Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Photo Essay: Cowles Mountain, Mission Trails Regional Park



I had spent all day driving down to San Diego and touring breweries, so I was about ready to head in for the night when I decided to stop by Mission Trails Park for a quick end-of-day hike.



Although the entrance by the Old Mission Dam looked like it would be closing soon, the trail up to Cowles Mountain was lined with people, golden in the waning sunlight.



I had a little more than enough time to tackle the three miles, a relatively short round trip for a steep, 900 foot elevation gain.



But with shadows growing long across the well-maintained and well-marked trail, no one seemed to mind.



Like Runyon, the path to Cowles Mountain Summit was littered with trail-runners, children, and dogs who left me and my sweaty forehead in their dust.



I insisted in following all of the signs - of which there are many - but most of my fellow hikers appeared experienced enough to take the incredibly steep shortcuts through the switchbacks rather than around them.



Views of the valley below were revealed relatively quickly...



...including glimpses of Lake Murray in the distance.







The top of Cowles Mountain Summit isn't actually the farthest you can go: you can continue on to Pyle's Peak and Big Rock Park.



There also isn't just one trail up to Cowles Mountain, so it's essential to remember which one you came up, and go back down the same one to your car.



After drinking beer all day, I wasn't sure if I would make it - or would even want to - but the payoff of climbing the tallest mountain within San Diego city limits was the 360 degree view, and it was worth it.



And once at the top, it was a relatively easy - though steep - amble back down to the bottom as the sun set, signifying a satisfying end to the day.

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