On Sunday 9 December I met up with Klaus, Carlos, Gaby, and Cheri in Oceanside. Everyone piled into my truck and we drove to my office at the School of Infantry.We started our hike at 0645 on a very cool but clear morning. Perfect hiking conditions. First few miles were flat but muddy in places. In short order we started the first of our 21 climbs. Everyone was very strong and steady and we made great progress to the top. First timers up that route are amazed at the views and this group was no exception. Ocean on one side and inland camps on the other. I pointed out areas of interest and told stories of my experiences after 28 years working in this location. I advertised the route as “rolling hills” which the girls disagreed with. Those short but very steep climbs sap your legs over time but, the good news is that you can recover at the top of each. On top of Old Smokey we took a break and looked at the impromptu memorials scattered across the top of the mountain.
The firebreak was soft from the rain which provided very good traction. The big memorial above First Marine Regiment continues to expand. It’s a very sobering place but worth a visit. One earns the right to pay homage to the fallen Marines simply by getting up there. It’s a very strenuous trek. After the visit we continued to Onofre Peak and, surprisingly, we encountered a group of Marines that had been camping out, apparently on a military exercise. They had a communications repeater station set up along with their vehicle and tents. Looked like they had been there a few days. We ate our lunch then headed down the steep firebreak. The rains of the previous week inflicted significant damage to the roads. We saw a couple deer crossing the firebreak. At one point we heard the fire engines and emergency vehicles responding to a call. In tune with the sirens, we heard a pack of coyotes answering.
On the way down we observed a number of people visiting the memorial or on their way up to it. Everyone welcomed the downhill after so many climbs. Route back was uneventful and we arrived back to my truck after a little over 6 hours and 11.5 miles.