Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goff Island

Hiked: 3/29/2014
Distance: 1.4 miles round trip on beach
Summit Elevation: 42'
Elevation Gain: 210'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.16
Round trip time: 40 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: $3 OC Parks at Aliso Creek Beach
Difficulty: Easy

Goff Island is a landmark in Laguna Beach below the Montage Resort. It is rock formation that juts 42' above sea level. During high tides, water surrounds it, making it a temporary island, but most of the time you can make it to the island without getting wet. There is limited parking near the Montage, so I decided to make it a longer trek by starting from Aliso Creek Beach. Also, the parking was easier. It was a rare treat to drag my wife along with me on this one. When the kids are older, I hope to drag her out on bigger adventures.

From the Aliso Creek Beach parking lot, it is about 0.7 miles north to Goff Island. You pass over Treasure Island Beach, up a ramp to the sidewalk in front of the Montage, then down some wooden stairs to Goff Cove. There were quite a few skim boarders out this morning, making good use of the nice weather. Despite the warning signs of danger, I made the easy scramble to the top of Goff Island in a few seconds. It can be climbed from almost any direction. I did my best Jesus pose, then took some shots from the south side where a natural jetty extends into the ocean.

Leisa on the beach, Goff Island in the distance

On the sidewalk in front of the Montage

Heading down the stairs to Goff Cove

Leisa at Goff Island

Hazardous area, climbing prohibited

Jesus Christ pose, after the short climb

The natural jetty at the end of Goff Island

Looking down on Goff Cove

Panorama from the south end

Bear guarding a multimillion dollar beach mansion on Treasure Island

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thunder Mountain, Telegraph Peak, West Telegraph Peak

Hiked: 3/23/2014
Distance: 12.2 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8587' (Thunder), 8985' (Telegraph), 8900' (West Telegraph)
Prominence: 387' (Thunder), 1183' (Telegraph)
Elevation Gain: 4460'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.56
Round trip time: 7 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 138 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous

This was a group hike with Rod, Sean, and Cecilia. Sean organized it and had the idea to go over the top of Telegraph Peak in the Cucamonga Wilderness and about 4 miles down the northeast ridge to an unofficial peak he called Chalk Peak. I wanted to go at least as far as Telegraph and maybe one or two unnamed peaks down the ridge. We started a few minutes later than planned at 6:40 AM at Manker Flat. Sean suggested we climb up through Big Butch Wash, a steep gully to the right of the ski lift. It was great fun scrambling over the rocks with some class 2 and bushwhacking near the top. We weren't moving fast as a group, but the hike was off to a roaring start. We stopped at the notch to refill some water and picked up a few extra snacks.

Sean and Cecilia climbing Big Butch Wash

Rod, me, and Cecilia at the flowing stream in Big Butch Wash

As we started up the road toward Thunder Mountain, it got colder and I put on my balaclava. There were some patches of hard snow on the road, but they were easily bypassed or walked over. I had considered bringing my crampons, but brought only microspikes instead. As it turned out, I didn't need either. We summited Thunder and took a few pictures. There was another group there with a plan to do the entire 3Ts trail. Sean gave them directions, then we headed toward the 3Ts trail and Telegraph. The trail switchbacking up Telegraph was shaded and there were more snow patches. A few sections were touchy, but everyone made it up without incident. I was surprised by the quality of the 360 degree views from Telegraph. The high desert was visible and everything in the Baldy area. It rivaled and was maybe better than the views from Twin Peaks.

