Posts Tagged ‘CA’

Sutter Street Steakhouse, Folsom, CA

20 February 2014

Sutter Street Grill on Urbanspoon

While on a business trip to the Sacramento area, my buddy Mark suggested this place for dinner after the first day of the meeting. We went there 29 January with a group of 10. While we were seated immediately at 1815, during the course of our meal, the place filled up completely. We left around 2015.

I got a ribeye, medium, with potato cakes and sauteed mushrooms. Simply put, all of this was excellent. The steak was grilled perfectly, had great flavor, and was nearly fork-tender in spite of being an inch thick. The potato cakes were essentially hashbrowns fried up densely like pancakes; they were great. The mushrooms were sauteed in a light wine glaze and were perfect as well.

The iced tea was really good. In spite of our large group, service was pretty darn good. My check was $46.17. I would not at all mind going again.

Esquire Grill, SMF Terminal B, Sacramento, CA

20 February 2014

Esquire Grill on Urbanspoon

I was traveling back to OKC last 31 Jan, and got to SMF early, so I had breakfast here. It was unexpectedly good!

I had the buttermilk pancakes with bacon and iced tea. The pancakes were unusual in that they had a lot of texture, like the pancakes Raegan makes by adding wheat germ. The bacon was cooked perfectly, tasty and just crunchy enough.

Service was prompt and friendly, and the iced tea was good and kept refilled. I liked this place. My check was $16.46.

Black Bear Diner, Sacramento, CA (Natomas)

2 February 2014

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

I have been to several Black Bear Diners, and they are good enough that I keep going back. Thursday evening, my friends Ron and Eddie and I were looking for dinner, and the Black Bear was nearby, so we headed that way.

I got the fried chicken. Four pieces, not huge, but cooked like fried chicken should be. It came with mashers and decent gravy, and mixed veg, all of which was consumed. A solid meal.

Service was fast and friendly, and the iced tea was very good. My check was $22.10.

Jack’s Urban Eats, Sacramento, CA (Airport)

10 June 2013

Jack's Urban Eats on Urbanspoon

I had breakfast here coming back home. I had scrambled eggs, a hash brown patty, and milk as I waited for my mid-morning flight. It wasn’t bad for airport food. My check was $14.30.

This is a delayed review, my meal there was 25 October 2012.

Cafe Baja Grill, Sierra at Tahoe, Twin Bridges, CA

24 January 2013

Cafe Baja Grill on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here while on a ski day Tuesday. I was surprised at the quality of the food. I ordered a Tres Carnes plate. This is a set of three open soft tacos, one with pork, one with steak/brisket, and one with chicken. The meal is served with black beans and rice. It is cooked on site. There are a number of salsas to dump on the tacos. I tried the hot first; I think it burned a hole through my stomach and past my backbone. The medium, which was kind of chunky, was pretty good. The meal was big enough that I could not finish the third taco. It was all pretty good.

I got a fountain drink (they are a Pepsi shop), and to my surprise they are unlimited refills (I got three total).

As might be expected at a ski area, it was pretty expensive at $20.18. But it was pretty good, and right next to the lift, and tasted good.

Burgerocity, Folsom, CA

24 January 2013

Burgerocity on Urbanspoon

I’m started to get some catch-up blogging done after a bit of a hiatus due to work and house stuff.

This evening I decided to try Burgerocity for two reasons: it’s on the parking lot my hotel is on, and I like cheeseburgers.

I got the Big Heffer with bacon. The Big is two 3-oz patties. I got it with mayo and pickles, fries on the side. I asked for small sides of BBQ sauce and mayo, which made for a very nice fry sauce.

The burger was better than average. It had a nice crust, decent flavor, and good texture. The extra stuff (bun, cheese, toppings) were very good complements to the beef. The fries were pretty good also, just the right thickness and cooked to just the right crispiness.

One downer: they had one of the concentrate machines for tea that had both Fuse and Gold Peak. Restauranters: PLEASE just brew tea fresh on-site! Please!

The Coke was OK. My check was $11.85. I would gladly eat at Burgerocity again.

Perry’s Cafe, San Diego, CA

1 December 2012

Perry's Cafe on Urbanspoon

I have driven by Perry’s many times.  I decided to have breakfast there this morning as I was leaving my hotel for the airport, and it was too early for other hotel breakfast.  I got there at 0610 and left last 0645.

I had the 2 eggs (over easy), 2 bacons, and French toast, with iced tea to drink.  It was all excellent, excerpt the bacon, which was just a touch overdone.

Service was prompt, my check was $9.64.  Quick and good, recommended.

Hiking Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, San Diego, CA

1 December 2012

Hike summary: 4.6 miles and 340 ft of altitude gain.

I got into San Diego early last Wednesday, and took care of business, then checked into the hotel. Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is only a couple miles north of the hotel, and I decided to take a hike. I got there at 1500. I did a quick check of sunset for San Diego… 1640. Really?

The trailhead I used was through a dog park off Carmel Mountain Road and Ocean Air Drive. The trail goes from the southeast corner of the dog park through some thick brush. This leads to a service road that traces under some high power lines. There are several places where trails drop off into the canyon. Steeply.

At the bottom, it’s pretty much out in the open unless you go through one of the crossings from the north trail to the south side. There is not a lot of scenery. I took these photos.

One of the north-to-south crossings




This last one is a hot air balloon I saw to the north.

Here are the maps for the hike.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve Terrain

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve Altitude

There isn’t a lot of signage for the trail. Basically, walk along the north or south trail, cross over when you want.

That’s it!

Lorna’s Italian Kitchen, San Diego, CA

1 December 2012

Lorna's Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I have noted Lorna’s a couple times driving around north San Diego, and this evening decided to give it a try. I got there around 1800 and left around 1920. It was almost empty when I got there, and full when I left. They put me at a two-top on the north wall. This is a bad table, be warned. They seem to do as much or more takeaway business, and numerous times I had the line waiting to pick up their to-gos bumping up against my table.

I got chicken fettuccine al fredo. It was, first of all, a HUGE amount of food. Probably enough for both Raegan and I to eat. There was crusty bread to start. They have balsamic vinegar and oil on the table, and they brought me some meat sauce to dip the bread in (good stuff, BTW).

The main dish was decent. There were probably three chicken breasts in that meal. The chicken was tender and tasty (but in huge chunks), and the noodles were perfect. The al fredo was OK at best. It was not terribly rich; I couldn’t taste the butter and cream that are supposed to be in there. I ate all of it (a feat, let me tell you!). If I get the opportunity to go back, I might try something else, although I could eat the CFAF again if put to it.

Service was good. My check was $20.47.

Bangkok West Thai Cafe, San Diego, CA

1 December 2012

Bangkok West Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon

Had lunch here today. Got the lunch special that started with tom kah soup (never had it before, interesting and good!), and continued with pad thai. This stuff had a spice scale from 1 to 10; I got it as a 3. Great stuff! The spice was just enough to leave a bit of itself after each bite. I think I could get it a 5 or 6 with no problem. The pad tahi was really, really, good. There was not as much in the way of peanut chips/chunks as the previous times I’ve had. I want to go back to this place, it was good.

Service was prompt. The iced tea is slightly fruity. My check was $12.34. Great lunch, recommended.

JK Burgers & Hot Dogs, La Jolla, CA

30 November 2012

JK Burgers & Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

I was driving back to the hotel after work, and drove past the little shopping area where JKs is located, and decided to give it a try.

I got a double cheeseburger with bacon. The thing was thick! I ended up taking some of the lettuce off it. The beef was pretty good; not the most full of flavor I’ve had, but better than most. It was cooked well done, and so the beef was a bit dry (which is probably why there was less flavor than I would have expected). The fries were pretty good; they had BBQ sauce and mayo out, and I mixed up some fry sauce before the burger was served. They don’t have iced tea, so I had some decent Coke.

I would go back again, and next time ask for the burger to be medium well. My check was $11.24.

Giovanni’s Italian, San Diego, CA

30 November 2012

Giovanni's Italian on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here with a couple guys I am working with at a Very Large Defense Contractor nearby. We got there aroud 1145 and left at 1230. The place was not terribly crowded.

I got chicken fettuccine alfredo. It was OK. The chicken was grilled and piled on top. The fettuccine was OK, but the sauce had a faint odd taste, and was hardly rich. The amount was fine, and the two pieces of garlic toast were very good.

I would go back if someone else wanted to, but it wasn’t that good. My check was $18.53, kind of expensive for the quality of the meal.

BBQ Republic, San Diego, CA

29 November 2012

BBQ Republic on Urbanspoon

I’ve been to the shopping center BBQ Republic is in several times, and it also has a dog park in the SE corner that is a trailhead for a nearby hiking destination. After an almost-five-miler, I wanted dinner, and BBQ is always a good thing.

I got the two meat combo with a quarter chicken and sliced brisket. It was excellent! The brisket was tender and had great beef flavor. The chicken was well smoked, had great flavor, and was moist all the way through. Great stuff. The meal came with some OK mac and cheese, and a good piece of cornbread (no jalapenos!). They have *very* good iced tea was well (both sweet and straight). The staff was super nice.

I got there around 1650 and left about 45 minutes later. My check was $17.22. A bit expensive, but I think it’s the best BBQ I’ve had in the San Diego area.

Bistro 33, El Dorado Hills, CA

25 October 2012

Bistro 33 on Urbanspoon

We ate as a largish group (about 18) here Tuesday evening. It was an uneven experience. We got there at 1800; the tables for our group were still being put together. It took about 15 min.

I started the meal off with a glass of wine and a glass of iced tea. The wine was a “7 Deadly Zin”. It was a lot stronger than any Zinfandel I’ve had. I also got a bowl of clam chowder. It was not bad at all.

My main meal was a 14 oz strip steak. On the menu, it was labeled as “sterling silver premium beef”. The steak was $34. How was it? Average. There was bit of charring on the steak that I cut off. The beef was not terribly overly flavorable. It was tender enough. It was about a six out of ten. My side was scalloped potatoes; decent.

We left at 2000. It took a long time to get our checks paid. Service was OK. Our server had us, and it looked like three other tables as well. My check was $64.69. Kind of expensive, but that includes a $9.00 glass of wine, and a $9.30 extorted tip. I don’t know that I will be back. The food wasn’t worth a single meal north of $50.00. The staff was super friendly, but that’s not an adequate offset to the merely-OK food.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Folsom, CA

23 October 2012

BJ's Restaurant Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

After my very late lunch today, I met Clark and Gayle here for a late dinner. I got a chicken ceasar salad, and it was very, very good. There wasn’t as much chicken as I usually would like, but for a late dinner it was fine. The dressing was excellent, just the right amount of tart and rich. The tea was pretty good as well.

Our service was excellent all around, from seating to serving. My check was $15.75. I will gladly go back.

Johnny Rocket’s, Folsom, CA

23 October 2012

Johnny Rocket's (Palladio) on Urbanspoon

I was looking for a late lunch today with work friend Kevin, and had passed my first choice (El Pollo Loco) about 10 miles back. I saw the sign for Johnny Rocket’s and made a real time decision change.

I got a smoke house double with fries, and an iced tea. That was an excellent burger! Cooked a perfect medium well, with a nice crust, and excellent beef flavor. The onion rings (on the burger) were perfect, the bacon added a great flavor. The burger has BBQ/mayo sauce (AKA fry sauce) that was the perfect complement to the burger. The fries were also very good, hotter than heck.

Service was perfect, and extremely friendly. We got there about 1530 and left at 1630. My check was $12.26. Good burgers.

Irene’s Cafe, Fresno, CA

3 October 2012

Irene's Cafe on Urbanspoon

A great place for lunch! On our way to Yosemite, we met my friend Jim in Fresno, and he recommended Irene’s. We got there around 1500 and left about 1630.

I got a patty melt on rye. It was excellent. A half pound of very good beef, cooked medium well, with a nice crust on the burger. The onions were fried up to a perfect caramelization. The rye bread was nice. The meal came with a pile of very good fries.

The rest of the guys (there were eight of us total) got various things, and no one said the food was anything less than very good. My check was around $12. The iced tea was great and kept refilled. Service was pretty good and very friendly. We ate outside in front of the restaurant, which was nice (except for the beggar that hit us up from the sidewalk, but the restaurant staff shooed her off quickly).

So I was very happy with Irene’s. I get to Fresno regrettably infrequently, but I would like to go back to Irene’s again.

Village Grill, Yosemite Village, Yosemite National Park, CA

2 October 2012

Village Grill on Urbanspoon

We ate here for lunch Friday. At best, it was OK. I got a bacon cheeseburger. The beef was better than a lot of places, but a lot of places are better then here. There were two pieces of bacon. The meal came with fries, which were pretty good. I made a fry sauce out of mayo and BBQ sauce.

They serve Pepsi products, but no iced tea. I got root beer since I hadn’t had any of that in a while.

My check was $12.12. It’s order at the counter and pick your stuff up. A variety of birds and squirrels wander around the area hoping you drop something, intentionally or not. You could do worse than eat there.

Curry Pavilion, Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, CA

2 October 2012

Curry Pavilion on Urbanspoon

I ate here several times during my trip to Yosemite last week. All of the meals were decent.

A group of six of us ate dinner here last Saturday night after arriving in the Park. Dinner (as is breakfast) is a buffet. It’s pretty darn good. The main course for me was turkey with poultry gravy. There was also spaghetti and other things as well. There were roast potatoes, mixed veg, a taco bar, salad bar, etc etc etc. It was huge! Everything I got I liked. I would have liked to see some corn or peas and the like on there also.

Drinks were pretty good. They have all-you-can-drink milk, both whole and skim, it was cold cold cold (yea!) and they had big glasses to serve it in. They have Pepsi products and juice. They did not have iced tea (please add it!).

My check was about $16. Good value.

Our “room” (tent) in Curry Village came with the breakfast part of the buffet. A couple kinds of scrambled eggs, pancakes and french toast, excellent hash browns, biscuits and gravy, breakfast tacos and burritos, bacon, sausage, turkey bacon and turkey sausage, cereals, oatmeal, etc etc etc. This was a great buffet, and tasted great. They had the milk and juice, and also hot chocolate.

So overall, the Curry buffet is really a good value. My check for breakfast was $12.93. They don’t have cooked to order eggs or similar things, but OTOH they have more than 500 housing units to serve, which imposes a more generic menu. Still, add iced tea? But it’s good stuff.

Mountain Room Restaurant, Yosemite Lodge, Yosemite National Park, CA

2 October 2012

Mountain Room Restaurant on Urbanspoon

After getting off the trail from a five-day backpacking trip, and getting a quick shower at Curry Village, I wanted STEAK! We headed over to Mountain Room Restaurant, as I had eaten here several years ago. We got there around 1900, and had a 15 minute wait to be seated. We had seven.

I ordered a ceasar salad, a ribeye with a baked potato, and iced tea. The salad was very good, and I ate every scrap of it. Maybe it was partially because I was so hungry, but that steak was perfect. It was tender, had lots of flavor, and had little charring. I ate the entire baker as well, including the skin. The meal was started with some sourdough bread. My tea was kept refilled, and it was good in that it was brewed.

Service was very good, after a slow start (10 min to get drinks to the table) and a slow end (it took almost 30 minutes to get the checks separate). Drinks were kept refilled. I got some ice cream for dessert. My check was about $60. I would not eat at this place every evening, but it is very welcome coming off the trail.

I tried a good sized piece of Gayles pork chop. It was very good, tender and with good flavor.

BTW, this place has a mandatory extorted tip for parties greater than six. The restaurant is run by DNC under contract to the National Park Service, so they are essentially a contractor with a sole source contract who are not answerable to any regular person, and so are a monopoly.

