Stelzer County Park – #103

My second trail run (sort of – lots of walking!) today, after the Lakeside Linkage Trail, was at the Louis A. Stelzer County Park. I had been to this park a couple of times when the kids were younger – once with the Cub Scouts, and once with a kids-in-nature Meetup group. I remember on one of the trips doing a ranger-led hike along the lovely Riparian Trail. The trail went uphill a bit and there was a lot of whining.

October 10, 2020
Miles: 3.8
Elevation Gain: 639′
Gaia track

Afoot & Afield trip #103

Today my plan was to do the whole park – not hard to do. I arrived at the parking lot at around 7:45am, and the ranger station was not yet open. Parking cost $3, and I only had a $20 bill (I have since stashed some small bills in my glove box!), so I made a donation to the parks department, apparently. My route was straightforward as there are not a lot of options. I started across from the kitschy but cute koi pond and headed to the right (west) along the aforementioned Riparian Trail. It was lovely and, well, riparian – perfect for a little jog. Eventually the trail made a left turn onto the Wooten Loop Trail, and thus began the easy climb that I remembered. A few switchbacks later and the trail intersected with a fire road.

This park has two peaks to be bagged. One, toward the west, is the Kumeyaay Promontory, which decided to hit first. There is a huge powerline tower near the top, and it was easy going. I could see that the actual high point was a bit further up, and I spotted the use trail heading that way. I was not prepared for bushwhacking, wearing capris and a tank top, but it did not look too bad and I gave it a go. A tiny bit of scrambling and I arrived at a large boulder that appeared to be the highest point. I did not climb up it; it was fairly sheer and not worth it – I was close enough.

Trying to be artsy
At the end of the road to Kumeyaay Promontory
Pretty close to the actual highest point of Kumeyaay Promontory

I headed back down – saying hello to two guys and a beautiful husky, the only folks I’d see on this trail today – passing the turnoff to get back to the trailhead, and toward the second and highest point in the park, Stelzer Peak. Soon the trail became very steep, with just enough loose gravel to keep me focused. At least it wasn’t rutted or rocky.

Approaching Stelzer Peak

The road flattened out and a trail branched off to the right, shortly arriving at the peak. The top was wide open with lots of huge boulders, and opening out to a cave with a view of Lakeside. Again the highest point was atop a boulder, but I again decided to skip it. It looked to be a much easier climb but it would really suck to get injured while alone.

The view from inside the “cave”

This was the end of my plan… but as mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t think to check Peakfinder before heading out. I need to remember to do that from now on. There was a third peak known only as Peak 1372 (unnamed peaks like this are known by their elevation). There were actually a few visible peaklets, so I made good use of my Gaia app to make sure I got to the right one. A fire road went to the base of it … but then it was a pure bushwhack, and a nasty one at that. I poked around trying to find a use trail but no such luck. Considering my lack of protective clothing, this peak was not in the cards for today. Oh well, someday I’ll have to come back!

On my easy downhill jog back to the car, I took a right turn inside the park to hit the Stelzer Trail, making a bit of a loop and “officially” covering all the trails within the park.

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Lakeside Linkage Trail – #105

My current routine has me doing a long run and/or a trail run one weekend morning, and going hiking with my group on the other weekend morning. Today was run day, and I selected two short-ish nearby trails described in Afoot & Afield that I had not yet crossed off my list.

I am making yet another attempt at starting a blog of my life and my hikes. I know this posting comes a bit out of the blue and with no preamble other than having just updated the site’s About page. However, I want to get the trip report written now while things are fresh in my mind. I will plan to post a “what the heck am I doing” posting another time!

In this posting I’ll describe the first trail, the Lakeside Linkage Trail. I’ll make a separate post to discuss the second trail in Stelzer County Park.

October 10, 2020
Miles: 2.5
Elevation Gain: 600′
AllTrails link
Gaia track
Afoot & Afield trip #105

The stats above are per Afoot & Afield. My mileage was a bit longer because I explored. The trailhead for this urban hike is right on the side of Los Coches Rd in Lakeside. The trail started out by heading straight across a field alongside a neighborhood, but quickly started climbing. On the way up I missed a fork that would have taken me to a long pair of switchbacks, and instead I scrambled up the steep, loose dirt. Soon the trail flattened out and I came to a criss-cross jumble of mountain bike trails. There was also a few square fenced succulent gardens, which were pretty – maybe they are trying to grow in the area a bit. The pre-dawn view was lovely.

