Dive Bomb

With temperatures hitting the low nineties in Escondido, I decided to take a cool walk on the beach toward Flat Rock. Torrey Pines State Park remains closed as of July 18th but the parking lot is open and the lifeguards are manning the towers. The weather was perfect, just right air temp for hiking barefoot in the shallow surf, the skies clear, and the water warm enough for a comfortable swim though I don’t have an exact measurement to give you.

Looking North at Torrey Pines State Beach

I was shocked at the crowd, or rather lack of it. See http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/05/17/1102/ for my earlier experience. On the north side of the river, there was a decent crowd with people practicing some sketchy social distancing. But past the first lifeguard tower on the south side, the distance grew to about a hundred feet of social distance, and once past the last lifeguard tower, the beach was as empty as I have seen it on a summer day. Not much of a surf so no boarders to be seen.

Porpoising Seals

The beach is none the worse for lack of a crowd. I saw several surf-feeding corbinas, small stingrays, and sand sharks lurking in the shallows. I watched a corbina catch by a fisherman working the shore with five poles. The shorebirds seem happy (what you can’t read the facial expressions of a shorebird?) Seagulls never do mind people, but some of the other birds are a little more skittish. An osprey patrolled overhead from his nest in the honeycomb cliff tops. Brown Pelicans dive-bombed for fish. I didn’t quite capture a water-breaking impact but nevertheless, I think dive-bombing makes for a dramatic picture. I was lucky enough to snap a small seal porpoising into the air and now that I’ve seen it, I wonder why the porpoises don’t seal?

The activities down on Black’s Beach are interesting as always but I won’t comment any further on that other than to report that naked social distancing is a real thing. I’m sure my like count would jump from my four likes to substantially more if I captured and shared some of those photo-ops on social media. I’m equally as sure my providers might register a few short and final dislikes as well.

If you like to see some of my pictures from recent hikes in San Diego County, check out https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1fe_aaIGs6lIdSr45Kvnmm6WLY3zGPj9j?usp=sharing

Terrestrial Torpedoes

A soldier escorts a civilian to the CO standing in the center of the command center.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the mission observer here for oversight on Operation Lunch Delivery to observe the effectiveness of the CMCs.”

He presents his credentials to the CO. The CO nods assent. The mission observer stands with the CO at the heart of the operation.

“When do you send in the CMC’s?” asks the observer.

“We send in the TTs during rush hour.”

“TTs?”

“Terrestrial Torpedoes. That’s what they call ’em in the cartillery platoon. No one calls them Cruise Missile Cars except the engineering nerds.”

“Why launch at rush hour?”

“We know the traffic patterns. Easy to get lost in the crowd. Everyone is too busy shouting at each other to pay much mind to a bunch of nondescript cars.”

“So what is the plan?”

“They’ll drive in and park as close as they can to the target without raising suspicion.”

“Won’t a driverless car raise suspicions?”

“Barely, there not as ubiquitous as they are stateside, but they’re not uncommon. And the car bodies all come from a local business. They should blend right in.”

“You aren’t going to set them off during work hours, are you? It would mean a lot of collateral damage.”

“Yes, the mission is to take out enemy combatants. Targets are very specific but there is always collateral damage. That is the business we are in.”

“Now what happens?”

“Once they’re on secondary location, they’ll phone in and await orders. We’ll wait until lunchtime before removing the safeties and ordering them to their targets with their lunch orders.”

“You mean launch time and launch orders?”

“Launch time is lunchtime. This is a lunch launch. The torpedoes are all disguised as food delivery vehicles. The lunch orders are pizza to go.”

“Pizza to go boom,” the observer says wryly.

“We’re ready for launch now.”

A background voice, “Launch in 10..9…2..1..0. Missile fleet away.”

The observer studies the board for situation awareness. “It looks exactly like the online street map I used to drive into work today right down to the orange and red markings for traffic congestion.”

“It’s the same app, just showing our TTs.”

Red push-pins show on the road map identifying the land missiles. The fleet of TT’s moves out from its launch position and immediately split up. Most of them are stuck in traffic.

“Do they get road rage?” jests the observer.

“Of course not. They don’t get angry or frustrated or impatient. They just drive. That’s what they do. That’s all they do. Well, except at the very end.”

“Not exactly how I envisioned the terminator,” says the observer, recognizing the line from the movie.

The background voice says, “All torpedoes on secondary location and ready for target launch.”

“So now what?”

“We come back at lunchtime for launch.”

“And then?”

“Lavese Los Manos.”

“Huh?”

“We clean our hands of the affair and get back to work.”

P.S. The third in a series of car shorts. (Is car shorts a thing?) See http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2019/11/24/feral-cars/ and http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/06/27/courteous-driving/

Redemption

I made a second attempt to hike the Ansel Adams wilderness with my photography buddies. (First attempt entry: http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/06/07/backed-out-in-the-outback/). Wow! What a difference a month makes.

Since my abortive first backpack to the Ansel Adams wilderness in early June, attempts are being made to reopen the backcountry, the state, and the country. A month ago, the 3.5-mile road to the trailhead was closed and its parking lot empty. This time, arriving at 7 on Thursday morning in July, we barely scored parking spots for our cars at the packed Agnes Meadows trailhead parking lot.

I for one am glad I didn’t have to hike the 1000 foot elevation gain over the 3.5-mile at 9000-foot elevation road a second time but this time with my forty-pound pack. I had renewed appreciation for the June hike up the road as I was driving my car trying to squeeze by others on the narrow winding street. Since I only day hiked the trail on the first outing leaving my friends to their backpacking adventure, I trekked up the empty road by myself on the way out stopping in the middle of the pavement at my leisure to take pictures of wildflowers, wildlife, and scenery or simply just catch my breath. Not one car or bus.

This time, on the drive out, the line to get on the road at the pay booth entrance near Minaret Overlook was a mile long. I do not think I exaggerate the distance. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get outside in the wilderness on a beautiful 4th of July day, but that long of a wait and only to discover that you might not be able to park anyway would just suck the joy out of the experience.

On the first trip, I was able to get a hotel room, but restaurants only offered carryout or drive-through service. Bars and basically anything with a hint of a gathering was closed. This time, the hotel didn’t offer breakfast or coffee and the amenities were handed to me in a plastic bag when I checked in. The restaurants and even bars are open again under the weird rule that I’m only mildly comfortable with, you don’t have to wear a mask at your table but you have to wear it everywhere else. Of course, it’s the same everywhere in California. Outside is better than inside. Open is better closed. Distance is better than closeness. If you have to be indoors, good air circulation preferably with filtering would seem to be the option of last resort. It seems oddly weird to watch people sit indoors with a bunch of other people in the midst of the pandemic while hikers pull their masks up over their noses as you pass on the trail.

Ewok

The forecast for this trip was abundant sunshine with overnight lows in the upper 30s and lower 40s. So, sans the threat of daytime rain and overnight temperatures in the teens, I ventured into the wilderness with my forty-pound backpack, which is eight pounds more than the recommended maximum of 20% of body weight. I could have gone a little bit lighter on the clothes but not much. When I packed for this trip, I ditched my rain jacket for an emergency poncho knowing the forecast for intense sunlight, so I saved weight there. I don’t own a lightweight jacket so I compensated by carrying a couple of long-sleeve shirts. I could possibly lose a little weight there. I definitely should have left the crampons behind since we never had to negotiate any ice packs. I took two camera bodies instead of one so I didn’t have to change lenses every time I shifted from a closeup to a scenery shot. The camera body is light, the wide-angle and telephoto lenses are heavy. I took a lightweight fold-out chair which was really nice to have but not necessary. Camera equipment is heavy but when your mission is to take the best possible pictures, good equipment is not something you want to leave behind. I should have carried a first-aid kit, but didn’t. I really liked having my life straw, a water bottle with a built-in filter that I used to fill up at a stream whenever I needed to instead of stopping to put together a filtration unit. If there is a next time, I will work harder to get the weight down.

The things that worry me the most are not the expected problems of high altitude and fatigue but the structural pains such as a sharp pain in the knee and excessive hip pain especially on the downhills under the straining weight of the pack. But all-in-all, this old body protested but did not crumble.

For the record, the trip was three days and two nights long. We hiked ten miles to Thousand Islands Lake on the Riverside Trail doing some back and forth once we arrived to pile on extra mileage. We hiked two-plus miles to Garnet lake reaching the highest elevation of 10,400 feet. Both lakes are at 9,800 feet in elevation. And then the seven-plus miles back to Agnes Meadows.

