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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Point Loma Mini-SMASH

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Total Marks Recovered: 14

The number of Different Types of Marks: 5

Disc Marks: 11 (3 different types)

Non-Disc Marks: 3 (2 different types, 1 new)

Planning my "Mini-SMASH"

I had a small list of survey marks located inside the National Park at Cabrillo National Monument as well as some that would be along my route as I drove through Point Loma. When I hiked the Bayside Trail last year on Memorial Day, the NPS had waived the day-use fee for the holiday, but I knew today I'd need some form of Park Pass for this trip.

Researching the entry fees for Cabrillo National Monument I found three options: the day-use fee to enter the park was $20, an annual pass (just for Cabrillo National Monument) was $35, and the annual "America the Beautiful" National Parks pass was $80 (2,000+ federal parks and other areas). The annual pass was really the way to go even if I just visited one or two National Parks in the coming year. I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on the Annual Pass page and learned they now have a special deal for Veterans.

America The Beautiful ~ National Park Pass

The National Park Service, in partnership with Operation Live Well, created a free program as a way to thank America’s veterans and Gold Star Families for their support of our country and to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on their public lands and waters. 👏🏻💯

Since Veterans Day 2020, Gold Star Families and US military veterans are eligible to receive free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.

As a USAF Veteran, I was able to show my military ID card and pick up my FREE pass at the entrance gate when I arrived at the Cabrillo National Monument. 😊

PLS Series and Nearby Vertical Control Marks

During last weekend's big SMASH event I had recovered a California Department of Transportation marker labeled PLS 3 (PID: AH2405), it was mounted on a section of red curb over a storm drain at the corner of Talbot and Evergreen. After researching it when I got home, I learned there were seven marks in that sequence, most of them appeared to be mounted on curbs or close to the road. I added the PLS marks to my list for today and was able to recover five of the remaining six.

Marks PLS 1 through PLS 6 were all standard 2" brass discs set in 1996 and were easily recovered. PLS 7 however, is a brass pin, set in lead, in a drill hole in the top of a retaining wall next to the Battery Ashburn, directly across from the entrance gate to the Park. The problem is there is no public parking anywhere near the entrance gate as both nearby lots are for official vehicles only. I think the only way to recover this mark will be to park in the nearest public lot and hike back to the entrance, consequently, PLS 7 will sit on my "to do" list until I visit the Park again.

Nearby Vertical Control Marks

When I was confirming the locations of the various PLS marks, I noticed two vertical control marks that were located on Rosecrans Street very close to PLS 1 and PLS 2, close enough that it was easy to pull into nearby businesses (BevMo and Ralph's) and walk the few steps to recover the marks. I loved the street art of the little boy that looked like he was pointing to the G 1313 mark! 😂

Back to Mid

Last Saturday I had located the Mid Triangulation Station (PID: DC1689) as somewhat of a Bonus Recovery, I wasn't really expecting to be able to access it so I didn't spend any time researching the reference marks. I easily recovered the station during my trip and when I got home I went over the datasheet and plotted out the potential locations for Reference Marks 1 and 3. Reference Mark 2 had been described in a 1956 report as having been found lying on the ground, and in a 1957 report, it was reported as removed. Good News/Bad News, I easily found the location of RM 3, but all that remained was the stem (shown below)

The directions for RM 1 placed it on a hillside that had been graded away, so I chalked that one up to being lost. Never one to give up easily though, when I got home I read and reread the datasheet and found a single reference that the original distance given to RM 1 was incorrect, but it never said what the correct distance was. 🤷🏻‍♂️I'll take one more stab at it the next time I'm out there.

Survey Mark Type: 13 - Lighthouse

When I was here last Memorial Day, I had taken a bunch of pictures of the Old Lighthouse simply because it was a cool historical monument, at that time I had no idea that it was a survey mark or that there were several traditional survey mark discs nearby. Today it was on my list to "officially" recover both the Old and New Lighthouses at Point Loma.

The original lighthouse was put into service in November of 1855 and it operated for the next 36 years (except on foggy nights). The light was visible for 26 to 28 miles, but its effectiveness was hampered by fog and low clouds. In March of 1891, the lamp was extinguished for the last time and the keeper and his family moved to the new lighthouse at the bottom of the hill.

Since the new one is an active lighthouse, and behind locked gates with restricted access (not on Park property), I had to settle for the "zoomed" photo from Cabrillo Road. With all of today's recoveries, my database is up to 418 records, and these were my first two lighthouses!


Listed as a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Triangulation Station disc, the ECC disc was Missing In Action. Based on all the information in the datasheet this mark was originally placed in front of the Old Lighthouse in a location that is currently a large concrete catch basin. The mark was either buried or destroyed when the catch basin installed.

However, Reference Mark 1 for the ECC station is still in place in the foundation of the Old Lighthouse, prior reports stated that it was completely covered by several layers of paint, but it appears that someone has removed enough of the paint to identify the mark. 👍🏻

There is also a Reference Mark 2 located nearby (just over the low stone wall that runs along the pedestrian path) It's marked with a T-bar fence stake as a witness post. This is a very cool City of San Diego Engineering Department disc stamped with a triangle and center punch in the middle. This mark is not listed in the NGS database and I was unable to find out any additional information about it.

DC2133: SAN DIEGO GPS 23 (10 km, Priority B-1 Observation)

This was the second GPS on Bench Marks disc that came up on my radar when I was researching potential recoveries for last week's hunt. This mark was just a few feet away from the ECC RM 2 disc, again just over the low stone wall. SDGPS 23 sits 5" below grade inside a 6" PVC pipe with a screw-on cap. I carry a pipe wrench in the truck just to deal with these covers as they can be tough to open at times. Fortunately, I didn't need my wrench for this one. Unfortunately, someone had broken the protruding square nut off the top of the cap. 🙄 I tried to unscrew what was left of the cap, but it was stuck on there pretty well. At least the hole in the cap was large enough to allow me to get a good picture of the disc. I should probably throw a few of these caps in the truck for situations like this 🤔

Sitting on the wall near this mark, I could see the witness stake for this station's reference mark just on the other side of the road that led down to the Bayside Trail, it was about 30 feet away. The mark was pretty close to the witness stake, buried in dirt, sticks, and debris. I thought it was interesting that they used a Pipe Cap style mark for this one, I really would have expected a similar style disc as the station 🤷🏻‍♂️No matter. This was my 18th recovery and submission in the GPS on Bench Marks program.


This turned out to be a good day with 14 recoveries, including my first Lighthouses. Of course, the real bonus of the day was scoring a free National Park Pass, and from what the Ranger told me, that will likely continue to be available in the future. I only spent a couple of hours at the Park, but it was a typical June Gloom kind of day, which meant a little overcast, windier, and cooler than the 95º at home! YAY!

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