Monday, March 24, 2014

4th Annual SoCal Desert Rendezvous

Over the weekend of March 22 and 23, we made a 365 mile round trip out to the Colorado Desert, east of the Salton Sea and south of Interstate 10 to attend the 4th annual SoCal Desert Rendezvous, organized by the fine folks over at American Adventurist. Click here for the write up on our trip out to the 2013 Rendezvous event. 

For us, this is all about getting away from it all and relaxing in the desert. We also get to check out all the other rigs and camp setups, chat with like-minded adventurous folks, and enjoy some delicious food. The campsite for this year's event was at the same location as last year's, (Google Maps cut and paste: 33.599581,-115.536937) near the junction of Bradshaw and Summit road, along some abandoned railroad tracks, against the Orocopa Mountains.  

Finally getting off the pavement and onto BLM public land.

Heading towards the Orocopa Mountains and event campsite.

Our home away from home for the weekend.

Folks returning from their various desert explorations also brought back refuse from their clean up efforts.

Getting ready for the group shot.

The potluck and dutch oven competition provided some fantastic food.

After everyone had their fill, we all gathered 'round for the raffle in hopes of scoring some outdoor/overland gear.

Crossing the now disused Eagle Mountain Railroad tracks. Constructed in 1947, it was used until 1986 to haul iron-ore from Kaiser's Eagle Mountain Mine to an interchange with the Southern Pacific Transportation Company. The last revenue train to operate over the line was on March 24, 1986.

There are plenty of other campsites tucked away around this area.

Of course we were ready to enjoy our morning coffee. Unlike last year, the wind didn't pick up so we were able to enjoy ourselves for a bit on Sunday morning before heading out. 

We camped next to our friends, Steve and Tammy. Audrey was more than happy to keep their dogs company.

Looking west over the Desert Rendezvous campsite.

Its always fun checking out all the different overland vehicles that gather here. Camping here with my growing family made me think that we may soon need to upgrade to something larger than our current Jeep Wrangler. 

On our way home we made a slight detour along Highway 86 to check out the high water mark or "bathtub ring" from ancient lake Cahuilla along the mountains west of the Salton Sea. One of these days I'll do a more in-depth exploration of this area's ancient history.

We're looking forward to next year's event. Hopefully we'll be able to spend the whole three days out here and participate in some trail runs and exploring more of the surround area.

Check out this trip report from the Travel Adventures of the Roaming Robertsons: Desert Rendezvous 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Banker's Hill, San Diego

"With two steep ravines spanned by quaint footbridges, scores of well-kept, historically significant homes, and mature landscaping, Banker’s Hill is a monument to the elegance of the past. The work of early-century architects Irving Gill, William Hebbard, Richard Requa, and Frank Mead is represented throughout the area. Much can be seen on the following 1.5-mile walk, which begins on Spruce Street at First or Second Avenue, just west of Balboa Park" - Jerry Schad 

There is quite the list in my mind of hikes and places I've been wanting to explore. Often my thoughts turn to the quintessential resource on hiking San Diego County- the late Jerry Schad's Foot & Afield in San Diego County. With an afternoon to spend with my family the weekend before our trip out to the Desert Rendezvous, I was quick to pick from my list Banker's Hill; an easy stroll close to home that my three year old daughter and five month pregnant wife would enjoy, right into the urban core of San Diego. Some of the older neighborhoods of San Diego, west of Balboa Park and north of downtown, afford some of the best historic walks found in the city. This stroll features two historic, hidden gems- a wood-trestle footbridge crossing one canyon and a suspension footbridge spanning another canyon.

Here's a bit of Wikipedia on the area: "Bankers Hill, sometimes known as Park West, is a long established uptown San Diego neighborhood near Balboa Park. It is bordered to the north by Hillcrest (at Upas St.), to the south, past Date Street, by Downtown (at Interstate 5, the San Diego Freeway), to the east by Balboa Park, and the west by Interstate 5, Little Italy and the neighborhood known as Midtown.

