Tag Archives: escondido

Much safer reading than the old manual way

Snow day in the Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, 11/30/2019Snow Day in the Cuyamaca Mountains,
East San Diego County, 11/30/2019

When I was young, I used to carry around with me a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. That was what I read when I had to wait, usually in some sort of line, like at the grocery store or post office. It was my emergency reading material.

The Golden Ratio by Mario LivioDare I say that I still do that?

My current emergency reading material is
The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World’s Most Astonishing Number, written by
Mario Livio (b. 1945) and published in 2002.

(Interestingly, as with my own book, it has an ISBN on the back cover and one on the copyright page. They are supposed to be the same. They are not. Ooopsy. Someone goofed.)

It has to do with my book Nature’s Geometry: Succulents and my 1-hour presentation on the same topic.

I’m 99% certain that I’m on the Speaker’s Circuit for cactus & succulent clubs now, but, as my wise old grandmother said in 1966: Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

(Yes, we had a farm/ranch, and yes, I was counting the number of eggs so I would know how many chickens I would have….)

Two cactus & succulent clubs in the Los Angeles area have me tentatively scheduled for February 9 and February 13.

I did a presentation in June 2019 for the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society in Escondido, California, a club to which I belong. However, that presentation is now six months old, so I’m updating it using material from my book which was published in October 2019 and with information garnered from my current emergency reading list.

Dare I say that I also read while sitting in stop & go traffic? It’s a skill I learned in 1977-1983 while actually working in an office 8 to 5 (something I rarely have done) and sitting in rush hour traffic in Houston, Texas. I drive with my left hand and hold my reading material at dashboard level with my right hand. The key to doing this successfully, though—with successfully being defined as “without having an accident”—is to only read when the car is at a complete stop. I don’t do it if the car is moving irregardless (one of my favorite non-words) of how slowly that movement might be.

My 2019 Honda Insight has “Brake Hold,” which is the Honda’s way of saying, Here, Russel. We’ve made it easier for you to read while you drive.

2019 Honda Insight

Brake Hold in the 2019 Honda Insight

Brake Hold only takes effect if the car is completely motionless, and it won’t release unless I press on the gas pedal. Much safer reading than the old manual way.

When I went to Julian, California, on November 30, 2019, to play in the snow, I do believe the whole city of San Diego (population 1.3 million) had gotten there before me. There is a high-traffic intersection coming out of the mountains and into downtown Julian. Traffic often backs up for 20 or 30 cars, and it can take 10-15 minutes to go one-tenth of a mile. Traffic on snow day was backed up 1.2 miles, and it took me 1 hour and 34 minutes to go that 1.2 miles. I got a lot of stop & go reading done!

Snow day in the Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, 11/30/2019

Exploring pays off!

Picture of the Moment

On the first Sunday of each month, I drive 226 miles round-trip up to Long Beach to attend the monthly meeting of the Long Beach Cactus Club. I guess you could say I’m dedicated to this cactus thing.

I have an intermediate stop at the La Costa Park & Ride to pick up Annie Morgan, Program Chair (and more!) of the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society in Escondido, California.

Usually I get there a couple of minutes later than my ETA because traffic conditions just are not consistent in large metroplexes. This past Sunday, though, I got there 30 minutes early, and it’s only a 40-minute drive. I did not speed. Believe me.

Whenever I get somewhere early, I make it a point to walk around and explore, never knowing what I might find. This past Sunday I found this pretty little flower:

Unknown flower

Exploring paid off! That picture will make a nice puzzle or something, especially if I can find out the name of the plant.

I have no idea what the plant is. It was bare of leaves but with many dozens of half-inch pink flowers, looking very beautiful in the dry heat where I found it.

Map from home to Long Beach

X marks the spot

Out & About—Here, There & Everywhere

Out & About

Many readers who like my San Diego Historical Landmarks series might think that I have given up on them. Not so. I simply want to do them in order, and I got stuck at #15. Its name is “Conception,” and it’s on the United States Naval Submarine Base at Point Loma. In other words, it’s not accessible to the general public….

….Except for one day each year. Guess which day that is? Yep. Today. “Cabrillo Festival” day. So you know where I’ll be going later today, and I can resume my San Diego Historical Landmarks series. I have no idea what I’ll find there since I have not done any research on #15 year.

