Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bluewater Crown and Cub Scout Peak (Peak 3163)

Hiked: 8/28/2016
Distance: 10 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3231' (Bluewater), 3163' (Cub Scout)
Elevation Gain: 1840'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 5 hours
Recommended water: 84 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

The San Mateo Wilderness is a lightly traveled area southeast of the Santa Ana Mountains. Bluewater Canyon runs north-south near the heart of the wilderness and is surrounded by the Verdugo Trail to the west and North Tenaja Trail to the east (the USFS topo calls this trail Bluewater Ridge Trail). The canyon itself deserves further exploration and is high on my to do list. Looking at the topo map, my target was the highest peak along the perimeter of the canyon I dubbed Bluewater Crown. At roughly 3231' and right at the top of the canyon, it is only 40' lower than the local monarch, Sitton Peak. I couldn't find any beta on this peak, no benchmark on the topo, no firebreak and no use trail to the top. There did appear to be a use trail up part of peak 3163 that could be used as an approach.

I started on the Bear Canyon Trail by the Candy Store on Ortega Highway. This is the same trail to get to Sitton Peak. I took the Bear Canyon Trail to Four Corners, where five trails intersect. The Crown looms over Four Corners, but the bushwhack looks unusually harsh from there. I followed the Sitton Peak trail up to the saddle between Boy Scout Peak and the smaller Peak 3163 I named "Cub Scout Peak". The obvious use trail leaves on the left side to what looks like a camp site. Some light bushwhacking got me up Cub Scout Peak where two metal poles marked the top.

Bluewater Crown dead ahead

Four Corners, five trails

Use trail heading toward Cub Scout Peak

Two metal poles on the Cub Scout summit

Heading toward Bluewater Crown

Between Cub Scout and Bluewater Crown is moderate to heavy bushwhacking. Along the way are some channels with lighter brush. They aren't contiguous, but I could usually find one within 20' of where the current one ended. Good route choices are the difference between moderate and heavy thrashing. I did some of both. The summit of the Crown has five bumps, one at the north end, one at the south end, and three in the middle. The two highest were along the east (right) side. It was a very close call, but the first eastern bump seems slightly higher than the other. A tree growing there is clearly higher than anything else. I dropped a register there in an artisinal glass jar. I set it up at the base of the tree below the highest boulder.

Sidebar on the summit height: The waypoint I took standing on the highest boulder read 3247' so that is what I wrote in the register. Later, I checked and it doesn't have a 3240' topo line so the GPS was off. Google Earth has it at 3231' so I revised my report to 3231'.

Being in the middle of a large summit area, the views were good but not the best. I continued over the south bump down to a perfect lookout over Bluewater Canyon. Views there were commanding and I lingered longer than usual. I tried creating a photosphere from the lookout but it turned out broken. The south ridge appeared to be another viable ascent/descent route to the Verdugo Trail. I debated whether to descend that way, but ended up returning the way I came. I visited the final middle bump on the summit on the way back for completeness. Then, I got tangled up in some manzanita heading back to Cub Scout, escaping with minor scratches. I was extra grubby by the time I got back to the trail. From Four Corners, I took the slightly longer Bear Ridge trail back.

Busy spiders

The highest point on the Crown

Summit boulders

Looking back at Cub Scout Peak (lower left) and Boy Scout Peak (behind)

Sitton Peak, only a little higher

New register

Register placement

Heading to the south bump for a better view

Bluewater Canyon view, the reason I made the trip

Tangled up heading back up Cub Scout Peak

Returning on Bear Ridge Trail

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Oakzanita Peak and Sugg Peak

Hiked: 8/19/2016
Distance: 9.6 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5054' (Oakzanita), 5243' (Sugg)
Elevation Gain: 1750'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 92 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Highway 79 at East Mesa Fire Road
Difficulty: Moderate

It had been a few months since I hiked in San Diego County. I was back to get a couple on the SDC list, Oakzanita (#27) and Sugg (#25). Oakzanita sits in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, while nearby Sugg is across the boundary in the Cleveland National Forest. I parked at a paved turnout on Highway 79 and East Mesa Fire Road.

I hiked down the road just before sunrise. It was already light enough to see without illumination. Quickly, I passed the junction with Lower Descanso Creek Trail and soon after hit the Upper Descanso Creek Trail that leads to Oakzanita. The trail was easy to follow and wound around the lower part of Oakzanita to a saddle with a wide grassy plain. The Oakzanita summit trail branches right and makes long, gentle switchbacks all the way to the summit. Evidence of horses was visible all the way to the top, where a hitching post waited. It was an easy, family friendly summit with a class 1 boulder pile. I signed the register, popular based on the number of books and recent signatures. There was an old style spike benchmark in one of the boulders circa 1935. The views were quite nice of Cuyamaca and its satellites, with Sugg and Sugg West the other direction. I didn't hang around long, returning to the Oakzanita junction and continuing southeast toward Sugg.

