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.)
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.
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.
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:
Enjoy the slide show