Garnet Lake under Full Moon

On the success of the mission from a photographic point of view, I will leave that to your judgment. We didn’t get any clouds, which as long as they don’t obscure the subject matter of interest, add significantly to the drama of the composition. We didn’t time the night pictures very well. If we had woken up at three-thirty instead of two-thirty, we might have had a full moon over the mountain and its reflection in the water. Then again, the incredible glow of the full moon presents all kinds of challenges for night photography. For one, it rules out capturing the Milky Way as a backdrop to the mountains. All-in-all, I’m very happy with my pics, at least until I see the other guys. The fun thing about traveling with a purpose, in this case attempting to take great photos of incredibly scenic backcountry, is that you end doing odd things that you wouldn’t otherwise do, like get up at two-thirty in the morning for shots of the night sky and then again at five to take pictures of the mountains in the sunrise. Or walking up and down the same shoreline over and over or climbing high up on the rocks looking for that perfect composition. It’s great traveling with experts because they have a great sense of composition and great command of the technology. If they allow it, I will share their links here.

GoldenStar

On the success of the mission from a nature point of view, I would claim a resounding victory. You can find beauty and intrigue in the large and the small and everything in between. Aside from the mosquitos, which can be a complete nightmare if you don’t bring repellent and even some mesh, the beauty of the water and the mountains is amazing and a picture can only begin to give you the feel of the immensity. The wildflowers are in full display. Mountain wildflowers tend to be smaller than their lower elevation equivalents. You have to look harder, but if you take the time to look, they are everywhere and of surprising variety. The insects are also everywhere too busy flitting from flower to flower and buzzing about doing whatever it is that they do. Be sure to check out the proboscis on that fly/bee insect in the photo. I was lucky enough to get a shot of one at work on the long narrow tubes of purplish flower. Regrettably, the one interesting mushroom I found growing under a pine tree, which resembled a hot-cross bun, didn’t turn out.

On the success of the mission from a spiritual point of view, perhaps the most important aspect of the trip, three days really isn’t long enough to truly disconnect but only to feel a vague uneasiness that those things, coffee, alcohol, and connection to people and news, aren’t there and to notice that your world goes on even inside your little nature bubble. Or is the bubble the other way around? I did leave a little something of myself behind, buried under a couple of inches of dirt and covered with rocks. Hey. Don’t laugh. Making do without modern amenities is part of the spiritual experience.

I don’t know on what other criteria you would judge a trip, but I would judge it a success. The thing that made me go back to Ansel Adams was my abortive first attempt. The things that will keep me going back is the wind whistling through the pines, a curious yet afraid marmot, and the raw beauty of a peak towering glacier-covered three-thousand feet beyond a lake full of jumping trout. The thing that will keep me from going back is the body. I’m not sure it’s up to it anymore.

Here are the pics. I hope you enjoy them. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1jCExUnmEMIIQO2Wz47l2KiZGCYReKc3P?usp=sharing

An Unexpected Pleasure

I went to Lake Hodges North Shore, an area that I’ve hiked numerous times before so I am pretty familiar with the trails. After hiking the road for about a mile to the boat ramp parking from the east side, I decided on a new trail at the southeast corner of the lot. I figure it would parallel the main trail and probably join back in so I could do a loop returning on the main trail. I started hiking the trail and then it unexpectedly turned south and headed up the hill instead of staying east. Normally, I would think a spur trail would lead to a street or something but there are no streets in that direction, only lake. It looked like the trail led to an overlook and view of Hodges I have never seen before.

I had my turnback timer set for half an hour so I could keep my end of the day hike to an hour or so to finished before sunset. My turnback timer expired, but I was only a few minutes from the top so I continued. When I summited, I stopped there for some pics but the trail led on. I got the thought that maybe the trail doubles back around the hill and along the shoreline, but it could just as easily have dead-ended. I saw plenty of tire tracks and footprints, too many I think for an obscure out and back trail, but I hadn’t seen another person from the time I set foot on the trail. The sun was already dipping behind clouds over the hills to the west but I took the gamble and the gamble paid off. The trail looped back around the hilltop following the shoreline. I found the trail exit at the southeast corner of the parking lot just beyond the large boat ramp. I started the hike with expectations of dullness and ended up with a little adventure. It’s an unexpected pleasure to find something different in each outing.

