Friday, January 23, 2015

Old Rocky Peak and Devil's Anvil

Hiked: 1/23/2015
Distance: 3.1 miles on use trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 1647' (Old Rocky), 1565' (Devil's Anvil)
Prominence: Unknown
Elevation Gain: 1150'
Elevation Gain (in Sears Towers): 0.92
Round trip time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Lake Wohlford Road
Difficulty: Easy

Coming back from Black Mountain #1, I set my GPS for Starvation Mountain just north of Woodson Mountain. When I got to where I wanted to park, I was surrounded by no tresspassing signs, courtesy of the Highland Mesa Corporation. There was new home construction going on and they appeared to own the entire top of the mountain. I wasn't feeling in the mood to risk a trespassing hassle, so I added it to the disappointments of the day and headed toward Lake Wohlford Road and some unfinished business.

There are four peaklets close together just outside Escondido: Bottle Peak, Old Rocky, Devil's Anvil, and Tombstone. I had done the bookends and now wanted to pick up the middle two. I parked on Lake Wohlford Road where I had tackled Tombstone and headed up the use trail that had started to fill in with dark green grass. It had warmed up to the mid-70s and even though it was January, I kept an eye out for snakes. The start of the hike is steep, gaining over 700' in the first half mile. After you reach the main ridgeline, the peaklets can be approached with short gains and dips. I stayed on the trail past Tombstone and dropped down between it and Old Rocky, following a good use trail up. The views were very similar to those of nearby Tombstone but the scrambling easier.

Weird rock on Starvation Mountain

Tombstone Peak from Old Rocky summit

Bottle Peak from Old Rocky summit

Straddling a crack on the summit block

Instead of going back the way I came, I followed a wash down the other side of Old Rocky, bushwhacking a bit to get back to the trail. I took a poor use trail up to Devil's Anvil, and snapped some graffiti filled photos from the high point and lower down on the long slab of the Anvil itself. I found an easy class 2 crack to follow to gain the Anvil. It is a pretty cool flat slab, maybe 75' long. When I was ready to go, I looked for and found a better use trail down. I stayed on the trail all the way back to the car. This cluster of peaklets is good fun and would be better if done together instead of piece meal they way I did.

Devil's Anvil summit, the easy way up to the right

Graffitied up Anvil

Looking down from the Anvil

Native local art on the Anvil, maybe people will value this hundreds of years from now

Black Mountain #1 (San Diego)

Hiked: 1/23/2015
Distance: 4.9 miles on road and use trail
Summit Elevation: 4051'
Elevation Gain: 1190'
Elevation Gain (in Sears Towers): 0.95
Round trip time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass on Black Mountain Road
Difficulty: Easy

My plan was to make another attempt at Tanriverdi Falls in the Santa Anas, but Long Canyon Road was closed for construction. The forest service doesn't track the status of it on their web site and I was surprised to find it closed when I got there. I didn't have a backup plan, but tried to think something up on the way down. I pulled over and verified on my phone that Black Mountain road was open in San Diego county, then headed down I-5 with 90 minutes of my day already burned up.

Black Mountain #1 is #49 on the San Diego Sierra Club list. If you park on Pamo Road and start from the bottom of the dirt road, it is a 14 mile round trip. If you have a high clearance vehicle and all three gates are open, you can drive almost to the top, only having to navigate the roughly 1/4 mile use trail. I didn't have time to start from the bottom so I drove up to a turnout at 2872' and hiked the rest of the way. You start on Santa Ysabel, then at the second gate, Black Mountain road continues left. The road was in pretty good shape and required high clearance but not 4WD. Turns out all the gates were open and I could have driven all the way up, but I wanted to get a feel for the mountain. It would probably be a better mountain bike ride than hike.

Upper Santa Ysabel Road, the way to Black Mountain #1

First view of the Black Mountain summit

Start of the summit use trail

At the summit is a solar powered forest service radio tower that looks like it was built on the ruins of a fire lookout. From other trip reports, I was not expecting to find a benchmark or register, but I did find the triangulation benchmark on the other side of the tower. It was missing the face plate, but the triangle was still there. I didn't find a register. The views from 4000' were pretty good, with the outline of Woodson Mountain rising to the southwest. There were plenty of great lunch spots, but I wanted to get down in time to try to pick up another fast food peak or two on the way home. After a few photos, I was on my way, jogging most of the way down.

The radio tower at the high point

Looking back at the pine grove near the top

Sun reflecting off Sutherland Lake

Benchmark missing the face place, behind the tower

Friday, January 9, 2015

McGinty Mountain

Hiked: 1/9/2015
Distance: 4.9 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2183'
Elevation Gain: 1515'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.21
Round trip time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Jamul Road turnout
Difficulty: Easy

Part two of our San Diego Sierra Club peak quest was about a 30 minute drive from Viejas Mountain on Jamul Road. There is a turnout with ample parking and when we arrived, only a few other vehicles were there. Vance was still breaking in his boots and taped up some hot spots before we started. The trail switchbacks up the bump directly ahead. At the top of the bump, take a hard left on the dirt road. The road to the right heads down the other side of the bump. After you pass the first bump, the trail gives up about 100' of elevation before hitting the second major section of gain. Here, I led the group into the first of two mistakes by taking a use trail up what appeared to be the continuation of the ridge. When the use trail faded away, it became clear that the trail bypassed this ridge so we did a short cross country correction. At this point, Vance had worked up two leg cramps and decided to rest at the bottom of the second section. We left him a walkie-talkie and headed up to the McGinty summit. Before we got to the top, Vance informed us he was going to wait for us to summit and come down.

