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.


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”

Stanley Peak

As part of my training for the Sierra’s, I thought it prudent to do some hiking with a little elevation gain to it. So I tackled Stanley Peak in Daley Ranch. From the parking lot to peak is about a thousand feet of elevation gain over the course of three and a half or so miles.

I started about three o’clock in the heat of the day in jeans, a good choice for trails with overgrown vegetation and the later hike in the shade, but not so great starting out. The spring bloom is still on full display with flowers showing every shade of red and purple that I could imagine. (Maybe there’s a book/movie in that? The colors red and purple.) The air smells of spice and the fields hum with the tinnitus of bees, particularly around the swaths of deerweed. When deerweed and buckwheat flower, the bloom is coming to its last phase before drying into the brownness of summer. Plenty of lizards scurrying along the way. A buckeye butterfly stopped to take a look at me. When I summit at Stanley Peak, I share the view with a Granite Spiny Lizard, which I think is better described as a scaly rainbow on four legs.

Horses, bikers, and hikers are all out today but I don’t think too many people use the Caballo trail entrance. A couple of guys ask me if this is an access to Dixon Lake. Not the way they are headed, down to the parking lot from which I just came. A few people have masks, a few people don’t. I wear mine so I can stick my tongue out at them without them seeing (jk).

I think we can come up with some better words for a collection of hikers than just hikers. On a single-track trail, from a distance, hikers that stick together on the twists and turns, especially those with walking poles, remind me of a centipede. A centipede of hikers? On wider trails, they tend to cluster in a ball and take up the width of the trail. A clot of hikers? On the way back and in the shadow of the hillside, many of the flowers I saw on the way up have closed up for the night, curling up like a wrung-out towel. It makes me wonder if they have any kind of awareness. There is nothing to prove that the electric pulse of a neuron is the only thing that generates consciousness. Anyway, photos and strange thoughts are how I pass the time on the trail.

My only scary moment on this hike is when I think I lose my glasses. In all fairness to me, when I see a photo opp, I move my sunglasses to the top of my hat. When a hawk flies overhead, I don’t have time. When I go to place my sunglasses back over my eyes, they aren’t on the top of my hat. I start looking on the ground thinking I may have dropped them before I realize they are still on my eyes. God, I fear for my brain.

Here are the pics. I hope you enjoy them.


Get Fit! Get Smart!

I was just invited to go on a two-night photographic backpacking trip to Ansel Adams wilderness. With basketball and walking the dogs, I’m usually in pretty good shape and can just pick up and go without any extra training. But the last two months have killed the basketball and the dogs are slowing down limiting the walks from any distance. So, I chose the Del Mar hike of six miles, previously blogged here, http://www.thetembo.com/clip/?s=del+mar+triangle

The hike starts at the Torrey Pines Extension near Del Mar Highlands school. I figured the short cut through the schoolyard would be closed off, and I know there is a trail in the extension that stays on the south side, but I wasn’t sure where to pick it up at. I parked at a spot with a lot of other unoccupied, parked cars thinking maybe it was the access point I was looking for. It wasn’t. I walked around to another spot where I saw a trail going through a grove of Torrey Pines.

My first clue that this was a bad idea was the “No Public Access” sign that I ignored. My second clue was the sleeping bags laid out under a tree about a quarter-mile in. Still, I pushed on until the worn path ended but I saw a wooden bridge that I recognized as part of the trail that I was looking for. My third clue was the bushwacking I had to do get to it, paying the price with legs and arms full of scratches. My fourth clue was the twenty-foot bridge had a two-foot gap so I had to jump to get on to it and another two-foot gap on the other side so I had to jump to get off of it. My fifth clue was the tree that had fallen across the path so I had to bushwack around that. Finally, I found myself back on the main trail and hiked to the entrance at the bottom. My sixth clue was the fence I had to hop around to get out of the reserve with big signs on the other side saying “No Entrance. Park Closed.” Obviously, I’m not one to give up easily on a bad idea. I’m glad I did this part of the hike first because it would have sucked to come to the fence at the other side and discovered I had to walk around probably adding two miles or more to the hike.

