Archive for the ‘Live Locally’ Category

Distance 8.2 Miles out and back
Elevation Change 1762′ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 4.5+ Stars (out of 5) – Had the day been clearer this could have easily been a 5 star hike.
Trail Conditions and Route From the parking lot on CA 79, walk west on the unpaved fire road, Milk Ranch Road for 1.7 miles. Turn left (south) on the unpaved road Azalea Fire Road and follow it for .2 miles to Conejos Trail on the right. Conejos Trail is a clear trail with varying conditions. About half of the trail is relatively smooth, but the other half is small to large loose rocks. Turn right on the fairly steep paved Lookout Road to finish the climb to the top of Cuyamaca peak.
Comments Although the area surrounding Cuyamaca peak was hit hard by the 2003 Cedar fire, this route is a great way to see nature as it recovers from fire. There are fewer “tree skeletons” than on the route up the paved Lookout Road, and most of the route shows strong signs of recovery.
Latitude/Longitude 32.976615, -116.581393
Directions Take Interstate 8 East to CA 79 North, follow CA 79 North for 13.5 miles to the junction of Milk Ranch Fire Road. You’ll see a parking area on the north side of the road. This area also is the trail head for Middle Peak, and for trails toward Cuyamaca Lake. After parking carefully cross CA 79 and head straight west along Milk Ranch road. There will be a road that branches off to the left for horse trailers, stay right.

Cuyamaca Peak is the second highest peak in San Diego county, but only by less than 30 feet. Also the hike to the summit of the highest peak, Hot Springs Mountain is 500 feet less climb than Cuayama Peak’s 1700 feet plus climb. The one disappointment I had while planning this hike was that the route described in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego is up a completely paved route. So I decided to look at other options. I decided to try the route that included Conejos Trail. Although the climb is slightly more and the distance about 2.6 miles more, I was glad to not be pounding the pavement up and especially down the hill! In order to get to Conejos Trail we started at the same parking area as for the Middle Peak trail head as described in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. For this route we followed Milk Ranch Road, instead of taking Minshall Trail north. We also continue past Middle Peak Fire road at .2 miles our destination was to the south, not the north.

I had been expecting to see a lot of dead trees on this hike as we had on our hike up nearby Stonewall Peak earlier this year. There were dead and burnt trees along the route…

Large burnt tree trunk along Milk Ranch Road with Stonewall Peak in the distance

but there were also areas of mature trees as well as areas that were starting to recover. Milk Ranch Road actually passed through a few areas with the shade of large groves of mature trees.

Milk Ranch Road passing through a grove of mature trees

The healthiest of these trees were the Arizona Ash trees. Here is a closeup of the leaves on this tree. Not sure if these trees just mature quickly or if they were unaffected by the fires.

Closeup on the leaves of a mature Arizona Ash along Milk Ranch Road

Although this area used to be known for old growth sugar pines, I only saw one mature, but very scorched looking sugar pine along Milk Ranch Road.

One lone mature Sugar Pine along Milk Ranch Road

I really wish I had been here before the Cedar Fire.

There were also plenty of blooms along the road, the most spectacular were the clumps of Purple Lupine.

Purple Lupines along Milk Ranch Road

We’ve had a pretty wet spring, but I was surprised to see actual mud puddles in the road by the middle of May. I doubt these will be around much longer.

Mud puddles in mid May along Milk Ranch Road

At 1.7 miles in there is a low wooden rail on the left side of the road with a dual track road, Azalea Fire Road, beyond the rail. This intersection is well-marked with sign posts. Turn south to follow Azalea Fire Road for just .2 miles to the start of Conejos Trail. As the fire road approaches an area of fire devastation….

Fire devastated are ahead on Azalea Fire Road

take note of the trail that branches off to the right. This is the beginning of the Conejos Trail. This trail is also well-marked with a sign post, although the post is off the road quite a ways.

Beginning of Conejos Trail off Azalea Fire Road

This area of “tree skeletons” was what I had been expecting for the entire hike. When you look at Cuyamaca Peak from the road or other peaks in the area, it looks like this stuff covers the whole mountain. I really had thought that this hike would be kind of depressing because of this. However, Conejos Trail skirts around this area and/or, they have cleared a lot of dead trees in the area Conejos Trail goes through. What we expected and what we hiked through were not at all the same. It was a very pleasant surprise. We loved the area Conejos Trail passed through. Although the beginning of the trail is surrounded by dead trees and the faintness of the trail through the grass makes you question how established the trail really is…

Faint trail passing through area of fire devastation at the beginning of Conejos Trail

The trail soon becomes more established and the signs of recovery overwhelm the few dead trees left standing.

Lone tree skeleton in area of recovery along Conejos Trail

However, there are plenty of reminders of the mature forest that used to cover this slope.

Conejos Trail passes through remanants of a large dead tree

There are areas with smooth trail and high bushes…

Large bushes surround the smooth surface of Conejos Trail

and areas that are steeper and rockier…

Rocky part of Conejos Trail begins

and areas with less growth which have better views especially as you get further up the mountain.

The views from Conejos Trail improve as you climb

There is a ton of new growth pine trees along the trail. It is encouraging to see such strong signs of recovery especially after a few years of drought.

Unexpected fern along Conejos Trail to Cuyamaca Peak May 2016

One thing I didn’t expect to see along the trail in mid-May was ferns. One area along the trail had several very healthy looking ferns.

Unexpected fern along Conejos Trail to Cuyamaca Peak May 2016

As you approach the top of the Conejos Trail you can see a fairly large grove of mature pines that are near the summit of Cuyamaca Peak.

View of mature pine trees ahead near the summit of Cuyamaca Peak

By this point we were pretty hungry, so we were glad to be getting to the top. We wanted to eat lunch at the summit to enjoy the views. Our normal day hike lunch is a very easy and convenient sub from Subway. It makes getting out the door so much easier than preparing sandwiches for the hike. It always hits the spot.

Before getting to the mature grove of trees we passed through one more reminder of the devastation of the 2003 Cedar fire.

Crossing an area of fire devastation on Conejos Trail before Cuyamaca Peak

Then a brief stroll through the tall pines to the junction with Lookout Road.

Mature pines ahead

At the intersection we looked down the road a little, the pine forest in that direction looked very healthy. Only hunger kept us from walking back down the road a ways to enjoy this area.

Looking down Lookout Road from junction with Conejos trail

We headed up the road, but a trail about 75 meters up the road caught our attention and spurred enough curiosity to push the hunger back down briefly. We walked out along the slightly descending trail and discovered a bench overlooking an amazing view to the west. Bench with a view below the summit of Cuyamaca Peak

El Cajon Mountain (or El Capitan Open Space Preserve) in the middle of the view seemed much smaller and less significant that it does as you drive by it on the 8 freeway. Having hiked it a couple years ago, I know that it only looked small from here. It is a very challenging day hike and fun, if you like going up, then back down, then up further, then back down, then up even higher. Although it is only around 1900 feet above the trail head to the peak the hike has 4000 feet of gain/loss during the 14 mile out and back hike. We did this hike as one of our last hikes while training for our 2014 Grand Canyon rim to rim hike.

We briefly considered eating lunch here, but wanted to give the summit a look before lunch, so we headed up the rest of Lookout Road.

