Amazing walk up the historic Helix Flume Trail!

Breathtaking views and unique history can be enjoyed during a hike on the Helix Flume Trail in Lakeside.
Breathtaking views and unique history can be enjoyed during a hike on the Helix Flume Trail in Lakeside.

In 1889 a 35-mile long wooden water flume was completed that brought water from Lake Cuyamaca in San Diego’s East County into the rapidly growing city.

This morning I enjoyed an amazing walk up the historic Helix Flume Trail in Lakeside!

The moderately easy hiking trail begins at the old El Monte Pump Station, climbs a nearby hillside with a series of short steep switchbacks, then follows a short, mostly level section of the historic flume’s route. Information signs describe the construction and history of the engineering marvel, and hikers are able to see the entrance to one of the flume’s old tunnels!

As you will observe in the following photographs, the walk includes some fantastic vistas and natural beauty.

Come along with me and read the photo captions to learn much more…

Looking toward the trailhead of the historic Helix Flume Trail.
Looking past a large shady tree toward the trailhead of the historic Helix Flume Trail.
The old El Monte Pump Station is located next to the small parking lot by the trailhead to the Helix Flume Trail.
The old El Monte Pump Station is located next to a small parking lot by the trailhead to the Helix Flume Trail.
The El Monte Pump Station was originally built in 1898 to lift well water to the flume on the hillside using steam powered pumps.
The El Monte Pump Station was originally built in 1898 to lift well water to the flume on the hillside using steam powered pumps.
Photograph of the historic pump station in Lakeside, California.
Photograph includes huge pipes outside the historic pump station in Lakeside, California.
Plaque by door of El Monte Pump Station dated 1937, when a major overhaul was finally complete. Water was then pumped from the El Capitan Reservoir.
Plaque by door of El Monte Pump Station dated 1937, when a major overhaul was finally complete. Water was then pumped from the El Capitan Reservoir.
Heading toward the trailhead and some information signs concerning the flume.
Heading toward the trailhead and an information sign concerning the flume.
One of several signs along the trail that describe the construction and history of the famous water flume.
One of several signs along the trail that describe the construction and history of the famous water flume.
The blue line on this topographic map is where the flume water descended as it flowed west to the growing city of San Diego.
The blue line on this topographic map is where the flume water descended as it flowed west to the growing city of San Diego.
Photograph of the wooden water flume next to old Highway 80 in El Cajon Valley.
Photograph of the wooden water flume next to old Highway 80 in El Cajon Valley.
Diagram of cross section of wooden flume box from 1913.
Diagram of cross section of wooden flume box from 1913.
As I started up the trail, I looked back. The Helix Water District has a nearby lot with modern pipes and equipment.
As I started up the trail, I looked back toward the parking lot and its big tree. The Helix Water District has a nearby lot with modern pipes and equipment.
Heading up short but steep switchbacks, with rugged mountains in the distance.
Heading up short but steep switchbacks, with power lines overhead and rugged mountains in the distance.
Hikers must stay on the trail due to the historical importance of this area.
Hikers must stay on the trail due to the historical importance of this area.
Looking down toward the pump station and El Monte Road. An old pipeline that ascends from the station is visible in this photo.
Looking down toward the pump station and El Monte Road. An old rusty pipeline that ascends from the station is visible in this photo.
Climbing higher. Wear sturdy shoes if you go on this hike. If it's hot, bring plenty of water.
Climbing higher. Wear sturdy shoes if you go on this hike. If it’s hot, bring plenty of water.
I've gained more elevation on the switchbacks. The hillside is dotted with many prickly pears. That's Hanson Pond in the distance.
I’ve gained more elevation on the switchbacks. The hillside is dotted with many prickly pears. That’s Hanson Pond in the distance.
Higher we climb!
Higher we climb!
A fence conceals an old pipeline that ran from the El Monte Pump Station to the flume.
A fence conceals an old pipeline that ran from the El Monte Pump Station to the flume.
Interesting rock outcroppings.
Interesting rock outcroppings.
A beautiful view of the El Monte Valley below.
A beautiful view of the El Monte Valley below.
A better view of Hanson Pond.
A better view of Hanson Pond.
The climb is over. We approach another information sign where the old hillside pipeline terminates.
The climb is over. We approach another information sign where the old hillside pipeline terminates.
An amazing view of rocky mountains across the valley opens up here.
An amazing view of rocky mountains across the valley opens up here.
Sign describes the struggles to supply water. The open flume had troubles with massive leakage due to rot, and evaporation.
Sign describes the struggles to supply water. The open flume had troubles with massive leakage due to rot, and evaporation.
In 1915, a court ordered Ed Fletcher to repair the leaky flume. He lined it cheaply with asphalt roofing material using a rolling tar wagon.
In 1915, a court ordered Ed Fletcher to repair the leaky flume. He lined it cheaply with asphalt roofing material using a rolling tar wagon.
San Diego County Park Ranger shows a section of wooden flume pipe.
San Diego County Park Ranger shows a section of wooden flume pipe.
The open, wooden flume was eventually replaced with covered conduit and pipe. In 1962, the pump station began to send water to the newly created Lake Jennings.
The open, wooden flume was eventually replaced with covered conduit and pipe. In 1962, the pump station began to send water to the newly created Lake Jennings.
A flag flies near the information sign.
A flag flies near the information sign.
The trail continues along the flume's old route.
The trail continues along the flume’s old route.
Turning a corner, with rugged El Cajon Mountain (El Capitan) in the distance.
Turning a corner, with rugged El Cajon Mountain (El Capitan) in the distance.
Some natural beauty by the hiking trail.
Some natural beauty by the hiking trail.
This is mountain lion country. A sign describes what to do should you encounter one.
Entering mountain lion country. A sign describes what to do should you encounter one.
I spot a third information sign down below, at the end of a short path.
I spot another information sign down below, at the end of a short path.
A short distance from the sign is the entrance to the Monte Tunnel.
A short distance from the sign is the entrance to the Monte Tunnel.
The flume needed eight tunnels along its slowly descending route. The Monte Tunnel was the fifth tunnel from the flume's water source, Lake Cuyamaca.
The flume needed eight tunnels along its slowly descending route. The Monte Tunnel was the fifth tunnel from the flume’s original water source, Lake Cuyamaca.
Diagram on the sign shows the dimensions of each tunnel.
Diagram on the sign shows the dimensions of each tunnel.
The tunnel entrances had decorate facades of cut and mortared local granitic boulders.
The tunnel entrances had decorate facades of cut and mortared local granitic boulders.
The bottom 1887 photo shows construction of the seventh tunnel. Part of the eventually outdated tunnel system was destroyed by Navy SEALS for training.
The bottom 1887 photo shows construction of the seventh tunnel. Part of the eventually outdated tunnel system was destroyed by Navy SEALS for training.
The barred Monte Tunnel entrance photographed during my hike.
The barred Monte Tunnel entrance photographed during my hike.
I took this flash photograph into the tunnel. After the flash I heard a curious low noise, like that of an animal.
I took this flash photograph into the tunnel. After the flash I heard a curious low noise, like that of an animal.
A fourth sign can be found nearby, where the Helix Flume Trail connects with the Lake Jennings trail system.
Another information sign can be found nearby, where the Helix Flume Trail connects with the Lake Jennings trail system.
San Diego residents were thrilled at the flume's completion in 1889. There was a parade and a fountain of water. But it wasn't flume water. There was a blockage somewhere up the line!
San Diego residents were thrilled at the flume’s completion in 1889. There was a parade and a fountain of water. But it wasn’t flume water–it was well water! There was a blockage somewhere up the line!
San Diego's historic water flume was considered such an engineering triumph that it was featured on the cover of Scientific American.
San Diego’s historic water flume was considered such an engineering triumph that it was featured on the cover of Scientific American.
Today little remains of the flume. But the natural beauty of this area in San Diego's East County endures.
Today little remains of the flume. But the natural beauty of this area in San Diego’s East County endures.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Photos of Manzanita Mountain Man Rendezvous!

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live as a mountain man? Trekking through the wilderness as a trapper or frontier explorer? Journeying through the untamed American West as a trader, prospector, scout or pioneer?

What would it be like to leave the comforts and routine obligations of a civilized life behind? To go where few had gone before, finding your own way over rugged mountains, across uncharted rivers, living on the land, camping beneath the stars?

Today I learned a little of what that was like. I drove an hour east of San Diego to Northcote Ranch to enjoy the 26th Annual Manzanita High Mountain Rendezvous!

This modern reenactment of an historic Rocky Mountain rendezvous takes place in the beautiful countryside near Lake Morena. It attracts reenactors and visiting history buffs, school students and families from all around the Southwest. Every single participant I met was extremely friendly. They showed me and other visitors around with enthusiasm.

I observed many participants in period costumes camping in canvas tents and tepees across a broad field and among shady trees. Many of the campers create their own leather goods, jewelry and other Old West artifacts.

As I walked about, I listened to frontier music, visited a gunsmith, looked at the wares of different traders, and stepped inside a couple of the largest tepees. On several outdoor ranges I observed people throwing tomahawks, shooting arrows, even shooting authentic black powder muskets. I even enjoyed a good old hamburger and tater tots at The Hungry Dowg restaurant tent!

Other rendezvous activities, which happened to be idle during my visit today, include blacksmithing, candle making and woodworking. There is something intriguing everywhere one turns!

I photographed some of the informative signs, including one that concerns San Diego’s early history–particularly the 1820s to 1840s, when Fur Trade goods were sold to merchant ships that traveled around Cape Horn. Back then a wandering trapper would occasionally come into Old Town. Click those photos and they’ll enlarge for easy reading!

If you’ve never been to a mountain man rendezvous, make sure to put the Manzanita High Mountain Rendezvous on your calendar for next year. Kids absolutely love it.

This fantastic event is open to the general public and admission is free!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Amazing vistas atop Mount Soledad.

This morning I drove to Mount Soledad. A new winter storm is on the way, and the clouds are more dramatic than usual.

Breathtaking vistas open up at the summit of Mount Soledad. Standing beside the cross of Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, I turned slowly about and took it all in.

To the north: La Jolla, Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean. To the northeast: University City. To the east and southeast: the distant foothills and mountains of East County. To the hazy south: tiny downtown, Mission Bay and Point Loma.

In every direction: amazing beauty!

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I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Snow and winter beauty at Cuyamaca.

Early this morning I headed to the mountains east of San Diego. I yearned to see the new snow.

I departed before a crowd of families and kids, eager to sled and throw snowballs, might jump into their cars. It doesn’t snow in a city whose climate is said to be the best in the world. For many San Diego residents a journey to the snow is a rare treat.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a little less than an hour east of downtown San Diego. I drove from Interstate 8 up Highway 79 and lingered in several spots, crunching crackly ice and crisp snow under my shoes. Good thing I dressed warmly!

Here are a few photographs of winter’s beauty in the meadows and mountains of Cuyamaca.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Late autumn’s beauty at Mission Trails.

Winter arrives in less than one week.

Today I enjoyed a late autumn walk in Mission Trails Regional Park, a large open space preserve located in the City of San Diego.

I moved along the Visitor Center Loop Trail, gazing at mountains and trees and fluttering yellow and brown leaves.

The relatively easy 1.5 mile trail follows the San Diego River for a short distance. Just right for a thoughtful little hike through nature’s infinite beauty.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A beautiful walk along Big Laguna Trail.

Stepping from the Penny Pines parking area on Sunrise Highway to the Nobel Canyon trailhead.
Stepping from the Penny Pines parking area on Sunrise Highway to the Nobel Canyon trailhead.

This morning I went on a walk in the Laguna Mountains. The pine-covered Lagunas, about an hour’s drive east of downtown San Diego, reach just over 6000 feet in elevation.

