Monday, October 28, 2013

Memorial Peak Trail

On 12/7/1922, a plane carrying US Army Colonel, Francis Marshall, took off from North Island airbase, in San Diego Harbor for an inspection of army posts in  Arizona. The De Havilland DH-4B, Bi-Plane was piloted by Lt. Colonel Charles Webber. The plane took off in poor weather and didn't make it very far. It crashed near Japacha peak in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Despite the largest military search effort ever (up to that time), the wreck site was not found.  Six months later a local rancher discovered the wreck while rounding up stray cattle. The next year a very small memorial that included the plane engine, was built on the crash site. The airplane was left there for almost 40 years before most of it was removed.

The elevation of the mountain side memorial is 4,800 feet. The trail was steep and it was very hot that day. We made a couple of discoveries on the way up that helped keep us going.

Just a bit overgrown in places. Long pants and sleeves will help you avoid a lot of scratches. Of course we didn't have on either.

My wife leading the way uphill 

 A bit of scenery from the hike

 Maybe the prettiest rock I've ever seen!

A huge remnant of the massive Cedar fire that devastate a large portion of San Diego County and burnt almost 100% of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The Cedar fire was the largest fire in modern California history.  Prior to that fire (2003) this was a fairly heavily forested area. You can tell by the photos, that it is that it is recovering, but is nowhere near the way it was.

 Awesome Stonewall Peak 

 High country meadow

 Long ways to go and happy for the shade

 10 year old dead trees everywhere

 Almost there!

 Not near the top, but I like the view

I saw a bit of light shining through the brush and powered my way though to see what it was. What it was (and is) is a couple of morteros. For those who don't know, a mortero or "mortar" was created and used by the local Indians to grind acorns or grain into flour.  It takes many years to make them this deep. The local Kumeyaa Indians spent summers in these mountains and winters in the desert lowlands. This went on for centuries.

Multiple and deep morteros means they were probably used for a very long period of time. So, there are probably other indications of their presence in the area. It could be rock art, artifacts, etc. I'm not sure if this rock has anything on it, but it kind of looks like it to me. There is software that enhances those things and I really need to get it.

Finally, we got to the memorial. It's pretty much just the engine and a little plaque. There are also a few parts laying around. There are bees living in the engine.

Some other parts of the plane are just sitting there. I'm SO VERY happy that  people are finally starting to leave things as they find them. That way others can also enjoy!  Thank goodness ATV's and Quad-Runners couldn't make it up the trail.  I do think that some people on those things are responsible for most of the damage, graffiti, vandalism and theft in historic natural places. That's right, I went there!

For no reason other than I liked the symmetry of the dead trees


  1. Great stuff Pat. It's sad to know that such a big forested area went up in flames, but it's always interesting to see how vegetation recolonizes such a devastated area. Unfortunately, the full process takes hundreds of years.

  2. After climbing all that way I'm so glad that you found it as it should be Pat.. With a bit of luck, the hooligans of the world are incredibly unfit :) was fun taking this walk with you both..I didn't even break a sweat :))

  3. any animals and beasts up there in the wilderness, Pat?

  4. Awesome photos! Wild that bees now live in the engine. And I wonder how old those morteros are?

  5. Great captures as always, Pat! It does look like a hot day! Amazing it took so long to find the crashed plane!! Hope you have a wonderful week and another wonderful adventure!! And, by the way, I love your earlier post on Menopause!!! I'm just surprised you're still around to post anything!! Great giggles to start my day!!

  6. That does look like a long, hot hike but so worth the effort. I love those mortreros. What a wonderful find. And that rock does look like it has some artful handiwork. Really wonderful memorial site.

  7. it is beautiful country - apparently pretty rough getting to the site. thanks for sharing it with us - you did all the legwork, we got to enjoy. :)

  8. Did you put that feather there, or did it just happen to be there?

    Sure glad you two did the legwork and shared it with me... I would never have made it!

  9. Thanks for taking that hike for us. I am fascinated by the morteros. That's an interesting memorial, I guess that would be difficult to steal and hopefully, no one will do so.

  10. I'm with you Pat! That is one of the most gorgeous rocks I've ever seen, too!

    It's good to see you out and about!

    We did a little exploring around town last week.

    It's nice to be up and about again!

  11. Do you guys ever see snakes or hear rattles on your hikes? You're brave to wear shorts!! haha These pictures are beautiful as always. It's sad that these men died here in the middle of nowhere. At least there is a memorial for them. Ironic it's Dec 7th.

