The first park we went to was Palomar Mountain State Park, over Memorial Day weekend. Palomar Mountain is in San Diego County, northeast of Escondido. When you read about Palomar, most people say variations of "it feels like the Sierra Nevada". I haven't spent time in the Sierra Nevada yet, so I can't verify this. However, if you have; perhaps it will give you an idea of the atmosphere.
It's obviously very pine-y and woodsy in a way that LA isn't. Our nearby mountains have a lot more chaparral than giant pine trees. I had also read in my state parks book about some ancient live oaks. However, there is really only one book published that I have found that includes information about all of the state parks, and it was published in 2001. Since none of the other material I found mentioned oaks, I was afraid they had met an untimely demise in a fire or something. Luckily, I spoke to a kindly park ranger at the entrance who helped me map out a trail that would show us all of the features in the park that I wanted to see, including the pond, meadow, nature trail, and oaks.
The nature trail starts through a lot of lovely wooded area and basically follows a creek, which you can always sort of hear off to the side. You actually have to cross the creek to get onto the nature trail, and although its not a big deal at all, of course I managed to fall. I was convinced there were gold flecks in the mud on my jeans, but Travis just scoffed.
There are also an amazing amount of birds, although I missed out on seeing a mountain bluebird. Apparently one flew right in front of us as I bent down to pick up my binoculars - the binoculars I was carrying as part of my current attempt to be an amateur birdwatcher. (I want to go on a birdwatching hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, but I'm afraid the real birdwatchers will sneer at me. But, I digress.)
Once we'd hiked the nature trail for a bit and gone up to the Weir Historic site (which seems to be a chimney - none of my research attempts have informed me as to why it is historic), we switched over to a different trail. This trail basically cut straight across a meadow. The trail here definitely got a bit patchy and wound around a lot. Some of the time, I was not at all sure we were going the correct way. But, eventually we ended up back in the woods and happened acros the definitely ancient live oaks.
The park ranger had told me that the oaks had to be a couple of hundred years old. And they were definitely quite large. One of the most amazing things about them is that they have grown around and on top of these huge boulders. In the picture above, you can see Travis standing on top of a boulder and next to an oak, for scale.
And then we came across possibly my favorite part - a particular oak that had fallen down across the trail several years before. They just left it there, because it's so big that you can actually walk underneath it. It looks so menacing, but also beautiful.
That's pretty much it for our adventure. After this point, we had originally intended to loop back and finish the part of the nature trail that we had missed. However, after already hiking about 5 miles, we were exhausted and opted to cut through a campsite and head back to the car. It was an excellent day and a fantastic park, and I don't even have pictures of Doane Pond or the incredibly foggy Boucher Lookout. If you've never been, definitely check this one out quickly before it closes.