Santee Claus

December 23, 2018 | Day 8

I woke up without an alarm at 6:30am. From my perspective inside the tent (and without my glasses on) it looked dark outside. I unzipped the mesh to take a closer look and saw the last bit of night aglow- fluorescent pinks and blues filled the horizon and a big full moon still hung above in the light blue sky.

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We packed up our stuff, crossed the road, and walked into a parking area in front of a Forest Service building.

We saw a spigot on the outside of one of the buildings and turned the knob to see if it was on. We had every intention of asking permission before taking our fill, but the area was abandoned due to the government shut down.

We convinced ourselves that these civil servants would not want us to risk dehydration or worse, a lack of caffeine. So, we filled our bottles, made coffee, and continued on down the road.

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We hiked down to Cedar Creek Falls and made lunch.

We climbed up to Cedar Creek Trailhead to regroup and strategize the next half of the day.

Our route soon brought us to the notorious bushwhack chapter of the hike. In our research, these next few miles seemed confusing, sketchy and rough-going on the outskirts of neighborhoods and private property. We were slightly concerned about starting a bushwhack through private property this late in the day, but we were also unwilling to end our hike too early in the afternoon.

We pushed on and bushwhacked for the next several miles. It was slow going through the dense chapperal shrubs with their tiny spiked leaves, and tip toeing around the needle sharp tips of the yucca plants and various cacti. All the while we could see a neighborhood and road just up the surrounding hill. Why were we torturing ourselves with this skin scratching section when we could be cruising along a scenic country road?

Eventually we all came to our senses and made a group decision to hike out of the shrubbery and cross through the secluded unincorporated town of Four Corners.

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We reached a winding dirt road (back on our official route) with panoramic views just in time for a stunning sunset. 

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We stealth camped in the shrubs off of the road just before a locked gate leading to the next bushwhacking section.

December 24 | Day 9

“Ouch! Ouch! OUCH!” I grunted to myself as i trampled I through a bushwhack of prickly sage brush.

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We reached a locked gate in the road that read “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog”. These unwelcoming messages were the reason we decided to try bushwack around this private property, wishing to avoid any illegal activity. After about an hour, and less than a mile later, we decided it would be more efficient (and less painful) to scramble down to the road.  

Yes, we were trespassing, but it seemed that no other hikers had come up with a better alternative in this section besides horrific bushwhack. We walked the road silently for the next few miles gearing up for our next bushwack section which would be up the southwest side of El Cajon mountain.

We reached the end of the road and I decided to gear up to climb the trail-less backside of the mountain. I put my rain pants on over my shorts and slipped my bicycle gloves on over my scratched hands. I was ready for the ruffage!  

It took two hours, and lots of scrapes, but we made it to the top of El Cajon. 

The descent was long and exposed and we were beat up, thirsty, and all out of water.

As soon as we reached the trailhead parking lot at the base of the mountain we searched around for any sign of a spigot or way to get water. What we found was way better.

”Hi there.”

I turned around to see someone walking towards me from a picnic bench. Before I could see his face Cosmo exclaimed, “Hi Girlscout!”

”I thought you all might be tired and in need of some trail magic after that bushwack. Want a ride to get some dinner?” 

We did not refuse. 

After a short stop at the grocery store Girlscout dropped us back off. We said goodbyes to Girlscout and Loophole who decided to take the opportunity to catch a ride back to his car. 

We walked half a mile and set up camp at Oakoasis Campground.

Cosmo and I hunkered down early and prepared ourselves for the final stretch ahead.

Rain is in the forecast  for tonight.

December 25, 2018 | Day 10

We woke up to gray skies and pouring rain. We were in no rush to get moving. We took our time packing up hoping the rain would die down. It poured down in waves and just as soon as we were ready to go heavy rain dumped down on us.

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We took shelter under a covered picnic area at the Oakoasis entrance. The campground was deserted and we were grateful to have a partially contained structure to protect us.

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We sat around waiting for a break in the rain. Our gear was wet and we were cold.  

When it seemed as though the worst was over we set out to finally hike.

We made it half a mile before the rain dumped down once more. The muddy, slippery trail quickly flooded, soaking our shoes and freezing our feet.

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Not a great way to spend Christmas. 

Feeling defeated, Cosmo and I took one look at each other and we both knew what we had to do. We hiked back to the trailhead,  ordered an Uber and spent the rest of the night in the town of Santee.

By early evening the rain officially stopped and the sun made a brief appearance. We put on dry clothes and set out on an urban hike for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant (which was actually tradition in my Jewish home growing up). We ended the night with full bellies, dry clothes, and a grateful heart.