  12. Oh My---I envy you all hiking when it's so hot… I hate hiking in summer for that reason… BUT--the area was beautiful and you saw some great sites. I've never heard of moteros ---so that was interesting for me to learn.. Thanks!!!

    The memorial is neat…. Glad--as you said--that people are leaving it alone so that others can enjoy… (They were having trouble with people stealing the Petrified Wood in the Painted Desert area. CRAZY!)


  13. I am just amazed how you find the most interesting places,

  14. Nice hike--interesting story about the plane and the fire

  15. Interesting post and gorgeous scenery. I love the colorful rocks/boulders!


  16. That is such a beautiful area. The memorial is really touching, too.

  17. What fascinating history- makes me want o hike up there. Glad they are leaving the parts untouched~

  18. You do find the most unique spots to visit!!!

  19. As always I learned something. You're like the cool teacher in high school, Mr. T. :)

  20. Oh amazing! You worked hard for these beautiful pictures and as always thanks for sharing them. I never heard about this place or that bit of airforce history. It was really neat to find those morteros (I did know about them, but have never stumbled on any unmarked like you guys did!)

    I agree with you on 'where you went' with regard to damage and vandalism. Probably here you are preaching to the choir, as I don't imagine many ATV riders to be the type to read nature and travel blogs, but we could always hope they might get a change of heart.

  21. Bud has hiked up to two different wartime plane crashes in the blue ridge. It is worth the haul up the mountain. Loved all of your photos. They took us right along with you all. genie

  22. I always learn so much from your travels. Thanks for taking me with you.

  23. The geology and history of the area is extraordinary - how many millenia in that rock?

    And now an apology. You kindly left a comment on my picture of grass in a garage forecourt. ( I pressed 'publish' on the email notification but slipped and pressed 'reject' instead. Your comment has vanished into the ether. It isn't in my email bin. It isn't in spam; neither for email nor blog. I'm really sorry.


  24. A good walk up to the monument, I hagustado much that rock, like an abstract painting!

  25. What magnificent and rugged scenery.

  26. Amazing and tragic story. Your photos are vivid and impressive, as always, Pat. I admire your and your wife's adventurous spirits. I see a lot of faces in that pretty rock. Thanks for another great tour.

    Happy Halloween.

  27. Nice post - I agree about people leaving stuff where it it. I have a favourite walk to an old quarry - I have done it dozens of times, and each time there seems to be less industrial archaeology (i.e. junk!) there - its a shame as its part of the charter of the place.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  28. For me, these photos capture the essence of the quintessential California day (weather, light, terrain).

  29. terrific post!
    such interesting captures of the landscape, pat. great stuff as usual. thanks for this amazing pictorial tour.

  30. What a sad story. I'm glad they were at least able to memorialize them. It's a beautiful area to be laid to rest in!! I have to say that I agree about ATV drivers...they are who make the biggest mess on our mountain property. Not cool

  31. ❥°º•.¸
    Belas fotos, ótima reportagem.

    Bom fim de semana!
    Beijinhos do Brasil. ❥°º•.¸

  32. Dennis - Thanks Dennis! Nature does bounce back, but it's sad that it will never even be close to the same in our lifetimes.

    PerthDailyPhoto - We were also very glad. I'm glad you enjoyed the hike (and the absence of sweat).

    DEZMOND - There are indeed! We saw some deer and there are cougars, coyotes, rabbits and a lot of birds.

    Alex - We had to be weary of those bees. The morteros are probably anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand plus years old.

    Sylvia - Thanks Sylvia! Even more amazing to me is that there are still some parts (besides the engine) just sitting around up there after so long. I'm glad you enjoyed the menopause post.

    Cath.H.C. Photography - Thank you so much! I appreciate it.

    Robin - I'm sure it wouldn't have seemed like such a long hike if it wasn't so steep. I love seeing morteros and rock art also. It really makes me think about what it was like back then.

  33. TexWisGirl - My pleasure! This "legwork" was nothing compared to what I did over the last couple of weeks in the desert.

    Ms. A - The feather was there before us. So was the flag. My pleasure to share it with you.

    Wayne - You are welcome! These particular Indians spent the summer up in these mountains and the winters in the local deserts. We see morteros in both places and I'm sure they were used by the same people.

    Jenny - I loved that rock! We are out and about and lot right now. I'm glad to hear that you are doing better.

    Bouncin Barb - We sometimes do see and hear them, but not very often. Thanks so much Barb. Yes, that is ironic.

    Betsy - We seem to hike in all seasons. We just returned from some great hikes in the desert. The weather was perfect there this time of year. My granny used to complain about people stealing the petrified wood from there about 50 years ago! I'm surprised there is any left!

