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I had gotten into San Diego quite late the night before, nearly 4a. We had a two hour detour when Interstate 5 was closed due to an accident when we were less than 60 miles from the city. After sitting in the traffic for an hour, we beat a retreat back to SR74 and over the hills to Interstate 15, a very long detour. Ugh. So I was pretty beat come morning and didn't get out for a hike until nearly noon. I chose to head to Tecate Peak on the border with Mexico, about an hour's drive southeast from the city. Usually the weather improves as one heads east into San Diego County, and rainy weather can often turn nice as one reaches the desert regions. Not so today, as the weather only deteriorated.
For the most part, I followed the directions given by Schad. I tried to take a shortcut to reach the TH by observing on Google Maps that a second, shorter dirt road enters directly from SR94 to the north. Unfortunately the views on Google were not sufficient to tell the condition of this road and as I found out - not good for the 2WD Miata I was driving. Plus I was stopped by another vehicle about half a mile in that informed me (rather kindly) that it was a private road. Rats. So back out to SR94 I went, then east to SR188, then to the border sign indicated by Schad, and the immediate right turn onto the marginal dirt road. Good enough for the miata though, and I was able to drive even farther than suggested. The gate looks to be no longer kept closed (probably to allow the Border Patrol easier access), and with a high clearance vehicle it should be possible to drive to the summit.
There were powerful, portable flood lights arranged along the road near the border for nighttime work by the Border Patrol. They were fairly active, though no one gave me a hard time for being there. Where I had to stop and park the car, a border agent was sitting in his truck just below cloud level scanning the border. He was on boring afternoon duty, the least-enjoyable part of the job he told me, but fortunately only has to be done about once every couple weeks. He warned me to stick to the road to avoid "undesirables" that could be hiding in the brush, but to be honest the presence of so much Border Patrol activity had the opposite effect and made me feel quite safe from harm.
From where I left the car I followed the road up to the first big switchback heading right, then went cross-country up the steep hillside to intersect the road at the next turn some distance above. By repeating this manuever, I was able to reach the summit in a fairly short time using only a small portion of the road. The area had burned in the last few years and not yet fully grown back with the choking chaparral that usually covers the slopes, helping to make this possible. I had spotted use trails on Google Maps satellite view, but was unable to find any of these today.
The weather of course was rather crappy. Gusty winds accompanied a nearly constant drizzle that had me fairly wet well before I reached the summit. No cotton clothes today helped keep me from freezing my butt off. The summit was fairly small and almost entirely taken up by a communications installation surrounded by a fence. I took a few quick pictures and beat a retreat. The whole upper half of the mountain was buried in the clouds, so there were no views to be had at all. The hoped-for break in the weather didn't materialize.
I dared not take a similar cross-country route on my way down since I couldn't see very far ahead of me and could easily have ended up on the wrong side of the mountain. Instead I followed the road all the way down, jogging some, growing wetter all the time, and watching the road get increasingly softer, as the water pooled and flowed down in rivulets and gullies worn into the surface. The border agent that came by on his ATV got a chuckle out of me soaked as I was, jogging down the road. I finally emerged again from the clouds just before returning to the car, the cloud layer having lowered a good deal during my outing.
I briefly considered doing a few other peaks since I had plenty of time left, but the peaks did not look any better weather-wise on my way out, so I gave up the prospect. One summit without views was enough for one day.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Tecate Peak
This page last updated: Sat Apr 10 18:49:32 2010
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