Over the years I’ve had several friends who’ve lived along Mussey Grade in Ramona. When I was a boy, I can recall fishing trips with my dad to Lake San Vicente. We would drive down this road to where the road disappeared into the deep water of the lake and park, before renting a boat to explore the lake. It was obvious the road pre-existed the lake. In fact, I’ve learned this road was the main route to Ramona until the 1940s. Stage Coaches drove this road and used it until they were replaced with mechanized travel, but when construction was completed on the San Vicente Dam in 1943, the road was closed for good.
Nowadays I only get to this valley if I’m visiting friends or I’m chasing birds. I once was invited to a friend’s house above the old village of Fernbrook, who wanted me to photograph a hawk nesting on his property. The hawk turned out to be Red-Shouldered Hawk with large, still downy young. I found myself a perch up-slope, with a suitable angle to the nest, close enough for marginal, though back-lit images, yet distant enough not to inhibit the comings-and-goings of the parents. I recall a garter snake being brought in while I was watching.
During the hawk shoot I could not help notice the wealth of passerine birds in the yard. Canyon Wrens especially caught my attention. Months later I was given permission from the landowner to explore his property, and on this day I roamed several acres up-slope from his yard. Not having to worry about disturbing nesting hawks this day, I was able to put my back to the sun and get better quality images.
Creatures I met this day were Granite Spiny Lizard, Oak Titmouse, Red-tailed Hawk, California Thrasher, Bewick’s Wren, Canyon Wren.