29 September 2013

Hiking and Mountain Biking on Lake Hodges trails

September 2013

Lake Hodges lies on North County of San Diego. Actually, it's a reservoir, having a dam on south west side. Lake and its surroundings seem to offer good variety of outdoor activities, on water and on its trails near by.

Been spending time around Lake Hodges for hiking, running, birdwatching and recently mainly for mountain biking. There are continuous trails near the lake, first on its south, east and north side, then after the dam the trail continues as Del Dios Gorge Trail and even further as Santa Fe Trail (counter clock wise). San Dieguito River Park org provides good information about the trails.

Spring time the lake was full of wide variety of birds. Once summer came, majority of them were gone. However, I've seen on every visit Hummingbirds and Vultures as well as Snowy Egrets. Usually Roadrunners run on hills near Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Hoping more birds will return late Autumn back to the lake.  Rattlesnakes are a common view there, too.

About 50km (some 30 miles) loop around the Lake with a mountain bike is tough, though trails near the lake are quite flat, they become tougher after Santa Fe when the trail merges to Lusardi Creek Trail and especially to Lusardi Loop Trail. The loop around the lake one can gain total about 750m in vertical (about 2400 ft), basically all in a fairly short distance.




Paddling on Lake Hodges

A moment in shadow

Singletrack trails, my absolute favorite

More shade

Southern trails, Bernardo Mountain on back

A bridge provided by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Crossing a creek

Lake Hodges towards north

Towards south

Trail running

Speed walking

Snowy Egrets

A Hummingbird

'A name to be added' bird

Lots of bunnies

Once you learn it, it'll be easy

Speedy corner

Horse riding trails, too

Long waited shadow

Gliding beautifully


Plants are modest here, it's dry

A Roadrunner, live in action

14 September 2013

Hiking on Volcan Mountain

May 2013

About an hour's drive towards east from San Diego lies some great California State Parks, e.g. Anza-Borrego,  Cuyamaca and Volcan Mountain. Desert been once, Cuyamaca with Mount Laguna is still to explore, but Volcan Moutain is not anymore.

Within a weekend wanted to have a good look on highest mountain area in the south. There was another water mouth place to visit there, too, namely a small old town called Julian.

The road from Poway via Ramona to Julian was simply astonishing, especially the last stint from Ramona. Twisted road climbing up and up shadowed by huge and old noble trees. Cannot wait to see it this Autumn time.

After passing through Julian, took a small country road to an entrance of the park. Maps in general are not so fine as they are in Nordic countries, however, one easily noticed that there was one trail to go and come back, though making a small loop in the middle.

The day was hot, the sun was too high already when starting the hike.  Welcoming signs and gates are usually nice in the state parks of California. This one was an artistic one, nice work!  Studied briefly an area map, but didn't really pay attention of elevation.

Very soon after passing the gates the trail started to ascend. Heartbeat raised.  Terrain here looked quite different than on hills and mountains near San Diego, these have large fields of grass and what's more, lots of really old and massive noble trees. After some time saw again green nature. I guess it's the green color in nature which attracts people and get them feel more relaxed. Works with me at least.

A few people came across already. Happy faces, obviously descending felt great. In this country people greet each other, even total strangers.  There's no work needed to establish a lively chat, and that's great chance to ask about local flora and fauna, latest observations etc.

The trail ascended all the time, more and more. Then suddenly came a thick cedar tree forest. Smell like a perfume.  Finally reached on a flat part, nearly on top of them. Running fields looked nice, single trees were here and there.

Passed ruins while still continuing to the top. The sign explained the ruins to be one of the candidate places to establish an Observatory several decades back. We know now that the winner was Palomar Mountain.

Final climbing to the summit, which was covered by a thick forest. Fantastic 360 degree scenery. Large area of burnt land was on east side down in a valley. It's so dry here.

Worth to notice that a fracture of San Andreas Fault has caused an earthquake here (7.3 to be exact).

When descended there's a chance to take an alternative trail, a fairly new Five Oaks trail. Lots of old oak trees there, very many Poison Oak trees, too (be careful with them!). Twisted Manzanita trees looked really nice, their color was astonishing.

The new trail was really good, well made. Thanks for all volunteers!

Volcan Mountain is a small place. There's one main trail back and forth the summit and a short other trail which goes in parallel. It's really going up and then coming down, from 4000ft to about 5300ft in elevation. However, it's a perfect place for day hikes, having a picnic there, enjoying beautiful scenery in every direction. Will certainly return there late autumn.

Another reason for visit was to see an old country town, Julian. Well, not just to see, but to taste a piece of it, namely apple pies this town was famous nowadays.

When passed through the main street earlier in the morning, it looked like a ghost town. Now when returning, it was opposite of it, absolutely full of visitors, hard to find any parking space.

There were two or three more famous places to taste pies. Chose the one which had longest queue outside.  To me it was a piece of real American taste, something from the past, a grand old apple pie, mmmmm.....

October might be a good time to visit Julian again, apple harvest. However, in early November I'll be back again, to participate Tour de Julian bicycle race, up and down on 5000ft will be an experience I wouldn't like to pass.



Some dead and live

Five Oaks trail

Grass fields

A forest is not a common view in Southern California

A lonesome tree

Fellow hikers

Last climb to the summit

A view towards north west

A view towards east, burnt land


Some things in nature can be massive


A meeting at Town Hall of Julian

Something old, something new

Mmmmm, Apple Pies, yummy!!