Hot Springs Mountain
May 1, 2021
Elevation Gain: 2,094 ft
100 Peaks Challenge #59
Afoot & Afield 5th ed. Trip #137
Peak 1755 and the South Clevenger Canyon Trail
May 2, 2021
Elevation Gain: 1,132 ft
100 Peaks Challenge #60
Afoot & Afield 5th ed. Trip #50 (“San Pasqual Trails, South”)
Last week’s weather left us San Diegans with our heads spinning. Monday of last week, it poured rain and never got above 60. Then by Friday, the high temp at our house hit 101. Saturday was in the 80s, and by Sunday it was in the 60s again, with a little rain. What the heck?? Is this really southern California? Isn’t this part of the plot of L.A. Story??
And I gotta say, we managed the weather perfectly. We decided to hike Hot Springs Mountain on Saturday. The forecast was warm for hiking, but since this is the highest peak in San Diego County we knew we’d be in cooler weather after the first few miles. This peak is on the Los Coyotes Indian reservation, and the gates don’t open until 8am. When we arrived we saw that there was an “after hours” drop slot for our $10 per-person payment, but the signage still indicated that hikers aren’t allowed in after hours. Hm, confusing.
Past the security gate, we drove to the start of the trail at the campground, which was in the process of getting some trees trimmed to get it ready for reopening. This hike’s profile is “mound-shaped” – it starts somewhat steep, gradually becoming less so as the scrub bushes make way for pine trees. The trail is a degraded Jeep trail – Tad & I drove up to this peak about two decades ago, before the road was closed. This was my second time hiking it. The peak is now part of the San Diego Six Peak Challenge, and the signage has significantly improved. Near the summit is a derelict fire tower, beyond which is a much narrower but well-marked trail leading about a quarter mile to the summit block itself.
We arrived at the summit block and managed to climb atop it – aided by some bolts and ropes. It was not a hard climb but had a minor exposed bit that required a few deep calming breaths. A bigger challenge was that up there on the block the wind was howling! We squeezed in to take our summit photos and then hustled back down.
Aside the block, sheltered from the wind, we had some snacks and were about to head back down when another pair of hikers arrived – I immediately recognized Gina from one of my Facebook hiking groups! She is an avid hiker who helps the tribe with keeping this trail accessible to the hiking community, coming up every weekend to check things out. Today she and her friend were replacing the summit register – we got to be the first ones to sign the new notebook. She also clarified that they are in the midst of changing the gate entrance hours to, indeed, allow hikers to start before 8am – using that after hours mail slot we’d seen. Yeah!
Sunday was much cooler, so we picked a trail that would not have been much fun in the heat. The trail that leads to Peak 1755 is sometimes called South Clevenger Canyon, and sometimes the San Pasqual Trail – South (the latter name is used in Afoot & Afield, with the word “Clevenger” appearing nowhere in the text). So this hike with three names was our target this morning. It was a long drive for a relatively short hike, but it was worth it – the flowers were over the top! So beautiful!
To add yet a fourth way to refer to this hike, it is also known as the “chairs hike.” Near the end of the trail, bolted atop a boulder, is a pair of lawn chairs – perfect for the ‘gram, amiright? We hiked past the turnoff to our peak destination since of course we could not do this hike without going out to the chairs. We took our pics, then continued along the last bit of trail to the very end (which is apparently Peak 1635). We picked up our true goal, Peak 1755, on the way back. On my drive home it was raining. WTF?
With that, I’m personally at 60 peaks bagged so far in my 2021 100 Peaks Challenge. The desert is done except for some that we’re saving for the end. We’re nearly out of weekday hikes, except for a few minor peaks that we’ve agreed to do on our own. We are now focusing our planning on the hikes that can’t be done when it’s very hot. We’ll pencil these in and if the weather decides not to cooperate, we’ll swap them for the mountain hikes. That’s the plan at least – we’ll see how much this whacky weather cooperates!