Reconnecting on El Cajon: A Photo Essay

This piece was created in partnership with Kelty. We appreciate their support of our community.

I could feel the pollen filling my lungs.

This spring was different from the four others I had experienced here in California; everything was alive and thriving thanks to a massive amount of rain that hit the region in the winter after an almost decade-long drought. I headed up the approach trail to one of my favorite climbing areas near San Diego, seeing the wildflowers that lit up the side of hike-el-cajon-mountain with variations of bright colors.

Wildflowers aside, I venture here every spring in search of another view: that of the marine layer filling in the valley below. Formed over the ocean, this layer rolls in as a layer of clouds, shrouding the view of the geography below. As I climb to the top, the layer makes me feel as though I’m at 17,000 feet; in reality, I’m pushing 3,500.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

One of my closest friends in San Diego, Rachel, recently moved to San Francisco for work. I have been on the road working for several months, so when we both found ourselves back in San Diego for the weekend, we decided to return to one of our favorite San Diego spots.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

Rachel had her dog Roux in tow. Our mission was to sleep under the stars and catch the beautiful sight of the marine layer in the morning; the same as we had done several times in prior years before she moved away.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

Roux has grown; the last I saw him, he was just several months old.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

After a hunt, we found a spot to set up for the night. The mountainside on El Cajon is steep and covered in boulders. But one of the larger boulders had a flat top; it was perfect for setting down our backpacks and rolling out sleeping bags.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

In the morning Rachel, Roux, and I woke up as the sun was rising. We looked west to see if we could spot fog moving our way.

Hiking El Cajon Mountain

It looked uncharacteristically clear to the west, especially for this time of year. No luck catching the marine layer this time.

I’ll try again in a month, but it’s always worth waking up to the sun rising over the mountains. We enjoyed the morning view, the epic super bloom, and scanned the multi-pitch wall for our next climb.

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About the Author:

Kat Carney
Growing up on the low lying plains of Kansas, most wouldn’t think of me as a mountain girl. But my parents took advantage of living in relatively close proximity to Colorado and my four brothers and I were fortunate enough to grow up hiking 14er’s, riding class V rapids, and traversing ice fields to see epic waterfalls. I picked up a camera sometime in high school, and though I snapped photos for fun I didn’t decide that it would be the axis my life revolved around until college. Combining photography and the outdoors just seemed convenient and the wild places I love, and our human relationship with them, have become my main subject. Though I’ll always claim the flatlands as my “home” I have spent significant time discovering the wonders of the great American southwest and the backcountry of Denali National Park in Alaska. Now I reside in San Diego and get to explore southern California where I have access to some incredible terrain. I look forward to capturing it all and seriously improving my climbing and surfing skills. Find Kat online: Website: Instagram: @KatCarney Facebook: /KatCarneyPhoto