So I am still feeling last weekend a little bit we were out doing the Five Peak Challenge at Mission Trails with the Student Veteran Organization (SVO) for National University. I know you might be wondering why I was out with them well I’m a vet and I am alumni. I yes I know you are reading this especially if you have read my other posts and are thinking “there is no way this guys went to college”, well my degree is definitely not in English, but enough about me. Our buddy Chris who works at the Vet Center at National reached out about a hike he was doing and I had the choice of open the store or go hiking (thank you for working all day Stephanie).
Now truth be told I was looking forward to it because while I have heard of the challenge I had only hiked Cowels Mtn once before. Chris thankfully was wise enough to break it up over two days also it wouldn’t be too painful, it still was. Lucky he had a good plan in place and we met at the visitor center parking lot at 0600 and it was cool and overcast for the time being. After the meet and greats we loaded up to the first set of peaks.
We did Cowels Mtn and Pyles Peak for the first day and it wasn’t too bad. The worst part was probably the parking, we ended up having to park on a side street in a neighborhood and walk up. That’s actually a good thing to remember, while you might have calculated time for the trail distance, don’t forget about you approach routs and how that can add to your day. Hiking Cowels was to be honest crowded and a little boring, lots of people and urban views all the way up. Lots of dogs too which is great and they are welcome leashed in the park. When we got up to the top there where tons of people hanging around the summit marker and doing the picture thing, it felt really crowded. I was happy once we headed to Pyles Peak, that was my kind of trail since it leveled off a little but with no major gains and more importantly there was very few people on it which made for a better experience plus being higher up provided expansive views of the surrounding areas. This was a nice out and back since the saddle in is what we hiked back out on to Cowels then back down to the cars. This was also in the nick of time since it was starting to get warm out…
Sunday 0430, I don’t want to get up, I am comfortable and I’m tired… The things I will do for a challenge, I got up and back down to the meeting spot, lucky the gates were open and we could park at the visitor’s center parking lot. Remember what I said about approaches to the trails well here is a good example; we walked on the road to the other side of the park for our third peak and first summit of the day, Kwaay Paay. This was probably my second least favorite since I was tired and cranky and it is a steep little bugger with a good about of gain over a mile. But it was still cool and cloudy so no complaint other than it was also kind of busy there too.
Ok three peaks down on to the Fortunas… well one of the bragging points of the park is the sixty some odd miles of trail inside of it and they are probably right. We hiked down to the river and pass the old dam which is actually pretty cool then it transitions over to the foot of the mountains on you way to the Fortuna Saddle. Truth be told this was probably my favorite part since there were shade trees of sycamore and oak and some fun terrain. I was even by myself for a bit which was cool while I was walking up the canyon, really enjoyable place. Well that was until hitting the access road to the saddle, haha. It wasn’t that bad but it was long a steep and I took many a break on my way up. Almost to the top of the rest of the crew caught up (I’m not fast on the contrary I leave first so I don’t slow them up) and we rallied at the saddle until everyone caught up.
I will say North Fortuna is a little deceiving, when I was walking up the sign said .6 mi and I’m like “no way, its right there”, and I was wrong. It was a bit of a hike to the top then you follow a ridge to the actual summit which at this point we were all kind of like of let’s get this done. You see at this time the sun had burned off the clouds and while it was cool for August it still was pretty warm. Which I will jump to this point right now, make sure you have plenty of water I went through three liters and wish I had brought extra. I wasn’t going to die but I hate not having water on me so it was a good check on consumption requirements. Also Sun Clothing I did bring my OR Hat and long sleeve sun shirt which I do credit to keeping me sun safe.
South Fortuna wasn’t too bad getting there, we came down the saddle and it was a nice easy hike to the summit and our fifth peak in the Five Peak Challenge! After meeting some great people and grabbing our pics we headed down, and down was the rough part. The way down is super steep with stairs and you got to pay attention. Now I’m glad this was the way we went down but it is steep and exposed. That was the other down side of where and when we finished it was pretty exposed to the sun all the way and not that good of a time for you if you didn’t bring enough water. It was a couple miles back to the visitor center and I was beat, talk about a great hike.
And it really is a great hike for a few reasons, there are some really pretty spots in the park, its close and the trails are extremely well marked so if you are new to the outdoors this is a great place to cut your teeth. They even have a free map which is pretty awesome plus you can get in some serious distance and elevation gain loss without leaving the city. I think of it as an outdoor hiking gym for San Diego.
The visitor center is super nice and a cool place to hang out. I can’t say enough good things about the staff the volunteer at the counter actually processed our certificates and gave us our pins on the spot which was pretty cool! Even for experienced hikers its really fun to get a souvenir and hike with some fun people. I really enjoyed myself and want to thank Chris and the SVO again for putting this on, we definitely look forward to hiking with you guys again soon!