On the Sunday of Veteran’s Day weekend I took a couple of friends to Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve. For them, it was their first time. For me, it reaffirmed how much I love hiking here. Here are several photos of a fall hike in southern California.
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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.
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!
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.
With a 3-day weekend approaching I knew I had to get out for a long hike. It was still raining on Saturday from an Alaskan winter storm so that was out of the question, but Sunday was perfect to get outside. Finally! We had heard that the Laguna Mountains got over 5 inches of snow and that the snow level had dropped to 3000 feet. It was decided that to avoid the crowds we should go to Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve-East, one of our favorite hiking spots. We left San Diego around 9am under sunny/cloudy skies. Around 10:15am we reached the trailhead off Highway 79. Surprisingly we were the only car. A sign at the trailhead said, Preserve Closed Due to Rain, but ever the intrepid hikers we hopped over the gate. Cows were grazing near the start of the trail as we figured that snow had covered the areas where they usually graze. Yes, the trail was muddy, but not too terrible. Little did we know that we would be hiking through snow covered fields with views of frosted pine trees. It was beautiful!
I’m glad I brought my GPS so that we could keep track of mileage and elevation. At our usually lunch spot we sat on a snow-covered bench under a huge oak tree. With the wind blowing against our backs, we knew it would be a short break. After refueling, we continued on to warm up.
The clouds over the fields provided dramatic chiaroscuro effect and we took lots of pictures. It’s not too often we see snow in this area.
We decided to turn around when my GPS read 6.0 miles as my hiking buddy was getting tired. We returned to the trailhead happy to have hiked through snow and mud with views of beautiful hills and valleys and away from the crowds. When we got to the car I checked my GPS and it had calculated 11.3 miles with 2,201 ft. of elevation gain. My legs were a bit sore already as it had been three weeks since we had gone out for a long hike. As always, I highly recommend this place!
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!