Matt Potter 4:30 p.m., Dec. 6
Cross-Country Skiing, Christmas Berry, and Tree Aloes
Cross-Country Skiers are in for a short-lived treat late this month through February. As the clouds are clearing, you may be able to take advantage of good skiing conditions along Highway 79 through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and along Sunrise Highway through the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. More limited opportunities for cross-country skiing may briefly exist on Palomar Mountain. Farther north in Southern California and higher in elevation, the forested crests of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains offer more dependably good snow conditions.
Toyon, or "Christmas-berry," one of the more distinctive shrubs of Southern California's native chaparral plant community, are now flaunting clusters of bright red berries. In coastal San Diego, toyon can be found wherever large patches of native vegetation survive, but especially in the thick chaparral covering some north-facing slopes. Toyon branches may look inviting to cut as a Christmas wreath -- but they're protected by California state law.
Tree Aloes, the familiar succulent plants with red-hot-poker-like flower clusters, are at their showy best in January. Large clumps of aloes can be seen at La Jolla Cove, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and scattered along the embankments overlooking Highway 163 in Balboa Park.