Heading back down from Cuyamaca Peak

Although there were some surviving mature pines along this stretch of Lookout Road they were out numbered by the dead hulks of large trees. We did come across one more lone surviving Sugar Pine.

Lone Sugar Pine near the top of Cuyamaca Peak

Although we did enjoy the views at the top of Cuyamaca Peak…

View toward the North east from Cuyamaca Peak

and checked out at least one potential lunch spot…

Potential lunch spot on Cuyamaca Peak

the hum from the ventilation system on the nearby buildings…

One of two areas with structures and antenna on Cuyamaca Peak

and an unbelievable number of pesky flying insects (never good at lunch time) made heading back down Lookout Road a half mile through the trees…

Heading back down from Cuyamaca Peak

and past the California Lilac…

California Lilac near the top of Lookout Road on Cuyamaca Peak

to the peaceful bench with a view seem like the best idea for lunch. During lunch I scanned the landscape to west below us to see if I could see any other familiar spots.

View of the vally to the west below Cuyamaca Peak

I thought I might be seeing an area near one of my favorite trails, Three Sisters Falls. I was pretty sure the road down there was Boulder Creek Road that we took to the trail head. However looking at the map and a little scrolling around on Google Earth and I could tell that I was seeing Boulder Creek Road, but that 3 Sisters Falls and the trail head were not visible, they were behind some of the mountains below us.

After lunch we headed back down the way we came. Parts of the trail seemed steeper and rockier than on the way up. If you go this way you may want hiking poles and you’ll want to take your time going down. I let Sean go first and we definitely did not go down slow. I think he may be part mountain goat! I managed to keep up with him, but my right knee paid a bit of a price. I’m hoping it will heal up quickly so we can get back out there soon! I think I’ll be bringing hiking poles next time. Near the bottom of the trail we saw a couple of wild turkeys in the small grassy area just off the road. They were huge! I got my camera out, but they were headed away from us pretty quickly I only managed to get one good picture of a single turkey crouching at the far side of the meadow. We looked around a little and saw a total of 3 turkeys, but they were elusive… moving away as quickly as we walked toward them.

Wild turkey crouching near the edge of a meadow near Milk Ranch Road

Although I have not hiked up the route in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego, which is the wholly paved route up Lookup Road, I think this route is a good alternative if you dislike hiking on steep paved roads. If we decide to try hiking to Cuyamaca Peak on a clearer day in the future, I might also try some of the other trails that start further south, or we could decide to just head straight up the paved Lookout Road to try it out.

Hairpin curve in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Distance 5+ Miles out and back
Elevation Change 550+’ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy road in excellent condition, slot canyons require some scrambling
Comments I did some research on this trail before our hike but didn’t find any reliable details on how to find the slot canyons.  We ended up doing a lot of exploring in the wrong areas and were almost satisfied when we found the first (smaller) slot canyon, but I’m glad we decided to go around one more bend in the road.
Latitude/Longitude 32.833277, -116.156338
Directions Take Interstate 8 East to County Route S2.  Take S2 north for 13.1 miles to a dirt road on the right.  It is past mile marker 53 and the Carizzo Badlands Overlook.  This is Sin Nombre Canyon Road.  You can park in a dirt lot just off S2 at this turn off, or if you have a higher clearance vehicle you can drive about a mile down the dirt road to the east to the beginning of Canyon Sin Nombre Canyon.

 

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Canyon Sin Nombre, I think the description of the slot canyon is not completely clear in the book.  The biggest thing missing is that there are actually two very nice slot canyons not one.  In looking at other posts about this hike I believe some people have only found the smaller of the two slot canyons, and I don’t see any posts that describe both.

As you turn off County Road S2 onto the unmarked Sin Nombre Canyon Road you will see a sign stating that the road is only for street legal vehicles.   Based on the number of vehicle tracks along the road this is a fairly popular route for off road vehicles.  We drove about a mile down the dirt road to just before the beginning of the canyon.  There was plenty of room to park off the road at this point.  You’ll see the rocky beginning of the canyon as you approach this pull out area.

Rocky entrance to Canyon Sin Nombre

We started the hike in the late morning around 11 am.  It was a cool breezy winter day with a clear blue sky.  At the beginning of the hike we were wishing we had brought jackets, but we were fine after we started walking.  Because I was unsure exactly where the slot canyons were we ended up taking a couple of exploratory trips off the main road that did not find the slot canyons, but they were interesting side trips.  Both were up erosion gullies on the east side of the canyon.  Not sure why I thought to look on this side as the slot canyons we ended up finding were both on the west side of the main canyon.  But the side trips took us through some interesting areas and gave us some great views.

Exploring off Canyon Sin Nombre

We finally gave up on the side trips and decided to walk down the main road.  At about a mile down the road (32.843725, -116.154400) we came on a trail on the left that had 3 posts in front of it and even more encouraging there were lots of footprints headed down it!  Our footprints had been pretty lonely on the other exploratory trails we had followed.  Near the start of the trail it splits into two different trails.

Trail to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

The only accessible slot canyon we found was to the right.  There was also an inaccessible slot that looked interesting but there were very large rocks blocking the entrance and we didn’t attempt to climb through.  The accessible slot canyon was on the right side of the right path.  This was the smaller of the two slot canyons we found off Canyon Sin Nombre and the harder one to find.   There is a rocky path up to the opening of the slot, but it is hard to see.

Entrance to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Although it was the smaller of the two slot canyons, it was still about 150 yards long with lots of interesting twists and turns.

 

We found another very short slot in this area but it was only 20 or 3o yards deep.  But I did get one good shot of the wider canyon on the way out.

View of Canyon Sin Nombre from a short slot in the canyon wall

There was another area that was posted off just south of where we had found the entrance to the trail to the slot canyon.  We decided to explore there next.  There was another wash similar to the ones we had explored on the east side of the canyon.  It went higher up on the canyon walls than the others did though.  I particularly like this picture back toward the main canyon with three Ocotillo Cactus along the path.  These have red blooms in the spring… but still interesting looking plants in winter.

Octillo Cactus along a path up the side of Canyon Sin Nombre

We climbed nearly to the top of this path/wash, and got a pretty good view of the area from where we turned around.

View of Anza Berrego from the near the top of a trail off Canyon Sin Nombre

It was a long way up and a long scramble back down.

Scrambling back down the toward the road in Canyon Sin Nombre

By the time we got back down to the road we were pretty tired.  Although this hike is listed as 550′ of loss/gain in elevation, my GPS route showed a total of almost 1000′ by the time we finished all of our side explorations.  On the way back down I told Sean we would head back when we got down, but by the time we got to the road I decided we should explore around one more bend in the road.  I just didn’t think we had seen everything yet.

As we rounded the bend a high solid looking wall came into view.  I didn’t initially see any openings but we kept going and eventually came to a break in the wall that looked very encouraging.

The entrance to this larger/longer slot canyon (32.847642, -116.154712) at the back of this opening is not immediately obvious, but all you have to do is keep walking toward the left side of the back and you’ll see the path. There are a couple of wider areas near the start of the slot canyon.

