Santiago Peak, Modjeska Peak

28 March 1999

By: Kate Rogowski


Mike Lorr, Jennifer Lin, Kate Rogowski, Janet Yang, Ann-Marie Shober, and David Zalewski met at 7:20am in the Jack in the Box parking lot of the Trabuco Canyon Mall in South Orange County and rideshared to Holy Jim Canyon to climb Santiago and Modjeska peaks.

This private hike had been intended for a year. It afforded the three from Los Angeles County to experience Orange County peaks. The official trails are well-maintained and well-shaded in many areas. A waterfall less than a mile from the trail head is an opportunity for a quick shower before dining on your return to yuppie South O.C.

Early Spring offers cool air from a seasonal marine layer making the air less dry, dusty and hot as it is during the summer months. Beware of intimate contact with poison oak. "Leaves of three, let it be." The leaderless trip was possible because of the experience and small size of the group, and the obvious first class trails, made flight scheduling and control unnecessary.

Moving at a comfortable pace, we moved up the Holy Jim Trail to the fire road to Santiago Peak in less than four hours. We began up the fire road to Modjeska thanks to Janet's navigational prowess. But in an attempt to break the ennui of the tedious fire road, we shortcut on a use trail above the fire road. There are stretches of the dreaded buckthorn on this unmaintained trail. This was our free acupuncture session for the day. We all shed blood and left a part of ourselves in the mountains. It was a "shortcut." It was shorter and we were cut. We vowed to avenge our wounds with pruning gear.

From atop Modjeska Peak, we saw what appeared to a well-maintained shortcut by-passing the fire road between the two peaks. It is not visible from Santiago since it begins off the fire road below Santiago from Holy Jim Trail. In fact it is a well maintained trail, though steep, about 25% grade overall, nonetheless a good alternative to either the fire road or the acupuncture trail.

We discovered empirically that there is no need to climb Santiago Peak twice, except as a pathfinder. Upon reaching the fire road, turn left and go downhill. In a few miles, start looking for the sign for the Holy Jim Trail which takes you back to your refreshing shower under the waterfall before dining in Yuppie South O.C.


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