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Santiago Peak and a bonus summit of Modjeska Peak

Peak Summited2021 Santiago Peak
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadMaple Springs Truck Trail and the NMD Road
EncounteredWildflowers blooming
Road ConditionsRoad recommended for high clearance only
Bug StatusNo bugs
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

April 24, 2021 – Hike 49 of the 52 Hike Challenge and Peak #2 of the SoCal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge

Santiago Peak and a bonus summit of Modjeska Peak. Total 8.24 miles in 3 hours 34 minutes and an elevation gain of just under 1,900 feet.

Today was planned to be a group hike from the intersection of the Maple Springs Truck Trail and the North Main Divide Road (NMD). The goal, Santiago Peak (out and back). Unfortunately, everyone either already had plans or they were unable to make the hike for various reasons.

No worries! I’m pretty good at hiking alone. ;p ;p

I arrived at the trailhead right around 0620. There were no vehicles parked at the Maple Springs Visitor’s Center and only one jeep at the trailhead. The drive up was just as I remembered it. Easy, but slow with my truck. Twice, in the past, I drove my Hyundai Elantra up, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone do that. Two wheel drive high profile, in these dry conditions is good enough. In fact, when I high profile, I’m counting something like a stock SUV or a Subaru All wheel drive, etc. My Elantra made it because it has a short wheel base and I was very careful driving.

I stepped off right at 0625. Not a soul in sight. My first objective was Modjeska Peak. I’ve been up this road (NMD) to Santiago Peak more than a half dozen times and I always walk past the route that goes to Modjeska. Mostly because it has been in the Fire Closure Area. Now, full disclosure, I do not know for sure if it is still off limits, nor did I check with the Rangers prior to going. Normally I would, but I had a sense of security (if you will) knowing that many others had been up there over the past few months, so I said, what the hell, I’m doing this.

The initial walk up the NMD road was pretty easy. Again, at that time of morning there were no people and no vehicles. I made it to the trail that headed up toward Modjeska pretty quickly. It was easy to see and easy to travel and about 1.7 miles from where I started. I hiked up another .4 miles on the trail and came to a fork, which was just 50 feet or so beyond where I would take a single track trail back down to the NMD road.

The route to the left, at the fork, was the designated route to the summit. It was .6 miles and far more gradual than the route on the right. The route on the right, was pretty much straight up for .2 miles to the summit. No brainer, I took the steep route on the right. Lots of loose rock and dirt, but easy to traverse. Both up and down.

The summit had some great views. No summit sign or markers and no summit register. Although, there was a spot where it looked like there was a post and sign at one time. I didn’t stay long. I didn’t stay long since I was only about 2.5 miles into my hike.

After heading down the steep portion from the summit, I took the single track trail down. Basically, it was .6 miles on a trail just above the NMD road. Once back down to the NMD road, there is another single track trail that heads up toward the summit. A little steeper than the road, but shorter and so much more pleasant hiking on the trail versus the road.

At the summit I only saw one other hiker exploring the area. My guess was that she started right after I did, but just took the road straight up to Santiago. I was pretty disappointed when I got there though. The summit sign and post were gone and there was trash all over the place. Mostly cans that contained some sort of flavored tea with alcohol? So, if YOU are reading this and YOU left them up there after YOUR celebration, YOU can be comforted that I picked up YOUR trash and carried it out for YOU! (end of rant)

Coming down there was a little more traffic. Bikes, trucks, motorcycles and a couple hikers, but not as busy as I normally see it on a Saturday. Next up for the SoCal Six Pack of Peaks will be Strawberry Peak in 2 weeks. Squeezing in El Cajon Mountain again next week, with some friends. J

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