And then you’ll come to an area of partial collapse. This was the first spot where we questioned if we would be able to continue, or even wanted to walk through what looked like an unstable area.

Sean in front of an area of collapse rock in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

We decided to go for it the slot canyon continued but not far after the first area of collapse was a second one.

Second area of collapse in the longer slot canyon in Canyon Sin Nombre

We talked about turning back again more seriously this time, but I decided to scramble over the rocks to see what was past the collapse. The slot canyon definitely continued, so I called to Sean to climb on through. As I look at the picture we took before going forward it is hard to see the scale of the rocks. I also took this picture of Sean on top of the pile on the way out that shows the scale.

Sean climbing back over collapsed rocks on the way out of the slot canyon.

We were really glad we climbed through the second area of collapsed rock. At that point we were only about a third of the way through the slot canyon. The trail continued to climb and the walls closed in but were not quite as high.

My favorite part of the slot canyon was in this section. It was a hairpin curve, you could stand with your back against the wall and see down the canyon both directions. I attempted to show how this looked with the picture at the top of the post. I glued several images together but was careful to put them together into one image that showed the perspective you would see with your back against the wall. I really wished I would have just pulled my phone out of my pocket and taken a panoramic shot to show it in one image. Next time I guess!

For whatever reason after the hairpin curve I didn’t take anymore pictures. Not sure why I didn’t. The slot canyon continued for a while, then came to an open area, but the slot canyon continued on the other side of that area to the top of the canyon wall. There was only one branch in the slot and it came after that open area. To the left is supposedly an opening into the canyon (be careful if you go that way). We went right and the slot continued up to another large open area at the top of the canyon wall. It looked like a great place to explore and we might have found entrances to other slot canyons up there, but we decided to head back down and head back to the Jeep.  We did seem to get some better lit pictures on the way back out.

 

I looked back one last time as we left the slot canyon and caught the halo of the sun around one of the peaks of the canyon walls near the entrance to the slot canyon. I also noted the fire ring.  Camping is allowed, free, and no reservations are required in Anza Borrego!

Sun setting behind the canyon wall as we leave the slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

 

I don’t consider myself a desert person, but this was one of my favorite hikes in San Diego County so far. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good example of a slot canyon or who just loves to explore.

The summer of 2015 is over. This week we had rain on more than one day, and a night that got down to 60 degrees. I’m also leaving the house for work while it is still dark out! Some times it is hard to tell in San Diego when the summer ends. We have faux summer days throughout most of our winter, and often these are sunnier and warmer than the days in June and July. The summer of 2015 was a hot one though. We had record heat, but also a few days of rain which is rare, but not unheard of during a summer with an El Nino.

This year was also different for us than the last few years because we intentionally planned fewer major things to do. Over the last couple years we’ve had to turn down opportunities to do things with friends and family because we were over booked. We wanted to slow down a bit and make more room for last-minute opportunities. That worked out pretty well. I would say we still rarely had a free weekend to just hangout and we spent a lot more time doing things with friends and family. Although we are likely to plan more next year, but we’ll be careful to include friends and family and to leave some time open.

At the beginning of May I kicked off the summer by leaving San Diego for the colder climate of Denmark. It was a work trip and unlike the last time I went to Denmark for work, this trip was all work. We got to Denmark, had a quick Breakfast in Nyhavn in Copenhagen…

Breakfast in Nyhavn May 2015

and then headed for the countryside and our work assignment. On our last day in Denmark we packed up at the hotel at 4 am and headed straight to the airport. We did get to see the sun coming up through the windmills as we drove through the countryside.

Sun coming up through the windmills Denmark May 2015

The work was good, and there were a lot of work related social events to keep it interesting, but I did not take advantage of “being there” by spending some extra personal time checking out new places.  Maybe next time.

The summer was in full swing in San Diego when I got back. We had a couple of college graduations in May, my oldest daughter, Monica, and her fiancée, Ricky. In fact they had a very busy summer and we were glad we left time in our schedule to hang out with them. They graduated in May, moved to San Diego from Murrieta in June, and got married in July!

Although we love live music, we cut back on the planned concerts too. However, Memorial Day weekend had a couple of big ones we didn’t want to miss. Three of my favorite acts played together at Sleep Train Amphitheater in Chula Vista on Saturday, Matt Nathanson, The Fray, and Train. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Saturday night.

Matt Nathanson getting the audience involved Chula Vista May 2015

Matt Nathanson getting the audience involved Chula Vista May 2015

The Fray - You Found Me - Chula Vista CA

The Fray – You Found Me – Chula Vista CA

Pat from Train explaining how she drowned in a hot tub

Pat from Train explaining how she drowned in a hot tub

On Sunday night, The Rolling Stones, one of my wife Jenny’s favorite bands played at PetCo Park. We went with friends complete with a hotel room, warmup party, and after party! PetCo is a great venue and the bands energy level was amazing.

View of the stage and downtown San Diego Rolling Stones May 2015

View of the stage and downtown San Diego Rolling Stones May 2015

Mick Jagger holding still for a picture finally

Mick Jagger holding still for a picture finally

I did make some progress around the house this summer. I painted the Master Bedroom, Master Bathroom, upstairs guest bathroom and the laundry room. As usual picking the colors was the hardest part of this project. We went with a blue in the Master Bedroom, kind of a walk on the wild side for us, but we like the way it turned out. The color in the Master Bathroom was supposed to be a variation of sea-foam green. It actually turned out looking different, but Jenny liked it so much she let me use the same color in the guest bathroom and laundry room! I also replaced some very restrictive canned light fixtures throughout the house. They required a push in 4 pin fluorescent bulb that was hard to find, not that efficient, costly, and they only lasted about 2 years. I replaced the original fixtures with standard screw in fixtures and then put in LED bulbs. I shouldn’t have to worry about those bulbs again before we move to the old folks home!

The biggest improvement to the house this year was the installation of rooftop solar. I expected that we would save money in the long run, but with the record heat this summer we saved a ton of money this year alone. Last summer during a hot month we ran our AC for 2 weeks in a row one month and the bill was about $280 over normal. This summer we ran our AC almost every day and our electric bill was $10-$20 extra a month.

In June, we had a great time with family and friends in Yosemite. I still have one more post to do for that trip (really behind on the blog posts again this year). I really don’t know where June went. We didn’t have a lot on the calendar, but it flew by.

July was the busiest month of the summer. We started off July by celebrating our 3rd anniversary. We saw John Butler Trio at Humphreys in San Diego. We had been to Humphreys before but it was not one of our favorite venues. However, this time was different. We got a room, so we were not rushing around, and the concert was general admission. The previous concert we saw was seated and I’m not a fan of the seating they put in. General Admission was perfect! We got there early and got a place right in front of the stage. John Butler can do things with a guitar that I’ve never heard before. We love his songs Pick Apart and Better Things.

John Butler Trio Humphreys By the Sea July 2015

In the middle of the month we saw our last Green Flash Concert at the Birch Aquarium. We had season tickets to this concert series 4 years in a row, but decided to only go to one this year. I wasn’t a fan of the main act, Bad Suns, but the opening act Zella Day was awesome. She has a spectacular voice and sang well.

Zella Day Greenflash Concert Birch Aquarium July 2015

I’m not sure this will be our last Green Flash concert ever, but the radio station, KPRI, that has sponsored this show for the last 10 years closed down the other day. I just happened to be listening to the station when one of the owners came on the air with no warning and delivered the news that they would go off the air immediately. I’ll definitely miss the station, the private listener concerts, the Green Flash concerts and the people I had listened to since moving to San Diego. There aren’t a lot of locally owned radio station left. Even though they had made some changes recently, I was adjusting and wish I could have them to listen to next summer.

My daughter’s wedding was at the end of July. We had lots of family and friends in town before, during, and after the wedding. I enjoyed visiting with them and doing some touristy things around San Diego more than anything else we did all summer. It was a beautiful ceremony, and my daughter was a lovely bride. I’ll never stop worrying about any of my kids, but she and Ricky are on a very good path! Here are some of the summer fun things we did in San Diego with family and friends.

Tide pools at Point Loma

Tide pools at Point Loma

Taking the Coronado ferry just before sunset

Taking the Coronado ferry just before sunset

A little kiss on the Midway

A little kiss on the Midway – Unconditional Surrender!

Horse Races at Del Mar

Horse Races at Del Mar

Heading out to watch some Blue Whales

Heading out to watch some Blue Whales

And a few of the wedding.

Thoughtful and touching gifts when we checked in to our hotel room

Thoughtful and touching gifts when we checked in to our hotel room

Walking my daughter down the aisle

Walking my daughter down the aisle

A first dance as husband and wife

A first dance as husband and wife

In August we got to do it all over again when my best friend’s daughter got married in Idaho. We love camping, fishing, and rafting in Idaho. I’ll add attending weddings to that list. We had a great time and I saw some of Dave’s family that I had not seen in a while. We stayed a couple of nights in a cabin north of Boise and the wedding was at a golf course in a small town nearby. I wish we could have stayed longer!

September was another month that seemed to fly by. I had some work travel and a couple of really busy work weeks here in San Diego but we also fit in seeing Sam Smith, Death Cab for Cutie (at our favorite San Diego venue, SDSU Open Air Theater), a couple of bear festivals, and the first annual family fantasy football league and draft party. I love football, but I’m definitely relying on beginner’s luck for this first time doing a fantasy league.

The summer of 2015 was a summer to enjoy family and friends, enjoy the new additions to our family, make lasting memories that will last a lifetime, and to hold on to the good memories of those who weren’t able to share this summer with us. I hope you had a great summer this year too!

Lunch in Laguna Beach

We had already planned to schedule fewer vacations in 2015. We ended up having to turn down opportunities to do things with friends and family because we were so busy in 2014. Then early this year, I changed employers and as usually happens the new job will start with fewer hours of vacation for the first few year. Luckily we had only planned a couple of vacations this year. Unfortunately, due to the new job, we might still have to turn down other opportunities. Next year I will have some hours “in the bank”, so we will be able to plan more. We are glad the two vacations we have planned are with family and friends to Yosemite this summer and with friends to Maui this fall.

Although I’ll get much fewer hours of vacation the first few years, I do have an alternate work schedule that will give me every other Friday off (usually). We don’t want to plan out something for every one of those weekends… there are times when being so busy can start to seem routine. However, we will plan and do a lot more weekend getaways over the next few years than we have in the past. We live in Southern California and there are tons of things to do over a 3 day weekend.

Weekend getaways are very flexible. They can be a romantic getaway or a getaway with family or friends. They can be road trips or regional flyaway trips. You can hotel it, car camp, or backpack into the wilderness over a weekend. Over the past few years we’ve gone on several weekend getaways to Los Angeles, Santa Catalina, and Las Vegas. So this won’t be a new thing for us, just something we will plan to do more often.

Romantic getaways are a great way for a couple to recharge their love life away from the day to day routines and distractions. Although this kind of getaway does not have to have a fancy destination or any events planned, after all the idea is to spend time together, it doesn’t hurt. I like to plan for a romantic location and a shared experience like a play, a concert, or a unique destination.

Los Angeles is a great place to getaway with your significant other. The possibilities are unlimited. There are tons of plays at multiple large and small (my favorite) venues. Los Angeles also has some very unique concert venues. I love the Hollywood bowl…

Hollywood Bowl

and so do a lot of big name acts. We’ve seen both Fleetwood Mac (2013)…

Fleetwood Mac at the Hollywood Bowl

and James Taylor in 2014.

James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl June 2014

There are also some great smaller venues and tons of great music throughout the year. Some of these venues are iconic like the Palladium and the Greek Theater. We’ve been to the Palladium to see Sara Bareilles in December of 2011, but the Greek Theater is on the list for a future getaway (hopefully soon).

The Los Angeles area also has some great destinations. We’ve only been to a few so far: Santa Monica…

Santa Monica Pier

Griffith Park…

Hiking near Griffith Observatory

The Reagan Library (Republican or Democrat who can argue with a place that has Air Force One hanging from the ceiling)…

Air Force One at the Reagan Library

and the Getty Museum.

The Central Gardens at the Getty Museum

We won’t have to look too hard to find lots more to do in Los Angeles.

Another favorite destination for us over the past couple years has been Catalina Island. It is a quiet place, but an undeniably beautiful place to spend a romantic weekend!

View of the Yacht Club and Casino Avalon

You can hang out in Avalon or go on tours to other parts of the island. There are hiking trails near Avalon, or you can hike all the way across the island. The trails are well maintained and the views are spectacular.

Hiking on Catalina 2013

There are lots of other places I will be planning romantic getaways to over the next few years. We’ve been through some of them like Santa Barbara…

Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara

and Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach

I would also like to spend more time touring local and not so local wine countries. For weekend getaways there are wine countries in San Diego County, a couple of areas in Riverside County, and then all along the central coast from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and California’s most famous wine countries just north of San Francisco. All of these would work for either a road trip, or a flyaway long weekend.

For getaways with family and friends those same areas will work, but we also like to get out of the hotel sometimes. We’ve tried beach camping nearby, but many of the beach camping sites between San Diego and Los Angeles are very near the coastal train right of ways. Sharing the views with the trains is OK, but them sharing their noises all night long can be a problem. I guess we could try this again, but with earplugs? A little further up the coast may be a better choice. Pismo Beach has tons of fun things to do, although it may be a bit overcrowded. I’ll be doing some more research for beach camping locations that we can enjoy over a long weekend.

A weekend backpacking in the mountains is a great way to getaway. We’ve backpacked the Vivian Creek Trail on San Gorgonio a couple of times as training trips for other backpacking trips. Although we went there to train, the beauty of the place makes it worth going just to go.

Backpacking San Gorgonio

There are two campgrounds on the Vivian Creek Trail, Halfway Camp and High Creek Camp. We’ve backpacked to high creek camp twice, but either camp would work as a starting point to do an easier day hike to the summit. There are also other trails on San Gorgonio and several other Southern California mountains we could easily go backpacking on over a long weekend. There are also a few longer trails on my list of San Diego County hikes that would be better done as at least 2 day backpacking trips. Here’s a short and incomplete list of other backpacking trips I hope to checkout as weekend getaways over the next few years.

