While the rest of America huddled in front of their televisions binging on nachos and cheap beer this weekend, I did the complete opposite. I grabbed a friend and a bottle of water and headed out to Poway to hike Iron Mountain.
Considering the number of hiking enthusiasts in the general area, there are a surprisingly limited number of trails in San Diego. They each have their respective perks- Cowles Mountain is quick and convenient, Torrey Pines wins hands down for views, and of course no online dating profile is complete without a photo on Mt. Woodson’s Potato Chip Rock. But Iron Mountain is my personal fave.
Unlike Cowles and Torrey Pines, Iron Mountain has adequate free parking. It’s also far less crowded, since it’s a little farther away. If these two perks alone don’t sell it, I should also mention that it’s a really fun hike with spectacular views. It’s well-marked, excellently maintained, and suitable for a variety of abilities.
But in case you never get a chance to visit for yourself, you can come along with me on this virtual trip. The only downside is not rewarding yourself with a nice greasy meal afterwards (OK, you can if you want, I promise not to tell!).
The first few hundred feet are my favorite part of the trail. After being welcomed through these iron gates, you’re treated to a romantic tunnel of trees. I always want to linger through this portion, as I’m flooded with waves of childhood memories and East Coast nostalgia. It’s utterly beautiful but over too soon as you emerge on an open and dusty trail.
The trail alternates between short steep climbs and slow gradual inclines as you weave your way through the rolling hills and up the back side of the mountain. You’ll quickly notice the change in geography from soft and green to brown and rocky.
It’s fun to play the cloud game (where you say what the shapes resemble) with the bizarre boulders that look like they’ve been carelessly tossed around. This was my favorite- a rocky fist fighting to emerge from the Earth’s rocky surface.
Others are just fun to climb and ponder life for a while.
In no time at all, you reach the summit. It’s only about 2,000 feet in elevation, but the views are spectacular in every direction. To the West, you can just make out the outline of downtown. Looking South, you can see parts of Mexico. And East, the beautiful mountains continue for miles.
I had to climb to the highest point for a proper 360 view… but it was scarier than I thought and I climbed back down almost immediately!
After resting a moment, we headed back down. We went cautiously, since it’s easy to trip or slip. Fortunately we both arrived unscathed and made it back to the trees just as the sun was setting behind the mountains in front of us. We’d done the whole six miles (about 10 kilometers) in about two and a half hours (including a rest at the top and a couple of scenic detours). And according to the app on my phone, I burned just over 1200 calories- which is what I probably would have consumed at a Super Bowl Party. Patriots, smatriots… I think the real winner yesterday was me.