Are you with me so far?

You’re right, I have not blogged in a while! I don’t care, I love it! I blog because I like to write and I like to look back on my blog posts. Work has been super busy the last few months and so the blog didn’t happen, and that’s all there is to it.

Lots has happened since my last post – specifically, 16 more peaks, plus the northernmost 60+ miles of the JMT and then some, yeah baby! So here’s what I’m gonna do. This blog post will be a round up of the last 15 peaks, through peak #95. I’ll do a separate post for peak #96, which we did last weekend. I’ll also do a separate post for our JMT-North hike, but not right now. We’re on the home stretch!!!!

Ok here’s the roundup!

July 10: Peaks #81 & 82
Manza Benchmark: 4 miles | 775 feet
Monument Peak: 2.9 miles | 516 feet

Two days prior to this hike, Tad, Lane, and I were downtown having an amazing steak dinner at Cowboy Star (Paige was in Rhode Island, enjoying “Camp Grandma”). There had been no parking so we had a long walk to the restaurant. After dinner we decided to take scooters back to the car – and I immediately fell off mine. Yes I may have had a few glasses of wine during dinner… I bruised my knee and hurt my toe. I would learn over a week later that yes, I’d broken the pinkie toe, just slightly. (It’s now November as I type this, and I would say the toe is 90% better, but still hurts if I bend it too far.) Did I hike two days later anyway?? YOU BETCHA! Manza Benchmark was a bushwhack that I’m unlikely to do again. We did see a hunter’s blind (hiding spot) in a tree which was kinda neat, but it was otherwise unremarkable. Monument is a nice hike that I’d done before – the peak has lots of antennas and whatnot on it. It’s a popular short hike in the Lagunas.

July 24 & 25: Peaks #83 & 84
Eagle Rock: 9.9 miles | 706 feet
Combs Peak: 4.3 miles | 1061 feet

This was a super fun backpack, just for the heck of it! By no means does it need to be done as a backpack, but we figured, why not. We headed up to the Barrel Springs trailhead for Eagle Rock late afternoon on Saturday and hiked along the PCT to the San Ysidro Creek – dry, of course; but with room to camp. We set up our shelters (I’d decided to tarp it) and then did a night hike to the famous Eagle Rock. When we arrived, just as the setting sun was lighting up the sky, a huge group of people (like, 50??) showed up! Turned out they were the Triton Ruck Club. Super friendly and with a party atmosphere! So that was fun. The next morning we hiked back to the road and drove deeper into the backcountry to get to the trail head for Combs Peak. This hike was also along the PCT, further north – the stretch between the two is supposed to be lovely, and I did have a passing thought to hike it, but maybe some other time. The hike was unremarkable – easy going until we turned off the PCT to climb straight up to the peak, getting ‘er done.

September 5: Peaks #85 & 86
Stonewall Peak: 3.7 miles | 768 feet
Middle Peak: 5.1 miles | 1187 feet

Yes, we really went the entire month of August without bagging any peaks!! August is when we hit the JMT and did the northernmost 60 (plus) miles. We prepped for this – and avoided the summer heat – by hiking Taquitz Peak and Mt. San Jacinto (hey, those are peaks, right?). Fast forward to this first weekend in September, and we got back at it by tackling a few peaks in the local mountains. Stonewall is a local favorite and never disappoints; we got it done and out of the way. We then tackled Middle Peak. We opted for the shortest route, which was fine but a bit rutted in places. The summit itself is off-trail and a serious bushwhack. This was different from the norm in that the bushes were very high – more likely to poke you in the eye than scrape your shins. Even the summit was bushed in – views were very limited and we had trouble getting a good photo angle. Everyone agreed that this was pretty much our least favorite hike out of all of them so far. One and done.

