Cooper's map

This past weekend, I was drawn to spend time camping near Escondido, California, in the rolling hills about 20 miles inland from Carlsbad and the Pacific Ocean. If you know Southern California, you understand how the ocean breezes, marine layer, and other nuances of geography affect the unique microclimates of our coastal mountains. This particular hilly range is dotted by avocado and citrus groves, ranches, and copious S-curves. It is about 100 miles south of Los Angeles and 30 miles northeast of San Diego, and is 10 or more degrees cooler year-round than my home turf which provides a suitable escape and temperate option for weekend retreats. I was introduced to the area several years ago by friends who have a second home in nearby San Marcos, and despite the sequoias, lakes and rivers, Sierras, and better known parts that draw me frequently to northern California explores, the hiking, biking and camping opportunities offered in the Cleveland National Forest, Pauma Valley, Borrego, and beyond could take me a lifetime to explore. So, when looking for an appropriate socially distanced hike during this 60 - 75 degree perfect weekend, my San Marcos-based friend and I took our pandemic masked selves into the Bates Nut Farm to get the lay of the land from a local...and, Cooper, who was working at the cash register, gave us a bless-his-heart hand-drawn map to show us where there was an unmarked (and still "open") nearby trail. The Bear Ridge, as it turns out, abuts Mr. Bates' nut farm property, which ranged for miles, by the way. I was struck, and delighted, as I often am, by the way a local will describe how to get somewhere by landmarks and memorized visuals, and will often forgo mentioning a street name or a direction other than "turn left out the driveway" or "when you get to the grove of big oaks that you almost run into," go right. I asked if I could keep his map, and he chortled and good-naturedly played along. He mentioned that he was a new dad, and that his three-day-old baby had been born during the pandemic and that he was grateful that the maternity part of the hospital still allowed visitors to be with their loved ones! Ah, these moments of humanity. There's no real reason for my blog post today, except to express gratitude for these moments. And for Cooper's map. #pandemicpastimes