Meanwhile…. September has been a very active month for getting Out & About, and I’ll have blog posts on everything as the summer comes to a close and the cold, wet, fall and winter months arrive. To whet your appetite, here’s a sample of some of the places I’ve been.

We’ll start at home with Zoey the Cool Cat. I continue to take care of her every need—boxes, tummy rubs, food, clean litter box, food for the squirrels and rabbits so she can get her daily exercise running from window to window watching them, and what does she do? Turns her back on me.

Zoey the Cool Cat turns her back on me

September 3—Wildlife Corner at our new home

Rabbits & squirrels coexisting

September 9—Queen Califa’s Magical Circle in Kit Carson Park, Escondido

Queen Califa's Magical Circle in Kit Carson Park, Escondido

September 10—Surf Dog Surf-a-thon at Dog Beach in Del Mar

Surf Dog Surf-a-thon at Dog Beach in Del Mar

September 13—San Diego Zoo

Rattlesnake at the San Diego Zoo

September 15—Getting some kicks on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga

Overturned tanker on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga

September 16—Chili Cook Off & Classic Car Show in Alpine

Pirate Chili at the Chili Cook Off in Alpine

Classic car show in Alpine, California

September 18—Big Border Baby in Tecate

Border Wall baby

September 21—Watching trains in Colton

Union Pacific's West Colton Yard

September 22—MCAS Miramar Air Show in San Diego

MCAS Miramar Air Show in San Diego

September 23—San Diego Bonsai Show

San Diego Bonsai Show

September 23—Wavecrest Woody Meet at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas

Wavecrest Woody Meet at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas

September 24—Cuyamaca Rancho State Park near Julian

Deer in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

September 24—Apple Days in historic Julian

Apple Days in Julian

September 24—Gold mine tours in Julian

Gold mine tour in Julian

September 24—Cool shopping in Julian at The Warm Hearth, The Birdwatcher, and the Julian Jewel Box

The Warm Hearth in Julian, California

Hummingbirds at The Birdwatcher in Julian

Julian Jewel Box in Julian

September 25—Newest visitor to our new home

Praying mantis in Winter Gardens

September 29—San Diego Quilt Show

San Diego Quilt Show

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


Out & About—Copper Creek Falls Trail, San Elijo Hills

Out & About

If you haven’t discovered meetup.com yet, I can highly recommend it. If there is something you want to do but you’re not doing it, I can pretty much guarantee you that there are other people just like you, and you can meet them on meetup.com.

One of the photograph groups that I’m a member of introduced me to a year-round waterfall on Copper Creek. Year-round waterfalls in San Diego County either are rare or are very difficult to get to. The one on Copper Creek is easy to get to. The trail out and back is 2.7 miles but they are an easy 2.7 miles with virtually no elevation gain on a well-used path, provided that you take the Copper Creek Falls Trail. There are 12 named trails in San Elijo Hills, some going over steep mountains. See the trails here: San Elijo Hills Hiking Trails

There is parking at coordinates 33.093945, -117.204883. Enter those into Google Maps and you’ll be on your way.

The entrance I took after parking goes by a dead sewage treatment plant:

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

On the way to the falls, you’ll see the creek, ponds, mini-falls, cute little bridges, and flowers.

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California


Bridge over Copper Creek

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Castor flowers

My research indicates that this area was copper and silver mines from around 1857 into the early 1900s. There are remnants of the mines and operation structures throughout the area. The waters behind the small dam is said to be where ore would be cleaned before transport.

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

I always find structural ruins to be of interest, and I was not disappointed at Copper Creek Falls.

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek’s water comes from the Escondido Creek Watershed, which begins in Bear Valley above Lake Wohlford. The creek flows through a series of man-made ponds, part of the mining efforts, all the way to San Elijo Lajoon.

The Copper Creek Falls Trails takes you through a grove of Eucalyptus trees which apparently were planted for firewood during the mining days.

There were three vertical mining shafts over 300 feet long and one horizontal shaft over 200 feet long but those shafts were blasted in decades ago for safety.

Fellow photographer sitting on the largest part of the dam
Fellow photographer sitting on the biggest part of the dam

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Sutherland Dam & Reservoir

Out & About

Although meetup.com was launced in 2002, I didn’t discover it until 2007 when the Great Recession caused me to go on staycations and start exploring the nooks and crannies of San Diego County.