Succulent Garden
Beautiful sunrise view

The trail became a bit confusing with all the mountain bike tracks, but I quickly realized if I just stayed to the far left, the trail veered up a ridge and the way became clear. The trail briefly joined a dirt road behind some houses, then again turned up along the ridge. Eventually the trail descended to a long drive that led to the historic Whitaker House. Initially I started walking up the drive until I realized the trail actually continued up to the house. Walking through the gate to the property, I first encountered what must have been the barn. Past the barn, in the middle of the property, was a concrete-walled “park.” Finally came the house itself. Of course it was closed but I was able to look into a few windows. When I got home I tried to find some more info about the house but it appears to have been donated to the SD County Parks, not to the Lakeside Historical Society; and the parks website has no info about it that I could find. However, I did find this Union Tribune Article from 2009.

On my way back I took a small detour to check out a viewpoint, then headed back down the hill. This time I took the switchbacks. When I got home I realized that the area where the mountain bike trails were (Fit-2 Benchmark), and the location of the house (Hilltop) are peaks on Peakbagger. Two peaks logged, yeah!

Whitaker House
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Posting from my cell phone

Trying to decide if I want to blog my JMT hike. Of course there is rarely coverage on the trail, but I can queue up my posts. But first I wanted to try posting from home. Also I wanted to try posting while in airplane mode. So, here I am!

And here’s a photo from out Taquitz Peak hike yesterday.

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Torrey Pines

A couple of weeks ago, I had a “duh” moment. Every Wednesday I attend a 6am yoga class (at San Diego Yoga Studio, which I highly recommend). Afterwards I go to work and eat breakfast. Work is quiet these days, so getting to work by 7:30am is not really necessary. It just occurred to me that I could go from yoga to a hiking destination on the west side of the Gauntlet Of Traffic. So last week, and again this past Wednesday, I hit Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, just south of Del Mar, is an untouched area of coastline that includes the rare Torrey pine, found only there and on Santa Rosa Island. Parking is not free in the reserve, but there is beach-side parking just outside of it, which is not a problem at 7:30 in the morning. In addition to its wild beauty, Torrey Pines is also infamous for the steep driveway from the beach to the visitor’s center. Starting from the beach parking, it’s about a ten-minute walk uphill to the start of the trail network.

On last week’s visit, I completed the Guy Fleming loop. This made for about a 40-minute walk, including the walk up and down the drive, and time for me to stop and gawk at the stunning view. This week, I proceeded past the Guy Fleming loop, to the Parry Grove trail. This trail was similarly short and sweet, but included some steps down to the namesake grove, as well as a native plant garden (the Whitaker Garden).

And not to beat a dead horse, but again with the flowers! Love it here this year!!


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Oak Canyon in Super Bloom

I still don’t have a plan for this blog, and of course have been completely sidetracked in the blogging department by Project Perky. Since Project Perky has quieted down a bit, and I’m hiking more, I’ve decided to dive back in. My original plan for this blog was for it to be a working mom blog (hence the name, which I’ll get into in another post someday), but I also had a hankering for creating a hiking blog. My plan as of this moment is to blog about life in general, including the challenges and joys of being a working mom, but with a heavy focus on hiking, camping, and the outdoors.

With all that said… a few days ago I hiked Oak Canyon at Mission Trails Regional Park. I hiked part of this trail a week or two ago with my Family Adventures in Nature group and a gaggle of kids. On that meander we climbed every oak tree, marveled at a distance at beehives, caught tadpoles, turned over rocks, chased butterflies, and finally, for the pièce de résistance, climbed and clamored and splashed in a waterfall. It was so beautiful I decided I wanted to come back, sans children, to hike the length of the trail.

This year we had near-record rainfall. After years of drought here in California, all this rain is not only welcome, but it’s like an awakening – we’ve forgotten what this place usually looks like in spring, with trickling streams and flowers everywhere. There has been much press about the “super bloom” in the desert this year, and the desert is indeed beautiful; but every hike I’ve done this spring, from Torrey Pines to the Grand Canyon, has been covered in super blooms. Oak Canyon was no exception.

Mission Trails Regional Park is not far from my kids’ school, and it’s on my way to work, so in addition to being an awesome park, it’s also conveniently located for me. After dropping the kids off, I drove to the Old Mission Dam. There was a huge crowd of high school-aged kids gathering for a hike, so I geared up as quickly as I could to get ahead of them (which I succeeded at – I never saw them again the whole hike).

