San Diego – Cuyamaca Rancho Park

On travel for work?  Got that rare day off?  Get outside, run.  Run away before they change their minds.  They know where you live, it’s how they pay you.  Run!

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, about a hour or so east of San Diego depending on whether you exceed the posted speed limit.  The park itself is massive and you could spend weeks there without seeing it all.  I had a day.

I did no research other than just to drive to the park.  The state highway snakes through it and you can get off at various campgrounds, trails, etc.

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Stonewall Peak.  One of the greatest feelings on the planet is to see a mountain and you’re like, “I want to climb that.”  So you do.  A campground sits at the base, you can park there for ten bucks or so with the park rangers.  It’s two miles up and two miles down.  It’s not too difficult if you regularly hike.  I did some other shorter hikes off the highway, but this was the longest and best part.

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The climb for the most part is a series of switchback trails carved into the side of the mountain.

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After a while you get the creepy idea that this place burned in the past.  Turns out I was right.

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In 2003 a lost hiker lit a signal fire in Cuyamaca Rancho and started one of the largest wildfires in California history, which is saying something.  Nearly the entire park burned including just about every long growth tree.

Once upon a time, the firefighters of the American West were dedicated to putting out every fire no matter how natural, no matter where it was.  This was a mistake.  It allowed decades worth of growth to accumulate into the forests.  Nature needs fire.

A forest of the West needs to burn as part of the natural progression of its ecosystem.  It cleans out brush, certain species of plant need the flames to reproduce, etc, etc.  By putting out every fire folks got in the way of this.

So when Cuyamaca Rancho burned for the first time in like five decades.  It burned hot and massive.  If you have a wildfire once every ten years or so, the ecosystem can recover.  That’s the way it’s meant to be.

But it seems when it burns once in a century, that the system can’t recover.  They’ve waited for Cuyamaca Rancho to regrow for these near 15 years and it’s become clear that some species aren’t coming back.  They were wiped out by the intensity of the flames.  So the park service has begun replanting by hand instead.

When you hear people talk about allowing natural wildfires pay attention.  This stuff is important.  It’s also why some folks who build brand new swanky houses up in the forests and then demand the state protect them are in many cases actually doing their surrounding forests genuine harm.

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Stonewall Peak and the nearby abandoned mine were named after Jackson by former Confederate veterans who’d come out West after the war.  What a tale some of those lives must have been.

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Immune to fire.

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At the summit.  The folks who put this up here were the real deal.  They got to the top before proper trails, before online park maps, and so on.

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Just one hill among many.  So much else to see.

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Wisconsin – Kettle Moraine Forest

We’re back, after an unexplained 13 week absence. During that time we had the pleasure of enduring work, more work, a visit with a self-described crypt-keeper-leprechaun, some more work, and we fought a dragon. Now we’re back to mindlessly telling stories and share the breadth of humanity’s experiences. Because it’s what we do. Side note: don’t ever fight a dragon. This was a bad choice.

Anyways, as part of their desire to endlessly prove their incompetence, I ended up in Milwaukee again for work a whole day early. Rather than tool around downtown again I decided to venture out away from the concrete. So I planned a hike through Kettle Moraine Forest, Lapham Peak Unit. It’s about a half hour drive west of Milwaukee via I-94.

I hiked the Moraine Ridge trail which they clock at 6.6 miles. I broke with my usual practice and didn’t carry any weight. I even left the boots aside and just used my running shoes. I was just too tired to get crazy with anything.

I saw something new in that all the trails are actually made for cross country skiing. In most places the paths are cut through the woods with a very wide diameter. It’s weird. Though they probably don’t have any choice for skiing.

When I was there it was still the end of winter, only the very barest of green saplings were beginning to appear.

The various trails constantly cross each other at multiple points.  Accordingly, the park unit labels each intersection and provides an updated map.  Beyond that they don’t really label the trails at all.  I had to check multiple times to ensure I didn’t take a wrong turn.  Even so, I did actually take the wrong way once and had to backtrack.

Dude is glad winter is ending.

There were many other folks on the trails, but I would not call them crowded.  Like a dummy I dropped my gloves and had to go back and get them at one point.  A couple put them where I could see them after finding them on the ground.  I passed them later and they were happy to see I’d found them.  I thanked them, though was a bit embarrassed.  I was a nice human moment.  I think they were Quebecois.

According to the trail marker, the Native Americans that used to inhabit the park grounds bent these trees on purpose as their own markers.  This one marked the way to a water source.  Here is another example.

Note the difference between the trees just emerging from winter, and the pine trees who laugh at winter.

I didn’t time myself, I stopped here and there.  Again, I was tired to begin with so it didn’t matter.  But I had a great time.  It was a good release from paperwork and all the stuff that doesn’t actually matter.  So nature did it’s job.  Hail nature.

what is that?

Do you ever go through your camera’s memory, and you’re like, “what the hell is that shot?”  This doesn’t happen to me often, mostly because I don’t take many pictures.  But it sure happened here.  I had to conduct detailed forensic analysis to find out where they flowers came from.

And by detailed, I mean beer assisted.

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It’s at my Parents place.  I can tell by the sliver of brick on the right, which is the side of their house, and the touch of concrete on the left which is their walkway.  It took me forever to figure this out due to:

a) beer

b) the Where’s Waldo of the brick hiding in the lower right of the shot beneath the shadows laid by the plant

For those of you who are a bit young, Where’s Waldo is the most popular smartphone app of 1982.

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I’m going to have to show these to Mi Ma in a few days and ask her what these are.

peppers unto happiness

My Brother gave me a Thai red pepper plant last spring because he is well aware that I like spicy cooking that melts my brain.  Unfortunately I travel so much for work and have so little direct sunlight into my place that the plant didn’t reach full quality this year.  Maybe next year if I leave it outside.  But I took three smallish peppers to cook with tonight before I leave again for work tomorrow and through the weekend.

 

Thai pepper

I yanked a pair of Indian recipes off Saveur so we’ll see how this goes.  I’m cautious but looking forward to trying some new techniques.

 

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As you can see, the addition of four random habaneros should tell you how wrong my Bro was about my preferred level of spiciness.  I also have all those usual Indian dry spices.  And some cayenne, which I have sitting atop a spice pedestal under a white light ready for action.

 

But the below is his work, both in terms of growing, photos, and bottling.  He’s above my level of pepper awesomeness.  I’ll try and get there.

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bottles

His peppers are: “Ghost, Thai, Scorpion, Choc. S.B., Trinidad Perfume, 1 Reaper”

His bottling is a Caribbean recipe.