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Morena Butte - Peak #54 - Spending some time on the PCT

Morena Butte - Peak #54 - Spending some time on the PCT


Sunrise on Morena Butte from the Pacific Crest Trail It’s amazing the excitement and anticipation I get when I am getting ready for a hike. I kick around the idea of whether or not to go throughout the week. I am conscious of the fact that whenever I am gone, I am not with my family. So it is always a trade-off.

However, the thought of exploring a new area, of seeing what the mountains look like from a new peak simply drives me forward and makes the idea of waking up at 4 or 5AM seem like a great idea.

This Sunday was no different. Depending on which direction I am going, the sun usually starts glowing behind the Cuyamacas while I am driving over the Mission Trails Summit on the 52 Freeway as it drops down into Santee. The temperature outside was 41 degrees, which wasn’t too cold. I also enjoy the view of El Cajon Mountain, which dominates the landscape on the way east on the Interstate 8 Freeway.

For me, it’s the exploration of the unknown, the physical challenge, the sense of accomplishing a peak. But overall, it’s the collecting of a new experience. Someone once said to me that they were a collector of experiences. And I think this is the greatest way to be.

Sure, I like to collect things, such as technological gadgets, like my iPhone, digital camera, and I like reading my iPad, but they are all simply tools to allow me to collect more and varied experiences.

Each trail and summit is a new experience worth collecting.


I got to the trailhead at about 6:30 or so. On the way, my car thermometer indicated that it got as low as 25 degrees F on the way and it held a steady 26 as I was strapping on my gear. It didn’t feel that cold at all, though. I have a bag in the car where I keep all my layers. I pretty much bring the exact same gear to every hike, but grab whatever layers I will need for that particular hike while at the trailhead.

I could hear the campers at Lake Morena stirring awake as I headed up the Pacific Crest Trail.

I put on an extra layer or two, carrying my gloves, and headed out on this portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Within no time, my fingers were cold and the gloves went on. Almost immediately, I got a pretty good view of the east side of Lake Morena with Los Pinos Mountain in the background.

Sunrise on the Pacific Crest Trail to Morena Butte

Sunrise over Lake Morena with Los Pinos Mountain in the background

I’d been fighting some sort of virus over the last week and I started feeling it as I ascended the first mile of elevation gain. I sat down for a bit, as I was a little dizzy and lacked some strength in my legs. I ate a Clif Bar and some Jelly Belly electrolyte beans with a lot of water, in case I was dehydrated.

I started again, and felt a little better. The sun same up and warmed me a bit and I got my stride. I heard plenty of birds in the bushes, one of which sounded a little like a puppy, but was probably a quail or some type of dove. Before long, I came around a corner and was able to see Morena Butte in the distance. This reminded me that I wasn’t doing a 3-4 mile hike. The total mileage for the day was to be close to 8 miles. I wanted to hurry if I wanted to meet my family at the zoo later today.

Manzanita Tunnel up to Morena Butte

I got to the shoulder of Morena Butte and started up the ridgeline. It was instantly pretty steep and there was Manzanita all over. Looking ahead, I could tell that I was in for a nice climb to the top. The granite was more exposed here as the trail wound to the west side of the mountain. I followed it until I knew the highest point was to my right. I then followed cairns up to the top.

Morena Butte has three distinct “summits,” but the southernmost one is the highest, and that is where I found the summit register. I enjoyed the views of Lake Morena, but the best part was the view up Hauser Canyon to Lake Barrett. I mentally put that on a list of places to explore in the future; an experience I would like to collect.

Summit Register on Morena Butte

Hauser Canyon to Lake Barrett from Morena Butte

I sat there for a while; eating a little, taking pictures and video, and preparing my trekking poles for the way down. The weather was perfect. I wanted to stay up longer, but the desire to be back with my family was too great. I collected my things and headed down.

I had an opportunity to return via the dirt road that circumnavigates the lake, but I chose to remain on the PCT, since it is a well-kept trail. It looked like someone in the past day or do had come with some clippers and trimmed some overgrowth, since there were fresh green branches of various plants along the trail.

The way back had more uphill than I remembered, so it was slow going at times.

I got back to the car, not having seen a single other soul on the trail for the duration of my hike. I went to the zoo and enjoyed the rest of my day.

Morena Butte Pano

Map of Morena Butte GPS Track in Google Earth


Had a nice run this morning in Los Penasquitos Canyon

Wildlife Research Institute - Hawkwatch in the Ramona Grasslands