Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lopez Canyon (#55)

April 4, 2011 - Our hike today was about as impromptu as it gets. Woke up, achieved an appropriate level of coffee intake and asked myself if I felt like hiking. Kind of on the fence about that, and didn't yet have a location in mind. Somehow, though, after narrowing down the options, Wilson persuaded me to make Lopez Canyon our destination for the day.

Next thing we know here we are.

Wow! What a very large (and very empty) trailhead parking lot.

It must be the "natural features." I'll bet people are avoiding this place because of all the natural features.

Seriously, when I think "natural features" the first images that come to mind are beautiful meadows, majestic trees and lots of good stuff like that there. But NO! The lovely features we are talking about here are mountain lions, rattle snakes, and poison oak.

Or maybe the parking lot is empty because its Monday morning and people have other obligations more important than avoiding ticks and snakes.

Actually, we've been close to this neck of the woods before.  This is the west entrance to the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (#46) where we hiked (coming in from the east side) back in January. From here we could veer left and walk about 3 miles to a pleasant waterfall...

...but we're already determined to discover what Lopez Canyon is all about.

One of the "non-lethal" natural features along the trail is Lopez Creek which we crossed a few times along the way.

We found, and took as a sidetrack to our eastward ramble, what's left of Old Lopez Road.

The best I can make of it (with a limited amount of research mind you), Bonifacio Lopez was an influential and successful person in the region who had 11 kids. One of his boys, Jose Ramon, built a wooden cabin here in Lopez Canyon around 1890 and started a dairy farm. When he died his son and two daughters continued to live there. The homestead was ultimately deserted when the last of the siblings died in 1953.*

It turns out that if we continued upward on the "road" we'd eventually pop out into the modern civilization of Mira Mesa.

Lacking the urgent need for asphalt and buildings, we turned around when we spied the Quolcomm building.

Back on the main trail, a pleasant and unavoidable "natural feature" came into sight. This canyon is loaded with sycamore trees.

The seemingly out of place clumps of green leaves adorning the trees not only intrigued me, they showcased my ignorance.

Turns out to be a good thing my wife was not hiking with me because, out of adherence to cultural rules and norms, we would be smooching a lot more than we'd be walking.

Answer to the million dollar question?


About now Wilson was suggesting that we take our lunch break in a shady spot at the base of a nearby sycamore.

"How 'bout there Boss?"

For a Bolivian walking stick, Wilson really does have a great sense of humor!

It's obviously not so funny when you make contact with this "natural feature!" At least not according to my son, anyway, or his girlfriend for that matter. It appears they didn't read the signs.

A little ways down the path we stop to appreciate the lush vegetation up against the canyon wall. As we're doing that, it slowly dawns on me that the loud hum of a plane I hear off in the distance is not a plane at all. The manic buzz of what I imagined to be the "bee swarm from beyond" suddenly interrupted my "enjoying nature moment" and thrust me into a heightened state of "natural features awareness."

With innocent faces, our eyes turned upward and whistling a nervous tune that says, "We are harmless and pitiful creatures not worthy of attacking," we slinked slowly away, eventually breaking into a slight trot.

We soon find ourselves far enough down the road to redirect our attention back to the beauty of where we are.

We chose our lunch spot in the shade of (but not too close to the trunk of) a beautiful sycamore. Lunch was standard fare as usual: almonds, apples and a peanut butter bar.  Afterwards, Wilson parked himself safely amongst the cobblestone  rocks in the middle of the creek.

Noticing Wilson's obvious fixation on the nearby green grassy meadow I did the "penny for your thoughts" thing.

Wilson whispers a stuttering reply, "I thu-thu-think I suh-suh-saw a nuh-nuh-natural fuh-fuh-feature in the guh-guh-gurass."

True story: On our return trip, after what had been a totally isolated trail experience, we finally ran into three different hikers on their way out,  each of them warning of the rattle snake along the side of the return trail. Just one last feature I guess.

Another Great Hike!


*Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology, Vol. 16, 2002

Empty Trailhead Parking Lot (and my awesome Malibu)

Beware of the Natural Features!

Left to Los Peñasquitos Canyon Trail...

...or right to Lopez Canyon

Lopez Creek

Turning right to head up Old Lopez Road

Quolcomm Building? Mr. Lopez would be shocked!

Two Natural Features: Sycamore Trees & Mistletoe

Natural Feature: Poison Oak

More Natural Feature: Bees, and lots of them!

Wilson cooling his toes in Lopez Creek

Snakes in the grass?

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