Hiking, backpacking, and camping throughout Southern California and beyond

Oakzanita Peak - Peak #27 - A hike through the snow

Elevation: 5,054' Miles: ~6 Trail head

A series of heavy storms have hit San Diego since my trip up Sheephead Mountain. The storms dumped a lot of water and, in higher elevations, a lot of snow. I was in Mount Laguna yesterday and saw what looked like a light dusting of snow on the Cuyamaca area. I wasn't expecting it to be nearly 12" in places.

Robb (The SoCalPeakbagger) drove all the way from Thousand Oaks and we headed for the trail head. We were the only people there and we noticed a stream was running briskly along the road. This is a fairly popular trail, specifically for mountain bikers, so I was expecting the trail to be broken already, if there was any snow at all. We saw some snow here and there with a lot of mud showing through.

Not too long on the trail, and we were presented with a view of Oakzanita Peak, named for the oaks and manzanita growing on its slopes. As we ascended, the snow got deeper and the mud went away completely. We saw a lot of tracks in the snow that belongs to deer, raccoon, turkeys, bobcat, rabbits and what looked to me to be a very large mountain lion. But once you are out in the back country as much as me, all tracks look like a mountain lion.

It was a great feeling to know that we were the first people up here since the storms. Virgin snow was all around us, and except for the signs of wildlife, we were the only people in sight for miles. The snow got deeper and the lack of a packed trail soon got us weary, but the beauty of the area fueled our spirits.

The trail wraps around to the other side of the mountain, even though, according to Robb's GPS, we were within 800' of the summit at one point, but hiked over a mile longer before we reached the summit. On the east side of the mountain, we came upon the lower part of the East Mesa in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It was flat and white and covered with snow.

We began our final ascent of the mountain and the snow got deeper. We passed some empty bike racks near the peak and hurried to the top, where we were greeted with chilly gusts of wind and a panoramic view of the area blanketed with snow.

We looked around a bit, poking with our trekking poles, but we could not find the summit register. From our perch, we could see Cuyamaca Peak, Middle Peak, Stonewall Peak, Toro Peak, Garnet Peak, Monument Peak, Sheephead Mountain, Corte Madera, El Cajon Mountain (El Capitan) and many others.

As our feet, cheeks and fingertips got colder, we took our pictures refueled and headed back down the mountain, not seeing a soul until we reached the trailhead.


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