Black Mountain is located in the northern part of San Diego County, only a few miles north of the small town of Ramona along SR78. It was one of two remaining peaks I had on the SDC list. Thanksgiving saw the family visiting Grandma in San Diego. She had recently relocated from Claremont to Rancho San Bernardo, just south of Escondido - very conveniently located for Black Mtn. I had attempted Black Mtn a year earlier by a route from the east, but that turned out to be a bust - private and Indian property lined the Black Canyon Rd that I drove with heavy brush on the eastern flanks of the mountain. I aborted before even getting out of the car. I was made aware of the only realistic route shortly thereafter (it helps to publicly admit defeat sometimes) which approaches from the West via Pamo Valley. With a high clearance vehicle one can drive to within a mile of the summit, but I was not so equipped. So I parked at the start of the Upper Ysabel Road, about a mile past the end of the pavement in Pamo Valley. Upper Ysabel Road is on Cleveland NF land and open to vehicles when fire danger is low. Mostly it appears to be used by hunters to gain access to the mountain. The road is 7+ miles in length, reaching nearly to the summit where another gate bars permanent access to the summit. It is rough in places and would not have been suitable for driving my van on. There are few turnaround options, so don't try it if you have any doubts about your clearance.
Starting around 9a, it was not a particularly good hike. The road is decent for hiking, but the views are marginal. Mostly chaparral-lined slopes, the area had burned in the Cuyamaca Fire some years earlier. The brush was back with a vengeance, but the pines on the upper slopes are just starting to rejuvenate. Some of the taller ones survived the fire and seedlings are starting to sprout near the summit, but there are many burned spars still standing as a reminder to be careful with fire. It probably didn't help that it was a rather warm day for mid-November. There is no shade to be found anywhere on the road. It took two and half hours for me to reach the summit and little over an hour to get down - the road was good for running, at least, and I took advantage by jogging the entire distance back to the van. The gated portion of the road actually ends at the south end of the summit area with a use trail cutting through the brush for the last hundred yards are so.
There is a small concrete bunker at the summit, the small opening at the top looking down into a pit filled with empty beer cans and bottles - a popular drinking spot, it would seem. There is a small solar-powered antenna as well, but little else. Judging by the concrete foundations, it appears something more substantial once stood at the summit, but no longer. The views stretch north to Palomar, east to Cuyamaca, south to the Mexico border and west to the Pacific Ocean. It was not a particularly clear day, especially along the coast where fog and haze blurred much of the view.
I came across two trucks parked on the way up (owners absent), and crossed paths with two others plus a couple of motorcycles on my way down. Shells littered parts of the road at open clearings, broken beer bottles and empty cans found in places, too. Though a sign indicated No Shooting except for the legal hunting of mammals and birds, most of the shooting taking place appears to be for target practice or simply for fun.
All in all, not one of the better peaks in San Diego County, and one of the poorer ones found on the SDC list. At least it made for a good workout. Grandma made a prime rib for dinner and I did my fair share of damage to it. Yum!
This page last updated: Tue Nov 27 08:46:35 2012
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