On December 30th I went for the last hike of 2017, and “bagged” three more peaks from the San Diego 100 Peaks list with my friend Hans (who has completed all of the peaks). Bonny and White are two “benchmarks”, while The Thimble is a steep dome of granitic rock. They are lined up nicely in the high desert of Anza Borrego, near Ranchita, but between them it’s a little bit of up and down of course.
The Thimble is peak #22 on the list, at an elevation of 1758 meters (5768 feet); White is #26 (1623 m/5326 ft) and Bonny (1394 m/4574 ft) is #27. One could add San Ysidro Mountain (#21) as a fourth peak on this hike, but we started a bit late in the day and were taking it easy. It’s also slow going since this is a cross-country hike, without any marked trail and through at least partially rocky and bushy terrain. I wouldn’t mind seeing the area again after a bit of rain (March would probably be nice at these elevations), to then maybe add San Ysidro to my list.
The hike starts just east of Ranchita, along Montezuma Grade Road (County Highway S22). We parked at the Jasper Trail turnoff and found the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) across the street. After following the CRHT for a couple of minutes we turned left and began the cross-country section of the hike. Bonny Benchmark is an easy grab, then it’s uphill to White Benchmark. From White to The Thimble we first had to navigate the boulders a little bit, avoid crossing into private land (which is only partially fenced here naturally, due to the terrain), and then made our way up the steep south-facing slope of The Thimble.
After a bit of navigating around the boulders we found the easy approach to the summit. As usual, it looks easy enough from a distance, but once you’re in the ascent and amidst the boulders, things are quite different! 🙂 For fellow hikers who might read this – on the south-facing slope, stay east of the steepest rocks, then swing left and you’ll find a “bench” of rocks that can be traversed south. Slip through the big cracked rock on the south side, squeeze past the Ceanothus next to the granite, then it’s an easy climb to the summit.
Hike totals: ~11.2 kilometers (7 miles), 670 meters (2200 feet) ascend/descend.
Here are some photos from the area. The high desert is not as sparsely vegetated as the lower lying areas, and in this transition zone you find chaparral bushes like Sugarbush (Rhus ovata) together with cacti and Mesquite (the signature plant of the Sonoran Desert), it’s quite a charming mixture. Find some bits about lens choices and a bonus photo of yours truly below the gallery. 🙂
Tech Talk: Lens Choices
In my year in review post I mentioned that I’d like to use prime lenses more, so I was experimenting with my lens setup a little bit on this hike. I brought a 35mm and 50mm prime, and my lightweight 70-300mm telezoom. The idea was to mostly use the 35mm lens, but I can honestly say that the primes didn’t make me happy – I was swapping lenses back and forth all the time, which is a major hindrance while hiking, and takes plenty of time. I should’ve trusted my gut and relied on my previous experiences – for hiking, my stabilized 24-120mm zoom remains the best choice: it is relatively compact, stabilized, the 5x zoom range is incredibly versatile, and starting at 24mm it allows for some nice “really wide” compositions that just aren’t possible with the 28mm (or it’s equivalent) of other “superzoom” lenses. So, lesson learned. For good, hopefully!
Bonus photo – yours truly sitting in the small summit block of The Thimble (photo #7 in the gallery above), with that trusty 70-300mm on the good old D800 by my side. 🙂
These sunglasses now rest safely somewhere between the bushes around White Benchmark (read: I lost them). They served me well and I think polarized sunglasses are really nice for photographers, to see how polarization would look on any given scene* – but I wouldn’t buy sunglasses that are tinted in any way again. This particular pair was tinted brown so everything looked awesome with the warm color tint and polarization – but when you want to make a photo and take them off you look through the viewfinder and meh, suddenly it’s not so awesome anymore. At one point I had even created a Lightroom preset to mimic the warming effect!
*) you can spot photographers with polarized sunglasses easily: they’re the ones who always tilt their heads left and right. 😉
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