Telegraph Peak behind the Thunder Mountain summit sign, Sean chillin', West Telegraph to the right

Rod, Sean, Cecilia, and another hiker on Thunder summit

Coldwater Canyon from the Thunder-Telegraph saddle

Approaching Telegraph Peak

Telegraph Peak benchmark

Thunder Mountain below, Baldy and friends in the distance from Telegraph Peak summit

Looking north from Telegraph Peak

Timber Mountain, Cucamonga Peak, Bighorn Mountain, and Ontario Peak from Telegraph Peak

After a short break, pictures and register signing, we started a very steep descent down the southeast ridge of Telegraph, trying to traverse over to the northeast ridge. This was the way to Chalk Peak. It was slow going because of the angle, loose soil, and lingering snow. We reached Point 8735' on the ridge when Sean determined the use trail he had planned to take was completely covered in hard snow. Without enough equipment, this killed further exploration along the ridge. We headed back over Telegraph Peak for the second time and continued to the far west side of the Telegraph ridge to the unofficial West Telegraph Peak, or sometimes Terry Peak according to Sean. There was another register there we all signed. Sean and Cecilia were going to rest there and have lunch, but I had planned to be back by around 4:00 PM, so Rod and I headed back. We made good time descending and even the slog back up the side of Thunder Mountain did not put much of a dent in our pace. We followed the road down from the notch and completed the descent in just over 2 hours.

Snow covered slope preventing further progress on the NE ridge

On the West Telegraph summit

As a side note, I realized my GPS had been off since we left the notch on the way up, leaving a big hole in my track. I started a new track from the far side of Telegraph at Point 8735' so that I would at least have half of the track. This let me calculate the gain, but the distance is a best guess, based on Rod's data and an estimate of the distance saved by going up Big Butch Wash.

The return elevation profile from the SE ridge of Telegraph Peak (after trying to get to the NE ridge)

See also: Telegraph Peak via Icehouse Canyon

Friday, March 21, 2014

Robbers Peak

Hiked: 3/21/2014
Distance: 3.8 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1152'
Prominence: 174'
Elevation Gain: 862'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.68
Round trip time: 1 hour
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: $3 OC Parks
Difficulty: Easy

Robber's Peak is in Santiago Oaks Regional Park in Anaheim Hills. It only has 174 feet of prominence, a slight rise at the east end of the park before another cluster of suburban homes. On the way to the park, Windes Drive narrows uncomfortably, but there was little traffic today. An automated gate greets you before the parking area, forcing you to pay the $3 entrance fee. The nature center was nice and there are plenty of restrooms at the trailhead. As in most of the OC regional parks, there is a maze of trails that criss cross the park. As long as you head east, any combination of trails will get you to Robbers Peak. I tried the most direct route I could find, but after the fact, it looks like there was a shorter way:

Santiago Creek Trail
Left on Wilderness Trail
Left on Peralta Hills Trail
Left on Anaheim Hills Trail

I jogged some of the downhills, getting up and back in one hour. This completed my Orange County peakbagger list of everything >250'. Aces!

Santiago Oaks Nature Center

Approaching Robbers Peak

Summit boulder, easy peasy

Looking back into the park from Robbers Peak

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Scully Hill

Hiked: 3/16/2014
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip on dirt road and cross country
Summit Elevation: 925'
Prominence: 25'
Elevation Gain: 600'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.48
Round trip time: 21 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Green River Country Club
Difficulty: Easy

It was 91F when I got out of my car at the Green River Country Club parking lot. I walked across the mostly full lot, past the busy driving range, hoping no one would pay any attention to me since I was clearly not dressed as a golfer. Just past the main building, a road drops toward the railroad tracks. A dirt road starts up Scully Hill on the other side at a moderate grade. I jogged about half way up, then walked to a junction where a utility road cuts left and down toward an electrical tower. From there, I went cross country straight up the hill. The summit had a square cement marker with ridges, but no writing on it. After enjoying the view for about 15 seconds, I started directly down the front of the hill until I hit the road, then jogged the rest of the way to the parking lot. No one seemed to notice as I saved my track file and drove away.