September 18 & 19: Peaks #87 & 88
East Mesa – Peak 5178: 4 miles | 1123 feet
Sugg Peak: 7.5 miles | 574 feet

We decided to do these two peaks in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park as another quick & easy backpack. On Saturday afternoon we hiked in to Peak 5178 – another unremarkable bushwhack, although the main trail leading to it was nice – and then hiked down to the Granite Springs primitive campground. I’ve stayed there a couple of times before and I just can’t get over this campground. Here we are in mid-September of a drought year, and the pump was flowing! It’s a gorgeous backcountry campground, with water and pit toilets, and an easy hike to get to it … and we had it all to ourselves! We saw a deer, a flock of turkeys, and we even heard mountain lions calling to each other in the night. I just love this place, such a hidden gem! The next morning we arose early and made a brisk pace with a sunrise view over the Lagunas. We took a “shortcut” that was more of a bushwhack than expected; and then the bushwhack started in earnest as we hacked our way toward Sugg Peak. The peak itself was lovely – wide open spaces with fun-to-climb boulders; almost (but not quite) making up for the bushwhack.

September 25: Peaks #89, 90, & 91
Cuyamaca Peak, Japacha Peak, and Airplane Ridge: 10 miles | 1665 feet

Oh my, this was a lovely hike! We did this one as a point-to-point with a car shuttle: we dropped one car at Green Valley Campground and then drove the other up to Paso Picacho. We opted for the fire road up to Cuyamaca Peak (the 2nd highest peak in San Diego County!) and made good time. From there we took the Burnt Pine trail down to the short and not-too-bad bushwhack to Japacha Peak – this section was absolutely gorgeous hiking that I’d love to do again. Next we descended the switchbacks down to the West Mesa Trail and over to Airplane Ridge – the peak itself being one of the more unremarkable peaks on our list. A couple of us took a quick detour to the Airplane Monument, commemorating an airplane that crashed here in 1922. Finally, we ended at Green Valley.

October 11: Peak #92
Morena Butte: 7.3 miles | 2067 feet

Morena Butte is right off the PCT, so Kali & I decided to do it as a quick backpack. Saturday we car shuttled down to the border and started from PCT mile 0. We got to mile 15 – Hauser Canyon – earlier than expected and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the lovely campsite. The next morning we continued northbound until we got to the turnoff for the main event and waited for Tara & Casey to arrive. While we waited, a PCT SOBO (southbound) hiker stopped by. His trail name was Ghost (real name: Casper!) and he was from the Netherlands. He was super speedy and was finishing in 3 months, wow! But half his face was swollen – he’d been suffering from an abscessed tooth for three days! Soon our friends arrived, and headed off to bag this peak – one of our favorites in the county, for sure. This hike can be done as a loop and that’s what we opted to do. On the back side of the loop we decided to extend it a bit and cut across a meadow – a route none of us had taken, and it was very pleasant. Back at the trailhead, Kali & I shuttled to the border to pick up my minivan. Casper the friendly Ghost had just arrived. We gave him time to reflect on finishing such an epic journey … and then I brought him to the hospital!

October 24: Peaks #93, 94, & 95
Peak 1546: 3.6 miles | 848 feet
Cemetery Hill: 3.6 miles | 685 feet
Oak Benchmark: .7 mile | 320 feet

We’ve been putting off these three hikes for a few reasons. The main reason is that Peak 1546 is the peak right above Cedar Creek Falls, which is one of the most popular hikes in the county. A permit is required, and they can be hard to get in the spring. You don’t want to do this hike in the summer as it’s insanely hot. So, here we are in the fall – and the third problem with these hikes is that they are fucking far away. I mean, on the map they don’t look that far, but they’re just hard to get to. We made things even harder for ourselves unwittingly – Google Maps was horribly wrong, and routed us along a road that was (a.) very rugged (thank goodness for Tara’s trusty Jeep); (b.) had a closed gate; and (c.) if the gate had been open, it would have led to the trail itself, which apparently was a road once, but not for about the last four decades (before Google Maps even existed!). This cost us an hour – we now had to drive all the way through Ramona and Julian to get there. Oops. Anywhooo… we finally arrived and started our hike. The hike itself was fine, nothing special. This turned out to be opening weekend for hunting season, and friendly hunters were everywhere. We tried to make a lot of noise to avoid being mistaken for a deer, but no one seemed to be bagging any game and we were pretty safe. Our next peak was Cemetery Hill. This hike was actually gorgeous – descending to a (dry) river crossing, then up across meadows with beautiful oak and cottonwood trees in vibrant fall colors. Beautiful, but still not worth the stupid drive – especially for such a short hike. Finally, back at the road, we crossed the street and climbed straight uphill to Oak Benchmark. It was also a very pretty hike but not worth the trail-less and very steep climb.

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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