On the eastern slope of Japacha Peak, in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, is the location of a little known and most unusual monument anywhere in San Diego County.
This piece of history began 90 years ago on December 7, 1922, when 26-year-old U.S. Army pilot Charles F. Webber, in a World War I De Havilland biplane, flew out of Rockwell Field on North Island. His mission was to fly U.S. Cavalry colonel Francis C. Marshall for an inspection tour at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona. Since there was no radio in the plane, they were to telephone when they reached Fort Hauchuca.
When no word was received that the two had arrived, the Army initiated an investigation. Due to the winter weather conditions, it was believed the aircraft had possible engine trouble or poor visibility in the thick clouds and the plane crashed. There was even a ground search, but the two men were not found.
In May 1923, rancher George McCain discovered the plane’s wreckage and burnt remains of the two Army officers in the melting snow. McCain guided a military team to the site and they salvaged what they could but left the massive V12 engine block. What remained of the motor was made into a memorial with a stone pedestal and bronze plaque to honor the two men. The ridge above the site was named Airplane Ridge, and the trail leading to it was named Monument Trail.
The memorial is near Descanso, off Highway 79, and is accessible from either the Sweetwater Bridge parking area or Green Valley campground. The hike to see the monument is about two and half miles, almost entirely uphill with over 800 feet of altitude.