Mount Cuchama(pictured), also known as Mount Tecate sits on the border of Mexico and the United States on the US side overlooking the small city of Tecate, Mexico about an hour Southeast of San Diego. As you can guess, Tecate is famous as the home of Tecate beer. I decided to visit Tecate on a whim one day in July. I knew it was only an hour from my home, that it was an easy border crossing, that it was safe for a gringo like me and it was very cheap. It proved to be all of that as I managed to pay for parking on the US side, lunch and beers for two and coffee for about $15 USD. There was a point that day where I got the feeling that this was all a trick; that there was some other reason why I went to Tecate that day.
After that trip, I was compelled to find out what I could about Mount Cuchama. In relative terms to other mountains, it’s not very big at only 3,800 feet. That puts it only a few feet taller than Mount Otay which sits directly to its West. I hit dead end after dead end as I tried to figure out what it was about Mount Cuchama that I had to know. I started to question whether I was mislead and whether there really was such a place. Then somehow, I came across the connection which ultimately led me there. I was initially searching for Cachuma and then realized that I had the a and u transposed. Then I found that Cuchama is the ancient name that the Native Americans used for the mountain. In modern times, Mount Cuchama is called Mount Tecate. When I started hunting for information on Mount Tecate, the pieces came together. My research led me to two books, both of which proved to be invaluable:
The Jerry Schad books are very well known to hikers. But the Evans-Wentz book was a little more obscure. I found used copies of both on Amazon and had them in my hands in a few days.
As soon as I started reading Cuchama and Sacred Mountains, I knew I discovered something incredible. To start with, Evans-Wentz also translated the Tibetan Book of the Dead so we’re not talking about just any author. From the first page, the story was incredibly compelling. A few of the more interesting things that I read about Mount Cuchama:
- The Red Men, conscious of the magnetic and psychic influences focused in the mountain, revered it as a most sacred shrine, specially reared and sanctified by the Great Mystery, whereon man might commune with the gods.
- The Red Men called the mountain Cuchama, “The Exalted High Place”.
- The mountain is composed largely of Jurassic rocks, which were formed about the middle of the Mesozoic Era ~that’s about 100 Million years ago!
- It is also believed to be known as “the mountain of creation” to some tribes
- There are stories of there being an underground civilization of giants and sightings of “shining light beings”
- It was used for their vision quests
In a nutshell, Cuchama is known to many as one of the most sacred sites on Earth and here it was less than an hour drive from where I live. The only thing stopping me from climbing it was fear. Jerry Schad lists it as 9.2 miles round trip and “moderately strenuous”. Others noted how you need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get to the trail. There are also stories of border patrol agents, the heat….lots of fearful accounts of the mountain. I know this is child’s play for avid hikers but to this point I’d been a casual hiker at best.
If you’ve read some of my other stories, you know I’m kind of an astronomy and astrology geek. I’m always aware of what planets are visible in the sky, when the Full Moon is, what sign its in, etc. I was well aware of the fact that the Full Moon in September was on Saturday, September 29 and in the sign of Aries. Aries is the start of the Zodiac and I just felt that there was a strong connection to that event and Cuchama. So, I got my epic spiritual quest counterpart, Eve Featherstone on board and we set out to experience Cuchama for ourselves on the night of the Full Moon.
There was quite a bit of resistance on both of our parts with Cuchama. In the days prior to our hike, we both went through “3D episodes” where we got so caught up in Earthly things, that it seemed like a stretch for us to be psychically tuned in for something like Cuchama. We wanted to be totally and completely psychically open to the experience. Even on the day of the hike, we ran into several dead ends(literally) trying to find the dirt road that leads to the mountain.
The directions to the top were pretty simple. Go towards the border, but not to the border, turn on the last road South which ends up being a dirt road. Then follow that until you see a locked gate, park and follow the road the rest of the way to the top. My biggest concern was the condition of the dirt road that we needed to follow for approximately 2 miles. Some said it was a piece of cake(like Schad) and some said you better have a 4×4. My car was no 4×4 but she has been known to handle pretty well in adverse conditions. Plus, my upbringing in a cold climate made me feel confident that if I could drive in snow, then I could drive in dirt. I decided that I’d drive as long as I felt comfortable and that we’d walk the rest of the way. The drive was simple enough at first. I just drove slow and tried to pay attention to drastic changes in the roadway so I didn’t scrape the bottom of my car or get stuck.
