Posted by: scoopzone | May 20, 2010

Hike to Kitchen Creek Falls


Tim and I joined the San Diego Trail Tramps Sunday for the group’s monthly hike. This time, we headed about 45 minutes east of San Diego into the mountains just off Interstate 8.

The 4.5-mile round-trip hike took us just north of the highway to a creek that splashes across rocks and into a series of inviting pools.

GETTING THERE:

Head east on I-8 for about an hour then take the Buckman Springs Road exit, about 4.5 miles past the Mount Laguna/Sunrise Highway turnoff.  Turn right off the exit, then turn left onto Old Highway 80. Drive 2 miles south to the abandoned foundation remains of the Boulder Oaks store on the right side of the road.

You can park on the shoulder, but because the area is part of the Cleveland National Forest you’ll need a day parking tag which should be purchased in advance from a park station or any outdoor store in the region.

The trail head is located on the other side of Old Highway 80. Follow it under the I-8 bridge and you’ll be on your way.

You’ll eventually notice signs indicating that the route is part of the Pacific Coast Trail, which runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington.

We hit the trail at the perfect time as a surprisingly large number of plants were bursting with flowers of all sizes and colors.

The route offered the largest variety of blossoms that I’ve seen since I started hiking in the area four years ago. I’m sure the abundant rain that we’ve received so far this year helped make the bounty possible.

I’ve sprinkled photos of some of the flowers throughout this post. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snap more shots because we were constantly moving along the trail. But, trust me, the path was lined with color.

Click on any pic to view it larger.

The official group count was 38, the second largest number of hikers to attend one of the monthly Trail Tramp events that any of the leaders could recall.

After about an hour and 15 minutes of hiking, and a vertical ascent of around 900 feet, we crossed over a ridge into a narrow rocky valley that follows Kitchen Creek up into the surrounding hills.

This is why we came here!

The series of low falls and pools were gushing with cool crystal-clear water. Lining the banks were huge slabs of rock rubbed smooth by eons of wear from the creek’s flow.

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Posted by: scoopzone | May 20, 2010

Morning View

From the window of Twiggs, my regular coffee shop in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood.

Posted by: scoopzone | May 13, 2010

Afternoon View

Horton Plaza Mall in downtown San Diego during my lunch break from jury duty.

Posted by: scoopzone | May 11, 2010

Gator by the Bay

One of the many things I miss about living in Louisiana is going to some of the dozens of community festivals that are held around the state throughout the year. The best thing about these events is that every one of them is unique, with its own type of food, entertainment and merchandise booths.

Even in New Orleans, every event has its own distinctive flavor.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about San Diego. Here each neighborhood has its own weekend celebration, usually in the spring and early summer. But if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. The food booths are the same. Ditto for the merchandise and music.

Gator by the Bay is a rare exception. The weekend festival celebrates south Louisiana culture – or at least what southern Californians imagine that to be.

I headed to this year’s version of Gator last weekend.

It’s sort of a very tiny version of JazzFest with several live music stages, stands selling Louisiana food and plenty of people walking around with Mardi Gras beads around their necks.

We were there Saturday afternoon, and it looked like the crowd numbered at least 10,000.

We found boiled crawfish but the ones we bought from this booth were pretty bad by Louisiana standards.

We paid $20 for a couple of pounds of the smallest mudbugs I’ve ever seen. I’m convinced they were boiled in plain water then dusted with a Cajun seasoning mix. Since the tails had virtually no flavor, there’s no way they came from Louisiana.

While some pretty good zydeco bands from the region performed with a few native Louisianians among their ranks, most of the tunes we heard were of the blues and roots-rock variety.

Local catering companies and restaurants operated most of the food stands. They served what I like to think of as facsimiles of Louisiana fare: dishes that looked like the real things but tasted like something entirely different.

I’ve encountered this over and over again outside of Louisiana. People try to re-create the look of food they’ve eaten during trips to New Orleans and Cajun Country, but they lack the cooking skills and knowledge to make an authentic version of the dish.

Not surprisingly, the best things we ate on Saturday were beignets and fried alligator on a stick – two things that are so basic you can’t really muck them up.