– San Jacinto (we have considered this in the past but never done it)
– Agua Tibia Mountain (a long Afoot and Afield Hike)
– Eagle Crag (another long Afoot and Afield Hike)
– Indian Canyon & Borrego Palm Canyon Traverse (a shorter hike but recommended as a 2 day backpack in Afoot and Afield in San Diego)
– Trans-Catalina Trail (we loved hiking on Catalina and would love to do more of it)

Since all of our kids will be over 21 next month, Las Vegas can be a fun place for a family weekend. There are lots of good shows, good food, and more than a few good pools. None of our kids are big gamblers, so Las Vegas is fairly safe for us!

View of the Bellagio during dinner in Las Vegas

Although I’ve lived in Southern California a total of 19 years, there are still many places I have yet to explore. I’m excited to start planning and taking more weekend getaways!

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I don’t hate cable, in fact I enjoy some channels and shows on cable that I have not found a way to get at home without cable. For example, Monday Night Football, House Hunters, and House Hunters International. It’s not that I can’t afford cable TV. We’ve had it and paid for it for years without really feeling it. However, I do hate to be over charged and having new charges added to my bill without my requesting additional service. We watch Netflix streaming and DVDs and Redbox DVDs regularly. In fact we watch content from these serivices more than we watch cable TV. When I compare the “value to me” and the cost difference between these services, Cable TV is easily 10-15 times as costly as these other services. I would gladly pay $15-20 a month for a few channels I like such as ESPN, CNN, SciFi Network, and HGTV. However, I don’t see the value in paying over $120 a month for those channels, plus another 200+ channels that I rarely if ever watch. Cable also makes it easier to watch over the air TV for sports and shows like American Idol, which I have watched regularly for the last 5-6 years. Of course having a guide and a DVR is a must too. So access to live TV broadcasts and a DVR were the key to me being able to cut the cord.

Due to some issues I had with all the TV tuner cards I tried, unfortunately none of them are perfect, I ended up trying out 3 different cards before I settled on one.

The Hardware

Manufacturer and Model Number of Tuners Recorder Encoder PSIP Guide Data * Rating Comment
Diamond ATI TV Wonder HD 750 2 Software Yes 1 Star Drivers failed repeatedly on Windows 7 and 8.1
HAUPPAUGE TV TUNER HVR-1250 1 Hardware MPEG-2 ? 2 Stars Worked with Windows 8.1 but I could not get integrated guide information and did not want to use an external service.
HAUPPAUGE TV TUNER HVR-2250 2 Hardware MPEG-2 ? 3.0 Stars After I decided to use Windows 7 with Media Center, I decided to try a Hauppauge card again, and figured 2 tuners would be better than 1. I don’t think I would recommend this card if you don’t plan to use Windows Media Center.

 
* PSIP – Program and System Information Protocol Guide data embedded in the broadcast signal. A card that supports this is preferable so you don’t have to rely on a third party service for your guide.

The first thing I had to do was find a way to get live TV broadcasts. I bought a small square indoor HD antenna with a signal amplifier made by RCA to test out what channels I would be able to get. Since I live on a hill in the San Diego area, high definition over the air broadcasts come in great. I get all the major networks in high definition, and around 20 english language channels in total. The reception on some of these channels, especially the ones that are from Los Angeles, can be spotty, but there are at least 12 channels that have very reliable reception.

I ended up with two of the indoor antennas. One upstairs for the TV in my master bedroom and one in the living room. The one upstairs gets slightly better reception. At some point I may try a larger antenna in the attic for the whole house, but for now the small antennas are working very well. My living room TV is a Samsung Smart TV. After I connected the Antenna and set up the channels, I found that the TV has a built in guide for all my local channels. I’m not sure whether it is building the guide from the data coming over the air in the Digital TV signal, or if Samsung is using some other type of service. Either way this was another problem solved. The Samsung Smart TV also has a “DVR” function on the remote, but I was disappointed to find out that this is designed to work with your cable box/DVR using an infrared transmitter to control the Cable DVR. I may try to find a way to use that functionality later with some other hardware, but for now I plan to use the computer in my Master Bedroom as a whole house DVR system.

I had much more difficulty finding a DVR solution. A simple solution would be to buy a Tivo Romio that provides a local TV guide service for over the air TV and is compatible with HD antennas. However, they charge $15 a month for this service, and you have to buy Tivo Minis for every TV you want to share the recorded programs with. I decided to try to get the same kind experience without paying the monthly fee and using the hardware I already have connected to all the TVs in my house. It took me several months and a lot of frustration, but I finally found a solution that seems like it will work. Here’s what I tried.

I bought an ATI TV Wonder HD 750 PCI-E card for the computer I have in my Master Bedroom. I had built the computer from components about 6 years ago and it was getting dated so I combined adding this card to my computer with updating the computer. I knew the operating system had to go as I was still using XP (which I loved by the way), the processor was a dual core AMD, and there was only 4 GB of RAM in the system (all that XP 32 bit needed). My requirements for the update were to have a quad core with at least 8 GB, but preferably 16 GB, and update the operating system to Windows 7 or 8. I also wanted the computer to support USB-3 to maximize the speed to access any accessories and Gigabit LAN. I have my whole house wired so I can push large files and streaming video around the house really quickly. I also wanted to try out setting up a mirrored raid drive so my personal files, including all my digital photos would be safe and sound. After doing some research on my motherboard, I found that it would support a quad core processor (available online for under $60) and it would support 8 GB of RAM. Unfortunately I had 4 1GB cards in my memory slots, so I would have to replace all of them with 2 GB cards. I had two 1 TB hard drives, so I would not need to buy any drives to set up a fairly large mirrored RAID system. This would only be for my personal files and digital pictures, so that should be plenty large enough for now. Although I the motherboard only supports USB-2, I thought at first a software update might be possible. When I could not find a way to do that a fairly inexpensive USB-3 PCI-E card did the trick.

Once I had the hardware it was time to decide what to do with the software. Although the software in the box for the Diamond ATI TV Wonder HD 750 only contained drivers for Windows 7, their support site had drivers for Windows 8.1, so I decided to go for it. That turned out to be a mistake for a few reasons. First I had never used Windows 8.1, so it was new to me. I quickly found that I really hate Windows 8.1. Basically Microsoft broke a perfectly good GUI! Although they had added back in the Start Menu Icon, it did not actually launch a start menu. In fact instead of having all my programs in one handy place, I found that I had to scroll my desktop to the right to even see my programs! My son showed me a short cut. Click the Start Menu Icon and then start typing the program you want. I told him thanks – but did he and Microsoft really want me to go back to the MS-DOS User Interface? Even though I knew I would hate Windows 8.1 I decided to stick it out for now. So I loaded all the drivers and software, updated Windows, and set up my TV card.