Note: Here is the link to a few pics from several training hikes spanning Blue Sky, Lake Hodges, and Bernardo Peak of my unexpected little pleasures on each hike. See https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1fe_aaIGs6lIdSr45Kvnmm6WLY3zGPj9j?usp=sharing

All these hikes were part of training for a chance at redemption from my aborted backpacking trip. If you want to follow the thread, start at http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/06/07/backed-out-in-the-outback/ Then read this one. Then http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/07/05/redemption/

Note: Pictures from the particular hike described look rather blue including the feature image. I did not use a blue filter, rather I took indoor pictures the night before and set the white balance to neon lighting. I forgot to turn it back, so in a few of the exposures, you are viewing a neon lit world.

Courteous Driving

“The Assertive is the creme-de-la-creme of the selfish-driving cars. It doesn’t cost any points to pass every other model and it doesn’t wait for anything, with the possible exception of other Assertives.” says the salesman.

“What happens when two Assertives meet at the same light going in cross-directions?” asks your son.

“They bid for the right to pass first so it all depends on how many points you configure the car for and what your reserves are. If you are in hurry, you post a lot of points and configure the car to bid high.”

“Is it safe?” you ask.

“Oh, of course, the bidding all happens in the blink of an eye and it is completely automated.”

“How much do the points cost?” you ask.

“You shouldn’t think about points, sir, you should think about your son making it to his new middle school class on time.”

“I will worry about the points thank you. What’s the bottom line on the Assertive?”

“50K.”

“Rude,” you say under your breath. “I said my ceiling is 15K, not 50K. Stick to my requirements, or I’m walking.”

The salesman doesn’t look the least bit apologetic.

“Over here we have the Timid. It’s our entry-level model in our line of self-driving cars. It’s completely selfless.”

“Dad, I don’t want a selfless-driving car, they suck. They stop for everything, even squirrels. I will get laughed out of middle school. When the kids with selfish-driving cars come by, they’ll make me look like a wimp. I will never get a girlfriend.”

“Sticking to a budget is more important to me than getting you laid.”

“Dad! You’re embarrassing me.”

“May I suggest the Courteous? You will rule the road over the Timids and you can go into Excuse Me mode if you really need to get anywhere in a hurry.”

“How much do the points cost for that?”

“They are just a little more expensive than the Assertive points, but you can only use so many in a year.”

“How much?”

“You shouldn’t think about the price of points, sir, you should think about getting your son to the hospital as quickly as possible in an emergency.”

“To the hospital? I thought these cars never have an accident.”

“These cars are flawless. I’m just saying if something were ever to come up.”

“How much?”

“A basic model without any add ons is 23K.”

You grumble under your breath. You look at the hopeful eyes of your son. It angers you to go so high over budget but you are a sucker for your kid’s happiness. You cave, “Ok. Let’s go with the Courteous.”

Your son’s face glows, “Yes! Thanks, dad.”

The salesman asks your son, “Will you be driving to other places besides your school?”

“I will drive everywhere from now on.”

The salesman puts his arms around your son’s shoulders and says, “Let’s talk about some of the Intrepid upgrades.”

You are feeling anything but Courteous.

http://www.thetembo.com/clip/?s=feral+cars for a related post, if you enjoyed this one.

Backed Out in the Outback

Okay. I have to come clean. I read the weather report of rain followed by overnight temps in the teens. Although I could hear the call of nature, it was the anticipation of the call of nature four times in the middle of the night in subfreezing weather that told me to wait until next time to take spectacular sun-on-the-peak in the reflection-of-the-lake pictures. A man has got to know his limitations, run his own race, stay within himself, ride his own ride, hike his own hike. I still went on the trip but elected to do day hikes instead. I hiked in with the group I intended to backpack with but turned around about six miles into the trip and hiked out by myself. I spent the next day doing hikes in the Bristlecone Pine forest.

The world is opening up again but there are still many concessions to COVID. If you travel, make sure you bring your mask or you won’t be allowed in. To anything. I’m sure in a pinch, you could wrap a bandana or scarf or something around your face, but if you anticipate needing any service or any interaction with anyone indoors, bring your mask. If you are worried about the disease itself, bring hand sanitizer. Some places have it and some places don’t. I will let you know in a week or so if I managed to escape.

The biggest concession on the hike was the closure of the road to vehicles. We had to walk 3.5 miles just to get to the trailhead. And then I had to walk the 3.5 miles out. For me, that meant over half of my hike was walking the road from the parking lot to the trailhead. More on that later though. All the visitor centers are closed. So don’t expect any support. I imagine this will change in the next week or two.