East Mesa Road, Oakzanita behind in the pale before sunrise

Junction with Upper Descanso Creek Trail

Summit looking toward Cuyamaca and friends

Spike benchmark

On the way to Sugg (left)

The trail cut through a couple of meadows before meeting the East Mesa Road again. From satellite recon, I thought I saw a reasonable way to get near the saddle between Sugg and Sugg West by continuing up East Mesa to an obvious open area. However, things on the ground don't always match up. I ended up spotting what looked like a use trail heading to Sugg and took it. It bypassed the barbed wire fence and I followed it until it disappeared in a drainage below the Sugg false summit. What I should have done was take the overgrown road by hugging the fence, but the road was hidden behind a large fallen tree. Instead, I took the drainage into a snarl of vegetation. I smashed through it for a while looking for a better way to the saddle. At some point, I stopped trying to get to the saddle and just went up through whatever was in my way. I forged a unique track over dead trees, rocks, and thick brush. I sort of enjoyed it, but can't recommend it. Once I got to the top of the false summit, the only obstacle was knee high manzanita and I reached the summit in minutes. There I found a register in red cans, a San Diego County benchmark, and two summit boulders that looked like horns. I guess they could also be ears but horns fit the personality of Sugg. The right horn was easy class 2, the left horn a surprising class 3. No holds at all in back, but one good hold on top of the boulder that could be reached from the inner face. There were only a few signatures in the register. I was the third party to sign in all of 2016. Sugg is about the opposite of Oakzanita as far as friendliness, or maybe it's just pickier about who it makes friends with. On the way down, I headed for the saddle with Sugg West. A giant boulder served as a beacon. On top of the boulder, I could see a relatively clear path to the saddle where I picked up the overgrown road back to East Mesa Road. It was a much better route, though still plenty of contact with brush. As I was returning along the road, I surprised a pair of foxes. One vanished immediately, but I fumbled for my camera and got my first ever photos of a wild fox. That was nice way to end the adventure.

Bungle in Sugg jungle, well that's alright by me

Top of the false summit approaching Sugg summit

Only two parties made it to Sugg this year before me

Summit of Sugg

San Diego County benchmark

On the left horn

On a giant boulder, mapping out the rest of my descent


Fox on the run!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pine Mountain (San Diego)

Hiked: 8/19/2016
Distance: 0.5 miles round trip cross country
Summit Elevation: 5640'
Elevation Gain: 100'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.08
Round trip time: 15 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Pine Mountain, #15 on the Sierra Club San Diego County list, was a bonus on the way back from Oakzanita and Sugg. I didn't have a lot of time, so I followed Greg Gerlach's GPS track up Indian Potrero Road to the east side of Pine Mountain for an easy walk up. The drive turned out to be more difficult than the hike. To follow Indian Potrero Road, take the road where the Pine Mountain trail starts from Sunrise Highway (S1) if the gate is open, then right at the first junction and right at the second junction. The road is rough in spots and I drove in 4WD, bottoming out a couple of times in my 4Runner. There were plenty of tall, healthy pines and waist high grass. The summit was indistinct and I wandered around looking for any sign of human activity without luck. No mark, no register, and even the faint trails around the summit looked as much animal as human. Well, it was a pleasant area even though the trees blocked all views.

Driving toward Pine Mountain

Starting point

The dead and the living

Wandering around the large summit area

More pines around the summit

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hagador Peak, Mine 2 BM, Hagador Canyon

Hiked: 8/5/2016
Distance: 12 miles round trip on firebreak, dirt road, and trail
Summit Elevation: 3880' (Hagador), 3403' (Mine 2 BM)
Elevation Gain: 3290'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.63
Round trip time: 6 hours 20 minutes
Recommended water: 144 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Foothill Parkway
Difficulty: Moderate

Hagador Peak is an obscure peak just off North Main Divide Road in the Santa Ana Mountains. It is near Pleasants Peak. If you don't drive to it, the easiest way to reach it is from the east side of the Santa Anas. I started from the popular Skyline Drive trailhead on Foothill Parkway in Corona.

Instead of taking Skyline Drive, I opted for the ridge and firebreak at the mouth of Hagador Canyon. At the first bend in Skyline, I continued straight toward the Hagador Canyon Watershed. A rutted firebreak on the ridge is obvious across the field. I got started around 8:45 AM but the August sun was already bringing the heat. At the top of the first bump, I dropped a water cache for later exploration of the canyon. I continued up the ridge that separates Tin Mine Canyon to the NW and Hagador Canyon to the SE. The ridge is a series of short, sharp, dirt bumps, perfect for interval training. It was a good workout, but less than half way up, I was drenched in sweat. If I tilted my head down, a steady stream of sweat dripped from the visor of my hat. I woke up feeling a little lethargic and the heat made it worse. Eventually, I hit Main Divide Road and turned left for Hagador. This ridge saved many miles of winding around Skyline Drive. I estimate the ridge round trip to Hagador alone would be about 9.2 miles vs. 16 miles for Skyline. At the summit, there were many towers and a work crew doing some kind of maintenance. I didn't find a register or benchmark, but took some pictures and forced myself to eat what wasn't melted in my pack. I could not get to the last two towers because they were behind a barbed wire fence with security camera warnings. The presence of the work crew was also a deterrent.

Skyline Drive Trail in Corona

Ridge route with firebreak

Looking up Hagador Canyon from the ridge

Ridge line turns left to meet Main Divide Road just below Mine 2 BM

Targets in view from the ridge, except Pleasants that I did from the other side in 2013

Hagador summit and work crew trucks

Looking west

Looking southeast to Pleasants Peak

Protected towers, the fence ran deep into thick brush

I left Hagador Peak and returned the way I came. Just before the ridge turnoff, I took a detour to explore Mine 2 BM. I didn't know the name of it until I found an OC survey mark stamped "Mine II". The USGS and USFS topos show a benchmark here, but it wasn't named on their maps. Orange County probably named it based on proximity to Tin Mine Canyon. Most of the top was burned, I am guessing a controlled burn because it was contained to the summit. I made it down the ridge without mishap and collected my cache. At the bottom of the ridge I headed back into the canyon. There is a very nice trail with plenty of shade that goes up the canyon more than a mile before fading out in the creek bed. The creek was completely dry. With multiple crossings, the canyon would have been more fun if the water was flowing. The beauty of the canyon is marred by occasional graffiti on the rocks. At the end of trail, there were several easy ways to proceed, but I was down to my last bottle of water and not feeling it. I took a photosphere then headed out.

Mine 2 BM, placed 1981


Peace rock?

My turn around point in the canyon. More to explore.