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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Cody Benchmark - Peak #94

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Date: November 13, 2021

Distance: 7.7 miles

Total Elapsed Time: 7h 46m

Total Moving Time: 4h 47m

Highest Elevation: 5,535 feet

Elevation Gain: 1,455 feet

Trailhead: Los Coyotes Indian Reservation (LCIR)

Previous Ascent(s): N/A

Notes: This loop included Army, Phil, and Norte Benchmarks

Views looking back to the west and where we parked, I could see my truck! 🤣

What a great day peak bagging with friends! Today I returned to Los Coyotes Indian Reservation and Anza Borrego Desert State Park to check off one more peak on my San Diego County Sierra Club 100 Challenge list, Cody Benchmark, number 94/100, and now only have six more to go!

My hiking friend Gina extended the invitation to Alberto and me to return and hike a few of the peaks that we missed earlier in the year when we completed Palm Mesa High Point and Pike Benchmark.

Alberto and I arrived at the main gate at 6:30 a.m. where we were joined by Gina and Maya (one of her good friends), from there we caravanned to our start point near the San Ignacio Cemetary and stepped off on the trail at 7:15 a.m. with the promise of clear skies and beautiful weather.

It was great to see Gina again and catch up as I hadn't seen her since we hiked out here in May. On that trip, while Alberto and I headed through the wash towards Palm Mesa High point, Gina and Chris Griffith (a two-time San Diego 100 Peak Finisher!) had opted to explore some of the surrounding benchmarks. When we met up at the end of that day and compared routes and accomplishments, I knew that I wanted to come back and bag the peaks they had just completed...and almost 6 months later, here we are!

Starting the day I had a shortlist of goals to achieve:

  • Summit Cody Benchmark for the Sierra Club 100 Challenge

  • Search for/Recover survey marks on Army, Dry, Phil, and Norte

  • Look for a Section Corner on the LCIR/ABDSP border

Of course, this was all within the context of enjoying a day of hiking and good conversation with friends! The cool thing about the plan for the day is that it was totally fluid. We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go and how we were going to get there, but we weren't necessarily committed to a specific route. The first couple miles is "wash walking" to the border of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It's pretty straightforward, but there are lots of little draws that empty out in the wash, and if you're not paying attention, it's easy to head up the wrong one.

Find of the Day: a shard from an Olla

As we chatted and trekked up through a draw heading out of the wash, Maya called for us to come back and check out something she found. This has to be the largest piece of pottery that I have seen while out hiking, and three of us had walked right past it!

I think much in the same way that I am dialed into looking for survey marks, Maya must have an eye for spotting artifacts! This is a piece of an Olla (oh-yah) a clay vessel that the ancient Cahuilla Indians used to store seeds, food, and water. We did see some smaller pieces nearby, but this big piece really stole the show. As with any artifact found along the way, it's okay to take away pictures and memories, but the piece needs to be left where it was found.

One foot in the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation and one foot in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park

When we did the hike in May, we hiked to the Reservation Boundary sign and that was where we split up, Alberto and I continued through the wash (North Fork Borrego Palm Canyon) and Chris and Gina backtracked a little up and out of the wash and did some wayfinding to reach each of their targeted peaks without the crazy up-and-down elevation gains from the bottom of the wash. Today, we would loosely follow their track and revisit most of the same peaks.

Based on the Topo Map, I was expecting to find a Section Corner mark about 600 feet north of the boundary sign and since this was on our planned route to Army Benchmark, we decided to look for Corner first then proceed on to Army.

Public Land Survey System (PLSS) Section Corner Mark

A U.S. General Land Office Survey pipe cap style survey mark, this corner marker was right where I expected it to be. The information stamped into the cap identifies the location of the mark in Township 10 South, Range 5 East (based on the San Bernardino Base Meridian), and represents the northeast corner of section number 18. The "LCIR" stamped to the west side of the meridian line indicates that that section is part of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation.

The history of this survey point dates back to 1857 with the first known map of the area (that I could locate). The corner was monumented with a dedicated marker in 1915 (hence the 1915 date at the bottom of the outer ring of text) and this particular north-south boundary line was resurveyed in 1973 to restore the corners to the original locations based on the best evidence available. (This explains the 1973 date stamped on the pipe cap) I located copies of the original survey maps in the General Land Office/Bureau of Land Management archives and have added a red dot to indicate the location of this corner on the various versions of the map. It is interesting to note how the level of detail increased on the base maps over the years.

Original Survey of the Section Lines from 1857

Sections Lines Re-surveyed in 1884

The Re-survey in 1915 to Define the Boundaries of a Portion of the Land Reserved for Los Coyotes Indian Reservation

The Re-survey in 1973 to Restore the Original Boundaries based on the best evidence available.

While the original maps of this area seem old by modern standards, it's important to note that the Los Coyotes Cahuilla and Cupeño Indian Tribe archeological history has been traced back for 125 generations (2,500 years) in Southern California. A 164-year-old map is pretty insignificant when viewed on the timeline of the full history of the region. Despite an Executive Order on May 5, 1889, that set apart lands for this reservation, the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation was not officially established until June 19, 1900, under the authority of an act on January 12, 1891. An Executive Order issued on April 13, 1914, transferred lands from the Cleveland National Forest to the Los Coyotes Reservation (as documented in the 1915 survey).

For those willing to do their homework, survey marks such as this can be a great jumping-off point to study history and is one of the main reasons I find them so fascinating. Not only can I trace back the origins of the mark itself, but I have learned so much about the regions, peoples, and customs that make up the backdrop for the marks I recover.

