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October 05, 2019

Cuyamaca - Is it fall, yet?

The Sycamore and Black Oak trees in my local Tecolote Canyon are all showing signs of fall colors.  The Liquid Amber in the front yard is already dropping its leaves.
And Fran has my truck today … that leaves me her Jeep.  Typically the Jeep only gets driven from home to tennis/golf to Sprouts and back home.  Not today!

Normally I’d take the Jeep to the desert, but today with the fall colors hinting at the beach I’m off to the Cuyamaca Mountains to see if they are also changing there.

My first stop was the Park Headquarters.  This is my first return since the area was consumed in the 2003 Cedar Fire.  The new VC is only open on weekends. 

The Cuyamaca School Camp (aka 6th Grade Camp) was also destroyed in the Cedar Fire.  It was again opened in 2015, with lots of kids there when I walked by.

I decide to visit the previous site, at the Dyar House.  The Dyar House was home to a gift shop, a library, it was the park headquarters, and housed a most excellent museum … Up until the fire.

Back-in-the-day parking here was FREE, then California instituted a Discover Pass for an annual fee, now it’s a day use fee for $10! ouch!!!  No wonder I seldom return to visit Cuyamaca.

There are desires to restore the Dyar House to its previous position, but not much in the line of funding.  For now the remaining walls are stabilized, while funding decisions are made.

I had thought of taking the Cold Stream Trail from here to the Sweetwater River.  There is a surprising amount of water still flowing, I'm sure it would be an enjoyable hike.

I could not bring myself to pay the $10, as there are several FREE pull outs for parking along the road, which offer access to various trails and meadows.

It’s beautiful and peaceful as the green grasses of Spring take on their Autumn colors.  I call this color 'California Gold'.

I continued north to the Stonewall Mine site.  The mine was established as the Stonewall Jackson Mine in 1870, named by southern sympathizers.

Over a 50 year period 2 million dollars of gold was produced, making this the most lucrative gold mine in SoCal and started the local gold rush.  

The miners would ride this carriage down into the shaft.  At 630' deep it was indeed a long way down!

The mine is remote which required a bit of effort to make it home.

At its peak the mine had some 200 workers.  The company town Cuyamaca City sprang up to provide the 500 residents with basic services.  A post office, housing for the miners and their families, a school and a hotel, a library and even a telephone line.

The Cedar Fire destroyed the last remnants of the town.  The park has constructed a replica of a miner's cabin with historical photos from the town's heyday.

Along with photos from the San Diego Historical Society there is a model of the buildings that hosed the mine and equipment.

Across the parking lot area the restrooms and the trailhead for a short 'lollipop' hike.  This is very easy stroll on a well defined path.

The trail offers an expansive views of the meadow below.

The only company I had on the trail were some real turkeys.

Depending the water level Lake Cuyamaca could be accessed from this trail or from the  miner's cabin, or just a distant view of it can be enjoyed.

I made a brief stop at the View Point above Banner Grade, which offers views of Scissors Crossing below.

Other fall hikes could include the Laguna Mountains, Volcan Mountain or Palomar Mountain.  We have Thanksgiving plans at Palomar, perhaps the fall colors will be more vibrant there.


  1. I like when the California hillsides turn gold. Glad some rebuilding happened.

    1. I agree the golden hillsides are beautiful, but it also means the fire season is just around the corner.
      The forest is recovering nicely, I hope it'll have the chance to fully recover.

  2. It does look like fall and a good excuse for a drive.

    1. The oak trees should be turning next month, but I did enjoy the drive and walks in the Cuyamaca State Park.

  3. A nice area to explore and good to hear they rebuilt the place over the years. Too bad about the $10.00 parking fee.

    1. Perhaps the increased parking fees will pay for the restorations of the Dyar buildings.

  4. Exploring the old mines is such fun! Sorry to read about all the destruction from the fire. It certainly took out a lot of history.

    1. I do have my memories of the Dyar House, which I'll probably not see restored, but there was never much left at the mine. I found it exciting the thick skin of those tough black oaks saved so many of them. Pretty surprised to see so many rising out of the ashes.


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