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There are better places to park than the one we used, I found out later. The peak lies in the Mission Trails Regional Park and the regular park entrance is located south of the peak off Mission Gorge Rd. We used a residential entry on the west side of the peak off Portobelo Dr. near SR52. This entrance was technically closed for construction going on in that side of the park according to the signs we found, but the contruction was idle on Sunday and we had no trouble getting around the work going on.
Jackie started off enthusiastically as we followed a trail along the south side of the highway, mostly flat for abouth 3/4 mi as it follows the highway with modest ups and downs. Her enthusiasm never seemed to slow as she kept up her energy the whole time. Mom was going at her own pace, rather slower than either Jackie or I could walk. We would get ahead and while I waited for Mom to catch up, Jackie would run back to check on her and then run off ahead again. A few signs along the way helped reassure the ladies that we were on track, but they weren't all that necessary. Though the layout of the trails somewhat differs from the old dirt roads shown on my topo, it was pretty straightforward to hike to the north side of the peak and then head south and up to the summit, in plain sight from the start of the hike.
It took us an hour and a quarter to reach the north summit where we found several ammo boxes stuffed with registers and odd scraps. It was Jackie's first register and she was thrilled to make her first entry. For completeness we hiked over to the south summit where took a longer break. We enjoyed a rock-tossing contest to burn off a bit of Jackie's extra energy.
After our rest we headed back the same way. The most interesting part was an odd automotive battery rusting away in the bushes. Looking around some more we found an assortment of broken car parts. I suspected an accident scene, and looking around it was suddenly obvious - the path in the hillside that a car had careened down was still evident, having gone over the embankment of the highway above. The piece were those not hauled out with the car initially.
The 2.5hrs was enough exercise for Jackie and Mom, so I drove them home before going back out for a few other bonus peaks. Fortuna Mtn is on the SDC list, as is Bernardo Mtn, north near Escondido. A third summit I was interested in was not on the list but had a cool name, Battle Mtn, and was near Bernardo. So I drove north on Interstate 15, exited just before Lake Hodges and drove to a cul-de-sac at the end of Riata Way. I had picked this out from Google maps as the closest approach to Battle Mtn, not knowing if there was public access through the homes on the street. I got lucky, finding the peak in an Open Space preserve, and an access point where I parked.
It took all of six minutes to tackle Battle Mtn whose summit is crowned by a large cross, several stories tall. I didn't find any signs giving the history of the cross. The summit provides a fine overlook for Bernardo Mtn to the northwest, but otherwise is just a puny little hill with a grandiose name.
After returning to my car, I spent the next half hour driving around the exclusive residential streets north of Bernardo, trying to find a quick access to the peak from that side. All I got for my trouble was a bunch of No Parking signs and odd looks from residents who didn't recognize me as a neighbor. If there is a public access point on that side of Bernardo, I was unable to find it. The back up plan was then to use the approach directions given on SummitPost, parking on the east side of Interstate 15 off Sunset Dr, several miles from the peak. It is a very popular urban TH, providing access to Lake Hodges and Bernardo Mtn for both hikers and cyclists. The first part of the trail as it winds around to the west side of the freeway is paved, then giving way to a dirt road that follows around the north side of the lake. There is a concrete pedestrian bridge across the river offering access to the south side of the lake (and a closer TH than the one I used, located just west of I-15 off the same exit I'd used for Battle Mtn). It has an interesting design, looking like a concrete suspension bridge with sags in the pathway between pillars. I continued on the dirt road north of the lake, taking a fork heading north around the east side of Bernardo, following just above a small creek feeding down to the lake. Signs along the way are very clear about sticking to the trails, cross-country being a big no-no apparently.
I still didn't know if there was even a trail to the top of Bernardo (I hadn't read the SP description further than how to find the TH), and as I noted the trail heading north past the summit without gaining much elevation I became impatient. Looking around to be sure there were no fellow hikers to bust me, I headed straight up the steep hillside east of the summit for about 100 yards until I intersected a dirt road higher up. Looks like there was an access road after all. I continued up the road for the last half mile or so reaching the top just after 3:45p, taking an hour from the TH. A man with his young daughter were at the summit, the girl of about 4-5yrs of age was happily drawing pictures in the register book. I looked around the summit and took some pictures, but didn't bother with the register - the little girl was having too much fun to disturb her.
I stuck to the road on the descent as it winds its way down the north side of the peak before turning east and back towards Lake Hodges. Judging by the half dozen or so parties I passed going up or down late in the afternoon, I'd guess it's a pretty popular summit. I got back to San Diego just as it grew dark, ending a rather easy but relaxing day.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Fortuna Mountain - Bernardo Mountain
This page last updated: Mon Jan 18 13:32:44 2010
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