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Jaunt to High Point

(12/14/06) Written by Andy S.; Photos by Glen O.

Having been on so many hikes, including the entire Trilogy Challenge, your frame of reference starts changing. When I was posting this hike, I wanted to call it "moderate." But then I added it up, and realized it was 13 miles round trip, with nearly 4000' of elevation gain. With that in mind, I had this planned as a full-day hike, getting down shortly before sunset. We started up around 8, Glen & me, Tony & Scott (a newbie to PP, but a hiker of some experience). The air was a bit nippy (or "nipply," as I like to refer to it, for obvious reasons), and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The first couple miles is a fairly well-marked (but steep) trail, and I made us take it at a fast pace (get the blood pumping, I said). There would have been a mutiny, I think, if they'd been able to catch me.

After a couple miles and nearly half our elevation, we hit the first fire road - wide and clear, although still fairly steep. There were crazy views, almost 270ᄎ (how often does that happen in SoCal - no marine layer, no clouds, no smog or haze), and mountains from San Ysidro to Mount Baldy were visible. We pulled up our pace a little bit, and chatted as we continued up.

We exchanged stories. Tony & I, it turned out, grew up less than a mile from each other in Upstate NY (and he turned out to be a pretty cool guy, even though he had the misfortune to be born in Rotterdam rather than Schenectady). Scott, originally from Pittsburgh, was a Steelers fan (better luck next year!); he got most of his hiking experience from the Sierra Club's annual Wilderness Basics Course (which he took, he claimed, solely for the opportunity to build an igloo at snow camp). And Glen had just bought a new car (the deal closed at 1am the night before), a Nissan Xterra that he loved, although it didn't quite fit in his garage....

Hitting our second fire road, we continued climbing. Also wide and clear, but steeper still. It began getting cooler as we ascended, and we hit our first oaks, with the occasional pine thrown in. Then we got to the home stretch, the third fire road that headed up to High Point. This wound through some huge oaks as it spiraled up to the summit.

And there it was, High Point, with its (unmanned) 67' fire tower. Usually you can only ascend the first couple flights, because above that is a very sturdy, locked gate. But we were in luck: there was a ranger there working on the tower's radio transmitter, and he invited us up. High Point was quite cold, with a pretty strong wind, so the other guys spent some time putting on warmer clothing. I, on the other hand, grabbed some things to put on up top and began climbing. I was excited, sure, but I also knew that if I stopped to think about climbing that lattice tower in the strong wind, I'd psych myself out.

The view from High Point is nothing to sniff at, but the view from the tower was incredible. A 360ᄎ panorama, going far out into the ocean, Mexico, and Riverside (well, maybe one could sniff at the view of Riverside). And let's not forget the views of the Palomar telescopes, less than a mile away and just a couple hundred feet lower.

After some time taking in the views, we broke for an early lunch. Even given our jaunt atop the fire tower, it was still just after 11; apparently, I am a bit of a slave driver, as we did the 6+ mile ascent in under 3 hours (less talk, more walk!) We quite enjoyed the rising temperature as we descended. The same spectacular views plus a bit of wildlife, like a gorgeous red-tailed hawk out riding the thermals.

We got down around 2, which to me is a fast pace given the distance. At the bottom we enjoyed a nifty tailgate of sushi, hummus, and chocolate chip cookies.