Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park - West Side Trail Morteros and a Woodpecker

I believe the last post I made from the Cuyamaca mountains related to our hike up the Memorial Peak Trail to see the remains of the hundred year old plane crash near the top of Japacha Peak.
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In the early 1800's (and long before) there were many Indian villages in the Cuyamaca and Laguna mountains in Southern California. These villages were used by the Kumeyaay Indians as their spring and summer homes. They spent their winters in the local deserts (in and around what is now Anza-Borrego SP). 

There are mortars (used for grinding acorns, grains, etc.) that are easy to find and see in the park campgrounds and picnic areas. The rangers and volunteers will freely tell about these. There are many more of these mortars that are only accessible via hiking trails, or totally off the grid. One concentration of these ancient artifacts is close to the West Side Trail (west of Hwy-79, that is).  This is another one of those awesome things that the park doesn't mention in their brochures or tell you about.  The trail doesn't even actually take you to the spot, nor is it mentioned in the trail guide. It is close to the trail though, I guess I should say it is close to where the trail is supposed to be.


 It starts out okay. It looks like a really good and easy trail. This lasted about a hundred yards or so.

Then all you see is dead-fall and vegetation. 


 There is no trail at this point.
 Nothing...

Okay, I'm getting tired of this. Where is the darn trail? 


 We have no idea where the trail is, but we do have an idea where what we are looking for is.

See? Even he's surprised to us!


I get excited if I come across one of two morteros. Imagine how I feel when I run across a mother load like this...


This spot really gets a person to thinking about how many people were fed because of these mortars and for how many hundreds or thousands of years they were used. 


Obligatory black and white. 









We stopped counting at 75! I'm sure there were more in the vegetation. 


Yes, I know that you are surprised to see birds in my blog posts. There aren't very many pine trees this big still in the area (due to many fires). So, this tree was in our campground a few miles away. This guy is an acorn woodpecker. They drill holes in the bark, and then force an acorn into the hole. Eventually larval worms develop in the acorn and the woodpecker pecks it open and eats the larva. The woodpeckers act like a big family and can store thousands of acorns in a single tree. It's still like the 1960's to them and they have a communal life. They need a lot of birds involved, because you know who also wants those woodpeckers, right? Yep, squirrels! 

You can see many more wild birds by following this link to my friend Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday extravaganza!


The next few are only here because I liked them. 







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59 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You must've been in Heaven with all those morteros.
Black and white is nice.
Clever woodpecker although that's kind of disgusting.
And that shot with the deep blue sky and the old tree is just stunning!!

DEZMOND said...

brilliant story and the pics, Pat, loved the unexpected birdy :)

Pam :) said...

The photographic history you post is amazing, Pat.
I see a book in your future :)

Shelly said...

Gosh, even just looking at the pictures of the morteros I get such a sense of history, of those who've walked that same path so long ago. Great pics!

TexWisGirl said...

i just kept saying 'wow!' as the mortar photos rolled through. amazing finds! and the woodpecker is GORGEOUS as are those beautiful blue skies!

Sylvia K said...

I do agree with Pam! Your photo history is indeed amazing and I would be in line for that would-be book in the future!! Have a great week!!

Bouncin Barb said...

That second to last picture just blows my mind! I love it. Like you, I think about how long ago and who used those mortars. Right in that very spot where you stood. Fascinating. Great find! Thanks!

Brian said...

Those photos are amazing and the sky is so pretty!

Al said...

That is an amazing thing to see, especially off the main trails. Great find and photos!

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

I've never heard of an acorn woodpecker, that's pretty interesting how they feed. What a gorgeous place!!

Pat Tillett said...

Alex - It was nice to see them, that's for sure. Thanks Alex,I really liked that photo also.

DEZMOND - Thanks Dezmond! These birds are real characacters.

Pam - Thanks for saying that. I've thought about it, but I would seriously need someone to do most of the work for me. I'm just too ADD to stick it that long.

Shelly - That is exactly how I feel when I see them. A lot of other ancient things do that to me as well. Thanks Shelly!

TexWisGirl - I wish I would have originally found them! We've been watching these clever woodpeckers for years and loving them.

Pat Tillett said...

Sylvia - Thanks so much, nice of you to say that. If I do, I will be sure to let you know!

Bouncin Barb - I really like that one also. It makes me feel like I'm looking down, instead of up. I also love the history of these places.

Brian - Thanks Brian!It always helps to have some clouds in the sky.

Al - I guess it used to be a main trail. It really isn't one these days. Or maybe we got off the trail and it was just blind luck. I'd read about all those mortars somewhere, so we knew the general location anyway. So it was no problem.

Wayne - You've probably never heard of them because they only live in the very southwestern part of the country.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I saw and posted somewhat similar sights in Nor Cal, Pat, but my photos aren't nearly as spectacular. I love the woodpecker picture. You're a magician with the camera.

Be well,
xoRobyn

sixdegreesphotography said...

I have never heard of <mortar before(in this regard).. that bird is so cute and great timing while she held onto that acorn.

Another great field trip, Pat!

Baby Sister said...

Beautiful pictures, as always!! :)

Kaya said...

Who cares about the trail? You saw so much without it. Perhaps, it's to the best because you got in a real dense desert "jungle". And I enjoyed very much these pictures! She/he touched my heart!

B@W picture is simply outstanding!!!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

You must have felt very close to these people as you hiked and searched and took photos. And it's as though nothing has changed since they lived there.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Great post -- I was jealous of your hike there before when you saw the airplane and now I am even more so. Your pictures are all outstanding this time; I've never seen a place with that many mortars...and yes, they always make me think of the people who used them. and of course I loved the busy woodpecker!

Pat Tillett said...

Robyn - Thanks Robyn! Nice scenery, lots of colors, scattered clouds and great natural lighting. That's all the magic I need!

sixdegreesphotography - Out here they call them morteros (the mortar) the pestle was called a Mano. There are a few other names for them as well. I love those birds.

Baby Sister - Thanks so much Amanda!

Kaya - I agree! Many trails are like highways. You don't get to see the good stuff until you get off of them. Thanks so much Kaya! I truly do appreciate your nice words.

Karen - That is exactly right Karen! Wait until you see some of things I've seen lately. I assume you have moved? I'm going to go check.

Sallie FTL - Thanks Sallie! You always make me feel good about what I do. If you think this is a lot of morteros, there is a place up in Northern California called Grinding Rock State Park. The main attraction is a 173-foot length of bedrock with 1,185 mortar holes in it! Wow!

James said...

What a beautiful place! I love your photos with the clouds and amazingly blue sky. It's mind blowing to think about the history behind the morteros.

Stickup Artist said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never heard of "mortars" as in this context. How fascinating and a thrilling find. Excellent documentation of an adventurous day!

ladyfi said...

Gorgeous scenery and fabulous blue skies.

Betty Manousos said...

what a beautiful series of photos, pat! great shots and scenery wonderfully captured!
happy tuesday~

Al Penwasser said...

Those pictures were eerie and fascinating at the same time.

Icy BC said...

Your photos are stunning, and what an interesting post. Love your woodpecker, and that tree is amazing with so many nuts!

Leovi said...

I love these beautiful photos of the trees, a truly amazing, beautiful and wonderful place!
Saludos!

Nora at Island Rambles said...

This is such an interesting posting about how they ground up their grains. Imagine how many people they had to feed, must have been a big community. And a lot of work! Wonderful peek into this area.

LovkynÄ› said...

wow, what an amazing looking place to explore ^_^

LovkynÄ› said...

wow, what an amazing looking place to explore ^_^

eileeninmd said...

What a cool place to walk. Your scenic photos are lovely. I love the woodpecker too. Great post. Enjoy your week!

eileeninmd said...

What a cool place to walk. Your scenic photos are lovely. I love the woodpecker too. Great post. Enjoy your week!

genie said...

All of those mortars....amazing. What a find. And that woodpecker....a real beauty. Your walk without a trail sounds like some of the “forced marches” Bud takes me on. I prefer a nice, leaf free, level path. I’m not the least bit picky.

thewovenspoke said...

Great post, I didn't know there were so many there. My mother's ancestors lived there and possibly helped grind acorns for flour. Nice photos.

Karen said...

Beautiful scenery. That woody is neat looking, and quite smart by the sounds of it. The mortars are really cool.

Karen said...

Beautiful scenery. That woody is neat looking, and quite smart by the sounds of it. The mortars are really cool.

Janice Adcock said...

Amazing find on the mortars! Great pictures.

Pat Tillett said...

James - It all came together that day. I didn't have to do much but focus. I agree about the history. Thanks James!

Stickup Artist - Thanks so much. It really is thrilling for me. Also, every time there is a wild fire in our part of the country. More artifacts like this are exposed.

ladyfi - I totally agree with you! It's a beautiful place. Especially so considering a great portion of the area burnt in the huge Cedar Fire.

Betty M - Thanks Betty! I appreciate it.

Al Penwasser - Being so close to these places also makes me think about how much we screwed up their lives. They did just fine before we showed up.

Icy BC - Thanks for saying that and I'm glad you liked them. It is so much fun watching these characters.

Pat Tillett said...

Leovi - Thanks Leovi! So much history is there.

Nora - When compared to current day conditions, the communities were actually fairly small. However, some of these things were used for centuries, but only for about six months at a time.

Lokyne - Hey there! Yep, they are really amazing to explore. Thanks for stopping by!

Eileeninmd - Thank you so much for the nice words and for stopping by.

genie - To find the things we're looking for, we have to spend a lot of time off trail. I don't mind a nice easy trail either, but I like seeing the things that most people miss, or never even think about.

thewovenspoke - Thanks so much! I appreciate the nice words. Thanks for commenting. Do you have any stories relating to your family history in this area? I'd sure be interested in hearing or reading them. Thanks again!

Karen - Thanks Karen! It'a a beautiful area and lots to do and see around there.

Janice Adcock -Thanks so much for stopping by and for the nice words.

Bossy Betty said...

Oh man. I loved this hike. I went back and did it over after I finished the first time. (I'd do it again, but my scrolling finger is tired and needs a drink.)

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Oh wow, you guys go on some amazing trail walks.. we have many here that sort of disappear and you just kind of make your own way :) The morteros are fascinating, got a mental picture of the women of the village preparing the spices for dinner..nothing changes :) Larvae for dinner.. mmm yummy, those woodpeckers know how to live !! Excellent post as always Pat.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting post with some nice pictures!

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Pat Tillett said...

Bossy Betty - Don't over extend yourself!

PerthDailyPhoto - Thanks so much! We like trails (it's usually easier to get from a to b), but we also like to get off of them. You are right some things never changing... That was funny.

Adam Jones said...

Really fascinating pictures and I love the Woodpecker.

Small City Scenes said...

Very interesting post. Wow those mortars are something else. Glad you found them. Interesting sky shots too. I love clouds. MB

M Pax said...

Neat to learn about the acorn woodpecker. What makes those divets in the rock?

Gorgeous photo. I really love that one near the end with the deadfall and the tiny clouds.

The Geezers said...

Your photos are like a breath of spring warmth to these frigid MInnesota bones.

Stewart M said...

Splendid post - I remember seeing very similar grinding sites in the north of Australia - possibly even older than these ones.

Great bird - I managed to see some of these in Yosemite, many, many years ago (and welcome to WBW!)

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Mynx said...

Love the second last photo of the tree against the sky, stunning.
I always learn something new when I come here. Thank you

robin andrea said...

Love seeing these grinding spots. Truly spectacular. A place with such history. Beautiful skies there too, and always a pleasure to see an acorn woodpecker. Thank you for this hike.

Pat Tillett said...

Andrew - Thanks so much for stopping by and the nice words.

Adam Jones - Thanks Adam! I liked those guys also.

Small City Scenes - Thanks MB! I appreciate the comment.

M Pax - The holes are made by grinding grain, acorns, etc, with a hand held rock. After a lot of use, the hole forms and gets deeper. The hole is called a mortero (or mortar) and the pestle is called a "mano." Thanks Mary!

The Geezers - Thank you so much! I'm happy to have warmed you up. I will be over to comment on your last post. It was pretty deep stuff.

Stewart M - Thanks Stewart! Over here they range from a a couple hundred years, to several thousand years. You are probably right about the ones in your country though.

Mynx - Thanks so much Mynx! We all can still learn, right?

Robin - I really like seeing them also. Everything was in alignment that day. Nice sky, clouds, colors. I loved it. You are welcome and thank you!

Laura Delegal - Leroy Photography said...

I always love stopping by your blog. I always learn something. The blue skies make me long for summer.

Pat Tillett said...

Laura Delegal - I appreciate that Laura! Summer? I'm betting that right now you'd settle for 45 degrees!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Oh wow! so you did find them. I've done some exploring of this area (my sister lives in San Diego). We went to where a Lake is (from a camping book) and were so disappointed to find the coulter pine forrest no longer a coulter pine forrest (fire).

jeannettestgermain said...

Like the pics you took because you like them, the most:)
By the way, you have such a clear way of explaining things, that may be consider a book (first on-line for $15 to see if you want to go further to make it an "official one?)

Rosemary Nickerson said...

That second to last photo made me dizzy. Did you fall over backwards when you were taking it? There are abandoned air planes here in the Bahamas too. THey rot where they fall and become artificial reefs for fish. The most famous one is off Normans Cay, where the US and Bahamian governments joined forces to oust a drug lord in the 1970's. He went to prison Stateside and the DC10 is still sitting in the shallows, complete with bullet holes. A fun snorkelling excursion.

Reena Walkling said...

Love your landscape images. A beautiful area!

Pat Tillett said...

Pasadena Adjacent - You probably went to Lake Cuyamaca. The giant Cedar fire in 2003 wiped out most of them. It swept through this entire area. It was the biggest wildfire in California history (known history anyway). Do you remember that year? There were 15 or 16 wildfires burning at the same time in SoCal.
When we are in that area, the place we camp at still has quite a few Coulter pines.

TheChieftess said...

That's quite a find Pat!

Pat Tillett said...

jeannettstgermain - Thanks! It's a great area and not far from your neck of the woods. Thanks for the nice words.

Rosemary Nickerson - I couldn't fall over, because I was already laying on the ground! That story about the DC-10 is very interesting!

Reena - Thanks so much Reena! It really is a nice place.

TheChieftess - Thanks Kathryn!