Cuyamaca spirits rising

Despite the Red Flag warnings, we returned last week to William Heise County Park near Julian, CA., in anticipation of the full moon lighting up the night sky, and we were not disappointed. As others may be about to winterize their trailers, we are just starting our camping season and will follow the sun, moon and seasons, somewhat like our local Native American Kumeyaay Indians did in finding the most comfortable sites to set up camp, ranging from the mountains to the desert and down again to the coast.


This park is in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Cuyamaca is a Spanish corruption of the Kumeyaay phrase “Ekwiiyemak”, meaning roughly, “the place where it rains”. The Indians had seasonal mountain camps near streams and springs where acorns and pine nuts were plentiful. The Kumeyaay Nation lived in this and other areas of San Diego County for at least 10,000 years before the arrival of Spanish and other European settlers. San Diego County has more Native American Indian reservations than any other county in the United States. Richard Carrico, professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University, is the author of Strangers in a Stolen Land, (Sunbelt Publications, 3rd edition, July 31, 2008).

Shortly after we set up camp and ate dinner, the moon rose and lit up our trailer and truck.


The stars are hard to see in the above picture, but the visual clue that this is actually night (and the reflected light is really moonlight and not sunlight) is the light coming out of the trailer windows. (By the way, the refrigerator vent is propped open to help the fan do a more efficient job… details of this can be seen here.) This and the other night images seen in this article were taken with our Nikon D40 camera set to the new feature, Auto (Flash off) Mode, useful in situations where the use of a flash is undesirable.


Click on the image to enlarge it and see the stars. All of these night shots were also done with the camera and its heavy 18-200 mm lens supported and stabilized by the Slik heavy-duty Pro 700DX tripod.


Sleeping under the stars…


By the way, other than resizing, there was no image editing or manipulation in any of these images. The images were directly loaded into the iPhoto program of our MacBook Pro, resized and uploaded to this article.


We traditionally celebrate the fall harvest season by eating apple pie. The nearby town of Julian celebrates Apple Days from September 15 to November 15. Also shown here is a pumpkin, carefully hand picked from the market (rather than the field of spikes) and maize (not to be confused with maze).


Let us toast to the spirit of the season…


And to the spirits of the sky and land and nature…


And to Native Americans and all peoples of the world…

May we live in peace and harmony with a respect for life in all of its variations and life styles…

May we focus on the positive and inclusiveness

Let our spirits rise as we listen to our hearts… and Native American music.

Red Flag warning

I apprehensively watched the news last Tuesday morning as fires raged in Los Angeles and San Diego County on the morning of our fall camping trip to our favorite campground (William Heise County Park) in the Cuyamaca Mountains near Julian, CA. I checked on road information with Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN) and found that our planned route, Interstate 8, was closed to trucks and high-profile vehicles at Alpine due to a High Wind Advisory. So with no fires near Julian and an open route through Ramona, we made our way towards Julian, where fires last year caused the evacuation of the town.

Every fall, Santa Ana winds sweep dry air across Southern California, raising the fire danger and triggering Red Flag warnings. A Red Flag Warning was in effect on the day we arrived, so we were not surprised to see the “No Open Flames” signs everywhere, including one in each fire ring.


We learned from the San Diego County ranger on duty that the “No Open Flames” here means the obvious no camp fires, charcoal fires, and candles. He said though that gas stoves were o.k., which worked for us as we had already planned on deep frying potatoes, fish and crab cakes…


And the candles were kept inside the trailer…


While our Safari bathed in the light of the full Hunter’s Moon


(Highlights of night images taken here with the Nikon D40 set at the new feature, Auto (Flash off) mode will appear in my next article.)

We thoroughly enjoyed camping here Tuesday through Friday before the weekend crowd arrived. The days were spent waking to the sounds of crows and woodpeckers, taking quiet walks with the dogs (on the park roads, not trails), hiking (without the dogs), and catching up on reading, such as Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Mark Twain, Airstream Life, and Spooky Campfire Tales.


Celebrating the fall harvest season at this campsite will continue in my next article…

Summer flowers and turkeys…

Or Getting Cereus. So after a strong cup of coffee, I was off to hunt turkeys and flowers in the Cuyamaca Mountains.


With shooting equipment in hand, I quietly approached the direction of turkeys gobbling in the brush. A turkey hen and her poults emerged in the sunlight.


300 of these Rio Grande Turkeys were introduced here in 1993. There are now up to 20,000 or more in the area.

I continued my morning hunt in William Heise County Park for wildlife or at least wild flowers, and was rewarded by the Lavender Monkey-Flower


and the Wild Rose, Rosa virginiana


A festive meal, prepared by Larry, of pork-shrimp bean curd skin rolls, served with beignets rounded off the day. See his cooking page on our web site Dim Sum Safari Express.

We hitched up and returned home in time to see the Queen of the Night, the Night-Blooming Cereus (Cereus greggii) profusely bursting with sweetly fragrant blooms during the night of Summer Solstice.



I then sat back and listened to turkey-in-the straw as I contemplated my next article, “Getting hitched”.

Tent connections and options

Is having a tent a contradiction to the mission of the Airstream? Isn’t that why we got the Airstream trailer? In the old days we enjoyed the adventure of camping, but sometimes it seemed more like work than fun. When we camp with the Airstream, we have just about all of the comforts of home, contained within a double-walled, well-insulated aluminum cocoon that is relatively easy to transport and set up.


