Frank and I successfully ascended Puff and Moan, however, not without some adventure and frustration…
The first lesson learned….not all download tracks are good ones. Second, what you see on your laptop doesn’t always translate to the cell phone’s GPS. Third, Peak Finder and GAIA do not list benchmark names.
We were not without fault to begin our hike. Left early, a 2.5-hour drive to the trailhead. Temps were in the high 60’s and windy. Perfect conditions. We started…assuming the track took us in the dry stream bed for a mile or so before we should begin looking for a turn. Oops, we missed the first turn and did some extra soft sand slogging that we didn’t really need to do then cross country back to the track losing some time. We kept looking for the track to take us up into the rock-strewn mountains but it didn’t. We got back on the track and followed it to the Carrizo Railroad. We hiked miles along the railroad marveling at the power of erosion the desert imposed upon the railroad. No wonder so many RR companies failed to successfully repair and operate that RR. With the RR hewn into the side of those steep slopes, it was inevitable that landslides would come down. Huge boulders inflicted significant damage on many sections of RR. Attempts to build bridges were not very successful either. The slides, if they cleared the RR, inflicted damage to the underlying support structure.
There were also many tunnels that can be a welcome sight in the heat of the summer. We didn’t suffer any heat and maybe should have used our lights to make passage but didn’t. No harm, no foul, we passed just fine. Five miles or so into the hike we came to the Goat Trestle. We didn’t actually arrive at the Trestle as the track turned us up the side of the mountain a few hundred yards short. The tunnel feeding the Trestle collapsed but a pathway was beaten around a point to the tunnel.
We did seem to upset some bees as they attacked us as we passed by. Fortunately, neither of us was stung. We had to climb almost straight up to get onto the ridgeline then made our way through very difficult cactus and rocks eventually arriving at Puff BM. I remember Uwe saying there would be significant rock hopping between Puff and Moan but we looked up to the top of the ridge and decided not to go that way. We turned around and retraced our steps back to the RR. We had passed a turn identified by the track that we figured would take us to Moan and decided to return to that point. That climb used to be a road 100 years ago but sustained erosion reduced it to a difficult rock hopping experience with some parts almost hanging out over the edge. Not a fun feeling.
Near the top of the first ridgeline, we came across a bunch of old cans. As we turned the corner, there were stacks of these rusted old cans. Turns out they had once contained blasting power I assume was used to make the tunnels. Looked like there were hundreds of them…again reinforcing our thoughts that we had negotiated an old road.
Everything turned south (bad) from that point on. The track took us meandering around rock outcroppings. At no point was BM Moan identified. There were so many possibilities. Each time we walked 50 steps we were off track and forced to either press forward (bad idea) or retrace steps back to the track. Trying to regain the track by continuing upward towards the track put us in nasty rock formations very difficult to navigate. Plus, one element of the track just ended!!! We had to backtrack and start over. We had intermittent signal and because we couldn’t tell which pile of rocks was BM Moan, I downloaded another track and found where they intersected. We determined that was Moan and we were right. Thus, after repeated attempts and over 3 hours of scrambling, we finally found Moan. We had been atop Puff at noon and Moan at 15:15. We wasted no time on Moan as we had a choice of returning to the RR tracks or rock hopping over and down to near Indian Hill. Some of the comments on Peakbagger were…DO NOT FOLLOW THIS TRACK DOWN! Too rough I guess. We went back down and took the RR tracks back to the car.
We looked in the registers and determined that only two other hikers made those BMs this year…or at least signed in. All’s well that ends well and we were in the car headed home by 18:20. We had a few cactus puncture wounds and rock scrapes but nothing unusual. That is #93 and #94 on the San Diego 100 List.