Morgan Hill ex-HPS
Peak 5,620ft
Peak 5,696ft P300
Peak 5,580ft P300
Gordon Point P500
Peak 5,420ft

Apr 8, 2018

With: Tom Becht

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


I had one last day in the San Diego area before heading home. I talked Tom into joining me for a moderate outing in the Palomar Mtn area, tagging a half dozen minor summits to the west of the observatory. Most of the route was along a series of little-used dirt roads that pass through a mix of public, private and indian lands. The only No Trespassing sign we encountered was for the indian reservation, and we had missed that upon entering the reservation lands. We met up in Rincon at the base of the mountain, then carpooled the winding road up towards the observatory. We turned off at the Fry Creek CG and drove this short road about a mile to its end at the upper campsites where there is parking for about 4 cars. The pavement ends here though the road continues, gated just past the campsite, but unsigned. We hiked about half a mile up to a saddle between our first two peak, Peak 5,620ft to the east and Peak 5,696ft to the west. We tackled the eastern one first, up a short hill through mostly open forest. An old cabin is found just above the saddle with a rusting, cast-iron stove found on the porch, apparently abandoned. Further east towards our summit we passed through a small area that had been burned in a managed fire recently. The summit of Peak 5,620ft, less than half a mile from the saddle, was being used as a staging area for fire equipment used for the managed fire on its western slope. We found coils of fire hoses, two filled, portable water pools and a cache of drinking water and Gatorade, among other items. Not much in the way of views from the summit and we descended back the same way only a few minutes later.

After returning to the saddle, the second summit, Peak 5,696ft was reached after walking up past a private cabin that sees little use, and on to the more open summit with a good view to Boucher Hill towards the southwest. Richard Carey had left a register here less than a year earlier on an outing with the Monday Maniacs. In fact, it was John Strauch from the same party that had left a TR on the LoJ site which I had used in part for our own outing. From the summit, we dropped cross-country to the north, soon intersecting an old road that we followed down towards Middle French Valley, one of a collection of grassy meadows found throughout the area. Over the course of an hour, we passed by a small lake and several unsigned fences as we made our way up other roads to the saddle between Morgan Hill and Gordon Point. Passing by Gordon Point first, we found thick, uninviting buckthorn guarding access to the summit which had been denuded of trees in a decade-old fire. Morgan Hill, an old HPS summit, was delisted due to private property concerns. It proved much easier than Gordon Point. The entire summit seems to be someone's retreat property, with evidence going back many decades, including the rusting frame of an old trailer and the body of a 1950's Cadillac. There was more recent stuff, including a BBQ, chairs and a fairly new gate that looks to have been built in the past year but has already been partially crushed by falling trees. We found the highpoint to be rather unimpressive, but there was a rock outcrop on the northwest side that we paused at to take in the views and a snack break.

We decided to leave Gordon Point for the return while continuing northwest to the furthest summit, Peak 5,580ft. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the summit lies within the Pauma Indian Reservation. Seeing a clearing down to the saddle between Morgan Hill and Peak 5,580ft, we skipped a switchback in the road (where we would have encountered a sign informing us) by dropping through an area of cleared brush that was still fresh and tangled, not really saving any time. Though we could see the antennae atop this last peak, we had some trouble finding a way to reach it. We had gone around to the northwest side of the peak without finding a road up. Tom then mentioned he'd seen another one forking off down back down the road. We returned to this fork, then followed the brushy path which led us all the way around the peak in a clockwise fashion before finding the access road - only a few yards from where we had turned around earlier. We found the highpoint in rock outcrop on the west side of the summit behind the telecom structures. We also checked out the eastern point indicated by LoJ as the highpoint, but that proved to be some 10ft lower.

It was 12:30p by the time we had returned to the road near Gordon Point. As we walked along, we kept a eye out for any sort of opening in the heavy brush that might lead us to the summit. Though I had professed that I was ok skipping it, I felt like I at least needed to give it a try. I slipped on my gloves and told Tom I would "go have a look." It was pretty rough going, but steady progress was made as I periodically yelled back to Tom that I was making headway. He must have thought I was making better progress than I really was, because I was surprised to soon hear his voice close behind me. By a slightly different route, he'd made the same progress I had made in only half the time. Together, we pushed through the brush, well over head level, trying one way and then another. I pointed to a rock outcrop ahead that seemed to offer hope and we slowly made our way towards it. The rock outcrop, once climbed, led to a higher one nearby and I was elated when I spied a register tucked under a small cairn atop it. There were three registers inside the nested cans, though only one was fresh and readable, left by Gail Hanna back in 1999. The others had barely survived the fire that consumed the forest that once stood here and were brittle, damp and hardly legible. I picked out one page that was dated 1992, but didn't bother trying to unwrap any of the others. The PB website shows 9 parties having climbed Gordon Point since 2004, but of those, only the 2004 entries from John Strauch and Terry Flood were in our register. We guessed that the others must have not seen this rock outcrop through the brush from the north because it was obviously the highpoint. I went off in search of another register to the north through the brush but found none (though I did find a reference mark to a "MORGAN" benchmark not shown on the topo map). I managed to find a quicker way back to the road by continuing north from the reference mark while Tom struggled some by returning by way of our original route.

We returned to Forest Service lands and back toward French Valley when we came upon the last peak of the day (which we had skipped earlier), Peak 5,420ft. This one looked to be another brushy affair though less than a quarter mile from the road, much like Gordon Point. Tom led us up this one from the southwest side, finding a remarkably brush-free route despite so much brush on the slopes. We stomped around the brushy, no-view summit area, dissatisfied with finding no real summit and no register. We left one ourselves at one of the few large rocks we could find and called it good. Back down at the road, we would spend another half hour returning past the lake & meadows, abandoned RVs and disheveled cabins to get us back to the campground by 3p. Not a classic day, but much better than I had been expecting...

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