Monday, April 25, 2011

Settles Bridge

It's Easter Sunday, and while my family was up late generating festivities...

 Easter Eggs

I was up late diddling around with computers again. Easter morning, as you might expect, the girls were up early, but uncharacteristically, they didn't wake me and Kathryn up and we slept in too late to make either of the Easter church services. In our defense, the services were at odd times, but still... come on.

So the day didn't start out right, but it got a good bit better around lunch. My brother had us over and we killed several racks of ribs and a ton of easter-themed fruit.

 Happy Easter Fruit

Ribs are delicious but they always put me in a coma. It's like the pig's revenge from beyond the grave. When it came time to do the little bit of exploring I'd penciled in for the afternoon, it was a struggle not to just lie down on the couch and dream about it instead.

Somehow, I made it through.

My Settles Bridge map still had several dotted lines on it, and as I may have mentioned before, if there's a dotted line on my map, I can't stand idly by. Where do they all go? I have to know.

I began my descent into the woods behind the park and right away I ran into this weirdness.

 Weird Tanks

I'd seen them the last time we was out there too, and I still don't know what the deal is. It's a tank of some kind. It used to have a top nailed into it, but that's long gone. I always see them right along creeks, way up near the top, notched into the hillside. There were apparently 3 of them here, but only one remains. My best guess is that if they wanted to put something in the water, they'd put it in the tank and rain would carry it into the water. Maybe? Like maybe medicine for the cows that used to get a drink downstream or something. Seriously though, I have no idea. Somebody has to know. You tell me.

The trail I was following became a "trail" and then eventually just bushwhacking through River Cane and Christmas Ferns.

 Christmas Ferns

One dotted line down, 5 to go. From there I did some "freehand navigation" - no compass, not really even following the terrain, just "yeah, I think I need to go this way" and lo, I still managed to end up where I wanted to be. In the past, I'd discovered a weird loop off to the west of the park trails that looks like it might have been cleared for a road and then abandoned, but there was no obvious way in or out. Well, I found what might have been the way in. It turns out that, though not especially obviously, the old roadbed leading away from Settles Bridge road proper bends around and ultimately connects up with it. Near that intersection, I discovered this abandoned homeless camp.

 Homeless Camp

... or I guess that's what it is. I've seen a few of these over the years. Almost always in just about this shape. I've only ever seen two that were occupied and only one where the guy was actually there.

This one was vacant though, and appeared to have been for a while.

I saw a bunch of deer near there too. Actually, throughout the day, I saw dozens of deer. That's dozens - plural. They were everywhere, in groups of 4 or 5 each. Small herds of deer. How many deer do you have to have before it's a herd?

I also saw this strange bird that looked like a mockingbird with a spiky flattop haircut. I need to learn more about birds because that bird was awesome and I wish I knew what it was. I've got this friend that I used to work with who's a pretty avid birder. He took all of these awesome photos of falcons mating in Torrey Pines. He would be shaking his head right now.

Speaking of deer...

 Deer Skull

All that I found of this one was the skull. So, did scavengers tear the top off to get at the brain, or did a hunter chuck the skull into the woods after cutting off the antlers? Those look like pretty clean cuts.

All right, I was really making progress; knocking off dotted lines left and right. One of them led to this outdoor classroom thing.

 Outdoor Classroom

It was tucked in at the end of a sidewalk behind the High School. We'd seen it the last time we were out here too, but didn't check it out. The trail leading out of the back of the pavillion tied into the rest of the system. What class can you take where you get to go walking around in the woods? They didn't have that when I was in high school.

From there I did some more freehand nav over to Settles Bridge road and jogged down to the river.

I noticed some orange ribbon off to the right - must be a well.

Yep, a well.


How'd you like to "discover" that by accident. There were the vaguest signs that there might once have been a homestead nearby - what might have been a driveway, some semi-decorative looking plants - not daffodils, but similar. Otherwise it was just a random well off the side of the road.

At the river, I headed downstream to check out one little unexplored trail down there. I expected that it would lead to a network of trails in the big block of woods to the east, but instead it just crossed a creek and headed further downstream.

There was a fence in the way, which I'd once taken to be the NRA property boundary and not gone past. I'm not sure if it's private land or not, but by the looks of it, people are welcome to keep on going right through the fence.


Beyond the gate there were more trails paralleling the river.


More to explore. Always more to explore. I'll have to come back for those though, it was getting a little late.

I took a different trail back and had to cross this challenging geological formation.


Since that trail didn't lead up into the woods, I looked and looked for another one that might, but I didn't see anything. There is apparently, a big block of trailless woods between the river and a neighborhood. I'll have to go running around up in there some day too.

It's definitely spring now. The plants have been busy rearranging dirt into leaves and buds and other greenery. When I think about it, it's really pretty amazing. Me and the kids talk about it sometimes. Plants take dirt and water and reorganize it into leaves, flowers, fruit and wood. Dirt becomes this:


Will wonders never cease?

There were still some trails up to the north on my list, but I knocked them out in short order. One of them appears to have been a bike trail at some point.

 Bike Trail

One was pretty overgrown.

 A Little Overgrown

Man, it was getting late. I felt my way back into the park, and again, spectacularly, ended up exactly where I expected to be. I wonder now if I was just getting lucky, or if that innate sense of direction I had running around in the woods as a kid has really started to come back.

I ran most of the way back out. The sun was going down, and I was worried that the park might actually close.


It's always darker up in the woods though and when I got back, there were still kids playing basketball and skating. Cool.

The kids are off of school tomorrow, so my mom had them for a sleepover, leaving me and Kathryn with a date night. We shared some delicious parmesan-encrusted chicken at Longhorn and watched "Your Highness" which is guaranteed to win an oscar in the most gratuitously crude humor category. Still though, it was funny, if you're into that kind of thing.


  1. Good work. Exploring, mapping, and documenting your adventure. Shackleton would have approved.
    That round metal "tank" is an old moonshine still. One of our orienteering maps has a bunch of these. They are usually near a creek to supply water.
    That gate allows people to pass, but would keep large animals in place. Any cattle grazing nearby? Maybe it just keeps the deer under control.
    I know what you mean about finding where those dotted lines go. It's an addiction. Keeps you awake at night. What lies beyond the edge of the map? Go forth and discover!

  2. Ahh, moonshine still. It's so obvious now.