The other big concern was conditioning, or more accurately, lack of it. Today, walking is painful, my calves are completely worked. Judging by when it hurts the most, I think it’s the downhill more than the uphill that worked them the most. Surprisingly, my wind and my heart rate felt pretty good even on the eleven thousand foot hikes in the Bristlecone Forest. My feet held up and my back was fine, despite problems during my few training hikes (Daley Ranch, http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/05/24/stanley-peak/ Daley Ranch 2 http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/05/28/daley-ranch-addendum/ , and Daley Ranch 3 http://www.thetembo.com/clip/2020/05/31/daley-ranch-3/). I think basketball must have been sufficient training in the past because I didn’t have this problem on previous hikes but not playing is another concession to COVID.

On the first day, I hiked Shadow Creek about halfway before turning back. I did the easy half, descending from 9250 ft elevation at the parking lot, to about 8400 feet along the river, with my friends. But then I had to come back. So I did about twelve miles total and close to a thousand-foot elevation gain, though most of it was on the road. The road back by myself on this hike compared to the trip I took two years ago is a study in contrasts. Two years ago, I stood on a packed bus that weaved in and out of heavy traffic for the slow ride to the trailhead. Instead of squeaking brakes and exhaust, I had the road entirely to myself. I could hear birds chirping, water running, wind whistling through the trees, and smell perfumed plants. Several times, I stopped on the road to take pictures of the Minarets in the distance. A couple of scooters scooted by. Two guys on electric bicycles went flying past. Their batteries died on the uphill and I ended up catching up to them pushing their bikes complaining about technology. But that was it.

On the second day, I drove to Bristlecone Forest. The Bristlecone Forest is on the other side of Owen Valley. It’s about an hour’s drive from Bishop to the visitor center at Schulman Grove. The gates were open but the visitor center was closed. I did the four-mile loop trail through the grove. It’s well-marked with mile markers, has strategically placed benches, and a self-guided tour but no brochures or maps stocked to tell you what they want you to see.

Trees dot the distant hills seemingly spaced like a planned forest without any undergrowth. The wildflowers that do grow are all miniaturized. In addition to their incredible longevity, Bristlecones have an amazing range of deep colors from tan to red to brown, twisted wood particularly as they age, and haunting shapes.

I drove the eleven miles of unpaved road to Patriarch Grove over the eleven thousand foot mark. There are a couple of steep grades, at least from the point of view of a Prius C. The road is well-graded with only the occasional washboard. The last mile is a single-vehicle rough but not uneven road. I had to slow down to the five to ten mph range to get through that stretch without rattling pieces of the car off onto the road.

There are two short loop trails. One through the grove about a quarter-mile long and the other to an overlook, about a half-mile. Given the time of year and lack of atmosphere at that altitude, you might be worried about sunburn. But with temperatures in the mid-forties and gusty wind, I didn’t have any skin exposed to burn. The grove is right at the tree line. At eleven thousand feet, there is not much growing. It’s easy to see why the bald mountain is called White Mountain.

The views from the White Mountains are incredible. To the west, you can see hundreds of miles of the Eastern Sierras. To the east, the entire Great Basin unfolds out as far as you can see, including views of salt flats and sand dunes in Death Valley. It’s a big sky country that a camera can only begin to catch. That’s my way of telling you, you should go see it for yourself.

Here are the pics, hope you enjoy.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PgheqcV0EEZjbd72dfnPwS_luhshkaI0?usp=sharing

I Forgot to Remember

H: Remind me if I forget.

Y: How will I know if you forget?

H: Forget what?

Y: To remind you of what you forgot.

H: How would I know if I forgot?

Y: Because you told me to remind you to remember.

H: To remember what?

Y: Whatever it is that you forgot.

H: How am I supposed to remember what I forgot.

Y: Well, I’m reminding you to remember, just like you told me.

H: I forgot what I told you to remind me of.

Y: You told me to remind you if you forget.

H: Forget what?

Y: You weren’t specific. Forget it.

H: I can’t forget it.

Y: Why not?

H: Because you just reminded me to remember whatever it is that I forgot.

Y: So you remember?

H: Remember what?

Y: Whatever it is that you forgot.

H: How could I forget?

Y: It just happens.

H: What just happens?

Y: I forget.

