My girlfriend and I had been scouring books and surfing the Internet seeking advice on family-friendly activities we both might enjoy. We wanted to spend more quality time during the weekend with our baby daughter together, but we both knew that in order for it to work we both needed to make some concessions. My preferences include climbing and anything outdoors while she tends to enjoy shopping and lying in the sun at the beach. All that is fine and dandy and in San Diego the options are endless, but when you include a 3-month baby girl in the mix the choices become somewhat limited. Not only is the activity and the time it takes important but you also have to factor in the weather, sleeping habits and how you plan on changing and feeding the baby.
After spending one day of the weekend strolling the beach and pigging out on pizza and beer at Pizza Port, I decided it was time for some real fun. I tossed the idea of a Cuyamaca hike in the mix and broke out Jerry Schad’s “Afoot and Afield in San Diego” for a quick look over. My girlfriend flipped through it and after minimum discussion we both decided a nice easy 2.5-mile jaunt up to the summit of Stonewall Peak would be adequate for both our needs. I would get to climb and she would get to do it with me.
The AdventureSunday morning came quickly and we hastened to load up our gear. When I say gear, I mean it. Baby carrier, hydration packs, blankets, diapers, wipes and all the other baby care essentials. Never know when a hiking emergency might require the use of baby butt cream, but at least we had it. After packing, we buckled in and were flying down the 67 towards Ramona and a quick breakfast at the Ramona Café (Excellent food, but probably better served after the hike). We quickly wolfed down our fill and continued on up the mountain.
As we neared Lake Cuyamaca my girlfriend started getting woozy!! Maybe it was the curves of the road, her breakfast or maybe it was the fact that I don’t like taking the curves slow, either way she wasn’t feeling good and therefore I wasn’t either. We crawled to the trailhead near the Paso Picacho campground, where I became very disgruntled. I had purchased the yearly National Forest Adventure Pass for the sole purpose of not having to pay any extra fees to enjoy the wilderness. Instead, all the turnouts near the trailhead were blocked with cones, which would in turn have forced me to pay an extra $6 to park in the campground day-use area. Being a man of principle and since I wasn’t using the campground facilities, I refused to pay. Instead I drove the two miles down the highway to the closest turnout and hiked up from there. It added 4 miles roundtrip to our hike but there was no way I was giving the Forest Service any more of my money.
At the turnout, I packed Brooke into her carrier, slung my pack over the top and headed up. We followed the Cold Stream Trail from the Mesa turnout along the 79 to where it intersected the Stonewall Peak Trail. The trail wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Some sections were really over grown with shrubs, large trees had toppled over the path and for a stretch the trail was taken over by a rushing stream. I didn’t mind the obstacles but couldn’t say the same for my girlfriend. Having to scale broken tree limbs and dodge waterways wasn’t what she had in mind for this trek and she wasn’t a happy camper.
When we reached the Stonewall Peak Trail the going got much better. The trail was well maintained and the snow that had previously fallen was either patted down by hikers or gone altogether. The north side of the peak still had substantial snow on the slope but the west side was dry. We quickly made our way up the switchbacks, passing several other hikers, and finally came to the rocky summit. My girlfriend was a little weary of the railing leading up to the summit but after a little coaching she managed to conquer her fears. At last we reached the peak, snapped a few photos and proceeded to climb back down.
About halfway down my girlfriend started losing it a bit. She was tired, her feet were cold and for some reason she kept saying she hated the outdoors. I kept telling her she was doing great and magically it worked. She kept moving and before I knew it we were back at the Cold Stream/Stonewall Peak trail junction. I offered to go back the final 2 miles by myself and grab the car and of course she accepted. I left her and baby Brooke on some logs near the camp turnouts and headed on down.
I pretty much ran the entire way back down to the car and truth be told, it was actually one of the most fun and exciting runs I have ever done in my life. Dodging rocks, jumping streams, and scaling fallen trees; made running the last 2 miles back to the car all that much more enjoyable. The only bummer was while running, my pack zipper opened and I lost one of my daughter’s blankets. (So if you’re on the Cold Stream trail between Paso Picacho and the Mesa turnout keep your eyes peeled!!) I was back at the car in 15 minutes, changed my pants, threw on my flip-flops and headed back up to pick up the family.
As we headed down the 79 towards Interstate 8 and home, the truth came out. My girlfriend admitted to having a blast and even mentioned wanting to try it again. Of course, she mentioned needing a few things (boots and other gear) and more practice, but this just opened the door for me to explain that we all need more practice and the only way we can do that is to go out and be adventurous. I’m glad I got to spend some quality time with my family doing something I truly enjoy and I can’t wait to do it again.