March 13, 2021
Elevation Gain: 1,218ft
100 Peaks Challenge #35
Afoot & Afield 5th ed. Trip #114
March 14, 2021
Elevation Gain: 1,090ft
100 Peaks Challenge #36
March 14, 2021
Elevation Gain: 403ft
100 Peaks Challenge #37
Afoot & Afield 5th ed. Trip #271
*Follow our route back, not our route up.
It was nice to get a break this weekend. We did manage to bag three peaks, but all three were pretty easy – a respite from the last couple of weeks of hard hiking. Two of the three peaks were still desert peaks that had to get done before it gets hot, so we still feel accomplished!
Saturday morning we hit McGinty Mountain. I had this one pencilled in as a weekday hike – at a little over 4 miles it would have been doable. It’s also the closest trailhead to my house, so there’s that. But one of our group had an obligation on Saturday, so we needed a hike that fit our schedule, and McGinty fit the bill nicely. I have hiked McGinty several times – as mentioned, it’s super close to my house. In fact I led a Sierra Club hike on McGinty once, and it’s where I met Kali! What is funny to me about McGinty is that all along the mountain’s spine there are alternate side trails that lead to local peaks along the way, and I don’t think I’ve ever climbed this darn mountain without inadvertently taking one of these diversions. It’s never a big deal, as they always lead back to the main trail. But one of these days I’ll get a clean track, I swear!
McGinty is an interesting mountain in that there are some rare plants that grow here, due to the nature of the bedrock (called “gabbro,” according to Afoot & Afield) that makes up this mountain. I looked into this a little before leading that Sierra Club hike, and had no luck identifying these unusual plants. To my untrained eye the Dehesa bear grass (for example) looks like all the other chaparral grasses that I see everywhere else. It would be fun to do this someday with a naturalist who could point them out.
This trip up McGinty was after a couple of days of rain, so we were lucky to be greeted by a full rainbow! I decided to wear some proper hiking boots today – I normally hike in trail runners, but given the mud and the rocky terrain I thought the boots might be useful, and I was grateful to have them. We made excellent time – certainly faster than my previous trips up this peak. We were done in no time, and even with running a bunch of errands afterwards, I was still home before lunch.
Sunday was our desert day. We had two more peaks to finish in the southeast “low desert” corner of the county. Our original plan for this weekend was to backpack Agua Tibia Mountain and Eagle Crag, but those – on the north side of Palomar Mountain – almost certainly got a bunch of snow this past week. Other peaks in the desert that are on our list require driving over the mountains – and through the snow. So, Jacumba Mountain and Mount Tule – straight east on highway 8 – were our obvious Plan B. Also, it was the morning of “spring forward” Daylight Savings Time, so it was nice not to have to get up excessively early.
The challenge with both of these peaks, especially Jacumba Mountain, is that the trailheads require some serious 4wd driving to get there. Jacumba Mountain has three possible routes to the summit. One is an extremely difficult cross-country traverse from Mortero Palms – that’s a nope. The other two require a rugged 4wd ride from the In-Ko-Pah exit off the 8. First you come to the trail head for a six-mile hike option. If you continue on the dirt road you can get to a three-mile hike option. I was under the impression that the truly difficult four-wheeling was the section between the two, but that turned out not to be the case: if you can make it to the first trail head, you can certainly make it to the second. Tara’s trusty Jeep and her mad driving skills got us right up to the shorter option – but it took nearly an hour of offroading once we got off the highway, so budget time for that.
The hike began by crossing a wash to the base of the climb. Somehow I managed to lead us to the wrong drainage at the beginning of the steep part. It ended up requiring some bouldering, which was fun, but not the easiest way to go. Eventually we met up with our intended route, attaining the ridge, and making our way to the summit. Aside from our little bouldering diversion, it was a lovely and straightforward hike, with cool and windy weather.
Back in the Jeep, we headed back down the rugged road and back to the 8. Next stop was McCain Valley Road, up a ways to the Sacatone Overlook road, which led to the Mount Tule trailhead. The road was fairly rugged and flooded in areas – high clearance is definitely required. The route described in Afoot & Afield has you park just past the turnoff to the road leading up Mount Tule. We decided to check out the road up the mountain and save a little bit of mileage. It turned out to be a perfectly fine Jeep road, and again Tara made it up with no trouble. This cut off about 3/4 of the hike! For me to count an Afoot & Afield hike as “completed” I typically require myself to hike the full hike as described in the book – but in this case it would have annoyed the crap out of me to drive a rugged road, park, and then walk along an equally rugged road that I could have easily driven! So this one is getting a checkmark in the “done” column, thankyouverymuch.
We parked just below a section of jagged rock that would have been unwise to do without another vehicle – and that turned out to be perfect as the road ended just above there anyway. From that point we were able to follow a clear trail the whole way to the summit. This was a lovely hike, with no steep sections, no navigation issues, and no prickly plants trying to attack us. We were on top of the peak in less than 30 minutes. It was cool gazing back at Jacumba Mountain, where we’d just been. Unfortunately we found no peak register. We took our photos and headed back down the mountain.
In all we did about four miles of hiking on Sunday … and about five hours of driving. Yikes!! But that’s what the list required. I don’t object – there is a whole blog post in this, but briefly, one of my favorite things about this challenge is getting more familiar with all the nooks & crannies of the San Diego desert and outer areas.