Monthly Archives: June 2011

State Parks: Palomar Mountain

The first park we went to was Palomar Mountain State Park, over Memorial Day weekend. Palomar Mountain is in San Diego County, northeast of Escondido. When you read about Palomar, most people say variations of “it feels like the Sierra Nevada”. I haven’t spent time in the Sierra Nevada yet, so I can’t verify this. However, if you have; perhaps it will give you an idea of the atmosphere.

It’s obviously very pine-y and woodsy in a way that LA isn’t. Our nearby mountains have a lot more chaparral than giant pine trees. I had also read in my state parks book about some ancient live oaks. However, there is really only one book published that I have found that includes information about all of the state parks, and it was published in 2001. Since none of the other material I found mentioned oaks, I was afraid they had met an untimely demise in a fire or something. Luckily, I spoke to a kindly park ranger at the entrance who helped me map out a trail that would show us all of the features in the park that I wanted to see, including the pond, meadow, nature trail, and oaks.

The nature trail starts through a lot of lovely wooded area and basically follows a creek, which you can always sort of hear off to the side. You actually have to cross the creek to get onto the nature trail, and although its not a big deal at all, of course I managed to fall. I was convinced there were gold flecks in the mud on my jeans, but Travis just scoffed.

There are also an amazing amount of birds, although I missed out on seeing a mountain bluebird. Apparently one flew right in front of us as I bent down to pick up my binoculars – the binoculars I was carrying as part of my current attempt to be an amateur birdwatcher. (I want to go on a birdwatching hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, but I’m afraid the real birdwatchers will sneer at me. But, I digress.)

Once we’d hiked the nature trail for a bit and gone up to the Weir Historic site (which seems to be a chimney – none of my research attempts have informed me as to why it is historic), we switched over to a different trail. This trail basically cut straight across a meadow. The trail here definitely got a bit patchy and wound around a lot. Some of the time, I was not at all sure we were going the correct way. But, eventually we ended up back in the woods and happened acros the definitely ancient live oaks.

The park ranger had told me that the oaks had to be a couple of hundred years old. And they were definitely quite large. One of the most amazing things about them is that they have grown around and on top of these huge boulders. In the picture above, you can see Travis standing on top of a boulder and next to an oak, for scale.

And then we came across possibly my favorite part – a particular oak that had fallen down across the trail several years before. They just left it there, because it’s so big that you can actually walk underneath it. It looks so menacing, but also beautiful.

That’s pretty much it for our adventure. After this point, we had originally intended to loop back and finish the part of the nature trail that we had missed. However, after already hiking about 5 miles, we were exhausted and opted to cut through a campsite and head back to the car. It was an excellent day and a fantastic park, and I don’t even have pictures of Doane Pond or the incredibly foggy Boucher Lookout. If you’ve never been, definitely check this one out quickly before it closes.

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California State Parks

I know I usually only blog about food, but if there is one thing I love more than food, it might be parks. It doesn’t hurt that hiking increases my appetite, and there is usually some sort of delicious food to be discovered while out adventuring.

Recently, the California state government announced that 70 state parks would be closed by July 1, 2012 as part of a $33 million dollar budget cut to the state park system. While closures have been threatened in the past (I think at least twice in the past five years), this time it seems to be actually happening.

Some argue that the state budget has long been bloated or simply sigh and say, “Everything has to be cut. Money has to be saved, no matter what the cost.” I maintain that the cost here is simply too high. There is evidence that closing parks won’t save money at all; in fact, it could cost far more than it will save.

Visitors to state parks tend to spend money in the nearby areas, which helps local economies. Closed parks will become havens for criminal activity. The risk of wildfires (already a huge issue for Californians) will only increase. Federal funding will be lost, and the state could still be liable for people injured while trespassing in the closed parks.

But, I digress. My main point here is just to say that I love state parks. To that end, Travis and I have decided that we will try to visit as many of the closing parks as possible over the next year. This is complicated by the fact that we live in Southern California, and the majority of the park closures are further north. But, we’ll still give it our best shot. We’ve been to a couple so far, and it occurred to me in the last couple of weeks that perhaps I should blog about our progress.

During the time that I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve actually stumbled across another blog called 70 in 70, which is much more adventurous – they’re attempting to visit all 70 parks in 70 days. I highly recommend it. The photography is absolutely stunning, and I cannot wait to see the parks in Northern California.

So that’s it. We’ve been to three parks so far, which I will hopefully post about soon. This coming weekend, we’ll be attempting to see 5 of the closing parks (plus 1 non-closing park) in 3 days. Whew. Wish me luck!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chip Cookies

I haven’t blogged in ages, but I was so pleased with these cookies yesterday I thought that I should just go ahead. I was definitely craving cookies last night, and I’d been wanting to do something to use up some peanut butter and some oats that I had.

I got this recipe from a blog called Brown Eyed Baker, and I only made one rather minor change and one specification to it.

A while back, I bought this Jif “Natural” peanut butter with 1/3 less sodium and low sugar. I thought it would be an easy way to have Travis eat something semi-healthy. About two days later, he declared that it tasted “like the void” and he needed new peanut butter. It’s been sitting around ever since. I used it in this recipe for two reasons. 1 – it doesn’t actually taste like the void and 2 – it has a really really peanutty taste, which I thought would do well in a cookie. I mean, you’re adding more sugar and salt anyway.

Secondly, the recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips. I happened to have a bag of mixed semisweet chocolate and peanut butter chips, so I used those instead. And, they are delicious. Gooey and really really peanut buttery. I highly recommend it.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 16 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and/or peanut butter chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.

4. Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.