Elevation Gain: 1103ft
100 Peaks Challenge #19
Afoot & Afield Trip #166
For my #100PeaksChallenge, I have the peaks sorted roughly into four categories: Desert hikes, non-desert hikes that must be done in cool weather, non-desert hikes that can be done anytime, and weekday hikes. Currently we’re in prime desert season, so we’ve been doing a desert hike on Saturday (focusing on the hardest ones in this coolest of seasons) and a non-desert cool-weather-required hike on Sunday.
Of course all the hikes in the mountains are in the “anytime” category. I am expecting to do these hikes in the summer months, when other areas are off limits, so I’ve generally been ignoring the Cuyamaca & Laguna Mountains at the moment. But … it just snowed!!! After yesterday’s desert traverse triumph, we decided that today we’d mix it up a little and have some fun. List categories be damned; let’s go play in the snow!
We decided on Oakzanita Peak in the Cuyamaca Mountains because the trailhead is not too far up highway 79. After hearing nightmare stories of traffic caused by San Diegans going “to the snow,” this was a big selling point. We set a stupid early start time to try to avoid other humans and their cars, and arrived in a near-empty parking lot.
The snow was patchy for the first mile, but as we ascended it became deeper and more consistent. Soon we strapped microspikes onto our boots – we could have done the hike without them as there were plenty of tracks in the snow, but it definitely made us faster and more sure-footed. We made quick work of it and arrived at the summit in about an hour and a half. The weather was cool and windy at the summit, and I was grateful for my wind breaker. In fact I went in and out of all the layers I’d brought today – probably a little unnecessary as it was not that cold, but it’s fun to test out all the gear we don’t get to use very often in San Diego.
We’d seen one other couple within the first mile of the hike (who did not make it to the summit), and then no one at all until nearly the end of our hike, when the hordes arrived. Cars were vying for our parking spot, and we were happy to let them have it as we drove away from our quick and lovely recovery hike. Peak #19, done!
A few words about gear, just because I got to use some gear today!
I own a pair of Yaktrax as well as microspikes. The microspikes I have are not the fancy Kahtoola ones, but are instead Chinese knockoffs from Amazon – Unigear brand, $30. I have only used them once before, and today’s hike certainly did not test them to any extent. I think for simple occasional hikes like this in SoCal they are a good option. I would probably not trust them for any kind of “real” hike. I regretted not thinking to bring snow baskets for my trekking poles – the poles kept digging into the snow, requiring me to pull them out at every step – and plan to slip them in the bag with the spikes for future use. The Yaktrax, on the other hand, I have used in challenging situations and they’re great for what they are (no spikes). I have decided to keep them clipped to my pack through the winter, since they are lightweight and there have now been two hikes where I wished I’d had them.
I have also made good use of my wind breaker on a couple of hikes. It’s featherweight and does not make me hot, and does its job (breaking wind!) better than much warmer and heavier layers would. It’s a hand-me-down from Tad, Drop brand, and so it fits very loosely, making it easy to toss on over any other layers I might have. Also, it’s orange. It’s similar to the Patagonia Houdini (not orange).
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