Navy Seals at Mt. Laguna: August 9-12, 2021

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A Navy Seal candidate in Mt. Laguna.  (Photo from the internet.) 

The Navy Seals do land navigation training at Mt. Laguna! Who knew? We certainly didn’t. It’s the third and final phase of Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training. While we were biking we kept seeing young men in full military fatigues with heavily loaded backpacks. One evening two of them were walking through the campground so I asked, “What’s up? What are you guys doing?”  His response was, “Land nav.” Amelia asked if it was fun. The first guy said, “No.” The second guy was dragging and didn’t say anything.  At this point we still didn’t know who these guys were.

We were also seeing super fit guys in dark blue t-shirts. They didn’t seem approachable, so we didn’t really ask them a bunch a questions. Later we found out they were the Seal instructors.

On our last day of riding there was a commotion in the meadow with a Sheriff’s helicopter. We couldn’t tell if it was a rescue or a training. The guy we were talking to while watching the helicopter was very knowledgeable, and we assumed he was just a hiker.  We told him about all the young guys doing land nav. He said yeah, he was one of the instructors. So naturally I asked why he wasn’t in a dark blue t-shirt like all the other guys. His response was, “It makes it too easy for them to see me.” He’s been a Seal for twenty years and answered all our questions. He was one of those guys you could easily talk to for hours. Our brief conversation was quite fascinating.

 

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We are finally at the age where we have a twirly pinwheel! The Meadow loop of the Laguna Campground is very nice. The only downside is cell reception is sketchy at best.

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Nail in the tire!  Buzzkill! It’s such an inconvenience. My muscle mass is definitely diminishing. It was like a wrestling match changing the tire. Nothing like driving around without a spare! At least it wasn’t on the Airstream.

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Mt. Laguna Observatory, established in 1968, owned and operated by San Diego State University at 6,100 feet elevation.

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Gorgeous afternoon, the meadow was about fifty yards from our campsite.

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This cool guy was camping.

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So were these two cool guys.

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Prickly Poppy

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Big Sagebrush, really, I’m not joking, that’s the name of the plant, Big Sagebrush.

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We did the short hike up to Garnet Peak.

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Amelia spotted a Horny Toad on the way up. This little guy was about three inches long.

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Amelia at the summit. It’s only 5,900 feet, but the views are magnificent. We experienced it on a rare calm day. Usually it’s one of the windiest spots in San Diego County.

360 degree views

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California Goldenrod

 

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Mountain Mahogany

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A midnight storm equals hero dirt the next morning! Tacky, not dusty, and the best dirt to ride on.

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Helicopter commotion in the meadow

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Dang! I was going to make a nice slow cooker chili. 😭

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Adios Laguna Meadow

Big Bear: July 12-16, 2021

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Amelia killing it on Grays Peak Trail on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear, Mammoth, South Lake Tahoe, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Durango, and Steamboat Springs: they are all touristy little mountain towns with the same cast of characters living a fraught and resentful symbiotic relationship. There are locals, the vacation homeowners, and regular tourists.  Go into the grocery store and you can easily lump everyone you see into one of the three groups.  It’s really obvious.

Big Bear is in the San Bernardino Mountains, about three towing hours away from our house. Yes readers not from SoCal, we have mountains. And they are quite rugged and steep.  The San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains are the two main ranges in SoCal.

And here is where I admit that this is only the third time I’ve been to Big Bear.  The last two times were in the 70s.  That’s what happens when your younger brother moves to Mammoth in the early 80s.  Mammoth became the focal point.  Mammoth folk, including yours truly, looked down upon and even scoffed at Big Bear.

Now at sixty-one years old, looking back, man, we had a lot of dumb notions.

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Or as our friend calls it, Fartin Blats, is where we stayed. It’s actually a really nice National Forest Service campground. The downside is it’s close to the main road, Highway 38, and a long thirty minutes from Big Bear.

Glamour shot and reality. We couldn’t believe how close the dumpsters were. It really wasn’t an issue though since the campground was more empty than full the entire time.

 

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California Primrose: there were a few of these beauties scattered around the campground.

