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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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: LAKE CUYAMACA WILDLIFE TRAIL

 
 
East County News Service
 
 
November 28, 2020 (Cuyamaca) – Scott Lagace sent in a stunning collection of photos, along with this description. 
 
“There is a trail out by Cuyamaca Lake called the Marty Minshall Trail or as I call it, the wildlife trail because of all the deer, turkeys, birds and even a Bald Eagle which flies around the lake. Along with the wildlife the landscape and scenery of the area is breath taking especially now that the leaves are turning colors.”

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SDG&E WARNS 2,700 CUSTOMERS OF POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFFS AFTER THANKSGIVING

East County News Service

Nov. 25, 2020  (San Diego’s East County)  – Stock up on coolers to keep your Thanksgiving leftovers chilled.  Due to a Red Flag Warning  issued by the National Weather Service and forecasted Santa Ana winds, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has notified approximately 2,700 customers in the communities of Alpine, Campo Reservation, Crestwood, Descanso, Julian, La Posta Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Pala, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Valley Center and Viejas Reservation, that it may have to turn off power to reduce wildfire risk beginning early Friday morning.      

 “The last thing we want to be telling any of our customers right now is that we may have to shut off power given the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the ongoing COVID pandemic,” said SDG&E’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Crider. “Public Safety Power Shutoffs are a last resort to prevent wildfires, and our employees are dedicated to doing everything we can to minimize impacts should it come to that. We’re hoping Mother Nature cooperates, but in an abundance of caution we have reached out to our customers so they can be prepared.”

Several hundred SDG&E linemen, troubleshooters and support personnel will be working on Thanksgiving Day and through the holiday weekend to ensure that power can be restored as quickly and as safely as possible, should safety power shutoffs occur.


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$1,000 REWARD OFFERED IN RAMONA COMMERCIAL BURGLARY CASE

Source: San Diego Sheriff, Ramona substation

Photos: Suspect #1 and Suspect #2

November 24, 2020 (Ramona) -- San Diego County Crime Stoppers and investigators from the Ramona Sheriff’s substation are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the suspects responsible for a commercial burglary.

On Monday, November 16 at around 10:00 p.m., two unknown suspects forced entry into the Sunbelt Rentals store located at 2055 Main Street in Ramona. The suspects cut a hole in the outer fence of the property and then proceeded to break a window of the business to gain entry inside. The suspects stole several power tools and generators totaling around $15,000.


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DRY WEATHER, FIRE DANGER RETURNS LATE THIS WEEK

By Miriam Raftery

November 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Dry weather is forecast this week, with fire weather conditions over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Temperatures will be at or slightly below normal with patchy dense fog tonight and gusty westerly winds Monday across mountain passes and in the deserts.  By late Thursday, moderate Santa Ana winds could bring gusts up to 50 miles per hour.


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SUPERVISORS APPROVE DARK SKIES PROTECTIONS FOR JULIAN AREA AND BORREGO SPRINGS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Night sky in  Borrego Springs, by Dennis Mammana

November 18, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego Supervisors today voted to approve amendments to the county’s Light Pollution ordinance which will provide “Dark Sky Community” designation to both the Julian and Borrego Springs community planning areas.  The action aims to prevent light pollution, enhancing astronomy viewing and related tourism.

The action comes after the Julian Dark Sky Network asked Supervisors in 2018 to create a way for Julian to meet International Dark Sky Association recognition. Borrego Springs was the first California community to receive that designation in 2009.

"Our community is part of the 1% of the U.S. that can still see the Milky Way. Our distance from the urban glow of San Diego's skies and the surrounding mountains help with our sky quality, but preservation must be intentional," the Julian Dark Sky Network's website states.


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SOME CHURCHES AND RESTAURANTS FLOUT RULES, OTHERS COMPLY AS PURPLE TIER SHUTDOWNS COMMENCE

 

Story and photos by Jake Rose

Miriam Raftery contributed to this report

 

Photos, left: Parishioners at Skyline Church flock to indoor services, many without masks

November 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Skyline Church in the unincorporated area of La Mesa and Shadow Mountain in El Cajon had full parking lots for Sunday morning services, despite new Purple Tier restrictions now in effect throughout the county.

Purple tier restrictions started at midnight Saturday, due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases. Purple tier, or Tier 1, is the most restrictive level for California and comes into play when positive tests exceed 8%. Many non-essential business operations must close, places of worship, restaurants and gyms must move all activity outdoors, and retail must cut capacity to 25%.

With businesses already struggling after the initial lockdown followed by an overall slowdown due to the public’s worry about the coronavirus, this second lockdown has some businesses and places of worship around East County flouting the new restrictions.


