Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 12
The chaparral, the tangled assortment of low-growing, drought-resistant, native shrubs covering much of San Diego County's lower mountain slopes, has managed to remain fairly attractive this summer. Unlike many of the scrubby natives near the coast, chaparral plants tend to hang on to their leaves year round. This month, the coppery, sun-burnished remnants of last spring's flower clusters are still clinging to the tips of buckwheat and chamise plants, and a few wildflowers have popped up here and there in response to recent thunderstorm activity over the mountains. To enjoy the beauty of the chaparral landscape, explore the hillsides above Lake Morena and along Lyons Valley, Japatul, and Boulder Creek roads in East County. Or head inland from Escondido toward Ramona or Valley Center. Most of these areas have been swept by one wildfire or another over the past few years, but the native vegetation is gradually returning.