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It looks like a forest to me.

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The Skyline Trail: a popular South Shore ride. All the trails we hit in the Big Bear area were excellent.

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Grinnell’s Beardtongue

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This is the upper part of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART). It was accessible from our campground. Some sections were quite sketchy with the trail eroded in the corners with long steep drops. I was by myself without a soul in sight, so I cut the ride short. I like to think I’m getting smarter in my old age.

Blue Sage: an aromatic plant. Once you got a whiff of it there was no doubt it was a sage.

 

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Drought stricken Jenks Lake: this was a nice mile and a half hike from camp.

 

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Free high pressure hot showers, no dogs allowed.

 

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The showers might’ve been free, but they wanted ten bucks to dump! And that’s after paying thirty three dollars a night. Some smart guy invented this contraption. Once you pay your ten bucks you have sixty seconds to open the sewer cap, so you better be ready or it will close on you and you’ll be S.O.L.

 

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Big Bear Lake view from Grays Peak

Mt. Laguna: June 23-25, 2021

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Sweet single track in Laguna Meadow.

Sometimes we fail to appreciate our own backyard.  We just kind of take it for granted, or perhaps worse, forget about it.

Our local mountains are beautiful, yet this was only our second camping trip there.  That’s going to change.  The scenery is magnificent.  The single track biking trails are fast and flowy.  Mid week the crowds are minimal and here’s the kicker, it’s only sixty miles away! A mere seventy-five minute drive.

We reserved three sites in the Lilac Loop of Burnt Rancheria campground for R, Jen & Ang, and ourselves. It was like the good old days, socializing unmasked.  The five of us ate breakfasts and dinners together, played card games, Chinese checkers, and had a few drinks.

San Diego County, what an amazing place: mountains, desert, beaches, and even another country all just a short drive away.

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Ok, let’s get this pic out of the way before we get to all the beautiful scenery shots. What the heck is going on here? This was on the bathroom stall door. Amelia said it’s an actual thing.

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Site 15, surrounded by Black Oaks and Jeffery Pines.

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A beach bum named R.

We saw more flowers than expected including the Montane Woolly-Star. .

The beautiful and appropriately named Summer Snow flower was in most of the shaded openings and as bright as snow.

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Amelia + single track = smiles for miles

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This memorial plaque is at Kwaaymii Point. Richard M Zadorozny died here in a paragliding accident. There are dozens of memorial plaques, but only a few of them are from deaths at this spot. Of all the locations for stunning views in San Diego County, Kwaaymii Point might just be the best. It’s located on the Sunrise Highway, mile marker 30.3.

Kwaaymii Point video

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Strawberry Moon: the last super moon of 2021

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The land is Cleveland National Forest, so it’s common to see cows grazing in the pasture. Sometimes you just have to be patient while they pass. They haven’t harmed the trails yet, but beware there are plenty of fresh cow patties.

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I went out at seven in the morning for a quick solo ride before we left. It was pristine, chilly, and magical.

Subaru Road Trip: June 11-13, 2021

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Snow Plant aka Snow Flower, Tahoe Rim Trail

This is the first time since we’ve had the Airstream that we’ve taken a road trip without it. Our niece was getting married in Minden, Nevada. Normally, this time of the year Amelia would be out of school, and we’d make the wedding a part of a longer Airstream trip. The pandemic changed all of that, and school started two weeks late. So, we blasted up in the Subaru on Friday. Then Sunday morning, we pulled the southbound hammer down routine back to San Diego.

Boy, oh boy is it different not towing. It’s less stressful, but you aren’t traveling with a kitchen so you make poor food choices and eat out too much. I never seem to sleep well in a hotel room and they are not cheap, but the gas mileage on the Subaru is three times better. Like everything in life, there’s pluses and minuses. We prefer the Airstream. It’s comforting having your second home with you.

It took a lot of sweet-talking, but I convinced Amelia we should bring our bikes.  How could we drive past Lower Rock Creek and also be in the Tahoe area and not ride?

