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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cuyamaca Day 2

Continued from 
Cuyamaca Day 1


Day 2 saw me waking with a fraction of my normal sleep given that it got down to 40 degrees and while some tents are built to help retain and circulate body heat our tent, sadly, was not one of those models. Its great for desert camping given the open mesh styling but for cold weather camping which one would not normally associate with Cuyamaca late June, was not the perfect fit. Even though I had stuffed my favorite 20+ year old mexican blanket into my sleeping bag no matter how hard I tried there was one area of skin that was ice cold and made the entire night a bit on the uncomfortable side. I kicked myself remember the wife offering up my thermal underwear and sweatshirt and me refusing given at that point in time it was probably still 60 degrees or thereabouts. I learned Cuyamaca Lakes rule #1- a 50 degree drop in temperature is not uncommon. 


I woke up and poured some fresh water into our favorite aluminum pan and busted out the portable propane stove and clicked the starter switch 4 or 5 times before I realized it was not switching into the "on" position. I was able to get it lit and stay lit provided I stood by the side of table providing enough downward force on the lever via thumb to keep it lit but decided that process might take 5 minutes....sure its only 5 minutes but thats not the Cahill camping way. I threw some of the high heat flash burning wood Thuc brought with him and started a fire in the pit. 15 minutes later the fire was good and hot placing the cast iron skillet on top of the fire pits grill and the aluminum pot filled with water on top of the cast iron skillet-it was only 10 or 15 minutes before bubble started forming in the pan and another 5 or so before I had my first cup of morn's coffee. 


Thuc and his family awoke-actually they awoke far before I did and to my bemusement I am fairly certain I heard some DSS sounds in the background. Between that and Artic Station Zebra and feeling the heat of the sun on the side of the tent I was ready to get up ASAP anyhow.  


As we all dressed for the day I asked Thuc if he had brought the pastries and muffins that was part of the things he had agreed to bring. He shot a sheepish green and said "looks like we're going into town."


Next thing I know we are in the Julien Cafe ordering breakfast. Truth be told it was fantastic. Normally I dont expect much in little towns as I figure they're not trying too hard to impress but everything on the menu was incredibly good with me and the wife sharing between the Cinnamon Roll French Toast and the Julien Skillet Scramble. I did feel a bit bad though as Alex decided at this point in time he no longer was going to order on the Kids menu and thus ordered the $8 blueberry short stack of pancakes and ate about 1/10 of it before he said he was full and didnt touch anything else afterwards. Cool place as well with the old style toilets in the bathroom and just an overall very cool vibe. We asked the waitress about the best places to buy groceries and she gave us a couple of suggestions. 


Alex's 8 dollar Blueberry Panckakes






We headed back to camp and longed to take a good old fashioned long camping hike through the west end of the Cleveland National Forest. By the time we got back it was  roughly 11:30 so I gave in impromptu speech about why hiking at the hottest point of the day is always the best time to start a long journey. I brought my water backpack which could carry 2L of waters and stuffed a few more bottles in for good measure and told the kids to bring as much water as they could carry.


We started the journey and walking the paved driveway to the trailhead I heard the first "Im tired." Good thing was it wasnt one of my kids. Finally making the trail we were off. Roughly 15 minutes into the hike Tomoko and I realized A)we probably should have researched which trail we wanted to go on, B)choose the trail I wanted to go on which went to the top of one of the peaks where you supposedly could see San Diego on the West, the Desert on the East, and a handful of Starbucks scattered about for good measure; and C)printing out the trail map may have been a good idea since we rarely saw the park ranger and when we did she mentioned they were out of trail maps. Later we realized Thuc was on the 5G network and selling shares of stock on the way courtesy of ETrade and could have used the net to pull up the trails anyhow but I digress.


We were about 30 minutes into the hike before all of the kids were taking turns complaining about heat and thirst and being tired....this was a far cry from when just me and the fam did the 3 Queens trail in Bryce Canyon Utah.  I implored the kids to move forward offering the idea that when completed we would spend the rest of the day at the stream for some cool water fun in the sun. It worked for a bit but not as long as Id hoped. I reflected back to my days of attending Grateful Dead concerts and marveled at how at one time walking around meant "buds, doses, shrooms" but now with age had morphed into "im thirsty, im tired, im hot."


We kept trekking however and each summit offered a beautiful vista and view of the landscape. Thrown about at random you would see the large burnt oak tree with its twisted burnt limbs reaching vainly to the sky. Some of the twisted, burnt, angle of the branches reached out like an old woman with arthritis. It made for fine juxtaposition however as the surging greenery permeating the area was eclipsing and engulfing was what at one time nothing more the miles of scorched Terra earthed. I could imagine how walking this same path 5 years ago after fire ravaged the land how it must have looked very similar to nuclear holocaust.


