Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Top Ten San Diego Hikes, #8- Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

First, a little bit review of the list in My Top Ten San Diego Hikes. I started the list of My Top Ten San Diego Hikes from:
#10- Lake Hodges, followed by 
Now, moving on to #8:

 Cuyamaca Rancho State Park - "Nature Heals....Nature Spares..."
Mix of Burnt Forest and Surviving Vegetation @ Cuayamaca Rancho State Park (with Stonewall Peak )

Whenever we go to Cuyamaca Mountains, the message "Nature Heals....Nature Spares..." is strongly speaking to me.
Nature Heals ( life moves on for this burnt tree )
What inspires me most each time I go to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is being able to witness the sprouting of a new life after a scorching fire. Though it feels sad to look at the charred trees, but it is also inspiring to see how life goes back in them and how nature takes care of our beautiful yet very delicate Earth.
A little bit history of the burned forest: The Cuyamaca Mountains used to be San Diego's best kept secret prior to the big Cedar Fire in 2003.  Less than 40 miles from downtown San Diego is a thickly forested mountain showing off intense fall and spring color.
Nature Spares - The Big 2003 Cedar Fire Burnt almost all of Cuyamaca Forest Except Those Around the Lake
In the winter, Cuyamaca Mountains could be blanketed in snow. Yet, less than an hour away from it people could sun bathe in the sparkling sand of San Diego's beaches.
Cuyamaca in Snow
Sadly, in October of 2003, a novice hunter from West Covina, CA, got lost in the trails of Cuayamaca. He started a fire for rescuers to see him, ignoring the very strong Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds are Easterly winds that happen occasionally during the fall-winter months when the high desert in the East gets too cold. As the very cold air descends from the high mountains in the East, the air warms up. The coast, being at the basin (lower elevation) receives this warm and extremely dry Easterly wind. The extremely dry wind would readily sap moisture from things it passes that a little spark could cause BIG fire. Santa Ana wind is not the norm in Southern California because normally, the wind is coming from the chilly Pacific Ocean. What a very tragic coincidence that the hunter got lost at the time of extremely strong Santa Ana wind. He ignored the strong force of nature that resulted to a massive wildfire that burnt almost all of the forest in Cuyamaca, more than 2000 homes and killed 15 people including one firefighter. That one mistake became the biggest and most catastrophic wildfire in San Diego and California history. 
Spared Forest Around the Lake
But somehow, nature spares. The massive "human started" wildfire, spared the forest around Lake Cuyamaca. The spared forest reminds men of how much nature's beauty was lost. How our fragile Mother Earth needs us to help keep and preserve her beauty. Since I was not yet in San Diego at 2003, sadly, I was not able to see this mountain at its best, before the wildfire. However, what was left by the fire touches me deeply. 
Seeing how nature comes back after a scorching fire reminds me strongly, that WE, just like nature, may fall, may get scorched by our own trials, YET, we could always pick up the pieces to MOVE ON with life. 
Now, let me move on to the hikes in Cuyamaca, after all, this series is about my top ten favorite San Diego hikes. The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has over 100 miles of trail being one of California's largest State Parks. There are several interconnecting trails in the Cuyamacas, however, the most accessible probably are the trails by the Paso Picacho Campground.
Trails @ Paso Picacho:
1. Stonewall Peak - 4.5 miles round trip, 850 ft ascent/descent.
@ Stonewall Peak
2. Cuyamaca Peak - 5.5 miles round trip, 1650 ft ascent/descent.
Rolling Hills Topography Around Cuyamaca Peak
3. Stonewall Creek- 8.2 miles, 1050 ft ascent/descent
Stonewall Mine @ Stonewall Creek Loop Trail, California's most productive Gold mine 
( in 1893, $2,000,000 of gold mined in this site only with a 30 ft shaft - and that $2,000,000 was 117 years ago)
The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has probably dozens of protected archaeological sites such as the Stonewall Mine. In our hikes, we had seen some of the many bedrock milling sites from a long time ago. However, we only saw golden autumn leaves, not the gold that would make us rich, haha! :)
The "Gold" We Found At Cuyamaca
Hiking @ the many trails of Cuyamaca
Pro: Cuyamaca is another quiet mountain escape, just like Palomar Mountain State Park. In addition to being a quiet mountain escape, this mountain borders the desert. One will experience the remarkable contrast of a mountain and its rain shadow desert at Cuyamaca. Wildlife abounds in the park.
 Woodpecker Ready to Hide His/her Acorn
Turkey Vulture
Con: just like Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca is not too close to the city. Though less than 40 miles from downtown, but the windy road would make the drive about 40-50 minutes from downtown San Diego. However, this con could also be a pro for those who prefers a true mountain escape.  
 Collection of Photos of Hubby and Me @ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Though we never found gold in our hikes in Cuyamaca Rancho State Parks, but the joy within each time we experience its healing power, is worth more than gold. Simply PRICELESS! :) Let me end this post with a quote from John Muir,
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” - by John Muir
Nature Heals....Nature Spares! That is the message that strongly speaks to me each time we see the coming back of life at Cuyamaca! 

#9- Palomar Mountain State Park
#8 - Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Next, the number 7 in my list!  Do you think you can guess now what would be my top 1 and top 2? 
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  1. "Seeing how nature comes back after a scorching fire reminds me strongly, that WE, just like nature, may fall, may get scorched by our own trials, YET, we could always pick up the pieces to MOVE ON with life."

    very well said Beth. i love how you always connect nature's lessons in real life.

    nature heals as time heals all wounds...

  2. "nature heals" i like the phrase. this is the reality that people must be aware of. though nature can heal itself, we should not abuse its usage. thus, conservation is a must and responsible thing to do.

    as always, beautiful photos. i like the colors of the foliage.

  3. You are so blessed to have the opportunity to explore the beautiful nature!

  4. Nature Heals....Nature Spares......

    This is so right.

  5. Thank you for the tour, enjoyed it so much. Nature Heals.. Nature Spares.. but also know how to bring havoc when abused.. Glad they were able to preserve the place and its natural beauty..

  6. natures heals, natures spares...very true! even if you was not able to see gold that will make you rich, you've just seen more than gold seeing those beauty around...you're lucky and blessed! love those bird shots, and collage of your pictures...its lovely. :)

  7. what a treat! thanks for sharing these wonderful photos....:)

  8. Going for hike without knowledge of the surrounding can really lead to accident or unavoidable circumstances.
    You and your husband must be so good on hiking. Cuyamaca is one amazing place even after the tragic incident way back 2003.

  9. i wish to experience that snow thing..lovely and beautiful nature

  10. Wow! San Diego has a lot to offer! :)

  11. Thanks for the breathtaking online tour once more, Teh Betchai. Your every post about San Diego makes me yearn more and more to go visit the place one day. Wishful thinking with dreamy, dreamy eyes :-)

    With all the lovely sights in your sight of the world, I wouldn't even try of making a wild guess for your TOp 1 and 2 pick. I just know they simply are the best so I just have to stay tuned for that :-)

  12. So did the guy ever got rescued? It sounded like what he thought was going to save him -one person, turned out to harm so many people and nature. ugh...
    I do know of a place like this close to Palm Springs, you can be in shorts, but when you get to the top, there is snow everywhere on the mountains, yet it was quite warm still. The wonders of California!

  13. those experiences are more than a gold find Ms Beth.
    California, California... you should be in my itinerary