Monday, December 1, 2014

Hike 2014.060 -- Palomar Mountain State Park: Doane Valley Nature Trail, Weir Trail, Lower Doane Trail, Thunder Spring Trail, Upper Doane Trail and Silvercrest Trail

Hiked Saturday, November 29. Palomar Mountain State Park is described as 1832 acres, which makes it just under three square miles. In other words, it's a pretty small park. It's mostly between 4800 and 5200 feet above sea level, which makes it somewhat mountainous, with lots of conifers.

And, as the state park brochure shows, there are plenty of trails in the park.

On my short visit on Saturday, I covered a fair portion of those trails, despite only being there for about three hours.

To get to Palomar Mountain State Park, I took I-15 south, and exited at CA-76, which I took east. Along the way, I passed Pala Indian Casino. Always wondered where they were.
Well after the casino (and you can go to the park website for more detailed driving informa-tion), I departed at the signed junction for County Highway S-6 (it is the "main" direction at the intersection, meaning the solid double-yellow line assumes most folks will take that road), and have no stop sign, though you've got to take some care to make sure the guys on CA-76 heading west don't cut in front of you, so be cautious here.

You stay on S-6 the rest of the way, which involves two quick left turns when you approach S-7 and the road to Mt. Palomar Observatory. Again, the intersection is signed.

After entering the park, I made my way down to Doane Pond, as I had heard there was some fall color to be seen around here. I first walked around the pond, then headed southeast, along the Doane Valley Nature Trail. At the next fork, I got off the Nature Trail and continued on the Weir Trail, to the historic weir (low dam). Then I headed back up on the Weir Dam, then turned left to pick up the Lower Doane Valley Trail, which I took back to the campground.

Along the way, I walked through moderately heavy forest, with plenty of conifers and some oak and other deciduous trees. Not a lot of color, but a few splotches to be seen, yes.

When I reached the campground (which apparently means I should have turned right to get back on the Nature Trail and loop back to the pond), I followed the pavement until I could see the pond, again. Once at the pond, I headed northwest, along the Thunder Creek trail, and followed that out to the next split (about a mile), when I looped to the left, and returned on the Upper Doane Valley Trail. That took me to a school, which struck me as a cool place to have classes.
Along that segment of trail (the Thunder Creek and Upper Doane Valley Trails), I circumnavigated a large meadow. This meadow (as the one along the Lower Doane Trail, earlier) was mostly brown; I imagine in the spring and early summer, it must be green, and perhaps full of wild flowers.

Here, again, there were some oaks, still with their golden brown leaves holding on. Again, only splotches of colorful foliage, however. Just a few trees, here and there.

I'm a little uncertain on the mileage, since the park map does not give trail mileage for the various segments. I'd estimate about 1/4 mile around Doane Pond, then a bit over a mile to the Historic Weir, then a bit more than that to return to the pond via the Lower Doane Trail, then a bit under two miles for the loop of Thunder Creek and Upper Doane Valley. So very nearly four miles for just this part.
I still had some daylight, so I stopped at the Silvercrest parking area on the way out. Silvercrest picnic area is just barely inside the park, less than 1/10 of a mile from the fee station, and maybe a 1/2 mile from the park entrance. There are trails that leave from either end of the picnic area.

From the east side of the picnic area, the trail is called the Silvercrest Trail, and it's about a 1/2 mile to the park entrance. The trail runs near the ridge, with nice views down towards the Pacific Ocean. I walked this trail to its end.
It ends when it reinter-sects with with the main road. Walk on to the road, and you see the sign marking the entrance to the park on your left.

There's a fairly large parking area outside of the park sign, and what looks like a lot of space to park. The sign near the area says there's no parking from sunset to 8am, which means, when the park is open, you could park here and walk the Silvercrest Trail in to the park, and avoid the entrance fee ($8/car).
Depending on how far you're willing to walk and what you're wanting to see in the park, this may or may not be a reasonable alternative.

I took a picture here, then returned the way I came. This added another mile to my walking distance for the day, so somewhere around five miles for the day.
On the drive back, on the flat but occa-sionally winding road below the mountain, I got to see a stupid human trick.

For the previous five miles, I had been following a line of cars and motorcycles. When that happens, when it's obvious that you're going to be following a lot of cars for a long while, I see no reason to tailgate. What's the point? So I accept that I'll be following these guys all the way to the freeway. I don't worry if I'm 100 or 150 yards behind a line of cars, since there's no way I'm going to be able to pass those guys. Yet, for some folks, just getting that extra 100 yards is apparently irresistible, because as we approach a traffic light (double-yellow line), stupid person makes his move.

I hear his engine rev, and see him in my left rear view mirror. "Are you freaking kidding me?" I wonder. Yet, there he goes.

Normally, if a stupid person wants to pass, I don't care. So my normal inclination would be to maintain my speed and let him do his stupid thing. But now we're less than 150 yards from the on-coming traffic, and less than 100 yards from the intersection (so even if there was no oncoming traffic, this pass would have been dangerously stupid, because you never know if someone's going to turn from that cross road right into your path). I don't see how he makes this pass without either crashing head-on with one or several of the vehicles heading the other way, or sideswiping me. So I slam on my brakes and pull into the emergency parking lane on the right.

Idiot person eventually sees I'm out of the way, and crosses back into our lane with less than 80 yards between him and the on-coming traffic. What. An. Idiot.

So, at the risk of death, injury, and damage to a half-dozen cars and a dozen or so people, stupid person has manage to get in front of one of the roughly 15 cars and motorcycles that were in front of him, and will arrive at I-15 about 2 seconds sooner than he otherwise would have. Because now, for the next 15 minutes, instead of being the last car in a line of vehicles heading towards I-15, now he's the second to the last car, and I'm right behind him the whole way, wondering how anyone can be so stupid. Good job, pinhead!

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