Right now I am a member of 27 Meetup groups. The most active ones are my favorite, like the Pacific Photographic Society and The San Diego Photography Collective.

If you think you know everything about your local neighborhoods, join a meetup.com group and you’ll find that there’s always someone who knows more than you.

Yesterday I headed 57 miles into the boondocks with some members of The San Diego Photography Collective meetup.com group to visit the Sutherland Dam and Reservoir. Coolest dam ever. Looks like this (click on panorama pictures to get a bigger picture in a new window/tab):

Sutherland Dam & Reservoir, Ramona CA

Sutherland Dam & Reservoir, Ramona CA

Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

If you take the easy way to Sutherland Dam & Reservoir using State Highways 78 or 67 to Sutherland Dam Road, you’ll go through Ramona, a well-known equestrian community. There you can see horseys out to pasture:

Horses out to pasture in Ramona CA

Although Sutherland Dam & Reservoir is owned by the City of San Diego, the Ramona Municipal Water District also has access to the water.

The dam and reservoir are named after John P. Sutherland, a Ramona pioneer, real estate developer, and rancher. According to local author Darrell Beck in his book, On Memory’s Back Trail, “A civil engineer named Post who was surveying the dam site and who was drenched in a rainstorm, stopped at Sutherland’s office to record some papers. Sutherland built a fire and gave Post some dry clothes while Post was waiting. As a result, the grateful surveyor said he would never forget this as Sutherland refused to take any pay for helping him. Thus, when the map was filed for record, Post had the title read, ‘Survey of Sutherland Dam Site,’ as a tribute to Sutherland’s kind deed.”

Construction began in 1927 but the dam wasn’t finished until 1954.

In actuality, the dam only took three years to build. Construction had been halted in 1928 due to lack of funds and a disagreement over water rights. Escondido wanted to claim water rights because the natural course of the water would be flowing west and out to the ocean, not south to Ramona and San Diego, the two cities which currently have water rights.

Money probably was the bigger issue, though, and in 1952 voters approved a $6.5 million bond for construction costs to finish the dam: $3 million for the dam, $1.75 for the tunnel, $250,000 for engineering and miscellaneous costs, and $1.5 million for right-of-way costs. I have no idea where the tunnel is; more research is in order.

The dam was about one-fourth complete when work stopped in 1928. When construction started again in 1952, work picked up where it left off. Concrete had been poured for 9 of the 17 arches and most of the wooden framing was still in place. According to a 1954 newspaper article, “The previously built buttresses were still covered with the old wooden frames. When the workers began removing these, thousands of bats flew out to the amazement of everyone.”

When the second phase of construction began in 1952, pipelines were added to the plans to direct the water flow through Ramona to San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside and on to Lake Murray.

More than 3oo dignitaries and spectators attended the dedication ceremony and luncheon hosted by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce on June 5, 1954.

The curved arches are called semi-ecological arches. I could find nothing anywhere about semi-ecological (or ecological) arches, and yet here we have 17 of them between 18 buttresses. Sutherland Dam was the last of the multiple-arched dams built in the county.

Back side of a semi-ecological arch at Sutherland Dam
Back of a semi-ecological arch at Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

I did, however, find information about arch dams. According to Wikipedia, arch dams are designed so that the force of the water against them, the hydrostatic pressure, presses against the arch, compressing and strengthening the structure as it pushes into its foundation and abutments. Arch dams are great for narrow gorges and canyons with steep walls. They typically are thinner than other dam types, thus requiring much less construction material, making them economical and practical in remote areas. So maybe less construction material means a lesser impact on the ecology.




I think we’re there!

Arch dams have a long history, with the first known arch dam being built by the Romans in France in the first century B.C. The latest was built in 2013 in China.

The Sutherland Dam is 161 feet high and 1,240 feet wide, including the spillway. Concrete at the base is ten feet thick, tapering to just forty inches at the top. A walkway across the top of the dam follows the contour of the semi-ecological arches, but it’s not accessible to the public. Ha!

Spillway, Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Spillway, Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

The spillway keeps the water level below 145 feet (2,058 feet above sea level), a level that has only been reached twice, once in the late 1970s and again in the 1990s (haven’t found out the exact years…. yet). During the worst of the recent drought years, Sutherland Reservoir was so low that even after all the rain we have had during the past five months, the reservoir still is only at 7.3 percent of its 29,508 acre-feet capacity.

According to a former reservoir keeper at the dam, there are a few cracks in it but they are considered safe. I’m not sure I would rely on a former reservoir keeper because when I was there on April 15, 2017, there were more than “a few cracks.” And there were leaks everywhere. Big leaks, too. YUGE leaks, as Twitler might say.

Water leaking through the Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Water leaking through the Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Sutherland Dam is said to be one of the most earthquake-proof dams in Southern California. Judging from all the leaks I saw, if we have a major earthquake anywhere close to this dam, I think it’s going down.

Since the back of the dam is completely shaded, there is a significant growth of ferns, lichen, and poison ivy.

Ferns at Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

The Sutherland Dam & Reservoir is on the Santa Ysabel Creek in the Palomar Mountains in the Cleveland National Forest, and is part of the San Dieguito River Park which stretches from its headwaters at Santa Ysabel all the way to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of about 25 miles.

Recreational activities in the area including boating, fishing, and hunting. Turkey season is in full swing right now, and I met a couple of bow hunters out looking for turkeys. Turkey numbers are said to be very high, and authorities are begging for turkey hunters to help out.

Although the area was significantly impacted by the 2007 Witch Creek fire, Mother & Father Nature have returned with a vengeance.

Burned vegetation

Turkey vulture

Flowers at Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Flowers at Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Yucca flower spike

There are quite a few ruins throughout the area but I have not yet found any information about them.

Ruins at Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

Fireplace, Sutherland Dam, Ramona CA

The fireplace and chimney standing all alone, with no evidence of a house foundation or walls, really has my interested piqued.

There also are rumors that a garnet mine is out there somewhere, as well as an Iipay Indian village. Some thinking is that both are under water now.

Since you already saw horseys out to pasture on your way in, I can highly recommend taking the back way out. Keep following Sutherland Dam Road, which will follow Santa Ysabel Creek. It’s a crappy road but worth going slowly and looking at the scenery. In the following picture you can see a fire trail climbing the mountain somewhat horizontally, and oaks growing in either a creek bed fed by rains or possibly even a natural spring that feeds into Santa Ysabel Creek. This is Cleveland National Forest, a typical Southern California riparian habitat but not what you’re used to seeing when someone says forest.

Fire trail and oaks along a creek bed

You’ll get down to the intersection with Black Canyon Road where you can see the historic Black Canyon Road Bridge built in 1913. It was one of 18 three-hinged arch bridges built by Thomas & Post between 1909 and 1917. It uses the Thomas method of precast, reinforced concrete sections, which allows movement in two opposite directions using two hinges at the base and one at midspan, a design that compensated for thermal and seismic expansion and contraction.

Black Canyon Road bridge built in 1913

If you go right on Black Canyon Road, you’ll eventually reach part of the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation. You’ll have to turn right on Mesa Grande Road and go down to State Highway 79 to get anywhere.

Turning left on Black Canyon Road will take you back to Ramona and State Highway 78.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About San Diego #8 — San Diego: A train rider’s paradise

Out & About San Diego

San Diego: A train rider’s paradise

San Diego is not a hotbed of rail activity, making train watching a hit or miss adventure. However, if you are looking to ride the rails, there’s no better place than San Diego.

Amtrak will get you from downtown San Diego to Los Angeles with a few stops along the way.

The Coaster will get you from downtown San Diego to Oceanside. From there you can take Metrolink to Los Angeles or the Sprinter east to Escondido.

Then there is the San Diego Trolley, or light rail system that has been going strong for 31 years. In August 2011, the Trolley, run by the Metropolitan Transit System, added a vintage PCC streetcar that was built in 1949:

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

During World War II, streetcar service increased dramatically in cities throughout North America. As soon as the war ended, though, streetcar service began to decline in favor of rubber-wheeled busses which were more maneuverable and required less maintenance. San Diego was the first major city to switch over completely from streetcars to busses, with the last streetcar running in April 1949.

PCC #529 originally operated in San Francisco. It was bought by San Diego Vintage Trolley (a non-profit subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transit System) from a collector in South Lake Tahoe, California. Although it was in poor condition, dozens of volunteers spent more than 10,000 hours over six years restoring it to operating condition, and it made its first run on the downtown loop on August 18, 2011.