Along the drive, we faced some more resistance and had a conversation about not really needing to go to the top, but just to find a sacred space where we could meditate and soak in the energy. We both agreed that it was our ego that wanted us to go to the top and that it would be ok to not make it all the way up. I was in alignment with all of this, but inside I was still hopeful of reaching the top.
Another thing I read was that we would likely encounter Border Patrol Officers so we packed our passports just in case we had to prove we were American citizens. We saw our first Border Patrol Officer not even a half mile into the drive on the dirt road. I pulled over to allow him to pass and he signaled for me to roll down my window. He just asked where we were going and couldn’t have been nicer. He asked if we knew the way and told us to have a great day.
After a few miles on the road, we passed what appeared to be a gate, but it didn’t look like it had been used in quite some time. We headed further up the mountain, stopping once to assess the condition of the road and then continuing on. The turns got sharper and the grade steeper so we decided to pull over and park as soon as we could. I found a place to turn around and we parked safely on the side of the road.
It was 4:15 PM at this point and Sunset was at 6:15 PM so we had to hustle. I wasn’t too concerned with hiking down the mountain in darkness since it was a Full Moon, we’d be on the East side and we had flashlights. We took a minute to indulge in the amazing view even from the low point we were currently at. We could see the perfectly straight border as it stretched into the East and the town of Tecate right below us.
Looking towards the peak, we saw a winding road and an endless array of large boulders. There was a Sedona-like calm to the mountain. If you’ve been to Sedona, you know the feeling I’m talking about where it’s very quiet and peaceful and you can sort of feel the thickness of the energy in the air. It wasn’t as intense as Sedona, but it was absolutely present and unmistakeable.
The hike to the peak was for the most part uneventful. We stopped a few times to snap photos and revel in the glory of the view but we really just walked along the road. Aside from the elevation gain, it wasn’t very strenuous and the slope was totally manageable. We encountered a second Border Patrol Officer and his only concern was whether we needed more water. He went on his way and we talked for a while about how nice, professional and helpful the Officers were as we continued with our ascent.
As we approached the top, the view was breathtaking. While Cuchama is a relatively small mountain, it is the highest peak for miles so we were looking down on nearly everything. We could see the Coronado Islands about 70 miles in the distance(to the left in the photo).
As we approached the peak, we were a bit let down to see that the very top of the mountain housed some sort of building.
We didn’t really know what we were going to do at the top and then we had even more doubts when we saw a border patrol truck sitting on the road near the peak. Another border patrol officer passed us near the peak and again seemed to be most concerned with ensuring that we were ok. He asked about water and just recommended that we watch out for their trucks.
At the peak, we again reveled in the 360 degree view and picked out the mountains we could identify.
San Miguel Mountain
Table Mountain in Mexico(in the distance)
We snapped a few photos at the top and then did a short ceremony to thank Mount Cuchama for allowing us to experience this. Below is one of the last photos I shot of the shadow of Cuchama extending to the East.
I brought three Moonflower seeds with me as an offering to the mountain but didn’t make the connection as to why I needed three just yet. The fact that they were Moonflower seeds aligned nicely with the Full Moon and the stories I’d heard of the Kumeyaay eating the seeds on their vision quests. At some point we were compelled to head back down. We knew daylight was fading just as our energy levels were.
Similar to the experience in Tecate in July, there was this feeling as we left the top of “why are we here?” It was a fun hike and an adventure but I read about shining light beings and about this being one of the most sacred sites on Earth. To this point, there wasn’t really anything that confirmed that for us. Maybe our expectations were too high or maybe we just weren’t as psychically tuned in as we wanted to be.
I was snapping some photos of the Sunset when Eve called out to me to come around the corner quickly. When I turned the corner, I saw the Moon rising in the East but projected onto the ground 3,800 feet below us and 40+ miles in the distance was the shadow of Cuchama in the shape of a triangle……aligned perfectly with the International border and aligned perfectly with the Moon. I was awestruck but still managed to snap a few photos of this spectacle.
In a few minutes, the Sun set completely and the entire land mass East of the Mountain was now a shadow as the Moon took over in the sky.