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SOME BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES SET TO DEFY SHUTDOWN ORDERS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left: Major's Diner in Pine Valley, a long-time roadside stop for travelers also popular with local residents, could not survive another shut down in winter weather, the owner says.

November 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Several East County business owners and at least one megachurch have announced intentions to defy a new state mandate to shut down indoor services starting Saturday.  In addition, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells says police in his city won’t prioritize enforcement of businesses that remain open despite public health orders.

Places of worship, gyms, restaurants and movie theaters are ordered to stop indoor operations under state mandates due to high rates of COVID-19 that have moved San Diego County into the purple tier.  Retailers are supposed to cut service to 25% capacity and any schools not yet reopened are prohibited from doing so.

Restaurants and bars have been tied to 9.2% of all COVID cases in San Diego County from June 6 through November 7, or 3,666 cases, according to newly released county health data. Even with many modifications, the most recent two weeks of data from October 25 to November 7 show 389 cases tied to restaurants and bars, or 10.01% of total new cases—more than any other specific business category.

Yet some restaurant owners say they’re done with shutdowns and would be unable to survive another shutdown as winter approaches.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: WINTER WONDERLAND AT LAKE CUYAMACA

 

 
 

East County News Service

 

November 11, 2020 (Lake Cuyamaca) -- Pandora Horn sent in this images after snow transformed her home on the North Hill of Cuyamaca Lake in Julian into a winter wonderland. 

Her dog, Prada Van Horn, bundled up in a festive sweater for a romp in the new fallen snow.


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FIRST SNOWFALL OF SEASON BLANKETS MOUNTAIN AREAS, FREEZE FORECAST FOR HIGH DESERTS TONIGHT

East County News Service

Photo: Snow on Mount Laguna, by Dave Hogan

November 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Snow fell overnight on mountaintops in San Diego's inland region including Mount Laguna in East County, with more snow showers possible at higher elevations tonight.  On Mount Palomar, a new record low temperature of 25 degrees was recorded early this morning.

In the high desert areas such as Campo, below freezing temperatures as low as 29 degrees are forecast tonight.

Frost and freeze conditions could kill crops and sensitive vegetation, also potentially damaging unprotected plumbing, the National Weather Service warns.


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BOBCAT BURNED IN EL DORADO FIRE TURNS CORNER AT RAMONA WILDLIFE CENTER

By Nina Thompson, San Diego Humane Society
 
November 9, 2020 (Ramona) — A bobcat who arrived at San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center with severe burns from the El Dorado Fire in Yucaipa, California, has a good chance of making a full recovery. After nearly a month of intensive treatment by Project Wildlife’s medical team, the bobcat is healing well.
 
The 6- to 8-month-old bobcat arrived at the Ramona Wildlife Center on Oct. 13, 2020, after a call by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CADFW). The warden explained that a citizen from Yucaipa had been out with her dogs when the dogs spotted the bobcat. The dog owner was able to get between the animals to prevent any injuries. The cat was then taken to a veterinary clinic in Grand Terrace. The cat was so growly that veterinary staff hesitated to open the carrier and instead contacted CADFW. Staff at San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife confirmed it was a bobcat by looking at photos and identifying the markings on the animal.

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MOUNTAIN SCHOOLS CANCEL CLASSES, SHIFT ONLINE DUE TO FREEZING WEATHER, SNOW FORECAST, AND COVID

Districts vary in COVID response: Cajon Valley keeps schools open despite 52 cases since August

East County News Service

November 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Four East County school districts in mountain areas have announced temporary halts to in-person learning due to winter weather and in one rural district, COVID-19. Yet other districts continue in-person instruction despite numerous cases amid the pandemic.


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EARLY BELL RINGS IN EAST COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD RACES

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo via Bing

November 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) — It has been a topsy turvy year for everyone, especially for the area’s school children. Voters weighed enthusiasm, experience and ethics as they chose the next crew of school board trustees, who ultimately will help steer schools out of the rough seas of this quarantine.

On election night, as of early returns at 10:30 p.m., here are our observations.


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VOGEL CHALLENGES HEIMERDINGER FOR MOUNTAIN EMPIRE SCHOOL TRUSTEE

 

By Robin N. Kendall

October 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County residents in Area 6 of Mountain Empire Unified School District will either reelect  incumbent school board president Tina Heimerdinger, or choose challenger Story R. Vogel, a retired historian who also coaches a the Mountain Empire High School football team.

According to the district website at https://www.meusd.org, Mountain Empire serves families living in Pine Valley, Campo, Descanso, Boulevard, Portero, Lake Morena and Jacumba. Chris Anderson, the incumbent in Area 7 (Campo), is running for reelection unopposed.