Anita’s Restaurant, Oceanside, CA

2 September 2012

Anita's on Urbanspoon

I was headed from the San Diego area back to LAX to spend the night when I drove through Oceanside. I saw Anita’s and decided to check it out.

It was an OK meal. They had carne asada burritos, and then they had ground beef and chicken chimis, so I asked for a carne asada chimi. No problem. The chimi was not fried all the way for some reason, it had a number of un-fried parts. Regardless, it was pretty good. The carne asada had just the right amount of spiceiness to it, and it had very good flavor. The rice and beans were standard. The salsa before the meal had zero heat to it, and tasted heavily of tomato. The chips were really good. The tea was good and kept refilled. Service was fast.

My check was $13.36. I don’t know that I will be eating dinner in Oceanside again (at least for a long while), but you could do worse than Anita’s, I would imagine.

Hiking (Towards) El Cajon Peak, San Diego, CA

1 April 2012

Hike summary: 6.2 miles round trip. HARD uphills, in both directions, with altitude gain of 775 feet net, 1700 total. For sure the hardest hike I’ve been on in San Diego. Or most anywhere else!

Last Wednesday, I took a shot at hiking El Cajon after work. I headed out for the trailhead about 1230 after lunch. Unfortunately, road work on Wildcat Canyon Road delayed me for 45 minutes. I didn’t get on the trail until after 1430.

The last time I tried El Cajon, the parking lot was closed at 1700. Wednesday, the parking lot was signed to be closed at 1900, so I set a time limit of 1630 to start my return. I’ve got to say, I was too optimistic on this hike. I got off to a good start, but I haven’t had a lot of hiking time in the past nine months, and so I wasn’t in good enough shape to keep a steady pace. The thing is, most mountain hiking is up up up, then back down down down. This one is up, down, up, down, up, down. It’s nearly has hard coming down as it was going up.

When you get to the trailhead, the parking area is a fenced and gated lot. Why? There is no water, so fill up before you get there. Once you get started hiking, there is a road that goes up continuously for a full half mile, to another smaller parking lot that you can’t park at, where the actual trailhead is. There is a toilet here, and a small picnic area, but again no water.

The trailhead is marked, on the east side of the toilet. There is a road on the south side, that I figured out later is a second trailhead. I switchbacked up a while before I ran across a sign that pointed to the parking lot, to the right. WTH? When I was coming back, I was a little ahead of schedule, so I took that right turn and walked up a bit more to a nice overlook that had a rough bench, where I took a break.

The trail is fairly wide.

There are a lot of cactus-type plants. This one was just starting to flower.

This is an example of the up and down nature of the trail. The first part of the hike ends up in the “saddle” that is visible in the upper right of the below photo. Then you hike down into the valley that is in the middle of the picture, and then come back up on the trail. You can see these clearly on the altitude plot.

The views up there are pretty impressive. There was some kind of helicopter exercise going on down in the valley while I was up there, three of them moving around over the valley floor.

As you get a little higher, the view gets better. In this picture, Mission Trails Regional Park and Cowles Peak is in the middle, and off in the distance you can see the downtown skyline in front of Point Loma.

One of the things the wannabe geologist in me noticed was that thee are several varieties of granite in the area. I saw at least four varieties.

On the way back, I stopped for a break at the overlook. It’s high enough that you can see the ocean from up there. Not much, but it’s there. This is the area of Torry Pines Preserve.

So I didn’t make it all the way to El Cajon peak. I was just not in good enough shape, and got too late a start. I made it just over halfway to the peak. I was planning on starting serious conditioning for my next Yosemite hike in June, but instead I will be starting Monday.

There is little shade on this hike. This was my first extended time in the sun since last fall, and I got a bit of a sunburn (it was gone the next morning). It’s really dry; I ran across no flowing water anywhere, although parts of the trail was just a bit muddy due to seepage.

Here are topo, terrain, and altitude plots for the hike.

Note on the above. I have been using Garmin Mapsource for my topo maps, and Excel for the altitude plots (pasting data from the Mapsource point listing). I got the latest free Garmin product, Basecamp. It downloaded from my GPS with no problem, and generated this altitude plot easily, but it was much harder to use to grab the tracks out of the GPS. I will play with it a bit more to see if I missed something.

This last is a terrain plot from Google Earth, as usual.

I am looking forward to giving El Cajon another try at some point in the near future. I need to get in a little better shape and start earlier.

I do not understand the logic in California of closing access to the backcountry at some point in time. I wrote an email to the San Diego Parks and Recreation asking why they close the parking area at 1900, but have no answer yet.

One thing that was pretty cool was the use of photovoltaics by most of the houses on the lower part of the trail. These houses had solar arrays outside, pretty big ones.

Abbeys BarBQ, San Diego, CA

31 March 2012

Abbey's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

I chose Abbey’s based on reviews from Urbanspoon, and the fact that it was close to my hotel. I got there last night at about 1815 and left about 30 min later.

I got a two meat dinner, with brisket and chicken. The chicken first. It was a smallish chicken breast, smoked, and with good flavor, but really dry on the inside (I wondered if it due to the small size of the chicken). Not much left, though. I did like the brisket. It was a bit on the fatty side, but very tasty. And there was quite a bit of it. The sides of pinto beans and potato salad were pretty good.

So the check was $21.85. Pretty darn expensive. The tea was Gold Peak, and it was bad. They have Coke, fortunately.

Side note: I wish Gold Peak would go out of business. It is not good.

So I might go back to Abbey’s. Decent brisket, but I would try the ribs next time, maybe.

Ramona Cafe, Ramona, CA

29 March 2012

Ramona Cafe on Urbanspoon

Blah. That was my overall reaction to Remona Cafe. I had been hiking about 15 miles south of there, and decided to drive to Ramona just because it a new town. I got there around 1820 and left around 1915.

I ordered the chicken fried steak. It is hand breaded there. It was not very good. The CFS was tender enough, and decent sized, but it was thin. The thin beef was surrounded by at least three times the thickness of the beef of breading, on both sides of the beef. The breading had a lot of pepper taste in it. The CFS was covered by poultry gravy (that’s the normal configuration for this restaurant). I didn’t finish the CFS, it was a heck of a lot of breading.

The sides I got were mashers and corn. The corn was bland. The mashers were pretty good, and had more of the poultry gravy on it. The meal also came with cornbread. I think that was a nice touch, I like cornbread, but few places serve it. The cornbread came with a significant amount of real butter, and a big bottle of honey; the cornbread was pretty good.

The iced tea was a pleasant surprise, it was excellent!

Service was a bit spotty; it took a bit to get noticed initially, orders were taken and food dropped off in a drive-by manner. I kind of felt that I was not a priority.

In the end, the meal was so-so. My check was $14.15. If I get the opportunity to return to Ramona, I would likely not return to the Ramona Cafe. If I did, I would get something other than the CFS.

Backpacking Yosemite National Park, CA, 26-28 August 2011

5 September 2011

I have wanted to do some serious mountain backpacking at Yosemite for years. This year, a two-week business trip to San Diego, which had a three-day break in the middle due to the work schedule at the facility we were visiting, provided that opportunity.

Note: This blog post has only a few of the pictures I took. I uploaded the rest to Picasa here.

Hike summary

29.2 miles, from 4090 to 7983 feet altitude. Total elevation gain: 5750 ft. High waterfall climb, massive views, unexpected hordes of mosquitoes, hard walking, and great fellowship on this hike, with only minor injuries. Five guys, NO bitching (except for the comments about the hike leaders lack of consistency in what is “relative”, as in “After that little rise, it’s relatively level, guys!” 🙂 ).

We really scored well over 30 miles on this trip. The GPS noted at least an extra 0.5 miles when walking from the second camp out to the rim of the Valley several times, and we had extra mileage at lunch at Chilnualna Falls and at Glacier Point, and another 1.5 miles at the Mariposa Grove. Some serious walking, to be sure.

Getting There

We left San Diego Thursday and headed north through LA towards Yosemite. On the way there, north of Fresno, we saw an interesting smoke/cloud phenomenon. A lightning-caused fire started right outside the park a couple weeks ago, and per NPS policy, the fire is allowed to burn itself out naturally. The fire occasionally flares, and as we were outside Fresno, a flare occurred, and it got high enough to cause a cumulus cloud to form.

We got to Yosemite just before 1700 local. We had to buy a new yearly National Parks Interagency Pass; they cost $80, but are good for National Park and National Forest access for an entire year. It would cost $20 per vehicle otherwise. We hustled to Wawona, and got to the Wilderness Permit office at basically 1659. The Rangers were very accommodating, and got our permit issued, after a briefing on trail impact and sanitization (always camp or crap or pee 100+ft off any trail), fire safety, and bear safety. I also picked up three anti-bear food storage canisters (more than 1lb each).

We ended up each carrying an individual food storage canisters, since the interior was not sufficient to hold more than one mans worth of “smellables”. Each canister was $5 to rent, and they take a credit card as a deposit in case you want to keep yours. We didn’t.

One thing that I had missed was that we needed a reservation in a campsite for the first night. I had mistakenly thought that our permit entitled us to camp free the first or last night, but it turns out that only applies to a backpackers campsite in the Valley. We were cheerfully informed that we could drive the 40 minutes to the campsite in the Valley, but declined (since it would also mean a 40-min drive back in the morning).

One thing: there were only a couple available campsites at Wawona that evening, out of more than a hundred sites in the camp. Reservations in advance are taken, and I recommend making them.

We got a campsite in Wawona for $20, got set up, and then headed to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Redwoods to check out the huge trees there. When we got to the Mariposa Grove, the crew hiked up to the walk-through tree, then back down again. Those trees are amazing.

This is our campsite at Wawona; we didn’t use rainflys:

These are a couple photos of us hiking through the Mariposa Grove:

This little squirrel was eating one of the green pinecones that hung like bananas from some of the trees. He would shake the cone, throw off a “leaf”, and then eat something inside the cone, maybe a seed. A much larger squirrel came along while we were watching, and the little one started yelling in Squirrel, and eventually the little one rushed the larger one, and ended up running the larger one off. Tenacious little guy.

We had dinner at the Wawona Hotel. I wrote a blog post about it here. The staff at the Wawona were reluctant to give out the access code for their wifi, and there is no signal that my Blackberry could pick up, so I was not able to send any status message back home. I tried an ancient and formerly trusty device called a pay phone at the hotel, but it claimed that the phone I was trying to call would not receive my call, but they would be happy to connect anyway for $17. “Up yours”, thought I.

We got to camp around 2030. The sky was clear, and the stars… were… stunning!!! Even with the limited light from the other campers, the Milky way was clearly visible, and the stars were bright. I had to get up around 0200, and so had yet another group of stars visible, along with a super bright Jupiter.

We had breakfast (again at the Wawona Hotel) and final packing the next morning. We got another couple bear canisters (they open at 0830, not 0730 like the website says), filled our water bottles, drove to the trailhead, got our packs on, took a deep breath, and headed out.

Why We Went There, or Backpacking!

We hit the trail the first day at 0941. Our entry was the Chilnualna Falls trailhead, and the altitude was 4090 ft.

The trail was very nice along here. The trail is used by day hikers, so it is wider and smoother than a lot of backcountry trails. There was a lot of shade on the way up.

Since I had planned the route, I knew that the first day would be the hardest. It was brutal. It was hot, probably in the mid 80s, we were going up a steep path, with heavy packs. Even with the occasional fairly level places, we gained 2100 ft of altitude over about 5 hours. We took frequent breaks, but even so, it was an exercise in getting air. I don’t think any of us had problems from the muscle exercise, but getting air was an issue.

As we climbed, the view off to the west was increasingly pretty. We had a good view of Wawona Dome also. We all were thinking, “we are headed up there?”.

We also started seeing the Falls. The Falls isn’t a single or several waterfalls like Yosemite Falls, it is a series of cataracts that tumble down into the Wawona valley. The last one is as we were getting closer to the top.

Across the valley, I saw a structure on the ridge. I put my small binoculars on it, and it looks like an observation tower, maybe for fire monitoring.

When we got to the top, it was clearly time for an extended break. We had lunch, topped off our water, rested for a bit, sunburned a bit, and then explored the area.

A note here on people. On the climb up, we saw three people on horseback, about 10 day hikers, and two backpackers (and those two were headed down). On the second day, we saw not a single person on the trail until we passed Glacier Point Road, and even then, we only saw about ten people, all day hikers. For August, I expected to see more people in the backcountry.

When we were sufficiently rested, we headed back out. We soon found out we were not even at the top of the Falls. Whoops… We kept going up and up and up, and eventually found the top of the Falls, and then branched southeast into true backcountry.

We used every form of water purification on this trip. Lance had a bottle with a built-in filter. I used Aqua Mira liquid. Chuck and Brad had Aqua Mira tablets. Jason had a pump. Of course, we used the boiling method also for the dehydrated meals. The water was uniformly wonderful tasting. We didn’t have any issues finding it, except in one instance on the south rim of the valley, very high (there was a spring in the area, but we couldn’t find it, and we hiked a couple miles dry after using all our water for breakfast).

My original plan had been to make our way into the backcountry to one of the mountain lakes on the trail; Johnson or Crescent Lake. By the time we got to the second trail junction (that either went towards Bridalveil Creek Camp, or towards the lakes, we were pretty much done in for the day. If we had continued on to the lakes, we were looking at five miles or so more, which wasn’t so bad, but it was also about 1500 ft of additional altitude, up to 8500 ft. After talking it over with the team, we turned toward the north, and determined to make camp near the next trail junction, which was about ¾ mile away.

We found a nice campsite near a stream with good water shortly. It also had a fire ring (Yosemite requires all campfires to be in established fire rings). We stopped, pitched our tents, and got camp set up, all while being eaten alive by ravenous and obnoxious mosquitoes! We had limited bug spray, and basically used it all. Those blasted bugs were extremely obnoxious!

Our first day was a hike of 7.6 miles and 3365 feet (!) of altitude gain. Our campsite was at 7455 ft.

Camp was beautiful. A couple of the guys made a campfire, and the smoke helped with the mosquito situation a bit, which was very nice. There were a number of rounded rocks sticking out of the ground, which made for nice surfaces for our stoves.

We got water going for dinner, ate dinner, and then basically retreated to our tents before we became sucked dry. One of the little SOBs apparently was on me in my tent, and when I smacked it, I could not believe how much blood was on my hand.

It was cloudy that evening, and there had been a small chance of thunderstorms, so we used our rainflys. Almost as soon as we got into the tents to escape the mosquitoes, there were a couple passing spits of rain. I don’t think we would have been bothered even if we had not put the rainflys up. It was very pleasant temperature-wise, almost chilly. I was in my sleeping bag, but it was mostly unzipped.

I spent some time in the tent looking at routing, and thinking about our air capacities and legs. I thought about going east-northeast towards Buena Vista Junction for our second night (which was my original plan), but it was up and over some pretty high terrain. Instead I decided we would make north through Bridalveil Camp, and on to the south rim of the Valley.

The next morning, we all woke up earlyish, got our water boiling, ate, broke camp, and got moving around 0900. Everyone was a bit stiff from the uphill walk the day before, but we loosened up pretty fast. It was clear again. And the mosquitoes were back again.

The hike to Bridalveil Camp was about 7 miles, and was level for the most part. The day started out pleasant, but it got warm quickly, and so the sweating started again. The bugs were a little less annoying while we were walking, but were still there. We really moved out along this stretch.

It was a beautiful walk to the Camp. The terrain was varied, from woods to small meadows, to domes off to both sides.

There was an amazing variety of wildflowers along the trail.

As with most trails, there were occasional obstacles. These included fallen trees; this was the biggest we encountered.

