Friday, December 25, 2015

Stonewall Peak Hike (Cuyamaca Rancho State Park)

After we left Sacramento, we started working our way south, first to San Diego for two weeks (and later, moving on to Tucson, Arizona, for the Winter). While in San Diego, my sister Jennifer and her friend Mike took us on a hike in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, located 40-miles east of San Diego in the Laguna Mountains of the Peninsular Ranges. We hiked the second highest peak in the park, Stonewall Peak, which is part of the Cuyamaca Mountains, and rises to 5700 feet. (Our hike began at an elevation of 4800 feet, so our elevation gain was around 900 feet only.) The park was closed for several months due to massive damage incurred in the 2003 Cedar fire, and there was still lots of evidence of this fire along our hiking trail among the pine, fir, and oak forests. We hiked two miles of switchback trails, sometimes through patches of snow from an early season storm, to arrive at the peak to take in the incredible views from the top. To the south is the drainage area for the Sweetwater River and glimpses of northern Mexico; west is the main ramparts of the Cuyamaca Mountains, and glimpses of San Diego County’s interior; north is Palomar Mountain (home to the Palomar Observatory), Lake Cuyamaca, North Peak, and parts of the nearby town of Julian; to the east is Anza Borrego’s high country, including Granite Mountain and Whale Peak. We were there on a crystal clear day and took in the view for a while before making our way back down. Being December, the day was short, and the sun was beginning to set rather quickly – bringing both long shadows and a discernible chill to the air. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sacramento, California (Family Times)

The thing that calls us back to Sacramento is family! During our four month stay in the area, we did our best to see the kids and grandkids as much as possible. We went to pool parties, and soccer games; tennis matches and dance lessons; cross-country meets and a winery. We shared Thanksgiving with those who could be in the same place at the same time. We wanted to squeeze in as many memories (and pictures!) as we could to carry us over to our next visit. Here, in no particular order, are some snapshots from our most recent Sacramento stay.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Mt. Tamalpais

Our traveling and touring relaxed considerably the second half of 2015 as we chose to slow our pace and spend extended time with family. First, a month in San Diego to visit with my sister, before moving north to Sacramento for four months to be near our children, grandchildren, siblings, and extended family. This was a lovely time to reconnect, catch up, and get much needed bonding time with the little ones – lest they forget who their nomadic grandparents are!

Dan and I love to hike, and one of our favorite places to hike is Mt. Tamalpais. Mt. Tam (as many refer to the mountain) is just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate and rises to 2,571 feet at the summit. From the summit on a clear day, visitors can see the Farallon Islands 25-miles out to sea, the Marin County hills, San Francisco and the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, hills and cities of the East Bay, and Mount Diablo. On rare occasions, the Sierra Nevada's snow-covered mountains can be seen 150 miles away. More than 50-miles of trails crisscross the park, taking you up and down ravines, across meadows and above the fog layer. Our favorite route is the Matt Davis-Steep Ravine loop that begins and ends at Stinson Beach. The 8-mile loop features a bit of everything, with waterfalls, coastal redwood, Douglas fir, and oak forests, grassland, canyons, and views galore.

The day Dan and I hiked it this year (the end of September) was a bit on the cool side, with clouds and low fog obscuring most of the anticipated views. But much of the moisture burned off by the time we were wrapping up, and we were lucky enough to get a birds eye of Stinson Beach. My sister and I took another hike here in mid-November, and couldn’t have asked for better weather. Clear blue skies, cool but not cold, and panoramic views abounded. The one thing I did notice this year was how the drought has impacted the area, with visible impact in the Muir woods forest floor growth, and the diminished streams and waterfalls. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for more rain this year!