San Diego County Highpoint Trip Report

Hot Springs Mountain

Date: November 1, 2004
Author: Jim Retemeyer

On October 31, 2004 as I left Blue Angel Peak and drove north, I noticed the full moon and peaceful mountains. I really enjoyed that fact that I had an extra hour of sleep this night.

I found Warner Springs with no problems and noted the Los Coyotes turnoff. I decided to look for a place to sleep and I subsequently kept driving north and finding nothing. I ended up driving off the main road a 100 yards and sleeping in the car. Every sound or light woke me up and so I didn't sleep that well.

I got up at 5:30a rearing to go - because sun was up 'earlier'. I drove back to the Los Coyotes Reservation and up to a gate with a stop sign. Well no gate to speak of and a big rotweiller looking at me. I went on through cautiously.

Immediately there was a sign stating the Hot Springs Mountain this way. I drove up the twisting, rutted road and made it to a spur several miles up where my GPS indicated I was within two tenths of a mile of the top. So I turned and drove up the spur about a hundred yards and came to a dead end.

I got out my stuff and started to hike toward the summit. Not going to happen. There was so much brush I couldn't get through. So I got back in my car and tried driving further up the road to find another approach. To say the least I did this four times and on the last approach I looked west and lo and behold I saw a lookout tower - barely.

I was so mad. I had ripped my body apart trying to climb through this thick brush and crawl on my hands and knees only to be misled by my stupid GPS. I got back in my car for the umpteenth time and drove to where I had actually driven before. There was also a mountain lion warning out, which made me feel a little more nervous. That inspired me to carry a big stick.

I continued up the road on foot as it was dicey to do it in the Volvo. The road kept going and going. I saw two deer, a doe and full racked buck. I almost turned back because I thought I missed the mountain. Eventually I made it to the tower and then east to the actual highpoint. Enjoyed some trail mix as I hadn't eaten since lunch the day before.

I made my way to the car uneventfully. I drove back down the road until I turned the corner and there, in front of me, was a giant pine tree, at least four feet in diameter, that had fallen across the road - what a bummer. And no cell phone signal.

So I drove back up to that spur road (only place to get signal) and called the my neighbor and they called the San Diego Sheriff's department. When I got on the phone with them they determined my situation and the next thing I knew, the dispatcher was directing me out of my car to signal the helicopter.

I couldn't believe this. All I wanted was a person to show up with a chain saw. The helicopter found me and eventually told me to meet a deputy back at the tree. When I got there - no deputy.

I waited for about thirty minutes and then decided to maybe find another way out. I had my GPS and my Topo map program and it looked like there was something. I found a road going SE and went for it. The ruts in this one were terrible. At one point, rut a foot deep and wide ran along the road and then crossed in front of me. I tried to kick some dirt in for my wheels. I inched forward and into the rut and the back end of the car raised up in the air 3 feet. I stopped and tried to back out - to no avail. I went forward again and made it, barely. I was a little worried that I wouldn't get out because there was no way I was going back up this road.

I kept going and then I turned the corner and saw a sheriff stuck off the side of the road with two trees blocking the road. What a great sight. I helped him get unstuck and then I was able to somewhat maneuver around the trees. Unfortunately I caught a branch along the side of the car. I felt so bad, as itís my wifeís car.

When I got back to the entrance area, I talked with the guard and he told me that the whole area had been closed since Labor Day, but someone had stolen the sign stating that.

Everyone was so nice to me and truly wanted to help. I wrote a letter to the San Diego Sheriff's department acknowledging their professionalism and service.