Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hiking Mission Trails: South Fortuna Mountain & Suycott Wash

The end of 2013 brought a particularly cool friend into town, and, lucky me, Dr T had recovered from her cold and had an afternoon free to visit! With the weather being accommodatingly clear and warm out we decided that we both could use a little exercise and headed east to explore Mission Trails Regional Park for a few hours.
Descending Visitor Center Loop trail to San Diego River.
I should confess that though I have cycled through Mission Trails Park many times I had only ever hiked it once, many many moons ago when I still cane-dependent, and so am not terribly familiar with the park's many trails. To be safe, we stopped in at park headquarter to pick up a trail map and ran into a really helpful park docent who pulled out the map, a pencil, and then proceeded to describe in detail his favorite 'little romp' for us to follow. Our less-fat-than-average look sort of worked against us as our enthusiastic guide plotted our way UP South Fortuna Mtn and traversing it to the Fortuna Saddle before heading back down through Suycott Wash. All my mountainous century bike rides of the past year have made mountains seem less formidable for me of late, but the talk of steep terrains and 300+ rock steps that are much better scaling up than descending down was a bit unsettling. Neither of us are known for shying away from any adventure (especially when there's an audience looking on), however, so off we went to find the Visitor Center Loop trail head at Mission Gorge Rd and Jackson Dr before proceeding down the wide dirt road to the San Diego River.

Cottony arroyo willow seeds padding up the rocks along the San Diego River.
Dr T fording the midgetly San Diego River
We were a bit too instructed on how to cross the river the least wet way possible, I'm afraid, and ended up crossing it at the wrong spot because the right place looked very much, to our untrained eyes, like the the place our guide had told us to avoid! Some moderate amount of bushwacking ensued before we popped out on the trail again, serendipitously right at a sign warning hikers not to stray off the marked path! Smiley

Up the San Diego River Crossing Trail toward the tower.
From then on we managed to stay on the, er, straight (ahem!) and narrow path, so to speak for the rest of the hike. The gravelly trail led us steeply up toward the landmark white tower before we picked up the S Fortuna Trail east down to the wash.

Starting down S Fortuna Trail from the crossroad.
One of the things I had learnt from my many long distance cycling expeditions is to note pavement condition on the opposite side of the road when on an out-and-back route... So the steepness of our descent into Suycott Wash concerned me a bit as we'd have to climb back up it toward the end of our hike. I had not chosen my footwear very wisely and my well worn soles weren't gripping the trail very well.
Down S Fortuna Trail into Suycott Wash.
We soon reached the bottom, though, and found the promised two picnic tables hiding in the shades. Starting up the gentle lower slope of S Fortuna Mountain I was busy finding a good spot to place my cane when Dr T let out a gasp. It was a fat little roadrunner running across the path just a few yards ahead! That quite perked up both Dr T and me. No matter how the hike turned out, at least we had spotted a wildlife up close. I was still relishing that thought a few minutes later when Dr T let out another yelp... I looked up just in time to see a coyote running up the trail ahead of us and disappearing behind some boulders! First a roadrunner then a coyote... Real life is just like cartoon sometimes! Smiley
The lower steps on S Fortuna Mtn. The dog and his parents were on their way down.
The steep steps up S Fortuna Mtn.
By the time we got to the lower steps up S Fortuna Mtn I was getting quite warm and very grateful for my insulated cycling water bottle... and for the cane! Since I took up cycling almost two years ago my balance and stamina have improved a lot, but I'd still soon deteriorate to a drunkard's walk if I try to go more than a mile on my feet without using a stick. Now as the hike was turning into a climb, I don't think I'd have made it all the way up the mountain without my third leg (and Dr T's endless patience!). The upper part of the steps was really steep and eroded. I really wouldn't have liked to descend down the same path!

There's a coyote in the foto, believe it or not. I just managed to catch his ears behind the boulders and bush.

As we cleared the steps and neared the crest of the climb Dr T let out another yelp. By this time I had learnt to associate her yelps with photographing opportunity, so I got the camera out just in time to catch a little bit of our second coyote of the hike... disappearing behind a set of boulder and surrounding bushes!
Fortuna Saddle. N Fortuna Mtn in background.
The view from the top of S Fortuna Mtn was pretty good (though I think it was better at the top of the steps than at the summit itself). We might have lingered there a bit longer, but didn't want to risk not making it back to the car by 5pm, when the gates would be locked, so we started down to Fortuna Saddle...
The trail down to Suycott Wash.
And then down what turned out to be the most hazardous bit of the day's hike, the steep and very slippery descend into Suycott Wash. Really, folks, don't do this thing without having on a good pair of hiking shoes. It's so eroded and bare and steep that I had a hard time zigzagging down without turning into a human tumbleweed! Once down to Rock Garden Trail (formerly known as Suycott Trail) we sped along nicely and was back at the San Diego River in time to catch the local flora in some really splendid light.

