Etymology Story

The family was in Southern California for the Christmas holiday, one of my favorite times of the year because it means I get to hike in San Diego County. I spent the first day around Escondido, near where my mother-in-law lives in Rancho Bernardo. I had a handful of easy peaks in mind that even combined made for a modest day. I couldn't convince Jackie to join me for the first of these because she knew when I get started I don't want to stop until the sun goes down, so she waited for later in the day to join me.

Tombstone/Old Rocky/Devils Anvil

These peaks are found on the northeast side of Escondido, near the junction of Valley Center and Lake Wohlford roads. I had been to the area the previous year to climb Bottle Peak and had since learned a bit more about the area. A public trail reaches the area from the east end of town, taking one to the summit of Bottle Peak through land managed by the Escondido Creek Conservancy. Side routes take one to these other three lower summits further west. I found a link on that described a shorter route to these summits starting from Lake Wohlford Road. This route is unsigned, essentially an old use trail that locals have traveled for decades. The link describes the route as having steep slopes, bushwhacking, huge boulder scrambling and great views. Though I wouldn't have described the views as "great" and I found no real bushwhacking, the route was steep and the summits all had some scrambling fun. I found the start of the route easily enough (thank you Google Maps) and made my way up to Tombstone in about 25 minutes. The trail was rutted and steep as it rises quickly through the chaparral. It crosses two old ranch roads on the property, one of which I had used on my previous visit to Bottle Peak. Tombstone is the highest and most difficult of the three peaks. Described as class 3/4, I found this fairly accurate. I climbed a slabby class 4 route from the south side before discovering the easier class 3 route from the southwest. No register on any of these three peaks. To the west lies the city of Escondido, part of a 20-mile stretch of urban sprawl reaching to the coast at Oceanside. To the north can be seen Burnt Mtn and Stanley Peak, part of the newly created Daly Ranch Park. To the east is Bottle Peak and to the south were the other two summits to which I headed next.

I paid a visit to Old Rocky, about 15 minutes from Tombstone. It is the least interesting of the three peaks with a few boulders and an old fire ring. Graffiti, glass shards and other detritus tell the story of a teenage nighttime drinking hangout. My friends and I had our own versions of this growing up in the San Fernando Valley, but without the graffiti and broken glass. Mostly we went for the views and the intellectual discussions all drunken teenagers think they are having. Ten minutes further south was Devils Anvil. I'd guess the name comes from a rather large slab of rock lying prone near the highpoint. The graffiti here was particularly annoying, a bright blue that stands out as a testament to youthfulness and poor judgement.

Burnt Mountain

Burnt Mtn is the highpoint of Daly Ranch Park. There's no official trail to the highpoint, disappointing at least one fellow enthusiast, but the more determined will point out there is a very good use trail that will get you through what otherwise would be nearly impenetrable chaparral. The park is quite large, encompassing more than 3,000 acres and there are a variety of ways one might reach the start of the use trail. The trails are generally old ranch roads, in good condition, open to bikes, hikers and equestrians. It appears to be very popular with mountain cyclists. The shortest all-legal approach is from the west via the Cougar Pass trailhead, about 4.5 miles roundtrip. I chose an even shorter approach, about half that distance, though the legality of it is somewhat questionable. I took Valley Center Rd north to Mirar De Valle Rd, then west for 1 3/4 mile to a dirt road heading south. I parked off the pavement here and followed the road south past several homes to a water tank near the top of a small hill. This was the questionable part as it's not clear if the road is public or semi-private, but I wasn't bothered even though several folks spotted me walking up the road. The water tank is surrounded by a fence (no need to breech it) with another fence running north. There is a hole in this fence and a use trail leading into Daly Ranch. If you're careful like I wasn't, you won't have any bushwhacking to do by using the trail. Otherwise you may need to dodge some poison oak and weave through a stretch of heavy brush to reach a trail located about 100yds from the water tank. Once on the trail, I followed it southeast to a junction, taking the Burnt Mtn Trail over the eastern shoulder of Burnt Mtn. I soon made my way to the south side of the mountain where I had no trouble picking up the use trail where expected. There is even an Area Closed sign at the start to make it easy to find. The use trail is an interesting mix of yucca hopping (in the beginning), dodging through narrow paths in the brush, granite slabs and other fun stuff, taking about 10 minutes to navigate. I was at the summit in little more than 30 minutes of starting, happy to find it all work out so nicely.

I found almost a dozen rock cairns at the summit, few of which survived my efforts to restore it to a more natural appearance. In addition to a benchmark, there was a register of sorts, really just a loose piece of paper that had a few entries. The most recent was from Terry Flood, only six days prior. The views I thought were better than on the other peaks, with more views of the San Diego countryside and less of the urban sprawl. Palomar Mtn dominates the view to the northeast, across Valley Center and a collection of indian reservations. My return was via the same route, with the happy addition of finding the use trail leading to the water tank, saving me a second fight through the brush.

Starvation Mountain

This summit looks quite good from the west. The unusual name had caught my attention years earlier, but it appears to be all private property and require better planning. I had tried the previous year to pay it a visit from the east, but a series of signs threatening anyone who parked off the road had gotten to me. A better review of online resources found a SummitPost page and a better way to reach the summit. I didn't transcribe the directions all that clearly and made the hike harder than it needed to be, but it still worked and turned out to be an enjoyable hike. There is a water tank and catch basin just north of the peak that is visible on the satellite views. Paved Highland Mesa Dr reaches to near these and is the shortest route to the summit. Just west of where the pavement ends is a ducked use trail leading to the summit. The route utilizes an old road that winds up to the summit, but no longer driven on. I started from an old avocado orchard off Starvation Mtn Rd about a mile north of the summit. I parked just off the narrow, paved road and hiked up an old, steep stretch of pavement winding through the abandoned orchard and above an occupied home. I soon reached Highland Mesa Dr by this extra bit of hiking and found the use trail near the water tank. Ducks show at least two clipped routes that can be used to reach the old road leading to the summit from the west, winding its way around the north, east and south sides before reaching the summit. The rocky top offers a short scramble, easy class 3.

It took less than 20 minutes to reach the summit. Mt. Woodson, the dominant summit in the area, is prominent to the southeast. To the east can be seen the Cuymacas while in other directions urban and suburban views are prevalent. Directly below to the south and west are a small number of very exclusive custom homes, some finished, some still in development. The Ramona airport is four miles to the east and in the low pass between Starvation and Woodson can be seen Cessnas and other general aviation aircraft coming in low on approach for landing. It was a surprisingly nice summit given the moderate amount of difficulty to reach it.

Battle Mountain

I returned to Rancho Bernardo and picked up my daughter at grandma's for a short hike to nearby Battle Mountain. The summit has a huge white cross and takes less than ten minutes to climb. The cross is prominent from nearby Interstate 15 and the summit is a small island in a suburban wilderness. We went up by the regular use trail from the east and north, then headed down the south side for an alternate, less-used route. The summit provides a good view east to Starvation Mtn, southeast to Woodson and south to Twin Peaks. We were done by 4:30p, shortly before sunset. Our entire Battle Mtn adventure took exactly 20 minutes - and that was just fine by Jackie...


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