Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Friday, October 19, 2018

California: San Diego's Sunrise Highway

The two-lane Sunrise Highway (S1) runs between Interstate 8 and State Road 79
in eastern San Diego County, skimming beside and up into the Vallecito Mountains and
 providing access to the Cleveland National Forest, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

About an hour east of San Diego but still in San Diego County, the Sunrise Highway is a world away from the busy coast and the jammed highways of the city.  It's a full-day trip if you take hiking seriously, a bit less than that if you settle for an hour or so on one of the trails in Cleveland National Forest, which was established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908 and is 460,000 acres (720 square miles) of rocks, canyons, pines and scrub.

Other than trailheads (including access points to the Pacific Crest Trail) and a couple of lodges and cafes, there's little to see along the 24 miles of the Sunrise Highway except magnificent views of the Vallecito Mountains to the east. The Salton Sea is on the other side of the mountains, and perhaps the sliver of blue water we spied a couple of times was the sea. Or perhaps it was just another of the several artificial lakes that dot the area.

Here are some snapshots taken along the highway, starting from the southern end.
The Vallecito Mountains rise in the distance in this view from the Sunrise Highway.

We drove the Sunrise Highway on Oct. 19, 2018, a sunny
and hot day in San Diego (high in the 80s at sea level),
but the temperature dropped to 60 once we were 5,000 feet
and more above sea level. The humidity was 29 percent, so
the chill felt even chillier.

Dead trees resemble art works along one
trail in Cleveland National Forest. Maybe
they were killed in the forest's famous
2003 Cedar Fire, one of the worst wildfires
in the state's history.

Pine trees, even big ones like this, have thin foliage.

Another remnant of the 2003 Cedar Fire? Yet the
little pine beside it does not seem discouraged.

Jane said this tree reminded her of the charred tree where
Smokey Bear was found in New Mexico in 1950.

More apparent fire damage ... and regrowth.

A view of Anza-Borrega Desert State Park.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

No trees, just brush in this desert.

Isolated rocks stick up like termite mounds in the plains of Africa. 

Some piles of rocks resembled Inuit inukshuks and others resembled
African kopjes. There are warnings about rattlesnakes and mountain
lions, and I can easily imagine one if not both waiting at these
rocks for an unaware hiker.