Mountains

WELCOME, MOUNTAIN DWELLERS!

Our Mountain Living section covers the mountain communities in San Diego's East County north of I-8 including Aguanga, Cuyamaca, Descanso, Guatay, Julian, Mount Laguna, Pine Valley, Ranchita, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Shelter Valley and Warner Springs.


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RAMONA WINERIES OPEN FOR OUTDOOR TASTINGS AND CURBSIDE PICKUP, STRUGGLE AMID PANDEMIC DISPARITIES

By Angela Kurysh

 

February 24, 2021 (Ramona) -- Virtual happy hours are among the innovations that wineries like Vineyard Grant James have rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted the Ramona wine region in San Diego’s East County. 

With San Diego being in the state’s tier 1, or purple tier, businesses are currently being allowed to slowly re-open while following strict guidelines. Currently, wineries that serve food are allowed to offer outdoor tastings with social distancing, as well as takeout or curbside pickup, but not indoor service.

 

Susanne Sapier, owner of Vineyard Grant James in Ramona, California, and President of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, said, “I mean, you're open you're closed, you're open you're closed, so that's a really hard way to run a business.” 

 

Early in the pandemic, restaurants were allowed to operate while wineries were shut down which makes owners like Sapier question fairness of the rules. Now both can be open outdoors, but many restaurants are serving customers illegally indoors.  Sapier has been forced to choose to fully open to make a profit and risk the reputation of the business or follow the mandate and suffer financially. 


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RAMONA GUN STORE WELCOMES DEDICATED GUNSMITH TO THE TEAM

East County News Service

 

February 21, 2021 (Ramona) -- Ramona Shootists’ Emporium, located at 649 Main St., Ste. C,  announced that the addition of Kaleb Weakley to the team as the new on-site, dedicated gunsmith. 

 

Weakley is a retired U.S. Marine Sergeant who moved with his family to Ramona to focus on his role as program coordinator and outdoor guide for the Special Liberty Project (which helps veterans and Gold Star families connect with nature) and to build his new firearms training company.


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SHERIFF SEEKS TIPS ON “SUSPICIOUS” LIVESTOCK DEATHS IN ALPINE

By Miriam Raftery

 

February 20, 2021(Alpine) – The Sheriff’s department seeks help from the public to solve a felony animal cruelty case. Deputies responded to a call reporting suspicious circumstances in the 400 block of Peutz Valley Road in Alpine shortly after 8 a.m. on Feb. 19 found ten animals dead in a pen including lambs, goats and a ram.

 

According to Lt. Anthony O’Boyle, the property owners are victims who are out of state when the deaths occurred.  “A relative was coming by to check up on and feed the animals. When the relative arrived yesterday morning, she found the animals deceased,” he said.


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WALKING TOUR OF RAMONA H.E.A.R.T. MURALS FEB. 13

East County News Service

 

February 11, 2021 (Ramona) - Don’t miss this opportunity to have fun doing something healthy for your heart with a self-guided walking tour of the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Murals on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 9:00 a.m. to noon as part of Live Well San Diego’s “Love Your Heart Week.”


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JULIAN STATION HOSTS BLOOD DRIVE FEB. 26

Source: San Diego Blood Bank
 
February 11, 2021 (Julian) -- Julian Station on is hosting a blood drive in partnership with the San Diego Blood Bank on Friday, February 26 from 12:00 pm - 5:00 p.m. at 4470 Julian Road in the parking lot. 

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ARTIST SIMON MELNYK TO CREATE KUMEYAAY MURAL IN RAMONA

Source: Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Murals

February 11, 2021 (Ramona) -- Artist Simon Melnyk has been chosen by Ramona H.E.A.R.T. murals to create a new mural paying tribute to the Kumeyaay Native Americans who occupied the area as long as 12,000 years ago.

The mural will be placed on the Verizon Building at 1530 Main Street, Ramona to be completed in September 2021 and will fill a portion of the wall on the end closest to Main St.


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PASSAGES: JOHNNY HAKE, JULIAN CERT LEADER AND INSTRUCTOR

By Miriam Raftery

February 9, 2021 (Julian) – Johnny Hake, best known for his leadership to protect Julian during wildfires, passed away on February 1, 2021.  He was 71 years old.

Born Sept. 13, 1949, Hake told the Julian Journal that he met his wife, Diane, in a berry patch. They got married three weeks later, on August 8, 1969.  They raised their family which included adopted children as well as their own.

“I feel so blessed to have been married to Johnny for almost 52 years making amazing memories,” Diane posted on Facebook when she announced his death.  “I could have enjoyed his company for another half a century.”


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COVID-19 VACCINES FOR SENIORS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES THIS WEEK

By Miriam Raftery

February 9, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Vaccinations for seniors age 65 and over will be provided in Alpine, Pine Valley, and Valley Center this week.  Appointments are available 1-2 days before each date.