The software that came with the Diamond ATI TV Wonder HD 750, ArcSoft TotalMedia 3.5, was OK, and the card pulled the Guide information out of the over the air broadcast signal. However, the TotalMedia would not let me record a series, only a single program time. Since Windows 8.1 does not come with Windows Media Center, I decided to check out some of the opensource media center alternatives. After some research I decided to try out Media Portal. I was able to install the software, but I found that the software would not detect the Diamond TV Card. I uninstalled the drivers and reinstalled them, and it started working. The channels scanned, the guide populated with the PSIP data, and I started playing with the features of the software. Everything was working great! There were still a few tweaks I wanted to try and some addons that promised the ability to record a series. I felt pretty good about the way things were going when I left the room. A few hours later, after I had been away from the computer and it had gone into sleep mode, the TV card stopped working. To make a long story short, after weeks of trying everything including reverting to Windows 7 I found that nothing worked to prevent the TV card drivers from failing. Very disappointing! I updated the bios on my computer. I updated the drivers for my motherboard. Still no joy.

After the initial failures of the Diamond ATI TV card, but before I reverted to Windows 7, I decided to try another TV card. I choose the only other option, the Hauppauge TV Tuner HVR-1250, at my local Fry’s. I liked the WinTV software that came with the card, but there was not Guide at all embedded in the WinTV software. I tried the card with Media Portal, but the guide data did not populate. I’ve seen information online that implies that this card does support PSIP over the air guide data, but I could not get it to work. I decided to take the Hauppauge card back and to try the Diamond ATI TV card with Windows 7. After all the card came with Windows 7 drivers! As I said before this did not work I’m not sure why. There are other people online who complain of similar issues, but I can’t imagine that this never works. Changing to Windows 7 changed one other thing. Windows 7 comes with Media Center.

Since Windows Media Center provides it’s own guide information, I decided to give Hauppauge another try. I choose a two tuner card, the Hauppauge TV Tuner HVR-2250. The card installed easily and so far after a couple weeks it has worked flawlessly. Although I would prefer a TV card that works with the over the air guide data, this was the best card I could find. It works very well with Media Center; however, if Microsoft stops providing a guide service, this combination will no longer be acceptable.

The Software

Tuner Card Guide Options DVR Series Option File output format Rating Comment
ArcSoft Total Media 3.5 PSIP support and Internet Guide support for some areas No Configurable MP4 or MKV, Shared file store only 2.5 Stars Basic software. What is there works well. Missing key features.
WinTV No embedded guide. External guide support No MPEG-2 2 Stars Worked with Windows 8.1 but I could not get integrated guide information in the San Diego area and did not want to use an external service.
Media Portal Over the air guide (when the hardware supports it) and web guides No Multiple 3.0 Stars Would consider this software if I had a card that provided the guide from over the air signal. Needs improved integration of the web guide services. Needs integrated ability to record a series.
Microsoft Media Center Over the air guide and integrated guide service Yes Proprietary .wtv 4.5 Stars By far the best software I tried. Free with Windows 7, but an extra charge with Windows 8, and completely eliminated by Windows 10 (beware). I also have Microsoft Media Center extenders for 2 of my other TV’s (Xbox 360s).

 

We have been without cable for about 5 weeks at the time of this post. So far, so good. I knew I would be OK without the cable. I’m flexible, and not that tied to any one show. My wife and our two sons living with us were the real test. I have not heard a single complaint and my wife has expressed that she really isn’t missing it a couple times. We’re still working out some of the kinks in the over the air DVR capability, and I need to do some more work so that only channels with solid reception are included in the channel list. It is usually channels from Los Angeles that come in but not reliably that cause the issues. Having these channels in the list is a waste anyway because there are local channels with the same content. The first week we were without cable the Chargers played on Monday Night Football. We had other plans anyway, so we didn’t miss out. A few weeks later I was talking about this with friends and found out that the game was also broadcast on a local channel in addition to ESPN, so we could have seen it.

The best part of cutting the cord was cancelling the service! They offered me a 30% discount on my service for 6 months, but that would have still been $80 a month, and the cost would have gone back up. It was rewarding to be able to be honest and say that this was still overpriced, and no thanks. The numbers of people “cutting the cord” is not overwhelming, but if you add that to the number of people who switch to competitive services, I have hope that some day competition will realign the cost of cable to a more reasonable place. Unless that happens I expect I will just change my viewing habits to take advantage of reasonably priced alternatives live Hulu Plus, Netflix, and over the air HD.

Update April 2015: Confession time… I have cable again. I don’t have cable because we could not live without it. In fact, I think we watched more TV in the year we went without cable than before we ditched cable. I went back to cable because my folks were coming out to stay for a month. My step Dad watches a lot of the Golf channel and Animal Planet. There are no alternatives to the Golf channel, and no simple alternatives to Animal Planet. So I called the cable company up. They offered me a bundle including phone service before I even told them what I was looking for. I insisted I only needed TV added and that I would not have it for more than 3 months. The cost at the end reminded my of why I had ditched cable. The person assisting me had also added a bundle based on my expressed interest in the Golf Channel that did not have the Golf Channel (part of the normal package I was getting). Still even with one cable box, no extras (except the DVR – why have cable without one), I knew I would be calling back in a couple of months to turn it back off. Then they pulled out their best offer… the same plan I was getting, with free installation, no commitment, including HBO for a total of $60 a month for a year. I have to admit if that price was permanent I would keep cable TV. That is a fair price. However, since it is for a year with a guaranteed price that will double, I will be putting the date it increases on my calendar and calling to negotiate or cancel yet again.

Southern California Beach sunset

My Wife and I have six busy children. Actually they are all adults now and four of them have significant others We also have one very young and unbelievably cute grandson. It seems like we never see enough of them, and only rarely do we get everyone together for more than a few hours at a time. So when we started looking at vacation options that might be able to include most or all of them we decided a staycation would be the best way to include as much of our family as possible. Technically a staycation would include staying in our home, sleeping in our bed, and driving to local attractions/events. However, we want to attract our kids to stay over night. We have a terrific house, with plenty of room (ok – not 7 bedrooms), and it is in a great location with terrific views. However, we want something that will draw our kids in to hopefully stay multiple days. We aren’t planning to “go to attractions”, we’re expecting the beach house/condo to be the attraction.

Although we are planning to spend most of the week on the beach or water, we don’t want to just sit there cooking in beach chairs. At least that isn’t what we want to do all week, but that sounds great for at least one day. I guess not “cooking”, but at least being very lazy, sipping some tropical drinks and watching the sun (hopefully) shimmer on the water. But that leaves us 5 more full days!

Our search for a place to stay covered an area from San Diego to Newport Beach. Our ideal place would have been: not too close to home, not too far from home, on the beach, and large enough for everyone. We didn’t find the ideal place – at least not at a reasonable cost, but we did find a condo with 3 bedrooms that sleeps 8 and is right on a park that is right on the beach. It is also close to restaurants, bars, and other entertainment, so we’ll have access to a reasonable night life. If there is one thing I wish was different, it would be the size. A 5+ bedroom house that could sleep everyone would be better, but also more expensive! Because it is close enough to home, we expect our kids will rotate in and out, but we’re also bringing some comfy air mattresses so we can expand if necessary.

So on to a list of things to do:

1. Swim. Although the water in Southern California is too cold for my taste, I expect we will spend some time in the water.

2. Walk on the beach. Walking anywhere is one of my favorite things to do. Walking on the beach is pretty close to the top of the list.

3. Throw the Frisbees on the beach – one of my favorite beach activities

4. Drive along Highway 1. Put the top down and enjoy the beauty and perfect weather!

5. Bike along Highway 1.

6. Sailing. There is a marina nearby where we can rent a boat. I just need to find my credentials or go by Fiddlers Cove to get a copy of them.