Story Vogel responded to East County Magazine (ECM) questions and submitted his biography and ballot statement. Incumbent Tina Heimerdinger was also invited to participate via several emails, but did not respond.

Heimerdinger, who is president of the board, has served on it for more than a decade including the turbulent tenure of Superintendent Steve Van Zant, who pled guilty to felony conflict of interest and was ordered to repay the district $50,000. Van Zant set up charter schools in other districts overseen by Mountain Empire from which his consulting company profited, as ECM reported, also raising questions over lack of oversight by the board on Heimerdinger’s watch.

Here are Vogel's responses:


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MAVERICK, RESCUED TIGER, DIES AFTER MAULING AT LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS

By Miriam Raftery

October 28, 2020 (Alpine) – A popular tiger named Maverick died this week in a tragic accident at the Lions, Tigers and Bears (LTB) facility in Alpine. Moka, another tiger, was accidentally let into the same habitat, fatally injuring Maverick.

Maverick came to the facility in 2014 at nine months of age after being rescued from the exotic animal trade and an owner who had acquired him illegally. Moka was rescued by Border Patrol agents and came to Lions, Tigers and Bears in 2018.

In a letter to supporters, LTB owner Bobbi Brinks voiced sadness at the loss and provided the following explanation: 


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EAST COUNTY HIGHWAY AND TROLLEY STATION UPGRADES AMONG $830 MILLION IN PROJECTS APPROVED BY CALTRANS

Source: CalTrans
 
October 24, 2020 (San Diego) -- The California Transportation Commission approved more than $830 million to repair highways and bridges and improve the state’s growing network of pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit routes. This investment includes more than $600 million in allocations for State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) projects, Caltrans’ “fix-it-first” program aimed at preserving the condition of the State Highway System.
 
“We are advancing projects that will keep our economy moving and improve access for all Californians,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “This includes improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians, expanding public transportation and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
Projects approved in San Diego and Imperial counties include:

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LIGHT RAIN POSSIBLE NEXT TWO DAYS, BUT HIGH WINDS AND FIRE DANGER BY TUESDAY

 
By Miriam Raftery
 
October 24, 2020 (San Diego) –  Measurable rainfall is possible Sunday and Monday, with drizzles Saturday night.  Up to a half inch could fall in mountain areas, though most areas of the county would receive only minimal precipitation in the range of 0.02 to 0.15 inches.
 
Tuesday is expected to be much drier with very low humidity and high fire danger. Moderate Santa Ana Winds are forecast to develop starting Monday, continuing Tuesday with north to northeast winds of 10-20 miles per hour and gusts up to 40 mph, blowing dust in desert areas.

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RAMONA ELECTION: SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEES

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo, left:  Joe Stupar

October 23, 2020 (Ramona) - In Ramona Unified School District, residents may vote for two candidates to fill seats on the school board. The four candidates are: Daryn Drum (Retired Firefighter), Dawn Perfect (Parent/Board Member), John Rajcic (Retired Educator/Businessman) and Joe Stupar (Chamber Executive Director). 


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COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.


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MISSING DESCANSO MAN, 81, AT RISK: LAST SEEN IN GOLD TOYOTA TRUCK

Update October 13, 2020: This missing person has been found safely in Yuma.

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (Descanso) – The Sheriff asks for public help to find Kenneth Zimmerman, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and did not take his blood pressure medicine before leaving home in Descanso to get a newspaper earlier today. He was last seen at 12:30 p.m. driving toward Highway 79 from Viejas Blvd in Descanso in a gold Toyota Tundra(license CA 8E41946) with a black toolbox in the bed.  He frequents businesses in Alpine as well as the El Cajon Home Depot.

He does not have a cell phone with him, according to a bulletin issued by the Pine Valley Sheriff’s station.Zimmerman was last seen wearing a white cowboy hat, dark blue short-sleeve shirt and blue jeans.  He has blue eyes and white hair. He is white, 81, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs around 190 pounds.


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ALPINE FIRE RESCUES MOTORIST TRAPPED IN ROLLOVER CRASH

By Miriam Raftery

October 10, 2020 (Alpine) –  Crews from Alpine Fire and Mercy Ambulance responded to a rollover accident on South Grade Road this morning, freeing a motorist trapped in the overturned car.

“Extrication tools were used to remove one of the passenger doors in order to get the driver out. One patient was transported to the hospital for evaluation,” Alpine Fire posted on Instagram, promptly drawing 117 likes and a response of “Well done, gentlemen!” from one local follower.


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WARNER UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT ELECTION

By Robin N. Kendall
 
October 9, 2020 (Warner Springs) -- Residents in Warner Unified School District may vote for three out of six candidates for school board in this November’s election. This small district is located in the far northeast sector of San Diego County in rural Warner Springs, California. It serves just over 2,100 students in grades preschool through twelfth grade. In addition to Warner Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, the district operates San Jose Continuation School, All Tribes Charter School and California Pacific Charter School.

