Distance: 1.9 miles round trip on use trail
Summit Elevation: 1824' (Juan Rancho SM), 2003' (False summit of Peak 2040)
Elevation Gain: 1300'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.04
Round trip time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
I dropped my son off after school at Howie's Game Shack for a birthday party for one of his friends. That left me a couple of hours to kill. What to do? I could have watched an overpriced movie or wandered around the mall. I thought it might be healthier to scout something in the nearby Santa Ana Mountains. Caltopo showed the Juan Rancho Survey Mark at 1824' above the San Juan Fire Station just off Ortega Highway that was close enough to be tempting. Factoring in traffic, I would have no more than 90 minutes to make the round trip. It was oddly placed on a ridge, about 200' below Peak 2040. It was too far to come up the San Juan Trail and descend to it, so I decided to see how far I could get using the firebreak.
I parked in the single day use parking spot behind the fire station. The fire crew was out front doing some kind of activity and I wondered if they would mind me crawling up their break. If they saw me, they didn't say anything. The firebreak was loose dirt gaining about 1300' in less than a mile. Half way up, I checked my time and as I continued to grind, a rocky outcrop came into view that I guessed was the SM. The outcrop looks like it had been cut in half. Just above the outcrop was a metal pole marking the Juan Rancho SM. I didn't find any traditional discs, just the pole. Another time check showed I had a few minutes before my turnaround time, so I resumed my climb toward what I thought was Peak 2040. I stopped when I found a large plastic jar holding a register. I quickly flipped through it, seeing that it went back to 2005. Most entries were more recent, but there weren't many. I signed it, feeling a small sense of accomplishment, then started back. I realized when I got home that I stopped 40' vertical away from the true summit of Peak 2040. I would have to be content bagging only the SM. I went against traffic on the way back to the party and arrived with 45 minutes to spare.