Tecate Peak straddles the U.S./Mexico border, overlooking the twin towns of Tecate, California (a small settlement), and Tecate, Baja California (a city of more than 100,000 residents). Kumeyaay Indians called this peak “Kuchumaa” and believed that a holy power, for healing or harm, emanated from the mountain’s granitic boulders. According to oral historical accounts, shamans from tribes involved in disputes would meet at the summit for peace conferences. Archaeological evidence suggests that the mountain was also used for fertility ceremonies. Even today, descendants of the Kumeyaay, who have been granted vehicle access to the upper slopes of the mountain, make periodic journeys to its summit. Your hike up the mountain past the vehicle gate takes you through chamise-chaparral, spiced with yerba santa, and then, higher up, through low-growing carpets of a shrub called southern mountain misery. Mountain misery’s sticky, fernlike foliage exudes an aroma similar to witch hazel. Clusters of white flowers, resembling strawberry blossoms, appear on it during early spring.
© Jerry Schad/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.