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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

••◊ Visiting San Diego County's State Parks

My mom came for a visit this last weekend and rather than just eat, watch movies, and be lazy, I took her to two of San Diego County's state parks.  After her plane arrived I proposed that we take a quick drive over to Point Loma to visit the Cabrillo National Monument.  The park is named after Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer, who landed in San Diego in 1542 while looking for trade routes to Asia.  Little did he know that the Asia was all the way across the Pacific Ocean and he was a long, long way off!  However, this was the first time a European had landed on the west coast of the United States.

In 1935 the Portuguese government commissioned the Cabrillo statue seen in the park.  This was after multiple failed attempts by the U.S. government to erect a proper statue.  Of course, the first attempt was around the time of World War 1, so you *could say* that Fort Rosecrans was a bit distracted.  Finally in 1949 the statue was installed at the national monument after being stored in California for many years.  However, the original sandstone statue began to deteriorate, so in 1988 the U.S. government replaced the statue with a limestone replica that exists there today.

The Cabrillo National Monument is located at the far southern tip of Fort Rosecrans, which was an active military base off limits to civilians during World War 2. We were lucky during out visit because they were allowing people to go inside an actual military bunker.  It was a small space with two levels and a metal ladder connecting the two stories.  The upper level is used for the sea patrol look out and the lower level contained very cramped living quarters.  All dozen of us in there at one time were packed in like sardines!

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was completed in 1855, just four years after California joined the United States.  The visitor center has a documented description the somewhat isolated life of a light house keeper.  He lived there with his wife and an assistant in very cramped quarters.  They only occasionally received visitors from the "town" of San Diego, because going around the bay was a significant journey....which takes all of 15 minutes today.  On October 25, 2014 the park plans to allow visitors to climb up into the actual lighthouse.

In 1891 the light house was abandoned in favor of one closer to sea level because fog is an issue in San Diego bay.  However it's not as much of an issue for the new light house just down the cliff to the west.


One interesting thing I learned is that the lens that is used in every light house is a Fresnel lens, the same as most modern film lights!  You can see the concentric patterns in the glass jar that houses the kerosene flame.  When fully lit, it was estimated that the light could be seen as far as 25 miles off shore.

On Sunday we visited the Anza-Borrego State Park visitor center in Borrego Springs.  Unfortunately with the current California drought the scenery wasn't the most picturesque it could be.  With the rains this weekend hopefully the desert sprouts up its well known wildflowers.

The 600,000 acre park established in 1933 was named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word for bighorn sheep, borrego.  Today it's better known as the source of my grapefruit at Trader Joe's!  What makes this hot, arid desert ripe for farming?  Well...you know the Grand Canyon?  The Anza Borrego desert was once ocean, however all the dirt that was carved out of the Grand Canyon by the Colorado River had to go somewhere - so it ended up in southern California forming a vast desert where photographers flock to fry in the sun.

Here are a couple panorama photos of the desert.  The first one looks east from the visitor center toward the town of Borrego Springs.  The second photo looks north from the visitor center.  If you look closely you can just barely see the RV park on the far right.  Click on the photos to make them larger.

On the way back we went through Santa Ysabel, which brought up the locally known Julian apple pies.  That necessitated a trip to the Julian Pie Company.  The picture says the rest.

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