the north. Apart from seeing the herd that one time en route to False Sombereo, I had never seen any in “the wild”.

We soon made our way to the summit and found the benchmark and the reference marks.

The day was a bit warmer than normal, so we spent a bit more time relaxing at the summit. Matt and Susie stared intently at Red Top and Sawtooth off to the southwest of us. These are two more peaks on the Sierra Club list and they are beasts.

After signing the register, we began our trek down. Again, more cholla attacks slowed us from time to time. Once off the slopes, we decided to continue west to intersect with the motorcycle trail that was clearly visible from the summit. We figured we would make better time on it, rather than the cross-country open desert.

As we re-entered the canyon, the shade that had filled it when we first passed through it was now gone. I could feel some issues with my right foot and tried to adjust the tension on the lacing. Again, the miles passed quickly along through this wash. Matt and Susie were considering that this might become their route into the Inner Pasture for Red Top & Sawtooth.

Exiting the canyon, we opted to stay in the wash until it reached the highway. At first, we were happy finding some mylar balloons, but just before the road, Susie spotted a beer can. As she went to grab it, we soon found two shoes, and a bivy buried in the sand. We wrapped all this up and hauled it the short distance back to the car to properly dispose of it. All told we covered 9.56 miles in 5:13 hours and gained 1,713 feet to the summit. That was peak #80 of the Sierra Club 100! Susie and I headed into Borrego Springs and Matt was off to get a couple more peaks in.

Diablo Benchmark

Hiked: January 31, 2020
Summit: 2,440 feet
Distance: 2.56 miles
Elevation Gain: 816 feet
Round Trip Time: 1 hrs 41 mins

The first peak of an entire weekend out in Anza-Borrego was to be Diablo Benchmark. Susie Kara and Matt Bennett convinced me to come out Friday afternoon to summit this peak. They had planned to primitive camp overnight nearby. I opted for a little more comfort and grabbed a campsite at Agua Caliente. I loaded up the Outback and headed out. Since I had already booked a hotel for Saturday night, I really did not need too much in terms of food or gear. I got to the campsite a bit behind schedule but was able to quickly set up the tent and toss in my gear.

I met Susie and Matt at the turnoff for June Wash, and they quickly piled into the car and off we went. Our plan was to drive up the wash road as far as we could, then hike up the rest of the way. I had no trouble driving the route. Once we neared the start of Greg Gerlach’s recent track, we found a nice spot to park the car and set off.

We continued to follow the wash for a while, avoiding the chollas that dotted the entire route. Soon it was time to leave the wash and ascend to the ridgeline. We initially started up the wrong one, but I recognized the proper hillside from some Google Earth research I had done and we dropped over to it.

Once on the proper ridgeline, the views to the east were spectacular. The twisted canyons were spread out before us. The climb up the ridgeline was mild, and soon the summit came into view. The direct path looked a bit rocky, but a fairly clear route bent to the west and then arched back to east.

Upon reaching the summit, we began looking for the benchmark and register. I scoured along the ridge to the north, and Susie and Matt headed south. They won. We signed the register and snapped our photos.

The sun was slowly setting over the Lagunas to the west. So we began our descent, keeping an eye on the setting sun, mostly for the photo opportunities.

We made it back to the car without any real issue, sans a few chollas that attacked us. I dropped Susie and Matt off at their car and drove the 5 minutes back to my campsite. I bundled up and lit a nice campfire, enjoyed my dinner and turned in for the night. #79 of #SD100 was in the books.

North Pinyon Mountain (Peak 3640)

Hiked: January 26, 2020
Summit: 3,640 feet
Distance: 4.26 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,524 feet
Round Trip Time: 3 hrs

Decided to go hike another peak that Susie had already done, this time North Pinyon Mountain (Peak 3640). This peak’s trailhead is along the eastern spur of Plum Canyon. As I was driving in, I was surprised to see someone driving out, especially this early in the morning. Turns out he was camping at the road’s end. I let him know my plans and we parted ways. I parked a polite distance from his camp and began gearing up. It was a touch chilly, and given the first part of the hike was up a wash, I knew I would be in the shade for a while. Tossing on a thin fleece, I set off.

The route would follow this wash until its end. Along the way, a few dry waterfalls would need to be traversed. Only one required me to bypass it, and the rest were fun diversions. The elevation gain was nice, but noticeable when I would stop and look back. I was getting a tad warm, so I stowed my fleece.

I was now ready to leave the wash and climb up to Peak 3300. From here I was rewarded with a beautiful view of Granite Mountain to the west. Since I had cell coverage again, I shared the photo with my wife.

My route now turned easterly. Crossing the summit, I now had to mind the agave, cholla, cat’s claw, and other hazards. From here I drifted to the south toward the saddle that would allow me to begin my ascent of North Pinyon.

About 100 feet of elevation loss later, I was ready to start the climb. The slope was not too steep, nothing like yesterday’s peak. I knew from the previous trip reports the true summit was hidden behind a false summit. 

As I crested it, I could see it was would be an easy stroll over. There was a bit of breeze, so I was glad to have the fleece for my break.

There is no benchmark here, but a nice register can was filled with familiar names. I soaked in the views; Granite, Grapevine, Whale, Sunset and so many more.

I signed in and had a quick snack before heading back down. Along the way, I picked up someone’s lost wool cap. I wonder if it might be Matt’s. The rest of the return was uneventful, except for a blister on my right pinky toe. Oh, the joy of new shoes. With that #78 of the #SD100 down! 4.26 mile in 3:00 hours, and gaining 1,546 feet.

Travelers Peak

Hiked: January 25, 2020
Summit: 2,697 feet
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,036 feet
Round Trip Time: 3 hrs 48 mins

With Susie off visiting a good friend out of state, I decided to knock out a peak that she had already done on the San Diego 100. She suggested Travelers Peak might be a good one to summit, so out to the far side of Anza-Borrego I went. The route up Travelers Peak initially follows the jeep trail to the Calcite Mine, then a well-defined user trail to the summit. 

I had initially had done the Calcite Mine portion when I did the Anza-Borrego 5 for 50 hikes back in 2017. That time we parked just off the highway and hike the road up to the mine. As pulled off the Borrego-Salton Sea Expressway, I decided to try driving the road up toward the Calcite Mine instead. The road was in really good shape, & I suspect it had been graded recently. At the turn off into the nearby slot canyon was a nice spot to park. I debated if I should keep driving up the road or just settle for this. I opted to park.

Grabbing my gear, I set off up the road. The road conditions continued to be good. I stopped after about a quarter-mile, and for a moment thought about heading back to the car and trying driving it all the way to the mine. I did recall the road being a bit rougher further ahead, but in the end, I opted for the exercise. After a mile, I reached the mine area. Overall, the road would have been drivable in my Subaru with a few spots that would take some care. 

Now it was time to leave the Jeep trail and head onto the use trail. I knew from other tracks that I had a steep ascent ahead of me. I also knew that there were going to be some challenging sections as well. The use trail basically follows a ridgeline, meaning some sections tended to be a touch narrow. Nothing problematic, but still you needed to be mindful. Between the steep grade and the temperature, I was certainly working up a sweat.

So, I came to the first of the challenging sections. I focused on my footing and carefully worked my way through it. One thing about solo desert hiking is you need to slow it down and be certain about your routes, foot, and handholds when you are navigating more complex sections. The route would switch between easier sections and these complex ones.