We ended up on a ridge that had amazing views of the Parks high country off to the east. We rested here a bit, and drank in the views.

We followed Bridalveil Creek after a while, it was beautiful.

We stopped for lunch at the Bridalveil Creek Camp. They had real bathrooms there! We also took the opportunity to wash up as best we could – we were really dirty. One thing that was interesting, the Camp had pretty much been dedicated to fire crews that had been staged in from all over California. I don’t know if they were all fighting the fire outside of Yosemite, or were there in contingency, but there were a lot of them.

We left the camp, crossed Glacier Point Road, and headed for the south rim of the Valley. We got to the footbridge over Bridalveil Creek, and then headed back up again.

We filled water bottles here, and I think that this would have been a good place to have an extra bottle apiece. Between dinner this evening, and breakfast in the morning, we consumed every drop we carried up there. According to our map, there was a spring very near where we ended up camping, but we never found it (it was August, and the spring might have stopped).

We walked up a couple hundred feet at this point; it was hard but doable. And it was worth it. We ended up on a large mostly open area, and decided to camp there. Walking off the trail to the north, I knew the rim of the Valley was somewhere ahead, and then saw this through the trees:

It turns out that we were right between the face of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. We stood and marveled at the view for a while. A long while, it was stunning. The pictures really do not do the views justice. Finally, realizing Sun was going down, we went back and set up our tents, then we did some exploring.

That last one, is Luke waving from the next bluff over. The cliff walls below our camp were fairly sheer, thousands of feet pretty much straight down.

Sun set behind the smoke from the fire at the west end of the Park.

Our second day was a hike of 11.7 miles and a net 123 feet of altitude loss (there was still a lot of up there); we were at 7332 ft altitude. This was the single most beautiful camp I have ever been in. You could not be there for more than a minute without looking out at the view. And then standing there for a while. We still had mosquitoes, surprisingly enough, even with the altitude, the dryness of the camp (no water anywhere close), and a nice breeze. We noticed several bats as it was getting dark, and fervently wished them to come over and scarf the darn bugs around us.

That evening, the stars were even more stunning than they were at Wawona camp. The Milky Way was so plain. We saw numerous meteors and about 15 satellites. I stayed out a bit later than the other guys, with my head craned back until it hurt. There were occasional sightings of lightning; a storm was visible off to the Northeast once, but it was on the horizon, nothing near us.

We were all up and moving around 0700 Sunday morning. We got breakfast going and kept looking at that view.

One side note. When we were at the Wawona Hotel, there was an unusual package on top of a car. I wondered if it was a folded up hang-glider, and when the owner came out, I asked and he confirmed it. He said that the NPS gave them a “launch window” for flying at Glacier Point, and that for that weekend it was Friday – Sunday 0800 – 0900. Well, shortly after 0800, we saw this from camp:

That white dot to the right of center is a hang glider. We saw three of them flying around by Yosemite Falls. It takes some cojones to throw yourself off a 3Kft cliff, held up by some aluminum poles and ripstop nylon.

No one was in a hurry to leave that view. We got breakfast done, reluctantly packed up camp, and headed out again. Very reluctantly.

We hiked along close to the Valley edge for the most part. The views were amazing. Eventually we came to The Fissures. The Fissures have two interesting sets of things: the actual Fissures, but also some sheer walls. And I mean SHEER:

There is a railing there, but it doesn’t protect much area.

There is a place marker up there, and I had to compare the reported GPS altitude with the altitude measured by the surveyors who were up there before Oklahoma became a state. They did very well!

After the Fissures, we hiked another bit, and finally found a stream. It was small, but it was flowing and tumbling along, and we pumped everybody a couple full bottles of water, took big drinks, and topped them off again. The water was especially good tasting!

We walked under Sentinel Dome, but we were concerned about the time, so we bypassed walking up it. It’ll be there for another trip!

Below the trail to the Dome, and before we got to Glacier Point, we got this view. Staggering.

The path down to the Point was steep, and much of it was exposed. Hooray for sunblock.

The view from the Point is one of the most beautiful on the entire planet.

The hiking snob in me sort of wishes there was not a road to the Point.

Half of us decided to take the shuttle bus from the Point down to the Valley. The other half decided to finish the weekend out with a hike down 4-Mile Trail. It is STEEP. Luke got a burst of energy and jogged down most of it, wow! Lance and I jogged a bit, but going down is hard on a different set of muscles, so we ended up fast-walking most of it. Along the way, I got this view of Half Dome and the area of the Mirror Lake Trail; I decided this is one of my favorite views of the Dome.

Most of the way down has great aerial views of the Valley, and of course Yosemite Falls is part of that. You don’t usually get a view from directly across the base of the Upper Falls.

And of course here are the Fissures, and the area where we camped the night before. Amazing.

Eventually, we reached the bottom. And a good thing, too, since we were literally footsore. I had to take the obligatory “We were up there?” shot.

Our last day of hiking was 9.9 miles, and we had 3470 ft of altitude loss, ending up on the floor of Yosemite Valley.

Once we got down, we met up with the rest of the crew at Yosemite Lodge. I had three bottles of Lipton Iced Tea from the shop there (that stuff, by the way, is pretty good for mass-manufactured tea). We also went over to the Merced and waded a bit to wash the crud off our feet. And a lot of crud there was. That water was cold, wonderfully cold. I didn’t stay long, as I had washed off my sunblock along with the dirt. I used the bathroom at the Lodge to re-up deodorant, and we waited for my friend Jim to arrive from Fresno to shuttle us back to Wawona.

BTW, the black canisters on the ground in front of us are the anti-bear food canisters we carried. A little over a pound of extra weight.

The timing of our exit from the Valley was such that we got a wonderful backlit view of the entrance to the Valley. Not a bad way to call it a day.

We got our van from the trailhead, had dinner, and headed back to San Diego, arriving at 0400 Monday morning. The next day (or rather, the rest of that day) at work was kind of tiring, but no one crashed, at least until that night.

Here is our hike path over a topographic map, a Google Earth terrain, and an altitude plot. I broke the topo maps into the entire trip, then to zoom in on each days hiking.

This is the same altitude plot, but the waypoints from the GPS are annotated. I also took off the last part of the plot to accurately show that our end point in the Valley was higher than our starting point in Wawona.


I was looking for some good metrics from this trip. I calculated the following for this group of guys in decent but not spectacular shape on average.

    Average speed over level ground: 1.75mph

    Average speed up hill: 0.87mph

    Average speed down hill: 2.4mph

This includes breaks. Level is relative, of course ( 🙂 ).

I was interested in how much fuel to bring for my MSR stove. In the end, I brought way too much! I used the smaller bottle first, it has 11 oz of fuel. Chuck had an MSR alcohol stove also, and we used them in tandem. Mine heated water for 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and part of a second dinner, and his worked for 2 dinners and 1 breakfast, and part of a second breakfast. I should have only taken the larger (20 oz) bottle, filled half way or so. That would have saved 1.2 lbs.


After the incessant bear briefings, we saw: NONE. There were two deer, both within 300 yards of Glacier Point. A number of squirrels. A fair number of birds, including the beautiful Stellar’s Jay.

Things That Went Right

Food was pretty much right on target. I used a variation of what I called Tracy’s Menu from a previous trip to the Ozarks, and it kept me and the guys fed and going without any problem. Lunch was a tuna salad kit that had three ounces of tuna; they are perfect with the included mayo and pickle relish. One of the other guys had some that was pre-mixed, I might have to find out how those are.

I used two Backpackers Pantry meals for dinner; the Backpackers Pantry Shepherd’s Pie was good, but so soupy it was hard to eat. I’d reduce the water for that by ¼ cup to thicken it up. But the Chili Mac from Mountain House was PERFECT. The perfect amount of food, with decent sized meat pieces in it, and it had just the right amount of chili spice to it. I’d like that for dinner at home every once in a while, great stuff.

I used two Backpackers Pantry meals for breakfast. The package for Granola and Blueberry recommended cold water for rehydration, but hot is much better! The blueberries (and there were a lot of them) were a good flavor for the morning. Peanut Butter Raisin Oatmeal was decent, thick and hot and pretty good taste.

The Katadyn Hiker PRO Water pump for water purification worked well; we used it for the majority of water purification. With a strong pumper, it will fill a Nalgene in about 1 minute. I’ve had those break on a trip, though, so carry backup purification. I prefer the liquid Aqua Mira, since it gets the job done in 30 minutes. The tablets take hours.

Things That Went Wrong, Or At Least Not So Right

I carried too much! I took my pack apart post-trip, and I estimate that there was about seven pounds of stuff that I carried to no good use. I brought and carried a sweatshirt and sweatpants in anticipation of possible low temps, but a last-minute weather check would have showed that those were not needed. It got down to about 60F at the coolest, and the sweatstuff was not needed, is bulky, and fairly heavy. I had also bought a pound bag of M&Ms for snacking, and then packed them into the bottom of the bear canister, and carried them the entire time. So extra load, and didn’t get the benefit of the snack energy: not terribly smart.

I ran out of the powdered lemonade I like to flavor the water with, but it was not a big deal since the water from the streams was wonderful to taste!

I didn’t bring enough bug repellent. I had bought a small spray tube of DEET, and I carry a couple moist towelettes that are DEET soaked, but when shared among six guys that are being eaten alive by mosquitoes, they were used up quickly. All of us should have had the small spray tubes.

This was a first – I got not one, but three blisters while hiking – two big and one small. I never got the predictive hot spots, and when I checked my feet at the end of the trail there were not blisters. But when I woke up the next morning, there they were. They are long gone now.

My Navarros boots failed, both in the same way. The left boot split from the heel to arch, along the foot (not side to side, surprisingly). The right boot was cracked the same way, and was miles away from splitting wide open. That explained the huge amount of dirt in my boot, and why my sock and foot was so dirty (I had thought that it was due to dust leaking in from the ankle).

I had been checking the weather, and the forecast the week before had been for chilly nights in the 40Fs range. In reality, it was in the 60Fs. I had brought a heavier sleeping bag, and should have brought the liner I use in warmer weather – it’s also much lighter. Bring both next time, and select which to take the day before.

During trip planning, I was overconfident of our ability to scale the waterfall the first day. We made it, of course, it just took longer than I thought it would. I had already looked at multiple routes when doing trip planning, so it was easy to reroute us, and the reroute to the rim of the Valley was spectacular, so nothing was lost. The metrics I collected will help for next time.

Would I Do It Again?

YES! This was wonderfully refreshing for me. I love the mountains, and Yosemite in particular, and I almost hurt my neck swiveling around to see all the sights while we walked. I would have liked to see some of the wonderful mountain lakes, but now that is on the list for next time. Staying on the south wall of the Valley due to the reroute we did was a stroke of luck; the views were worth the sweaty walking needed to get there. It was hard walking, but I find that refreshing and uplifting (especially after the pack is on the ground and the tent is up!).

I am already looking forward to my next backpacking trip there. It might take five years, but it will happen.

Point Break Cafe, San Diego, CA

4 September 2011

Point Break Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place was recommended to me as a “locals” place. It’s down by the harbor area below Point Loma. A couple work friends and I ate here last Thursday evening after a long work day. It was almost empty at 1830 when we got there, and still pretty much empty an hour later when we left.

I got a set of onion rings for the table, and something else (I’ll remember what later). The appetizers were all really good, and were eaten long before dinner got there.

My dinner was a ribeye. It was cooked a little short of the medium I asked for, but I let it rest a bit and it got up to nearly medium. It was decent sized and had pretty good flavor, and was tender throughout. There were a couple charred places on the edge, but not too bad. It came with some fried mushrooms that were pretty good.

The iced tea was very good and kept filled. Service was casual but kept up. My check was $40.51, but the appetizers were $10 of that, so not a bad price for a decent steak. I’d go back again.

Wawona Hotel Restaurant, Wawona, Yosemite National Park, CA

1 September 2011

Wawona Dining Room/ Wawona Hotel on Urbanspoon

During my recent backpacking trip to Yosemite, the walking started in Wawona. I had dinner that Thursday evening, breakfast the next morning, and then dinner again Sunday evening.

Dinner was an excellent pot roast in both cases. There was a decent amount of beef, a fair amount of veggies like carrots, and some really good skin-on mashed red-skin potatoes. The pot roast had excellent gravy as well. That was some of the best gravy I have ever had, perfect consistency and flavor. The pot roast was tender, had trmendous flavor, and was an excellent meal. The tea was very good also. I had a brownie sundae for dessert Thursday, liked it. Service in both cases was pretty good. My check was $40.35.

Breakfast Friday morning was the buffet. There wasn’t a lot on it; I got scrambled eggs and some potatoes and such. Pretty lean. My check that day was more than $20, I don’t think it was very good value.

So hit the Wawona for dinner, and find somewhere else for breakfast.

The Corvette Diner, San Diego, CA

1 September 2011

Corvette Diner on Urbanspoon

The Diner is in a retail area that used to be part of the USMC Recruiting and Training Depot in San Diego. I like diners, and thought this would be a typical diner, but it wasn’t. It is meant to be an Experience. There are video games for kids to play in an arcade, it’s loud, and the servers are brash.

We got there at lunch yesterday, and left after an hour or so. I got a sloppy joe and onion rings. The rings were really good; I had asked twice for some ranch dressing to dip them in, but never got it. The sloppy joe was OK, not spectacular. I started out with a vanilla shake, it was OK. My check was $17.36, and there was an “included gratuity” of $2.86 (17%!), I would imagine because there were six of us.

The food was not that good, and the service, while the server was nice and all, was not terribly prompt or throuogh. I don’t know that I would go back.

Miguel’s, Old Town, San Diego, CA

1 September 2011

Miguel's on Urbanspoon

I had heard good things from a friend about this restaurant, and a group of us decided to try it last Monday. We liked it enough that we came back again this evening. It was good both times.

Monday I started off with Miguel’s Nachos for the table, mixed chicken and beef. My main dish was mixed fajitas with no bell peppers. The nachos were OK. The fajitas were excellent. The meat was tender, the onions fully cooked. The meal did not stick to the bottom of the cooking pan, and so was not charred. I piled the refried beans and rice on it, added some salsa, and ate the whole thing. I ended up with chocolate empanadas for desset (small shells filled with chocolate). My check was $36.37.

Tonight I got shredded chicken enchiladas. They were also very good. Smaller than most meals, though. My check was $22.90.

Tea both times, good but not spectacular. Server was good, but I did run out of tea once Monday for a while. This was much better than Coyotes, for sure. Good stuff.

Hiking Winter Creek Trail to Hoegees Camp, and Mount Zion, Chantry Flat, CA

12 June 2011

After my meeting on Thursday was done, I had a late lunch, and then hightailed it across LA to Arcadia – about 55 miles. I headed up Santa Anita into the Canyon, up to the parking area at Chantry Flat. When you get off Interstate 210 and turn north, you quickly run out of businesses and into a beautiful neighborhood. If you want to grab lunch, look to head south off of 210; there is a bunch of stuff within a couple blocks.

There is a gate where you get to the hills that states it is closed at 2000; there is apparently a phone number to call in case you get locked in. Just as a general comment, I do not see the logic in closing access to the wilderness between 2000 and 0600.

I got to Chantry Flat in short order, and parked. The parking area is kind of small, and even at 1430 on a Thursday afternoon, it was almost full. You have to pay $5 to access the area; the place to buy the pass is a “general store” that is up the hill a bit, but it’s only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There is a self-service pay station, but there were NO passes there. I paid my $5 and hoped I didn’t get a ticket in the meantime (I didn’t). There were no paper maps in sight; I took a picture of a map on the wall and referred to it a couple times on my Blackberry.