The parking lot at Torrey Pines State Beach is closed but the beach is alive and well. As long as you are moving, you can hang out on the beach. No laying down towels and having little parties. I walked the stretch from North Torrey Pines Beach to the south side of the San Dieguito River. The beach is covered in a foul foam, my guess is that perhaps it is residue from the red tide, but I’m not sure. It’s a beautiful cloudless day and the low tide opens up the beach. I can’t blame so many people for being out. I didn’t have any trouble negotiating a path through the throngs at a safe distance, even at the most crowded point near Powerhouse Park in Del Mar. I only had one incident where a child ran by just missing me and the mom said so I could hear it, “Be careful sweetie, you have to watch out for the man because he isn’t looking where he is going.” (Not to pass judgment, but f**k her.)

I do this segment of the hike barefoot, walking in the very shallow surf, jumping over the nasty foam as the waves push it in and back out again. Brown Pelicans soar overhead taking advantage of the north-to-south wind. A woman in a thong bikini bends over in front of me to pick up a shell at an angle that makes it look like she is not wearing anything. The only thought that passes through my head is that I’m sure they are worn for comfort and not for show.

At the race track, I take the path along the south side of the river passing the lagoon and then over the train tracks, watching terns patrol the waters and kids fishing on its banks. I cross Jimmy Durante road at the Viewpoint Brewery company, which is open for takeout but not for sit down. There is a nature trail that leads to an observation pier. At low tide, fiddler crabs infest the exposed mud banks. They seem to keep a proper social distance from one another. I watch one do a little sidestep, lifting its big claw into the air, take a step to the left as if pulling itself along on an invisible rope, and stop. It repeated this movement several times. The whole mudflat was alive with the incomprehensible social signals of the asymmetric crabs.

I then followed the river road to the Crest Canyon North entrance. The Crest Canyon North entrance is fenced off for construction with nothing but heavy equipment and yellow trucks on the other side. I ask a lady walking by on the road if she knows of another access point. She thinks there is a path in the pines ahead but she offers that I can probably just go through the site by walking around the fence. She tells me, “It would be a little adventure.” I take her up on her offer, but I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. My first clue is that I have to breach a fence by squeezing through two sections and past the signs that say “Warning. Danger. Do Not Enter.” Clearly, these signs are more guidelines than rules. On the other side, is a yellow front loading shovel truck of the Caterpillar variety. My second clue that this wasn’t such a good idea is a second fence perpendicular to the trail. I find a spot where I can belly crawl under and do so. Based on my observation of a large section of rusted out pipe, it looks like they are digging out old sewer pipes that must have run down the length of the canyon. My third clue is the third fence. I part the makeshift gate slightly to squeeze through. My fourth clue is the fourth fence. This one I have climb over the top. It’s not staked into the ground so it is a little bit flimsy as I negotiate over the top and then leap to the ground. The whole thing reminds me of the different gates that Maxwell Smart had to negotiate to get into Control at the start of every “Get Smart!” episode. Lesson learned, never trust random ladies on the hiking trail.

The final stretch of the trail gets me back to Durango and back to my car. The highlights of this trip are not getting fined, arrested, or injured in a canyon with no other hikers for help. Oh yeah, and that girl back on the beach. I won’t be recommending this trail anytime soon, as for the moment, a good chunk of it is not actually a trail. Eight miles, twenty-seven floors, and some discomforts of age. A lot of work to do to be ready for the Sierras.


San Elijo Lagoon

The weather has cooled off and the coastal clouds are back. It rained earlier in the morning at least for a little bit. So what to do on a mom’s day? Take a hike.

