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Palomar Mountain

Sooner or later you'll start missing the seasons. Winter, summer, spring, fall. New arrivals talk of nothing else. But fear not! Just north of Lake Henshaw stands a 5000-foot-high chunk of rock that somehow got misplaced from the northwest. Mount Palomar brought with it an ecosystem that makes its uplands feel like a different country. Up where S6 meets S7, and the general store and Mother's Kitchen form the nucleus of the "village," ask about state-park forest walks. Forests of fir, cedar, oak, pine intersperse with natural meadows. Watch for deer, bobcats, a couple of black bear who live up there. Even the people are different. They're rugged, quirky, don't think much of us "flatlanders." Half the oaks were planted by Kumeyaay 1000 years ago to harvest the acorns for food. You'll find morteros where they ground dips into rocks to grind acorn kernels into paste. Some of their ancient trees are alive: one 1000-year-old measures nearly 35 feet around its trunk. But beware those seasons you long for. Snow can come as early as October. If in doubt, call on Jeff Morningstar in Mother's Kitchen, (760) 742-4233. He knows the wrinkles. And if you manage to camp up there, you'll see why the scientists chose Palomar to build their observatories. The stars are bright and close.

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