ARMY: DX4969

From the "found" section corner, it was less than 2/10ths of a mile to the summit of Army. It was pretty easy going as we picked our way through some boulders and sparse brush, adding about 275 feet of elevation gain by the time we reached the summit.

One of the added benefits of hiking with friends is that I get 'action' shots of me on the trail that I wouldn't otherwise be able to get without a lot of time, effort, and creative staging. 🤣

Headed up to Army from the Section Corner

While the survey point at Army was assigned a Permanent ID by the National Geodetic Survey, there was no descriptive text available that is typically provided to help reach the mark, nor could I locate a survey marker (or evidence that a marker had been established.) at the given coordinates for the station.

We did locate some old stakes and wire that were typically used in the desert areas to mark corners and summits, these remnants were located at the scaled coordinates for the summit (even though it wasn't the true "high point") and coincided with the map symbol for the summit, so it's likely that that was as good as it was going to get 🤷🏻‍♂️ Note: the stakes were at the bottom of the boulder I was standing on.

DRY: DX4972 (Skipped)

Looking back to the West, we could see Dry Benchmark about 3 peaks over, on the Topo Map it seemed doable so we headed down from Army to the first of those peaks (you can see the track in the image above where we crossed a small saddle to the next peak)

Once we got that far, we realized we were basically directly across from Phil and Norte, two peaks on our agenda for the day, weighing the time, distance, and quality of terrain to get over to Dry then double back to Phil/Norte, we decided to skip Dry and come back for it another day.

We worked our way back down to the wash in order to cross over and head up to Phil. (It was my turn to play photographer as the others descended to the wash😉)

PHIL: DX4970

According to the NGS Datasheet, the survey mark at Phil was supposed to be a drill hole in the rock, however, I was unable to locate it, in any rock! We approached from the north following the terrain and picking our route as we went, we had Chris and Gina's previous track, but we had a good idea of how we wanted to approach and weren't particularly tied to exactly following the previous track.

The register jar was sitting atop the one big boulder at the summit that required some bouldering skills to reach. Alberto headed up first, spending a few minutes to assess the cross-over, then committing to the move, he was on top filling in the register. Gina had done the bouldering back in May and had already signed the register. Both she and Maya were recovering from some injuries and really didn't need to be leaping about on the bigger boulders so they just chilled while we climbed up, Alberto went first, signed them both in then prepared to shoot back over and make room for me to climb up.

Coming back down off the summit boulder looks a lot more daunting than going up, mostly because your landing area is smaller and it's below you. If you miss your mark and slip too far down the boulder, you could wedge your feet into the open space between the two boulders but you'd be a few feet lower than you'd want to be and the potential for twisting an ankle in the process is a distinct possibility. The key is not to overthink it, pick your landing point, and push off from the main boulder as you shift your upper body across to the boulder below. Alberto spent some time trying to figure out his best approach off the boulder and once he was down, I popped over, signed the register, returned, and we all headed under the summit boulder to cross over to Norte.

NORTE (No PID assigned)

I knew from Gina and Chris' trip in May that Norte held a very cool survey mark and I was excited to make the recovery. This was the second U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) survey mark I've recovered that was stamped Mission Indian Agency. Doubly cool was the opportunity to learn of Gina's family connection with this mark 😊

Gina and Maya hung out here for a bit while Alberto and I crossed over to Cody, then we planned to meet up back at the wash after we grabbed our summit.

CODY: DX4958

The trek over to Cody wasn't too bad at all, we dropped down into a shallow saddle then picked our way up to the summit plateau, only to find out that the actual summit was at the east end of the plateau! I'd seen photographs of the Cody survey disc so I was looking forward to an easy recovery, however, that wasn't meant to be.

I had the coordinates for the mark and some notes in a register entry indicated the mark was "in the dirt, 10' due north of the register" (which agreed with my coordinates), I shuffled around in the dirt but didn't uncover the marker. It's quite likely that it is in fact there, just buried a few inches down. Perhaps I'll go back and spend time doing a more thorough search.

Since Gina and Maya were waiting on us, we signed the register, took a few summit pictures, made a couple of quick passes looking for potential reference marks or other signs of the station disc, then we head back down.

Panoramic Views from the Summit of Cody Benchmark

As I mentioned at the start of this, Cody was peak number 94 of 100 for me on the Sierra Club 100 Peaks Challenge, of the 6 peaks I have left, 4 are primarily accessible through Sheep Canyon and require a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. The other two, Sawtooth Mountain High Point and Red Top, will likely be a backpacking trip with an overnight in the Inner Pasture. It is possible to knock it off as a day hike, but it's a long, hard day. My original goal was to complete the Sierra Club list in the calendar year 2020 as I had with the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge, but various pandemic-related closures and lack of a 4WD vehicle towards the end of 2020 dashed those plans. Truly, the calendar year goal was totally self-imposed, the challenge does not have any time restrictions, so I will finish it when I finish it.

Relive® 3D Video of Today's Adventure


All-in-all, today's adventure was an absolute blast! Sure, I checked off one more hike on a challenge and I found a couple of cool survey marks, but it was just good to get out and hike with friends. I do most of my hiking solo, and I enjoy that immensely, but it's always nice to hang with like-minded friends. There was lots of great conversation and laughter, LOTS of laughter 🤣. The scenery was simply breathtaking and it never disappoints, days like today nourish the soul 🥰.

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