San Onofre Ridge, January 2019

A tradition developed over a few years dictates that the hiking team kick off the new year with a punishing hike over San Onofre Ridge. The purpose of this event is to pay penance to a holiday season of excess and remind ourselves that we have a long year ahead and need to get into shape for upcoming adventures. Tradition only requires hiking San Onofre Ridge, but does not say which of the myriad of routes could use to get up there. With that in mind, Jack, Uwe, Kevin and I stepped off at 0624, in the dark, from my office. Kevin’s presence was noteworthy because the day before he did a 20+ mile hike up to San Jacinto Peak in the ice and snow. He related that the jumble of rocks defining the top of SJ were under deep snow covered with a thick crust of ice. He depended upon his snow shoes, crampons, and ice ax to keep him from sliding off the mountain.

Since Onofre is my home turf, I decided we would head South, towards Camp Horno. Instead of using the Basilone’s west side frontage road, we used the east side which has a number of steep rolling hills. We crossed Basilone Road at the Horno obstacle course and athletic field. We stopped for a few pullups on the bars….well, Kevin did multiple pullups! We then proceeded to climb a hill called Iron Mike. This hill is so steep it is a challenge for the best military vehicles to ascend. Severe erosion from the rains had created deep ditches that made our footing difficult. There was also significant mud in all areas, most of which we were able to avoid. Once over Iron Mike, we proceeded to the top of Recon Hill. At that point we took a vote and chose to hike the fire break instead of the road. That decision made the event a bit more difficult due to very very steep sections both up and down.

The last hill before Onofre Peak’s antenna tower was the longest and steepest. We took a break on the peak enjoying magnificent views of the ocean and inland camps. Then headed north on the regular route. We stopped by the First Marines Regimental Memorial which continues to grow. It’s a sobering experience to look over the tributes Marines have left for their fallen brethren. From there we progressed across multiple very steep and difficult climbs and descents before arriving at the base of Old Smokey Mountain. The addition of distance and climbs of the outbound leg made it easier to bypass the northern leg from Smokey. Those 5 steep sections are very dangerous, especially with wet ground. No one was sorry we bypassed them.

From the base of Smokey, we descended on a steep narrow road to the “shelf road” that defines the mid-point between Basilone Road and the top of the ridgeline. From there we followed well defined roads back to the main camp. We completed the entire event (~11-12 miles) a little shy of 6 hours. Everyone was happy with the change of scenery, or at least being able to view it in a different perspective. The ground is covered with bright green grass. Temperature was sunny, cool and windy, perfect conditions. After the hike we drove back to Oceanside and can now put a check mark beside our 2019 kickoff event!

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