Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Urban Hiking

I'll bet I know what you're thinking.  But I am here to dispel your misconceptions right now.  My adventures in urban hiking around San Diego have not and will not consist strictly of walking to and from the conveniently located winery down the street from my friends' home. The three of us have indeed already been out and about beyond the geographical limits of the tasting room at the Bernardo Winery.   I have, however, received several emails from my in-the-know TRAVEL AGENT who is concerned that I would be found tip-toeing around in some algae-slick La Jolla tide pool with a 3-liter deluxe box of Two-Buck Chuck under my arm, tickling anemones while mumbling "We're certainly not in Utah anymore, Toto..."  Rest assured that this is not entirely true. 

The funny thing about my friends and me is that our great minds do indeed think alike.  What one of us does or doesn't want to do, the others are generally in agreement.  Earlier in my visit we had been tossing out ideas as to how we would amuse ourselves.  Cathy did not really feel up to digging around in dusty mine tailings looking for tourmaline crystals that would most likely not be much larger than a grain of salt. I was amenable to that - there were plenty of other opportunities for adventure in the big city.

I had brought along with me a real page-turner of a guide book on the geology of San Diego's back country, complete with road logs to (in my opinion) fascinating evidence of southern California's tectonic marvels.  I realize that the mere mention of  a geological road log may bring on a severe case of  hives in some of you, but my two dear friends LOVE this stuff nearly as much as I do.  They love it so much, in fact, that it didn't take much convincing on my part a few years ago for them to go along with me, not once but twice, to the 515 million-year-old Burgess Shale Cambrian fossil beds high in the mountains of Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies.   Round trip from southern California to Canada - twice!  They went two thousand miles further than I did, just to see really old dead things in mud.  Now, that is geologic mania at its best.

View east from Cowles Mountain
So I was flipping through my book a couple days ago, looking for an interesting hike.  I soon found one to Cowles Mountain, part of the remains of a Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous (around 140-120 million years old) magmatic arc system.  At 1,591 feet above sea level it is the highest point in the city of San Diego.  My friends had not been there in years and were eager to hike the 3-mile round trip trail again.  So after a leisurely Sunday morning of coffee and newspapers ( The LA Times!  I haven't read a real newspaper in ages) we packed up our water bottles and cameras, ready to marvel at the gorgeous day with its clear blue skies and cool ocean breezes.
On Cowles Mountain trail

It was Sunday and there were many people out enjoying the Halloween afternoon.  Cathy in particular elicited several cheery smiles and comments on her pumpkin-themed earrings and necklace.  The three of us toodled our way up the mountain, taking pictures and stopping to admire the view.  John  had moved to San Diego in 1947 and used to come up here when there was nothing but plowed fields and small gravel roads below - the  city of nearly 1.3 million inhabitants today had a population even back then of around 203,000.

With 360 degree views we could see south into Mexico and its Coronado Islands; to the west we saw the beaches of the Silver Strand, the skyscrapers of downtown San Diego, and the prominence of Point Loma.  Visible to the east was another magmatic arc system, the Late-Triassic-Jurassic (around 220 million to170 million years old) Cuyamaca-Laguna Mountains along with many other eroded remnants of unknown (at least to me) tectonic events.

Cowles Mountain is the low peak on the right
The breeze was cooler and the sun lower on the horizon as we came off the mountain.  We were ready to get on home since I had offered to cook dinner that night.  We didn't even stop at the winery !

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