El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Ana Nita

Dr. Jonathan Q. Richmond, wildlife geneticist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) led the first ever-comprehensive study on reptiles and amphibians living in the El Monte Valley. The Endangered Habitats League and the El Monte Nature Preserve LLC funded the one-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Two entities are currently involved as partners in the sand mining project proposed for the El Monte Valley.

Few birds and a glossy snake may win the battle in the El Monte Valley against a company that seeks to make about $2 billion in profit if its sand mining project gets approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The cat in the painting on the wall is based on a real model, thus is real, it is artist Bob Pinner’s neighbors’ cat, comes visiting twice a day, enough time to give Pinner to sketch it out, pin it down in colors, even talk to her. Pinner believes that “whatever you love is going to come out in the art you make.” Pinner said that if you listen in an active way, you will hear your art talking back at you and unraveling itself where to take you next.

Saturday night, there were no “yeehaw” screams and horseshoes flying on the dusty ground at the Lakeside Rodeo, but one could hear the clink of glasses, the dices at play as chips hit the gambling tables along with the rustling of the long fluffy brocade dresses on the waxed floors. This was the fifth edition of the Wild West Casino Nights organized by the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society, a charitable organization that participates in events throughout the year. This fundraiser was to raise money for other local horse rescue groups.

Spring turns these hills mad with enchanting colors and tantalizing perfumes coming from the wild blossoms and especially from the hundreds of Ceanothus trees taking over the north side of the Oak Canyon at the Mission Trails open space preserve. The best time to hike this wondrous path is starting in late fall and up to the end of spring.

On Wildcat Canyon Road in Lakeside, spreading over 310 acres, lays Louis Stelzer Park, one of the wildest natural preserve areas in the county. The park offers a playground, picnic areas, barbeques and trails for horseback riding and hiking. The settings are right into the heart of the surrounding mountains along Wildcat Canyon, home for the bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions. The park is a heaven for bird watchers and wildlife photographers. 

La Mesa Boulevard Stroll is becoming a monthly event aimed at reuniting local businesses and the public in an effort to bring the community together. This is a community event starting on the right foot. More than 30 businesses and restaurants signed up for the first event, offering activities for kids, street music and dancers, artists on display, guest speakers, special discounts, face painting, among many other things for the community to see and participate in.

If you want to have a whole mountain mostly to yourself, with barely anybody on the trail, Viejas Mountain is the perfect choice in the East County San Diego. The trailhead is pretty hard to spot, but once you get to the wide unmarked parking place opening on the dirt road, look straight up to the right toward the mountain through the overgrown bushes and there it is.

“Occupied,” pops up the cyber answer after I check the availability for Albert Einstein’s Garden Room at The Willow, a bed and breakfast villa in Palm Springs, CA. The soonest I can book it is in September. My birthday is sooner than that and I ran away from home, driving at random and picking up whatever place sounds exotic enough for me to stop by and explore.

A very unique place in East County, the Peutz Valley Trail/Chocolate Summit, also known as the Anderson Truck trail, could equally satisfy most hikers’ love for wild places and the adrenaline rush for thrill seekers, being mostly known as one of the best and gruesome (on some areas) tracks rides for mountain biking. About 20 miles East of San Diego, take Harbison Canyon Exit and keep straight onto Alpine Blvd to Peutz Valley Road under the freeway.