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

View Larger Map

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

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

28 thoughts on “So much to see, so little time

  1. pamtanzey

    Thank you for sharing your hike and the great pictures. I’ve never been out there and also didn’t know about the rainmaker. That’s an interesting piece of information!

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  2. valeriedavies

    Wonderful place,and wonderful pics. I was literally SPELL bound by the rainmakers story, we could do with that recipe over here badly, with the worst drought on record…
    Does anyone know what those chemicals were!!!!

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    Reply
  3. jumeirajames

    Great blog, and detailed.

    Your notes on ‘the rainmaking exploits of pluviculturist Charles Hatfield’ especially caught my attention.
    Its well known that where you get rain you get trees. It’s less well known that where you have trees you get rain. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two events.

    For rain to fall from a cloud the internal temperature of the cloud has to be below 0 degrees C (freezing in other words). The chemicals given off by trees that float up into the cloud cause the temperature to drop to below freezing point – and rain falls.

    Isn’t that rather wonderful?

    I live in the UAE where there is very little rain but the late great Sheikh Zayed had tens of millions of trees planted (I mean like 60 million) and every one of them is individually watered through a massive reticulation system. Each year more and more rain is falling in the country.
    This is partly because of another effect where the ground under the trees cools down but its mainly from the upward drift of chemicals – main problem is that there is often no clouds to seed but where there is (winter months) the effect is working.

    Loved the blog, great stuff.

    Jim

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      There were four dogs with us. I always find them fascinating to watch when they are off leash out in the boondocks. They will run far ahead of the group, look back to see where the master is, run back to check on the master, and then run far far ahead again. Rinse and repeat. On and on.

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