I decided on San Elijo lagoon starting at the La Orilla entrance on El Camino Real on the preserve’s east side. Since its a single track trail, I donned my mask for COVID safety. The east end trail is swampy. Wild grapes and parsley grow under a canopy of oaks and eucalyptus and willows. The first quarter of a mile or so has a jungle feel to it but quickly opens up into chaparral.

On this day, the lagoon still has a San Diego spring feel to it. Everything is in bloom even after the week of heat. Black mustard dominates with its sweeps of yellow-green flowers but there are lupes, primroses, phacelia, popcorn flowers, wild peas, thistles, mallows, prickly pears, and paintbrush to name a few. The late bloomers like cactus and buckwheat are starting in and the black mustard is man height signaling the beginning of the end of the spring flourish. The brief morning rain left its mark on flowers and spider webs while the thick clouds made for great hiking weather and muted pics.

The path under the I-5 is under construction so I didn’t get quite as far as I intended. Also, the trail that cuts across the river from the south side trail to the Manchester access on the east side of five is fenced off and blocked by an impassable river crossing. It usually is a great spot for bird watching and picture taking. I found a mother leader her ducklings, a suitable image for a mother’s day. I also managed to get a pic of a fish leaping out of the water, usually not an easy task unless there is a hook in its mouth. The fish were jumping everywhere so it was just a matter of a few snaps over a couple of minutes before I was lucky enough to get one at the apex of its leap.

Baby Diamondback

I elected to drive around to the west part of the reserve to do the short hike on the Nature Trail. It too is undergoing some construction but I was able to do most of the short trail. My reward for the effort was a nice set of close-up bird pics. A night heron wasn’t intimidated by my close approach on the trail. A brownish duck paddled by in the lagoon sounding more like a croaking frog than a quacking duck. I found a covey of sleeping ducks while nearly walking over a baby diamondback rattler pointed out to me by hikers coming from the other direction. Its a quick trail but the closeup with nature made it well worth the effort.


North Shore Hodges

Dying to get out, so to speak, as so many of us are ready to do after six weeks of hunkering, and on a warm, cloudless, contrail-less, blue sky day, I decided to hike the North Shore Trail of Lake Hodges. This is a little piece of trail I missed or wasn’t open yet, back in the days when I hiked the Coast to Crest trail from Del Mar to Julian. The parking lots are still closed due to COVID but there are plenty of access points along the trail just North of the Hideaway on Lake Drive.

I picked up the trail just North of the Hernandez Hideaway, which looked like it was re-opened for business, with people being served at an outdoor table. I followed the trail south to the Lake Hodges dam paralleling the shoreline on one side and the Del Dios highway on the other. The car traffic of the Del Dios Highway is seldom out of earshot but also not visible either, always at a higher altitude than the trail. The foot traffic was light from the Hideaway to the point where the trail joined the gravel road and then non-existent from that point to the dam.

The trail cuts through chaparral, still blooming with carpets and clusters of black mustard, black sage, monkeyflowers, garland daisies, chamise, ceanothus, lemonade berry and at least a dozen other species. The trail skirts around the Olivenhain Pipeline pump house, a water authority project that connects Lake Hodges to the Olivenhain Reservoir. The trail joins with the gravel version of Lake Dr skirting by another facility before turning back into a single track trail in the Del Dios Gorge which funnels into the Lake Hodges Dam.

I saw plenty of birds along the way including a roadrunner, dozens of California quail darting into bushes, hawks, egrets, herons, grebes, hummingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and a bluebird. The trail stays fairly distant from the shore, so close viewing of the aquatic birds is a challenge, although there are a few access points to the shore. I did come across a cooperative duck or goose with little fear of people that posed for several closeups. I have not yet been able to identify its species.

I thought the sign said three miles from the trailhead to the dam, but I think it was at best four miles round trip. I did it in two hours, stopping to take many pictures along the way. Hope you enjoy.


The Fungus is Among Us

With all the rain in San Diego over the last couple of weeks, the fungus is among us. I have plenty of pictures to prove it, which of course I will share with you, whether you like it or not. Judge for yourself, whether you think they are as photogenic as I do.

The many forms of the fruit are as interesting to find and to photograph as it is to contemplate the underground life of the mycelium, each organism growing to discover its particular culture of symbionts and competitors, limited in size only by the geography of nutrients and underground structures.

Mushrooms close the loop on nutrient cycles and are far more capable than we of turning waste streams into the gift streams that keep all plant and animal life alive, a task we should and sometimes do literally partner with them on, and metaphorically, we could strive to achieve.


Refuge at the Salton Sea

On a perfect day in April, I rode out to the Salton Sea to escape the coronavirus for an afternoon with Chris, on my GS1200, the bike I was supposed to use on our ride to Prudhoe Bay. The motorcycle is the perfect vehicle for travel in these days of CV. Nothing is shared between you and other riders other than the experience, and maybe not even that, riding in our little shells of helmets and gear.

For a destination, or more accurately a turnaround point, I chose the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge on the southwest corner of the Salton Sea. I had to look up the reason Sonny Bono would get a refuge named after him: he did a lot of work trying to save the Salton Sea in his stint as a congressman before he had his unfortunate encounter with a tree while skiing. The refuge is the perfect distance for a ride, about one tank of gas in either direction. A refuge seems like an appropriate place to go to hide from the onslaught of the pandemic, perhaps the way the birds feel all the time. I selected this particular refuge because it is part of the pacific flyway used by migratory birds in the spring and fall. I wanted to score some pics and be part of the great migration.

At the refuge itself, my Salton Sea experience is consistent with all my other visits: it stinks of decaying fish. The trail is a squared-off dirt and gravel road leading to the uncreatively named Rock Hill. Little spurs off the trail road are marked “Birds only beyond this point.” The path is lined with the yellow blossoms of Palo Verde and the whitish catkins of the Mesquite tree, which is really more of a large bush. Desert quail cackle in the underbrush and desert rabbits crisscross the trail in the distance. A flock of white pelicans takes off overhead in a lopsided V-pattern. Ducks and other water birds hang out in the distance on an island in the middle of the large rectangular pond.

Grampa, showing us the way.

The view from the top of Rock Hill to the northwest features a flattened sea in the foreground, browned-out mountains of the desert in the midground, and the still snow-covered mountains around Palm Springs in the background. To the southeast, the backdrop to the refuge is steam-venting smokestacks, fields of agriculture, and the Glamis dunes in the distance. According to Chris and confirmed by Wikipedia, the plants are part of the Salton Sea Geothermal Field. I counted nine, but Wikipedia claims eleven. The fields are green and the stacks of bailed alfalfa are high. Nine miles south of the refuge is Westmorland, a town of about twenty-five hundred people, living at almost 200 feet below sea level. The Salton Sea is an interesting mix of industry, agriculture, and nature.

Chris points out something my camera can’t capture, pristine blue skies from horizon to horizon without so much as a single contrail to split the sky or single-plane engine to break the silence. Ironically, I’ve had plenty of silence at home over the last couple of weeks and use the opportunity to unload all my insightful observations and takeaways during this rare direct human contact. I also find out that Chris is about to become a grandfather twice over. Of course, I give him a hard time about suddenly becoming older than myself instead of congratulating him, but isn’t that what friends are for?

After the hike, it’s back into the motorcycle capsule to smash a few bugs with my faceplate and ride through the chill of the mountains. The ride out to the desert ends with a return to my house capsule to ride out the rest of nature’s storm.

A Parable of the Starfish Moment

Kimmy, a young Filipino woman with a 6-year old daughter, lives at the poverty level by any definition someone living in the U.S. could think of, living off of an income of less than 5K a year. Her dad makes a living with a trike as a taxi driver of sorts, optimistically making no more than a thousand pesos a day. With the coronavirus, he has been out of work for a month living on the goodwill of his daughters.