In the morning of our departure on our latest camping trip (to Julian, CA.), I read Rich Luhr’s timely and thought provoking Tour of America posting, “Tent economics“. Knowing that our destination, William Heise County Park, has wonderful tent sites established within the non-hook up sites that we reserve for our trailer, I scrambled to locate our 20 year-old REI tent, Therm-a-Rest pads and mummy sleeping bags that were collecting dust in the rafters of our garage.


This silver domed tent looked right at home along with its mother ship in this setting.


It also helped me make a connection with this historical setting in the Cuyamaca Mountains where Native Americas once lived in domed, thatched huts until displaced by the explorers and exploiters. We arrived just as Julian was about to celebrate Julian Gold Rush Days, and it was an apropos time to visit the Eagle-High Peak Gold Mine.

The tent also has a historical connection with our local area in the form of the Tent City in Coronado, which provided less expensive summer quarters for visitors to the world famous Hotel del Coronado and nearby beach between 1900 and 1916.

A bit more austere than the interior of the Coronado tent summer quarters (linked above), our tent has comfortable mummy sleeping bags on Therm-a-Rest pads and a hanging candle lantern.

As Rich pointed out in his article, the tent can be seen as an extension of the mission of the Airstream. Other Tour of America postings show how the tent can open up adventure and fun options. (By the way, our first tent was the REI Mountain Shuttle similar to the tent seen here.)

Beyond merely evoking nostalgic memories, the tent enabled me to be closer to nature and experience the magic of the night, the sounds of the crickets, the smells and sounds of the smoldering campfire, the howls of coyotes, the moon and twinkling stars shining through tree branches rustling in the wind, and the inevitable opening chorus of flitting birds at dawn.


The tent offers variety to our camping experience. At times it could be an economic alternative, a change of pace, a guest bedroom, and a quiet spot for a moment of privacy, among other possibilities. It will be fun to continue to photograph the domed beauty of the tent and Airstream in a variety of settings.


It could also be a place to play the ukulele.


The bottom line is that the tent facilitates connecting with the environment, while providing more options for having fun with the Airstream.

Eureka! Gold found in Julian!

We returned to William Heise County Park, located near Julian, California, which started as a gold mining camp in 1870 at the northern end of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the southern slope of Volcan Mountain. At an elevation of 4,500 feet, the town is about 50 miles northeast of San Diego. We brought our Airstream trailer and REI tent (which will be featured in my next article) here, just as Julian was about to celebrate its annual Gold Rush Days.


Native American Indians lived in the area 7000 years ago. 19,000 were estimated to be here at the time of the Spanish conquest starting in 1769. They lived in 85-90 seasonal campsites, following the seasonal temperature variations (as we do), and the ripening of major plants and availability of other food sources, they moved from the coast to the mountains and back. Less than 100 years later, the 1860 census lists only 2,807 Native Americans still living in San Diego County.

In 1869 A. E. (Fred) Coleman, a former slave, was living with his Native American wife and eleven children near Volcan Mountain when he watered his horse and noticed gold glittering in the creek. The trick is to follow the presence of gold particles upstream in hopes of finding the source of the gold. This is a form of placer mining.


The following year, Confederates from Georgia, Drury Bailey, his brothers James and Frank, and his cousins, Mike and Web Julian, made the first gold quartz discovery. Drury D. Bailey then laid out the town and named it Julian City after his cousin Mike Julian. The gold rush was on, bringing a divergent mass of humanity, including Blacks and Chinese. Chinese workers, who had recently built the Central Pacific Railroad, came into the area in search of work. Some of the other miners resented their presence and killed them in fights.

Two of the gold quartz mines registered in 1870 were the Eagle and High Peak Mines, which are currently open to the public. A trip to the mines is like going back in time. Here gold was found in quartz veins that formed over millions of years as sedimentary deposits were pushed upward forming our mountains, while immense pressures forced molten gold-bearing material up into tiny fissures as the earth’s crust cooled.


I unhitched and arrived at the Eagle-High Peak Mine with our new Nikon D40 for a tour and photo shoot (No video taking is permitted)…


As our tour guide took us in, he warned us to be careful not to bump our heads on the occasional low ceiling areas. We noticed that it quickly became darker, cooler and more silent. He pointed out the miners’ tools, maps, candle headlamps, and other gear along the way. Midway through the mine, he invited us to sit down on a bench as he turned off all of the lights to show us how dark it really was in there! After a pause, he seemed to be fumbling for his light and as I was about to reach for my Petzl LED Headlamp from my vest pocket, he turned on a pencil-thin beam of light from his laser penlight and directed it up to the ceiling as he pointed out the tiny specks of minerals that were floating in the air. He then told us how holes were drilled for dynamite charges that blasted out sections of rock at a time. Just before the fuse was lit, the miners would hear the shout of “Fire in the hole“, and would run down and jump in a side hole in the mine and wait for the blast to occur, which was sometimes unpredictable if reed fuses were used.


The blast broke off gold-bearing quartz rocks…


That were hauled out of the mine in carts on rails.


The quartz rocks were then taken to the stamp mill, where heavy steel weights (stamps) pounded day and night, pulverizing them into fine particles which were washed through screens and bathed in mercury and then cyanide to extract the gold.


When gold was first found in California, some shouted “Eureka“, and it is now our state motto.