The area is primarily residential south of Laurel Street and west of 5th Avenue. Many new construction projects are ongoing as of 2009, creating condominiums along 6th Avenue facing the park. Locations further west allow an elevated, panoramic view of Downtown, San Diego Bay, the airport, Coronado, Harbor Island and Mount Soledad. Many homes date from the late 19th century, including some which have been restored as offices or bed-and-breakfast inns. Architects Irving Gill, William Hebbard, Richard Requa, and Frank Mead designed homes in this area. The area acquired the name "Bankers Hill" because of its reputation as a home for the affluent."

After a tasty lunch at Phil's BBQ in Santee, we headed west on Interstate 8 then south on SR-163 to the 6th Street exit where we continued south, then west on Spruce Street. We parked at 2nd and Spruce to begin our city walk. 

Walking east on Spruce Street. Past Third Avenue, on the right, is a low building designed by William Hebbard in 1913 and stylized after the long-gone San Diego Cable Railway powerhouse. The cable-car line went into operation in 1889, carrying passengers from downtown through Hillcrest to a park on Adams Avenue.

South on 4th Avenue.

We caught sight of some of the recent severe storm damage suffered by this Southern California city.

Built in 1905, the Quince Street pedestrian bridge links Bankers Hill to Balboa Park over Maple Canyon. At 236 feet long and 60 feet tall, its one of few remaining wooden trestle pedestrian bridges in San Diego. Orignially built for $805, the bridge was meant to connect pedestrians with the Fourth Avenue trolley. 

This bridge reminds me of one of my favorite things about San Diego- its urban canyons. Tucked into corners around our fair city, one can find many beautiful canyons that are mini refuges from the busy streets and built-up neighborhoods above.

Ridden with termites and wood rot, the bridge was nearly slated for demolition in the 1980's when it was shut down. It was reopened in 1990 after a significant $250,000  overhaul. Approximately 30% of the original wood remains. On Sunday, March 20th, 2011 the west side of the footbridge took a direct hit from a falling eucalyptus tree during a storm. It was repaired and reopened six months later.

Two babies on board this pretty lady!

Heading north on 2nd Avenue reveals some classic revival styles.

The residence here at 136 Redwood is one of the earliest (1898) results of a partnership between William Hebbard and Irving Gill. The camphor tree on the corner is one of the largest in San Diego.

A left on Redwood to First brings you opposite Irving Gill’s Bishop’s Day School (1908), now the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Time for a short water break in the shade.

Now heading north on First, then left on Spruce, heading west to walk across the suspension footbridge.

I remember my grandfather showing me the Spruce Street suspension bridge years ago. The only bridge of its type in San Diego County, this 375 foot steel suspension bridge is anchored to massive concrete piers hidden beneath the soil at both ends. As you start crossing, you realize the bridge actually bounces, then sways as you continue walking. It's a little scary, and way cool. Perhaps the best-known “secret” in the neighborhood. 

This old bridge is loved by a large cross-section of San Diegans as well as tourists from around the world. Please preserve the peacefulness and serenity of the setting. FYI: the footbridge is monitored 24-hours and is closed from 10pm-6am.

I noticed quite a few love locks placed on the cables here. A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which couples lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. 

 Once on surface streets again, we turn left on Brant Street, a dead end. The house at the end (3100 Brant) was designed by Hebbard in 1907 after his partnership with Gill ended, but retains some of Gill’s influence.

At the southeast corner of Spruce and Curlew, is a 1914 design by Requa and Frank Mead influenced by Mediterranean and North African imagery.

At the southeast corner of Curlew and Thorn, is an interesting Palladian-style mansion dating from 1927. To poke fun at passersby, the plaque here reads...

Zigzaging east on Thorn, north on Brant, east on Upas, and north on Albatross, we come to some of the Gill “canyon houses,” dating from 1912–13 and designed to blend harmoniously with the natural landscape.

Around the corner, at the west end of Walnut Avenue, is a seemingly out-of-place Queen Anne Victorian house. Built in 1892 at Fourth and Walnut, it was moved to this site in 1911.

To conclude our walk, we headed east on Walnut to Second and then south back to our starting point. 

It may not be our usual back country getaway, but exploring San Diego’s Banker’s Hill neighborhood, using city streets and historic footbridges with my family was a fun and easy way to spend the afternoon. I'll have to check out the canyons around here on another day trip sometime.