June 1, 2010 -
I absolutely was NOT expecting the first thing I found at the trailhead of the Otay Sweetwater Refuge. Talk about pleasant surprises. This Steel Bridge you see here is not just any old bridge. This is a "Historical" Bridge! The steel Sweetwater Bridge, built in 1929, is a remnant of Old Highway 94 and a walk across it will bring you to this GREAT trail.
After crossing the bridge I found the little gap, you see here, between two rocks and I was on my way!
The first half of the hike had the tree-lined Sweetwater River (or should we say creek?) to my right, and grasslands and hills to my left.
A short way down the trail I encountered a couple of different Jamulians out walking their dogs. Very nice people with interesting things to share about the region. As we were talking, a distant ambulance siren sounded and triggered what seemed to be a "herd" of coyotes yelping from a "very, very" short distance away from us in the nearby trees. Beach Boy: "Run away, run away!" Country Locals: "Yep, dem's coyotes a'ight." Good thing I'm good at looking cool on the outside!
After a friendly reminder from my new friends about rattlesnakes, I bid them good day and hiked onward past a wooden bridge that crosses back over to the north side of the river. Quite a ways beyond the bridge I did a little off trail exploration. After tromping, climbing and sliding my way through what may have been a trail suitable for the rare Southern Cal rough terrain goats for awhile, I said to myself, "Self, what the heck do you think you're doing?"
My answer was to double back and climb up a mountain bike path heading south. I knew what it was because I just saw a mountain biker pass me heading in that direction. As I climbed upward It dawned on me that I could probably follow this trail for about 14 miles in a southweseterly direction and sneak my way in the back door of "Fort Knox." If you actually read this blog, as compared to just looking at the pretty pictures, then you know I'm referring to the Sweetwater Reservoir (Hike #4). Deciding that five miles was probably going to be enough for me today, I took a picture and head back down. In that picture, if you look closely, you can see the wooden bridge amidst the river growth.
So, what did I do ? (drumroll...) I "crossed" the bridge. On the other side there was a parrallel east-west trail. After heading west for a little while I realized I really "was" heading for the reservoir so I turned around and looped back in the direction of the steel bridge.
It was on this part of my walk that I had my very first rattler encounter. I didn't "see" it, but hearing it, in all it's presumed fury, just to my right in the low dry grass, was enough for my "Beach Boy" inclinations to kick in. I left more rubber on that trail than a nascar at the Indy 500.
About half way back the path turned into a gravel trail and eventually a paved road. For that reason, if I did this hike again I would return on the south side trail.
In this last photo you will see the small parking lot right before the bridge. This 2 1/2 hours well-spent!