Mount Palomar
11 November 2007

I was in San Diego to present at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, and to attend an electroencephalography workshop and to meet with some collaborators. My friend Martin and I had been itching to cycle up Mount Palomar — a trip for which we hadn't had time when last I was out there nearly two years ago.

So I cycled down Rose Canyon to Martin's place in Clairemont,

we loaded up the bicycles,

and drove out the 15 through the recently burnt areas around Poway.

The ascent took about an hour and twenty minutes (for me, Martin was faster — he's a good sprinter whereas my forte is all-day rides), through barren landscapes covered with powdery ash and smelling of burnt timber. Though almost everything around them had burnt in the Poomacha fire, most of the houses were intact — a testament to the firefighters' efforts. The ones that were gone, though, were gone entirely, reduced to twisted heaps of rusting metal. Even the road signs had melted. Near the base of the mountain we kept being passed by stunt riders on crotch-rockets, but by the time we got to the summit the traffic had thinned to cyclists and real motorcycles.

At the summit was a general store, where I caught up with Martin who'd arrived about twenty minutes earlier. The fire had been stopped just below the summit; the scoured and blackened landscape reminded me of what I'd seen at Verdon a couple of years ago, after the fires in France. We stopped for a few minutes before cruising back down. I got out my thermal gear; it was only when I stopped moving that I noticed that we'd dropped about 7° C (12° F) on the way up. The descent took about twenty minutes — less for Martin since he's more daring than I on the switchbacks.

I wasn't at all tired when I arrived at the top. Unfortunately we were on a tight schedule this time; next time it would be fun to ride more of the distance to and from the mountain — perhaps from Escondido or thereabouts. I'd also like to take time to visit the observatory.