So, in the past couple of years, we have logged about 350 miles. I’ve done about 60 solo miles and 35 or so in the backcountry with some crazy Marines. All of the hikes with Mary have been day hikes ranging from 3-12 miles. Most of the trails have been established and fairly well marked. Sometimes, the trails are not obvious and you just wing it. That brings us to the most recent hike in the Laguna Mountains Recreation Area. Located at the southeast end of the Cleveland National Forest, the Peninsular range has some of the most amazing views in southern Cali. Alpine like landscape to the west and the Anza Borrego Desert to the east. The famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) passes through here before entering the desert. It’s my favorite area to hike.
With our usual late start, we arrived near the Big Laguna Trailhead and started our way to Monument Peak. We allowed two young Marines to pass who were apparently doing a section hike of the PCT. Their big packs dwarfed my daypack, and I almost envied their long journey. We came to a junction and could see Monument Peak with its’ array of microwave and cellular antennas nearby. What I’ve learned is that while a landmark may look close, the path to get there is not. We continued down the trail, rounded a bend and the late afternoon sun made the desert vista pop. Words can’t describe the various colors you see along with the contrast of peaks and canyons below. We missed the unmarked trail to Monument Peak and decided to scramble up an adjacent peak to see if it was possible to get there off trail. I think Mary was raised with billy goats because she bushwhacked her way up the first summit faster than you could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. We made the first hill, climbed and picked our way around the chaparral before finally arriving at a fenced in laser testing facility near Monument Peak. I wondered how and why they tested lasers up here. Do they bounce them off of coyotes and rabbits? Hmm. The winds were about 20-25 mph and made the cool air feel much colder. We hit the summit, and could see for over 50 miles in each direction. The Coronado Islands were to the west, and the Salton Sea to the east. We got some good pics and started to look for the way back. The trail we came up on was out of the question because, well it wasn’t really a trail. The sun was starting to go down quickly and we knew that we needed to get off this peak as the temperatures drop quickly.
I could go on about how we made our way back, but the unplanned route down the access road, through the woods and back on another section of the PCT made this hike a little longer than planned. We ended up on the highway about 3/4 mile from where the staging area was and jogged down the dark Sunrise Highway with our headlamps bouncing around. We made it to the trusty Celica where I asked Mary to draw her name with the red lens on her lamp while I set the camera for a long exposure. She humored me for a bit before giving up to thaw out her slightly frigid hands. We logged about 5.5 miles on this one, half of it off trail. While not really lost, we did end up off the planned route and a bit unprepared for the cold weather.
Lessons Learned: 1. Always have a detailed map 2. Bring clothing for all weather conditions (it was 72deg in San Marcos and 45deg only an hour to the east.) 3. Running down a country road at night is kinda fun.