On Easter, her own needs for groceries satisfied, Kimmy’s wish is to help the poor people in the barangay she lives in, on the island of Cebu, near the town of Bogo. She wants to do something. Something for her neighbor, who needs a loan to buy basic supplies. Something for out-of-work locals, who can’t work because of the coronavirus quarantine. Something for babies, who don’t have access to a fresh supply of milk.

With a little outside support, chump change as one called it, she wraps up fifty care packages of rice portions, bread, pancit, and canned goods in pink bubblegum-colored plastic bags. Each care package contains enough food to last a person for one to two weeks. For babies, she buys powdered milk and disposable diapers. She hires a trike driver, loads up all her packages, and distributes them to those in need, the people squatting in barong barong housing, makeshift-dwellings with plywood sides, corrugated rusted roofs, extension cord electricity, and bottled or communal well water.

For her out-of-work dad, Kimmy provides him with something more substantial: a 25kg bag of rice, canned goods, a generous supply of protein in the form of various cuts of meat, and fresh eggs. For herself, she has the happiness of making a difference.

Feeding all the needy people in a time of crisis is a parable of the starfish moment. But the middle of a crisis isn’t the time to start asking for root causes and ferreting out systemic deficiencies. It’s the time for those who are fortunate enough and are able, to put a starfish back in the sea.

North Clevenger Trail

A solo hike in the outback seems like a good way to socially distance myself especially if distance is a key element in the formula. I wanted to get a hike in before they post a National Guardsman at my door to seal me in until the pandemic passes. It’s spring and it’s green and in San Diego County, the best time to get out for a hike. I settled on Clevenger Trail North, part of the Palms to Pines trail, about ten miles from my house. Mountains in the distance still have some snowpack on them. It’s a cool day under decent cloud cover, a good time to hike up the side of a mountain before it gets too hot and dry.

At the trailhead was a sign to be cautious of aggressive bees. The trail dipped down to the San Dieguito River. The crossing is a bit tricky, there is no bridge. You either wade or you rock hop across some slippery granite rocks. I chose to rock hop. I rousted a few frogs in the process, but they gratefully posed for the camera once they realized I wasn’t going to inadvertently crush them.

The rest of the hike was a two and a half-mile 1400 foot ascent rising up over highway 78 featuring views of San Pasqual Valley to the west and Cuyamaca and Julian in the distance to the east. With a dry February and a wet March, the mountains have greened and the flowers have started their bloom. The smell of spring is in the air. I passed a handful of people over the course of the 5 mile out and back hike. They all gave me a wide berth on the trail, I’m sure for fear of the virus.

Not too far into the ascent, I came around a corner in the trail where I saw bees busily buzzing about a hole in the rock about waist high on the left side, leaning into the hill into what is obviously their hive. On the right side of the trail directly opposite the hive entrance is an overgrown sumac bush which didn’t give much room to pass and bees were active on the flowers of the bush. I tried to daintily squeeze by both without disturbing any of the creatures. My strategy didn’t work. I felt and heard them swarming about my head and it sounded angry. One of the f**kers stung me. I ran my ass off swatting at the bees as they followed me down the trail. There was only a handful of them by my estimation. They followed me quite a distance, maybe a tenth of a mile, before I had either killed them, they stung me, or they got bored of chasing me. I pulled out a couple of painful little stingers. Can you imagine with all the shit going on today that I got got by killer bees? Killer f**kin’ bees. Killer bees aren’t even in the back pages of the newspaper anymore. They are so ten years ago. Haven’t they heard?

I was a bit traumatized thinking about all the shit that seems to be out to get us these days but I managed to put it behind me both literally and metaphorically. I made it to a viewpoint at the top snapping pics of the springtime show along the way. Picks of the hike are here. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1drrC-hW-H-JIDRWLB89u_Zjs7KAg9_zm?usp=sharingEnjoy.

