Rising to the Top

Saturday hike brings dozens to San Clemente Summit

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Photos and text by Jim Shilander

A few dozen San Clemente citizens gathered Saturday at the northern end of Avenida Talega to make a trek to a spot some knew only by a nearby gas line sign. Now it carries a different name, San Clemente Summit.

The point, which is on the Cristianitos Trail, ultimately leading to San Juan Capistrano, is in the northern part of the city near the Richard and Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy to the east of Talega. The spot was rechristened last month following a citizen naming contest. The winner of the contest was Dave Pherrin, whose suggestion was selected by a committee of area hikers from 87 total entries. At 1,008 feet, the point provides a vantage point to see much of Talega and the ranchlands beyond San Juan Capistrano, as well as views of the ocean.

The hike, sponsored by the city, brought together members of the City Council, Planning Commission, hiking enthusiasts and residents, some from nearby Talega, to make their way up to the newly christened highest point in the city.

Councilwoman Lori Donchak, who led the hike and was the driving force behind the contest, had a similar goal for both—to encourage the use of other trails in the city. Donchak, an avid hiker herself, was pleased with how things went.

“I think it was very successful,” Donchak said. “I hope people realize we have miles and miles of trails in the city beyond just the Beach Trail.” Donchak said her favorite is the Ridgeline Trail through Forster Ranch, which she said offers wonderful views of Camp Pendleton.

Hikers Marge Gerrity and Cheryl Smith both said they anticipated seeing many more people on the trail, one of their favorites, in the coming months.

“It’s a good trail and an easy trail,” Smith said. “You can go as fast or slow as you need.”

“The favorite part of the hike is getting to the top and seeing the view,” Gerrity noted.

San Clemente resident Don Kunze was on the committee that selected the name of the point, though he pointed out that the trail continues on past the summit itself. He’d previously identified the point by use of a nearby sign that reads “62.2,” which was related to a nearby gas line.

“I’d been here several times, even before Talega was built,” Kunze said. “I always think of a summit as a destination point, but this is a continuation. But I’ll always call it ‘62’ because it’s the year I graduated from high school.”

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