Good to be back on the trails after visiting family. Didn’t feel like tackling any of my remaining Six Pack of Peaks this weekend. So instead I suggested we try to knock a few more peaks off Ted’s remaining 100 Peaks. First up we climbed Cush-Pi (Stonewall) after parking across the road at the day use area at Paso Picacho. The shade was nice, as it was going to be warm as we worked our way up the peak. We passed a few groups of hikers heading down from the peak, but otherwise it was pleasantly uncrowded for such a popular peak. Once at the summit, there were a couple folks soaking in the view. They soon headed back down and we had to peak to ourselves for a bit. I pointed out some of recent summits, Oakzanita and Sugg off to our south. Since we were hoping to bag two more today, we headed down. A few more folks passed us as we cruised back to the car. Now on to Pine Mountain.

Fall on Cuyamaca Peak

Since I could not tackle any of my remaining Sierra Club peaks this week, I opted to finish the Six-Pack of Peaks- San Diego collection. I had been saving Cuaymaca peak for the fall, in part to enjoy some fall colors along the hike (I had also saved Mt. Wilson for the same reason, but the Bobcat Fire changed those plans). But also, to see if the SDGE construction closure order would finally be lifted. Ted Markus and I arrived at the Harvey Moore Trailhead just before 7 am. On the drive out we did catch a lovely sunrise. It was a brisk 44° as we set off. I was also testing out a new daypack, an Osprey Stratus 34. After last weekend, I realized I need a slightly bigger pack for longer hikes.

After carefully hiking across the bridge that spans the Sweetwater creek, we hopped onto the West Trail for a bit until it connected with the Monument Trail. The fleece I had on at the start was too warm, so it was time to test out the storage of the new pack. The pack has a small sleeping bag compartment, so I stuffed the fleece in there without an issue. We worked our way up the trail toward our first goal, Airplane Ridge. When I did this hike last year, I missed it and had to scramble back. This time I was a bit more attentive to the short cross-country scramble. Upon the small summit, we took a quick break. I opted to shed another layer before continuing on. There is no benchmark nor register, just a mystery can with a San Diego Adventure Club sticker. That will have to do.

Ted and I continued to make good time, and soon we came to the junction with the West Mesa Trail. This is one of my favorite sections, as there is something about a meadow that I like. Once across the meadow, we turned on the Burnt Pine trail. After a quick snack, we would travel through some of the only remaining pine trees that survived the fire. Intermixed with the pines were some oaks, so we got some lovely fall color. As we drew higher, small stretches of snow still remained, tucked in the shady northern sides of the trail. 

I had originally planned not to be hiking this weekend, as SpaceX was conducting a launch and land landing from Vandenberg AFB. But between the road closures forcing a fairly distant viewing spot and Covid, I opted to skip the 5-hour drive up to Lompoc. I was tracking the progress of the launch on my phone. As we reached the turnoff to Japacha, I pulled up YouTube to watch it. I missed the actual launch but followed the first stage’s return to the landing site. With that event done, we set off to summit Japacha peak. We weaved our way through the brush, following just a hint of the route. I had to double-check my previous track a couple of times to get us to the summit, where we took another short break. I signed the register seeing that the last person to sign in was almost a month ago, and the one before that about the same amount of time. Cuyamaca stood towering over us just to the north, so we once again headed off. 

We then reached the fire road that would lead us to the summit, about .4 miles away. Technically, this is still closed, but all reports stated the SDGE closure was not being actively enforced as they are no longer working on that project. There is a reforestation effort closer to the campground, and when that is occurring the closure is in effect. The road was steep, but the new tarmac was nice, no more crumbling asphalt to worry about. As we drew close to the summit, a new fence now surrounded the towers, so we hiked to the end of the road and followed the trail to the summit.

Ted and I took our photos, then found some nice spots, socially distanced, and had our lunch. We found the NASA mark, two reference marks, a metal plug atop one of the high rocks, and some rock graffiti from long ago. We set off down the fire road, and we finally started to encounter some other hikers, whereas up to that point we had only seen one trail runner.

We debated on what route to take; retrace our ascent or head down the fire road and take one of the connecting trails? We opted for the latter option. While the new pavement is nice, it is still a steep road. As we made our way down, some heavy equipment was parked along the side of the road in support of the reforestation. 

Once we reached the Fern Flat Fire Road, we left the pavement behind. The road also looked like some recent work had been done, and sure enough, we passed the parked grader that was smoothing out the ruts. This stretch was a pleasant stroll this time. Last time, I was hustling to make it back to the car to attend a birthday party for a friend. The only issue this time was I seemed to be developing some blisters on my pinky toes. At this point, I figured I was close enough to the car to not deal with them. 

Soon we spotted the parking lot and our three-peak adventure was over. Ted got to cross off three more peaks on the 100 Peak Challenge, and I completed the Six-Pack of Peaks – San Diego collection! The entire hike was about 14.2 miles, 2,780 feet of gain in 6:53 of hiking time.

Oakzanita Peak

Peak Name: Oakzanita Peak
Distance: 5.9 miles
Date: September 14, 2019
Summit: 5,054 feet

The late-season heatwave certainly altered my planned hike for this Saturday. I had hoped to take a friend out and summit Lawson and Gaskill. But with the forecast in the low 90s, almost no shade on the trail and rocks that will get quite toasty, this hike was not in the cards. Looking over my remaining peaks and Oakzantia seemed to a safe replacement.

I got to the trailhead at sunrise. I debated if I should use the East Mesa Fire Road or the Oakzantia trailhead. Since I did the Oakzantia trailhead last time, I opted for it so I could compare my pace. The air was still cool as I followed the Lower Descanso Creek trail. A little water still flowed in a few spots along the trail.

This trail rejoins the East Mesa Fire Road for a short time, hence why I considered the other route. Once you have rounded the meadow, I headed on the Upper Descanso Creek Trail. Crossing back to the south side of the creek, it was now time to begin working my way to the summit. I still enjoyed the shade, but the sun was starting to illuminate Cuyamaca’s peak to the north.

I was making great time along the trail and soon I came to the junction with the spur trail to the actual summit. The trail did become slightly more overgrown in sections. The summit loomed over me, now bathed in the morning light.

The summit offered some great vistas. Thankfully the bugs were not too bad. This peak does not have a register and a non-standard Benchmark. It also has a rail to tie up your horse.

Coming back down I was passed by a gaggle of trail runners. Three hikers passed me making their ascent. Back at the car, the thermometer read 80 degrees at just after 9 am. This was my 61st peak of my 100 Peak Challenge!

Sunshine Mountain

Peak Name: Sunshine Mountain
Distance: 2.62 miles
Date: September 7, 2019
Summit: 3,160 feet

I initially did not think I was going to get any peaks this weekend, as my son is about to head to Israel for 10 months on the Nativ College Leadership Program. But, I was able to squeeze in two peaks in the early morning.

Decided to knock out Sunshine Mountain and Ant Benchmark. I had hoped to do them when I did Eagle Peak, but the heat said no! I reached the trailhead for Three Sisters just before sunrise. To my delight, the Cedar Creek Road was open! Woot!! That meant one less mile of hiking! Pulling into the turnout, two cars were parked. I guess it is hunting season… I quietly got ready and headed out.

The trail is overgrown, like many of the more obscure ones. I reached the base of the mountain just after it became illuminated by the rising sun. I saw a set of cairns, checking my previous track, I set off up the mountain.

I picked my way through the brush, I lost the cairns for a while, and just relied on my guesses through the brush and rocks. Once I picked the cairns back up the route became easier.

At the summit and took in the view. Eagle Peak was to the southwest of me. There is no benchmark, but I signed the register again. The forecast was that it was going to reach the upper 80s, so I did not want to goof off too long at the summit.

I made my way down with any issues, I found the main trail again without issue. This was the one hiccup we had when I first did the peak. Quickly I was back at the car and off to my next peak. That was peak #59 of my #100PeakChallenge!

Sunshine Mountain

Peak Name: Sunshine Mountain
Distance: 2.62 miles
Date: August 24, 2019
Summit: 3,160 feet

I set off down the closed road to the trailhead for peak #2. This was going to add about .5 miles each way. The road seemed fine. When I reached the trailhead, I headed down a very overgrown road. I was glad to have hiked it before and had my route loaded for reference.

Passing by the pond, doves flew out from the brush as I walked by. My energy levels were a bit low, but I decided to push on a bit. As the trail began to climb, I just did not have it in me. So I decided to turn back. The mountain will be there another day.

Partway back, I stopped in the shade and cooled off some. As I returned to the car, I saw a family getting ready to head down to Three Sisters. I cautioned them, about the difficulty and the effects of the heat. I got back into the car, and it read 90° F! That was unexpected, I knew that was the forecast, but at 9:30! No wonder I ran out of gas. I called it a day and headed home.

Stonewall Peak

Peak Name: Stonewall Peak
Distance: 3.8 miles
Date: July 5, 2019
Summit: 5,730 feet

Since I had the day off, I thought I would head out to the Cuyamaca State Park and try to summit two peaks, the first peak of the day was Stonewall Peak. I parked in the day-use lot, after paying my $10 fee and headed across the 79 and began working my way up. 

I started with Stonewall first since I knew I would have some shade for a nice portion of the ascent. The trail worked its way back and forward toward the summit. This is a popular peak, so I also wanted to try to avoid the crowds as well.

The summit’s final section came into view, reminding me of Moro Rock in Sequoia. I had the granite summit to myself for a bit and soaked in the sweeping views. I picked out the various peaks that I have summited.


Soon I was joined by three other hikers. We chatted a bit and then left them to enjoy the summit by themselves.

Cuyamaca, Middle and North Peaks
Cuyamaca, Middle and North Peaks
Looking out to the east

As I quickly descended, I encountered more and more hikers making their way to the summit.

Stonewall Peak

Back at the car I had a quick snack and got ready to hike up Middle Peak. This was was the 46th peak on my 100 Peak Challenge!

Middle Peak

Peak Name: Middle Peak
Distance: 5.8 miles
Date: July 5, 2019
Summit: 5,883 feet

Having summited Stonewall Peak earlier one the day, I set out for Middle Peak. The trailhead is 5 minutes north of Stonewall Peak, so it was a perfect choice as a twofer.

Stonewall Peak in the distance

As I parked, quite a few horse trailers were parked nearby. I reapplied my sunscreen and headed along the Milk Ranch road until the turnoff to Middle Peak. For most of the ascent, it follows a slightly rocky fire road, but you are rewarded with great views of Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Peak and so much more.

Near the summit, I began looking for the cairn that denotes the start of the use trail to the actual summit. My first attempt was only partially successful, as I only made it partway through the brush.

This time the trail was better marked, as I picked my way through the brush.  I did encounter a beehive along the route but was able to bypass it without issue. The trail at times was hard to see, so a little faith was needed. It was an adventure to the summit, but soon the summit revealed itself. A register was tucked under some rocks. I signed in, took my photos and enjoyed a snack.

I was worried about finding the route back down but had no trouble. I even found those bees again 😉 A light breeze helped cool me off as I descended. A slight bruise on my foot was bothering me some. I will have to see how it feels tomorrow and what I attempt. I did encounter one other hiker just as I was nearing the junction.

It felt good to have done two modest peaks in a day. This was my 47th summit and having actually reached it this time made it extra rewarding.

Arrowmaker Ridge

Peak Name: Middle Peak
Distance: 1.9 miles
Date: June 29, 2019
Summit: 4,740 feet

Update: Have been informed that this peak is now off-limits. It lies within the Pilcha (West Mesa) Cultural Preserve, and since there is no trail it should not be accessed. The replacement peak is now Paradise Mountain.

After completing my last hike for the 2018-2019 Coast to Crest Challenge earlier in the day, I decided to squeeze in summiting Arrowmaker Ridge. I had hoped to do it when I did my Cuyamaca loop, but time was running short and I had a 50th birthday to get to.

After refueling at Wynola Pizza, I drove down to the West Mesa trailhead and headed out. The trail initially follows the Japacha Fire Road and goes steady upward. At the intersection with the West Mesa Fire Loop Road, it was time to leave the trail and head cross country.

I had generated a route from Google Earth to guide me once I left the fire road. Rather than a direct approach to the summit, I crossed the meadow then kept to the southeast side of the ridge which had far less vegetation according to the satellite imagery.

For the most part, this route worked great. The summit is anti-climatic, there is no register nor Benchmark. But if you are working on this challenge, this summit is a perfect one to test out your cross-country navigation skills.

I found my way back down, with a few false starts, I crossed back through the meadow. Unfortunately, my boots and socks were covered in cattails. I picked out the worst of them, but really wished I wore my gaiters.

I hustled my way back to the car, as I realized I forgot to hang up my Adventure Pass. Thankful, no nasty gram was on windshield. I shed my boots and socks and drove home. This was peak #43!

Three Peaks of Cuyamaca

Peak Name: Cuyamaca Peak
Distance: 14.4 miles
Date: June 1, 2019
Summit: 6,512 feet

I wanted to do something with some miles in preparation for the rescheduled Climb For Heroes, looking at my list of remaining hikes for the 100 Peak Challenge Reboot and thought about connecting several of the peaks in the Cuyamacas. The recent rains had extended the wildflowers, so it seemed like a perfect plan. The goal was to summit Airplane Ridge, then up to Japacha Peak, then Cuyamaca, and hit Arrowmaker Ridge on the return. All told about 14 miles of hiking was planned for the day.

