Archive for the ‘Laguna Mountains’ Category

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.

Sycamore Tree

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.

Cherry Bomb

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It’s cold out there!  San Diego County has been experiencing record low temperatures this past week.  We felt it last Saturday when we went for a hike in the Laguna Mountains.  The last time we were there was in May so it was time for a fall hike in that area.  I checked the weather reports beforehand and saw that the temperatures would be quite low so I told my hiking buddy to bring layers.  After being in a warm car for 1.5 hours, it was hard getting out at the trailhead.  My thermometer read 35-40 degrees and with the wind chill it felt even colder.  We quickly started on the north end of the Big Laguna Trail and then hooked on to the Sunset Trail. 

On the Sunset Trail

This time I brought my GPS as I was always curious as to what the mileage was when doing a loop hike.  For lunch, we stopped at a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley and Sunrise Highway.  Rather than continuing south on the Sunset Trail we turned around and then took the Big Laguna Trail that is on the south side of Laguna Meadow. 

On the southern end of the Big Laguna Trail

And from there we went all the way around the eastern part of the meadow back to the parking lot.  It’s a relatively flat hike, but it can get repetitive at times.  My GPS calculated 10.57 miles with an elevation gain of 1192 ft.  This is a great hike to do in early fall and spring when there are wildflowers.

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We spent the long holiday hiking in the Laguna Mountains and the San Jacinto Mountains.  It was very windy in the Laguna Mountains, but the wildflowers were beautiful.  In San Jacinto, we took the South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Tower for the first time.  It was extremely cold, windy, and wet.  Here are some pictures.  I hope you were able to get out too.

Laguna Meadows


On the South Ridge Trail

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A couple of friends and I went to the Laguna Mountains for a Daylight Saving Time hike.  Since they were novice hikers, I planned for a moderate hike with varied terrain: pine forests, open meadows, valley views, etc., etc.  My plan was to combine the Sunset Trail with the Big Laguna Trail, a hike I’ve done in the past.  We were the first car to reach the south side of the trailhead off Sunrise Highway.  The air was chilly and bit our cheeks, but the clear sunny skies were a welcome respite from the storm clouds of the previous day.  We started around 9:00am and headed north on the Sunset Trail.  Portions of the trail still had snow and ice, but we were mainly dealing with mud.  When we reached the junction with the Big Laguna Trail, I asked my friends if they were interested in going to Garnet Peak, a trail I had never tried and heard had great views of the desert.  They agreed.  We reached the Penny Pines parking lot, crossed the highway and took the Pacific Crest Trail.  When I got a glimpse of the desert, I stopped in my tracks and had my friends lead the way so that they could get first look.  They were in awe!  The geology was amazing! 

View from Pacific Crest Trail

After taking several photos we continued on to where the PCT meets the Garnet Peak Trail.  Once we saw the sign pointing towards Garnet Peak we knew we were in for a butt buster!  At least there wasn’t snow on the trail.  We finally reached the peak and decided to stop for lunch as there was surprisingly no wind. 

On Garnet Peak

Refueled, we made our way back down mountain.  Our return route found us on the Big Laguna Trail.

Big Laguna Lake

We crossed the meadow to the Water of the Woods and then took the Sunset Trail back to the lot.  I don’t know how many miles we covered, but it was 3:15pm when we got to the car.   Yes, we were tired, but the fresh air, pine trees, and panoramic views were worth it.

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