March 2012 Throwback

Middle of March, time for a throwback to ten years ago! March 2012 was a month filled with lots of hiking in the foothills and back country, and in this post I’m sharing some of my favorite photos and memories from back then.

March is probably THE best month to be in Southern California: temperatures are pleasant everywhere. At the coast and in the foothills, spring is in full swing. The higher elevations may still get a dusting of snow, and desert temperatures are still nice as well.

At least that’s how it was 10 years ago — from March 2022’s perspective, of a drought-stricken state and county, with temperatures that soared into the 90’s multiple times already, just 10 years ago feels like it was a better time and I wonder: are two consecutive dry winters just a deviation, will they be followed by normal or wet winters (2017, 2019, 2020) again? Or is this “the new normal” of a changing climate, already?

Be it as it may — there’s no point in wishing back the past. It is over. But let’s reminisce in the memories of the beautiful month of March 2012, with some photographic impressions.

Right on March 1st I was hiking at Daley Ranch in Escondido with Toni. Spring at Daley Ranch is terrific: the trails traverse the wonderful chaparral and sage scrub landscape with its iconic plants, and that year, it was perhaps the best bloom of Ceanothus that I have ever seen:

The next day we were out hiking again: Shuwen, Toni and I visited Hollenbeck Canyon near Jamul — a peaceful place that somehow feels more secluded and out of the way than many other back country locations. Plenty of beautiful oaks grow in the shade of the canyon.

Together with our friend Hans, the next hike led us to the summit of Morena Butte near Campo, in San Diego’s Mountain Empire region. The approach is on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, and where the summit trail for Morena Butte veers off the PCT, this view of Hauser Canyon in afternoon haze was most enchanting:

Then it was back to Daley Ranch for an afternoon stroll, this time in the northern part, again with my friend Hans. Sadly, this oak that I called “The Bobcat Trail Giant” is no more. It was one of the most majestic patriarch oaks that I have ever seen.

Toni and I went to take a look at the Ramona Grasslands, which is an open space preserve that has active grazing on pastures dotted with oaks and boulders. Beautiful, but in the end we had to run to make it out before the ranger closed the gates! xD

Group of Coast Live Oak trees and boulders at the Ramona Grasslands Preserve, San Diego County, California; March 2012.
Group of Coast Live Oak trees and boulders at the Ramona Grasslands Preserve, San Diego County, California; March 2012.


And then Boden Canyon! A long 11 miles out and back, but so very worth it. An old dirt road turned trail runs the entire length of the hike. On clear blue days, oak foliage and poison-oak alike are glowing there in spring!

A good storm system brought a couple of days with rain, and at the higher elevations of the county, snow. At the coast, dramatic moods with light and shadow are pretty much guaranteed:

The storm lasted for a few days and on the weekend, Shuwen, Toni and I went for a Day Trip through a late Winter Storm, with wonderful plays of light and shadow, snow in Santa Ysabel, Ranchita, and sheets of rain coming down over the San Diego River gorge:

A few days after the rain, we went to take a look at the Santa Margarita River, near Fallbrook, when the trails and roads were open again.

We went back to Boden Canyon for another hike with friends. Toni the rascal caught the scent of some wild turkeys and went after them. Oh boy! A wild chase through the shrubs ensued to capture the little hunter. On that particular day the skies were most stunning and I combined three photos into one of my “Small Sets”.

Painted Skies

From Boden Canyon, one can also hike Orosco Ridge. Toni and I had to check that out, of course. :) On the way back in the late afternoon, we were treated to some excellent spring light around Santa Ysabel Creek.

Santa Ysabel Creek is quite photogenic in this area, and I waited patiently until the canyon was in the shade, which allowed for some long exposures and nice, even light, while direct light still filled the background. This set of three photos exists in both black & white and color. This color photo is my favorite:

We ended the month with yet another hike at Boden Canyon, with our friend Douglas this time. The sunny day became overcast in the afternoon when a deep marine layer reached all the way into the back country. It allowed for some interesting close-ups and abstractions of oak trees and the poison-oak “jungle” there.

It was a truly wonderful month, filled with much activity! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the photos.

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3 thoughts on “March 2012 Throwback”

  1. I’m glad you were able to photograph “The Bobcat Trail Giant” while it was still there. Magnificent photograph of an incredible tree. I love photography’s ability to preserve at least the memories of things like this.

  2. A “truly wonderful month” indeed! Lots of beauty here, from the backlit canopy trees to the storm over the gorge and the river on the day after and that creek with the transcendent light in the background – wow. I hope next winter is a wet one, CA needs it!
    (The oak grove with the boulders is a place I could easily while away an afternoon).


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