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DYING MOUNTAIN LION CUB SAVED BY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY'S PROJECT WILDLIFE IN RAMONA

East County News Service

October 7, 2020 (Ramona) -- An orphaned mountain lion cub who arrived at San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife — Ramona Campus in critical condition is finally feeling better after weeks of intensive care by medical staff.

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ALPINE UNION SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

By Robin N. Kendall
 
Photo: John Paul Sullivan, the only candidate who responded to our questionnaire.
 
October 6, 2020 (Alpine) -- Alpine residents may vote for two candidates for school board this year from a slate of three. Two of the candidates are running for reelection and there is one newcomer to learn more about. The trustees serve a four-year term. Unlike other school boards in the region, there are no women on the board or on the ballot this year. 

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SDG&E NOTIFIES APPROXIMATELY 700 BACKCOUNTRY RESIDENTS TO PREPARE FOR POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFFS DUE TO SANTA ANA WINDS AND FIRE WEATHER WATCH

September 27, 2020 (San Diego) – Due to elevated fire weather conditions and forecasted Santa Ana winds, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has notified certain backcountry residents that it may have to turn off power in order to reduce wildfire risk in the coming days. Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) are approved by state regulators as an important safety tool to mitigate fire risk during dangerous weather conditions.

The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for Monday for inland San Diego County mountains and foothills. Weak to moderate strength Santa Ana winds are expected to arrive today, peak Monday morning in strength and become weak to moderate by the end of the day. In preparation, SDG&E has activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor conditions 24/7 and has organized personnel and pre-staged materials and equipment for response.


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CAR THIEF SUSPECT ARRESTED IN JULIAN AFTER HIGH-SPEED CHASE AND FOOT PURSUIT

Residents praise “heroic” actions of Deputy Jared Anderson

By Miriam Raftery

September 26, 2020 (Julian) – Ernest Bartocci, 45, was arrested last night after leading law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase followed by a foot pursuit through a residential area of Julian, where “assistance from residents played an essential role in locating Bartocci,” says Sergeant William Uelen with the San Diego Sheriff’s department.

Bartocci is accused of stealing a Honda Pilot in Borrego Springs near Palm Canyon Drive and Christmas Circle around 4:45 p.m.. A be-on-the-lookout alert was sent out to local law enforcement units.


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VIEJAS CASINO & RESORT DONATES 100,000 MASKS TO LOCAL SCHOOLS

Viejas Donates 100,000 masks to local schools

Source: Newswire.com

September 26, 2020 (Alpine) -- Viejas Casino & Resort recently donated 100,000 face masks to the Alpine Union School District. The donation, conceived by the Viejas Tribal Council, is focused on protecting the community and its children. Viejas has a long-standing tradition of community and isupporting local schools.

“It’s important to the Viejas Tribal membership and also to the Viejas Casino & Resort team that we understand and appreciate the importance of safety in the COVID-19 environment that we’re in,” Viejas Tribal Vice Chairman Victor Woods stated. “Safety and well-being of the students in class are of paramount importance to us.”

Alpine Union School District Superintendent Dr. Rich Newman expressed, “The impact that these face masks will have on our school district is huge. This is a year’s worth of supply for our students, staff, and our family members that are in need. It also is a huge cost savings to us and, as always, Viejas has been a fantastic partner with us through the years. This is one more example of how they step up for the community and support virtually every need that we have.”


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HAUNTED HAYRIDES AND SPOOKY NIGHTS AT FORT CROSS OLD TIMEY ADVENTURES

East County News Service
 
September 25, 2020 (Santa Ysabel) – Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures in Santa Ysabel, just outside of Julian, invites you to share some “seasonal spooky fun, if you dare” on special events Oct. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 and 29. Haunted hayrides can be reserved at 8 or 8:30 p.m. each evening.

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JULIAN AUTUMN JUBILEE: WEEKENDS NOW THROUGH OCTOBER

By Miriam Raftery 
 
Image by Rebekka D. from Pixabay 
 
September 25, 2020 (Santa Ysabel) – Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures in Santa Ysabel invites you to join in some socially distanced fun at the Julian Autumn Jubilee. The festivities will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday from late September through October 25. 

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RAMONA WINERIES WIN BIG IN SUNSET INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

By Miriam Raftery

 

September 24, 2020 (Ramona) – Judges in the prestigious Sunset International Wine Competition in Santa Rosa received over 2,7000 entries from around world. Ramona Ranch and Hatfield Creek Winery in San Diego’s Ramona wine region took home five silver medals: 


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