Mysterious Memorial Stone at Garnet Peak

The K. P. Zaleski Memorial Rock at Garnet Peak, Laguna Mountains, California; July 2022.

During one of my monsoon visits to the Laguna Crest, I noticed an out-of-place looking blue rock a short distance away from the summit of Garnet Peak. No other rock in the area has this color or texture. The rock has an inscription on it and is probably 18-20″ long (~50cm), maybe more. It must have been considerable effort to get the rock up there and place it!

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Pine Mountain

Views to the south-west near Pine Mountain, Laguna Mountains, California.

I have promised myself to get out once every week to do a hike or some other outdoor activity (besides my jogging routine and the Nordic walking Shuwen and I do on local trails), even during the summer months. It’s a mental health exercise as much as a physical one. When the tasks at home seem to mount, and all the tiny little things that want to get done combine and become overwhelming, getting away for just a few hours to hike puts things back into perspective, and makes everything manageable again.

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Laguna Meadows

Our Friday hike led us up to Laguna Mountains – it’s a bit early in the year to hike up there because unlike Boden Canyon or the San Diego River Gorge, spring hasn’t quite arrived yet at these elevation (around 5000ft/1500m). We went nevertheless, because the lower regions as well as the deserts of Southern California were suffering from an unseasonal heatwave that brought temperatures into the 90F/30C range in places (and temperature records were broken or tied all the way up to San Francisco).

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That wasn’t worth it

Dead Oak at night, Laguna Mountains

Late on Friday night we drove out east to Laguna Mountains. The secondary goal was to enjoy the night out in the back country and maybe make some photos of the night sky, weather permitting (the forecast said partly cloudy), then sleep in the car and get up early to achieve the primary goal: hike up to Garnet Peak or Monument Peak for sunrise. Something that has been on my bucket list for a very long time.

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Wooded Hill

Dog at the summit of Wooded Hill

Wooded Hill in the Laguna Mountains is, blatantly obvious just from looking at its name, a wooded hill that has made it onto the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks list, somehow. It’s probably one of the easiest peaks on the list – the Wooded Hill Nature Trail is a casual stroll through open Jeffrey Pine forest on a little loop, just a bit uphill. Views are, as the name implies, rather limited – that hill is wooded, and the only opening is to the south and southwest (see third photo below).

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Garnet Peak

Transition from the green ridges of the Pacific Crest at Laguna Mountains to the desert peaks of Anza Borrego, with Granite Mountain on the right.

Garnet Peak is #59 on the Sierra Club’s list of 100 peaks in San Diego County. The hike is rather short, and the only challenge is the sheer drop down into the desert on its eastern side, if you’re easily feeling vertigo. It is probably one of the most impressive drops in the Laguna Mountains and well worth going there.

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