I wasn’t excited about having to go past the beehive again on the way down. I asked another solo hiker, from a socially safe distance of course, if he had any problems with the bees. He said he hadn’t noticed the hive but he mentioned that some girl said she was stung a couple of times too. I wondered why they didn’t like me. I noticed the guy was khaki’d out in all white and grey. Maybe the killers don’t like blue. I had on a blue t-shirt and blue jeans. Maybe they hate blue flowers and I look like a much-hated giant blue flower.

By the time I neared the hive, I had a plan. I had an airline blanket in my backpack that I use to protect my camera. I didn’t take any pictures of the hive so I didn’t think they were mad at the camera and wouldn’t try to sting it. I put the blanket under my cap, sheik style, I wrapped myself in the blanket to protect my exposed parts, and put on my dark sunglasses, trying to do an imitation of the invisible man, when he wants to be visible, which of course is what I didn’t want to be. The downside of my plan was that the blanket is solid blue. So now I looked like an even bigger bluer flower.

When I got to the hive, I chose not to be dainty. I hurried past the opening without arousing any interest that I could detect. So the killer bees didn’t kill me and neither did the hike, though my body issued a few protests. And now I’m back into hiding from all the other things trying to kill us.

Images of Boracay

A Hidden Compound. It was really an eye-opener to walk back into the USA, the name Ruel gives to his hidden neighborhood behind the storefronts serving tourists in the Intramural. (He calls his trike a Lamborghini. Its all patter for us tourists). I had to duck under pipes and supports cutting across the head-high unlit passageway, past women squatting over tubs doing laundry, a woman squatting in the tub washing her twat, and a mother breastfeeding her child with her teat fully exposed. The tunnel opened up into a courtyard of drying laundry, women playing games or otherwise occupied, a sari-sari store, crumbling cement walls, under a canopy of tangled electrical wires. Down another tunnel, deep enough that I started worrying that I might be getting “rolled” until we stopped at grandma’s “house”, a cubby hole with a counter for a storefront, and a bedsheet door covering the closet-sized bedroom in the back. Grandma was on the corner hanging out in her folding chair selling her home-made food.

Native housing. A shanty with a rusted corrugated steel roof, supported by repurposed blue-painted long poles from long boats with a thatched roof patio for selling ice cream bars out of cooler to passer-byers. A prostrate dog laid out on a cement doorstep with the news flashing on a big screen TV in the background.

A coral flower bush. A coral bush of flowers with white and pink striped petals that grasp like hands at passing by detritus that floats on the current.

Dance Off. In the rough waters, a wave splashed onto the boat soaking the back of one of a full-red lipped, white collared shirt-wearing boy who jumped out onto aisle in a twitchy unintentional dance. The spasm was answered by the lumpy girl-boy at the front. A dance-off broke out egged on by a cheering crowd. I’ve never been on a boat where a dance-off broke out between two gender-challenged utes, with swaying hips, weak-wristed waving, and hip thrusts. I answered the soaking in a more traditional fashion with a WTF under my breath.

Bad entertainment. A group of four boys aged 7 to 17 dressed in dresses, diving from boat to boat, doing stripper moves and coordinated dance steps on the sides of longboats for tips.

Disassociation. A young lady working the entrance of a store staring to the side looking out into the nothingness.

Wreckage. A wreck dive at 30 meters, my first. The side of the ship looks like a lichen-ridden rock with splotches of pastel colors covering its rusted out surface. Fish hanging off the sides and the tower. A giant angelfish a couple of feet from fin tip to fin tip, like swimming inside an aquarium. A ship’s complement of hundreds of fish working the passageways.

Nature watching. Open-mouthed clams propped up vertically, sensing the presence of my hand, snapping their body mouths shut. Underwater flower closing up and retreating into its hole. The delicate purple outline of an otherwise invisible shrimp. Little sponges, green balls in the shape and size of dismembered eyes. Irridescent blue squiggles on the bodies of long-spined dark brown urchins. A formation of squid, lined-up like one arm of a V of flying geese.