Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Out and About in San Diego County

We're making the most of our extended stay in San Diego. Along with helping out our parents we are visiting with old friends, hiking favorite trails and exploring new ones.

On one postcard perfect spring day we had brunch with former neighbors Graham and Carol, attended Earth Fair in lovely Balboa Park and walked on Coronado beach...a quintessential spring day in San Diego!

Fabulous brunch feast with Graham and Carol before heading to Earth Fair.

Earth Fair is held in Balboa Park every year for Earth Day and has grown over the years to cover most of this enormous park. There are displays devoted to every possible aspect of environmental awareness, plus the usual food and junk booths we see at every fair. I'll spare you photos of the variety of booths but will say that the people watching was fantastic, there were plenty of useful freebies and we enjoyed seeing the latest in environmentally progressive living, plus Balboa Park is always a nice place for a stroll.

Succulent Peace.

Hans under attack by the giant cactus monster!

Balboa Park's rose garden was at its peak.

Acres of stunning blooms!

Seen at the World Beat Center...
Drumming and hooping at World Beat Center.
The perfect end to a gorgeous spring day in San Diego: a walk on Coronado Beach.

We've had a few unseasonably hot days this spring, with temps hitting 90 degrees in the inland valleys, so one lovely week day we headed to the Laguna Mountains with Martin, Estella and Chelsea to hike the Sunset Trail.

With minimal elevation gain, a combination of shady forest and wide open views, granite boulders and a couple of ponds, the Sunset Trail and Big Laguna Trails are just an hour from San Diego and offer a nice escape from the city heat (it's 20 degrees cooler in the local mountains).

This pond is about one third full but we were happy to see any water in it due to the long drought.

Big views of Laguna Meadow.

Goofing around on the rocks with Big Laguna "Lake" in the distance.

Big Laguna "Lake".

In a city full of craft breweries it stands to reason that just about everyone must know a brewer, right? Our friends Martin and Estella happen to be neighbors with one of the newest brewers in town, Mike Maass of Burning Beard Brewing. We checked out their tasting room in El Cajon one evening and really enjoyed the robust Holy the Voyd Coffee Stout on nitro and Rye the Lightning Pale Ale.

Chris the brewer, Mike the co-founder, Martin, Estella and Hans.

One of the local weekly magazines, the San Diego Reader, features a hiking story each week. After living in San Diego for many years I am always surprised to discover a new place to hike. Crestridge Ecological Preserve is just such a place brought to our attention by The Reader.

We hiked a few of its 15 miles of trails which took us through rolling chaparral covered hills alongside avocado groves (both alive and dead), through oak groves shading morteros in granite indicating how lush this must have been at one time with a creek flowing and native people living here.

Local sculptor and architect James Hubbell built this straw bale visitor shelter.

James Hubbell mosaic sculpture.

This wide road/trail took us alongside avocado groves at times and provided expansive views
across the chaparral covered hills.

Our extended stay in San Diego allowed Hans' band, The Sand Devils, to play another gig. This one was a private party at Sand Devils guitarist Ran's new house in celebration of his new home tiki bar: The Reverb Cavern. Thanks Ran and Dale for hosting a fantastic party!

Lots of fun details cover every inch of this fantastic tiki room.

Mixologist Ran behind his new tiki bar.

The Sand Devils playing poolside.

Another excellent surf band, The Insect Surfers, played as well.

As you can see, it's no hardship to spend spring in San Diego!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Springtime in Poway, CA

We've spent the last week and a half in our favorite driveway site in Poway, CA courtesy of Hans' brother and sister-in-law. This is the first time we've parked here in the spring and we've enjoyed the bountiful bougainvillea blooms, the trees in the canyon full of leaves and bird song all day long...we are so fortunate to have this space available to us!

Gorgeous springtime driveway parking in Poway!

Iron Mountain is a popular hiking area in Poway (a suburb of San Diego). The main Iron Mountain trail is always crowded so we usually hike the Ellie Lane section; we love its relative solitude, steep workout among giant granite boulders, and terrific views of north east San Diego county.

Everything is incredibly green this year because we've had a decent amount of rain.
It's wonderful to see water in this stock pond which has been dry for a couple of years.

Hans, Bentley, Valerie and Norm take a breather on this perfect spring day for a hike.

Another day we hiked Mt. Woodson, made famous in recent years for its Potato Chip Rock. The last time we hiked here was over the winter holidays and this difficult trail was mobbed with young people who waited in line 20 or 30 deep to get a photo on Potato Chip Rock! We swore we'd never hike it during a holiday again.

This is a 7.5 mile out-and-back strenuous climb from Lake Poway with no shade so when a cool weekday opportunity came along we hit the trail. We enjoyed green chaparral covered hillsides dotted with spring flowers, gorgeous views and only a handful of people wanting photos on Potato Chip Rock...a perfect day on the trail!

There is no easy way up or down Potato Chip Rock,
good grippy hiking shoes make it possible to scale the granite surface.

It's not graceful but I made it!

The three young girls on the right were taking so much time trying to figure out how to get over to the Chip
that I just blasted my way on up during their indecision!

Fantastic views of the clouds receding to the north as we made our way back down the mountain.

