Monthly Archives: February 2013

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

So much to see, so little time

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

San Diego Trolley map from 70th Street to Grantville

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

San Diego Trolley at Grantville Station

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ha! Eventually the paved trail gave way to a dirt trail that got smaller and smaller:

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I see you, I see you. I’m coming, I’m coming.

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the top of the mountain peaks, the views were spectacular, especially the boulders:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Near the top of one of the buttes was a vernal pool, which at least one dog was enjoying:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Urban Exploration Meetup group

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You can see a bronze plaque on the big rock that the three guys are sitting on. Looks like this:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

  1. Gerry Jenkins wrote about the incident in his book
    Wizard of Sun City.
  2. The 1916 flood at Lake Morena is the subject of Widespread Panic’s song “Hatfield.”
  3. Burt Lancaster starred in the 1956 film “The Rainmaker,” inspired by the true story of Hatfield.
  4. Hatfield’s “moisture acceleration” was central to the plot of
    T. Jefferson Parker’s 2007 book “Storm Runners.”
  5. Joshua Davis, lead singer of Steppin’ In It, wrote a song about “The Weatherman” called “Charles Hatfield Blues.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Manzanita

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s a Manzanita, prevalent throughout the Southern California boondocks. It has beautiful red bark and lovely purple flowers.

Manzanita flowers

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Coulter Pine in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Pine cone from Coulter Pine

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Although we did not get to the caves, we did get to a nice vista point above the dam:

Morena Reservoir dam in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lastly, yours truly above the Morena Dam:

Russel Ray at Lake Morena County Park in Cleveland National Forest

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Polar bear at the San Diego Zoo

It’s International Polar Bear Day!

San Diego Zoo logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since today is International Polar Bear Day, I thought I’d share some of my best polar bear pictures from the San Diego Zoo and from SeaWorld San Diego.

Polar bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar Bear at SeaWorld San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar Bear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar bear at SeaWorld San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Polar bears are being significantly affected by global warming. Polar bears are marine mammals that need Arctic ice to survive. As the ice melts, creating sea ice platforms that are farther and father apart, the polar bears must swim farther to find their main food source, seals.

In the past twenty years, the ice-free period in Canada’s Hudson Bay has increased by an average of twenty days, cutting the polar bears’ seal hunting season by nearly three weeks. Not only is the ice freezing later in the fall, but it is melting earlier in the spring, creating a narrower time frame for polar bears to hunt during the seal pupping season. Polar bear weight has declined by an average of 15 percent, causing a decrease in reproduction rates as well.

Scientists have found drowned polar bears in the Arctic, something never seen before, and an indication that polar bears are not being successful in swimming so far to hunt for food. One female polar bear swam for nine days, nonstop-across the Beaufort Sea, before reaching an ice floe. The journey cost her 22% of her weight. Her little cub died during the journey.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Southern bald ibis at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Now you see it, now you don’t

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There are times when I don’t want to cook, such as National Margarita Day, Taco Tuesdays, and Endless Enchilada days at On The Border. Here’s what happened a couple of days ago on National Margarita Day:

Chips and salsa at On The Border

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grande Raspberry Swirl at On The Border

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Endless Enchiladas at On The Border

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Empty plate at On The Border

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Empty margarita glass at On The Border

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Jim’s and my favorite On The Border location is 103 Fletcher Parkway in El Cajon. We have been going to that one since 1999. Most everyone knows us there and almost before we can sit down (we’re always in the bar) our Grande Raspberry Swirl margaritas are on the table. Chips and salsa come next, and several of the wait staff know that we’re creatures of habit, ordering the same thing quite often. I’m kind of addicted to their enchiladas. The enchiladas in the picture above is one onion & cheese, one pulled chicken, and one shredded beef.

Our second favorite location is 1770 Camino del la Reina in Mission Valley. We have been going there since around 1995. The bar is smaller than the El Cajon location and the lines tend to be longer. That’s what happens to restaurants in Mission Valley.