    Brian - Thanks Brian! Some of them are easy and some take a lot of hunting.

  34. Hello Pat,

    I am your follower right now. I like your blog, it's amazing and very interesting!

    I like to hike and I do it very often in summer. This is one great hike you and your wife had. I like every picture very much and especially the picture of the prettiest rock.

    Greetings from Kaya.

  35. What a beautiful hike and a unique memorial. It looks like a hot day!

  36. sage - Thanks! I thought it was pretty interesting also.

    sometimesthatsallyouget - Thanks! I loved that rock.

    Sally in WA - I'm really glad we got to see it.

    Shelly - Me too! It makes me happy when people don't steal everything.

    TheChieftess - Thanks Kathryn! We do our best.

    The Vegetable Assassin - Thanks! I appreciate that! I suppose I would do better in HS as a teacher than I did as a student.

    Sallie - My pleasure! I knew about the trail, but had never hiked it before. We were glad we did. Because most of the Indians in the Southwest were hunters/gatherers, they had both summer and winter areas to live in. As a result, they had morteros both in both places.

    I hope you are right about the ATV riders.

  37. Genie - Thanks Genie! I bet the stories behind those crashes in the Blue Ridge mountains are also interesting.

    Laura - Thanks for saying that! It's my pleasure.

    Lucy - It's an amazing part of the world, that's for sure. I loved that rock! Don't worry about the comment! If that is the worst thing that happens to us, we're in good shape, right?

    Leovi - I also loved that rock. I wish I could have put in my backpack and taken it home!

    ladyfi - It is beautiful and was even more so when it was forested.

    Robyn - Thanks my friend! We are certainly enjoying all our free time. The tour was my pleasure! I'm getting behind on posts relating to our trips.

    Stewart - Yes, it is both of those things. Thanks for the nice words Stewart. I know what you mean. If everybody keeps taking stuff, there eventually won't be anything for others to enjoy. Besides, it may seem like a cool thing when they take it home, but out of context, it's not as big a deal.

  38. Stickup Artist - I agree with you and I think that is a great observation.

    Betty M - Thanks Betty! It's my pleasure...

    Baby Sister - It is kind of sad. I know that all ATV drivers aren't like that, but I truly think that most of them are.

    Magia - Thanks so much Magia! Same to you.

    Kaya - Hi Kaya! I appreciate you saying that and I feel the same way about your blog. I love to hike and should do a lot more of it.

    Al - Thanks Al! It was hot, but worth it.

  39. Very interesting! My uncle used to fly planes out of March Air Field during WWII. One time he told me about seeing the view below from one of his planes. Patton used to drive his tanks over the place which is now an apartment building in Palm Springs. Our area has so much history...glad you found this.

  40. Love your photos, especially the memorial sight, and the black and white are also amazing!

  41. trav4adventures - Thanks! It was worth the hike. Patton was all over the desert back then. You are right about the history.

    Icy BC - Thanks so much! It seemed just right for b&w. I really liked this spot.

  42. I had never heard of morteros before. I didn't know they used to do that in rocks.

    Love love love the engine. That is so cool.

  43. I agree that it's a shame that some people seem to NEED to leave their mark wherever they go. How nice the remains of this plane wreck are there for others to see.

  44. the shot i liked best was the row of pistons (?) i tried to export your rock photo into Photoshop....I toned down the colour hue and darkened the contrast a bit. It does look like there is a manmade pattern on that rock, but it isn't definitive by any means. I'll send you the new photo.

  45. TS Hendrik - Yep! Usually they ground up acorns, seeds and plants into flour.

    EG CameraGirl - I agree! I would have been disappointed to have sweat that much for nothing.

    Rosemary - Thanks Rosemary! I got the photo. There is some stuff on there that looks to be man made.

  46. Love that the bees made a hive out of the engine.

    That fire is so sad. 100% loss? wow wow wow!
    I made my way there (or somewhere near there) to a forrest of coulter Pine that had been decimated. And I recall it had some kind of status too - like the oldest grove of Coulter known (something like that).

  47. Liz - Thanks so much Liz!

    Pasadena Adjacent - I know! I think almost every house and cabin overlooking Lake Cuyamaca also burned. Terrible and sad! I read that the Coulter Pines are the quickest recovering trees so far. I know they've planted a lot of them lately.

  48. Beautiful hike! I'm always amazed that you are able to find historical or abandoned things everywhere you go!

  49. Carly - They are out there waiting for us! Seriously, if you look hard enough for it, there is cool stuff everywhere.


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