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Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve West - No peaks, but a beautiful hike

View from the Trail in Santa Ysabel There is a group of people that I come in contact with. They pour over maps and make note of every little high point, some that are named and some aren't.

They sit at home and close their eyes, imagining what it would be like to look at the surrounding landscape from that vantage point. They look at contours and imagine routes up to the top when there are no trails. They wake up long before the sun rises and look forward to the time on the trail, many times alone with their breath and the animals crunching through the scrub. They look at the trail and see tracks of other visitors, mostly of the four-legged kind.

They enjoy getting to the top of something and a few scratches or bruises from yucca or boulders won't get in their way.

I am one of these people.

There is a subset of people within this group. They will summit a peak at any cost, including climbing fences clearly marked with No Trespassing. I am not one of this group.

Although I've occasionally crossed barbed wire fencing, it is because the map clearly indicates that I am on public lands and there is no sign indicating that it would be trespassing. My intent is different than most. It's not only bagging a peak, it's also sharing what I've learned with others and encouraging others to go the same way as me. I will not encourage anyone to break a law, much less put it in writing and charge people for it.

The above is the main reason why I didn't attain a peak this weekend. It's not for lack of trying. I saw what would be a prominent peak at the end of a beautiful hike and went for it. Alas, I was stopped short by a fence and a sign that clearly stated that I should go no further.

I started the hike a little later than I normally do. There were things to do in the morning and I was happy to get out at all. It was unseasonably warm, but the high clouds and cool breeze made it perfect weather for hiking. The hills were green and dotted with Engelmann Oak, some being ancient specimens of majestic shade-giving.

Cow near the trail

Heading towards the stream

Since I got a later start, I ended up meeting more people on the trail than I typically do, mostly families with kids and a couple of horse groups. Everything was still a little wet from recent rains. There are picnic benches at a few key points along the trail, usually allowing one to rest one's legs while enjoying an excellent view of the rolling grassy hills.

I was giddy with how scenic this area was. I took my time on the trail, snapping photo after photo. I approached a stream crossing and, after searching along the banks of the stream, decided my only decision was to wade across. I didn't have my trekking poles, but the stream was only calf-deep and the current not too strong. It was pretty refreshingly icy, though.

Santa Ysabel Creek

The Tree of Life

I hiked up the Ridge Trail and was treated with views on either side. To my right was a pasture, sparsely dotted by a few black cows and their calves. To the south was a view of Santa Ysabel. My heart lightened, just thinking of the pies that were being made down there.

It wasn't long before I got to the gate that I mentioned above. I wasn't too far from the peak and it didn't look like too crazy of a bushwhack to get there. Slightly disappointed, I turned around a visited a picnic bench a hundred yards below. I spent about an hour at the bench, enjoying the silence and the occasional lowing of the cows below. The breeze blew through the grass as I enjoyed the shade from the old oak tree. It was nice.

There's Pie Down There

In between me and the peak

I relaxed for nearly an hour under this tree

I rarely even take this sort of time on the trail to really absorb a place. I am typically rushing to the peak and rushing back to be with my wife and daughter, but I knew they were likely napping at this time of day.

I may have lost in one aspect of the hike, but completely won in other. It's not always about the peak.

09 Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve West with Cuyamaca Peak in the distance


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