7. Kayaking in a harbor, lagoon, or bay. There are several great places to ocean kayak in Southern California under the right conditions.

9. Horseback riding. There are stables nearby. Although I don’t think we can ride on the beach, riding near the beach sounds like fun.

10. Visit with family and friends. This is what the whole week is about!

Cedar Creek Falls

Distance 5.3 Miles out and back
Elevation Change 1200′ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy trail in excellent condition
Comments One stream crossing with plenty of rocks to walk on. Some crawling on large rocks at the bottom on the falls on the opposite side of the pool. There have been injuries and death when people climb the side of the walls around the pool and fall, but viewing the falls from the boulders in front of the pool is not difficult and no heights involved.
Address for Navigation Systems 15519 Thornbush Rd, Ramona, CA 92065
Latitude/Longitude 32.995167,-116.75627
Directions Take CA-67 North to Willow Road, turn right on Willow Road and go .9 miles. Turn left on Wildcat Canyon Road and drive for 12 miles. Turn right onto San Vicente Road for 2.6 miles, then take a left onto Ramona Oaks Road. Finally turn right onto Thornbush Road and watch for the parking lot about a third of the mile up the road on the right. The trailhead is on the other side of the road and clearly marked.

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Cedar Creek Falls, the hike described in the book is an older trail from the Julian direction. Jerry Schad did mention that a new trail from the west was under construction but not completed. This post describes that newer trail from the west.

If you are coming from San Diego, the new trail from the Ramona direction is much more convenient. Also the roads leading to the trailhead are better and unlike the trail from the Julian Direction there is no Adventure pass required to park your car. Hiking to Cedar Creek Falls, regardless of which trail you use, requires a permit from Recreation.gov in order to go all the way to the falls. We were approached twice to show our permit while on this hike, including once very near the falls. It is only a $6.00 fee to get the permit online that covers up to 5 people and you can print it at home. Also, regardless of which way you hike from the distance and elevation change is similar and the destination, which is the point of this hike, is identical!

The new trail from the west is terrific. There was plenty of parking, a permanent set of bathrooms, and running water. Although the elevation change is significant, the switchbacks make this a very doable hike for even less experienced hikers. Be sure to bring plenty of water and I recommend bringing a lunch, not just snacks. Cedar Creek Falls is the most beautiful falls that I have been to in San Diego county and you’ll want to spend as much time as you can sitting on the boulders in front of the falls taking it in.

We did this hike in early February and started down the trail around 9:15 in the morning. At the beginning of the hike we could not see into the valley as we were starting above what we thought was a thick layer of fog.

Fog obscures the view near the top of the Cedar Creek Falls Trail

As we continued down the sandy trail we eventually got below the low clouds and could see into the valley below.

Descending below the clouds on the Cedar Creek Falls trail

The skies were nearly clear by the time we were approaching the valley floor.

Skies Clearing near the bottom of the Cedar Creek Fall hike

The new trail joins with an older trail at the bottom of the slope and you’ll come to a dirt road. Just past that road was a sign stating that permits were required beyond this point. With our permit in my pocket we continued down the trail. We could hear the water before got to the stream crossing. There were plenty of larger rocks to cross on although this might be more difficult to cross if the water is higher.

Sean and Jenny crossing a stream

At this point is only a short distance to the falls. You have to scramble up on top of a few boulders to see the falls, but this is not difficult. Once up you will see a patch of large boulders in front of a calm pool. The falls are on the other side of the pool. It is a beautiful place to have a seat and enjoy your lunch.

Great place to sit and eat lunch at Cedar Creek Falls

I also scrambled around the boulders and a small shoreline on the far side of the boulders to get pictures of the falls from different angles. The lighting was terrific.

Mature tree near Cedar Creek Falls

Don’t forget to get a group picture while you are there…

All of us at Cedar Creek Falls-001

And don’t forget that the uphill part of the hike is on the way out!

Hike up after visiting Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls is one of the best hikes I’ve been on in San Diego county. I will definitely be sharing this hike with others in the years to come.

This week signaled the end of summer for 2013 in San Diego. I can’t count the number of places I’ve lived in the world on both hands, so I know summer ended a bit earlier in some of those places (Iowa and Minnesota) and seems to never ends in at least one of them (Hawaii). Even though San Diego is blessed with wonderful weather it is not the same weather all year. This week we had a couple of cold rainy days… this doesn’t happen in the summer in San Diego! So the end of summer has arrived. We’ll be keeping the windows closed… or open less, putting the thicker blanket on, and maybe a thermal blanket too. It will be harder to get up and out from under the covers. Another summer has come and gone.

Eric Rial sailing September 27th 2013I love summer. I love doing the things that are best done in the summer like going to the beach, seeing a baseball game, going to an outdoor concert, sailing, early morning runs, and late evening runs. This was my 53th summer and it went by too fast! It almost slipped right by without doing a couple summer things like going to the beach, and sailing. However the week before last was one of the best weeks we’ve had in San Diego all year, we had friends in town so off we went to the beach and sailing. We will still have nice weather in San Diego on non-summer days, but it won’t be “the summer”.

Jenny and Eric hiking in Mission Trails Park North Fortuna Trail.jpg.08The winter in San Diego is different than most other places. There are much fewer people at the beach, but the weather can still be really nice. It’s unpredictable though. If you plan a vacation here in the winter, it may be beautiful and it may not. That means fewer tourists. However, if you live here you will almost certainly get to enjoy a few weeks of Faux Summer . Then there will be a few cold and rainy weeks… time to get some projects done around the house. But most of the winter will be cool butnot cold. This is perfect weather for hiking, biking, walks around neighborhoods, and if you miss the heat you can just drive inland for a couple hours and you’ll find plenty of sunshine most of the time. One of my favorite things about the winter in San Diego is that I can go for a run right after work at the beach and see a terrific sunset almost every time.

Running at Sunset at Pacific Beach

The end of summer is more than about a change in the weather. It’s about the passage of time. Everyone has a limited number of summers to enjoy, so each one is precious. When you are young you take this for granted… it seems there will always be another summer, and you’ll be happy, healthy, and ready to enjoy it. As you get older, and I’m definitely getting there, you realize that in 10-15 summers you will not be doing the same things you have loved to do all your life. You are likely to be less energetic, might have health issues, and even if you can still do it, who wants to see a wrinkly old man yank his shirt over his head and run into the water! So each of the passing summers becomes more important and the passing of a summer means you have one less summer to enjoy! All the more reason to take your life by the horns not the tail. Plan a full life, then live it!

Three Sisters FallsIt rarely rains in San Diego in the summer, so by late May anything that is not being watered is likely to be brown. But the winter rains bring new growth on the inland hills and small mountains. Winter and early spring are a great time to hike in eastern San Diego county and there are several trails that are near water or lead to water or waterfalls. My favorite is Three Sisters Falls. I’ve hiked there a couple of times, it’s really just a big kids playground with huge boulders to climb on and around. I plan to hike a lot this winter as we prepare for a rim to rim (to rim – hopefully) hike at the Grand Canyon late next spring.