Despite my complaints, Tim and I really enjoyed the festival. Outside of the annual LSU Alumni crawfish boil in late May, it’s the closest I come to experiencing Louisiana culture here in SoCal. That’s definitely worth something.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the “bay” part of Gator by the Bay. The festival is held in a park that runs along San Diego’s waterfront across from Downtown. You can’t beat this location.

Posted by: scoopzone | May 6, 2010

Afternoon View

I’m on the top floor patio at my office for a work party. This view is looking east down Mission Valley.

Posted by: scoopzone | May 5, 2010

Darcé clan reunion 2010


I flew to Loozeeana last weekend for the semi-regular reunion of my dad’s side of the family. About 40 of us gathered at the home of one of my cousins in the community of Centerville, which is about a two-hour drive south of Baton Rouge. Click on any pic to view it larger.

We spent most of the day in the huge backyard that stetched to the bank of the legendary Bayou Teche.

We did what we normally do at these gatherings: sat around eating, drinking and catching up on each other’s lives.

I won the prize for traveling the longest distance to attend. Second place went to my cousins from Austin, Texas.

And speaking of the Texas line, cousin Flip (no, he’s not an acrobat; Flip is short for Philip) brought his smoker and a never-ending supply of Lone Star State sausage and boudin picked up in Scott, La.

A cow’s head served as the centerpiece of the dessert table. I was told that Flip inexplicably brought a small truckload of cow bones to the last family gathering and left them with cousin Johnny and his wife Peggy.

They’ve been sitting in Johnny and Peggy’s garage ever since.

And speaking of Peggy, here she (right) dressed as “Johnny Ray,” a long-lost relative from the wrong side of the family tree.

That’s real cousin Eddie to her left.

The day wasn’t without its fair share of tragedy.

A fierce, non-stop wind blew from the south, bringing gusts of more than 30 mph that sent sausage links and paper plates flying across the yard.

Several baby birds like the one above were knocked out of their tree-top nests. As their parents squawked and flew about madly, the younger cousins fretted over the potential demise of the misplaced fledglings.

In the end, we decided to leave them to their own fate.

Here I am with my parents, sisters Michele and Kristina, brother-in-law Eric and niece Elyssa.

Apparently, bears have become so plentiful in this part of Bayou Country region that they need their own crossing signs along the highway between Centerville and Morgan City. So, why did the bear cross the road? Probably to get to the beer bust.

Posted by: scoopzone | April 30, 2010

I’m leaving on a jet plane

I’m in the San Diego airport eating a garlic bomb chicken sandwich and waiting for my flight to Louisiana, where I’ll attend a big Darce family reunion.

We’re gathering near Morgan City, a blue-collar Cajun town near the Gulf coast south of Baton Rouge. I don’t think we’ll be dealing with fumes from the oil spill but it looks like thunderstorms might cause some trouble. Hopefully we’ll get the crawfish boiled well before the rain starts.

Pics and more posts to follow.

Posted by: scoopzone | April 27, 2010

Things get gooey in La.

Take a look at this amazing pic from space of the Louisiana coastline and the approaching oil slick from the rig that explodes in the Gulf of Mexico last week.

I hope this doesn’t interrupt the flow of fresh seafood this weekend when I visit the bayous for a family reunion.

Posted by: scoopzone | April 25, 2010

New Jimmy Somerville

Gay Brit pop icon and Bronski Beat/Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville (think mid-1980’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”) is about to release his first new album in several years, and the collection of remakes already is generating positive reviews.

You can see a couple of videos from the album by clicking on the links under the pics below.

A warning about the first one: the strong anti-war, anti-military sentiment could be disturbing to some overly hawkish Americans.

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

“People are Strange”

The album, titled “Suddenly Last Summer,” is set for release on May 25.

Posted by: scoopzone | April 22, 2010

Small quake shakes SD

Just felt a 4.7 quake here at the Union-Tribune office. USGS says the temblor was centered about 80 miles southeast of San Diego , in the same area that has been shaking for several weeks. http://ow.ly/1BPSK

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