22 November 2014

Observing nature on Mount Laguna

Nov 2014

Extremely dry season has continued in Southern California. Autumn colours have not shined as they did a year ago.  Oaks and maple trees have changed their colours but lots of them have just dried out.  What about other life in nature, have birds moved off to more moisture lands? Had it rained more in near by mountains and thus been able to grow as before?  Were autumn colours more striking on mountains than near the coast?

These and other unscientific thoughts in mind headed to Mount Laguna, less than hour off east from San Diego. Mount Laguna belong to Cleveland National Forest. Its meadow lies on about 1600m above sea level and offers magnificent trails for hiking, trail running and mountain biking. Have been there multiple times during last two years, previous posts here and here.

Parked along the Sunrise Highway and started to hike via usual route, Sunset Trail towards Water-of-the-Woods pond.  Weather was +5C and partly cloudy. Max temp promised +10C. Long waited rain overnight had made ground wet. Peak of autumn colours on noble trees seemed to be over, but still some striking colours were left. Eventually it was the evergreen forest which made the place so nice.

Ground squirrels had busy time, so did all little birds. Signs of deers on trail were not so common.  Once arrived at the pond, spotted a Great Blue Heron standing still near the pond. Ducks had their own ceremonies on-going and were not bothered by others.

Four different trails left from the pond. Chose to continue the Sunset Trail towards north.  Perhaps the most common sound was a warning sign from Acorn Woodpeckers, signaling to each other that a human being was disturbing their neighborhood.

The Sunset trail had its highest point about 1km after the pond.  From there the scene opened towards west. Low hanging clouds covered some valleys. Great view.

Ascended to the north side of the meadow.  Jumped into a Big Laguna Trail, back south towards Big Laguna Lake.  The meadow was so dry. Ravens yelled somewhere near.  Few mountain biker came across. Fabulous trail.

Soon noticed that the lake was out of water. Completely dry. What a disappointment. Crossed the meadow to east side.

Followed a while trail runners. It was about Mount Laguna Trail Marathon race.

Soon spotted few Red-tailed Hawks. Watched a while their gliding above the trees. Were they hunting? Majestic look when they stayed on top of the woods.

In some places on the trail it felt like there's no life at all, where as in some other places there's full of life. Birds gathered in small areas, many species. Obviously something good to eat.  Catching these birds into photos would have taken much more patience.

Crossing the meadow last time and headed back to starting point on Sunrise Highway.


Life hasn't gone anywhere despite extremely long dry season. At least not so much when observing visually.  Of course when the lake or pond is without water, waterbirds etc. need to find a new place.  Hawks and Ravens were still there. So where many Woodpeckers and Ground Squirrels.

One the best places in San Diego County.

A few snapshot


Great Blue Heron

Spotted Towhee

Mountain Chickadee

Layered Mountains

Oak Titmouse

Look at the grip!

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-Eyed Junco

Autumn Colours I

Autumn Colours II

Northern Flicker

Big Laguna Trail

California Ground Squirrel

Red-Tailed Hawk I

Red-Tailed Hawk II

Mount Laguna Trail Marathon

In Descending Order

Hanging On

Pygmy Nuthatch


Townsend's Warbler

Autumn Colours III

Western Bluebird staying still on strong head wind

May I present, a Master Himself and His Collection, Sir Acorn Woodpecker

Autumn Colours IV

07 November 2014

Hiking and Mountain Biking on Big Bear Lake CA

Oct 2014

Finally had a chance to visit Big Bear Lake, an outdoor resort on high mountains, some two hours north-east by car from San Diego.  The LA Times notified at the same time that San Bernardino mountains were the best on autumn colours this weekend, too.

Big Bear Lake lied over 2000m above sea level. It's basically a ski resort, having a few ski slopes and offering all sort of winter activities.  Like any ski resort, it offered lots of different activities around the year. The lake itself was a good place for multiple water activities, too. Hiking was not forgotten as the PCT crossed the region (in here it took a swing from east to west before continuing north). There were numerous alternative trails along the region.

Took a mountain bike with me.  Friends riding there had hinted mountains there to be perfect for riding.

Day 1

Temperature was close to zero (Celsius) in the morning, chilly indeed!  Headed early in the morning to Pine Knot trailhead. Had just renewed an Annual Adventure Pass (allowing free parking around the year).  Not too many early birds on the trail. Clear blue sky and some ascending ahead.

Big Bear Lake resided in San Bernardino Forest. Although it's basically a desert on ground level, it's covered by thick conifer forest, with a good and large variety of noble trees. It's those noble trees which shined in bright yellow and red colours. A good contrast to evergreen trees.

First observe was about the trail, it was made more for mountain biking than for hiking, all those twisted curves with ovals, guaranteeing good speed on bike. Well, that fun had to wait until the next day.

After some sweating, reached Grand View Point, the highest point of the trail. Just before it, had crossed another mountain bike trail, Skyline. Countdown for the next day had started.  Grand View Point offered nice scenery towards San Gorgonio mountain and Bernardino valley. Low hanging clouds down there. Pretty view.

Returned the same trail. A lot more fellow hikers came through. Some couraged mountain bikers sweated while ascending the trail. It was not because of the weather.  Easy descending back to trailhead and Aspen Glen parking lot. Worth every inch and second spent there.

Evening at the town center. Beef Brisket at Jasper's. Recommended.


Hey, who's there?

Years of living passed

A break

San Gorgonio

Autumn colours

Trail Angels from Orange County

In bloom

Aspen tree on its best

Low hanging clouds covering Bernardino valley

Day 2

No difference in weather in the morning, close to zero, clear blue sky. Forecast predicted +15C max.
Back to Aspen Glen and Pine Knot trailhead. This time with a mountain bike.  Almost smallest gear started to ascend the trail. Had too much clothes on. Had to stop twice to wear off some layers.  However, short sleeve weather was not in sight.

Once reaching the Skyline trail, headed east. The Skyline trail was made for mountain biking. You'd notice it easily, oval curves, jumps, high speed corners etc. In short: fun all the way long.  The trail stayed high on mountain and never dropped much down neither had any major climbs. Though some difference in altitude was included.

Rode until Snow Summit, a place with ski lifts, and turned back.  The trail felt different in other direction. Strange.  Continued west long enough and then returned back to Pine Knot trail. Lots of hikers on trail now. Slowed down riding, not a bad idea and possibly saved some broken collarbone, so speedy were the trails.

Happily returned to parking lot.  Experienced one of the best singletrack trails for mountain biking with no broken bones.

Exercised GoPro video shooting for the first time ever while riding. Had no idea of the output. The camera was tied into the handlebar.  Have to say that's pretty difficult to create something valuable and entertaining. It was a start anyway.

Hey Big Bear Lake, you impressed me and you hadn't even had any snow yet.

Warning: it's a pretty long and boring video. Don't get sea sick!