Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Lake Cuyamaca
Lake Cuyamaca is a fun place to have a picnic, boat, fish, or hike. You can also tour Lake Cuyamaca on horseback.  Lake Cuyamaca is located south of the quaint mountain town of Julian, in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, California
The Wilderness Explorer
Winter storms had added 26 inches to the annual rainfall total.  Lake Cuyamaca had spread beyond its usual bounds, into an expanse of pristine blue that covered an area twice its normal size.  I suppose, if I had thought on it, I would have realized that water was continuing to find its way from the neighboring mountains into the lake.  The meadows were filled with rivulets and streams
Lake Cuyamaca near Julian, California is a relaxing mountain retreat an hour's drive east of San Diego.  The lake  offers a wonderful system of mountain trails to explore.  My favorite way to explore the area around lake Cuyamaca is on horseback.

Each season brings its own enchantment to our rides.  Spring is the season for water.  I didn't fully appreciate all of the ways water flows into Lake Cuyamaca, until we attempted a March ride along the trails that meander through the lower lake meadows.  We should have brought our horses' hip waders with us.


Within a stone's throw of the trailhead, we came to a shallow rivulet, running right over the meadow grasses.  Another several hundred feet down the trail, in a dense stand of trees and bracken, flowed a deeper and more challenging creek. 

One of our horses slipped on its steep muddy bank, and slid onto his knees in the water, giving us all a moment of breath-catching fear, as he struggled for purchase, before recovering his feet. 

Two watercourses, flowing across the trail within a whistle of the trail head, were harbingers of the ride to come.  Entire stretches of the trail were submerged in water, as the trail wound down toward the lake's edge.  In drier months, a trip around the lake meadow is both restful and rejuvenating.  Our March trip around the lake was better described using words such as invigorating, unexpected, and challenging, not to mention wet.


The path rose and entered a stand of mature pines.  There, in the patchwork shafts of sunlight created by the towering pines, the magic of the forest enveloped us.  The crisp, clean scent of pine mingled with the rich smells of the dirt and grasses.  Occassional crows, blue jays, and other small birds added their intermittent calls to the soothing whisper of the breeze moving through the pines.  While our ride along the lake edge had been exciting, our walk through the forest filled us with peace.


The relaxed feeling of the lake woods stayed with us as we rode toward higher meadows near Stonewall Peak, making our final encounter with spring run-off even more surprising. Dark green grass masked a wide swath of deep, boggy ground.  Stepping onto it, the lead horse sank into a foot of soft mud.  A second horse sidestepped the trail to avoid the soft footing  - and sank nearly to its belly.  Momentarily suspended in the clinging mud, the horse rose wonderfully to the occasion.  It floundered for a moment, struggling to keep its balance and find some reliable footing.  Then it  gathered its weight on its hind legs, and in a mighty effort,  lifted its front legs free and jumped back onto solid ground.



Part of the lure of the wilderness must be the fact that nature can't be taken for granted; unexpected things happen.  Our March trip around the lake held surprising challenges and made us happy to have ventured out.  It remains a beautiful and peaceful place, but now I know that it can also bring excitement.
Horseback Riding Around Lake Cuyamaca was a Surprising Adventure
Wilderness Tours in:

Anza Borrego Desert
Palm Canyon

Cleveland National Forest
Big Laguna Lakes

Rancho Cuyamaca State Park
Lake Cuyamaca
Milk Ranch Road

Santa Ysabel Wilderness Preserve
Eastern Preserve
Western Preserve

Warner Springs
Eagle Rock


Text and photos are copyrighted by
Kathleen Kenner & the Kenner Ranch
Re-use by permission only.