Camping Palomar Mountain 2009Posted: April 13, 2009
I got the camping bug, so I took K and headed for the hills. We had a great time and discovered that it does in fact snow in San Diego County. In April.
I had originally planned on going backpacking in the desert, which would have been warmer and drier (that’s why they call it the desert), but I thought that the boy might do better if we didn’t have to haul in all our stuff and maybe took a day hike instead. So, I found a short hike that was highly rated at Palomar Mountain.
We camped in the Observatory Campground in the Cleaveland National Forest. The campground is just below 5,000 feet. The boy thought it was pretty cool that we drove right up into the clouds on our way to the campground.
Just before you get to the campground, there is a crossroads of sorts. There is a restaurant and general store and a couple of mobile homes. K saw the sign for the general store and asked: “Can only generals shop there or something?” I laughed to hard to explain to him what a general store actually is. We had to go back to the store a little while later to use the pay phone (no cell phone reception at the top of the world). It turns out that I would have been wrong if I would have told him what a general store is. My idea was that it looked something like Mr. Oleson’s store in the Little House on the Prairie. In reality, it was more of a cloyingly rustic tourist trap.
The campground was great and pretty well deserted when we got there. We got our pick of campsites. We picked a nice one with a soft tent site below a big scrub oak tree. It stayed foggy the whole time we were there and started to rain a little just before dinner. I rigged an awning out of our groundcloth and we had dinner in the tent out of the rain. It wasn’t very bad at first because the oak tree sheltered us from the rain, but then water started to drop off the tree in big fat drops onto the tent. The tent has been through worse (try camping in Maryland if you want to get really and truly soaked), so we stayed dry, but the sound of the irregular dripping from the tree was worse than a constant downpour would have been.
After dinner, the rain turned to snow:
As you can see from the grin on the boy’s face, this was pretty cool. At first. After he had soaked his gloves, coat, and pants with wet, drippy snow, it wasn’t so cool any more. We bunkered down in our sleeping bags and went to sleep shortly after dinner. The snow turned back to rain during the night, so we didn’t get much of an accumulation. K had his own sleeping bag inside Maren’s under a couple of blankets, so he was toasty warm all night. I think he slept pretty well. I, on the other hand, kept waking up to check and make sure that he was still covered up (he is notorious for kicking off all his covers), and had to keep trying to ignore the irregular dripping of the rain off the tree to get back to sleep.
In the morning, after starting up the car heater to warm up, we took a hike from the campground up to the Palomar Observatory. K was not all that hot on the idea of hiking, but he wanted to see the “obsatory” and didn’t want to wait around the campsite for two hours until it opened. He decided that hiking sounded like fun. And it was. It was still foggy, but it was beautiful.
Palomar Mountain is home of the Palomar Observatory, comprising 5 telescopes that are used nightly (weather permitting). The 200-inch telescope was the largest in the world when it was completed in the 40’s. It’s still pretty impressive, especially when it pops out of the fog 30 yards in front of you.
When you put science geeks in charge of a place, they tend to get a little carried away. If you check out the Palomar Observatory website, you’ll find the podcast tour of the observatory. It’s pretty awesome. We probably looked pretty geeky wandering around listening to my iPod with one earbud headphone each.
All in all, a really fun time. That said, I think that I’ve gotten the camping bug out of my system (until we get to UT and real mountains…).