They have water at several locations in the area, so you can fill your bottles on the hill. The temp when I arrived was in the 80s, and it was fairly humid. There are heads at the trailhead.

Hike summary: 8.3 miles, 2300 ft of total elevation gain. The most beautiful hike I have had in Southern California. Started at 1500, finished at 1930.

The Lower Winter Creek Trail starts off going down into Santa Anita Canyon. The trail starts out as a road.

At the bottom you can walk a little downstream to see a couple of waterfalls. I wanted to get started so I headed up the trail, which at this point is packed dirt and occasional rock.

Winter Creek is beautiful. I was amazed at how clear it is. It tumbles over rock, with a lot of little waterfalls. You can almost always hear it running as you walk.

There are a number of man-made dams on the creek as you walk along. Most are of the same basic construction.

In the first photo, note that the water downstream of the dam is clear enough to see rocks on the bottom of the stream even from the distance. That water was beautiful and clear.

The rock formations on the canyon walls were varied and beautiful. Some of them had really neat veining, others were solid chunks. It was a chore to keep your balance as often you get to rock hop on the trail. By the way, you cross Winter Creek about a dozen times on the way up.

Eventually you get to Hoegees Camp. This is one beautiful campsite. It has heads. The water is from Winter Creek.

On the hike up, you pass a number of cabins. I don’t know if those are private, or rented, but the only access is by walking.

I just keep going back to the sheer beauty of this trail. You are shaded the entire time. It’s a fairly steady climb as well, and you occasionally rock and root hop. The melody of the flowing water is there also. I didn’t hear a single human-made sound (as in cars or airplanes) the entire time.

Above the camp, there is a turnoff for the trail up Mount Zion. This trail is narrower, and has some definite watch-out spots.

Right about this time, the batteries in my trusty HP 735 camera went kaput. Fortunately, I had a backup in my Blackberry camera. As I climbed up the Zion trail, I broke out of the taller trees (less water, less woods), and started seeing some valley views. You can see how some of the LA Basic Haze-Crud was present. I think that the antennas visible on the farthest peak are on Mt. Wilson.

This is two shots looking down-valley. You can see the cities of the basin to the right, through the crud.

This really cool cactus-looking plant was at the wye of one of the switchbacks.

I reached the top of Mt. Zion after some hard and sweaty hiking. There is not a lot of cover up there (no trees, just thick bushes), but I sat for a while and rested, had a bag of Sun Chips, ate some chocolate candy, and drank some water. The bushes gave shade when I was there about 1800, but during the noon period this would be very exposed.

Looking down the valley again, and much higher, you can see the crud layer over the LA Basin very clearly.

While I was up on Zion, I noticed this lizard sitting on a bush. It was quite calm and let me get close and look at it. It has iridescent blue and green on the underside. This lizard (I saw one like it on one of the man-made dams, and several others on or next to the trail) will walk a couple steps, and then do some push-ups. Don’t know why.

I saw this very interesting plant on the way down.

After getting back to the Lower Winter Creek Trail, I decided that I had enough time to hike the longer way back on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. There was a bit of a climb after crossing Winter Creek again, but then the trail started down again. The Upper trail is a little more rugged in several ways, and is a little slippery in a number of places.

This is a view of Mt. Zion from the Upper trail.

After going around a shoulder, this light colored outcropping was very striking.

Saw a number of interesting plants. There were some very pretty small flowers, like this one. I also saw an unusual seed pod; it’s about 1 inch in diameter.

Finally, you get a good view of the parking area with about a mile to go.

Here is my GPS route overlaid on the topographic map of the area, the Google Earth Terrain, and finally the altitude plot.

The altitude plot shows the trail dropping into the bottom of Santa Anita Canyon to start, then following the stream uphill. Past Hoegees Camp, I took a side trail off to Mount Zion – that is over 1000 feet of elevation gain all by itself. Then there is another shorter altitude gain to make the “upper” part of Upper Winter Creek Trail true.

There was intermittent cell signal on some of the trails that were on the southeast shoulders of the hills.

I was just astounded at how beautiful the trail was (on the Lower trail along the stream, especially). This was a fantastic hike, not for beginners, but doable especially if you take it easy. I would like to hike some of the rest of this area, but don’t get out there very often, and so don’t know when I will have the opportunity again. I’ve done some hiking in the Mount Wilson area back in 1996, and in the Big Bear area back in 2007 (I think), but this trail blows those away in scenic terms.

On the way up the Lower trail, I passed about 20 people, and on the way down, I passed about 15 more. Coming down the Upper trail, I passed and was passed by about five trail bikers. Several of these were going too fast, and one of them came very close to running me down from behind; I heard his braking skid and leapt to the side of the trail in a very timely manner. Didn’t even get an excuse me or anything. One bike rider rang a little bell as he was coming around every turn (it was the same sound as the message-received tone my friend Gayle uses on her phone, and just for a second I wondered if she was waiting around that corner!). I didn’t see a single person on the Zion trail.

There was not a lot of wildlife. Some very nice birds, including a pair of Hooded Orioles (beautiful birds!), a number of the push-up lizards, and a couple squirrels. I saw one hawk (falcon-shaped), and heard one owl hooing (this was on the Upper trail).

A funny postscript. I did this hike Thursday evening, and then flew back to Oklahoma City Friday. I unpacked my bag in the evening, and set my hiking boots on the floor next to the bag. For the past 24 hours, our two cats have been all over those boots. They grab them with both claws, and smell and lick and rub their cheeks all over the boots, in particular the soles. Raegan says I probably stepped into sand with cougar pee in it, or where a bear crapped. It’s funny watching the two cats act like they are on cat drugs.

This was a great way to spend an afternoon and evening. Recommended.

Claim Jumper, Monrovia, CA

11 June 2011

Claim Jumper on Urbanspoon

I have eaten at two of these chainlet restaurants, both in California. The first time was in 2004; Raegan and the kids and I were driving between LA and Monterrey, CA, and we had dinner at a Claim Jumper in Santa Clarita, CA, mainly because it was close to I-5. I seem to remember liking that restaurant, and so a year or so later, I ate at one in Brea, CA. The experience in Brea was not good, and I have since passed up a couple opportunities to eat at a Claim Jumper again.

Thursday evening, after a wonderful hike nearby, I decided to try the Claim Jumper in Monrovia, as I wanted STEAK. I’m glad I did, this was a perfect restaurant experience.

I got there around 2015. There were a number of groups waiting to be seated, but my wait was less than five minutes. My server was at the table in less than a minute.

I’ll just go through what I ordered: iced tea, excellent. Bread choice was a blueberry muffin; rough texture, nice crust, sweet butter, and HOT, perfect. Ribeye steak; medium, juicy, fork tender, wonderful flavor, cooked medium just as I think medium ought to be, perfect (this was the best steak I have had in months). First side of roasted vegetables; onions, potatoes, carrots, squash, zucchini, some other stuff; perfect. The veg deserves some more commentary. Most roast veg is burned or soggy. This stuff had all of its texture, and the roast flavor was just something to marvel at. I wish I could do that at home. Second side of mac and cheese, very good, but could have been warmer.

I left at about 2130, and made the long drive back to my hotel at LAX. My check was $33.78. That’s probably a bit more expensive than I would normally pay for a steak dinner, with no appetizer, no soup or salad, and no dessert. But for what I have to say was a perfect meal, perfect service, just the right amount of filling, I think it was great value. I will put Claim Jumper back on my approved list, in the event I run across one again. Damn, I liked those roasted vegetables!

Hiking Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Lake Forest, CA

9 June 2011

I tried to hike here about a year ago. I got out of my meeting around 1600, and headed directly to Whiting Ranch, but rain earlier in the week had caused the Orange County Powers That Be to close the park. I had better luck this time.

Hike summary: 5.5 miles and 800 feet of altitude gain, evening animals, forest canyon and desert.

I got here around 1820, a late start. Our meeting had finished about 1645, and I hustled back to the hotel and changed and headed out. Traffic on the 405 was pretty slow due to normal traffic, compounded by a rollover wreck, and then hitting every red light in SoCal.

Parking at the trail head is $3. There is a water fountain there, but it was low, low flow, so it’s probably better to fill your bottle somewhere else. I was at the Borrego Trail entrance. The trail head is in a heavily urban area, and the trail starts out in a canyon between two housing developments.

There are two mountain lion warning signs; here is the first.

The trail is mostly hard packed dirt. You start off in trees, and it’s very pretty, before the trail gives way to out-in-the-open hillside.

You are actually following a stream bed on this part of the hike. It’s nice, there are occasional trickles of water. One downer, there are a couple stretches where you are walking in the dry streambed, and it’s sand, and very hard to walk in.

While in the streambed, I saw an outstanding example of why not to build on soft rock. The sand was coming from the bluff to the north, which had a number of doubtless expensive houses built on it.

I walked to the intersection of Mustard Road, and took it left for the vista point. At one point, I took a turn onto Cow Pond Loop, thinking for some reason it looped back to the trail I was on (when the map clearly showed otherwise), and walked it to the east fork of the Mustard Road trail. So I got a little double-tracking. NBD.

The trail up the hill sometimes goes through flowers and other plants. It’s not very wide.

The vista point has decent views, and a picnic table. After looking up there a couple minutes, i turned around and headed back, as Sun was already down.

Here is my GPS data overlaid on a topo map, Google Earth terrain, and an altitude plot.

You can see a couple things on the altitude. First, the x axis is time. The plot should be fairly symmetric since it was an out-and-back. On the way up, I took the Cow Pond Loop, which looped back to the east side of the main trail. Then, coming back from the vista point, I stopped on the shoulder and made a call back home a bit before my usual 2215 Central time; since the x axis is time, it looks like I walked a long flat trail segment when I was in reality standing.

There was little wildlife to be seen until I got back down into the canyon and it was getting dark. I saw numerous bats, saw two skunks (both of which lifted their tails my direction), a couple bunnies, numerous bush rattles, and most memorably, there were three owls talking to each other. Before it got dark, I saw three hummingbirds and a couple sparrows.

I saw about seven people walking on the trail, and about ten mountain bikers, several of which were traveling down hill like lunatics at breakneck speed.

This was a nice way to spend a couple hours. I haven’t hiked 10% of this park, and I look forward to hiking more of it.

Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, Lake Forest, CA

9 June 2011

Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ (Lake Forest) on Urbanspoon

This was a great find. I have low expectations for West Coast BBQ, but I keep trying. This was a fine find. I picked it by noting it as I passed by on the way to a hike at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

I got there about 2115, and left around 2215. The place was pretty much empty. I ordered the chicken and two meat platter, which means a half chicken, and the two meats I selected, pulled pork and brisket.

A couple opening notes. I saw that they had fried chicken on the menu, unusual in this day. The chicken was advertised as coming with pan gravy. I asked my server to bring me some for a taste test. That stuff was GREAT. Excellent! It had small pieces of chicken in it, was perfect consistency, and was clearly made with real drippings and flour. Great stuff. Almost as good as my very cute and outstanding gravy chef roommate makes.

The meal came with a biscuit (baked on site, and excellent) and some apple butter. Not the dark apple butter I am used to, but lighter and slightly sweeter, very good.

The meal. The pulled pork was pretty darn good, about a 7 out of 10, as was the brisket. The brisket was very tender, and had a good smoky crust on it. The pulled port was a little less tender and a bit fattier. Either would make a good meal. There were two sides: the baked beans had jalapenos and bell peppers in them, and were not good. The other side was mac and cheese, but it had been baked to the point that it was not edible. The lowest layer of mac was the only stuff worth eating.

That chicken. It was some of the best I have every had. From the skin all the way in, it was tender, smoky, and tasty. Moist all the way through the thickest part. I would drive 50 miles for some more of that chicken.

I tried the hot (and it was hot, left my tongue slightly burning for several minutes after the bite) and the the mild sweet. They were best mixed 50/50. The chicken was enhanced even more by that mix.

Service was outstanding, the server was super nice. My check was $24.99. I would like to try the fried chicken; it it is as good as the gravy, it’s got to be pretty darn good. Or the BBQ chicken again.

Or both…

Hot Off The Grill, Seal Beach, CA

9 June 2011

Hot Off the Grill on Urbanspoon

I have observed before that there are a lot of a certain type of restaurant in the SoCal area. They are characterized by being independent (or few locations), but have hugely diverse menus.

Yesterday I was driving by Hot Off The Grill and decided to try it. It has a very diverse menu, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, American, Tex-Mex, Greek, and other stuff.

I ordered carne asada. I’ve had this once before, as a steak at a restaurant in DC. This time, it’s closer to the actual asada presentation you would find in Mexico. This was chopped sirloin marinated in a light spice, and sauteed.

The meal started with a large salad. It had iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and very good ranch dressing. While I was eating this, the main meal came. The rest of the salad was abandoned, as I could barely eat the meal. Fast delivery, and the meal was HOT, like Off The Grill. There was a largish serving of the carne asada that was very good, and sides of pinto beans (decent), three tortillas (warm), a couple chips, rice (very good), fries (decent), fried zucchini (excellent), and some thin fried onions (OK). The meat, beans, and rice got somewhat mixed up (on purpose) and made for a great combined taste.

This is the main meal:

My check was $10.86, a great value for far more food than I could eat. The iced tea was Gold Coast, but wasn’t too bad. I got there around 1815, and left around 1900. This is a good place for lots of inexpensive food, in a hurry.

KOST 103.5, Los Angeles, CA

9 June 2011

I’m in Seal Beach, CA this week. It seems that every time I come out here, I scan the FM band, and first pick out one of the local NPR stations, and then KOST (pronounced “coast”). They have a really good playlist of light rock, and every evening play sappy love songs all evening, which I really like.

I can usually hear KOST all the way down in San Diego. I was listening to it while I was returning from my afternoon/evening hike, and it occurred to me to listen online, which is what I am doing now.

Great station. I have it bookmarked for listening to it elsewhere.

Hunter Steakhouse, San Diego, CA

29 April 2011

Hunter Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

This evening, I wanted steak, and the rest of the crew was amenable. I did some Google searching for “family steakhouse”, and Hunter Steakhouse had good reviews. We got there at 1845 and left at 2005.

I got an appetizer for the table; it was four skewers of chicken, four of shrimp, and four of teriyaki beef. All were pretty good (or maybe it was because we were all very hungry?). They came on a bed of rice, which was *very* good! The chicken had a semi-glaze of BBQ sauce on it, and some were nice and thick. The shrimp were medium sized, and the beef smallish. It was a nice start to the meal.

I got (talked into) a porterhouse. It came a perfect medium. The tenderloin was tender, fork tender. The strip was excellent. There was no charring. That was one good steak. It came with a ceasar salad, not very big but good. It also came with two sides; I got potatoes au gratin and onion rings. The rings were OK. The potatoes were excellent; they were more like the fried potatoes I remember my mom and dad cooking on family picnics at the lake. They had onion in them.

The tea was kind of funny tasting, but not so bad I sent it back.

This was the best meal I have had in San Diego this trip; I will be back to Hunter. My check was $47.27. That seems a little high, but the appetizer was $10 of the total, and the steak was $30. There were lots of other things on the menu that looked good also.

Anthony’s Fish Grotto, San Diego, CA

28 April 2011

Anthony's Fish Grotto on Urbanspoon

Anthony’s is a San Diego institution. I went there last night for dinner with three other work friends. It was my suggestion. I had eaten here with the family when I had them at SD back in 2003, and before that, somewhere back in the early 1990s.

I looked at the menu and was sort of appalled. I’m not a fish person; I like chicken and beef. There was only one chicken dish. There were five or so beef dished, but every single one was a teriyaki marinade of sirloin. They were all small, also, like six ounce.

