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Escondido hikers award themselves with the ‘adventures’ of C2C Trail Challenge


Tim Shell and wife Kim pictured after completing last weekend’s hike of the Lake Hodges to Del Dios Gorge trail.

After you’ve completed all five hikes of this year’s Coast to Crest Trail Challenge, you get all sorts of goodies and cool swag:  “a special certificate, sticker, decal, REI coupon, and a beautiful new patch,” according to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, organizers of the challenge.

But the big payoff, the real award, the conservancy says, is the “great adventures” you will have in exploring the trails, landscapes and wildlife you may never have experienced before. 

With distances ranging from 4.2 to 6.26 miles, and difficulty easy to strenuous, following are this year’s trail selections: 

• Santa Ysabel East Preserve-West Vista Loop,  

• Trail at Boden Canyon, 

• San Pasqual Valley, 

• North Lake Hodges to Del Dios Gorge, 

• Lusardi Creek Trail. 

Among the many planning to take on this year’s C2C Challenge are three Escondido residents, Tim Shell, Nancy Thweatt and Lisa Ruder, along with some of their hiking compatriots. Their consensus:  they don’t hike the trails for the swag or any trophy to show off to friends and family. They have their own goals, their own rewards. 

Shell, for instance, isn’t just a hiker, he’s a climber. And he says the Challenge provides him the perfect opportunity to get into the necessary shape for what he likes to do best:  mountain climbing . . . of major peaks. So the C2C trails, besides offering a way to explore the beauty of our local landscapes “is a really good way to train.” 

Shell, formerly a civil engineer for the City of Vista, says he actually began the process of developing the necessary strength and stamina for climbing major mountains five years ago. He had determined to take off excess pounds, an aspiration he fulfilled with hiking and climbing. 

As a result, he not only slimmed down but also no longer needed the pharmaceuticals he was taking for high blood pressure and diabetes. With those issues resolved, he went on in 2016 to climb Mount Whitney, at 14,500 feet, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. 

Shell says he plans next to take on Mt. Rainier, at 14,411 feet the highest in the state of Washington, and he began training for that effort this weekend by completing an initial Challenge hike, the C2C North Lake Hodges to Del Dios Gorge trail. 

Besides lauding the opportunity to combine his training regimen with enjoyment of this region’s hiking pleasures, Shell adds to that the fun by sharing the adventures with several hiking friends – and often his wife Kim – who join him on the trails.

Being a recent retiree, he and Kim can now do a lot of traveling, and that will allow him to pursue a rather daunting bucket list:  climbing the highest mountain in all 50 states. “That’s another really big challenge,” he says.

Like Shell, Thweatt says the CtoC Trail Challenge keeps her in shape for what she really likes to do:  running. “I’m more of a runner,” she says, and before the pandemic competed in half-marathons. She completed last year’s Challenge and is looking forward to the excitement offered by hiking this year’s trail choices.

A 50 year resident of the area, Thweatt says that trail hiking combines the physical readiness needed for running with the enjoyment of “this beautiful country.” 

She too says the Challenge is an opportunity for extra companionship since her community, Champagne Village, has a hiking group, and two others of its members, Greg and Mark, join her on the Challenge hikes. They completed the initial hike of the five last week.

Thweatt has also hiked the North Lake Hodges to Del Dios Gorge trail and says that is probably her favorite of all those designated for the Challenges. 

Ruder says that discovering the various outdoor wonders of this region is a primary reason anyone to take on the Challenge. She too tackles it with a buddy, their husbands usually joining them for the fifth and final hike.

“I just enjoy getting out,” she says, her favorite trail being the Pamo Valley segment, one of last year’s Challenge choices.

Having completed the three initial Challenges, she especially praised the selection of trails for both their beauty and variety. And since they are all so different in length and terrain – the weather a bit unpredictable as well — she has fun working with her hiking partner to strategize the order in which to tackle them.

“We  have been amazed how diverse the areas is, and I love living in a place where we can enjoy such diversity,” Ruder says. “During this pandemic, having these saved eco systems, which anyone can access and go for calm and peace, is so essential.”

The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy reports that 900 hikers completed the previous three challenges, and that several hikers won the “special bragging rights” of completing all five trails . . . all in one day.

The conservancy says it is focused on preserving and protecting the natural and cultural resources of the San Dieguito River Valley. This is done “through collaborative efforts to acquire lands, complete trails, restore habitats, establish educational programs, create interpretive centers, encourage recreation, and mobilize public support.”  

For access to more information or to register for the current C2C Trail Challenge:  sdrvc.org/sdrvc-2020-2021-coast-to-crest-trail-challenge/.

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