Our third favorite location (I told you we liked On The Border!) is 298 East Via Rancho Parkway. We like this one because we can stop here either before or after going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Southern bald ibis at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lastly, our fourth favorite location is 10789 Westview Parkway in Mira Mesa. We tend not to go to this one because if we do, we sometimes wind up next door at Islands to have a Basket of Island Fries, Birds of Paradise (chicken breast sandwich; CA Flyer is my favorite with barbecue sauce and pepper jack cheese), and Mangoritas (mango margaritas)!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

I can see for miles and miles

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Wouldn’t you know it? I get back from three days of adventure —
11-mile bike ride, 15-mile bike ride, and an 8-mile mountain hike —
and everyone wants a home inspection. Don’t they know that I’m tired and sore? And now they want me to crawl under houses, into attics, and up on the rooftop like I’m Santa Claus? Ah, well, the money will pay for future adventures……………..

I have billions and billions and billions of pictures from the mountain hike, but since I’ve been doing home inspections and subsequent reports, I haven’t got them all cataloged yet. Nor do I have a story to go with the pictures, so I’ll just tease you a little with the following pictures of Lake Morena County Park out in Cleveland National Forest.

Lake Morena in Cleveland National Forest

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena is at about 3200 feet elevation. I believe we went to the top of Morena Butte which is at about 3900 feet elevation. The 700-foot elevation gain occurred over about a half mile, according to the maps. According to my body, the elevation gain occurred in about 100 feet. The views were magnificent, though. My brain, eyes, and mouth say it was worth it, the rest of my body not so much.

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In some areas there was white stuff on the ground. I have no idea what it is. Maybe someone can identify it for me. I’m hoping it’s not an invasive species.

Lake Morena County Park in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music on Mondays — Margaritaville, margarita pies, and margarita home

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Long-time readers know that I have a lot of music and that I listen to it in chronological order, from 1932 (my oldest recording) to the present. I have classical, pop, metal, alternative, country, opera…. Currently I’m in December 1989.

How appropriate, then, that the first song on my playlist after returning from an 8-mile mountain hike in the boondocks yesterday was “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” by Garth Brooks. Unfortunately, the original song is not on YouTube, just a bunch of bad cover versions and a couple of live versions by Brooks.

In keeping with the mountain hike theme, though, I’ll let you guess what I did when I got home:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And for those of you who would like to try something different, try a margarita pie. Maybe after a few margarita pies, you’ll be ready for a margarita home. Just $365,000! And right here in San Diego!

Margarita home

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bald eagle

Need ID help from my bird experts

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I believe I got a picture of a bald eagle out in the boondocks today. What do my bird experts think?

Bald eagle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My longest lens is a 300mm, not really good enough for serious birding, so that’s the best picture. Here are the other pictures I got; the slight differences might help with identification:

Bald eagle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bald eagle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Bald eagle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Tall ship in San Diego

How to get yourself good and tired… and sore

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

One of the great things about San Diego is that there are so many ways to get around:

San Diego Trolley

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Amtrak

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Cruise ship in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Tall ship in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Californian

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Jet ski

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those are just a few. Obviously there’s the ubiquitous car, motorcycle, and bus, too. So yesterday I traveled 11.1 miles and today another 15.1 miles, all on this:

Russel Ray's bike

Russel Ray’s bike

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yesterday’s ride was west, to the beach, specifically the end of the San Diego jetty where the San Diego River meets the Pacific Ocean and where a colony of fine, furry, four-legged felines live:

Feral cat at the San Diego jetty

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Today’s ride was east, into the boondocks, where the wildlife is a little more wild:

Bird in the wild

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Of course I have billions and billions and billions of pictures, but you’ll just have to wait because I am sore, sore, sore, needing a good soaking in the hot tub with a margarita close at hand.

And then, get this, the glutton for punishment that I am, I’m going on an 8-mile hike out in the boondocks tomorrow with the San Diego Urban Explorers, urbanites who explore the boondocks, not people who explore urbanity like you might think. Our goal tomorrow is to get to Lake Morena where, rumor has it (and in this case I discovered that the rumor is true), there are caves. Yahooo! Who knew there were caves in the San Diego County boondocks?!!

Morena Reservoir

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos