Tag Archives: ramona

Out & About—Hawk Watch in Ramona, California

Out & About The World

I went to Hawk Watch on 1/5/2019 in Ramona CA, courtesy of the Wildlife Research Institute.

In my 63 years 9 months and 26 days on Earth, it ranks as one of the Top 10 most interesting things I have ever done. Got to see gyrfalcon, pygmy falcon, peregrine falcon, American kestrel, ferruginous hawk, and red-tailed hawk.

I got bopped on the head by the wings of a diving peregrine falcon. Afterwards, we had a field trip where I got to see my first bald eagle nest in the wild and a juvenile bald eagle in the wild.

I took 458 pictures, so it will take me a little while to catalog all of them. Here are two pictures of the gyrfalcon, the largest of the falcons and, as far as I’m concerned, the most beautiful. It’s from the Arctic.

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Hawk Watch occurs every weekend in January and February, and next Saturday, 1/12/2019, all those birds will be back, accompanied by some owls, including a Great Horned Owl. I guess you know where I will be next Saturday.

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Out & About—Ramona Grasslands County Preserve

Out & About

The first place I went when I rented a Tamron 150-600mm lens was Ramona Grasslands County Preserve. The Grasslands are located in the Santa Maria Valley between the coastal mesas and the mountains of the Peninsular Ranges in west-central San Diego County.  The Preserve consists of 3,521 acres with a 480-acre western portion having a four-mile loop trail.

The Ramona Grasslands Preserve includes a significant section of the remaining undeveloped portion of the Santa Maria Creek watershed, which supports a variety of habitat types, including native and non-native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, Santa Maria Creek, adjacent riparian area, and a diversity of unique vernal pools, vernal swales, and alkali playas.

Many rare animals make their homes in the Grasslands, including Stephens’ kangaroo rat, fairy shrimp, purple stipa, blue-eyed grass, and woolly blue curls. There is no lack of raptors in the skies, and a nesting pair of American Bald Eagles have been in the Grasslands in the recent few years.

In this post, however, I present only some panoramas of the Grasslands. I’ll have wildlife pictures in a future post, although there is a rabbit in one of these pictures. See if you can find it.

These panoramas used anywhere from 2 to 24 pictures taken from the loop trail and then stitched together using Photoshop’s Photomerge function.

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

The Witch Fire (yes, we name our fires in California, kind of like people in the East name their hurricanes) of 2007 roared through the Grasslands and consumed virtually every blade of grass. Many of the trees also did not make it through the fire, but even the dead trees make beautiful pictures. Mother & Father Nature know what they are doing.

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands County Preserve, Ramona CA

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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!

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

San Diego Historical Landmarks: #15—Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

San Diego Historical Landmarks

There are so many historic buildings in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park that I thought we might never leave the Park!

Now that we’re finished there, we can start exploring historic buildings elsewhere, and we’ll start by walking two blocks south of Old Town, to 3965 Conde Street, to visit the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Looks like this:

Old Adobe Chapel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray PhotosNot to be confused with the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which looks like this:

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I mention the Church because it is quite a magnificent structure as opposed to the Chapel, and the Church stands at the entrance to Old Town State Historic Park. Thus, if you’re leaving Old Town to walk to the Chapel, and you see the Church of the Immaculate Conception, you will want to think that it is the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. It’s not. Church……. Chapel……. Different.

The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the Old Adobe Church, was built in 1850 according to most sources. One source, though, says that resident pastor Father John C. Holbein laid the cornerstone for the Old Adobe Church in 1851. Cornerstones were laid quite early in the construction of buildings, so I’m tempted to go with 1851 as the earliest the building could have been built. However, typographical and clerical errors do occur, so maybe I’ll just go with “ca. 1850.”

Other problems arise when researching this historical landmark. There is not much information online; the most information I found Old Adobe Chapel in San Diego, Californiais on markers outside the entrance. The largest marker (►) says that the Old Adobe Chapel originally was built in 1850 as the home of John Brown. It wasn’t until 1858 that Don José Antonio Aguirre, a wealthy and devoutly religious merchant, converted it to a church, which makes one question why Father John Holbein would be laying the cornerstone in 1850 for a simple house. Nonetheless….

Don Aguirre bought the land and what was then a 2-story adobe house in February 1858 for a whopping $350. The second story was removed, leaving just a small section for a choir loft; the wooden floor was kept; and religious furnishings were brought from the old San Diego Mission and installed.

Before the church could be consecrated, vandals damaged the altar. Several months afterwards, candlesticks, wax images, and the crucifix were damaged by a drunk who was found passed out on the altar.

The Old Adobe Church was consecrated on November 22, 1858, and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin by Padre Juan Molinier, resident priest at the time. Padre Molinier entered into church records that he had blessed the new church before a large number of people of different religions, and that it had been given by the most Christian Don José Antonio Aguirre for the greater glory of God and for the good of the faithful of San Diego. Continuing, Padre Molinier wrote that after Don Antonio’s death, his body would rest within the church.

According to sources, the dedication was followed by supper in La Casa de Aguirre, at which time both sentiment and wine flowed freely…. I’ll just leave it there….

Ramona, by Helen Hunt JacksonFather Antonio D. Ubach was the parish priest at the Old Adobe Chapel from 1866 to 1907. It is said (by whom, I don’t know) that he was the model for Father Gaspara in the novel “Ramona” by Helen Hunt Jackson.

The Old Adobe Chapel was rebuilt by the United States Works Progress Administration in 1937 during the Great Depression. Thus, it is not an original structure from 1850. Not only that, but it wasn’t even rebuilt at its original site! Ah, well.

Directly across Conde Street from the Old Adobe Chapel are several outdoor display windows about Old Town. One of the windows has additional information about the Old Adobe Chapel which I included in this post.

There also is a small model of the Chapel:

Old Adobe Chapel in San Diego, CaliforniaPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

3965 Conde Street, location of Old Adobe Chapel in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the San Diego Historical Landmarks series, go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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