Western sycamores catching the evening light with their autumn gold leaves.
We even had 30 minutes or so to spent browsing around the park's visitor center museum. It's quite a cool space!
Mission Trails Park HQ museum
Bobcat and roadrunner.
Coyote. I couldn't get a good shot of a live one, but here at least is a stuffed version.
Our nice park docent was still around and came over for good (and mostly educational) chats. I particularly liked the collection of stuffed local wildlife on the second floor... seeing as their live version are so good at disappearing in the presence of my camera! One of the 'stuffed animals' is a fake, though. If you're ever in town, drop in at Mission Trails Park HQ and see if you can tell which!

- Mission Trails Regional Park
- Mission Trails Park trail map
- Dr T's Opera Rambling Outlet


Anonymous said...

forward Smorgie, forward :-)
many thanks for suggesting the hike and writing it up, reads very exciting!! the more i read, the more i realized how out of touch i was... normally i would have turned around, offered to take the backpack, checking up on companion, amongst other things... but think i was soooo relieved getting away from driving and finally up mountains, and it felt GREAT roaming without a backpack... :D

Anonymous said...

ps- and i quite proud of our bushwhacking skills ;-)

Smorg said...

Hey An!

I'm delighted that you had a good time. :oD No worries about anything, tho. I'm just too fond of grumbling in blog post and probably exaggerated a bit. ;o) The backpack hardly weighed anything (and kept getting lighter and lighter as we hiked), and I had a blast, too! Hope to do it again the next time you come to town! :oD

yvette said...

nice to be able to put my steps in yours in such gorgeous sceneries ... dear An and Smorgy !

Georg Hausherr said...

Hey, Smorgy,

Could not find the Coyote in the photo. A roadrunner: I thought this animal to be an invention of Mr Disney. So they exist?!

The stuffed coyote looks a bit like a carnivorous donkey and the bobcat? Well up to this minute, a bobcat was for me a miniature caterpillar, a miniature machine to make trenches and being small enough to enter houses.

Here you were caning along at a very important distance. No vertigo?


Smorg said...

Chere Yvette! It was a good visit indeed, and I'm forever grateful for the internet for facilitating friendly meetings in real life and online. :oD One of my cycling friends is actually going to Provence this spring to cycle up Mt Ventoux. I'm deadly jealous, since I can't go. :o(

Thanks so much for stopping by and hope your winter is going well!

Hallo Georgy: The roadrunners exist indeed! I don't know if they make sounds like the cartoon one makes, though. :oD And they are quite huge... about the size of a wild turkey, but run quite faster (well, I think, anyhow. I've never seen a wild turkey run before. They are cool customers and usually don't try to flee when I stop to take their fotos. The roadrunners, on the other hand, are pretty difficult to photograph since they take off as soon as they spot you. :oP

Yeah, I'm afraid I only caught part of the coyote's ears as he escaped behind a bush in the middle of the foto (the bright brown triangles thingy). :oP Was quite bummed that I didn't get a better shot. That's the downsize of my Canon SE160. It takes a few seconds to power on and focus before you can shoot a picture... so the fast critters tend to escape me if I don't spot them early enough to stop moving and quiet down rather than spook them away. :o)

I'd love to see a bobcat live one day! The one at the Mission Trails Park Museum is actually a manmade imitation, though it's a pretty good one, I think. :oD

Oh, I did have a bit of vertigo, so I didn't look down much. And the cane helped a lot, though I should confess that I found the steep bits of the South Fortuna steps pretty challenging. It helped that my friend was staying ahead and gave me something to focus on, too!

Hope you and E are well and having a good winter! I'll try to get an email your way before too long. Thanks so much for stopping by! :o)

Anonymous said...

Just happened by this yesterday. I have been feeling a bit hang dog recently and it really cheered me up. I love your hiking /cycling tales and the great photos of the wildlife, especially the birds. I didn't know a roadrunner was a real thing! Also good to see a pic of you & Dr T after your endeavours.

Smorg said...

Hey Dr Dog!
I'm delighted to hear that the post had a cheering effect on you. Hope you are feeling better and better and are having a good start to March now! :o)

It was great getting to hang out with Dr T for a while indeed. :oD We were really thrilled to catch a glimpse of the roadrunner and the two coyotes. One of these days I must get a good pic of the roadrunner. They are quite like the cartoon! I've never heard them, tho, but they sure run fast (and bigger than you might expect... almost as big as wild turkeys). :o)