Thursday, September 19, 2013

North Fortuna Peak - After Work!

Carlos, Eli, Josh and Myself made a pact to hike up Mount Fortuna after work. We fought the rush hour traffic and met up at the trialhead on Mast Blvd off Hwy 52 at 6pm. We adjusted our gear and took off down a fire road toward the base of the mountain.

The hike was about 6 miles round trip and we knew we would be returning in the dark. The fire road was wide and well graded and we chatted about the day as we hiked into the sun.

We stopped to take photos at our first trail junction sign and Josh spotted a tarantula making a beeline toward me. The spider was a light brown and was moving fast. We went for our cameras and watched him head off into the brush before we made the turn toward the Oak Canyon trail.

Merging on to the Oak Canyon trail, we crossed a series of wooden bridges as we traveled through the canyon at the base of the mountain. 
Note: On the outskirts of the Oak Canyon trail, where it crosses under Hwy 52, there is an unexploded military mine ordinance so be careful! 
We were not going that far on this trip, but we still stuck to the trail just in case. 

The trail hugged the side of the hill next to a dry creek bed with peaks on both sides. We were hiking single file when we heard a loud commotion in the brush on a hill opposite us. We stopped and witnessed two large mule deer breaking free of their cover and heading in opposite directions. As we watched, the larger of the two deer headed toward the trail and I spotted a medium sized coyote hot on her heels. They continued their chase down the canyon and disappeared into the brush. 

The event was so fast only Josh caught a photo of the deer being pursued, her camouflage was so good he highlighted the photo to help you spot her. It was an amazing thing to witness! I love hiking at dusk!

Continuing to climb, we turned away from the creek bed and junctioned with another fire road. This road lead us to the saddle between North and South Fortuna peaks. The road was incredibly steep and the last section lived up to it's nick name: "The Wall".

Finally a top the saddle we surveyed the area. We discussed whether we wanted to bag North or South Fortuna, finally deciding to go North. As we climbed up from the saddle the trail became rocky and loose. We encountered a false summit but pressed on. A false summit is when you crest what you think is top, only to be greeted by yet another hill to climb. Oy vey...

Eli blazed ahead and was the first one to make it to the official top.

Arriving at the top a little after 7pm we high fived each other and took the obligatory photos with the sign. North Fortuna is weird in that the summit sign is on one peak and the register boxes are further north on another, which requires you to loose elevation only to gain it back again. 

Deciding that we were too close to the register to skip it, we headed further out on the ridgeline. Upon arrival, we saw two weathered ammo boxes and a new plastic one, filled with trail register books. 
I hiked Fortuna Peaks in a long loop hike from the visitor's center last year and I scoured the old books for my entry. 

As I read the entry I remembered the day. Everything went wrong in the office and there was some micro-managing from the big, big boss. My supervisor granted me a reprieve and allowed me to leave early for an emergency hiking expedition. I sat on the summit of both North and South Fortuna that day and watched the crows hang on the air currents like surfers on a wave. Nothing better to change your perspective than some alone time outside.
It always tickles me to find my old entries; it's like a window into the past. It's cool to think of who you were then and see how much you've grown.

After eating a snack we dawned our lights and headed back the way we came. The moon was full and bright and made for a beautiful hike as well as assisting our dim flash lights.

 Back on the Oak Canyon trail Josh spotted a field mouse and two scorpions! He must have scorpion medicine now, he didn't even need the black light!

Back at trailhead we took the 52 east to Mission Gorge Road and ate a late, but well deserved burrito at Taco Fiesta. It was a great hike with my two brothers and my sweetie.
The after work hikes are proving to be a blast!

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