A late Winter storm (8 photos)

Early last week a minor trough moved through Southern California and brought a bit of rain, and even some snow in the higher regions. Wednesday morning the clouds looked excellent. I simply wanted to enjoy some clouds and thought I’d take Toni for a morning walk at the beach – but when I left home, there were no clouds to the West. Disappointed, I just took a walk on some local trail instead.

Back home I tended to some unavoidable chores and then had a look at the array of images captured from the webcams of the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network from UCSD. I got stuck at the images from the cameras up at Monument Peak, one of the highest points in the Laguna Mountains area. Beautiful, fat clouds casting their shadows onto the land – I needed to get out there!

Once again, I took the more scenic route via Ramona, Santa Ysabel and Julian, through the beautiful back country, instead of the faster and shorter, but more monotonous drive on I-8 East. Near Ramona I got some glimpses of Cuyamaca Peak, cloud-capped, and with snow on its slopes. Awesome! :)

When I entered the Laguna Mountains area, the weather was quite uncomfortable: everything was in clouds, there was a light snowfall, the temperature was 32F/0C. Doesn’t sound too bad? Let me tell you about the wind then! It made things really bad – it was strong, and not just gusts, but an almost constant blowing and howling and ripping current of cold, cold air. My intention was to hike up to Monument Peak on the Big Laguna/Pacific Crest Trail east of Sunrise Highway, but in these conditions?

Yet, when I arrived at the trailhead, the sun was coming out through the clouds. Perfect timing. I gave it a go. Along the trail, pines, oaks and manzanita were all coated with snow and ice on their west-facing side, where the wind was coming from. Toni was having a blast, racing through the snow, biting into it, rolling in it.

Where the trail enters the chaparral and leaves the shelter of the tall Jeffrey Pines behind, the wind was getting stronger, and as I made my way higher up, its intensity only increased. But, I was wearing two jackets and a woolen cap, and felt good.

Towards Monument Peak, the wind became insane. I could lean halfway into it. Toni with her 20lb/9kg was blown sideways on the trail/road – but she didn’t mind. The wind chill was biting, and my cheeks were tingling. I sought shelter in the wind shadow of one of the little generator buildings that power the antennas at the peak, added a second cap (wool is nice, but doesn’t work so well with wind;-), put on my sunglasses, and wrapped a scarf around my face to block the wind chill.

Protected like that, I made my way up to the highest point and made just one photo. It was simply not possible to remain there much longer. But, during that brief moment, the webcam captured a photo of me! :-) (they only store ~10 months of photos in their archive; I do have a copy but since it’s not my photo I’m not adding it here.)

The conditions were crazy, but it felt good being out there. Southern California weather is usually far too pleasant and lulls you with it’s moderate temperatures and plenty of sun. It’s great to be able to experience some hard weather every now and then. Exposing oneself to the elements like that heightens the feeling of being alive, somehow.

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