I ended up getting fish and chips, starting with a cup of New England Chowder. I should have had the bowl; it was the best part of the meal. The fish was decent; it had little flavor, and was a chunky whitefish. The breading could have been a bit crispier to help it hold it’s shape. It came with chips (OK at best). The iced tea was pretty good.

We got there around 1830 and left around 1900. My check was $25.45. Service was good. The other guys all thought the seafood was pretty good.

Cafe Coyote, Old Town, San Diego, CA

28 April 2011

Cafe Coyote on Urbanspoon

Five of us went here for dinner this evening. It wasn’t bad at all.

We got there around 1845 and left around 2000. It was crowded, but we were seated within a couple minutes.

The iced tea was a concentrate, unfortunately. The Coke was not very good. The chips were good, and the salsa had a lot of tomato in it, along with onions. The taste was pretty good, and the heat was minimal. I ordered beef nachos for the table; they were OK.

I ordered the enchiladas, one with chicken and one with shredded beef (no ground beef). The beef enchilada was pretty good. The chicken was bland. I think they needed to cook the chicken in something with a bit more spice to it. The beans and rice included were OK; I think there should have been more of the beans.

A couple of the guys suggested I get the fried ice cream. It was OK.

Service was decent, especially given how crowded it was. My check was about $19.00. I’d go here again.

Hiking Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA

6 March 2011

Last week I had two opportunities to hike in San Diego. The first was Black Mountain, and the second was Sunset Cliffs. Sunset Cliffs was suggested by a friend from high school that I had not seen in about 30 years, and who lives in San Diego. We got there about 1620 last Thursday, and finished up about 1800. The total walk was 2.5 miles per the GPS (yes, I was nerd enough to carry it!).

I only took two photos, which I will post first and comment on later. I didn’t take too many pictures, as there was a lot of time spent talking; not a bad thing at all.

The Sunset Cliffs are on the west side of Point Loma, which is part of San Diego, CA. If I remember, we took Talbot up to CA 209, then Hill down to the beach. There are truly rugged cliffs right up against the ocean. There are numerous access points along the trail for people to go down to the beach, and we saw a lot of surfers.

The sinkhole was one of the first things we ran across. The state of California (I guess) fenced it off.

Sometimes the trail we followed would run down a ravine and abruptly end, usually 20-50 ft above the beach. You would have needed rope to get down, but there was usually no place you could tie the rope off to. The trail would also run out to numerous points that jutted out. Some looked like they were none to stable; be warned. There were a lot of places where you scramble up and down.

You can tell from the one photo above that the cliffs are abrupt and steep. It’s clear that the steep sides of Point Loma enhances runoff velocity, which accelerates erosion. There are fissures everywhere.

I was impressed by how rugged the terrain is. The rock is a mixture of igneous (not too much) and sedimentary; there is a lot of sandstone and shale.

You walk south until you run up against a fence that the Navy put up to separate their turf from the rest of the point. We walked closer to the beach until we got to the fence, then went up to a parking lot, and stayed more or less on road up high to get back.

Here are the topo, terrain, and altitude plots from the GPS.

This was a very pleasant way to spend a couple hours or so on the coast. The trail can be a bit slippery, and there can be some wind, but the scenery is beautiful. It was a bit chilly from the onshore wind, so a long-sleeve shirt or a sweatshirt might be needed.

As Nancy pointed out, there are few places in the San Diego area where you can feel that you are completely away from the bustle and noise of the city, but in reality, we were only five minutes from downtown. I plan on going back to spend time here, and walk some more on the beach below the cliffs. It was a beautiful walk, which is really the reason I do it, and the company was very nice also.

La Pinata Mexican Restaurant, San Diego, CA

4 March 2011

La Pinata Mexican on Urbanspoon

A couple work friends and I went to dinner tonight. I was quite hungry after a very nice walk along the ocean with a friend from high school. I thought that cruising through Old Town would find something for us, and that was right. We drove past La Pinata, and went right in.

We got there around 1800, and left around 1900. The place was not crowded at all. The iced tea was great! Our server brought a carafe since we were drinking so much. The salsa was really good! It was spicier than most, but not so spicy as to deactivate the taste buds.

I ordered two enchiladas – one with chicken and one with ground beef. They were not huge, but they were very tasty. They came with some pinto beans and rice. Nothing was left. I spread some of the salsa around the enchiladas to enhance the flavor.

Service was very good. This place is recommended.

Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant, San Diego, CA

3 March 2011

Mona Lisa Italian Foods: Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon

I had dinner here last night after work, with a couple co-workers. I picked it from Google Maps. Mona Lisa is in the Little Italy part of San Diego.

We got there about 1815 and were immediately seated.

The iced tea was excellent, and kept refilled. The meal started with a garden salad that had the following in it: Two kinds of lettuce. One (1) black olive. One (1) banana pepper. One (1) small piece of tomato. I got ranch dressing. It was excellent! I asked for some extra, and instead of a little paper cup, I got a small bowl. Great stuff, some of the best.

The meal comes with some toasted garlic bread, and it was great, both by itself and with a bit of ranch dressing on it.

I ordered chicken marsala. It came with a side of spaghetti and marinara. The marinara was excellent, the noodles al dente. The chicken marsala was just the right amount of food. It was tender. The marsala was subtle and full of flavor, great stuff. I was very impressed by it. I would enjoy that marsala often if I could.

We left around 2000, the place was about 1/3 full. My check was about $20. Service was perfect. Recommended.

Point Loma Seafood, San Deigo, CA

3 March 2011

Point Loma Seafoods on Urbanspoon

Yesterday a group of us had lunch at Point Loma Seafoods. It was not an entirely pleasant experience, for me, anyway.

First of all, they don’t take credit cards. I am of the opinion that places that do not accept cards really don’t want my business. I won’t generally patronize them, but will go there if invited or with a group, like yesterday. They have an ATM in there (how convenient!), but it was not working (how inconvenient!), so I borrowed $20 from a co-worker.

We got there around 1150, it was very busy. I tried to put two empty tables end to end for our group to sit together, but a very rude employee told me I couldn’t do that, and then she forcibly moved the tables back apart. Our group had to sit quite far apart.

So you have to order, and then after a while a number is called, and you pick up your food. The whole process is kind of chaotic.

There is no non-fish food.

I ordered crab cakes. Now, I am not a fish expert. But I have had some crab cakes in Maryland (in particular), a little place just north of BWI airport, that were EXCELLENT. These, were not even close. There were three of them, just larger than half dollars, and they were partially charred on the outside. The crab and stuff on the inside wasn’t very good. The cole slaw was decent, and the fries were OK.

So I was not terribly impressed. Other people who were there raved about how good the food was, and those people eat a lot of fish. The ahi tuna was recommended in particular.

They have decent iced tea, but no free refills (Strike 3…).

We left around 1300. My check was about $15.75.

Hiking Black Mountain, San Diego, CA

2 March 2011

Today, I had intended on heading out to El Cajon for a hard hike. Instead, my flight into San Diego was quite late, and then getting people into their hotels, and lunch, took up more time. So I headed to my secondary destination, Black Mountain, to give it a try. I went with two work friends who came out for the same meeting.

Summary: Up at 1630, down at 1825. Total trip, 4.1 miles. Out and back on the same trail. Altitude: 800 to 1550 ft.

We found a trailhead at a community park, on the south side of the mountain, and headed out. It was about 65F when we left, and 55F when we came down; a bit chilly. You have a great view of Black Mountain from there.

The first part of the trail is steep. The trail is wide. It’s quite rocky in most places.

The rest of the trail, except for one section, is flat or quite gradual.

There was a large variety of plant material up there. Not much in the way of trees, but a lot of bushes and low plants. I really liked this flower.

We got to the top as Sun was starting to get close to the horizon. The views were excellent. This is off to the east. Iron Mountain and Mount Woodson frame the picture right and left. Note the trail running off at the bottom.

This is Mission Trails Regional Park, including Cowles Peak.

This is looking southwest, towards the parking lot where the car is.

Finally, this is downtown San Diego, and Point Loma.

We saw a couple bunny rabbits, and a number of small and medium birds, including a hummingbird, and a couple raptors. We saw a couple owl pellets, and tracks from deer of several sizes.

The following is my downloaded GPS track data overlaid on a topo, then Google Earth, and finally an altitude plot.

This was a great short hike. The views were fantastic. Very enjoyable.

Palominos Mexican and Seafood Restaurant, San Diego, CA

26 October 2010

Palominos Mexican & Sea Food on Urbanspoon

A coworker and I chose this restaurant for lunch more or less at random as we drove by today. We got there around 1145, and left around 1220. The restaurant was about 75% full the entire time.

I ordered the #2, which was two enchiladas (cheese, chicken, or beef), and a drink. It also happens to be the Monday special. I ordered my enchiladas as one chicken and one beef, although they came as both beef.

The enchiladas were… OK at best. They came in corn tortillas, which were pretty tough, and dry. The beef didn’t have a lot of taste. The plate also had a bunch of chunked-up tomatoes and onions and lettuce, and then there were refried beans and rice on the plate. It was quite a lot of food, and made for a heck of a mess on the plate. There were free chips and a number of salsas on a serve yourself.

There was no tea, but they had serve yourself soda.

My check was $8.16. I don’t know that I would go back.

Chicken Pie Diner, Poway, CA

25 October 2010

Chicken Pie Diner on Urbanspoon

After my Iron Mountain hike, I was hungry! I missed my turn onto Ted Williams Parkway, and cut back on Pomerado since I knew it crossed TW. I happened to notice the bright yellow sign for the Chicken Pie Diner, so had to check it out. The Diner is in a strip shopping center, in a small area. There are no more than 15 tables, and a counter. I got there about 1815; there were six tables occupied.

I got the house specialty, the chicken pie, as an ala carte item. It was about 4-5 in in diameter. The interior is chicken and gravy, and there are some carrots and peas on top of the pie, with some more gravy. The pie shell was good and flaky. The peas on top were what I call “big green industrial peas”, were kind of a lurid green, and were not fully cooked. The carrots were OK. The gravy was good. The chicken in the pie was kind of stringy and just a bit tough. Overall, the pie was… OK.

I also got a side chili. The chili was about 50% beef and 50% beans. The flavor was OK, but there was zero heat in the chili.

I had tea, and it was good, although it was served in a metal milkshake shaker.

The service was pretty good. I would not mind eating here again, but I would try something else. I left at 1900, and there were four other tables occupied. My check was $11.39.

Hiking Iron Mountain, Poway, CA

25 October 2010

Iron Mountain is near Poway, CA, which is near San Diego, CA. These mountains are on the edge of the western edge of of serious mountains about 10 miles away, but are great for afternoon hikes. After I arrived in San Diego and got checked into the hotel, I was at the trailhead about 30 minutes later.

Summary: Roundtrip mileage 5.7 miles (2.98 up, 2.72 down), net altitude gain 1088 ft. Started at 1530, down at 1800.

The parking area is across the intersection of CA 67 and Poway Road. There is a decent sized parking lot, with restrooms. There is no water there, so be sure to fill up your water bottles before coming to the trail head.

You get a good view of Iron Mountain from the trailhead. As you look at the high point, there is a ridge running down to a secondary summit. That ridge is what you switchback up to get to the top.

There is a neat “tunnel” through the trees near the start of the hike.

The first part of the hike is on a scraped road.

There is a branch in the trail that loops a bit to the south, and then reconnects right at the foot of the mountain. Taking the south loop is the longer path by 0.25 miles (so it would add 0.5 miles if you went that way both up and down). I took the south branch on the way up, and the north branch coming back down. Both trails run through a band of low trees.

Past where the trails reconnect, the trail becomes quite rocky, and you get to do some stairstepping. As you come up the shoulder of Iron Mountain, you also start to get some views, including part of the trail you walked up.

One note about online resources: This sign was at the halfway point of the hike. I did a little research last night, and there was very little online about several of these hikes. The bottom line to me is that there are thousands of nice trails to walk, but it’s kind of hard to find them if you are arriving from out of town. I have some more targets for later!

The trail goes around the east side of Iron Mountain, has some switchbacks, and then ends up on the ridge below the secondary summit. From there, it gets very rocky and steep.

This is looking at the summit from the bottom of the ridge.

At the top! This is looking south, at San Vicente Lake.

This is looking southwest of the mountain. The mountains to the left are Mission Trail Regional Park (the tallest one is Cowles Peak), and moving right you see downtown, San Diego Bay, and Point Loma.

This is looking west north west at Mount Woodson. I hiked Woodson a couple years ago.

Finally, these are looking northeast at the next peak over, and the east towards El Capitan and El Cajon Peak (on my list for this area!).

This was a very enjoyable way to spend part of an afternoon. I was happy at how crowded the trail was. I saw probably 80 people on the way up and down. There were a number of people running the trail, and one guy trying to mountain bike it, but most were hiking. There was a small group of Cub and Webelos Scouts, so that was neat! A number of people had dogs. Total wildlife was one rabbit, and two small skink-sized lizards.

This is the hike path overlaid on Google Earth to give you an idea of the vegetation.

Here is the path overlaid on a topographic map for terrain.

And finally, here is the altitude plot. A pretty typical up and down out and back!

The temperature was in the low 70s when I started, and in the low 60s at the end. There was a decent breeze at the top that made it a bit cool. On the way back, there were three hot air balloons off to the northwest.

Great hike!

Cool Things From The Air, SLC-SAN

25 October 2010

I flew on a Delta flight from SLC to SAN this morning. The cloud cover was too thick until just south of Las Vegas. As we got of the cover, there was a river, and it ran into a couple lakes, and then off to the south. My friend Google Maps, and a little dead reckoning, led to the following:

This is the Colorado River starting about 25 miles south of Boulder Dam.

The Colorado flows into Lake Mohave.

This next item is Searchlight, NV. The Coyote Mine is just to the north of town, which is below the town in this photo, since we were flying to the south. The Coyote Mine is a silver and quartz mine.

This, although fuzzy, is Laughlin, NV, and Bullhead City, AZ.

This is the Hart Mine in California. It is another silver mine.

OK, this was kind of strange. These markings are around Mile Marker 100 on I-40, the Needles Freeway. I think that they are draining channels, since they seem to interconnect a number of dry washes, and, then connect to other dry washes south of the freeway.

Just a little farther south, something new and different. These are salt evaporation ditches or pans. I do not know what company runs them.

This is the Desert Center, CA area. I do not remember what about the area that caused me to take the picture.

This is the north end of the Salton Sea.

This is the Mount Laguna Air Force Station. It apparently only has an FAA radar now.

On approach to SAN, we had good views of the San Diego Bay Bridge, and Point Loma.

That’s it!

Sir Vesa’s Mexican Grill, El Dorado Hills, CA

12 October 2010

Sir Vesa Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A couple of us went here for dinner after a day of meetings nearby. We had previously eaten in this restaurant when it was a different name several years ago.

We got there around 1745 and were immediately seated. The place had maybe three tables occupied.

The chips and salsa were both good, the chips thin and crunchy, and the salsa medium hot and not too thin. I got a two-enchilada dinner, with rice and beans. The enchiladas were one ground beef and one chicken, both covered with chili con carne. It was a good pair of enchiladas, and they were hot from the oven. I got iced tea and it was good, if a little slow in getting refilled.

We left around 1850, and the place was almost empty. Service was spotty. My check was $13.22, I would eat here again, as long as I was not in a hurry.

FWIW, I made this blog post from a car traveling down I-35, via my Blackberry, which was tethered to the computer via USB. Pretty coo.

Fat’s Asia Bistro, Folsom, CA

12 October 2010

Fat's Asian Bistro and Dim Sum Bar on Urbanspoon

Fat’s was recommended to us by one of the employees of the company we were working at in El Dorado Hills. We went there for dinner last Thursday evening. We got there around 1750, and left around 2000. The place was uncrowded when we got there, and when we left.