We saw our first Fuck Biden bumper sticker while in Nevada. Of course, it was on a big pick-up truck with a lift kit. The woman driving it looked bitter and angry, no doubt pissed off that Biden stole the election. She’s probably counting the days till Trump gets reinstated to the presidency in August. I wonder what her and her pals are going to do when that doesn’t happen…hopefully not have another insurrection. Unfortunately, one thing is fairly certain, they will believe the next lie told to them.

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Geeking out on our reflection at the Crystal Geyser plant in Olancha, California.

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Mulholland and his pals sure did a number to the Owens Valley. If you haven’t read or seen the Cadillac Desert, it’s worth checking out. It details how Los Angeles got the water. I’ll never get used to seeing City of Los Angeles Private Property signs three hundred miles from Los Angeles.

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The bottom of the second leg of Lower Rock Creek. That road is the old 395 between Paradise and the top of the Sherwin Summit.

 

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The start

 

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Such a beautiful trail.

 

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Amelia wasn’t too happy about the climb, but as you can see from her smile, the descent made her super happy.

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We stopped for a picnic along the Walker River with the new Playmate cooler! I still feel horrible about ruining her original one on our last trip, but this one works so much better.
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The beautiful Walker River

Carson Valley Inn, second floor. If you can’t have fun, what can you do?

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I bet she’s got some Glen Campbell stories. RIP Glen


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Amelia on the Tahoe Rim Trail


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Scenic Lake Tahoe


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Snow Plant: a flowering springtime parasitic plant that derives nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to tree roots. What a treat to see so many of them.

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The happy newlyweds: Jackson and Alex


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Father daughter dance. It was truly a special moment.

Wildflowers of Rancho Bernardo: April 15, 2021

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California Poppies

This year the desert was a complete bust for wildflowers. Much of the Southwest is in a severe drought.  San Diego’s rainfall is below average for the season.  However, we still received enough rain for a pretty decent wildflower display…if you know where to look!

All these pictures were taken on a 1.4 mile hike in the San Dieguito River Park by Lake Hodges in Rancho Bernardo. And of course, with my trusty iPhone 7.

Enjoy the beauty of nature!

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Goldfields

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Field of Goldfields

Bushmallow

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Purple Owl’s Clover

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Golden Yarrow

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Baby Blue Eyes

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Johnny Jump-Up

 

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Prickly Popcorn Flower

 

Bush Sunflower

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Purple Nightshade

 

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California Sun Cup

 

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Caterpillar Phacelia

 

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Deerweed

 

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A dying Blue Dick.

 

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Common Sun Rose

 

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A lonely Cream-cup.

 

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Bush Rue

 

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Fiddleneck

 

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California Milkweed

 

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Yellow Bush-Penstemon and my big paw.

 

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Wild Canterbury Bells

 

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Here’s the last one! Something I’ve never seen before, Chinese Houses.

Spring Break ’21 Amboy Crater: April 1-2

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Amboy Crater

Friends have been asking us, “Where’s Amboy Crater?” My smart-ass answer is always Amboy! It’s actually south of the I-40 between Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. You get to drive on Route 66 for a little bit! It’s a nice free one night stop.  It’s also a really good for stargazing.  All the clouds cleared out and at 10pm it was a spectacular celestial display.

On our way home we drove through a little community called Wonder Valley. That was a real eye opener….

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It was just us and another guy in a little Casita trailer. We never even said hello to each other. He was definitely throwing off the “I’m not social” vibe.

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From the Airstream it was a half mile on road to the trailhead. Then we did four miles on a dirt path getting to and from the crater as well as exploring the inside and the rim.

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Make no doubt about it, it gets hot here in the summer.

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A closer view

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It reminded us of Craters of the Moon National Monument.

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The ubiquitous piece of toilet paper 😢

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Inside the crater

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This put a smile on the heart rock collector’s face.

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We walked half way around the rim. There are rumors that occasionally a Marine chopper pilot from Twenty Nine Palms will land in the crater at night.

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Western Fence Lizard

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Looking east from the rim.

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Finally, a decent sunset!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you freight trains run all day and night, so keep that in mind before spending the night. It didn’t bother us though.