Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hike. Even When You Don't Feel Like It.

In order to save money for the PCT adventure next year, I have committed to staying local on the weekends. After 8+ years, tons of local hiking and some dramatic life changes, I'm pretty much over San Diego, so this is a challenge! 
Still, trying to indulge my adventurous spirit is a must, so I started Googling...
In Mission Trails Regional Park, in the heart of San Diego, there are five prominent peaks: Cowle's, Pyles, Kwaay Paay, and North and South Fortuna. I have done most of these steep peaks but not in one day. I read a trip report from a group of MTRP volunteers who completed the challenge, but used a car to move between peaks. There is a completion plaque for them in the Mission Trails Visitor's Center, although, they did have to dig it out of a drawer.
Using a car to move around on a challenge hike seems like cheating to me, so Josh and I decided we should go check it out for ourselves and see if a totally cross country route was possible.

 We arrived at a very crowded Mission Trails at 9am on Saturday. We parked at the visitor's center and hiked down the visitors center loop trail toward the San Diego River crossing. When we arrived at the crossing we were surprised to see it was super full! I've not seen it more than a few inches and this was marked at about 3 feet.

We maneuvered around the slick rocks and crowds of people to start our ascent up a brutally long and steep fire road.

New signage was posted warning visitor's of poison oak. I particularly like the image of it in winter. Good luck identifying it as a stick among sticks.

At last we made it to the top of the hill and headed toward the Fortuna Saddle. There were Crows everywhere, circling each other and riding the wind currents.
 Once we arrived at the base of the Saddle our overwhelming desire to quit won over our desire to hike. It was hot, Josh had officially bonked and the hoards of people drove us batty. 
We decided to turn around and save our 5 peaks recon for another day. 
All in all, we still got out on a Saturday and hiked about 5.5 miles before noon.
I am proud of us!

The next day we woke up with zero desire to hike, yet again.
We forced ourselves out of bed and headed for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We didn't really have a plan laid out, but on the way there decided to hike Stonewall Peak from the Los Vaqueros side, which is less traveled. 

 We parked at the Trout Pond Trailhead and started hiking, in spite of ourselves. I was trying to quiet the nagging questions and negativity from my brain: "Why are you doing this? You could be at home? This certainly isn't the should go to the Sierra, We should go to Julian and eat an entire pie, You'll never be able to hike the whole PCT..."

Shut up brain!!

Still, we hiked on. Trading conversations with each other, for conversations with ourselves. I'm not sure if the was a good thing or not.

 It was a perfect fall day as the trail started to turn toward the back side of Stonewall. We spotted a wildlife camera strapped to a tree.

We arrived at the base of the mountain and took a series of switch backs higher and higher. The hike was not difficult but we stopped several times to catch our breath and Josh stretched his calves. We talked a bit about the pretty day, but mostly about how we were in a funk! At least we were together and sharing the discomfort of wallowing in our apathy on such a beautiful fall day.

Bad days aside, Fall is the best time to visit Cuyamaca in my opinion.

We reached the saddle where we joined the main trail, and all of it's hikers. The last path to the top is a staircase where we pushed past unyielding downhill hikers. We tried to be positive and polite, realizing this is a popular trail among regular folks, as opposed to seasoned hikers, but the best we could do was not toss them off the mountain. Sometimes that's all the politeness you've got to give.

On the summit we quickly took our photos and started moved out of the way. One fellow hiker offered to take our picture, which restored my tolerance of my fellow man. It's a lot of work to be a socially awkward, judgmental human! I'm really trying to get control of it!

 We climbed over a boulder just below the peak and sat down for a snack. Josh and I joked about our thoughts on how loud a group of rock climbers were. "Why do they have to yell?" Josh says. I try to imagine them whispering ((((on belay))))...What?!
Can you imagine. So, silly. We giggled at our 'grandpa' type intolerance: ...damn mountain climbers. ;-)

Heading down, the trip was fast. We talked each other out of going to Julian for pie and analyzed our funky thoughts. Josh wondered why his calves were so tight on such an easy hike. I recommended he try to transfer the weight to his outer thighs instead of his calves, resulting in a hilarious gait and stance.
We have the PCT hiker named Bigfoot to thank for our attention to our gait and what muscles it affects.

Back at the junction to the Los Vaqueros trail I spotted a gang of turkeys grazing in the meadow. We watched for a bit, along with a mountain biker who was lower on the trail next to the birds.

As we started walking again the mountain biker decided to leave too, and promptly cut us off as we turned onto to the trail junction. Laughing, we shook our heads. Does no one know how to yield properly in Cuyamaca?!

Views of the trail like this make me smile. It makes me think of the PCT which is about this wide and goes on for 2,665 miles. This will soon be my daily life. This will be my view, everyday, for 5 months.
I am as eager as I am daunted by this view. What kind of thoughts will I think then? What kind of bad days will I have? How will I deal with the days I don't want to hike, when I am 200 miles from nowhere? I guess we will find out soon.

Back at the trailhead we jumped in the truck and head for home. We hiked about 5.5 miles, despite the fact that we really didn't want to.
Even dragging ass, the hiking is still fun with Josh.


  1. Hi Mandie,
    This is a great article, thanks so much for sharing your experience.
    I have been invited to hike Stonewall Peak this weekend. I have read some mixed reviews with regard to its steepness... My knees can't handle much steep downhill, but I can take all the steep uphill I can get. Do you recall if there was much steep downhill? I think we'll be starting near the mine (no clue at this point where that is).

    1. Hi Deb!
      If I recall, the trail is not particularly steep from either side. There are many well graded switch backs and there are only two rough spot that come to mind: The very beginning, coming from Paso Picacho side and the very end at the top where there is a steep set of stairs. These sections are very short though. It is a crowded hike and why I prefer to take the back way from the mine as opposed to Paso Picacho. It is worth doing, though! Have a good time! Thanks for reading!