Valley Center Elementary, Valley Center:  Feb.9-10

Joan MacQueen School, Alpine: Feb. 11-12

Mt. Empire High School, Pine Valley Feb. 13-14

For direct access to each site, click on the following links:


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DINE IN A BUBBLE BENEATH THE OAKS WITH YOUR VALENTINE FEB. 12-14 AT DESCANSO JUNCTION

By Miriam Raftery

 

February 7, 2021 (Descanso) – Looking for something special for your valentine?  Descanso Junction invites you to savor a private five-course meal by Master Chef Michael Wray – served up to you and your sweetheart in an intimate lighted bubble beneath oak trees.


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SUPERVISORS’ VOTE ON MAJOR BACKCOUNTRY ENERGY MEASURE DELAYED UNTIL FEB. 10

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left:  Campo Wind's turbines hae been fire-prone, causing multiple fires in the past. Residents worry that more turbines raise the risk of a catastrophic fire, if a blaze should begin during Santa Ana gusty winds.

February 5, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A vote by County Supervisors on a Renewable Energy Overlay plan has been postponed until Wednesday, Feb. 10. If approved, the measure would designate vast swaths of rural East County for industrial-scale wind and solar energy projects.

The aim is to make it easier to get approval of projects that provide clean energy to meet state renewable energy mandates amid a climate crisis.  But the measure has also drawn strong opposition from some rural residents, including Donna Tisdale, who advise East County residents to contact Supervisors to voice opposition so that “Supervisors know how East County really feels about being thrown under the bus as a renewable energy sacrifice zone.”

Click on this link to register your  opinion with Supervisors on the Renewable Energy Overlay before the Feb. 10 hearing, which begins at 9 a.m.  The item is the second item on the agenda.

Tisdale is Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group and founder of Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit that has sued the County over several major energy projects in the region. Residents living near existing wind turbines have complained of noise, sleep disruption and other health problems, flashing lights, visual blight from towers hundreds of feet tall, killing of birds, safety concerns from blades whirling off,loss of rural character and loss of property value for homes nearby. Solar projects have generated concerns over glare, loss of wildlife habitat and potential depletion of scarce groundwater for construction and cleaning of panels.


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SHOOTING STARS: NIGHT SKY PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE MARCH 11

East County News Service

 

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

 

February 4, 2021 (Julian) – A free virtual night sky photography course will be offered March 11 from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. with Kevin Wixom, who has been shooting the night skies for years in San Diego, Hawaii and other places.


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STATE PARKS REOPEN FOR CAMPING

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo: Jonny Victorino, via Anza-Borrego Foundation

 

February 3, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- As of February 1, camping is now officially open again at California State Parks, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego’s inland region. State health rules and social distancing guidelines will apply.

 

Here is what’s open in our local state parks:


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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED AT ALPINE’S LIONS TIGERS & BEARS ANIMAL SANCTUARY

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Photo at left of volunteer measuring animal meals  courtesy of Lions Tigers & Bears 

Feb. 3, 2021 (Alpine) -- Veterinary students, animal lovers, high school students getting their volunteer hours in, young and old volunteers are wanted, and needed, at Alpine’s Lions, Tigers & Bears Animal Sanctuary.

“Making bear food, helping with landscaping, and office work” are just a few of the tasks volunteers can assist with, said founder Bobbi Brink during a phone interview.

“Volunteers receive passes, behind-the-scenes access, t-shirts,” said Brink.  “We also have two volunteer appreciation events each year,” among other tangible rewards, she added.

The intangible rewards include seeing animals such as lions, tigers and bears on-the-job.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: FLOCKING TO DESCANSO’S SNOW

East County News Service

January 29, 2021 (Descanso) -- Richard Edwords sent this photo of his flock of chickens experience a blanket of newly fallen snow at his home in Descanso.


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FLASH FLOOD WATCH: ATMOSPHERIC RIVER BRINGING HEAVY RAIN AND SNOW

By Miriam Raftery

January 28, 2021 (San Diego’s East County)—A flash flood watch has been issued for San Diego County’s mountains, valleys and coatstal areas from 7p.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Friday due to an atmospheric river moving across Southern California . The storm is forecast to bring widespread moderate to heavy rain and snow, with flash flooding possible.  If you encounter a flooded roadway, the Sheriff advises to "turn around, don't drown" since only a few inches of swiftly flowing water can quickly carry a vehicle into deeper water and submerge it.

Deep snow accumulations in the mountains will lead to difficult travel and chain restrictions for vehicles.  The storm is forecast to drop two to five inches of snow in local mountains. Snow levels are expected above 5,000 feet Thursday, dropping to as low as 4,500 feet by Friday. There is also a chance of thunderstorms, according to meteorologist Samantha Connolly with the National Weather Service.


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PHOTO OF THE MONTH: COOL POOL

East County News Service

January 27, 2021 (Descanso) – How cold was it this week in East County? Cold enough to freeze over a swimming pool in Descanso.  Thanks to Allen Walker Entertainment for sending in this startling image of lawn chairs perched atop the iced-over pool that resembles an outdoor skating rink.

Readers, please send us your winter pics to editor@eastcountymagazine.org


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CHP ISSUES "SNOW ETIQUETTE" GUIDELINES

East County News Service

File photo by Billy Ortiz

January 22, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- With heavy snow forecast in our local mountains over the next several days, the California Highway Patrol asks the public to practice good “snow etiquette” when visiting the Mount Laguna/Julian area.

The advisory aims to protect public safety, assure that travelers have chains or snow tires, respect private property, and help keep our mountain areas clean for residents. Law enforcement will be present enforcing these guidelines and laws.


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HEAVY SNOWFALL FORECAST FOR MOUNTAINS, POSSIBLE FLOODING IN URBAN AREAS

File photo: San Diego County snow plow in the Laguna mountains

January 22, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Two cold winter storms are forecast to sweep into our region.  The first will bring widespread rain this weekend with snow at higher elevations. The second, a much stronger storm, is forecast to bring heavy rains and possible urban flooding, also dropping the snow level down to below 3,000 feet in mountain and high desert areas Monday and Tuesday.

The first storm Friday night and Saturday could bring 1 to 5 inches of snow and possible thunderstorms. Storm two could bring up to 10 inches of snow in the mountains as well as heavy rainfall downpours in urban areas. Both storms will also bring gusty southwest winds and near-gale force winds over coastal waters as well as high surf and hazardous marine conditions.


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ARREST MADE IN RAMONA SHOOTING

East County News Service

January 19, 2021 (Ramona) – Ramona resident Elias Ruiz, 32, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of murder.  The identity of the victim, a man found shot in the 700 block of Main Street around 12:30 a.m. yesterday, has not been released pending family notification.

Sheriff's deputies and officers with the California Highway Patrol responded to a report of the shooting. They attempted lifesaving measures until relieved by fire personnel. Unfortunately, the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene.


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FATALITY CRASHES CLAIM THREE LIVES IN RAMONA AND SANTA YSABEL

Update: One of the motorcyclists killed in the Ramona crash has been idenitified as Matthew Thomas Huthmacher, 51, of Descanso, according to the county Medical Examiner's office.
 
By Miriam Raftery
Photo: CHP cruiser, via CHP
 
January 11, 2021 (Ramona) –Two crashes minutes apart in Ramona and Santa Ysabel yesterday resulted in three fatalities.

The first accident claimed the life of two male motorcyclists in a three-vehicle crash on State Route 78 near State Route 79 in Santa Ysabel, one driving a 2020 Honda Dual Sport motorcycle, the other a KTM Dual Sport motorcycle.  The Honda veered off the highway and struck a rock, ejected the motorcyclist onto the roadway. The KTM motorcycle close by crossed the center lines into the eastbound lanes and was struck head-on by a 2003 Ford Focus. The KTM motorcyclist was also ejected onto the roadway.


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FRIENDS OF WOMAN MISSING 17 DAYS: WHY CAN'T SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DO MORE?

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Friends of East County’s Diane Mattingly are circulating these photos of her taken earlier this month, via Times of San Diego

December 29, 2020 (San Diego) - Friends and neighbors of Diane Mae Mattingly of the high desert near Anza-Borrego say she’s been missing more than two weeks but haven’t had much help from the Sheriff’s Department.


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SNOW BLANKETS MOUNTAINS; WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT THROUGH TUESDAY MORNING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Laguna Mountain Lodge webcam

December 28, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Heavy snow has fallen on Mount Laguna, while a lighter dusting of snow has blanketed the Cuyamaca and Julian communities. Elsewhere across the county, the cold winter storm brought much-needed rain.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning through Tuesday. Elevations over 5,000 feet such as Mount Laguna may receive 14 inches of snow, with up to 20 inches at elevations over 6,500 feet such as Palomar Mountain. Bring tire chains if traveling in the mountain areas. Chains were required today on parts of State Route 79 and Old Highway 80, while a portion of Sunrise Highway was closed.


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30,000 AT RISK OF POWER SHUTOFFS DEC. 23-24 DUE TO RED FLAG WARNING

By Miriam Raftery

December 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – SDG&E has notified around 30,000 customers that their power could be shut off due to high fire danger.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for parts of Southern California due to possible strong winds from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 12 p.m. Thursday, Christmas Eve. The communities at risk range from El Cajon east to Campo, north to Escondido and mountain areas such as Julian, and as far south as Potrero near the border.

