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

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.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1u6rWJyldXdskA8MigRMbM9DR3KcL8yfI

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.