On the walk down the mountain, we talked about the incredible timing and alignment that had to occur for us to see such a thing. We soaked in the calming twilight Moonlit energy of the sacred mountain and continued our descent to the car. The shadows cast by the Moon were amazing as was the view of Tecate as the lights went on throughout the city. At one point, we heard a very loud sound from behind us and thought it was another Border Patrol truck. It turned out to be a helicopter that seemed to appear out of the top of the mountain and flew by us overhead. We just chalked it up to another strange occurrence and kept going. By the time we got to the car, it was pitch dark minus the light of the Full Moon.
We started driving down the dirt road still in awe of the experience. We philosophized about the energy of the mountain and its status as a sacred site. We were also dumbfounded by the experience with all of the Border Patrol Officers as well as the general lack of wildlife on the mountain. We encountered one more Border Patrol Officer as we were driving. After having so many of them talk with us and be friendly with us, we expected to just wave as we drove by, but he signaled for me to stop. He seemed a bit more intense than the others and asked about what we were doing there. I explained that we hiked to the top and that we spoke with several of his counterparts. He was still very nice and professional and eventually just told us that something went down on the mountain but we were fine to proceed and that we’d see one more truck. We passed two trucks side by side who seemed as though they were just waiting for us to pass so they could go to the top.
It wasn’t until we were back on the highway and headed back to San Diego that we had a chance to really understand what this was all about. We went there with visions of finding a race of giants living in the mountain and with expectations of seeing shining light beings and feeling energy we’ve never felt before. Bold expectations, right? We didn’t get any of that. We did get to see giant boulders that sure looked like remnants of ancient buildings or statues that had been eroded for thousands, if not millions of years.
But the thing that was the most galvanizing of the experience was the giant shadow of Cuchama in the shape of a perfect triangle. It really wasn’t until a few days after that I put it all together. On the way up, I shot several photos of triangular rock formations, one of which was a tetrahedron seemingly carved out of a granite boulder halfway up the mountain.
Were we getting clues from the mountain? And why did I decide to take exactly 3 Moonflower seeds with me? Three points to a triangle, maybe?
You can see from the first photo that Cuchama is clearly not a triangle. It’s got a point at the top, but its more of a mound with a point. But a perfect alignment of the Sun, Cuchama and us led to the projection of a giant triangle on the ground below us. Oh and a giant triangle that pointed directly along the easily identifiable border and directly at the rising Full Moon at the exact time they could all be seen! Cuchama delivered to us something far greater than we could have imagined. Is this not similar to what we see with the constellations? It’s only from Earth that Orion looks like Orion. If you were on a planet inside the constellation of Orion, your view would be completely different. But from our vantage point on Earth, it is Orion. To someone on the ground in Tecate, the Sun eventually sets over Cuchama. They can only see the sunlight and then the darkness, but don’t realize that they are part of something much greater, or maybe they do?
The experience at first seemed a bit tempered by the overwhelming presence of the Border Patrol Officers until we really thought about it. Why exactly do they need to be driving up and down a dirt road on the mountain with such regularity? Do people really sneak into the US from Mexico and then climb a mountain? Conspiracy theories floated around our head as we talked about what the outpost at the top was really there for and what the Border Patrol Officers real agenda was. But none of that mattered. In the end, we realized that they were more of a Vibration Patrol than Border Patrol. When they spoke with us, they were assessing our vibration and making sure we felt at home on the mountain. Each Officer was friendly, professional, good looking and genuinely interested in ensuring that we were ok. Did I really have any business driving my Acura on a dirt and gravel road up a mountain? They could easily told me it was a bad idea and in all likelihood I would have turned back. But they didn’t. They knew we were there for the right reasons and helped us on our journey.
The last piece of validation on the Border Patrol Officers came when we went through their checkpoint a few miles down the road. They ask where you were coming from, what you were doing, etc. I told the officer that we climbed Mount Tecate and he immediately lit up with a smile. He asked about the hike, whether we hiked the whole thing or drove part of the way. He said he used to work at the top and only drove up there. Once again, he was as perfect an ambassador for Border Patrol as you could ask. We again talked about how the Border Patrol Officers could just be benevolent ETs or could be under some sort of control by the beings that live in the mountain. Really though, who cares? They did their job and did it well.
The other thing that we realized with Cuchama was that it was as much about overcoming irrational fears as it was having a spiritual experience. We had fears of not having enough water, getting sunburnt, encountering angry Border Patrol Officers, falling off the side, my car getting stuck…you name it!
In the end, we chose to put all of our fears aside and just do it. Spirit was guiding us there and we chose to follow spirit without hesitation. Cuchama rewarded us for our decision with an unforgettable experience.