Potato Chip Rock – Mt. Woodson Trail ~ April 30, 2016

It was a cloudy wet Saturday morning on April 30, 2016, it had just rained a few hours before I woke up so everything was damp but the rain had stopped and the forecast showed no more, but who can really trust the forecast in So Cal?  We were supposed to get an El Nino, but that never happened.   We had managed to round up four of us to attempt getting a picture on the Famous Potato Chip Rock in San Diego County.   We all decided to meet up at my friend Michelle’s house since she was the closest one to our hike.  I just reconnected with my friend from high school after about 20 years, but it didn’t seem like any time had passed.  She still had that incredible energy about her that spilled out to everyone around her.  I was really looking forward to spending time with her as well as my boyfriend and another close family friend.

Now if you read my last post I started off by getting lost because my GPS was pointed to the end of the trail instead of the trail head.  Well I don’t think anyone is ever going to ask me for directions again because when I googled “Potato Chip Rock” on google maps, it put me on some other mountain range and yes we did follow those directions and I was fired as the navigator.  After we got back on course we were only off by 30 minutes which we made good time. The trail head starts at the beautiful Lake Poway.  If you love to fish, as my boyfriend does, then you will love this lake.

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We got there at 7:30 am and started on the trail.   The trail started on the south west of the lake and was a wide fire road with yellow, white and purple wild flowers framing the lake. There were a few fishing boats slowly becoming smaller as we quickly climbed the hill.  The trail followed along a quarter of the lake before it took a turn east up Mt Woodson.  There were many people already on the trail heading up as well as a few heading down.

The rain that was supposed to be over with and moving out started to fall on us.  At first it was a few sprinkles then it turned into a nice wet damp day.  It was never a hard rain just enough to keep you wet.  After walking the trail for a few miles I realized that the rain was a welcome site because there wasn’t anything around the would provide shade if the sun were out.  There was vegetation all around but nothing over our head that would shield us from the beating sun if it were out.  The trail narrowed as the fire road ended and then the switchbacks started.  The switchbacks had stairs craved into the trail as we made our way up.  The rock formations as you got closer to the top had so many wonderful shapes as if they were craved by the wind.   If you find yourself on this trail make sure to take the time to take in the beauty around you.

We were incased in clouds all around us making it feel like we were in a different time and place.  There was a lone oak tree that came into our line of vision as we worked our way up the hill.  It emerged from the fog with it’s dark arms standing solo and strong on the hill.

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We were about 2 1/2 miles up and we could feel our legs aching.  Everyone that we saw told us that we were almost there but it seemed as though every time we got to where we thought was the top we would turn a corner and there would be more trail ahead of us.  The wind got colder as we got closer to the top and at times you could see the rain rippling through the wind.  We came to a flat area of the trail taking us through plants that had drops of water magnifying the color their skin.  Boulders popped out of the dirt creating a hall way for the trail taking us to our final destination.  Potato Chip Rock peeked out of the clouds as we got closer then the sounds of voices could be heard.  The Rock had a following of groupies all in line to get a picture with this famous icon.

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We turned the corner off the trail and could see the rock up close and personal.  The crowd was excited to be in its presence.  Michelle and I made our way to the back of the line.  We had a fun watching everyone come up with fun or silly poses.  We got closer to the front of the line.  You have to climb on a second boulder to get to Potato Chip Rock. The couple in front of us had a dog that they wanted to get a picture with.  I was worried for the dog because people in front of us were actually having problems getting on and off the rock. The rain had made it wet and slippery and most people only had tennis shoes on giving them no grip on the rock what so ever.  We got closer and closer to the boulder that had the ledge.  The couple in front of us was ready to make the leap to the next boulder and this was a pretty big leap without a dog in your hand.  I think I said this before, but I’ll say it again; there is something about being around people hiking, they are usually in a really good mood. There were about 4 people that got on this boulder to help this couple out so they could get a picture with the dog.  No one cared that they had been in line for 20 minutes or that it was getting colder or that it was starting to rain more.  Everyone around us wanted to help this couple get their perfect picture.  They got onto the rock and could only get half way to the ledge before fear took over.  They sat down and smiled for the camera happy they got as far as they did.

Our turn was next. Ryan went first as Don took the picture.  We figured as Ryan jumped down Don could come up since he was part mountain goat.  Michelle and I got on the rock next.  We got to the edge fearless and took our pictures.  The rock was a little unstable but as long as you didn’t look down you were fine.  Next Michelle made her was down and Don came up and we took our pictures together.  We did the first picture with our legs over the edge, but soon the rain started to fall harder and the rock was getting slicker.  I really wanted off that rock but I also wanted that perfect picture with my man.  We did one more pose standing up then I was out of there.  I choose to slide down the boulder instead of jumping to the one that had the people waiting.  I slide down trying to catch myself but I there was nothing to stop me.  I made it to the bottom without incident, but the boulder was freezing cold and wet from the rain.  The wind started to pick up and the air dropped about 10 degrees colder within seconds.  My fingers began to go numb.  I couldn’t believe how cold I was getting.  Maybe because we were standing in line for so long or maybe now that my butt and hands were wet, but I was freezing within seconds.  Just then Michelle busted out the hand warms and saved my fingers. Leave it to the girls to bring everything lol.  The guys didn’t even have a backpack, while we had water to last us 3 days, food to last us 5, and so much more.  My day pack was about 20 pounds of stuff that I didn’t need that day but you can never be too careful.

After our pictures we wanted off this mountain since it was getting so cold.  We started to make our way down and soon the clouds cleared up giving us a new view of the valley like we were hiking a totally different mountain.  The views were breathtaking.  We got to back to the lake while the crowds were coming up in groves.  We picked a perfect day to go up.  The rain had kept most of the crowds at bay as well as the heat.  We hiked 7 miles and I got to test out my new vented rain jacket from REI that I absolutely loved. I also got to reconnect with a good friend while introducing her to hiking.  I look forward to doing this hike again with better weather so we can get to see the beautiful view from the famous Potato Chip Rock.

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