The kids didnt seem to see the same things I was seeing however and while each turn and bend of the path opened a new experience of organic awe that I embraced and actually became enraptured in, to the kids it may as well have been the Bataan Death March. Tomoko quietly asked how much longer and I gingerly sidestepped the question with a series of grunts and mumbles looking down lurching forward with a posture akin to Homo heidelbergensis


One of the many peaceful views the trail offered.....between kids complaining and whining that is.




I was able to buy a bit more time with the "one more hill" routine before finally realizing the one more hill was a trail overgrown with Poison Oak or at least some type of noninviting plant as well as the growing preasance of bees and other types of stinging insects. At that point I knew there was no way we could continue. Back to camp we went as the kids busted out the Gogurts and Capri Suns and celebrated.


So we made it back to camp and got everyone into their swim trunks...except me who decided it was hot enough were I could swim in my shorts and underwear and still be dry and comfy enough in time for the nights dinner. We walked to the path on the right this time as we sought the perfect pool/stream for the kids to splash around in. This time as well featured no snakes so that was nice.


Once settled I took a little quest further down the river to see what other natural formations harkened, beckoned, and otherwise invited me into its cool allure of moisture. There were some nice pools roughly 3 or 4 feet deep Id imagine but also with some currents that looked way too much for the kids and way too harsh for the Kubla Khan I was searching for. 




A few yards further down I found it-Cleveland National Forests answer to Chings Pond in Maui. A 5 or 6 foot waterfall culminating in a 15 by 15 foot pool of cool enjoyment. There were some young ladies in the area testing the pool and together we agreed that the pool could be 5 feet deep or maybe 15. It was the great unknown. I looked up and remembered that Tomoko and Thuc were with the kids and given I wasnt sure if this was the chosen pool I decided to go back and make the decision to jump later.


The magical pool in which I attained religious enlightenment




Later came and I decided that if I didnt swim the pool I would never forgive myself. I took off my shoes and made my way down the rocky surface to the lip of the pool and soon discovered the exposed rock that has baking in the sun for a couple of hours also retains and absorbs said suns heat. The searing smell of heel made the decision to jump in a bit easier....I took a small jump and was in! The cool water would arguably have been too cold in someone else's backyard pool but in this environment it was nothing less then perfect. I poked my feet down to test the depth and discovered that it was about 5 -6 feet deep in some areas. I swam from side to side and even underwater, fully submerged for a bit before swimming under the falls and letting the force of the falls give me a pseudo neck and shoulder massage. It reminded my of the waterfalls at the Tropicana in Vegas. I enjoyed the roaring of the falls in my ears blocking out all peripheral sound and the pulse of the water on my shoulders put me into my happy place 1 turn short of sheer bliss. After 30 minutes or 5 minutes-I will never know I decided it was time to walk back up to the kids. Walking out of the pool and onto the rocks I saw Tomoko had made her way down to the pool with the camera to take a few shots. As we walked back up the trail a group of teens passed us as one threw his towel to the side and did a cannonball of the edge of the rocks into the same pool I just left. We decided they must have been more familiar with the area then we were. 






We made it back to camp and I opened a can of cold Sapporo and collapsed in my camp chair to relax for a bit while the same bluebird who at this time was my Lex Luther decided to land on the stump 5 feet away from me. I was hot, tired, and stank. My shorts were still damp, my shoulders sore, and I would have paid top dollar for a bar of Irish Spring.




Quoth the Steller's Jay, "Nevermore."







The Final Day of our Journey can be found here....
Epilogue- We Say Goodbye

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Fun with Family Camping-Cuyamaca State Park Day 1

Tuesday came and it was Juniors last day of school. Being one for tradition I guess that meant we had to go camping again. Last year it was Zion and Bryce which can be found here-


This year we had a few options but after reading some reviews on Yelp and other sources decided on the semi local friendly confines of Cuyamaca SP in San Diego County outside of Julien California.

Reading about the sites there are 2 actual campgrounds and neither one of them are actually by Lake Cuyamaca. The lake itself is about a 15-20 minute drive I'd estimate. There is a stream though that runs to the side of the Green Valley sites that was not available at the Paso Picacho camp sites. I generally find that barring someplace that is absolutely amazing in view and scope such as Joshua Tree for instance, that its much better to have water-any type of water available then no water. And our experience years ago at Lake Casitas notwithstanding, we opted for the Green Valley site.

Arriving roughly 2 hours later we were greeted by no one. The front office one normally checks in at was closed and there were no trail maps or any other type of printed material that gives any type of information about the park itself. Apart from our friends who came with us in the 2nd vehicle and had no money to pay the 2nd vehicle fee driven for our close longtime family friend Thuc Le-it was relatively smooth sailing.

We found our site and pulled uphill to set up camp and unload the kids. The site had a nice view but the slight slope and curvature of the terrain meant strategical placements of tents and even then once setup the tent was not going to be level and Ive slept with a sloped angle in the past so we rolled with it. Hammering the stakes in the ground and unloading the van it dawned on me that it was probably 85-90 degrees and one of the ultimate laws of camping is with heat, sweat, and work comes hoard of bugs. This camping truism rang true. It always rings true.

The second truism of camping is you always forget something....and in this case it was the citronella candles that help to keep the bugs away. So I am helping set up our tent as well as our friends tent and their kids tents with a bit of sweat and a lot of small annoying bugs. All part of the fun I reckon.

Researching the site a bit more there were Mountain Lion and Rattlesnake Warnings galore. Being we had 5 kids in our party ranging from ages 4 to 10 we sat them on the table and gave them a talk that this wasn't Boomers Miniature Golf Course and that camping here brings some risks. As we spoke a Stellers Jay  landed on rockey outcrop next to us with its bright blue feathers on the body and its black feathered head. The kids looked over and smiled. I tried to take a picture but this bird found it amusing to pose just long enough for me to aim the camera but fly away right as I snapped a picture. I am pretty sure it was taunting me. Within a few minutes we also greeted by lizards and squirrels which I was happy with...gave the kids something to do while we finished setting up camp.

This Bird was unmerciless in its taunting of me


Soon nature called and I led the kids up the hill to the restrooms through a trail that led directly to one of the adjoining campsites. Climbing the same rocky outcrop we saw the lizards and squirrels, we started talking about the possibility of the area was being covered with snakes, so we walked slowly and deliberately. As we got to the top and saw the neighbors site the kids got a lesson in the importance of throwing the trash in bags and disposing it in proper trash bins as the adjoining camp site was littered with trash courtesy of an army of crows that had hit the trash jackpot. The neighbors were nowhere to be found and I could only imagine what they must have thought getting back to their sites after a long hike to see trash scattered about and a thank you card from the crows on the table.

We made it back to camp and took the kids on their first official hike of the camping trip as we left to explore the mountain stream that ran adjacent.

I was leading the way down the path to the stream when there on the rock ahead was some type of snake. I am by no means a snake expert but stopped the kids and let the take a look. Tomoko looked and recognized them as Garter snakes as we have seen them in our own yard in Lake Forest. I later learned that there is another similar snake known as a Racer that is common as well. We recorded the snakes on the DVR with the one on the rock in plain view; I used my hockey stick that I had made into a walking stick to scoot the snake along into the brush. With all of the snake warnings in the area and having been at the site for less then 2 hours at this point I was assuming the area literally must have been crawling with snakes but truth be told we didn't see any the rest of the trip and quite frankly I wasn't at all unhappy with that outcome.

We kept walking down the trail and soon we heard voices along with the sounds of rushing water nearing.
A few steps later we were at a beautiful stream and a 6ft waterfall of clear, cool, water rushing down the hillside. We found a shallow area and waded in....as with all mountain flowing streams the water was icy cold but felt good in the dry heat. The kids were enjoying themselves as well splashing about.

Meandering a bit down the stream there were some nice gentle streams and some rocky falls that made for a wonderful afternoon. The flowing water that crossed the rocks made a moss growth that created a very slippery surface for walking or grip of any type. Things got interesting as well when one of the girls with us slipped and began making her way down the stream towards some waterfalls. Since we were only there for a bit and unfamiliar with the area we didnt know If the drop was 1 foot or 20 and being she was a friend of Thuc's daughter and not related to any of us anyhow- seeing her make her way down the falls and the element of the unknown meant me running out to the stream and jumping into the water to grab her...that's when the slippery moss coated rocks introduced themselves and meant that I was holding her while at the same time slipping down the same set of falls at which point Thuc jumped out and the slippery moss introduced itself to him. A woman sitting on the rock and said nothing while watching the whole even unfold. Later when we got the girl back in the shallows we saw that there were several large rocks that acted as a safety net from the drop and some others kids down the falls a bit playing and splashing in the water not 10 or 15 yards away ....and the local lady on the rock probably found it quite amusing watching the tourists scamper around the rocks in dramatic rescue 911 mode as we sheepishly realized our folly.

