North Van Dam Peak
: 1.46
Elevation: 369ft
Gaia Track
100 Peaks Challenge 2021 Peak #9

Today was calendar Tetris day! Every six months I visit my oncologist (ahem). Since Covid, I’ve been mostly going to the clinic in Rancho Bernardo – it’s either that or Torrey Pines, which is close to work; but from home they both are inconvenient. RB is slightly less so.

This appointment was scheduled well before I decided to do the 100 Peaks Challenge, but when I saw it on my calendar, on a Friday even, I decided it would be a great chance to squeeze in one of the many bite-sized peaks on the list that are off the 15 freeway, en route to RB. I picked North Van Dam since of them all it seemed short and accessible, so more easily Tetris’d into a workday calendar. (The name keeps reminding me of the Three Jolly Fishermen song from Girl Scout camp. “North Van, North Van DAM DAM DAM!”)

Then the day got really nuts. I decided to squeeze in a morning PT session, which is only 15 minutes from the trailhead. I’d have a time gap, so I squeezed in a conference call to take from my car. Then, why not, I decided I’d pick my kid up from high school – so that Tad could be home for our new pod school we’re doing with the other kid. Oh and also guess what: every-other Friday our housecleaners come over – and this is the week. (Oh and also? I have my book club tonight – which is late enough that it doesn’t matter but just thought I’d mention it.) On top of all that my afternoon is chock-full of back-to-back 30-minute meetings.

Let’s DO this!!!

Of course once I arrived at the trailhead my oncology office called to reschedule. I was doing FINE with my game of Tetris, thank you very much; but it was still nice to take the pressure off. At this point though, I was HERE already. Time to hike!

Turns out I definitely picked a hike I could easily Tetris into my busy day. I had never done this peak before and in fact had not heard of it prior to the 100 Peaks Challenge. It peeks up from amidst an open space area in a suburb of Poway, with many little use trails throughout. I have learned that it’s popular with mountain bikers. Technically there are three peaks up there, and of course the checklister in me was tempted to check them all out… but not today.

I selected the Middle Terrace trailhead – one of several to choose from – and parked just below the cul-de-sac in a happy little neighborhood. I ditched my poles thinking it might be a good trail to run on – which was a mistake; yes, running along the ridge was nice, but the poles would have been handy on the initial steep section.

I attained the summit in 20 minutes flat. At the top is a concrete slab whose original purpose is a mystery, but now serves as a canvas for locals’ artwork. Views were lovely – I could see the Fortunas, and Woodson, and Black; all peaks on my to-do list. I also had a good view of highway 15 cutting through the subdivisions from this urban oasis.

I lingered at the summit for only five minutes. I did take photos, but literally forgot to look around for a peak register, or any benchmarks – completely escaped my mind. On my way back down I realized and regretted this. I have thought that for these peaks – especially those that I bag solo – I must come up with some kind of ritual. Take photos; find the register; find the benchmark; and maybe … meditate for a few minutes? Or do yoga? It’s only peak #9, and still January – I’m sure I’ll have this figured out before I’m done.

About Erika Lawson

Blogging from El Cajon, CA, just east of San Diego. I mostly blog about hiking, but also traveling and family life as a working mom. I also have blogged about my experience dealing with (curable) breast cancer with as much humor and disdain as possible.
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