Start of the trail and first bump ahead

First view of McGinty

Mine shaft, possibly Peg Leg Mine. We briefly considered trying to get to it, then continued.

We got to the McGinty summit and found neither a benchmark nor register. We took some summit photos, including a shot of the three of us. Like Viejas, the views were OK, but would have been much better on a clear day. As we started down and rounded a corner, we saw Vance valiantly trodding up the final hill. We encouraged him to continue to the summit while we waited. He had somehow fought his way up in spite of leg cramps and would bag the second peak after all. The back-to-back hikes had roughed him up a little, but he seemed no worse for the wear. On the way back, we made a second navigational error, veering off to the right when we should have continued over a rise. Other people have made the same mistake and now I understand why. For every other minor bump or rise on the way back, the right choice is always to continue along the side of it, except for this final one where the correct path goes over it. Despite documenting it here, I expect many future hikers to wander off track at exactly this same junction.

Noel and Rod on the summit

On the lower north summit, El Cajon dominating the background

Group photo

Rod heading down

Viejas Mountain

Hiked: 1/9/2015
Distance: 3.2 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 4187'
Prominence: 1627'
Elevation Gain: 1475'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.18
Round trip time: 2 hours
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass on Boundary Truck Trail
Difficulty: Easy

Noel, Rod, Vance and I set out to bag two San Diego Sierra Club peaks on a somewhat overcast day. This was our first time out with Vance and his first hike in a long time. It took us a while to get through the morning traffic and when we arrived at the trailhead, it was overflowing with cars. We had the misfortune of tackling the same peak as a local hiking club who had at least 25 people on the mountain, most in the 60+ age range. I have great respect for my elders (there are fewer of them every year) thrashing it out on a trail, but their large group held us back in both directions and cost us some time.

The trail has a good bit of gain for a short hike, but I was expecting it to be more difficult. The trail was typical of the San Diego area with some extra loose rocks, but mostly unremarkable. After climbing to a saddle the trail splits. To the right is an American flag, but the summit is about another quarter mile to the left. Vance was pausing for additional breaks and was a few minutes behind us. We stopped to goof around on some boulders just off the trail until he caught up, then continued to the summit. A windbreak on the summit had been constructed from stones and at least a dozen people from the hiking group were milling around and eating snacks. We all signed the register, then I went hunting for the benchmark. Noel found a reference marker and I scouted in the direction it pointed, eventually finding the triangulation benchmark hidden on the far side of the windbreak. The views from the top were hazy, but probably would have been great on a clear day. On the way back, we made the small diversion to the flag and took a group photo. Rod thought he had found a snake in the brush near the flag, but we couldn't flush it out.

Starting up the trail to Viejas

Still in love, more than ever

Rod and I goofing around on some boulders

The other hiking group on the summit

The Viejas benchmark

The benchmark, hidden under the windbreak, the register is on the inside

El Cajon from Viejas

At the flag

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Flores Peak

Hiked: 1/1/2015
Distance: 1.4 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 1875'
Prominence: 320'
Elevation Gain: 550'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.44
Round trip time: 45 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
Difficulty: Easy

Flores Peak, named after outlaw Juan Flores, overlooks the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Santa Ana Mountain foothills. There is free, but limited, parking at the sanctuary and it is a popular place for mountain bikers because it is also the start of the Harding Truck Trail. To get there, turn on Modjeska Canyon Road from Santiago Canyon Road and follow it around a small jog to the end. If the parking lot is full, there are a few places along the side of Modjeska Canyon Road where you can park.

Flores is a dial-your-own-difficulty hike. There are multiple routes up. The easiest is to take the dirt road on the north side of Modjeska Canyon Road about 0.25 miles before the parking area, then follow the use trail up the southeast ridge, class 1 all the way. The next easiest is the south ridge, which takes some class 2 dirt scrambling to reach. Once on the south ridge, it is class 1 the rest of the way. On the southwest side, you can find class 3/4 routes from Harding Truck Trail, and possibly other routes. The rock didn't look very stable from a distance. I took the south ridge up and the southeast ridge down. There is a small American flag at the summit, but I found no register or benchmark. I followed a use trail down the west side a bit trying to get a better look at the cliffy rocks, but brush blocked my view as far as I went. There were some very nice views of the interior of the Santa Anas with a nice snow dusting from a storm two days earlier. The snow line dropped as low as 2000', but it was melting fast.

I hopped the concrete barrier here, then scrambled left to gain the south ridge

Initial sketchy dirt scramble above the road

The cliffy southeast face of Flores Peak

Summit flag

Rare Santa Ana snow dusting, looking up Harding Canyon toward Modjeska

Coming down the southeast ridge

2014 Retrospective