We’re ten days out from our New Year’s expedition in the Sierras and our minds are on powder. So when our local mountains surprised us with the season’s first snowfall, a day trip was an easy sell to the team.
Mount Laguna is one of San Diego’s true hidden gems. With the coast dominating most of the attention, not much thought is given to the interior of the county. As one local claimed, only 20% of San Diegans are aware the Mount Laguna recreation center even exists. It is a year-round provider of good times, and one of the few places in the county to receive snow accumulation.
Unfortunately, Mount Laguna makes the news around this time every year for the wrong reasons. When the snow does come to town, the entire city piles in their front wheel drive vehicles to experience this weird white stuff falling from the heavens. And every year like clockwork, locals spend the next few days cleaning up loads of trash left behind – pizza boxes, beer bottles, full trash bags tossed from cars. Please don’t be that person.
The snow was expected to fall late Friday, so I woke up at 5:30 Saturday morning to check the weather cams. The coverage was light but that was enough to get us out the door. It’s always a good idea to contact the local rangers for road closures before making any plans. Sure enough, the Descanso rangers confirmed a few of our normal trails were closed for the day. Luckily, Pine Creek road was open which is our shortcut up the backside of the recreation area.
I was the only one who’d seen the snow on the cams, and halfway up Pine Creek Road the doubts began filtering in over the CB radio. But as we rounded a steep incline near one of our favorite camping spots, the white patches started appearing. Knowing we had another several hundred feet of elevation gain still ahead, I knew we’d get what we came for.
After a quick stop on the ridgeline, we were back on Pine Creek headed to the top. Within a half mile, snow covered the road and ground and was only getting better from there. While many of us are accustomed to considerable snowfall, even 1” in San Diego is reason for excitement. Even still, Mount Laguna can get 15-20” in a good storm. Not too shabby for an area just 35 miles north of Mexico!
The mountains and trails took on a whole new look as we drove past our frequented stomping grounds. Once in the recreation area, we took a dead end near the general store to revisit some of the scenes we last saw in summertime. We turned back and headed south to Kitchen Creek, one fun trail that wasn’t listed on the road closures. With fingers crossed, we turned off the road and were happy to find the entrance gate open. Kitchen Creek is a great spot for dispersed camping, but you must be outside of the recreation area which includes roughly the first mile of Kitchen Creek.
There are plenty of short off-shoot trails free for camping, and halfway down the road we took a turnoff to play in the snow and mud. We parked under a group of pines to walk the trail, and realized ice from the needles was falling like snow as the sun rose.
Our latest addition to our production gear is the DJI Osmo+, and this outing was the first opportunity to use it on the trail. Lightweight, portable and feature packed, this is a great addition for run-and-gun filming with great stabilization and image quality. We added the upgraded z-axis stabilizer for increased utility and ND filters to accommodate the range of lighting we encounter. The gimballed design allows for seamless, fluid motion and allows for cinematic-style shots with a fraction of the setup time. As with most equipment, the gear is only as good as the operator, so this provided an awesome time for Matt to familiarize himself with our new capabilities.
After our fill of winter for the day, we were cruising back down Sunrise Highway on our way home. Our favorite stop after camping or mountain biking is Alpine Beer Company. Alpine is an awesome mountain town 50 miles east of San Diego, and about 10 miles west of Mount Laguna, and their brewery is well known for their prowess in the IPA category and beyond. Their brewery and original location is in the heart of the town, but they recently opened an awesome pub right off the Tavern Rd. exit. A hearty tap list, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and a scrumptious menu of BBQ and comfort food make this a mandatory stop during any trips to Laguna.
I opted for the BBQ chicken sandwich and mac n’ cheese paired with their Pure Hoppiness IIPA…and then paired with their popular Nelson IPA for good measure…and some garlic fries to share. With bellies full of goodness, we rolled our asses back to the rigs and headed back to the sunny coast for which San Diego is known. And as spectacular as the shores are, remember there’s a ton of wilderness on the horizon waiting to be explored.
Here’s a quick compilation video, shot exclusively on our new DJI Osmo+.
We’ll be checking in from the summits of the Sierras in less than 2 weeks. Happy holidays to all our friends and fellow travelers!