22 January 2021
Moreno Valley, Lakeside, to Peñasquitos Canyon
(21 miles, +3,300/-3,400 feet).
Now that I have officially applied for my PCT thru-hiking permit, I need to kick my training up a notch.
I feel generally healthy and I average about 5 miles of walking on a normal day. I also do a 50 minute fitness class in the park 3 or so times a week and backpack about 600 miles a year.
But I will have to admit that I am beginning to feel my age!
Although I seem to have my knee issues under control with stretching and appropriate pacing (and vitamin I!), lately I have been having heel pain problems. And I have been worrying that 20+ mile days will be harder for me when I get started in April on a journey where I have to *average* 20 miles a day to make it from Mexico to Canada.
I know it’s not strictly necessary to do 20s right out of the gate if I leave in early April. And if anything I know from past experience that I probably need to limit my daily miles at first in order to prevent repetitive-stress injuries. But the first couple of days work out really well at 20 miles. The Mexico border to Lake Morena (and the Oak Shores Malt Shop!) is exactly 20 miles, and from there it is a touch over 20 to get to Mount Laguna the next day. If I can keep that pace, for food I won’t have to carry anything more than snacks on the big climbs up into the mountains.
So I’d like to get some practice with longer mileage days. But we are still under lockdown. Although the pandemic seems to be plateauing, dispersed camping is still not allowed in most places and multi-day trips are pretty much out of the question in southern California for at least the next few weeks.
That means day hikes.
So today I decided to fill in another section of the San Diego Trans County Trail which extends from the Salton Sea to the Pacific Ocean. This trail does not yet exist, but pieces of it do, including a section that starts in Lakeside, goes through Sycamore Canyon, and then connects to the South Poway Trail.
I caught a Lyft to the start of my hike, which I arbitrarily chose at the corner of Moreno and San Vicente Avenues. Strictly speaking, this point is “on the trail” of the SDTCT, but my driver was very confused when I said we were near a trailhead here. This part of Lakeside is a weird combination of horse farms, mining operations, and vast industrial lots where a gangster shootout might break out on any given moonless night.
After a couple of miles, I found Hi Hopes Drive, which is the steepest concrete road I have ever seen.
Concrete turned to gravel turned to two dirt tracks turned to completely overgrown. At a certain point I got lost and ended up going cross country straight up the mountain. I was a little worried I might have run into some poison oak.
But soon enough I was back on a well-defined bike trail running through the middle of an old jeep road that followed the ridge of the rolling hills above Lakeside.
The next couple of miles were *really* nice. With my back turned towards the industrial wasteland below I gradually moved into a section that felt nearly as remote as the PCT in Cleveland National Forest. Then it slowly started getting more civilized as I approached Sycamore Canyon.
At a certain point the SDTCT leaves the roads and here it got really pretty, once again feeling strangely remote.
But then I eventually started approaching the vast mega-suburb of Poway.
As the horizon filled with cookie-cutter houses I turned my gaze to smaller things along the trail, like these lovely flowers that I had never seen before.
About 8 hours after I started, I hit the 20 mile mark as I passed under Interstate 15.
I can still do 20. And I feel great.