I hit the trail at 8:30am and followed the familiar route out to the waterfall where the kids had played. That portion of the hike was indeed the best part, but I pressed on. The hike followed the stream, crossing in several places. Eventually it met up with one of the Fortuna trails. As I approached the 52 highway, the stream opened into a small gorge with some rock scrambling. At this point, Jerry Schad (4th edition; I’m still waiting for my Scott Turner version!) has you turn around for an out-and-back hike, but I decided to make a small loop out of it, and turned up one of the Fortuna trails to head towards the Grasslands loop.

This trail was dramatically different; basically a wide, dirt road, in the broad sunshine. What it lost in raw riparian beauty it somewhat made up for in views, with rolling hills visible in every direction. That said, I can see why Schad dismissed the Grasslands Loop trail; it’s really more of a mountain biking trail and not a hiking destination.

My hike met back up with the Oak Canyon trail and after a wee bit of confusion on my part (which is visible in my GPX track) I made it back to the dam a little before 10am.

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Awesome oak tree

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Paige and friends

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Lane standing in a ray of sunshine

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Flowers on my solo hike

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Against a fence

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These were my favorites. My iPhone SE photo is certainly not doing them justice…

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Wilderness Basics Class

In 1956, some members of the San Diego Sierra Club started a class teaching wilderness survival techniques called “Basic Mountaineering.”  Now, exactly 60 years later, the renamed Wilderness Basics Class (“WBC”) is a San Diego institution.  I first learned about this class from Tad, who took the class with his friend Scott in ~1997 (about two years before I met Tad).  Ever since then I have been interested in taking it, but there has always been a reason not to.  Before having kids I simply did not prioritize it, and after having kids there was no way to take such a class.

The class is held once a year, from January to March.  In late 2014, my project at work was winding down, and I decided my schedule would allow me to finally take the class.  In November of 2014 I attempted to sign up, but it was full already!  I decided then that I would take it the next year no matter what, and I put the day registration opened into my calendar.

Fast forward a year, and I was working on a new project that was keeping me extremely busy, helping to coordinate a trial of a new technology from February to April in China — not really a very good year to sign up!  But I had made my decision and signed up anyway.  I had Tad’s full support, and the kids are old enough to not require as much of my attention.

The class is held every Tuesday evening for 3 hours, with four major weekend outings.  I attended my first class last Tuesday.  This weekend the WBC organizers hosted a short day hike for the purpose of assessing us for the outings.  I signed up for the 7am Saturday time slot.  The hike was held on the first 1.75mi of the longer trail at Iron Mountain in Poway.  After completing the course, I decided to keep going another 1.75 miles to the top of Iron Mountain.  It was a nice day, relatively cool, and starting at 7am made for easy parking and thin crowds.  During the timed portion, I met a fellow WBC-er named Brian.  After the timed portion, I hiked the rest of the way up with another WBC-er named Gwen.  (I do suspect the mileage; the second 1.75 seemed much longer.  I assume this was because it was the steeper part of the hike.)

I completed the timed portion in 29 minutes, which I think is pretty good.  Overall, it was a 6.4 mile hike which I did in 2 hours.  The first hour was the hike up, covering 1000 feet in elevation.  This will be a useful reference for me as I decide which of the major outings to sign up for.

In talking to Gwen and Brian I came to realize that I’m going to need to be able to answer one of the first questions that other WBC’ers are asking: that is, why am I taking the class?  I’ve landed on three reasons: 1. Because it’s a San Diego institution, and is something that should be done; 2. Because having a schedule and a group to go backpacking with will motivate me to do so; and 3. Because it’s good for me to do this separately from Tad, and be more on my own and figuring things out for myself.  I’m looking forward to it!


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We don’t get a lot of rain here in El Cajon; especially not in the summer.  This weekend has been very strange, weather-wise.  On Saturday I woke up to thunder & lightning, and it rained all day.  Sunday was sunny but muggy until early afternoon, when it started to pour.

In the evening, after getting home from a birthday party for a classmate of Lane’s, Tad & I enjoyed the relaxing sound of the drizzle alongside some Grateful Dead and a glass of Merlot.

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Crestridge Ecological Reserve

This morning I hiked up to a “peaklet” in Crest. I’m there now as I type this! Trying live blogging.



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