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

San Diego Vintage Trolley has five more streetcars purchased at the same time and which will be renovated for use in San Diego. Two were also used in San Francisco, while the other three were used in New Jersey and southeast Pennsylvania.

Take a ride on PCC #529 on the downtown Silver Line loop with stops at the Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park, Seaport Village, the harbor, East Village, San Diego Convention Center, America Plaza, the Civic Center, and San Diego City College.

San Diego Trolley Vintage Streetcar Silver Line service

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

The Silver Line Vintage Trolley takes about 25 minutes to travel the full loop, and travel is in a clockwise direction only, just in case you need to make it somewhere. The fare is just $2, $1 for seniors and disabled. Children five and under ride free. You must have exact change. Although the PCC #529 can accomodate wheelchairs, only one wheelchair can be handled at a time.

The Silver Line operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. First departure on Tuesdays and Thursdays is from the 12th & Imperial Transit Center at 9:52 a.m. Last run departs at 1:52 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, first run departs from the 12th & Imperial Transit Center at 10:52 am with the last run departing at 3:22 p.m.

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

If you are interested in helping preserve the history of the San Diego streetcar system or helping with restoration, join the San Diego Electric Railway Association (SDERA). SDERA operates the National City Depot at 922 W. 23rd Street in National City. The historic Santa Fe railroad station has a museum, railroad cars, a large model railroad, and a gift shop. The National City Depot is open Thursday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monthly meetings of SDERA are held at the National City Depot on the second Saturday of the month at 7:30 p.m.

San Diego Electric Railway Association

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About San Diego — #7: San Diego: A bird-lover’s paradise

Out & About San Diego

San Diego: A bird-lover’s paradise

San Diego County lays claim to a bird-lover’s paradise because there have been more species of birds seen in the County than in any other county in the nation. The current tally is 505 different species of birds being seen here.

Early this morning my assistant, Eric Cooper, and I took advantage of that claim to go out with the San Diego Beginning Birders meetup group. We met at 8:00 at Hernandez Hideway at 19320 Lake Drive in Escondio, right on the shores of Lake Hodges.

Hernandez' Hideaway, 19320 Lake Drive, Escondido, California

There are many parking lots on the shore side of Lake Drive, and we chose one of them to park everyone’s cars, about 20 cars for about 30 people. Overlooking the parking lot were lots of eucalyptus trees and oak trees, and in the trees were about a dozen acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus). Here are two of them:

Acorn woodpeckers

According to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, acorn woodpeckers are very sociable and usually found in small, noisy colonies. They eat mainly acorns and use a granary tree to store food. A granary tree is a tree with dozens, maybe hundreds, of holes pecked into the trunk, and each hole is filled with acorns. It looks like this:

Granary tree for acorn woodpeckers

Acorn woodpeckers use the same granary tree year after year, so if you want to see a lot of woodpeckers, now you know where to go!

Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About San Diego — #5: Go to the Zoo, come home with….

Out & About San Diego

I have an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. I go at least once a week to one of them.

The Zoo occupies 100 acres while Safari Park has 1,800 acres.

The Zoo is in Balboa Park near downtown San Diego, while Safari Park is near Escondido, about 45 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Safari Park was founded in 1972 while the Zoo was founded as part of the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition.

Both the Zoo and the Safari Park are internationally recognized botanical gardens. When you go to either of them, then, it’s always worthwhile to spend some time looking at the flora, too.

Since it’s been raining off and on for the past several days, something that’s rare in San Diego, the photographers are out en masse looking for those magical pictures with water on them.

I got mine at the San Diego Zoo:




That’s a passionflower (Passiflora sp.), one of my top five flowers. There are about five hundred species of passionflowers but only nine are native to the United States. Most of them are vines, and San Diegans like to grow them on their chain-link fences to lessen the ugliness of that type of fence. You can see the chain link fence in the background of those two pictures.

Passionflowers have a unique structure, and once you’ve seen one, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever forget it. You’ll be able to identify that “weird vine with a beautiful flower” that’s growing on your neighbor’s fence.

The passion fruit is quite large for a vine, and the fruit of Passiflora edulis is actually called passionfruit and used for food and juice in many parts of the world. I can attest to the flavor of the passionfruit since I have enjoyed many a passionfruit margarita at Islands burger restaurant in San Diego’s Mission Valley. Hmmm, maybe it’s the alcohol that’s flavorful?

Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.


This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat