On Thursday I took a long ride. Out Interstate 8 east to Rt. 79 north stopping first at the Stonewall Mine trailhead to take a picture of the frosty meadow and then a quick hop over to Lake Cuyamaca where I found some nice light on the lake.
Without any real plan I followed 79 to Julian, (bypassing the temptation to take Sunrise Highway) where I picked up 78 East and wound my way down Banner Grade, cutting it short by turning left on Wynola Rd and taking a lazy route across the north side of Julian to pick up 78 westbound, down the mountain to Santa Ysabel, and a quick right on 79 where, in a few miles, I found Mesa Grande Road, now one of my favorite back country roads. Here I found two picturesque trees, a row of mailboxes and the deserted Mesa Grande Cafe.
Mesa Grande Road rises and falls ending up at Lake Henshaw on Route 76. Waiting here was a cluster of autumn yellow. Travel east on Rt. 76 and in a few miles you once again hit Rt. 79. Turning left takes you parallel to some beautiful ranch land meadows where stately oaks stand alone or in small groups. It's about 11am now and the sun is cutting holes in the still heavy cloud cover making for interesting patterns along the ground. And, if you wait long enough, it will slide gently across that single golden oak standing alone in the field. Of course I had too short a lens on the camera so I rush back to the car, grab the 70-200, and manage two clicks before the sunlight disappeared. Please be in focus, please! Back in the car to a lunch of nuts, raisins and a PB&J accompanied by the sun's unpredictable movement across the nearby meadow. Off again, westbound, to Rt. S-2 which will take me north and runs parallel to one of the most beautiful ranch meadows I've found out here. Here, I find a hundred or more grazing cows in a field dappled in sunlight and spotted with oaks. I found two spots along the meadow where the light was right and stayed for half an hour or more, sometimes shooting, sometimes just watching. If you follow S-2 further you eventually come to Scissors Crossing where it meets Rt. 78. Along the way, just before 78, there is a large grove of cottonwoods, still wearing autumn's yellow and gold. I must have taken 20 pictures here but none are presentable. High contrast scene with brightly lit cotton ball clouds and a dark foreground of woods and trees and I just couldn't get the contrasty scene to look well in post. I'll no doubt try again but for now I'm just too frustrated with the images to work on them.
At Scissors Crossing you can go left and head for the desert, right and return to Julian, or continue to follow S-2 into the desert, eventually reaching Interstate 8. I chose to return to Julian and look for more clouds and the interesting light they create. It would be many miles before I stopped though as I followed the road back up Banner Grade into Julian, turning left on Rt. 79 and down to Sunrise Highway, taking it this time. It wasn't until I reached the Pine Creek Rd. turn that I stopped for a picture. A stand of pines stood against a nice cloud formation and I snapped a few pictures there. They turned out to be the last images for this trip. It was then I decided to take Pine Creek Rd. and see where it led. I'd been on the road before but never it's full length. If you're ever in the position to do this, I'd advise just staying on Sunrise Hwy. Pine Creek winds down the mountain on a single-lane, unkept road, seeming to follow the Noble Canyon trail and, in fact, passing the trailhead before exiting on to Old Highway 80 in Guatay. I take a right and follow 80 to 79 which leads me to Interstate 8 and I take the 8-West onramp home.