Cuyamaca Peak via Lookout Fire Road, Burnt Pine Trail, California Riding & Hiking Trail, Fern Flat Fire Road

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Key for all trip logs
Participants: San Diego Hikers' Net: Ed Butler (KF6DXX), Tom Chester (KF6HPS), Bob Gonsett (W6VR), Glenn Paden (KE6ZLY) and Ted Wilcox (KF6BFI).
Date: 10 October 1998 (Written up 11 October 1998)

Plants in bloom: The poison oak was a festival of colors all by itself, ranging from dark green, light green, yellow, pink to very red. Some small purple asters were blooming, as were several members of the sunflower family. There were some great seed pods on locoweed, all big and puffy, but filled mostly with air.
Weather: Sunny, temperature in 60s.
Bugs: Fairly buggy with black flies. They vanished at the peak itself, but were somewhat bad going up on Lookout Fire Road and fairly bad going down on the various trails and fire roads.
Number of ticks: None.
Number of rattlesnakes: 0
Other pests: None.

Mountain Lion Danger

As we started the hike, we learned that four mountain lions had been killed in the previous Thursday and Friday, all four at Los Vaqueros horse camp on 8 and 9 October 1998. That brought the total to 12 mountain lions killed in the park since 1987.

Since the late 1980s, the park has warned people not to hike, run, horseback ride or bike alone due to the danger of mountain lions.

In early August, 1998, the park was closed for about a week after a woman encountered a cougar near Stonewall Peak. In that incident, a woman used pepper spray on an aggressive cougar and finally repelled it from attacking her and a female friend after a 15-minute ordeal.

On 10 December 1994, Iris M. Kenna (1938-1994) was killed by a cougar near the bench dedicated to her while hiking to Cuyamaca Peak alone in the early morning. The bench is at the intersection of the Lookout Fire Road and Azalea Springs Fire Road / Fern Flat Fire Road. Although Kenna was in excellent physical condition, she was slight -- about 5-foot-4 and no more than 115 pounds.

In 1988, two cougars were killed after they chased a German couple and their young son.

For more information, see Mountain Lion Attacks On People in the U.S. and Canada.

Msc. Information

We talked with some State Forestry Fire Department firefighters resting on the Iris M. Kenna Memorial Bench on the way up, and learned that the pack of hoses that they were each carrying weighed 50 pounds, which we verified by lifting them up. Firefighters are pretty impressive.....

In all of the below, "Fire Road" and "Trail" are pretty interchangeable. The State Park Map often says "Trail" when the signs on the trail say "Road". The reason for the confusion is clear: many of the fire roads have definitely become trails, with evidence of a wide road nearly nonexistent in places.

The view from Cuyamaca Peak is stunning - we were able to identify Mt. Woodson, Santiago Peak (Santa Anas), Black Mountain, Mt. Baldy (Angeles Mtns.), Palomar, San Gorgonio, Volcan Mountain, San Jacinto, Middle Peak, North Peak, Toro Peak (Santa Rosa Mtns.), and Granite Mountain, in rough order from west through north and east. Ed Butler provided the distance and azimuth to the following:

PeakAltitude (')Distance (miles)Azimuth (Heading)
Santiago Peak568775315° NW
Mount San Gorgonio1149980.5351° NNW
Thomas Mountain681146.6355° NNW
Mount San Jacinto1080460356° NNW
Volcan Mountain571915358.5° NNW
Toro Peak87164115° NNE
Rabbit Peak666639.732° NNE
Granite Mountain563310.245° NE
Garnet Peak59008.6100° SE
Monument Peak627111.5110° SE

From the Burnt Pine Trail, we got great views of the Lagunas and points south.

We exchanged mirror flashes with Tom Shore (KJ6NA), who was near the interchange of SR78 and I-15. Even though his mirror flashes were very visible when they were observed, most of the time only one person in our group would see them at a time. And even if one saw the flashes for one sequence, someone else would see them for the next sequence. Everyone saw the flashes at different times. Since the beam should be a circular spot of about 1300' in diameter (30 miles times 0.5 degrees, the width of the sun), perhaps we were just getting the edge of the beam sometimes, and other times some of us just weren't looking in the right place.

Part of the difficulty was then it was quite hard to remember the point from which the flashes originated, since Tom's location was "in the murk". We could clearly see Mt. Woodson, but anything lower and anything more distant was lost. Tom's mirror flashes shown as a bright flash amidst the soup.

Even though Tom had the advantage of knowing where to look, since he could clearly see Cuyamaca Peak, he had great difficulty in seeing our flashes, probably because the sun angle was not very favorable for us to send him flashes.

Hiking Log:

Recording numberMileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.009:38 4800Paso Picacho Campground
10.309:45 5000Sign: "Cuyamaca Peak 2.4 mi"
20.509:52 5100Jct. Azalea Glen Road
31.05~10:1510:305400Iris M. Kenna Memorial Bench. Sign: "Azalea Springs Fire Road to Azalea Glen Trail 0.5 mi; Cuyamaca Peak 1.5 mi"
42.0010:5611:036000Big Stump
52.3011:10 6100Jct. Conejos Trail
62.3011:16 6200Jct. Burnt Pine Trail
72.7511:33 6500Arrive Cuyamaca Peak
83.25 1:356600Leave Cuyamaca Peak
93.701:49 6300Right on Burnt Pine Trail
104.502:08 6050Jct. Conejos Trail. Sign: "Cuyamaca Peak 1.2 mi; Arroyo Seco Trail Camp 4.0 mi; West Mesa Fire Road 2.4 mi"
116.703:093:215250Left on California Hiking & Riding Trail / West Mesa Trail. Sign: "Cuyamaca Peak 3.6 mi; "Arroyo Seco Trail Camp 1.6 mi; Paso Picacho Campground 3.9 mi"
127.353:38 5100Trail Splits - continue left on California Riding & Hiking Trail (shown on park map but not topo map), with West Mesa Fire Road / Trail going right. Sign: "West Mesa Fire Road to SR79 2.2 mi; Paso Picacho Campground 3.2 mi; Burnt Pine Fire Road 0.7 mi".
138.004.02 5050Left on Fern Flat Fire Road. Sign: "Paso Picacho Campground 2.7 mi; Arroyo Seco Trail Camp 3.0 mi; Fern Flat Springs 0.8 mi".
149.104:405:005500Right on Lookout Road
1510.255:29 4900Car

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Copyright © 1998-1999 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 3 September 1999.