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
Elevation Gain: 639′
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.
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.
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.
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.