Susan Luzzaro 6:30 p.m., July 31
- Community Blog
- Hiking San Diego
Adventures with Derek
Ok so it's been a while since I have written. I have been pulled in a hundred different ways since my last post. I got married recently so now I am settling back into my normal routine and catching up on some work. I also have been hiking a lot since the last post, but one in particular I wanted to mention was my last adventure with Derek. In case you don't know, Derek is currently on a long journey to reach 100 peaks in San Diego county. You can read about his adventures at 100peaks.com. I, myself, have been following Derek's journey. Last month when he invited me to join him again on one of his peak hikes, I jumped at the chance!
This was going to be Derek's 49th Peak and only my second. We headed up to the Laguna Mountain area near Pine Valley. I was excited for the journey ahead of us as I had heard about this place from a lot of other hikers and bloggers. Mark Arndt of Sandeigohiker.net detailed his hike there in one of his blogs.
On Saturday, September 25 at 5AM, I met Derek at our usual meeting place and made our way up to Pine Valley. Once we got there we took a detour and met up with a couple of his friends, one of which was about to run the Noble Canyon 50K. When I was younger I loved running. Now? It's just not as fun as it used to be. I won't say it's from old age because I'm only 27 (although I would like to), it's mainly from injuries I sustained while in the Marines for almost 8 years. What I find incredible is that the gentleman who was about to embark on the run, one that I couldn't finish even in my dreams, was probably 10 years older than me. I felt two emotions when I realized this: 1) I was impressed that someone of his age had the courage and heart to do this race and 2) How unfit and unmotivated I was. At about the same time Derek turned to me after scanning the room and said "there are a lot of fit people here." I nodded in agreement as i noticed a 60 y/o man with more muscle definition than I have ever had while serving in the Marines. At last it came time for the race to start and Derek's friend galloped off like a gazelle. We headed back to the car, ready to start hiking and engage in some sort of physical exercise.
At around 7am we finally reached what Derek referred to as Pine Mail. In truth I had no clue, but I trusted Derek knew where we were. We packed up and set out for the peak. Derek and I talked about making one of his peak hikes part of my show, so I pulled out my camera and began to film our journey to the peak.
We made our way to the trail head and were immediately confronted by a fork in the road. We headed left and followed it to a gate with a big sign that read "NO TRESPASSING." We took heed of the warning and scurried back to the trail head and got back on the right trail. As we walked I took note of the landscape and wondered what it must have looked like before the wildfires scorched this area. I can only imagine lush green forests with birds chirping in the morning chill. We followed the trail as it lead us west through the thick groves of oak trees and grassy meadows. I was starting to feel a bit nostalgic as I was reminded of the big oak trees back home in Minnesota. As a kid I would spend my days playing with my BB gun, hoping to catch a glimpse of a ruffed grouse or a squirrel I could take home to show my dad. Derek stopped to check his GPS, also known as an iPhone 4, to see were we needed to go. Sure enough, I heard my favorite words come out of Derek's mouth, "we have to bushwhack." One thing I learned about Derek in our two hikes and many conversations, Derek won't be stopped by a trail to bag a peak. He is often undeterred, as I have witnessed him walking through waste high rose bushes in shorts on our hike to Sugg Peak in August. Of course when Derek said it was time to bushwhack, I was ready.
We made our way through the woods and in no time at all, we were confronted by thick mazes of manzanita. We often had to turn around and find another way around them before we were led to more oak trees and finally a grassy thicket. When we finally stumbled out of the manzanita, we came upon another trail and sure enough, it was the same one we left. In essence, the trail snaked back east as we moved south through the forest. Derek and I smiled at the miscalculation and crossed the trail, continuing our ascent to the peak. In no time at all we reached our destination. I was confused and told Derek that it doesn't feel like were at a "peak." Derek explained that when it comes to peak bagging, not all peaks provide the usual 360 degree view atop some mountain. Instead, today's reward was the journey to the top. I agreed and Derek pointed out all the peaks that were visible in the distance. It was at that moment that I realized the peaks Derek was pointing out were not just memorized from a map. Derek had left his footprints on those peaks, along with a lot of sweat and blood as I began to discover.
It wasn't long before we were on the move again, this time Derek was in search of a summit register. Summit registers are often water proof containers with paper and pencil for the hiker or peak bagger to leave their name and date of the hike. After 20 minutes of searching we gave up and began to make our way back down, however, this time we took the trail as we had enough of bushwhacking. Once we got down the hill, we came across another trail and followed that one north which would lead us to the vehicle. After a short trip down the trail I saw a high point of rock and decided to climb up for a shot of Derek from my camera. As I reached the top I saw a can wedged between some rocks. I figured this may be a geocache so I decided to climb the jagged rocks to claim my prize. As I was climbing I got a glimpse of the scenery and noticed that Derek was not amused at the risk I was taking. An important thing to remember when one picks a hiking partner is to make sure you pick one who doesn't pose a liability to you when you're miles from help. I realized what I was doing, found my prize (an empty juice can that looked about 60 years old) and made my way back down. After an hour more of hiking, we finally reached the vehicle. I was happy to sit down and remove the stickers from my socks that had been poking my feet for the last half of the hike.
It was another great hike under my belt, with a great hiking partner and I bagged a second peak to boot! I thanked Derek for another great adventure as we made our way home.