Fat’s is sort of family style. You order your meal, and it all gets put on a Lazy Susan to be shared.

I got Genghis Beef, which is sort of like broccoli beef, with some onions and green peppers thrown in (which I had removed when I ordered). There were other meals with jalapenos in them (which I do not believe are grown in China, or for that matter anywhere in Asia). I “upgraded” my rice to chicken fried rice (from either white or brown), and was glad – it was good, but it was $9 (!). Kind of expensive for $0.75 of ingredients.

The iced tea was OK, and one of the two problems here was that the restaurant ran out at some point and had to make some more; the other was that the tea was slightly fruity tasting.

My check was $29.31 – pretty expensive. The service was so-so. The meal was tasty if not terribly large portions. I’d go back again, but only with a group.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA

29 August 2010

I saw some really amazing sights on the drive into Kings Canyon. I’m just going to dump the photos here for viewing.

One comment. There was a tremendous amount of smoke in the air! Turns out that there was an active fire in the canyon just north of the Cedar Grove area, and on top of that, the fire crews were along Cedar Grove setting backfires (you can see some of these in the photos).

This is a wonderful drive to take. Do it even if you don’t hike.

This drive starts at just under 300 ft in Fresno, gets up to around 6600 ft, drops back to 3400 ft, and ends at about 5000 ft.

Hiking Kings Canyon National Park, CA

29 August 2010

I took a day of leave and drove from Sacramento to Fresno last week to hike Kings Canyon. It was a beautiful park to walk in.

I checked in with the rangers at the Cedar Grove Visitor Center, and decided to start at Roaring River Falls. I had arrived around 1100, and thought to get some lunch first at the cafe there, but it only serves lunch Saturday and Sunday. As a fallback, I bought some snacks at the attached grocery. As an aside, the lodge there has wifi, it’s open, and my Blackberry locked onto it and went into VoIP mode, so I got a download of email and voice mail before I went off to hike. You can get water here (don’t get it in the bathroom, it’s HOT, use the water fountain).

I drove about three miles to the parking area for Roaring River Falls. There is a short trail there, and it’s paved. About halfway up, I said the heck with it, walked to the bank, and did a boulder scramble the rest of the way.

After the Falls, I headed east on the trail to Zumwalt Meadow. The view of the granite rising above the valley was amazing.

Now the hiking is on real trail. You alternate between somewhat open areas and woods. Sometimes the ground vegetation was quick thick.

In just a bit, the trail gets pretty close to the South Fork Kings River. It’s a beautiful stream, clear and fast moving in places.

I usually walk fairly quietly. At some point, I saw about four birds slightly uphill from me (I looked them up just now, they were mountain quail). As the birds walked towards some underbrush, I realized there were four deer in there (two does and two fawns) looking at me! In the first photo, you can see the outline of a mountain quail between the deer and the trunk of the tree.

Soon I got to Zumwalt Meadow. It’s a marshy area. I took the north loop around it. There is a boardwalk for part of it, and trail for the rest. Notice the granite walls in the background?

Bears are common in the area. They go potty in the woods. This was fresh-looking, so a bear had been in the area shortly before.

The trail along here is fairly flat. You do some uphill, but no more than about 30 or 50 ft at a time.

There were several area where small streams flowed down the rock faces. As always, I am amazed that these are still running so far into summer.

I got to the Roads End area after about an hour. It’s about 3.5 miles from the Roaring River area. There is a staffed permit station there for backcountry camping, and some picnic areas, but most importantly, there is water. I refilled the half bottle I had consumed to this point (I carried two Nalgenes).

The trail continues for two miles to an intersection with a bridge over the river. There is a five-mile loop to the southeast, or a three-mile out and back to the north along the river up Paradise Valley to Mist Falls.

The trail along here is a mix. There is some sandy crud along part of it (when you are not in trees) that’s like walking along beach. It was not fun. I tried to stay on the edge of the trail. It got better a little higher, back into forest.

When I got to the bridge, I stopped and had a snack. This is looking back downstream from on the bridge.

I started up the Paradise trail. You start getting some real stairstepping here, and the trail is quite rocky in places. I was passing through a really rocky outcropping at one point, and I heard a buzz! It sounded like a rattlesnake, but I didn’t think rattlesnakes were in the Sierra. I looked around (carefully!) and here is what I saw.

I saw part of the body on the other side of the rock. I didn’t poke at the darn thing or anything stupid like that (I’ve grabbed a live diamondback by the tail!). I did some Googling, and that snake is a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. Here is a photo from that Google search for comparison.

I climbed steadily up the canyon. This is looking back down from where I came.

You walk right along the river for most of this. There are numerous cataracts and some pools of water.

I got to within a mile of Mist Falls. I was meeting my friend James back in Fresno for dinner, and so had set a time of about 1630 to leave the park for the two-hour drive back to Fresno. I sat on a huge rock over a falls and had a snack, and then turned and headed back down. Those Falls will still be there some other trip.

When I got to the intersection with the bridge, there were a couple people looking at another snake! I was impressed that no one was trying to beat the thing to death or anything like that. It was quite pretty. I believe it is a Sierra Mountain Kingsnake.

The trees along the trail bear mentioning. There were some sequoia that were amazing.

That river was really pretty.

I’m going to end with some more canyon wall.

This was a really great day. The only thing I did wrong was not getting an early enough start. I had to do some phone calls and answer some emails, and instead of leaving the hotel in Fresno at 0700, I left at 0900. When you add the two-hour drive to get to the trails, half the day is over. But at least I got the opportunity to visit.

Kings Canyon is sort of a little Yosemite. The walls are 500 ft high instead of 3000 ft, and the waterfalls are not 1000 ft, but it is pretty! While on the trails, I saw a total of maybe 30 people, and 20 of them were on the valley floor. I ran into a total of five people coming in from backpacking (lucky them!). I want to come back and visit again.

Here is the GPS data layered over Google Maps. I just needed another half hour to get to Mist Falls! The total mileage was 12.98 miles.

And here is the altitude graph of the hike.


Sequoia National Park, CA

27 August 2010

Last Wednesday, 18 August, I drove from the Sacramento area down to Fresno, checked into my hotel, and then headed out to check out Sequoia National Park. You have to go through Kings Canyon National Park to get there.

My plan was to do a driving tour through the park, exiting out to the south, and then swinging back to Fresno and the hotel.

I left Fresno around 1730, and got back around 2130. The drive was spectacular. Sequoia has the largest stands of Giant Sequoias that remain. There are views of mountains and valleys and trees and trees and trees.

The drive in is pretty.

After climbing up into the foothills, I started seeing trees, and the road was doing the usual slalom. I was watching for deer. I didn’t see any of them, but I did see this next to the road…

The trees got bigger and bigger.

I also started seeing sequoias.

The views were pretty.

Moon was up. The picture doesn’t really do the view justice.

I know that this picture is blurred, but I just had to post it. Every once in a while a meadow would show up, and this one was really pretty. It’s clear in my mind, anyway.

And finally, the road goes through a huge grove of sequoias. The road is cut right between two of them. It was staring to get dark about this point.

From past this area, the road leading south out of the park is very narrow. It goes down several thousand feed in about 10 miles distance, and curves and curves and curves. At the time I was there, part of the road had one lane closed, and you had to wait an hour to pass.

This was a very nice drive. There are trails all along the road, and I’d like to go and hike some of them in the future.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

25 August 2010

I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park Monday, 16 Aug 2010. I got into Sacramento at 1120, was out of the airport and rolling north on I-5 at 1140, and arrived at Lassen around 1400 after a lunch stop. There are basically two things to do at Lassen – drive the loop drive through some of the volcanic remnants of the park, and hike. I did both.

The drive into the park is pretty nice. Lassen is in a remote area in northeast California. The first views of the mountains come shortly after you leave Red Bluff, which is the exit for I-5.

A little farther on, you get a view of Shasta Peak, a bit farther north. It was really hazy so the Peak is hard to see.

The view of the mountains improves as you get closer. I noticed that the view got much better as I passed through the 1000 ft mark.

There were interesting and obviously volcanic formations on both sides of the road. This was at an overlook of a small canyon about 30 miles out of Red Bluff.

As I got into the Park proper, there were some stunning views. It was obvious there had been fires here in the past years. This was a small waterfall.

This view up the hillside really needed a bear!

Driving into the Park, there is a ruler stood on end, to measure snowfall. The ruler is 36 ft tall. There is a photo in the Visitor Center that shows snow up to the 30 ft mark! Lassen is largely closed in Winter, BTW. There is still snow up there in quantity in mid-August.

The Visitor Center (I was at the southwest center) has a lot of solar powered devices. I approve of this.

As you drive into the park, the views just get more spectacular.

There are a number of small and beautiful lakes up there. No dams in evidence, these are all glacier-carved.

The last eruption of Lassen Volcano was back around 1915. It looms large from several parts of the Park.

There is still volcanic activity going on in terms of steam vents. There are a number of places where minerals and sulphurs have left their mark.

I didn’t see a lot of wildlife. There were some chipmunks on Lassen Peak, and maybe five kinds of birds ranging from very tiny to Stellars Jays to some hawks. There were some deer in a meadow just up from the Visitor Center, and I almost hit one of the things when it ran in front me me exiting the Park.

Lassen is great if you want solitude. I saw few people there. The views are amazing, and if you are into mountains as I am, you will get a good fix here.

I hiked to the top of Lassen Peak while there. That’s in another blog post.

Richard’s, Fresno, CA

25 August 2010

Richard's Prime Rib and Seafood on Urbanspoon

Last Thursday, I headed back in to meet my buddy James for dinner in Fresno after spending the day hiking in King’s Canyon National Park. He suggested Richard’s. We got there about 1915.

The meal started with iced tea that was good and kept refilled. The salad was good, and the ranch dressing was excellent. The meal also comes with a shrimp cocktail appetizer; I didn’t like it very much as the shrimp was really fishy tasting.

I ordered a ribeye (this must have been by reflex, since I wanted a t-bone!). The steak came with some sauteed mushrooms that were very good, and that steak was cooked a perfect medium. It was fork tender, and had great flavor. Not a scrap was left. The steak also came with a baked potato which was a bit small, but the steak made up for it.

We left about 2045. My check was $27.35.

Relish Burger Bar, El Dorado Hills, CA

25 August 2010

Relish Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

We broke for lunch after a morning of meetings at a nearby business, and were looking for a fairly quick meal, so I remembered Relish from driving past it a bunch of times. A group of six of us ate here 18 Aug.

The main inside part of the restaurant was fairly crowded, so we were seated around a table that had a couple big market umbrellas over it. The temperature was not too hot, and there was a bit of breeze, so it was comfortable.

I got the Angus 1/2 lb burger, medium well, with American cheese. The burger came with a horseradish-based sauce (that the server volunteered came on the burger, but I got it on the side), I tasted it and it was, well, horrible, but I am not a fan of horseradish. The burger came with lettuce and pickles and stuff on the side. I gave the tomatoes away and put the rest of the stuff on the burger. The burger was OK. The beef did not have much taste to it, good or bad. The bun was good, for white bread. The meal came with fries that were not very good. I saw some onion rings (on the way OUT…) that looked very good, and will get those next time, if there is one.

I got iced tea, and it was a little weak. It was also not easy to keep filled up.

We got there about 1230 and left about 1320. My check was $11.59. I don’t know that it was worth it.

Lassen Mineral Lodge Restaurant, Mineral, CA

18 August 2010

Mineral Lodge on Urbanspoon

I stopped here to eat last Monday evening after a day hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I got there at 1955, they close at 2000. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger (it came without bacon), that was on a big sourdough bun. The beef was pretty good. They brought it with pickles and mayo and stuff on the side. I got baken beans on the side; they were basically Campbells.

The tea was concentrate, but was not terribly bad.

Service was a bit lacking, they were busy closing. I left at 2030, my check was $11.13.

Black Bear Diner, Willows, CA

18 August 2010

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

I was cruising up I-5 yesterday on the way to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and I saw the sign for Black Bear on the side of the road, so I stopped in to get some lunch.

When I was seated, I had the thought form in the back of my mind that I had been in the place before. I looked up the locations, and it turns out that I had eaten in the Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs, CO, several years ago. I think I liked it.

It wasn’t a very good start. While the host brought me iced tea, I was not seen by my server for almost 15 minutes. At best, she was curt. Not unfriendly, but never stopping at the table for more than a few seconds. My iced tea ran out twice, and it took a bit to get my check. It was probably just her.

They serve breakfast all day, so I got the chicken fried steak and eggs. The CFS was really good, breaded on site, and the beef was nice and fork tender and tasty. The eggs were good. The “hash browns” were really shaved, thin strips of potato. They needed to be cooked a little more, and could have used some onion or something for some more flavor. The gravy helped! It was really good. The meal came with an ENORMOUS biscuit. The biscuit was pretty dry and a bit hard, but was clearly baked on site.

I got there around 1220, and left at 1320. My check was $12.10. I liked the food and would eat at another Black Bear.

Sugar Pine Cafe, Mariposa, CA

3 May 2010

This was an excellent meal! After a quick visit to Yosemite, we were all hungry, and Dave had expressed a desire for steak. Fortunately, Sugar Pine Cafe fit the bill.

We got there about 2010. We had looked at menus in several other restaurants in Mariposa, and Sugar Pine fit the bill. There were maybe two tables occupied when we got there, and they left shortly after we arrived (no cause-and-effect, I’m sure).

The special was a new york steak. It came with herb butter and deep-fried shallots. All five of us got it. I got mine medium. That was a PERFECT steak. It was tender, had wonderful flavor, was a perfect medium with just the right amount of pink inside (no red). The herb butter was delicate and brought the flavor of the meat out. The shallots were a pleasant surprise, not too strong.

The steaks came with a side and asparagus. The asparagus was steamed and had a little butter on them. I ate every bit down to the stalks.

Everybody got some really good sourdough rolls, which were tasty.

They have real Coke, with real sugar, in bottles. I had one, and it was great! My main drink was iced tea, and it was made right there and was ice cold and tasty.

Overall, this was probably the best meal that I had on my week-long trip to the Sacramento area. I would recommend the Sugar Pine any time.

We left around 2115 and headed back to El Dorado Hills (conveniently, CA 49 goes right through Mariposa, and leads almost right back to EDH). My check was $23.98, which I think was an excellent value given the quality of the food we ate. The staff was all super nice, also.

Jimboy’s Tacos, Martell, CA

3 May 2010

A group of us were on the way to Yosemite, and needed to find something fairly fast. We drove by Jimboy’s and decided to give it a try.

I got one each chicken and ground beef Big Gordo. These were basically big-a burritos. They were really good. I got tea, and it was good. My check was $9.91.

The other four got a variety of things like enchiladas, and all said they were very good. The service was a little slow, but we didn’t lose too much time.

Sienna Restaurant, El Dorado Hills, CA

29 April 2010

Sienna Restaurant on Urbanspoon

After our meetings were over for the day, I used Google Maps to find Sienna. It had good reviews and it was close.

A group of six work friends got there about 1730. The place was virtually empty.

Siennas is really nice inside. The wood was really pretty.

The menu was actually kind of limited, but had a variety of things that were kind of unusual, like pork T-Bone.

I ordered the wood-oven baked pepperoni pizza. It was excellent, and the perfect size for a single person. When I asked for Parmesan Cheese, it came grated, and was wonderful.

The iced tea was good if a bit weaker than I lke. The server kept it full, and that’s a Good Thing.

