The Grand Finale

Whale Peak
December 11, 2021
Miles: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,282 feet
Gaia Track

Pinyon Mountain
December 11, 2021
Miles: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 433 feet
Gaia Track

Ghost Mountain
December 12, 2021
Miles: 2.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 599 feet
Gaia Track

WE DID IT! During 2021, Tara, Kali, Casey, and I completed the 100 Peaks Challenge!

Ok, yes, I’m finally getting around to writing this up three months later. Well, life happens. But as you can see from my previous post, I got some motivation as well as some “free time” to write it all up. So, here goes.

We had long ago decided which peaks would make up our finale, deciding on a trio of peaks in the Blair Valley area of Anza Borrego: Whale Peak, Pinyon Mountain, and Ghost Mountain. We have family-camped in this area several times, so we knew it would be a great place for a celebration. We selected a weekend in mid-December and invited all our hiking buddies to join us.

The planned dates rolled around with a weather forecast that was colder than normal. This would be great for our hiking, but challenging for the camping part! My family and I – along with a friend for Paige – headed out after school on Friday. Several of our party had arrived already. We got there after dark and got a fire going to keep us warm.

On Saturday morning we gathered at a reasonable hour and headed for the Whale Peak trailhead. Alejandro joined us which was fun. We have hiked this before – some of us many times – and it’s a favorite, but none of us had ever started from this trailhead. Since we had three peaks to cover this weekend, we made things easier for ourselves by driving the rugged Pinyon Wash Road to a trailhead that saved us several miles. We took Kali’s AWD Explorer, and it almost didn’t make it – Tara’s Jeep would have been better. The trail itself was super fun, with lots of bouldering up a dry stream until we got to the main trail and finally to the summit.

The Pinyon Mountain trail was just across the “street” from Whale, and we got started right away. The trailhead was in a nice dispersed camping area – something to keep in mind for the future. The hike up Pinyon was a steep scramble over typical desert terrain (think cactus & agave). In contrast to its big sister across the street, I personally found it sort of boring – a one-and-done for me, although it did have a nice view.

We headed back to our campsite to more friends who had joined us. Lane had taken off to climb up the ridge forming the northern “wall” of Blair Valley and we watched him as he picked his way along the steep slope. We got various grills and fires going and had a lovely feast as the temps dropped for another cold night.

We had saved Ghost Mountain for our grande finale. The flank of Ghost Mountain is the location of the Marshal South ruins, also known as Yaquitepec. Marshal South, along with his wife and three children, lived in this remote and waterless site for 17 years, from 1930 to 1947. His oldest son, Rider, narrated this video of the family at their home. The ruins that remain include the house foundation, water cisterns, some rusted-out bed springs, and various other artifacts. The neatest thing we saw was the sundial, standing near the trail that continues to the summit.

The hike up Ghost Mountain to the ruins is family-friendly, and we had a good-sized crew joining us. Our whole party made it to the ruins, and then a subset of us proceeded on for the 1-mile round-trip hike to the summit. I had been to the ruins a few times but never the summit. The trail was faint, but the route was easy to follow. It was actually a fun hike. We arrived at the summit to a large boulder atop the highest point. Up we climbed… and with that we completed our 100th peak! Yeaaaahhhh!!!

Susie’s dad had created a 100 Peaks sign for her when she was the first to finish the challenge in 2017, and she’d brought it with her, which was really cool. Chris brought the 100 Peaks flag. We four finishers climbed up the summit block and took lots of photos with our props. After that I pulled out of my pack four medallions I’d had made in honor of the occasion – custom benchmarks modeled after the USGS summit markers, with each of our names. Everyone appreciated their gifts.

Back at the ruins we rejoined everyone else, popped some champagne, and headed back down. We were done! For one final celebration we headed to Wynola Pizza for lunch.

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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2 Responses to The Grand Finale

  1. 100peaks says:

    Congrats on finishing! I just sent you an email. Cheers!

  2. Pingback: Summiting Mount Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route | laughter & sleep

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