After parking at the Penny Pines area on Sunrise Highway, I began west down the Noble Canyon Trail, then turned south onto Big Laguna Trail.

A morning walk in the mountains is so quiet and beautiful.

Come along with me! In these photos we’ll be heading a couple miles or so to Big Laguna Lake, a temporary body of water that appears in the winter and lingers until summer.

During my walk I saw many broken trees and stumps, victims over the years of bark beetles and periodic wildfires. At first the air was very chilly, but as the sun slowly rose its warmth felt good on my face. I heard plenty of birdsong, knocking woodpeckers, and the soft mountain breeze in branches. I smelled new green grass and the towering pine trees.

My eyes noted many signs of early spring.

Part of a posted Map of Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Big Laguna Lake forms during rainy season in Laguna Meadow.
Part of a posted Map of Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Big Laguna Lake forms during rainy season in Laguna Meadow.
Horses share the path with hikers and mountain bikers.
Horses sometimes share the trail with hikers and mountain bikers.
Many fallen tree limbs and trunks were along the trail. Victims of wildfires, beetles, and violent mountain storms.
Many fallen tree limbs and trunks were along the trail. Victims of wildfires, beetles, and violent mountain storms.
We've turned left onto Big Laguna Trail. Many of the hiking trails on Mount Laguna connect to the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.
We’ve turned left onto Big Laguna Trail. Many of the hiking trails on Mount Laguna connect to the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.
A swinging gate on the trail. Sometimes cattle are herded up in these mountains.
A swinging gate on the trail. Sometimes cattle are herded up in these mountains.
A beautiful early morning. The sun is still low and obscured by clouds and hills.
A beautiful early morning. The sun is still low and obscured by clouds and hills.
I saw a few small flowers along the trail scattered by spring's fingers.
I saw a few small flowers along the trail scattered by spring’s fingers.
Jumbled sawn trunks often appear like abstract works of art.
The jumbled broken trunks often appeared like abstract works of art.
Inner beauty exposed.
Inner beauty exposed.
Wild, delicate beauty.
Wild and delicate.

Moving forward.
Moving forward.
A tale of many seasons.
A tale of many seasons.
Winter's remnant.
Winter’s remnant.
Many elements.
Many elements.
About to enter the edge of Laguna Meadow.
I’m about to enter the edge of Laguna Meadow. Around here a small group of Red-winged Blackbirds were jumping about tree branches and cheerfully talking to each other.

Some collected rain and snowmelt have formed a small green pond.
Some collected rain and snowmelt have formed a small green pond in the meadow.

I spy Big Laguna Lake ahead.
I spy Big Laguna Lake ahead.
Turning my camera to the right, looking backward a bit.
Turning my camera to the right, looking backward a bit.

A friendly mountain biker approaches.
A friendly mountain biker approaches.
Like a silver dream on the mountain.
Like a silver dream on the mountain.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Photos from 14 nature hikes around San Diego.

I didn’t walk yesterday. I gave my legs a rest, watched football, did some work on the computer. I really missed being outside.

While Cool San Diego Sights tends to concentrate on walks in the city, I’ve taken quite a few photographs while journeying through or near natural beauty. My hikes are generally easy. Their central purpose is stimulate the mind and senses.

Here are photos from 14 nature hikes all around San Diego. Click the following links to discover trails of wonder near and far. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to see what’s out there.

Every walk in one’s life can open unexpected vistas. Natural beauty and adventure await in every direction…

A hike from Kumeyaay Lake to the Old Mission Dam.

A hike down to the grinding rocks at Mission Trails.

Beautiful San Diego hiking trail welcomes wheelchairs.

Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Photos of a nature walk in Tijuana River Estuary.

Photos from a short hike through Sweetwater Marsh.

Nature and history on a walk in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.

A walk along rocks south of the OB Pier.

An amazing walk from Point La Jolla to Cuvier Park.

A short hike along Lake Poway Trail.

Beautiful photos of sunrise on Mount Laguna.

Flowers along a trail into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

Hiking Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Beach Trail.

Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Guy Fleming Trail.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of fun stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.