Lake Poway surrounded by spring flowers.
Monday and Tuesday the lake is closed to fishing and boating so it's quite peaceful.

On one of our trips to Point Loma to visit my parents we made a stop at Liberty Station to check out the much hyped new Liberty Public Market. Liberty Station is an incredible repurposing of the former Naval Training Center which originally opened its doors to naval recruits in 1923.

In 2000 the city of San Diego took over this landmark property and built a variety of housing options and park space around the existing historical buildings. Retail and arts businesses have gone into the revitalized Spanish Colonial buildings, San Diego history is celebrated throughout the vast property as well.

The latest addition to this beautiful, vibrant center is Liberty Public Market (LPM). Similar to Seattle's Pikes Place Market or San Francisco's Ferry Market Building, LPM is a celebration of local San Diego vendors of specialty food and drink. It's easy to see why it's been a big hit since the day it opened.

Though smaller than the venues named above, LPM currently has a couple dozen stations of eclectic foods to order; meats, oils and produce to take home; and wine and beer bars for sipping. The outdoor patio is dog friendly and the surrounding park land and Liberty Station itself, is an inviting place for a stroll after a meal.

This is a wonderful use of the historic buildings of the former Naval Training Center.


Pasta anyone?

Dog friendly outdoor seating.

Today we move to Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve for a month. If all continues to go well with my moms health we'll head north from there for a summer in Orgeon. Though we've changed our plans to assist our parents this year, it's been a real pleasure to spend the spring in San Diego in a year that's had a good amount of rain, she's looking her very finest!

Giant Swallowtail seen at our awesome Poway driveway site.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park

On our return to San Diego we decided to spend a week at a new-to-us campground in San Diego's southern region: Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Perched on a bluff with views to the Pacific Ocean on the West and the beautiful hills of Bonita to the South, we had a very nice stay at this park.

Sweetwater Summit has about 100 camp sites. About half are huge full hookup sites, some long enough to hold any size rig plus multiple vehicles. The other half of the campground has water/electric sites and many of these sites include horse corrals. All sites have excellent separation.

There are 16 miles of trails (horses welcome), a playground, splash park (summer only), nice community building with an incredible view of Sweetwater Reservoir. Fishing is available on the weekends, public golf courses are very close by. Verizon signal is excellent.

Our site, #84, was at the end of the row with fantastic views...though almost any site at this park, especially in the full hookup section, will have expansive views. Though our site overlooked highway 125 about a quarter mile away, the highway is a toll road so it is not heavily used, thus it was reasonably quiet especially at night.

The full hookup sites are spread across a hillside offering good separation and fantastic views.

Our site #84.
We had tons of space for extra vehicles on both ends of the trailer.

View of our site from the other direction.
Many sites have better separation than this.

Our patio.
The partial hookup sites with horse corrals are in the trees in the distance.

View of the hills of Bonita from our front door.

The Sweetwater River Trail passes through the campground so we walked several sections of it during our stay. Though the river is no longer much of a "river" thanks to human manipulation over the past 100+ years, the corridor it passed through is a pretty swath of east San Diego County.

We walked the Sweetwater River Trail one morning, into the hills east of the campground.

Looking back at Sweeetwater Reservoir from the Sweetwater River Trail.
The campground is located out of sight at the top left of the reservoir.

The best part of our stay was meeting up with Jessica a former roommate of Hans' from many years ago. Jessica lives nearby and we were able to meet up with her a couple of days later for a bike ride.

Otay Lakes is a pair of reservoirs located just a few miles south east of Sweetwater Summit. Known for its use by the adjacent Olympic Training Center, the reservoirs also offer fishing, picnicking and some sweet, easy trails for hiking or mountain biking. We met Jessica at the Graffiti Dam and biked trails along both the upper and lower Otay Reservoirs.

Wonderful, mostly smooth single track trails make for a fun Sunday morning ride.
Otay Reservoirs are located on the edge of the developed area of San Diego's south county.

Grassy hills give way to scrappy eucalyptus trees along the reservoirs edge.

The trail has a couple of tight spots right through the eucalyptus.

Back at our starting point at Graffiti Dam we had to ride up a short paved hill
to access the trails around Upper Otay Reservoir.

Graffiti Dam.

Trails beyond the Upper Reservoir lead into wide meadows whose hillsides are topped with multi million dollar mansions.
The white dots in this and the next photo are protection for native seedlings.
This entire valley is undergoing habitat restoration.

Hans approaches Upper Otay Reservoir.

Though this area can be quite warm in the summer, a spring bike ride is absolutely gorgeous!

We walked along the Sweetwater River Trail west of the campground a couple of times. There's plenty of variety along this trail: a couple of public golf courses, a few horse corrals, riparian sections, and urban areas. It's a great place for urban walking that feels kind of like country.

Spring bloom at its peak along Sweeetwater River Trail.

Some glorious brush stroke clouds overhead.

We enjoyed our stay at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park and will likely stay here again on our annual San Diego stopover...it's good to have some variety in a place we visit often!

Next up: Back to our sweet driveway site in Poway, CA as we continue to assist our parents through some medical issues.