View from Cowles Mountain peak at sunset
  • View from Cowles Mountain peak at sunset

Author: Brady Pesola

Neighborhood: San Carlos

Age: 26

Occupation: Survival specialist/instructor

About a month ago, I learned about Cowles Mountain from Derek Loranger of I had told him about my videos, and he said, “If you want some good hits, you should do a video on Cowles Mountain.”

I took his advice, and two weeks later I set out from Big Rock Park on Mesa Road. It was a good hike, but it took me four hours, and the temperature reached a high of 97.

Two weeks later, I took my fiancée for a night hike in the same area. I knew the temperature would be cool and the view would be great. She was a good sport about it, and we made it to the top in about two hours. The temperature on top was 50, but with the wind it felt much colder. We stayed up top for about an hour, just staring at the lights of San Diego. I knew I wanted to do it again.

I went to my hiking group, San Diego Hiking, and posted my night-hike ambition. Everyone was busy except the group’s founder, Alain. Alain is a French-Canadian from Quebec, but I decided not to hold that against him.

I picked Alain up from his house around 8 p.m., and with two other hikers — Tonio and Buddy — we set out to Santee. We took the 52 east to Mission Gorge Road, and after a couple of stoplights we took a left on Mesa Road. We stopped just after Big Rock Park, geared up, and took off for the peak.

There was a half moon that night, so the trail was lit bright, but when the brush got higher the moon cast a shadow and made the trail difficult to see. The dogs took the lead. I strapped Buddy with a red glowing light to help keep predators away, though I doubt a red light will keep a hungry coyote or mountain lion away from my 24-pound dog.

After about 40 minutes we reached the access road and took a break. Alain expressed a concern that I was just trying to take him somewhere romantic and asserted that he wasn’t “that kind of guy.” I reassured him that — aside from the part where I’m not homosexual —the French just aren’t my type.

After we watered the dogs, we forged ahead and made it to the top. Since this was Alain’s first time, I let him touch the monument first, and then we took some pictures.

The view was amazing. To the south we could see Tijuana, and to the north, San Diego, the Coronado was as if I could see all of San Diego County. I found it amazing how everything was so connected, and yet there were borders to separate culture, language, and a way of life.

With our sweat drying, we started to get cold in the 45-degree air and so we layered up and made our way back down.

I dropped Alain off at home, and he insisted he pay me for gas, but I told him, “Just buy me a beer next time.” It was my joy introducing someone to something new, and that was all the payment I needed. As I hiked with Alain the next couple of weeks, I realized that not only is he a good hiking partner, he is a good friend as well.

More from SDReader


kstaff Oct. 8, 2010 @ 4:20 p.m.

The Mesa Trail to the top of Cowles Mountain is quite a workout. I approach it from the Lake Murray Blvd dead end. The last quarter mile is murder on a hot day. Never thought of climbing it at night; just figured it's off limits after sundown.


Sign in to comment

Get $5 off any Reader event

Sign up for our email list to get your promo code