Iron Mountain – NOT!

Not – as in not prepared for this hike!

Not – as in having an idea of what I was doing.

Not – as in sorry I tried.

On Super Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2012, I set out to hike Iron Mountain with a friend who is an experienced hiker. The week before I’d hiked the flat and leisurely Penasquitos Canyon Trail, which was six miles, as you may know if you are a reader of this blog. My friend mentioned that he thought I was ready for Iron Mountain. I had a spontaneous change in my “social calendar” and we agreed to take the hike in a spur of the moment decision.

Iron Mountain, at a little over 2700 feet above sea level, is one of the highest peaks near the Ramona/Poway area. The hike to the peak and back is a little over six miles with a 900-foot climb. The trailhead is at Poway Road and Highway 67. We started walking at about 8 a.m., greeted by the most inviting shaded lane. The trees are neatly planted and grow together overhead to create a lovely symmetrical shaded haven. Shortly after that wonderful shade, we were in the backcountry of San Diego, with sunshine and chaparral, rocks, and at this time of year, very little color other than green and brown. But I love the backcountry at any time of the year.

Soon after the one-mile marker, I knew I was in over my head. My legs started to wobble and I became light-headed. My friend made it clear I could stop any time I wanted; and rest when needed. I did just that. I had to look down and walk carefully because of the rocks. I used two hiking poles, which kept me from falling several times. When we did stop for a breather, I lost my breath again, this time from the view. We hiked in Santa Ana conditions: dry air with almost limitless visibility. The ocean view was awesome! (Iron Mountain is about 30 miles inland.)

Looking northwest about 1 mile into the hike. Ocean easily seen.

Wild lilac in bloom, anyhow that is what we always called it as kids.

Walking up

Rocky trail

Little creek on the way up

That is the summet, the peak in the middle of the photo.

Switchbacks on the way up

Great view, but not quite at the top yet.I probably stopped five or six times to rest before reaching the summit. I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I reached the peak. It wasn’t fun making this hike. It was hard work, but I wanted to make it to the top. It was one foot at a time, looking down, trying not to land on my face and break my nose or my wrists.

The 360-degree view at the summit is spectacular. We could see far out into the ocean,  past downtown San Diego and Pt. Loma to the west, Palomar Mountain to the north, the town of Ramona to the northeast, Cuyamaca to the east, Lake San Vincent to the southeast and Mexico to the south. The Coronado Islands were clearly visible off the Mexican coast and Santa Catalina Island was faintly visible to the northwest.

I made it to the top, still standing!

City of Ramona from the peak

Looking east at the mountains near Barona Indian Reservation.

San Vincente Lake from the peak

Time to stop and smell the lilacs.

Two strangers enjoying a rest overlooking San Vincente Lake at the peak

Looking northwest at Black Mountain and Penasquitos.

Mt. Woodson from the summit.

Looking northwest from the summit

I found a little bit of color

We rested at a picnic table at the top, eating our snacks and sharing our excitement with fellow hikers. There were no strangers on the top of the mountain. There were many children and dogs. Everyone thought it was an easy hike but me.

On the way back down, I still had to be careful because of the rocks and slippery steep dirt patches. One time my legs flew out from under me and I slid down on my backside like I was sledding in snow. I have a “shiner” on my elbow from the slide, but I was able to keep walking. Later on the trail I twisted my left ankle between two rocks. This is my ankle that has no cartilage and doesn’t bend. Well, it bent. I saw stars for a moment; the pain was excruciating. I sat down, caught my breath and wondered if I would be going home in a helicopter. Instead, in about two minutes it was okay, as if nothing had happened; and I started walking again.

Found these rare little jewels on the way down

A little more color at the end of the trail.

Shaded lane awaits us soon.

I was glad to be finished, but more glad that I had kept walking and reached that summit. I hope the pictures fill in the story:

End of the trail

War wound from the slide.

Time to clean up the shoes for the next hike.

Enjoy the slide show

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6 comments on “Not!

  1. Brian Ellsworth says:

    You actually did a great job friend. You don’t give yourself enough credit. It was a tough hike for you and frankly it should have been given you are still a relative newbie to hiking (not to mention you passed 21 years of age a few years back…). It was my pleasure to have you along. I can’t wait to see what you can do next.

    Your friend,


  2. Jan Maynard says:

    I’m glad to see you found some hiking boots and didn’t do this hike in sandals

  3. Anonymous says:

    REALLY nice post and photos– you rock, girlfriend!

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