I wanted to start this attempt from the Green Valley Campground, but it is currently closed. Instead, I started at the Sweetwater Parking area. Crossing over the flowing water, I began working my way along the Monument Trail toward the first peak of the day, Airplane Ridge. The grade of the trail made the ascent very pleasant. The big peaks loomed ahead of me. So much so, I missed hopping of trail to summit Airplane Ridge. Doh! So I backtracked and tried approaching it from the north. I got close, but not directly at the high point. The bush was too thick. If had done some recon with some satellite imagery, I should have continued backtracking further and would have a clear path, like a remembered from the first ascent from the south. Looking back at my pictures, I even took a photo of where I should have gone.

After hopping back the trail, I began climbing my way up toward Japacha peak. The flowers along the meadow were stunning. Soon I found myself weaving my way through the remaining pine trees on the mountain. The crunch of the needles under my boots was music to my ears.

When I ‘summited’ Japacha Peak the first time I only got partially there, as my hiking partner was in shorts and had to turn back. Not a problem this time, as I scouted a sort of path through the brush to the peak. While there is no benchmark, there is a register. The June Gloom was in full force, but it made for a dramatic scene to the west.

After signing in, and a short rest, I picked my way back through the brush and back on the trail. Cuyamaca towered over me as a continued climbing. The Burnt Pine trail ends at the main road to the summit of Cuyamaca. This was going to be my least favorite portion of this loop, as it is mostly steep and paved.

I finally encountered my first other hikers of the day along the road. At the summit, I rested and gazed out across the cloud tops covering much of my view. I had the summit all to myself.

I began to work my way down the road to the Fern Fire Road. I began to encounter more hikers making their way to the summit, along with their dogs in tow. I had forgotten how steep the road, as such, my pace slowed some. It might also have been the fact I already hiked 8 miles. I began to become concerned about the time, as I needed to be back in town to celebrate a good friend’s 50th birthday. I wondered if I should just head to the road and hitchhike back to the car.  In the end, I figured I could make it back to the car without too much delay.

The road gently worked its way down, crossing various springs along the way.  Soon I found myself at the base of Arrowmaker Ridge. I was uncertain if I should attempt it. I was going to be cutting it close in time. Although the peak is not that high, it does require some bushwhacking. Since I was fighting the clock, I had not been resting nearly as much as I normally do. I crossed over the meadow to see if an easy route. Alas, nothing appeared, and I was running out of gas and still had a couple of miles still to go. Since both Middle Peak and Stonewall Peak are nearby, I knew I would have an easy opportunity to try again.

My route took me along Japacha creek. The flowing water was soothing, I wish I had time to dip my feet into the cool waters and rest.

I finally found myself back at my car with plenty of time to make it to the party. All told this hike covered 14.4 miles in 7 hrs and minutes. The total elevation gain was 2,775 feet. All in all a fantastic day on the trails. That makes 33 summits of the 100 this year.

Sugg Peak

Peak Name: Sugg Peak
Distance: 7.44 miles
Date: January 20, 2019
Summit: 5,229 feet

Headed out the morning to attempt Sugg Peak again. This time I had Susie Kara to show me the route. We got to the trailhead and one car was already there and the sun was just about to rise above Oakzantia Peak.

We made our way along the East Mesa Fire Road, we pass a gentleman heading down, I assume it was his car. Near the junction of the Oakzantia trail, we headed across the meadow toward West Sugg.

There was no trail, just two hikers following their guts. We picked our way through the brush until a slight trail was reveal. Susie kept her eye open for the boundary fences, as these were reference points.

We came to the old Jeep trail that leads back to Oakzantia, but it was severely overgrown. Given the shape of the stuff we were traversing, it might get tougher soon to summit Sugg Peak.

We found Susie’s magic rock and scrambled up. At this point, we were closing in on the summit. We picked our way through the brush until the summit revealed its rocky top.

We signed the register, we were the first in 2019! The views of the Cuyamacas and the Lagunas were refreshing. The wind made it a tad chilly, so we did not linger too long.

From the summit, I could see the route Mark and I tried. This route was 10x easier. We picked our way down, occasionally correcting our route.

Soon we were back at the East Mesa Fire Road and began trekking back the car. Did pass two other hikers and several mountain bikers. Oh, I forgot to add Susie did Baden-Powell yesterday. This was much earlier than my previous attempt.

This was my 85th summit and the final push is now underway!