Posts Tagged ‘El Cajon Peak’

Hiking (Towards) El Cajon Peak, San Diego, CA

1 April 2012

Hike summary: 6.2 miles round trip. HARD uphills, in both directions, with altitude gain of 775 feet net, 1700 total. For sure the hardest hike I’ve been on in San Diego. Or most anywhere else!

Last Wednesday, I took a shot at hiking El Cajon after work. I headed out for the trailhead about 1230 after lunch. Unfortunately, road work on Wildcat Canyon Road delayed me for 45 minutes. I didn’t get on the trail until after 1430.

The last time I tried El Cajon, the parking lot was closed at 1700. Wednesday, the parking lot was signed to be closed at 1900, so I set a time limit of 1630 to start my return. I’ve got to say, I was too optimistic on this hike. I got off to a good start, but I haven’t had a lot of hiking time in the past nine months, and so I wasn’t in good enough shape to keep a steady pace. The thing is, most mountain hiking is up up up, then back down down down. This one is up, down, up, down, up, down. It’s nearly has hard coming down as it was going up.

When you get to the trailhead, the parking area is a fenced and gated lot. Why? There is no water, so fill up before you get there. Once you get started hiking, there is a road that goes up continuously for a full half mile, to another smaller parking lot that you can’t park at, where the actual trailhead is. There is a toilet here, and a small picnic area, but again no water.

The trailhead is marked, on the east side of the toilet. There is a road on the south side, that I figured out later is a second trailhead. I switchbacked up a while before I ran across a sign that pointed to the parking lot, to the right. WTH? When I was coming back, I was a little ahead of schedule, so I took that right turn and walked up a bit more to a nice overlook that had a rough bench, where I took a break.

The trail is fairly wide.

There are a lot of cactus-type plants. This one was just starting to flower.

This is an example of the up and down nature of the trail. The first part of the hike ends up in the “saddle” that is visible in the upper right of the below photo. Then you hike down into the valley that is in the middle of the picture, and then come back up on the trail. You can see these clearly on the altitude plot.

The views up there are pretty impressive. There was some kind of helicopter exercise going on down in the valley while I was up there, three of them moving around over the valley floor.

As you get a little higher, the view gets better. In this picture, Mission Trails Regional Park and Cowles Peak is in the middle, and off in the distance you can see the downtown skyline in front of Point Loma.

One of the things the wannabe geologist in me noticed was that thee are several varieties of granite in the area. I saw at least four varieties.

On the way back, I stopped for a break at the overlook. It’s high enough that you can see the ocean from up there. Not much, but it’s there. This is the area of Torry Pines Preserve.

So I didn’t make it all the way to El Cajon peak. I was just not in good enough shape, and got too late a start. I made it just over halfway to the peak. I was planning on starting serious conditioning for my next Yosemite hike in June, but instead I will be starting Monday.

There is little shade on this hike. This was my first extended time in the sun since last fall, and I got a bit of a sunburn (it was gone the next morning). It’s really dry; I ran across no flowing water anywhere, although parts of the trail was just a bit muddy due to seepage.

Here are topo, terrain, and altitude plots for the hike.

Note on the above. I have been using Garmin Mapsource for my topo maps, and Excel for the altitude plots (pasting data from the Mapsource point listing). I got the latest free Garmin product, Basecamp. It downloaded from my GPS with no problem, and generated this altitude plot easily, but it was much harder to use to grab the tracks out of the GPS. I will play with it a bit more to see if I missed something.

This last is a terrain plot from Google Earth, as usual.

I am looking forward to giving El Cajon another try at some point in the near future. I need to get in a little better shape and start earlier.

I do not understand the logic in California of closing access to the backcountry at some point in time. I wrote an email to the San Diego Parks and Recreation asking why they close the parking area at 1900, but have no answer yet.

One thing that was pretty cool was the use of photovoltaics by most of the houses on the lower part of the trail. These houses had solar arrays outside, pretty big ones.