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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

On a Mission to Stonewall Peak

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Date: February 16, 2021

Distance: 3.77 miles

Total Elapsed Time: 2h 14m

Total Moving Time: 1h 40m

Summit Elevation: 5,670 feet

Elevation Gain: 785 feet

Trailhead: Stonewall Peak

Previous Ascents: May 28, 2020

Notes: Peakbagger Summits - 1, Survey Marks Recovered - 1

Stairway to the clouds

Stonewall Peak is one of my favorite hikes in the Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, partly because I really like switchbacks, partly due to the obvious planning and hard work that went into its construction, and most of all, the views! Unfortunately, the peak was enshrouded in clouds by the time I reached the summit today, but here are some views from my hike last May (North Peak sits above Cuyamaca Lake, however, the peak is on private property)

Drawing its name from the Stonewall Mine which operated under varying ownership between 1870 and 1892, the mine's name was shortened from the original Stonewall Jackson due to anti-Southern feelings about the association to the Confederate general. During the boom years of the mine, 1888-1890 it secured its place in history as the most productive gold mine in San Diego County earning about half of its estimated $2 million dollar yield in those three years. The remains of the mine and mining community are a designated archeological site, and while open to the public, the actual mine area is fenced off for safety reasons.

It's a short hike with the primary trailhead just across the street from the Paso Picacho Campground parking area. It starts out as a wide dirt road that transitioned into a very cool trail that zigs and zags its way up to the exposed granite summit. Much of the slope-side of the trail is lined with a split-rail fence, that has definitely seen better days.

Besides the simple passage of time and normal wear and weathering, the fence has sustained damage from falling trees and the 2003 Cedar Fire (which burned a total of 280,278 acres, including all of the 24,700 acres of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park).

Relive® 3D Video of Stonewall Peak

The Lost and Found Department

Cuyamaca Azmuth Mark

"Station is marked by a standard azimuth disk set on top of a pinnacle rock stamped CUYAMACA 1898, 1936"

The primary reason I came to Stonewall Peak today was to locate the Cuyamaca Azimuth Reference Mark number 1. I knew from the NGS Datasheet that the Azimuth Mark itself was lost over 70 years ago, or more precisely, whenever the monument was constructed at the top of Stonewall Peak. The first recorded station recovery (1950) was very specific about the fate of the original azimuth disc but they did report finding Reference Mark number 2 in good condition. The location description in the station recovery notes plus the distance and bearing information for the reference object, confirms my belief that the "hole in the rock" that I photographed (below) was the location of RM 2 and that it is obviously lost/destroyed.

Ironically, the individual(s) who found RM 2 in good condition and confirmed the station was lost, failed to locate RM 1. Granted the absence of the known distance from the station would make it more difficult to find, there was a bearing that would have put them on the right path. Given that reference marks are required to be positioned with an unobstructed line-of-sight to the station they refer to, RM 1 should have been an easy recovery back then.

So my trip today was a total success, I found the only remaining survey mark related to the Cuyamaca Azimuth, it's RM 1. The station recovery notes from 1950 and the coordinates of the azimuth, place it directly where the stone monument is now. The location of the missing RM 2 based on distance and bearing helps confirm the original station location as well.

Whether the original brass azimuth disk is still mounted in the bedrock beneath the stone monument, we'll never know. I've searched for records about the construction of the stone steps, handrail, and stone monument at the summit of Stonewall Peak, but as of yet, I haven't found anything. My thoughts are that it was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sometime in the 1940s, the CCC was instrumental in developing trails in State and National Parks during their brief history, and there were two CCC camps based in Rancho Cuyamaca.

As a side note, the other Reference Object listed for the Cuyamaca Azimuth is the Cuyamaca ECC (eccentric) mark noted at approximately 3.6 KM on a bearing of 244º 23' 18.6" from the station. This information, combined with the coordinates for the Cuyamaca ECC station, should allow me to plot its location. I do know that it's a 2" brass disc mounted at or close to ground level, so its recovery will have to wait until the snow is fully melted on Cuyamaca Peak. For more information on the remaining survey markers I found on Cuyamaca Peak, CLICK HERE.

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