Gayle got the Skirt Steak and mashed potatos. I mention this because she and Clark didn’t finish it, so I did. It was excellent! The steak was very tender (almost easily fork tender) even though it was almost an inch thick. Really good taste. The mashers were really good also, obviously real potatoes that had been boiled. The way mashers should be made.

We left around 1830. Siennas was about 70% full. My check was $16.13 (and Gayle and Clark didn’t let me pay for the part of their food I ate).

Siennas has wifi (two channels, one open and one WPA), but the open channel wouldn’t connect. I mentioned it to our server and the hostess, but no one seemed able to reset it. I normally wouldn’t have cared, but the T-Mobile cell service was really bad – 3 bars outside the restaurant, NONE inside. So I really wanted to have my Blackberry VoIP over the wifi connection in case one of the other people tried to call. Everyone got there just fine, though.

Mama Ann’s Deli & Bakery, El Dorado Hills, CA

28 April 2010

Mama Ann's Deli & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, I ate lunch here for the second time (the last time was a couple years ago). Mamas has great sandwiches. We got there around 1100, and the place was basically empty.

I ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich from the hot sandwich menu. It was really good, and just a bit messy (as it should be). I got some Miss Vickies sea salt chips and a large drink, which was great iced tea.

When we left around 1215, there were only two tables occupied, although a much larger number of people had been in to get take-away food. My check was $9.03.

On the way out, I got a refill, switching to Dr. Pepper (Mamas is a Pepsi location).

Strings Italian Cafe, El Dorado Hills, CA

28 April 2010

Strings Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

I first ate at Strings a couple years ago since it was near my hotel. It was good and I have been back several times since. This evening after work, a big group of us (14) ate here after work.

We got there about 1730 and I think two tables were occupied. We left at 1900 and two tables were occupied.

The meal was started with a salad served family style. It was tossed with a creamy Italian dressing that was very good, sharp without being tart.

I ordered the Chicken Marsala. It was excellent! The chicken was hammered fairly flat and sauteed. The marsala wine was enhanced with a sort of alfredo sauce. It went really well together.

The meal came by default with some roast potatoes and asparagus. I asked for fetticine alfredo instead, and got a bunch of it. It was also excellent, with a generous helping of noodles and copious alfredo.

After the meal I got vanilla ice cream for dessert – yum.

Service was great, just fast enough. My iced tea ran out once, and was refilled in less then a minute. My check was $20.56. This place is recommended.

I’ve had spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken fettucine alfredo, and chicken parmesan here in the past. I keep coming back, so they were all good.

While looking for restaurants before we go there, I noted that there are numerous Strings locations in the Sacramento area.

Mark’s Sports Bar and Grill, Folsom, CA

26 April 2010

Mark's Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

I had a need for food after a fun round of golf yesterday afternoon. Mark’s is across the parking lot from my hotel, so off I went.

I got there around 2000, and left at 2055. The place had a couple in the corner when I got there, they left after about five minutes, and it was empty until I left.

I got iced tea to start. It was a concentrate I think. I switched to Coke for the rest of the meal.

I ordered the (according to the menu) famous Mark’s cheeseburger. It was served quickly. The burger was a little soft on the inside, and had an odd taste that I have tasted before, but didn’t recognize. It was not entirely pleasant, but it was not horrible either. The meat was only about 2/3 the size of the bun. The curger came with tomato and onion and pickle and such.

The fries were OK. They had paprika and seasoned salt on them.

The servers were really friendly. My check was $11.24.

The next time, I will likely try the chicken strips or one of the other menu items.

Bellagio Ristorante, San Diego, CA

4 February 2010

Bellagio Restaurante on Urbanspoon

A guy at a meeting I was at today recommended this restaurant; it is east of I-15 on Claremont Mesa Boulevard. A group of work friends and I got there this evening for dinner. We got there around 1730. There were people at two other tables.

I had one of my rare glasses of wine (white zinfandel). It was pretty good. I also had a glass of iced tea. It was pretty bad, I think it was a concentrate.

Service was uneven. The guy who was supposedly our server disappeared for long perods of time. One of the other servers took up the slack; she didn’t let the glasses get too empty.

The meal comes with heavily garlic-ed breadsticks. I ate a lot of them. Each table was also provided with a dish and bottles of Balsalmic Vinegar and EVOO to dip the bread in. Very nice.

I ordered Chicken Fettucine Alfredo. It was OK. The alfredo had a taste that I’ve had at some other restaurants, it’s an not wholly unpleasant herb, but it overrides the creamy goodness that Is Alfredo. The chicken was OK.

My check was $27.95. Kind of expensive for a mediocre meal. We left at 1848.

Rockin’ Baja Lobster, San Diego, CA

3 February 2010

Rockin Baja Lobster on Urbanspoon

I ate at this restaurant with my good and now retired-for-24-hours buddy Harold back in 2002 or so. A couple of us were at a meeting in San Diego, and someone pointed us to Baja Lobster one evening. It’s largely a seafood place, and I remember both Harold and I getting steak while the rest of the party got various forms of seafood.

There aren’t any steaks on the menu now. There is still a lot of fish.

I went here for dinner tonight with a couple work friends after our meetings were out. Jim and Jay got some buckets of various seafood. I got fajitas, mixed carne asada beef and chicken. I usually get my fajitas sans peppers, but with onions (this is an attempt to be sly on my part, the peppers being taken out usually results in more meat being added). I forgot to ask for the peppers to be removed, and had to fish them out manually. Once I did that, there really wasn’t a huge quantity of meat left behind. Now, I did not go back to the hotel hungry. The chicken was tender but didn’t have an abundance of taste. The beef was really good, just a hint of asada seasoning, and tender. The onions were cooked to transparency. I made two smallish fajitas, and then ate the rest right off the plate.

The iced tea was not that good, but relative to the swill that I had for lunch at El Pollo Loco, it was paradise itself. The service was pretty good.

They have a salsa bar in the place, you self serve yourself chips and the different salsas. There were some really good reds.

We got to the restuarant about 1845. It was not terribly full. We left around 2020, and it was getting pretty much full. They play 70s rock in the place, sometimes just a touch loud. The restaurant is not quite in a building, it is more like a roof held up with some semi-walls. They had outdoor heaters going in there this evening (now that I recall, we were there in the summer last time, and it was hot and sweaty in the place).

My check was $20.42.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, San Diego, CA

2 February 2010

Filippis Pizza Grotto on Urbanspoon

Oh, this was not a good experience. It’s a couple hours after the meal, and I have heartburn or something. Ack.

I ate at this restaurant about 10 years ago on another visit to San Diego. I saw it as I was driving to the hotel for this latest visit. After I ate there, I remembered why I haven’t eaten there in 10 years…

I got there around 1845 and was seated immediately. The place was about half full, and was when I left at 2005. I had a bit of a wait for the server to notice.

I ordered dinner and a Ceasar Salad. What was delivered was a salad with ceasar greens, with a lite Italian dressing. It wasn’t too bad, but it was not what I ordered. It came with a loaflet of white baked bread that wasn’t too bad.

The iced tea was terrible. It tasted like… algea. I wonder if the tea maker hadn’t been cleaned in a while. I could not tell if the tea was fresh brewed, or concentrate, or instant. Yuk. I actually asked to switch to Coke, but they are a Pepsi-only place, so I just stuck with water.

The main course was Chicken Marsala. It was a biggish bowl of linguini, with some chunks of chicken, some sliced mushrooms, and a LOT of chopped garlic in a marsala wine sauce. It smelled a little funny. It wasn’t very good. I ate most of it, but I am apparently paying for it know. I wanted to get this blog entry posted in case I die overnight…

The total for the meal was $21.64. I was at the location on Kearny Villa Road. Not recommended.

Poor Reds, El Dorado, CA

22 January 2010

Cherokee Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This place was recommended to me due to my known love of BBQ. A group of work friends headed up there after a day of meetings. We left the hotel in El Dorado Hills around 1740, and got to Poor Reds about 1805. We had a bit of a drive through rain to get there.

The seating was a bit odd. The six of us showed up, and were informed that we had to decide what we were eating from the menu on a large whiteboard hung in the bar. Once we ordered, then the table was made ready, and after a bit, we were seated. We stood in the bar in the meantime.

Once we were seated (and that place was COLD), we had salads brought to us. These were plain garden salads, nothing extra but a slice of beet on the top. I got ranch, and it wasn’t very good. It was thick and had an odd taste. Didn’t stop me from finishing it.

In the meantime, I realized that all we had to drink was water. It tood a bit to flag the server down and order some. Unfortuneately, the tea was instant! Not good at all.

After a while, the food was delivered. I had ordered BBQ. The chicken was a full half bird. It was a cross between smoked and grilled. Then an odd claimed-to-be-BBQ-sauce was slathered on. It was good chicken, but the sauce was not impressive, and it was not what I would really consider to be “BBQ Chicken”. Others in the group got ribs (short rib and baby back) and ham, and all were treated the same way.

When we left around 1915, the place had two more tables filled.

Overall, it wasn’t very good, I think. The service was curt at best. The tea was crappy. The food was OK. The drive was long. I would go there if I was passing by and meeting someone, but otherwise, I would not recommend the Poor Reds.

Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steak House, Folsom, CA

21 January 2010

Tahoe Joe's Famous Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

This place has a couple restaurants in the Sacramento area. I have eaten at this location several times in the past couple years. It’s generally been pretty good; I think I have always had steaks.

A group of work friends and I were looking for somewhere to eat after a long days of meetings. Tahoe Joe’s was suggested, and it was fairly close, so that’s where we went. There were seven of us.

We were seated in about three minutes, the staff had to push a couple tables together. I ordered two sets of Onion Straw appetizers for the group. They were really good, much thicker than typical onion straws I have had. They came with a Jalapeno BBQ sauce, and ranch dressing (really good!).

I ordered a T-Bone. It was huge! It was also just a touch medium rare, when I ordered it medium. Very tasty. It was not as tender as it could be (since it wasn’t cooked all the way), but it was very tasty. It came with two sides. One was a “1 Pound Baked Potato”. It was excellent, with bacon, butter, bacon, cheese, and bacon. I got a bowl of soup for the second side. The soup was Chicken Pot Pie soup – it actually tasted like CPP. Not all that much chicken it it, though.

The iced tea was excellent. My only gripe – it was served in small Mason jars – just not enough and frequent refills, which came pretty much on time.

When we got there around 1830, it was only about 15% full. When we left around 2030, it was about the same. My check was $49.98, but $15.98 of that was the onion straws I bought. Overall, a good meal, service was fine, and we all left full.

Petes Restaurant, El Dorado Hills, CA

20 January 2010

Pete's Restaurant & Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

A group of work friends and I were looking for dinner last night, and the first place we went to had closed early since it was raining, and business was slow. Petes abutted that restaurant, so we went there instead.

The place was pretty full when we got there. We got seated immediately, but didn’t see a server for about 10 min. We weren’t in any hurry so we didn’t worry about it. The restaurant has a lot of stuff on the menu, including a lot of appetizers (one of us ordered an appetizer for dinner), Italian, and a bit of Tex Mex.

I ordered Chicken Parmesan. It was an unusual presentation – two chicken breasts (not too large), both breaded and fried, but one was covered in Al Fredo and the other in marinara. The Al Fredo was kind of bland, not very rich; the marinara was OK. I got a house salad, the Ranch dressing was pretty good.

The iced tea was somewhat suspect. I think it was concentrate. It was not bad, but it wasn’t really good either. It was not fresh brewed.

Overall, the meal was OK, but the company was better. We got there about 1940, and left around 2030. Service was OK after the slow start. My check was $16.97.

Oasis Grill and Bar, John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, CA

11 December 2009

Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge on Urbanspoon

I ate at this place a couple years ago on the way home, and was in the same boat today.

I got in immediately at about 1145.

First I ordered iced tea. The server informed me that they only had bottled tea, and it was not free refills, and it was odd flavors (my interpretation). I demurred and got Coke.

I had a BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. It was a half pounder, done a perfect medium-well, and was very tasty. It came with some OK fries.

I got out at 1239. The check was $18.49, which is high, but not unexpected as airports eateries like to rip passengers off.

Guys, get some real iced tea.

Silky Sullivan’s, Fountain Valley, CA

11 December 2009

Silky Sullivans on Urbanspoon

After a busted time at hiking, and a busted visit to Fry’s in Fountain Valley, I decided to try this place when I found it via a Google Maps search from the Fry’s parking lot.

I got there about 1800 and got seated immediately. Both the greeter and my server were super friendly, the noise level was just right, and the place was well lit so I could work my USA Today puzzles without squinting. Very promising.

This place claims to be a restaurant and pub, but the closest thing to pub grub was Fish and Chips. No matter. The server told me about some things she liked, and then mentioned the Rib Eye – lots of people ordered it, and it was always perfect. That was it for me. I ordered one, medium, as usual.

I asked about the chili, and she brought me a small sample. It was good so I got a bowl. The chili was kind of Cincinnati style. It was kind of thin, had beans, and had chunks of red and green peppers. That means it couldn’t really decide if it was chili con carne or southwestern. It was good, however.

This is where the meal went kind of downhill. I was eating the chili, and working my puzzles, and about five minutes had gone by, when the steak arrived. It did not look promising. It was charred severely on top. The bottom was better, but one side of the steak was totally black on both sides. The inside was just past medium. I tried a bite, and it was like licking a fireplace log (yes, I’ve done that; don’t ask). After a couple minutes I got my server to come over and showed her the steak. She agreed that it was not good and took it back, after I asked her to make sure they did NOT hurry it.

It came back again in about five minutes! The darn thing was already in the process of charring on top (the bottom wasn’t too bad, but it was rare in the middle). I let the steak sit on the table for about 10 more minutes while I finished the chili, and it finally ended up medium rare.

There is really no excuse for treating beef this way. It was clear to me that the grill was set to Immolate. Why, I don’t know. This was not supposed to be a fast food experience. I told the server this, but if the information made it to the cooks, I have no idea.

The meal was accompanied by a decent baked potato, that included bacon (real!) and sour cream. There was also a medley of unidentifiable peppers or something. I tried a couple of the mushrooms in the mix, and then scraped it all off into the by-now empty chili cup.

The heck of this was that the beef was good beef, but it was not treated well by the cook staff. I do not understand why the cook staff would so blatantly ignore customer requests; it does not speak well of the management practices of the restaurant.

The service was good, and the iced tea was good and plentiful. The place was about 30% full when I got there, and about 70% full when I left about 1855. My check was $27.15.

Will I go back? I do not get to the Anaheim area very often, but even so I like to go back to places I’ve been and liked. I do not think that Silky’s falls into that category.

Studio Diner, San Diego, CA

10 December 2009

Studio Diner on Urbanspoon

This restaurant is across the street from a contractor facility that I have visited several times this year. I like diners, and after my post-work hike today, I decided to try it.

I was seated immediately when I arrived. My server brought me iced tea (which was kept full!) very quickly. The iced tea was good, a perfect strength.

I got a cup of chili, since it was kind of chilly outside. The stuff was amazingly good! It reminded me of the chili that my Dad used to make for us at home. The meat was ground fairly fine, there was a bit of red grease in the cup (which to me is not a bad thing), and there were NO beans in it! I could have eaten a huge bowl of it by itself for dinner. It was really good! They had oyster crackers to go with it, but no saltines. One thing I just remembered: they have two kinds of chili, the kind I got with ground beef, and another that is made with (IIRC) prime rib.

I ordered a Chicken Fried Steak. A new thing – my server asked if I wanted it with the veggies (as in dinner) or with eggs and hash browns! Right on! I chose the breakfast option.

One problem here, I had just started my chili when the dinner arrived. I think that the cooks moved a bit too fast. I know that the diner concept is eat fast and get out, but this was probably just a bit too fast; my food was getting cool by the time I finished the chili.

Nonetheless, the CFS was good if a bit bland, and the eggs and hashbrowns were great with a bit of the extra gravy my server brought me.

The place was about 50% full when I arrived just a bit after 1800, and about 75% full when I left right at 1900. My check was $19.02. The service was good, although the cooking was a bit rushed, I think.

I like this place. I want to go back and try some of the sandwiches for lunch.

My server mentioned that the crew from “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” was here at some point. That makes about 10 places that I’ve been to that Guy and his crew have visited also.

Mission Trails Regional Park, Again

10 December 2009

This has not been a good trip for hiking. First, on Monday, my flight was late, and there was snow at my target, Strawberry Peak, which closed the roads.

Then, at the meeting yesterday, it went a little long-winded, which got me to my target of Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park a little late, only to find that the whole park was closed.

So today, at the end of my meeting in San Diego, which also went long, I didn’t get to Mission Trails until about 1545. My plan was to head west of the Visitor Center, cross the San Diego River, and head up and over Fortuna Peak, returning via Oak Canyon Trail and the Father Junipero trails. Best laid plans…

The rains from the past couple days had filled the San Diego River. The low-water crossing was completely underwater:

San Diego River Over Trail

That measuring stick out in the middle shows that 3.5ft of water is running over the trail.

You can’t tell from the photo, but there was an actual waterfall to the left. I walked a bit up and down the river, but could not get across.

I ended up heading back on the Visitor Loop Trail, completing the half that I had not completed the first time I hiked this part of the trail a couple weeks ago.

This is the same shot of the San Diego River that I took a couple weeks ago, but there is a significant increase in the amount of water:

I ended up at the west end of the climbers loop, then headed down Father Junipero to the north end of the, and hiked a bit on the Oak Canyon Trail.

I deadheaded back on Father Jupinero. I got back under beautiful dark, clear skies around 1800. Total mileage was about 6 miles.

Buca Di Beppo, Garden Grove, CA

8 December 2009

Buca di Beppo on Urbanspoon

I got to my hotel late this afternoon and noticed this restaurant on the parking lot. It claimed to be Italian. I asked the front desk guy who checked me in, and he said it was good, and then looked on the desk, and gave me a $10 off card for the place.

I checked it out. I got there at 1740 and got in immediately. When I left at 1855, there were a couple people waiting, even though there were tables open. Who knows.

This restaurant is another family-style place that serves HUGE quantities of food. The good news is that they have “small” and “large” sizes, which really translates to “large” and “huge”.

My server told me that since I was by myself, I could order from the lunch menu, with portion sizes approaching normalcy. But the lunch menu didn’t have what I wanted, so I went with the “small” size.

I ordered garlic bread to start, followed by Chicken Marsala and a side of Fettuccine Alfredo.

The garlic bread was probably an entire load of french bread that had been converted to garlic bread. It was perfect, crusty and rough textured, and with a perfect amount of garlic. The server brought some olive oil to dip the bread in. I asked for Balsamic vinegar, and it was brought immediately. The server mentioned that you had to ask for it.

The Chicken Marsala “Small” ended up being three decent sized breasts, plump and juicy. There was a lot of Marsala sauce, it was sweeter than I am used to. The Marsala had a fruity aftertaste to it. The dish came with some very large mushrooms that were also pretty good.

The “side” of fettuccine was a soup bowl filled with noodles. There was not a lot of alfredo on the noodles, but it wasn’t too bad.

With the $10 discount, my check was $37.72.

I managed to put away all of the chicken and noodles, and about a quarter of the bread. It was all good.

Cowles Mountain – Mission Trails Regional Park

21 November 2009

On Wednesday (18 Nov), the meeting I was at got out earlier than expected, and a work friend and I decided to hike Cowles Mountain (it’s pronounced “coals”). Cowles is a part of San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park. We got to the Park about 1515, and headed right up.

Cowle's Mountain Trailhead

Most of the hike is a series of switchbacks. It starts out quite steep. About half way up, you go around a sub-summit and walk a forty yards or so along a saddle. There were a ton of people on the trail, I’ll bet there were a couple hundred on the mountain while we were there. We took a couple breaks on the way up. Some of the breaks were for short rests, but a couple times we managed to miss the trail for a short bit, and we found ourselves in uncharted territory for a minute or so.

Most of the trail looks more like this:

In a fairly short time, we were at the top! The view up there is spectacular. Cowles is the tallest point in the city of San Diego. I took a panorama that I will post when I get it stitched together. This is the view off to the ENE, towards El Capitan:

This is the view to the south. That’s Lake Murray, where a couple of us took a hike last week:

While at the top we read the various signs pointing out the terrain around the area, and went over and checked out the antenna tower (hey, a couple comm guys, we have to check out comm towers or we lose our union card…). Eventually we headed down. There was a breeze blowing and the temperature was pleasantly cool.

We got to the bottom right at 1715. There were still people headed up the trail! So for a two-hour hike, we ended up doing a bit more than 3 miles round trip, and about 933 ft of altitude gain.

This was a fun hike, and a great way to spend a couple hours after work. I am really impressed by Mission Trails park. Congrats to San Diego for creating it.

Venice Ristorante and Wine Bar, San Diego, CA

20 November 2009

Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

This place was recommended by the staff at the hotel I am staying at, the Embassy Suites La Jolla. It was within a couple minutes walk of the hotel.

I went here with a work friend after we had hiked Cowles Mountain. I thought some carbs would be in order, and Jim wanted some seafood.

First of all, the iced tea was worthless and weak. At least at first, it got better over time. I guess they had just brewed it, and so we got to sample the tea life cycle. It finally started acquiring some taste about half way through.

The staff brought us very good crusty bread, and oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in, yum.

Jim ordered a shrimp dish and thought it was OK.

I got Capelllini con Pomadoro e Pollo, which is interpreted as angel hair pasta and chicken chunks in an odd but OK-tasting orange-pink sauce. I wanted to know what the above term meant. I started with Italian, made no sense, then tried Spanish and French. Here are the translations:

  • Capelllini with Pomadoro and Pollo
  • Capelllini with Pomadoro and Pollo
  • Capelllini idiot Pomadoro E Sports shirt
  • So I copied “Capelllini” out to Google; no translation, but a reference to the stuff being angel hair pasta. Pomadoro isn’t a word that I could find, but there were references to it as a tomato-based sauce, which explains the coloration.

    So the place was OK. My check was $20.61.

    Some caveats: if you think you are going to get food here like at an Olive Garden, you will be disappointed. This is, I guess, an “art food” restaurant.


    20 November 2009

    I am listening to KVPR via a live stream at the moment. I like KVPR, I listen to it a lot when I am traveling or at home.

    KVPR just so happens to have a friend of mine working there. I have called him Mr. Sunflower in the past, due to his teaching at a small school in southwest KS for a couple years. KVPR is a part time gig for him, and he’s good at it, and it’s cool to hear his voice.

    KVPR is an NPR station, but they have a number of programs that we don’t get on KOSU or KGOR, our local NPR stations. There is a show called “Footlight Parade”, about Broadway, a program of medieval and Renaissance music called “In The Mode”, and others.

    Check them out at

    Black Angus, San Diego, CA

    20 November 2009

    Black Angus Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

    After a long and tiring hike, I was on the way back to the hotel when I passed the Black Angus. I decided I wanted STEAK! I made an illegal right turn and pulled into the parking lot. This location was on Friar’s Road just east of I-15.

    I think that this restaurant used to be called Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus, as it looks like others of that chainlet. Maybe Agent Smith got a Mr. Anderson finally.

    I was seated and got some iced tea. Very good iced tea. I ordered the T-Bone, medium, with some sauteed mushrooms, and with Baked Potato soup and mac and cheese for the sides. I told the server I was in no hurry, as I wanted to read my USA Today, and work the puzzles.

    The soup was excellent. It comes “loaded” with sour cream and stuff, I asked for it to be taken off, and went with a bit of bacon and cheese. Really, really, really good. I was having my soup and working the puzzles when it went rapidly downhill.

    The steak showed up. It didn’t look right; there was no juice on the platter. I cut into it, it was 100% gray all the way through. The tenderloin was a brick. I lifted it up, and the bottom was burned uniformly black; I would have needed a Sawzall to cut it. That steak had been put on the hottest part of the fire, something heavy put on it, and it was left to die. I actually tasted a bite, and darn near spit it out. It was like rubber, except rubber tastes better.

    I got the servers attention, and quietly said that I would like to get a steak that was medium. She immediately agreed that it was bad and took it away. I told her again that I was NOT in a hurry.

    A couple minutes later, a manager brought a replacement. Too short, I thought. I checked the steak – it was now medium… rare. I asked the manager to please have the cook put it back on the fire for just a minute more, and NOT repeat NOT to brick it. He did, and came back about two minutes later, and the steak was now perfect. A bonus – it was also a Porterhouse, so I got upgraded from a 16-oz steak to a 24-oz. And it was really good, that perfect pink in the middle. The tenderloin was just over fork tender, and wonderful.

    My check was $30.97. The service was OK.

    One amusing thing, I got one of those survey requests on the check. I took it, and there wasn’t a question to ask if you LIKED the experience or if there were any problems. So the next time I go to a Black Angus, free dessert!

    The sides were mushrooms (comp’d now), very good. Also, mac and cheese. It was in a white cheese, with a white cheese crust on top. Not a lot of flavor, but not bad either.

    The bread served with the meal was really good, a dark grain that produced a bread with a lot of texture, that really took butter well!

    Bar-B-Que House, Take 2

    18 November 2009

    Barbeque House on Urbanspoon

    A couple of us at lunch here last week. I came back to San Diego again this week, and got in around 1700. I-5 was horribly backed up for the northbound lanes, so I decided to get an early dinner at BBQ House. I found it OK again.

    I got a combination plate, with a half of white meat chicken, and a couple spare ribs. It was all excellent! The chicken was some of the best BBQ chicken I have ever had. Truely smoked, and with a “medium” sauce that tasted like a medium ought to: just a little bit of sweat on the forehead.

    The ribs were pretty darn good also. I rate the spare ribs as a 9 out of 10. The order included about four rib ends also. They were not as good, as they were a lot of fat.

    The french fries and baked beans were all really good. I didn’t get any bread, and was offered a third side; I got cole slaw that was a pretty standard mayo-based salad. They had brewed iced tea that we pretty good.

    My check was $13.64, which I think was excellent value. Bar-B-Que House is the best BBQ that I have ever had in California.

    Gathering, San Diego, CA

    13 November 2009

    Gathering on Urbanspoon

    A group of work friends and I found this place quite by accident one evening. Our intention was to hit local BBQ place Phil’s, but one of our number wanted to go back to his hotel and change,about 10 miles away. While we were waiting in the parking lot, I did a Google Maps search on my Blackberry for “BBQ”, and there was another Phil’s, in the University section just behind the hotel we were sitting at. Looking at the crawling traffic on I-8 led me to find that other Phil’s instead of driving back the the Sports Arena area.

    So we drove there, and found a parking place right down the road. Problem was, the building that was supposed to be Phil’s was some other place. I called the phone number in the Google listing, and the recording said that Phil;s in that location would not be reopening. Grrr…

    But there was a decent-looking place called Gathering on the corner we were parked on. Not “The” Gathering, just Gathering. We decided it would do.

    We got in there are were seated by our absolute pistol of a server. She was funny and smart and witty, and cute too. Us guys are a fun-loving and dissing bunch, and she joined right in.

    I got one of the specials, beef stew in a bread bowl, but without the bread bowl (I would rather have all the juice to eat, rather than soaked up by the bread bowl). It was pretty good. The meat to veg ratio was good, and the gravy was also good. You also get some bread rolls served as an appetizer; the rolls had great texture and were tasty.

    I ordered warm brownie and ice cream for dessert, but they were out of the brownes, so I just had a scoop of ice cream.

    The tea was OK. My check was $19. High for beef stew, but when you figure in the dessert, not a bad amount. When we got there around 1700, the place was basically empty. When we left at 1830, there were maybe three tables occupied, and a couple couples at the bar. This is a good place to eat; although maybe just a bit expensive.

    BBQ House, San Diego, CA

    12 November 2009

    On my last trip to San Diego, a couple of us arrived late in the morning. Naturally, we wanted lunch. I tried to take the guys to a semi-famous local BBQ restaurant (Phil’s – more on that place in the entry for “Gathering”), but Phil’s is closed on Mondays.

    Brad pulled his Google Maps app for Palm, and lo and behold, BBQ House popped up. We found it easily enough; it was about a 10 min drive, and was about a block off the beach at 5025 Newport Ave. There was a parking place right across the street; a good sign.

    We walked in. I saw a menu on the wall that had sandwiches, but completely missed the platter menu on the right wall. The brisket, chicken, and ribs on the cutting board looked really, really good.

    Ron and Brad and I all got some variety of brisket sandwich (I should have got a two-meat platter!). The brisket was EXCELLENT. It was tender, fall-apart tender, without being hugely fatty or greasy. It was on a plain bun, I have no recollection of that. The brisket was spilling out of the sandwich. It was tasty. I had asked for medium sauce, but don’t think it was hot at all. The mild sauce that was out was good. The fries that came with the sandwich were pretty good also, but the star is the brisket.

    We got there around 1145, and the place was about half full – it only has about 10 tables. When we left around 1230, it was about the same.

    I’ve had BBQ at a number of places in California, including Phil’s, but this brisket blew the other places away. It was as good as the brisket at JT’s.

    I’m going back to BBQ House the very next time I am in SD if at all possible, and checking out the ribs and chicken.

    Lake Murray, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA

    12 November 2009

    On my last trip out to San Diego, I dragged a couple co-workers along for a walk.

    I have been to Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) a number of times in the past, always in the western part of the park. It’s a huge park, a couple miles east of I-15 and north of I-8. The western part is dry and desert-like, and fairly hilly, and so is a good workout.

    On this trip, we made our way to the southern part of the park, to Lake Murray. This part of MTRP is tenuously attached to the rest of the park. We found out way to the parking lot south of the lake. There are a number of signs that declare that the park is closed at 1730 and cars will be left in with no release!!!! Editorial comment: closing a park at 1730 is stupid. Locking cars in the park at 1730 is even more stupid.

    The trail does not go all the way around the lake. It starts at the parking lot and heads counterclockwise to the NE. It’s a wide, paved trail:

    Lake Murray Trail

    The distance is marked in miles and kilometers. We started off at about 1500, and got back around 1715. We made it around to the 2.5mile point, so our round trip was 5 miles. We had also walked around the top of Point Loma for a while, and also walked around the park near the trailhead, so the total for the day was around 6 miles.

    The area around the lake is really pretty. The lake was really down, I think. It looked about 10 feet down.

    Lake Murray

    There were a lot of birds around. The lake was full of ducks and geese. There were some interesting birds perched on an electric line over the lake.

    There was an especially neat tree on the west side. The bark was really smooth, and was very light colored.

    Cool Tree At Lake Murray

    If you walk this lake, watch out for the 1730 closure. It’s an easy hike, very little slope.

    Point Loma, San Diego, CA

    10 November 2009

    Today we had some free time, and I took a couple work friends up to Point Loma. Point Loma rises more than 400 ft above San Diego Bay, and provides excellent protection for the harbor. The view of San Diego is stunning. During whale migration season, there are often whales on the Pacific Ocean side.

    A large two-masted schooner came into the Bay while we were up there:

    Schooner Entering San Diego Bay

    Schooner Entering San Diego Bay

    We also walked around the lighthouse that has been restored on top of the cliff there, and a building housing a large lighthouse lens. Very neat.