My mom and I couldn’t do our traditional Christmas Eve/Day hike this year. Fortunately, I had Friday the 23rd off so we decided to go for a hike in our local mountains. Mom was always curious about a trail off of Sunrise Highway, the Pioneer Mail Trail. I had never been there before either so I agreed to explore. The weather forecast showed high winds and sunny clear skies. Yes, it was indeed windy when we stepped out of the car at the Pioneer Mail parking lot. The temperatures were in the mid-40s but with the strong winds, my face was freezing. We quickly started on the trail to warm up. The trail hugs the edge of the Laguna Mountains and is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. One can see the desert below and Garnet Peak to the south.
On the Pacific Crest Trail
There was still some snow on the chaparral-lined trail. After about 1.5 miles, we stopped for a snack. The trail is fairly easy and repetitive. I suggested we head back to the car and go do another trail, perhaps somewhere near Julian. My mom agreed. Once we were back in the car we drove north on Sunrise Highway and passed the town of Julian. I decided on going to Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, the east end. We usually start from the west end, but it had been a few years since we started from the east end. The east end is a lot more scenic. And wouldn’t you know? No strong winds and we didn’t have to wear down jackets! The area was beautiful!
In Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve
The sycamore trees still had their leaves and the bright sun created magnificent effects through the tunnel of oak trees! I will never tire of Santa Ysabel. I love the rolling hills, the grassland, and the huge trees.
Being there was the best Christmas present by far. After 3.5 miles on the trail, we headed back to the lot happy to have ended our day there. As a side note, the town of Julian is known for its pies. It’s also known for its hard cider. I had picked up a cherry version of cider from the Julian Hard Cider company a few days ago at my local beverage store. It only seemed appropriate to enjoy it that day since we had passed through Julian. The cherry isn’t too prominent, but I noticed it more towards the end of consumption. Perhaps the flavor settles most at the bottom of the bottle. In any case, I would drink it again. Oh, and you should try the regular hard cider as well.
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I know, it’s been a while. Haven’t been able to do some long hikes because of car maintenance, bad weather, and a stubborn cold. Finally, on Halloween I was able to get out for a long walk. The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny after a storm quickly passed through San Diego County the previous day. I felt like going to Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, one of my favorite spots near Julian. My mom and I arrived at the staging area on the west end of the preserve off highway 79 a little after 10am and started hiking soon afterwards. The first mile or so is a steep ascent and one quickly gets views of the town and highway below.
Highway 79 below
You pass manzanitas, California oak trees, and cows grazing on the rolling hills. I kept thinking of the “Great cheese comes from happy cows” commercial.
After a couple of hours we took a snack break near a beautiful tree.
We contemplated going down to the creek, but we needed to get back to San Diego to prepare for the trick-or-treaters. Overall, I highly recommend this hike. It’s not too far from San Diego, it has varied terrain, and you can stop in Santa Ysabel for some Dudley’s bread. Yum!
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(I know, I haven’t posted anything in a month). Realizing that our summer hiking trips were fast approaching, we decided to do a conditioning hike. Last weekend we went up Mt. Woodson from the east entrance. So Saturday I chose a hike my mother hadn’t done yet, the hike up to Cuyamaca Peak. The trail is accessible from the Paso Picacho Campground in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We arrived to the lot around 11:30am and paid the $8 fee. Many families were camping and exploring the area. It was a rather windy day and I’m glad we brought extra layers and gloves. The trail up to the peak is a paved fire road, like the route up to Mt. Woodson.
Start of the hike
It’s about 3.5 miles one way with an elevation gain of 1,500ft. It was a beautiful day with clouds quickly rolling in and out. And the views of the park were breathtaking.
View of Cuyamaca Rancho SP
We passed several families and hikers on the way up, but we had the peak to ourselves. From the summit we couldn’t see much towards the west.
Looking west from peak
We rested for a bit, had a snack, and then headed back down. Great short hike for a morning or afternoon!
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My Sunday hike intentions were to park at Paso Picacho Campground in Cuyamaca State Park and bag Cuyamaca Peak and Stonewall Peak. But I was $5 short of the entrance fee. So my second plan was to hike in the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, but a herd of cows were hogging the trail. My third plan was to hike in the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Success. I had hiked here before with my mom last year so I was familiar with the trail. It is a well-maintained trail dotted with oak woodlands and an evergreen forest on the higher ridges. It’s about an 800 foot climb to the summit, 5-mile roundtrip. As you approach the summit you are greeted with great views of the town of Julian and the rolling hills. The weather today made my short hike feel like fall. I knew that there was a 20% chance of rain, but I did not anticipate strong winds, which were about 30-40mph. With temperatures in the high 40s – low 50s, the wind chill made my hike a lot colder! As I was nearing the summit however, the winds were picking up speed and there were a couple of times when I had to crouch low because I felt as if I were getting blown over. I made the wise decision to return to the trailhead rather than risk being blown off the mountain. And I had been to the summit before so it was no disappointment. I had at least gotten away from the city and felt the crisp fall air bite my cheeks. As I descended to the trailhead under sunnier skies, I warned a couple of intrepid hikers of what lay ahead.
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