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February 27, 2021

Nobel Canyon - How not to hike it

Noble Canyon is a popular trail in the Laguna Mountain about an hour east of San Diego.  The lower section of the trail is 1 mi west of Pine Valley and 1.5 mi north on Pine Creek Road.  The trail is 10 miles to its upper end at Penny Pines with ~1000 ft elevation gain.

Fran and I have been to the Penny Pines Trailhead in the past.  Never the lower trailhead.  One of Fran’s gal-pals mentioned this was one of her favorite hikes. Sooo...

From the trailhead it quickly ascends for about 1/4 mile over a very rocky section with uneven footing.  Another 1/4 mi of loose gravel, where I tweak my knee, the trail becomes dirt.

The trail passes through a large grove of manzanita, but offers very little shade.

At about 1 mi there is some shade under the oak trees, before again turning to shadeless chaparral.

Just before the descent down to Pine Creek is a makeshift bench.

A nice place to rest as we decide to continue or return.  We have just completed the hardest section of the trail, but it would be wise to return while I am able to continue.

Less than 1/2 mile from the trailhead the knee says no more, yes going downhill is much harder then going uphill.  Just a few more steps and I’m down again Fran helps me get up but I cannot hold my balance.

I made it to a nice shady spot on the trail as Fran went down to replenish our water.

The rocky section was more difficult going down than it was going up.  She was right to think I’d be hard pressed to make it, she dialed 911.

CalFire showed up with 2 trucks and their paramedic unit.  Mountain Rescue brought a gurney with a large center tire for trail use, Pine Valley sent an ambulance and the Forest Service provided a park ranger.  Massive response …

Fran led three paramedics back up the trail, to where I was napping quite comfortably in the shade.  I couldn’t get up, but was otherwise ok.

Initial examination showed no serious damage, then they concentrated on poking/prodding my knee.  They helped me to stand and as long as I kept my leg straight it would hold my weight.  With their assistance through the scree and rocks we all arrived back at the trailhead.

And I didn’t need a ride on their tire.   Kudos to CalFire and all First Responders!

Not sure where we will hike next week, but for sure it will be level!

The upper trailhead at Penny Pines is shaded by pine trees and surrounded by alpine meadows.   That’s the place to start exploring Noble Canyon.