Sun, Dec 24, 2006
I was surprised Ryan wanted to go hiking yet again, our third day in a row. Picking peaks that weren't too hard was a key factor. We'd been doing about five miles roundtrip with a thousand feet of gain, an outing we could comfortably do in less than three hours. Iron Mtn was another such peak. I had got it from the LPC list a few years earlier, pocketing it for such an occasion. The peak is just outside the developing town of Poway in Southern California, a short drive from San Diego where the family was staying for the holiday.
When we got to the trailhead at the junction of Poway Rd and SR67, we quickly found how popular the hike is. A line of cars were parked alongside the road for 100 yards leading out of the small parking lot at the trailhead. The trail requires no judgement to find one's way to the top. You can either follow any of the several dozens of groups making their way to the summit, or follow the well-signed markers. Heck, the trail is even called the Iron Mountain Trail. The route is popular with a joggers looking to get some hill work in, as well as those with dogs in tow. The summit features a viewing telescope like the ones found at tourist vistas, only this one is free. And quite powerful, too. I spotted a peak to the west (later I found it was Black Mountain) some nine miles away and trained the telescope on it. To my surprise I could make out people in white shirts hiking up a dirt road carved in the hillside. Another feature of the summit is a mailbox complete with filled register and lots of junk. Ryan signed us in, but I didn't bother to look at the overcrowded box - too urban for my taste.
The views were quite fine on a sunny day around noon. To the north we could Woodson Mtn, Palomar Mtns, and in the far distance Mt. San Jacinto. To the east we could see the Santa Rosas, the Cuyamacas, and the San Diego County highpoint of Hot Springs Mtn. South was Otay Mtn and many many more into Mexico, and then a sweeping view of the Pacific to the west stretching from Dana Point to Tiajuana.
There were two or three parties at the summit the entire time we were there, spread out amongst the summit rocks and a couple of picnic benches found there as well. One annoying party was made up of two middle-aged women lamenting and complaining about their teenagers and how they couldn't understand why they couldn't have a relationship with them anymore. After listening to them for ten or fifteen minutes I was firmly on the side of the teenagers in not wanting to have anything to do with them.
After we got back to San Diego, I dropped Ryan off and took daughter Jackie out for her first hike with Dad. Ryan had given her a hard time the night before saying she couldn't hike with us because it would be too hard for her. I promised Jackie her own hike that a seven year old could have fun with. I was originally going to take Cowles Mtn, the highpoint of San Diego city, but I was now intrigued about this other peak I had seen from Iron Mtn. I found it listed in Jerry Schad's book, Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, and it looked like an easy three miler with 1,000ft of gain.
Following the directions in Schad's book, we made our way to Black Mountain Road and the trailhead. Unfortunately, the development around Poway is well ahead of Schad's book and the trailhead is no longer accessible as described. Unconcerned, I simply drove around a little bit until I found an alternate trailhead a short distance away adjacent to a cul-de-sac. We parked the car, made our way to the trailhead, and started up.
The going was slower than it had been with Ryan, not so much because she was less physically capable, but more because a 7yr-old's curiosity is more easily piqued than that of a 10yr-old. We stopped to examine smooth, colorful rocks we found on the fire road, selecting several for souveniers to be discarded even before we returned to the car later. We then picked out a walking stick for her from amongst some suitable materials, stopped to examine an access bunker to an aqueduct buried underground nearby, and various other delays. Even with all that we made decent time to the summit in less than 45 minutes. Unlike the fascinating items atop Iron Mtn, Black Mtn has no such items of interest to the casual visitor. The summit is much broader and has been bulldozed flat to house half a dozen communication towers found there. Jackie showed absolutely zero interest in any of the gargantuan technologic wonders, instead focusing on a handful of mudpuddles nearby. She tossed rocks in, made rocks steps across the length, and used other rocks to plumb the murky depths after I told her it might be quicksand (there was no quicksand, and she determined the depths to be less than two inches).
We walked around the towers to get views of the suburban countryside around us, then headed back down. It was great fun. We'll have to do more of it in the future.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Iron Mountain
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