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January 21, 2018

Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve - Urban Hiking San Diego

The watershed around the Jamul valley provides reliable water, which forms Lake Moreno, Barrett Lake and the Otay Lakes.  Cattle have grazed here since the first Mission San Diego was established.  In 1829 the Jamul Rancho was formalized with a land grant to Pio de Jesus Pico, who would later become the last governor of Alta California.

Rancho Jamul was taken by Captain Henry Burton following the Mexican-American War.  In 1889 the Burton family founded the Jumal Portland Cement Works on their property.  Although the venture went bankrupt a few years later, the borrow pit and most notably the kiln still remain, that is our destination today.

The property continued to change hands until the Daley family gave the lands to the State of California, forming the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve.  Of the nearly 9000 acres that Pio Pico owned, the Daley Ranch of nearly 6000 acres is now under the control of California Fish and Wildlife, and are closed to the public except for ‘special occasions’.

Today was one of those special occasions because the Canyoneers have obtained permission to lead a nature hike within the reserve.  I pick the last and smallest group led by Jim and Stacy.  Before we are out of the staging area Stacy takes us through the olive trees.  Yup – they are not native, but with its long and varied history a lot of the reserve is not native.
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The grasslands to the south are populated with borrowing owls.  Their nests are marked with the piles of twigs at the entrance.
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Jim is giving us the etiquette of the trails, including not to pet the rattle snakes.  He knows how to get our attention.  The lead group was some 24 people including the 2 guides, that’s too big.  My group may be last but we're just a dozen.
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The views along the trail seem endless.
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I really get a kick out of Stacy, who gets totally excited over the scat and especially the tracks we see along the trail.  In this muddy spot she points out the bobcat, coyote, raccoon, mouse, deer and rabbit.  Didn’t get them all in the photo but yes they were all there.  I’ll spare you the photo fox scat with its dung beetles, but she was positively giddy at that find.
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The limestone borrow pit is above the kiln.  As a full ore car was lowered to the kiln it would pull the empty car up for another load.
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The 1889 kiln comes into full view descending the hill.  Note the fence around the kiln, this is new, it was being installed last October when Fran and I first tried to hike here, but the local sheriff was passing out citations to others at the Pio Pico trailhead.
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When the property was first placed under the care of California Fish and Wildlife all cattle were removed.   However the invasive non-native mustard grasses that were planted to feed the cattle grew out of control.  The cattle are moved to avoid overgrazing.  In the second photo it’s obvious where they’ve been and need to go.  With the mustard grasses too tall the raptors can no longer hunt
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I really like the non-native Mexican Fan Palm, nearly 100 feet tall and self pruning.  Although early in the season a few flowers were in bloom.  Look close at the buckwheat to see the little pink pollen stems.
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I do not know the flower in the first photo, but there was quite a bit of mulefat in bloom.
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The blatterpod was also in bloom, often the colorful Harlequin Beetle (Bug) can be found on the plant.
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The Canyoneers billed this as “an intermediate 5 mile hike with an elevation gain/loss of up to 1000 feet.”  I do not think it was that long nor with that much elevation change.  But for sure there is no shade, if/when the reserve is again open bring water and sunscreen.

January 11, 2018

After it rains – where to hike in San Diego

… Waterfalls!  There are quite a few seasonal waterfalls within San Diego County.  I've listed a few of the more urban ones.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

If we were home this week I suspect I’d come up here to check out the falls.

Peñasquitos (meaning little cliffs) contains the closest waterfall to San Diego.  I prefer to hike west to east up the canyon, where is easy FREE parking, rather than the crowded pay parking at the east end of the canyon. I’ve blogged this route HERE.

The canyon and waterfalls can also be accessed from the Del Mar Mesa Preserve. I’ve blogged this route HERE.

Cedar Creek Falls


Really the best if not only time to consider doing this is after a decent rain. This is probably the best known of the San Diego waterfalls, so popular that permits are required to do this day hike. In my blog on this hike HERE, I also have the link to obtain a permit.  I checked and there are permits available!

Mission Trails Regional Park

This would be my second choice for a local waterfall.  This probably should be highest on the list since I have not yet seen water at the falls …

At the north end of Oak Creek there is a seasonal waterfall, almost right under highway 52.  When we were here with the grand-girls last February there was more water in Oak Creek than I’d seen in some time.  I’ve blogged the adventure HERE.

The snow birds that are now in the Anza Borrego area have a few options also.

Maidenhair Falls

The trail to Maidenhair Falls can be hiked up from Hellhole Canyon or down from Pena Spring. As the Nimble Hiker noted in their attempt to locate the falls from the canyon, it’s pretty hard to find without water flowing. You can find their details on Oh, the Places They Go! HERE.

You can find my route, which is down to the falls from Pena Spring HERE.  Just follow the water to the top of the falls, and then it’s a rock scramble down.

Coyote Canyon

DD 2nd crossing
My dad and his dog, Patsy, at the second crossing.  This was his last trip up Coyote Creek, I’ve scattered both their ashes off the eastern side of Fonts Point where they can enjoy the sunset.

After a rain Coyote Creek will be flowing deep into Coyote Canyon before joining the aquifer. This is an adventure that requires a capable 4x4 high clearance vehicle.  I have seen pictures of some early wildflowers that are being reported at the 3rd crossing earlier this week.  Check with the VC for current road/trail conditions.

Borrego Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon

Everybody does this hike with the hope of seeing the Borrego Sheep on the hillsides.  We like to do this as an upside down lollipop.  Going up the popular floor of the canyon in the morning and returning along the western slope trail when the floor of the canyon is more crowded.  We had a lot of water when we were last here with the grand-girls.

I'll remain in San Felipe for the coming week.

January 05, 2018

Potato Chip Rock via Blue Sky Reserve - an alternate west side trail

The title is a teaser … I doubt that many have heard of the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, but everybody has heard of Potato Chip Rock.  And most everybody who has been to the chip has taken the west approach up Mount Woodson from Lake Poway.   The entrance to the Blue Sky Reserve is less than a mile north on Espola Road (S-5) from the entrance to Lake Poway.

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Jim and Gayle along with Suzanne did this hike together a while ago with great success – nobody at the top!  Jim and Gayle have some fun pictures of the group hamming it up on the chip.

Josh of California Through My Lens has done an excellent job of documenting the Lake Poway approach.

Lake Poway charges for parking on weekends and holidays (currently $10) and the lot can be full.  My hike today is to document the Blue Sky Preserve as an alternate approach, with FREE parking.  OK it’ll add a beautiful partially shaded ~2 mi RT to the hike over parking at Lake Poway.

The Blue Sky Reserve is located in 700-acre  long and thin canyon with trails that connect to Mt Woodson, Lake Poway and Lake Ramona.  The side trails may have a little more up-n-down than the main trail, which is also a maintenance road.  The canyon is lined on both sides with Coastal Live Oak, at times forming a tunnel.
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Today the restrooms at the picnic area were closed.  However porta-potties are located along the main trail and at various locations along Lake Poway.  The picnic area is quite spacious, with lots of trees I know grandson Jm would love to be climbing on.

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Just past the picnic area the first view of the Lake Poway dam comes into view.  And it’s decision time, Lake Poway? Lake Ramona? both?
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My original plan was to go to the snack bar at Lake Poway and return to compare the two west approaches to Mt Woodson.  I decide to stick to that plan, which is ~2 mi RT longer than returning at the Mt Woodson trail that leads up to the Potato Chip.

As the trail climbs I get the first views of Lake Poway.  The center of the second photo is my destination, the snack bar at the main parking lot.

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The kiosk just past dam had the map of the route up Mt Woodson.  At this point I’m about 2 mi from the parking lot at the reserve, on the north side of the lake just past the dam seen as the white bar at the west end.  Not far beyond the trail intersects with the Mt Woodson trail.  Potato Chip Rock is on this side of the summit, figure 2 mi and just under 1800 ft up.
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There’s just a few fishing at the lake, but gaggles of kids on the trail now, all wanting to do selfies at the top.  The dam at Lake Ramona looks a lot closer than it is
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Tony Gwynn “Mr. Padre” was a Poway resident, a statue now stands in his honor at the Lake Poway ballfields.  I sat here with Tony while enjoying a PB&J burrito.
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I never did make it up to Lake Ramona, I’ll save that side trip for another day.

Of the two trails from the west, Lake Poway is shorter and the park offers more amenities.  The trail from Blue Sky Reserve is more interesting, with some shade.

However, I prefer the east approach, which has more shade, it's shorter and can be done as a loop, I blogged that hike HERE.