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Santiago Peak, Modjeska Peak

15 March 1997

By: Ray Soucy

Leaders: Ray Soucy, Harriet Edwards

Symptoms: Frustrated, sick of job, tired of hubby/wife/significant other, need change of scenery, attitude adjustment, etc.

"Dr." Ray's prescription: Go take a hike - a long one (and call me in the morning).

And I've got just the thing: a 22 mile, 5,000' gain leg stretch to "Ol' Saddleback," as the only Orange Co. HPS peaks are collectively referred to.

Our group of ten met bright(?) and early (6:30 am) at the Tustin Ave meeting spot for a foggy ride to the Holy Jim trailhead. Hitting the trail at 8:10 we proceeded to the first of many stream crossings, then negotiated lots of switchbacks through chaparral and a few pre-spring blossoms. The sun was shining brightly now as we worked our way towards Horse Springs, which we arrived at in about 2 hours, 15 minutes. The group was strong and making excellent progress, as indicated by the elapsed time of this 6 mi, 2,000' gain leg. WTC leader (and fellow New Englander) Vid Walker suggested the short cut trail from Horse Springs to the Main Divide Truck Trail and this saved a considerable amount of time and distance compared to the road route. We enjoyed spectacular views of the nearby mountains as well as the distant San Jacinto and San Gorgonio ranges.

Santiago was attained in almost exactly 5 hours. Lunch was made somewhat less enjoyable by the annoying presence of hundreds of tiny black flies going for our exposed skin. We bade farewell to Quentin and Barbara who had to get back by 4 PM, and left the antennae and flies behind to find the trail route to Modjeska. At the described bend in the road we hiked straight onto the overgrown old road and worked our way to the saddle between the two peaks, finding the trail paralleling the main road and were on top of Modjeska by around 3 PM. A group of hikers we met on the peak said, "We're getting out of here and leaving the flies, for you!" How thoughtful.

The register "can" on Modjeska is, to date, the funkiest I've ever seen on any peak I've climbed: it has what looks like a lid that screws on but don't try to remove it -- you need the energy for the trip back! Turning it over reveals the real lid, a sort of plug that just taps into place labeled, "Open here"! Reminds me of Seinfeld's crack on the sketch on Sat. Night Live a few years ago, "Who are the marketing geniuses who came up with this one?" I began looking for the hidden camera...

The map shows a road between the two peaks that, from Modjeska, appears to disappear in brush as it descends from Santiago. For the hike back, I wanted to find an easier route than the steep section that we came down in an effort to save energy. From the saddle between the two peaks one can easily find the beginning of the old road as it slips into a sort of "brush tunnel" that made walking a lot easier, just an occasional need to duck down under the brush a bit. The group appreciated this very much and we were soon back to the Main Divide Road for the 8 mile downhill to the parking lot. We were back to the cars by 6:15 pm.

The participants were Harvey Ganz, Kathy Cheever, Vid Walker, Claire Crow, Jane Gibbons, Quentin & Barbara Wall and Charlie Koh.

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