Finally I have some time off from doing home inspections and reports to tell you about my eight-mile mountain hike into the East County boondocks known as Lake Morena County Park and Cleveland National Forest.
This post is a little longer than the majority of my posts, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
I went hiking with the San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup Group. My experience with the group indicates that it is a bunch of urban city folks exploring the boondocks of San Diego County. Most of us were meeting at the Grantville Trolley Station, the third stop down from my neighborhood 70th Street Trolley Station.
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Since it was a Sunday when the Trolley schedule is abbreviated in the early morning, I made sure to get to the Trolley Station about an hour earlier than normal to make sure I caught a train and got to Grantville on time. Unfortunately, even thought I caught an 8:09 train, I only made it to the Alvarado Station before the conductor kicked everyone off the train. Seems that the brakes were not working properly. I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next Sunday morning train to come along. Here’s a picture of the brakeless train as it slowly limped out of the Alvarado Station, its three cars void of life as we know it:
We arranged carpools at the Grantville Station parking lot, left at about 9:15, and got to Lake Morena County Park around 10:15. Our goal was to get to the Lake Morena dam and some rumored caves. While we were checking in with the park ranger and paying our $3 parking fee, the ranger informed us not to go past the NO TRESSPASSING sign to get to the caves. Apparently some spelunkers had forewarned the park authorities that a group of non-spelunking hikers were planning to go to the caves. Drat. Don’t spelunkers have anything else to do other than rat us out and keep us from having fun?
The County Park misled me into believing that the hike would be easy with nice, wide, paved trails:
Ha! Eventually the paved trail gave way to a dirt trail that got smaller and smaller:
Did you see the trail in that last picture? Neither did I, and I was there! Fortunately, about 90% of the time I was able to keep at least one person in sight in front of me; I was always dead last. I did get lost twice but eventually found my way back to the trail. Here is that last picture with a couple of red arrows pointing at two people on the trail. Everyone else was far far far ahead of me.
I see you, I see you. I’m coming, I’m coming.
At the top of the mountain peaks, the views were spectacular, especially the boulders:
Near the top of one of the buttes was a vernal pool, which at least one dog was enjoying:
And at the top was a big rock that I would have climbed on in my much younger days to look down at the valley a thousand feet below us:
You can see a bronze plaque on the big rock that the three guys are sitting on. Looks like this:
I tried to find out the story behind that plaque but there doesn’t seem to be any information in my books or on the Internet. Too bad. I think KMR and JDE should be known to all!
There is a plaque in Lake Morena County Park that does have a well-known story:
That plaque commemorates the rainmaking exploits of pluviculturist Charles Hatfield (ca. 1875-1958). In 1915, San Diego was in the midst of a four-year drought. Hatfield was known throughout Southern California as a successful rainmaker with his secret mixture of 23 chemicals in evaporating tanks that, according to him, “attracted rain.”
The San Diego City Council approached Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield offered to produce rain for free up to forty inches and then charge $1,000 per inch for forty to fifty inches and then free again for anything over fifty inches. In other words, $10,000 for fifty inches or more, payable when the reservoir was full. Hatfield and his brother, Paul, built a 20-foot evaporating tower beside Lake Morena for the chemical mixture.
On January 5, 1916, it began to rain heavily, growing more intense day by day. Dry riverbeds started flooding, and floodwaters destroyed bridges, phone cables, homes, and farms. Trains were marooned, and the Sweetwater Dam and Lower Otay Lake Dam overflowed. Although rain ceased on January 20, it resumed on January 22, and on January 27 the Lower Otay Dam broke, killing between 14 and 20 people depending on whose accounts you read.
Although Hatfield had fulfilled the requirements of his contract, the City Council refused to pay unless Hatfield accepted liability for damages; claims already were north of three million dollars, quite a sum in 1916. Hatfield tried to settle for $4,000 but wound up suing the Council. Two trials resulted in rulings that the rain was an act of God. Hatfield continued at least one lawsuit until 1938 when two courts ruled that the rain was an act of God, absolving him of any wrongdoing but also meaning that he would not collect any money for making it rain.
Charles Hatfield has entered American folklore in many ways:
Gerry Jenkins wrote about the incident in his book
Wizard of Sun City.
The 1916 flood at Lake Morena is the subject of Widespread Panic’s song “Hatfield.”
Burt Lancaster starred in the 1956 film “The Rainmaker,” inspired by the true story of Hatfield.
Hatfield’s “moisture acceleration” was central to the plot of
T. Jefferson Parker’s 2007 book “Storm Runners.”
Joshua Davis, lead singer of Steppin’ In It, wrote a song about “The Weatherman” called “Charles Hatfield Blues.”
You might have noticed that Lake Morena County Park is out in Cleveland National Forest. You might also be wondering where the trees are if it’s a National Forest. Well, 90% of the trees look like this:
That’s a Manzanita, prevalent throughout the Southern California boondocks. It has beautiful red bark and lovely purple flowers.
Unfortunately, Manzanita, which can get as tall as twenty feet, are quite flammable, so when next you hear about wildfires in Southern California, you’ll know what’s burning in the boondocks. Wildfires are something that those who live in the Southern California boondocks have to put up with:
The other ten percent of trees in the boondocks are Coast Live Oaks (also called California Live Oak) and pine trees. Occasionally you’ll find a huge pine tree, the Coulter Pine:
The Coulter Pine can grow to eighty feet tall, but the defining characteristic of this tree is its huge pine cones which can get to 16 inches long and weigh up to ten pounds. Although it’s illegal to take stuff out of National Forests, whenever someone finds these pine cones, they tend to take one with them. I didn’t find any on the ground (I already have one that I bought at a store in Julian) but here’s one still on the tree:
Although we did not get to the caves, we did get to a nice vista point above the dam:
Lastly, yours truly above the Morena Dam:
We were in the boondocks for five hours. There was so much to see that five hours was rushing it. Will have to go back……..
For previous pictures from this mountain hike, see I can see for miles and miles and Need ID help from my bird experts.
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