Filling In the Gaps

Bell Bluff
November 7, 2021
Miles: 7.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,637 feet
Gaia Track

Sycuan Peak
November 7, 2021
Miles: 2.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 710 feet
Gaia Track

Paradise Mountain
November 14, 2021
Miles: 7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,884 feet
Gaia Track

Grapevine Mountain
November 21, 2021
Miles: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,606 feet
Gaia Track

Sentenac Mountain
November 21, 2021
Miles: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 821 feet
Gaia Track

South & North Fortuna Loop
November 25, 2021 (Thanksgiving Day!)
Miles: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,177 feet
Gaia Track

The Point Loma peak was peak #97, which means I have three peaks left to complete the 100 Peaks calendar-year challenge – easy peasy. The remaining three peaks are all in the Blair Valley area of the Anza-Borrego Desert, and we are planning on doing them as an “event” in early December. So for all intents and purposes I am done. There are four of us doing this challenge together, and two of us are at this point. The other two have some gaps to fill, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.

In early November, we re-hiked Bell Bluff and Sycuan Peak. I had a hard time remembering Bell Bluff. In my head, I had it blurred with Long Valley Peak. They are both just south of the 8, and not far from my house; they are similar distances, and they both start with a relatively flat and quick approach to a steep ascent to the peak. Once on the trail I remembered it – and definitely enjoyed it. It’s probably a hike I’ll keep in my back pocket as a good training hike. This time we did it decently faster – all our hiking this year paying off!

After Bell, we decided to hit Sycuan Peak, thinking it was close. Which I suppose it is, as the crow files; but out in east county San Diego, there was no direct route and after lots of winding country roads we finally arrived at the trail head. This is a quick hike and we got it done in no time. It was my third time on this peak – it’s less than 15 minutes from my doorstep – but this time I could not find the peak register. On the way back down, my bum knee started acting up, which it has not done for a while, so that was annoying.

The following weekend we hit Paradise Mountain. Unlike Bell Bluff, I remembered this one well – it’s memorable since it’s an inverted hike. The first part is actually quite pretty as it descends to the dry riverbed of Hell Creek. But as the trail ascends up the side of the mountain, it’s exposed and scrubby and a bit boring, IMO. The peak itself is probably the most unassuming peak on the list – just a high point along the trail, no benchmark or notable summit block or anything to mark it as a peak. We took the same loop back down as we’d done earlier in the year. There are a couple of viewpoints and side trails, and these do look interesting, but not today. (I think we said that last time too.) This mountain is annoyingly far from my house, off the beaten path in Valley Center, so it’s unlikely I’ll visit again anytime soon.

Last weekend we hit the desert for the first time this season. It was a bit warm for it, but really not too bad, and breezy enough to keep things from getting too hot. Our objective was Grapevine Mountain. When we did this the first time, we took a longer route, up from Grapevine Canyon and through Bitter Creek, as a loop. This time we decided to take the more straightforward – but definitely less interesting – route along the PCT. I do like this mountain; particularly the remoteness of it. Along the PCT you are never far from the cars along San Felipe Road; but once you get away from it there is just peace.

The Sentenac Mountain trail head is just a bit down the 78 from Grapevine, so after a snack and a rest we made our way out there. I really like the Sentenac hike. Half of it is in a dry streambed, replete with gorgeous rock formations to climb over. It is super fun. The second half is a steep scramble to the summit – just long enough to be challenging, but short enough that it is not tiresome.

That brings us to this week. Yesterday – Thanksgiving Day – of course I wanted to get out there and pre-emptively burn some calories. An informal trail run was organized in Mission Trails, heading up the South Fortuna stairs, over to North Fortuna, and then looping back down again to the cul-de-sac where we all parked. After the run there was a ton of snacks and some morning beers (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?). It was a great way to get into the festive spirit.

Bell Bluff
View from Bell Bluff
Sycuan Peak (I changed into shorts…)
Evil Cholla
View from Grapevine
So peaceful…
Climbing up toward Grapevine
On top of Grapevine
Super cool wood-like rock formations heading up Sentenac – I wish I’d taken more pics!

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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