Daley Ranch 3

This is my third trip to Daley Ranch in the last two weeks. In the previous two outings, I started at the lesser-known Southeast and Northwest entrances. For the sake of completeness, for this hike, I started at the main park entrance of Daley Ranch. Not unexpectedly, the lot was jampacked with cars and people. The main road to the ranch is a paved road, loaded with kids in strollers and mountain bikes screaming down steep hills. I wear a mask as people pass but then usually remove it. It fogs up my sunglasses and I’m flying blind with both the mask and the sunglasses on. After one lady passes and I take off my mask, I can smell her perfume. If I can smell her perfume, can I smell her COVID?

I figured since I took plenty of pics on the previous two hikes, this hike would be more of a training hike than a picture-taking hike, but I am always prepared. It’s about a mile hike to the ranch, which has some nice rustic buildings. If you follow the link to the pictures, the machinery is a grain planter. I took the liberty of photoshopping out the big white sign on the other side of it. The barn has some beautiful colors that contrast nicely with the soft green background. I took another liberty in photoshopping out a bright incandescent light hanging out over the barn door.

The very straight “Jack Creek Meadow Loop” trail leads north away from the exhibits for about a mile and a half. The trail tracks a gas pipeline through a meadow. The meadow is patched with invasive mustards, wild radishes, hemlocks, and dried-out grasses but also includes oaks and elderberries. I chanced upon a gliding hawk and had only a second to set the camera’s speed settings and snap off a couple of shots. With birds I find, you take what you can as fast as you can take it. Plants don’t tend to get away as fast. Patches of whites and yellow-greens and browns abound, but I just can’t find a good composition in the chaos. I tried with one elderberry but ended up using a software filter to make it stand out against its background.

The path doubles back to follow a power line that also cuts through the heart of the park. The birds are a little more cooperative today. I catch a few in-flight or starting to fly away. The one with the chainmail breastplate I have never seen before and I can’t find it in the bird books. I catch another bird with its outstretched wings launching it for takeoff, it reminds me of Japanese ladies waving their fans covering most of their faces.

Just before the trail returns to the ranch, I veer off on to Sage trail. The vegetation changes to chaparral in a short but steep climb. I find a patch of spineflower, which makes for an interesting composition of red spineflowers, green shrubs, and brown grasses and rocks. I zeked it in the final presentation to test out the filters and because it looks more interesting. The bugs were cooperative too. The velvet ant didn’t turn out well enough to save but the dragonflies at Mallard lake more than made up for it. Both the blue and orange ones perched patiently on bushes right in front of me. I went black and white with a black and white butterfly. I think it shows up better against the rather oddly contrasting lime-green flowers of the mustard plant.

I cut around the backside of Mallard Lake through the chaparral tunnels on Diamondback Trail and the more open “Coyote Run.” I lost whatever cloud cover I had so I finished up returning to the main entrance via “Creek Crossing.” There is a creek crossing and it is rather pretty but hard to get a coherent shot through all the underbrush.

Pictures are here. They are mixed in with the two prior trips so you can see all of my Daley Ranch efforts in one viewing. I hope you enjoy them.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1u6rWJyldXdskA8MigRMbM9DR3KcL8yfI

Daley Ranch Addendum

In the interest of training, I decided to hike more of Daley Ranch. I hit the east entrance to Stanley Peak in the previous post. In this one, I circumnavigate Burnt Mountain. And if I stay healthy, in the next one, I will use the popular South entrance.

I started from the Northwest corner of the park for a 4.5-mile hike loop trail down Cougar Ridge and Engleman Oak. I’m sure this is the most obscure entrance, if for no other reason than I had to drive a mile or so of unpaved road to get to it and the fact that for the first two hours of the hike, I didn’t see another hiker. Only when I looped back onto Cougar Ridge towards the end of the hike, did I run across a few hikers and bikers more sensibly starting out the hike at the end of the day.

The Cougar Ridge trail is a dusty truck trail that dips in and out of the shade of oaks. A modest stream still parallels and even crosses the trail at one point, taking no more than a large step to cross. Most of the elevation gain of the hike is in the half-mile ascent to its intersection with the Engleman Oak trail.

The Engleman Oak trail was a pleasant discovery. The west trailhead has a small pond starting to show signs of drying but very much alive with dragonflies, frogs, and ducks. It’s a single-track trail with surprising views of Palomar mountains as it parallels Pauma Valley to the North.

A few pictures have been added to the original set.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1u6rWJyldXdskA8MigRMbM9DR3KcL8yfI?usp=sharing

P.S. If you have a caption for the feature image, let me know. I kind of think of it as a guy that “Gives a Flying F**k”