Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cuyamaca Mountains

On Sunday morning, I got up early and took a drive past Julian to Lake Cuyamaca. I had heard that large crowds were turned away from the Sunrise Highway to Mt. Laguna the day before, so I planned on arriving early and hiking to the Green Valley Falls.

I stopped for a sunrise photo in San Pasqual Valley, seeing the fog transposed against the clear sky and realizing I wasn't going to make it to the mountains before the sun was up.

When I drove past Julian, I could see snow blanketing the surrounding mountainsides. I stopped for a few pictures at Inspiration Point (on the 79), meeting a nice couple that lived near Julian. Continuing along the 79, I found Sunrise Highway was still closed. At the Lake Cuyamaca store, the park office that sells parking permits didn't open until 10 am, including the Chambers Park. As a result, I was either going to have to shoot at the lake later in the day or skip Lake Cuyamaca altogether. I continued south on the 79, heading for Green Valley Falls campground.

I almost got stuck in a small turnout packed with snow. I got to try out all the features of my 4x4 and finally managed to get out by going forward, further into the snow. In California, I don't get much practice driving in deep snow.

I finally arrived at the Green Valley Campground, only to find out they were closed for the winter, due to California's budget cuts. It also meant there was no parking near the Green Valley Falls. I drove back to the nearest parking area, about 3/4 of a mile away and decided to hike a connecting trail back to the closed campground.

The deserted Green Valley Falls campground was eerie and after slipping on ice on the roadway, I decided I needed to be more careful. I finally found the trail to the Green Valley falls on the opposite end of the campground, where it was just a short 1/2 mile hike down a hill. There were about 3 different levels of falls. I spent the most time at the upper falls, crouched precariously on a smooth rock in the middle of the river. My boots were damp and muddy and the water was icy cold. I then hiked down river to the next two sets of falls, stopping to take pictures as I went.

When I arrived back at the parking area, it was wall to wall packed with cars. Large crowds were playing in the snow in the open area near the parking. Cars were also bumper to bumper heading north towards Lake Cuyamaca, the closed Sunrise Highway and my way home. I decided to head south towards the 8 freeway and take the long way home.

Here's a map of where the parking area and Green Valley Falls are located:

View Larger Map

More photos are up at: