Monday, May 20, 2019

Palomar Mountain State Park, April 28, 2019

During the two weeks while Griffith Observatory was closed for major repairs, in addition to making my trip out to Utah (which still requires at least one more post), we also took a "field trip" to Palomar Observatory. Both Palomar Observatory and Palomar Mountain are in north San Diego County. From I-15, you'd typically exit at CA-76 and head east. Although it's a state highway, this road is pretty winding in its lower stretches, before passing Pala Casino, after roughly six miles. There's an accompanying gas station and small store/deli out. As far as I know, that's the last public restroom before you get to your destination, about 45 miles away. So I used the restroom, bought a large coffee and a prepared breakfast sandwich (egg, sausage and cheese). I ate in the car, because I was early for my Palomar Observatory tour, and had time to kill. Also, safer not to drive and eat at the same time!

There is signage for any turns along the way to either Palomar Observatory or Palomar Mountain State Park, though you do need to pay attention. The left for South Grade Road is easy, but easier if no one's on your tail if you have to stop for that turn. There's another sign at a somewhat complicated intersection of numerous roads, where you choose between the state park or the Observatory.

If you *don't* make the double left towards the state park, but only the single left, to the Observatory, there's a vegetarian-options restaurant that seems pretty popular. On Google Maps, it says, "Mother's Kitchen." I ate there, after our Observatory tour, and before I went to the state park. Vegan tacos. Tasted pretty good. Otherwise, the other protein options are eggs, which I already ate for breakfast. Great break, because it was sunny and kind of warm after the tour, but turned to overcast after lunch. Better hiking weather.
The Palomar Mountain State Park flyer is here.

I'd been to this park only once before, over four years ago. That was long enough ago that I couldn't recall all of the trails that I had taken, that time. I recalled taking the Weir trail, so did not want to repeat that one. And I recalled taking the Silvercrest trail, that runs along the ocean-facing ridge that starts near the entrance station. Did not remember the pond, so I drove down there, thinking a walk along what looked to be a (seasonal) stream might be interesting, and with some wildflowers. But when I got there, I did recognize the pond, and realized that I had walked from there down one side, then back up that broad valley below the pond Also, I did not see much in the way of wildflowers that way. So I decided to take a different trail. Actually, first I had to go back to the car and grab the map, so I could see what my options from down here were.
From the map, I saw that I could walk up the Cedar trail (lots of big "cedar" along this trail, hence, the name), then the Scott's Cabin trail, past the cabin, and to the historic orchard, where I had seen apple trees in bloom as I drove in to the park. So, yes, it's a pretty compact park, and you are never far from the road.

The Cedar trail begins quite steeply, but then levels off once you reach a ridge. Plenty of Mountain lilac were in bloom along the upper section of this trail, and along parts of the Scott's Cabin trail. Not much to see at the actual Cabin site; I'm pretty sure it's just some loosely arranged logs, where the cabin used to be, and not actually the remnants of the cabin.
Past the cabin, I headed for the apple orchard. Had to leave the trail to get close to the apple blossoms, unfortunately.

After enjoying the view of the apple blossoms, I backtracked to near the cabin site, then took the short Scott's Cabin Spur trail to the main park road. Crossed the road, used the restroom at Silvercrest picnic area, observed a deer or two, then returned to the park road and headed west, to where the Boucher trail began.
Short ascent. Passed a small pine, with a few Christmas ornaments still on it. Passed between many oak trunks, which I photographed on the way back. Eventually entered a small parking area, where people who didn't want to walk could just drive to this historic fire lookout site.
Along the trail, there are views to the north, with (at the time) snow-capped (I assume) San Bernardino Mountains in the far distance. Once at the fire lookout, you had expansive views to the south, and also along the ridge line. It was overcast, but transparency was not back. Couldn't really see the ocean, but the Pechanga Casino, down in Pauma Valley, was pretty hard to miss.
Apparently, when there's a volunteer on hand up there, you can go on up to the top of the lookout. I couldn't tell if anyone was there, but also I figured the view would be pretty much the same, except for maybe also being able to see from the lookout point what I had seen to the north, while still walking on the trail. So nothing new.

Returned the way I came. Enjoyed passing between all those oak.

Then, back along the road and past what I think was an employee housing unit, then back to Silvercrest picnic area. Three or four deer were now feeding on the slope adjacent to the parking lot. Took a number of shots of them.
Then, back across the road, down the spur trail, back along the Cabin trail, then down the Cedar trail, Doane Pond, and my car. Fair walk and nice to get in before the roughly 2 1/2 hour drive back home.

Nice walk. The visit to Palomar Observatory was also nice, as was lunch at the restaurant, where the road to Palomar Observatory and to Palomar Mountain State Park meet.

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