The threat of losing electricity in mid-winter during Christmas week is disheartening for backcountry residents, many of whom have stocked up refrigerators and freezers for holiday feasts. ECM has received complaints from residents who report SDG&E refused to reimburse them for food spoiled during other recent outages. Coming at a time when many are without jobs or have businesses with little income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prospect of financial losses due to power outages or worse, a wildfire are particularly troubling.


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PYGMY HIPPO CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY WITH ZOOM PARTY AND CAKE IN RAMONA

Hannah Shirley’s wildlife friends surprise her with socially distanced well-wishes
 
Source: Ramona Wildlife Center
 
December 20, 2020 (Ramona) — North America’s oldest living pygmy hippo, Hannah Shirley, celebrated her 47th birthday Thursday at San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center today with a Zoom party and cake. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hannah Shirley was not able to get together with her friends, but that didn’t dampen the celebration, which included a cake made out of her favorite grains, fruit and veggies all held together with pumpkin purée  —and yummy cucumber-melon water in a big bucket. Hannah Shirley’s caretakers set up a “living room” in her habitat for her party, with pumpkin goodies, photos of her friends (including other sanctuary animals), a Zoom feed and a number of enrichment stations. Despite being a nocturnal animal, Hannah Shirley decided to take part and enjoy the occasion.
 

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ALPINE’S JEFF CAMPBELL’S GIFT BAG DRIVE, A HOLIDAY COLLECTION TRADITION BENEFITING CHARITIES, NOW IN ITS 22ND YEAR

East County News Service

December 20, 2020 (Alpine) – Alpine real estate broker Jeff Campbell of San Diego Estates is celebrating his 22nd annual Gift Bag Drive, a holiday collection drive benefiting several local charities.

More than 25 businesses in Alpine, including banks, retail stores, insurance offices and coffee shops, have hosted collection bins where residents have donated nonperishable canned food items, personal hygiene items and unwrapped children’s toys beginning in mid-November, said Campbell. New this year has been a donation of several hundred jackets, shirts and hoodies from an El Centro-based embroidery company that closed its doors.

Campbell said the deadline for donations is Tuesday, Dec. 22.


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WARNER SPRINGS MAN DIES AFTER HITTING TREE ON HIGHWAY 79

East County News Service
 
December 16, 2020 (Warner Springs) – Ronald Louis Swaim, 87, of Warner Springs, veered off the roadway and struck a tree on State Route 79 in Santa Ysabel, just north of State Route 76, on December 2.
 
Witnesses called 9-1-1 and awaited the arrival of law enforcement and fire  personnel, the County Medical Examiner reports. Paramedics arrived and pronounced the victim dead at the scene of multiple blunt force injuries. 

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JULIAN FAMILY LOSES HOME TO FIRE: UNINSURED LOSSES INCLUDE TOYS, CHILDREN’S LAPTOPS NEEDED FOR SCHOOL

By Miriam Raftery

 

December 14, 2020 (Julian) – A GoFundMe page has been set up by Julian community members to help the Lares family members, who lost everything in a fire at their home yesterday. 

 

“Perla Lares, a Senior at Julian High School served as Teen Miss Julian Princess in 2018 and 2019, dedicating many hours to community service for Julian and San Diego County.  Her brother, Gabe, is a Freshman at Julian High School,” says Jill Fleming, who started the fundraising page.


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SUPERVISORS DELAY DECISION ON RENEWABLE ENERGY OVERLAY OPTIONS UNTIL JAN. 27

East County News Service

 

December 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County Supervisors have voted to delay until January 27, 2021 a decision on Renewable Energy Overlay Options originally slated for Dec. 9, 2020.  The options aim to streamline approval of industrial-scale wind and solar projects across much of East County’s rural, mountain and desert areas.


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WARNER SPRINGS SCHOOL BOARD RACE ENDS IN TIE, CAPPING OFF A WILD WEEK

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo via CC by NC-ND:  a coin toss or other game of chance will determine the outcome in this race
 
Update December 16, 2020:  Gene Doxey won the coin toss -- and the seat on the Warner Sprngs Unified School District board.
 
December 9, 2020 (Warner Springs) – It’s been a wild week in Warner Springs.  First, an earthquake centered near the tiny mountain town jolted residents awake on Sunday morning. Then high winds prompted SDG&E to shut off power in the area for multiple days, forcing closure of schools in the Warner Springs Unified School District.
 
Now, an election for one of three seats on the school board has ended in a draw. Gene Doxey and Terry Cox each got 352 votes, tying for third place. There’s an important lesson to be learned for parents and students:  every vote counts!

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