The summer of 2013 is over, but it was not wasted. We had a terrific time, created some great memories, and spent a lot of time with some of our favorite people. The summer of 2014 is not far away, and I have high expectations! Hope you had a terrific summer this year and next years is even better! Until then enjoy the fall, winter, and spring.

PS: One other nice thing about the winter is there is less marine layer in San Diego so the views are clearer. We have a great view from our house and we’ll get to enjoy a clear view much more often in the winter.

View from our balcony Nov 2012 - views are clearer in the winter

Running San Diego Harbor area Sep 2013
There are 5 more training weekends before the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon. I’m a little behind on my training, due to vacation not injury. which I guess is better. I had planned to have 3 long runs over 20 miles, in my previous post on my training plan – Marine Corps Marathon Training Plan (Over 50, Over Trained, and “A Little” Over Weight. Now, if I push my progressive increases to 2 miles more each weekend instead of 1, I will have just 2 runs over 20 miles before starting my taper. However, I have been able to run about 44 more total miles than the original plan up to this point, even with a two weekend vacation from progressive long runs. This is mostly because I also took about 4 weeks off long runs before starting training, allowing myself to heal and lose most of the soreness. It also helps that there are so many terrific places to run in San Diego! The three pictures here were taken on an eight mile run this week along the San Diego Harbor. I love that the moon was there in all three pictures!

Running on San Diego Harbor Island Sep 2013

I’m feeling terrific at this point, unfortunately I’m not completely confident I’ll achieve my goal pace of 10 minute per mile. The last long training run that I was able to keep at the 10 minute per mile pace was a 14 mile run at the end of July. I’ve been faster again after the vacation break, but still closer to 10:30 minute miles on my last long run of 17 miles. My shorter runs have been much better, and I’ve been pushing myself on these runs to improve my speed. However, at this point I’m concerned I will run out of training time and not be where I need to be on time.

Running at dusk in San Diego near Spanish Landing

Since this is my first and probably my last marathon I’m really pushing to achieve all my goals. If I don’t finish I will definitely be running another marathon, but I don’t think I will run again if I have a respectable time, but miss my original time goal. My plan for the next 5 weeks of training is to make that decision unnecessary. So I will be pushing myself on every run. I’ll be doing everything possible to lose another 10 pounds. I’ll be sitting in the jetted tub every night to ease the sore knees and Achilles tendons. I’ll take ibuprofen and gluocosamine on a regular schedule too. Regardless of what happens, I want to know that I did everything possible in this final push to get ready for this race.

Here is my final push – updated plan for the remaining 6 training weeks.

Week Tuesday Thursday Sunday Total
Eleven 8 Miles 6 Miles 19 Miles 33 Miles
Twelve 9 Miles 6 miles 21 Miles 36 Miles
Thirteen 10 Miles 6 Miles 22 Miles 38 Miles
Thirteen 6 Miles 4 Miles 13 Miles 23 Miles
Fourteen 6 Miles 4 Miles 10 Miles 20 Miles
Fifteen 5 Miles 3 Miles Race Day on Saturday – 26.2 34.2 Miles

On the course Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2013
The weather was cool and overcast, and the start was early (6:45am), and noticeably up a hill from the finish line, which I found encouraging. However, any expectation I had of a flat, easy half marathon with the only hill being the big downhill run from the top of Pershing Drive disappeared fairly quickly. Due to a calf injury I had fewer weeks to train for this half marathon than I had planned. This caused me to modify my training plan. I did fewer runs, ran slower, and stuck mostly to flat long runs to avoid another injury. However I thought I would be OK with this plan, because I thought the course would be flat. I should have looked at an elevation map of the course.

Uphill stretch at the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2013

While there were no long or steep uphill stretches like in the previous two half marathons I’ve run in San Deigo, there were plenty of shorter uphill stretches. I definitely felt the lack of training for hills by the 6-8 mile mark. Even the big downhill on Pershing Drive actually started with a shallow (nearly flat) uphill stretch. By that point, mile 11, even a shallow hill was very discouraging. If this was a training run I might not have even considered this an uphill stretch, but it was surprisingly difficult during the race. I think it was mental. Several people who had been running at a good pace moved to the side and walked. I knew the downhill stretch was just around the corner, so I kept going and tried to start picking it up near the top. Although, I did not achieve my early goal of running under 2 hours, I was happy with my time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, and 4 seconds. With an average pace of 9:38 miles I had done better than on my recent 10 mile training runs, even those were on completely flat course near the beach.

This was the third half marathon I’ve done in less than 12 months. I signed up for this half to keep myself focused on running this spring so I would be ready to start training for the Marine Corps Marathon with at least reasonable conditioning. It served that purpose well, but my plan may have been wrong. I’ve been training fairly constantly since January and I’m starting to feel some “over-training” effects. Sore shins and sore achilles tendons are my biggest concerns. I’ll be cross training for a 2-3 weeks after this half marathon and doing very little running to let some of my aches and pains heal up.

The 2013 Rock n Roll Half Marathon was well managed, but set up differently than my previous races. The porta johns were spread out over a large area as you approached the starting area, and it was hard to tell if there were any more until you walked a bit further. As we first walked up it looked like there were only 6 porta johns and one really long line. By the time we got to the starting point I realized there were actually plenty of toilets, but the way they were spread out made things less efficient. We got there about 20 minutes early, but ended up being too late to go in our planned starting group because we waited in such a long porta john line. The last group of toilets only had 4-5 people in each line. Not a very efficient setup. I prefer the way they were set up for the San Diego Half Marathon, and the Americas Finest City Half Marathon – one big group which makes it easier to spread out evenly.

The course was interesting. It ran through several neighborhoods and there were more people out cheering us on than in past half marathons. This must have been the hand raising part of the course. Everyone in front of me did it, so I did too…

Hand raising part of the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon.2013

The bands “about every mile” were interesting too. I intentionally left my iPod at home. I wanted to hear the bands and experience the uniqueness of the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I’m glad I did, but I like running with my music a little better though. I have some songs on my iPod that help me get going when I slow down. I definitely needed a more consistent stream of “get up and go” music than “a band about once a mile”. I’m still working on my playlist for the Marine Corps Marathon. I’ll post an update to my post 26.2 miles of music! when I finish it.

Me and Chris and the finish of the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2013

This is also the first long race I’ve run with my son. We’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon together in October. We did some training together for this race, but ran our “own pace” during the race. I got out a little faster than him, but he was able to maintain his pace better than I did (18 years younger probably helped), and ended up 4 minutes ahead by the finish. It was his 4th half marathon and his best time so far. We both have a lot of training to do over the next 4 months, but we’re at a good starting point.

I don’t plan to keep running several half marathons a year, and I haven’t planned any beyond the Marine Corps Marathon, but I expect I will want to do another half marathon… maybe one a year (or so) after I’ve taken a little break from it. I would consider doing another Rock n Roll half marathon, but it will be more about the timing, location, and course than what organization is running the race.

Here are a couple more pictures.

This was the logo on the ground part of the course. I’m smiling, sort of, because it is near the end of the run!

The Pretty Picture on the road part of the course

This is the actual finish. One of my “lessons learned” from past runs was to “smile for the camera”. Still needs a little more work.

The actual finish