Drive an hour or so east of San Diego and you find yourself in the middle of the Laguna Mountains, a range of peaks around 6,000 feet tall that divide San Diego County's populated western side from the vast, mostly empty desert to the east.
We spent Saturday hiking an easy trail on Mount Laguna (el. 5,975) with great panoramic views of distant ranges, the Anza Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea, a large saltwater lake lying 235 feet below sea level.
Though snow is possible this time of year in the area, we didn't see any. The temperature peaked in the low 60s.
We didn't see much wildlife either, only a flock of what looked to be road runners that scurried across our trail about 30 yards ahead of us and disappeared in the brush.
On our way back to San Diego we circled Lake Cuyamaca, a popular fishing area sitting at the foot of Stonewall Mountain. The entire area was scorched in October 2003 by wildfires that burned across much of the county and came within seven miles of Rex's house in San Diego's urban core.
More than two years later, many people in communities off Interstate 8 east of the city still live in trailers (just like the ones popping up in New Orleans' flood zone) as they slowly rebuild their homes. And miles upon miles of charred, dead trees still stand as grim reminders of the destructive forces of nature.