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Hiking, backpacking, and camping throughout Southern California and beyond

100 Peaks Turns 10 - What an adventure it's been!

100 Peaks Turns 10 - What an adventure it's been!

The Beginning

When I started the idea of 100 Peaks in 2009, I had been blogging already since 2003, but was looking for something focused. I was a technology contractor, so had a flexible schedule. I had also heard about content management systems that would actually organize your content for you and was happy to try them out. I had been blogging manually using Macromedia Dreamweaver (now Adobe) for 6 years.

My daughter was less than a year old, and I started thinking about my fitness and how I wanted to keep up with her as I aged. As a result, I joined Gut Check Fitness, a great group of people that encourage each other to try harder. Joe and Nicole, the founders, made sure everyone felt included, including this guy with zero fitness.

Their motto: The Earth is Your Gym

Before dawn, we would do all sorts of crazy exercises and then head out to Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve to run and do other activities. Every Friday, we would start at Zumbar Coffee in Sorrento Valley and run a 4-mile loop in the canyon, adding coffee to our rising endorphin levels.

Driving to Gut Check FItness at dawn, my first week as a member

Driving to Gut Check FItness at dawn, my first week as a member

At first I struggled. I would get light-headed and be gasping for breath. As I got stronger, I would be chatting as the sun rose over the canyon. One special morning, one of my new friends and I startled a large antlered buck in a side canyon in the pre-dawn gloom. We gasped in wonder as it galloped away.

It was in these magical moments that I regained my love for the outdoors and realized how much I enjoyed being on the trail. I pulled out my trusty Afoot and Afield in San Diego County and started scanning the hikes. I came across the Sierra Club’s San Diego Chapter 100 Peak list and started thinking.

in April 2009, I climbed Black Mountain solo on a whim and looked around. There was so much to explore.

An Idea Forms

April 2009: My Tiguan, then my trailhead car, shot on original iPhone

April 2009: My Tiguan, then my trailhead car, shot on original iPhone

Perhaps I could summit 100 peaks in San Diego County and write a usable guide book on how to get to them. I obtained the URL 100peaks.com and started blogging. Iron Mountain was my first “official” peak as my new identity as 100 Peaks on June 24, 2009, and I was happy that there were no antennas on it. My only two San Diego Peaks before that were Black Mountain (PQ) and Woodson Mountain (Pre-potato chip days) and they both had quite the arrays.

View from Iron Mountain, the first peak

View from Iron Mountain, the first peak

As I looked out east over the county, I could see mountains stretching out as far as I could see. I was excited at the adventure that lay ahead. Some of the trails to the peaks were pretty long, such as El Cajon Mountain and I couldn’t imagine hiking that many miles in a day, but I was determined to do it.

In 2009, I summited 26 peaks. I was still consulting and spending a lot of time with my daughter. She even came with me on a few hikes. I started making my own list, which I felt represented the entirety of San Diego County.

I started having a blast exploring every corner of the county. From the desert peaks in Anza Borrego to the coastal bumps overlooking suburban neighborhoods, I enjoyed the pure exploration of it.

Sophia and I heading up Garnet Peak in 2009

Sophia and I heading up Garnet Peak in 2009

Over the years, I developed pretty good endurance, and my daily mileage started to increase. I also relished in getting up before dawn and driving to distant trailheads in the dark and seeing the sun rise as I hiked up the side of a mountain. There is something about the glow of dawn that takes my breath away.

I also started backpacking again, this time with my brother-in-law, the PD. And having a blast. He also accompanied me on many day hikes, as well.

The PD and 100 Peaks, somewhere in the mountains in 2017

The PD and 100 Peaks, somewhere in the mountains in 2017

I also found out the the outdoors community has a lot of great people in it. I was able to meet people in person that I had been “communicating” with for years.

Changes come

In 2011, I landed a job in Santa Barbara, taking me away from the San Diego peaks that I had come to love. I vowed to come back and complete them someday. I started hiking those mountains and was instantly struck with the vastness of Los Padres National Forest. It was both very different and very similar to San Diego at the same time. One huge difference was the fact that there are black bears up there.

Soph and I on her first backpacking trip in the Santa Barbara area

Soph and I on her first backpacking trip in the Santa Barbara area

I started a new list of peaks up there and started exploring earnestly. My daughter, Sophia, went on her first backpacking trip in Los Padres National Forest and she hasn’t looked back.

We purchased our house, enrolled our daughter into school and settled in to the area. Comfortable and happy.

Free Gear

One benefit of blogging has been the receipt of free gear. Over the years I’ve gotten, books, jackets, lights, stoves, and many more things that I can barely recall. I had to start turning a lot down, since I simply didn’t have the time to write about all of them.

The best, however, was when Columbia Sportswear chose me as one of their OmniTen social media people to participate in the OmniGames. Not only did I receive a closet full of free gear, they sent me and a bunch of others to Park City for a snowy competition. I met a lot of great people and had an incredible time.

So much Columbia gear, much of which I still use to this day.

So much Columbia gear, much of which I still use to this day.

I completed 27 Santa Barbara peaks and worked nearly three years at the company when they decided to lay off a large group of people while preparing to be purchased. I was very disappointed, but my wife and I got together and decided to move back to San Diego and open a hamburger restaurant.

Homeward Bound

In the middle of 2014, we made it back into our home in San Diego and the restaurant (Burger Bench in Escondido) took a great majority of my time. Any time away from the business was spent with my family. We were still able to get out on some pretty great trips in the outdoors.

in 2017, my followers asked me to start the San Diego 100 Peaks Challenge. It’s pretty informal and very challenging, and only two people have completed it. I have a lot of respect for their perseverance.

A Shift in Focus

As the restaurant took more and more of my time, I spent a lot of time hiking and running on trails near my home. Here and there, I’d get a new peak in, but, as life changed, so did my ambition. I didn’t necessarily want to get to a peak every time I explored the outdoors. Sometimes it was a green meadow hidden in the hills that I wanted to find. Or a named spring on the map. Or an open grassy area that looked like a great campsite.

In 2015, I summited only 3 peaks on my list. In 2016, it was a single new peak. For a whole year. I did however, visit a bunch of repeat peaks with my daughter and get some backpacking trips in. Our family vacations were focused on the outdoors and we loved it.

Family trip to Banff in 2016

Family trip to Banff in 2016

Family Trip to Sedona in 2016

Family Trip to Sedona in 2016

Family trip to Costa Rica in 2017

Family trip to Costa Rica in 2017

Sea Change

In the last ten years, I went from occasionally spending time outdoors on special occasions to getting on the trail nearly every day in one way or another. My family spends our time outdoors as much as possible. Our vacations are often centered around outdoor adventures. My daughter and I are going on a 4-night trip to the Sierra Nevada this summer.

Sophia and I in the Sierra Nevada last summer

Sophia and I in the Sierra Nevada last summer

Most of my friends are also in love with nature in one way or another. The spirit of the wilderness permeates my life.

New Goal

100 Peaks is no longer about a specific goal I set for myself a decade ago to summit 100 peaks in San Diego and write a book about it. It’s about spending time with my wife and daughter. It’s about enjoying the outdoors in its many different forms. It’s about making lasting friendships along the way.

It’s about exploring and enjoying every minute we have on this planet. There is so much to see.

The world’s too big, and life’s too short to not at least try.

Thank you for being there with me.

Derek Trinity Pano.jpg
Backpacking to frozen Long Lake on the Bishop Pass Trail

Backpacking to frozen Long Lake on the Bishop Pass Trail

Big Agnes Tents - Why I'll be a customer for life

Big Agnes Tents - Why I'll be a customer for life