Onward and Upward! La Jolla’s Muirlands Middle-school pals complete 5-Peak Challenge

Danielle Davis and Luke Lansky at the Kwaay Payy summit

If there’s one thing Muirlands Middle School student Luke Lansky has learned from his recent completion of the Mission Trails Regional Park’s Five-Peak challenge, it’s “always read a contract before you agree to the terms.” As unexpected as that may seem, it makes sense to him and friend Danielle Davis.

“(Danielle) asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with her and her mom, so I agreed to go on one hike. Just one!” he insisted.

Danielle interrupted, giggling, “(You agreed) before we sent you the terms and conditions! We said in the contract that by completing this hike you nominate yourself to do the Five-Peak Challenge with us! You didn’t have to agree before you read it.”

But it all seemed to work out for the best. From mid-January to Feb. 23, the two trekked at least one of the Mission Trails Regional Park’s five hikes per weekend as part of the challenge (one weekend, they completed two in one day).

Using a map provided by the Mission Trails Regional Park, hikers can complete the challenge by reaching the summit of all five peaks (on authorized trails only) in any order and within their own timeframe. Hikers must prove their accomplishment by taking a photo next to the sign at each summit.

The five peaks are Cowles Mountain (pronounced “coals,” not “cow-wells,” by the way) that tops at 1,594 feet and is 2.46 miles; Pyles Peak at 1,379 feet and is 2.79 miles; Kwaay Paay at 1,194 feet and 1.2 miles; South Fortuna at 1,094 feet and 2.37 miles; and North Fortuna at 1,291 feet and 2.69 miles.

Danielle Davis and Luke Lansky celebrate reaching another summit. Courtesy

Contrary to her recent achievement, Danielle said that “hiking has never really been my favorite thing,” but “when you have a friend, it makes it more fun.” (Hence, the terms and conditions that guarantee she has some companionship.) The hikers also brought the Davis family dog, Fenway, who Danielle said “had a ball” and enough contagious energy to make the excursion easier.

Joined by Luke’s mother Aimee, the first in their five-fold endeavor was Kwaay Paay, and despite its shorter distance to the summit, is one of the steepest hikes offered. “I chose that one first because I wanted to sleep in and it was the shortest in miles,” Danielle said. “It turned out to be really hard because it was so steep.”

And after the first hike, she added: “We had such a great time and wanted to keep going, but we didn’t have a plan for which one to do next. It wasn’t that organized.”

The most challenging Luke nicknamed “El Diablo,” and it involves hiking Cowles and Pyles Peak in the same trek. “In order to get to Pyles, you have to go through Cowles,” Danielle’s mother Lara Davis explained. “On the map, it doesn’t look intimating. But it was a nine-mile, multi-hour endeavor!”

All said, Luke opined: “I felt really accomplished. My favorite was North Fortuna because it was the last one and had a river going through it because of the rain. There wasn’t a bridge or anything, so we just walked through the river, which I really liked. We knew it was going to be a challenge, and for us it was really hard, but when you get to the top it is all worth it. There are such good views and such a good feeling.”

Danielle echoed: “I felt sore, but accomplished. On the last hike, we had lunch at the top of the mountain and it was just amazing.”

Lara, proud of their achievement, added: “It is such a great resource and opportunity, and I’m really glad they did it.”

Danielle has since extended the terms and conditions — to which Luke shakes his head in apprehension — to next take on the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy Crest to Coast trail challenge, which includes five hikes between Julian and Del Mar. Credited with being less challenging than the Five Peaks, the Coast to Crest Trail Challenge goes through June 30 so they have to complete it by then.

Reluctantly agreeing to the next challenge, Luke said: “The next time you ask me to do something, I’m going to ask to see the terms and conditions first!”

— Mission Trails Regional Park is at One Father Junipero Serra Trail in San Carlos. (619) 668-3281.

Get the La Jolla Light weekly in your inbox

News, features and sports about La Jolla, every Thursday.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the La Jolla Light.