Exploring the stream before the big rescue


Once the excitement subsided I went off on a solo quest to explore some more of the rocks and stream and waterfalls. Climbing over boulders, logs, and trying to stick to the trail I heard what sounded like Niagara falls in a secluded portion of the stream, after climbing a large boulder for a better look I realized I had interrupted a couples romantic interlude. I hadn't even seen them below in the shadows and I am sure they saw and heard me first whistling and going about my happy camping way complete ignorant of the situation. Once I was down and realized the interruption-it was basically too late as I was already almost all the way down to the base of the falls. Good times. Later found out they were from Oceanside and it was their first trip to Cuyamaca as well. I was sad I didn't have my camera so I could have taken their picture and posted it here. "Pardon me, would you mind if I take your picture for my blog where I can go into great detail of my interrupting of your romantic interlude?"

One of the wonderful falls


Back to the site we went with the rest of the night featuring....

The box wine the wife brought had absorbed the ice water like a sponge which meant the cooler was filled with a large blob of wine bag and bits of cardboard floating about.

Cooking fajitas over the campfire with my cast iron skillet that I was fortunate enough to bring. The Cast Iron skillet will now be a permanent staple for our camping supplies simply for use as a stove top.
We placed the iron skillet over the fire and pan inside the skillet. If you wonder why-cookware on an open fire results in a black coating of soot that will forever permeate the bottom of the pan as well as sticking to your fingers and clothing. Nothing a wife loves more the using the cookware over the campfire. 

Finding a huge chunk of firewood we through in the fire pit to which Thuc's son Daryn started affectionately referring to as “Big Mama.”

Realizing that Smores was the worst camp food- who came up with the idea that a sticky flaming marshmallow between two crumbling graham crackers and dark staining chocolate bars was the best choice to give kids before bed?

Pt 2 Can be found here....

Cuyamaca Day 2

Monday, June 13, 2011

BBQ Follow Up







Plump, Delicious Breasts...yeah that will draw some fun with keywords.

Check out the texture!

The Kobe Rib Eye......a taste explosion.

The fat was like butter....so we threw it back on the grill as I like my butter soft.

Got together last night for the much awaited grilling of the Kobe Steak. With a light dusting of seasoning and a quick braising on the grill with almond and pecan smoke to infuse the meat we went full bore as I also picked up a nice cut of Lamb and a bottle of Marques de Caceres Reserva Rioja. 


The steak was fantastic but it was odd as the 1/2 meat 1/2 fat marbling of the steak had a taste/texture that was unique. I likened it to driving a Celica your whole life and then allowed to drive a Lamborghini. Even when you have a top notch steak, the fat tastes like butter but its not completely marbled to the extent the Kobe was.


One other dish I made I wanted to report was grilled french fries....yes you heard that right Grilled French Fries. I took a couple of thick Russet Potatoe's and cut them into thick Steak Style Fries as to not fall through the grill, put them in a ziploc with olive oil, parsley, Penzey's Season Salt, and some minced garlic.   To say they were a hit was an understatement. I had made them thinking it would be a good snack for the Kids to munch on but much to my surprise all of the adults loved them as well.  Served with a squeeze of lime and a side of Japanese Mayo was a wonderful appetizer and use of the grills Hot Time. 


All in all a wonderful evening with wonferful food and wonderfull people. Wonderful. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

OCs Best Butcher Shop Strikes again!

So I was in the Huntington Beach area today and thought Id swing by to get a chicken. Costs about 10 bucks but there is no finer, plumper and juicier chicken then the Beef Palace. All of their stuff is amazing so no surprise the chicken is tops as well. Anyhow......

So I happen to ask one of the clerks about the Kobe Beef. The Manager overhears and comes over and tells us that the best Kobe actually comes from Australia and New Zealand as they use a better type of cattle then those used in Japan. I asked if he had ever heard of Hayama Beef since its the wifes home town and in Japan its as well known as the Kobe. He says no so I tell him the story and what not. So the guy wraps the chicken and says anything else as to which I reply "trust me if I had the money Id buy the store."

So Im getting ready to leave and the manager points to one of the aged Kobe steaks and says "take this one...it looks to be about the best." And I say "yeah Im sure it is but Im here just for the chicken" to which the manager says "this ones on the house."

So he proceeds to take the $26 buck a pound kobe rib eye steak and wrap it for me on the house. Normally this steak would cost over $38 bucks for 1 steak. Couldnt believe it. 

Thought I would share yet another amazing Beef Palace experience....your results may vary as I dont think they make a habit out of comping Kobe Rib Eye Steaks. 


Click the pics for detail on the marbling. Ill try and take some more pics tomorrow and post an update. Should probably pic up a semi good bottle of wine as well...would seem a shame to be drinking TJs Boxed Shiraz with it.....