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We met at the prescribed 6a meeting time and drove off in his 4WD truck for Pala Mtn, only a few minutes away. Lilac Rd off SR76 leads around the northwest side of the mountain with an unsigned, rough dirt road (Cable Rd on Google maps) leading south along the west side. This eventually turns left abruptly to climb incredibly steeply up the west side of the mountain to a small communications site no longer in use. Mark had driven this terribly rutted road previously, but the truck we had today was not the same he used then, and we parked at the base of the steep section to hoof it from there. As we started up the road, damp from rain several days earlier, I marveled that he had been able to drive up it. He thought it looked worse than his previous attempt a year earlier and it doesn't look like the road has seen any maintainence for a decade or more. At a turn in the road we found a military trailer overturned and abandoned. It must have been quite a feat just to get it to that point, but why someone would attempt to do so was almost beyond belief. Mark commented that he might like to try and recover it sometime, but I laughed that off as near impossible without some serious heavy equipment.
In half an hour we had hiked to the end of the road just below Pala's NW Ridge. A graffiti-riddled shack was here with two decommissioned towers. Beer cans and litter were strewn about. Mark found an empty pill bottle labeled "Medicinal Cannabis." Thank God someone remembered to bring their meds with them before coming to this remote location - no telling what health issues might have manifested themselves without it.
At this point the easy part had been dispensed with and the real fun was to begin. From here on it's all bushwhacking, about a 6 on a 1-10 scale. Mark had gotten a short distance through this before giving up on his first effort. We both acknowledged that we were far more amenable to a good bushwhack if we had someone to share it with. And so we did. We took turns leading and snaking our way through, under and sometimes over the stuff. The leads weren't pre-planned, it just happens naturally when the leader runs up against a particularly nasty section and the follower then strikes off on a different tack. We spent just about an hour covering little more than a mile along the ridgeline, not as bad as we had feared it could be. We were helped by small breaks in the brush at various places and it seems that a trail had one time existed here far in the distant past. When we reached the nondescript summit, we found half of your standard nested red can register, but no sign of paper, plastic or the other half. We took a few photos of the views and the reference mark we found nearby before starting back. The return went faster thanks to the little trail of destruction we'd left through the brush. We would lose our route periodically, but the GPS would help us indentify in which direction to find it again. We were only 45min in getting back to the towers and then another 20min back to the truck.
As suggested, I started at the Park N Ride lot on the west side of I-15 at the junction with SR79 (Temecula Pkwy). From here one can hike south on a dirt road following Murrieta Creek. Just past the Temecula sign the road crosses Temecula Creek (Murrieta and Temecula Creeks have their confluence here where it becomes the start of the Santa Margarita River), surprisingly there's water here with ducks and coots plying a small quiet part of the river. The first of two gates is encountered here, marking the start of the reserve. Another half mile further up the road a second gate is encountered, this one with razor wire over the top but easily breached through the loose barbed-wire to the left. Less than half a mile further up is the research residence that one must necessarily pass right by. This was the part I was most worried about - Mark had reported being spotted by someone inside, but they did nothing to stop him. I found a truck parked out front (perhaps a resident caretaker?) which had me nervous, but I saw no one and heard nothing inside or out as I passed by onto the continuing road to the right. Above this I was able to relax and hike the remaining short distance of road to a small communications facility at road's end. As described, a trail starts from here heading west into the chaparral, a nicely cut trail that appears to be well-maintained, leading higher. The trail meanders some but makes its way to the rocky summit area, the highpoint still almost a mile further. Here the trail forks without much notice, going to either of two remote installations in the area. I didn't realize at first that I had taken the wrong fork until I saw the antenna to the east that I was heading towards. Backtracking, I found some white flagging marking the trail junction and soon found myself on the right track. It was an interesting trail, leading over slabs and boulders, through brush where necessary, then more slabby rocks until I got to the highpoint (with its own antenna arrangement) a little more than an hour after starting out.
As often happens, there are two highpoints vying for attention. The north summit with the antenna seems obviously higher. I took a photo on the line-of-sight between the two for evidence while I mulled whether or not to actually pay the other a visit. The trail does not continue to the south summit with the spot elevation of 2,349ft and at first glance it appears to have a bit too much disagreeable brush. But once I committed to doing it, it took less than ten minutes to get from one to the other and the brush wasn't as bad as I feared. I snapped a photo looking south towards Fallbrook, another back towards the north summit, then returned to the highpoint. I rested here long enough to eat a snack before heading back. To the north lies the Temecula Valley while to the east was another P1K just on the other side of I-15 (on the next day's agenda). To the west can be seen the Pacific Ocean stretching south to San Diego. It was just after noon by the time I returned to the Park N Ride lot. I was happy to see no one on the return as I passed the research residence for a second time.
This page last updated: Wed Dec 3 13:46:04 2014
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