Scully Hill from the Green River Golf Club

Sierra Peak across highway 91 from Scully Hill summit

Friday, March 14, 2014

Kwaay Paay Peak and Fortuna Mountain

Hiked: 3/14/2014
Distance: 7 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1194' (Kwaay Paay), 1291' (Fortuna)
Prominence: 434' (Kwaay Paay), 411' (Fortuna)
Elevation Gain: 1983'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.58
Round trip time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 72 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Mission Gorge Road
Difficulty: Moderate (combined)

After finishing Cowles and Pyles Peak, I made the 5 minute drive to the other side of Mission Trails Regional Park for the other two peaks. When I first saw the name Kwaay Paay, I thought it might be Hawaiian, but it is derived from a local Indian tribe. From the Kwaay Paay trailhead, it is a straight shot up the ridge to the indistinct summit. Near the top of the first hill, I spotted my first rattlesnake of the year. It was about 3' long, not quite an adult, but a nice healthy snake. I fumbled my phone trying to get a picture before it crossed the trail, but it was already in the bushes before I could get a photo. I walked toward the bush and it gave me one rattle before disappearing. It is almost a 900' grind up to the summit. There is a summit-like clearing near the top, but the high point seemed to be left of the trail and across the wooden fence. I wandered over to the actual summit, but found no benchmark or register at either location. I finished off my food for the day and started down. Before reaching the bottom, I swerved left toward the visitors center and the trail to Fortuna. I had to give up every bit of gain.

Kwaay Paay trailhead

First view of Kwaay Paay, just past the rattlesnake encounter

Kwaay Paay summit-like area, true summit behind off trail, Fortuna mountain dead ahead

The trail to Fortuna (higher north summit) starts by going around the Mission Dam. Then it follows Oak Canyon, a very relaxing trail that should have had multiple stream crossings, except there was very little water in the stream. It was not flowing except at the very start, and only a few pools remained from the winter drought. After you exit the canyon, the work starts as you ascend to Fortuna saddle, then turn right up to the higher north summit. A pole marks the Fortuna summit. I finished the last of my gatorade and only had an 8 oz bottle of water to get me back to the car. That wasn't a problem since it was less than 3 miles. I searched for a register, but ended up 0-4 on the day. These last two peaks only had a few other hikers on them, clearly not as popular as Cowles. The combined 4 peaks on the day gave me 12.9 miles and 3693' of gain. Not bad for fast food peaks.

Mission Dam at the start of the Fortuna trail

Bridge over the stream

Final segment from the saddle to North Fortuna summit

Fortuna mountain summit

Kwaay Paay, Pyles Peak, and Cowles in the distance

Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak

Hiked: 3/14/2014
Distance: 5.9 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1591' (Cowles), 1379' (Pyles)
Prominence: 991' (Cowles)
Elevation Gain: 1710'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.36
Round trip time: 2 hours
Recommended water: 56 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Golfcrest
Difficulty: Easy

Cowles Mountain is the highest point within the San Diego city limits and was one of 4 peaks on the agenda in Mission Trails Regional Park. All four are small peaks -- fast food peaks -- but all are on the San Diego 100 peaks list. I enjoy hiking for many reasons and sometimes can enjoy the cardio without an epic challenge. This would be a cardio focused day. I also wanted to hit these on a weekday since they are so close to urban San Diego and so easy that they get busy on weekends.

The small parking lot on Golfcrest was packed, and as I looked up the mountain, it was human ant hill. Coming on a Friday did not lessen the crowds. I had to park nearly half a mile down Golfcrest on the side of the road, which was lined with people hiking or taking their dogs up Cowles. This was the most crowded trail I've ever seen and I have no desire to return, at least by this route. I recommend using the trail from Mesa Road, or finding a way to do Pyles Peak first, then come up Cowles from there. I got to the top in 30 minutes, passing dozens of people, and dodging a platoon of marines jogging down. I took a few quick pictures and didn't bother looking for a register. Instead, I immediately set off for Pyles Peak on the other side of Cowles, and was pleased to see only three other hikers making their way down the trail. I quickly moved by them and for the next hour, the only sounds I heard were sonic booms from Navy jets. Pyles Peak is lower and the views were essentially the same as from Cowles, but without the crowds. No register or benchmark to be found, I shed my base layer and headed back toward the human ant hill, then on to Kwaay Paay and Fortuna.

Cowles mountain from the car

Cowles mountain summit marker

A subset of the summit crowd

Fortuna mountain sticking up in the distance from Cowles summit, my final destination for the day

Approaching Pyles Peak

Looking back at Cowles from Pyles Peak