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On November 3, 2012, I led what was billed as an "exploratory" hike for the San Diego Day Hikers group on meetup.com.
My plan, or hope, was to start at the Merigan Trailhead on Viejas Blvd. next to Mizpah Lane (N 32 51.57 W 116 36.66). We were to hike north on Merigan Fire Road and Dead Horse Trail, then west on the California Riding & Hiking Trail into the northern part of Descanso, and finally back to the starting point along the streets of Descanso.
It didn't go down quite the way I planned. First of all, I was ten minutes late because of a traffic jam on I-8. That may not sound like much, but I am usually very punctual, even obsessively so. The six hikers who showed up wondered where I was.
The next surprise was the parking fee at the Merigan Trailhead, which is new since I last visited the place. The other hikers parked on Viejas Blvd. I used one of the parking passes that I got from the California State Parks Foundation. Fortunately, the ranger didn't come around to check parking passes, because in my haste I omitted a date, which technically makes the pass invalid.
The Sweetwater River crossing on Dead Horse Trail was much more difficult than I remember from my last visit. Next time I have to bring a board.
When we left the park on the California Riding & Hiking Trail, the trail started to get fainter almost immediately. We had gone only about 1/10 mile when I lost the trail completely. Rather than risk getting lost, we turned around and returned to the park. Needless to say, we had some difficulty in retracing our steps.
To make the hike worthwhile, we returned to the Merigan Trailhead via Saddleback Trail and Merigan Fire Road.
After the hike, I drove around Descanso to find the other end of the California Riding & Hiking Trail. I found it rather easily. Apparently, that end of the trail is used a lot.
I have very little to show for this trip in the way of survey data. Examination of the data plotted on the topo shows that we were indeed off the trail. However, the "disappeared" part of the trail seems to be no more than a half mile long. Some day, I may return to finish the job, but I'll have to bill it as a "trailblazing" hike.
Transcript of survey.
Data plotted on topo
Philip J. Erdelsky