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Visit Palomar's Love Valley during the peak of its vernal splendor.

After a wet winter, the shallow ponds in Love Valley hold the shimmering, upside-down image of a classic California landscape: a weathered barn nestled at the far end of an Ireland-colored meadow, rounded foothills studded with oaks, and perhaps white cumulus clouds billowing over the dark, conifer-draped Palomar crest. By perhaps early May this year, the shallow ponds in the valley bottom will have nearly evaporated, leaving in their wake a colorful display of yellow tidy tips and other short-lived wildflowers.

Love Valley is a little-known day-use destination near the foot of Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest. The starting point is easy to find, mile 3.3 on East Grade Road (3.3 miles north of Highway 76). Park in the large turnout on the south side of the road, walk around the locked vehicle gate, and continue over a low rise on the dirt road ahead.

As you descend, watch for three kinds of oak trees -- black, coast, and Engelmann oaks. The 3600-foot elevation here is a bit too low for coniferous trees. As you curve south, Lake Henshaw comes into view, tucked into a corner of the large Valle de San Jose -- which is a down-dropped basin along the Elsinore Fault. Gazing beyond the lake, you can discern where this fault passes through a gap in the mountains beyond. Out of range of your sight, the fault continues past Julian, descends Banner Grade, and strikes southeast into the Anza-Borrego Desert.

When you reach the edge of Love Valley at 0.8 mile, you can walk straight to the old barn (which, upon closer inspection, is made of unromantic and rusty corrugated metal), or veer left toward the ephemeral ponds on the valley floor. If you want to have a picnic lunch, choose a spot on the open meadow or beneath one of the spreading oaks. There are no facilities such as trash cans out there, so be sure to pack out whatever you pack in.

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After a wet winter, the shallow ponds in Love Valley hold the shimmering, upside-down image of a classic California landscape: a weathered barn nestled at the far end of an Ireland-colored meadow, rounded foothills studded with oaks, and perhaps white cumulus clouds billowing over the dark, conifer-draped Palomar crest. By perhaps early May this year, the shallow ponds in the valley bottom will have nearly evaporated, leaving in their wake a colorful display of yellow tidy tips and other short-lived wildflowers.

Love Valley is a little-known day-use destination near the foot of Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest. The starting point is easy to find, mile 3.3 on East Grade Road (3.3 miles north of Highway 76). Park in the large turnout on the south side of the road, walk around the locked vehicle gate, and continue over a low rise on the dirt road ahead.

As you descend, watch for three kinds of oak trees -- black, coast, and Engelmann oaks. The 3600-foot elevation here is a bit too low for coniferous trees. As you curve south, Lake Henshaw comes into view, tucked into a corner of the large Valle de San Jose -- which is a down-dropped basin along the Elsinore Fault. Gazing beyond the lake, you can discern where this fault passes through a gap in the mountains beyond. Out of range of your sight, the fault continues past Julian, descends Banner Grade, and strikes southeast into the Anza-Borrego Desert.

When you reach the edge of Love Valley at 0.8 mile, you can walk straight to the old barn (which, upon closer inspection, is made of unromantic and rusty corrugated metal), or veer left toward the ephemeral ponds on the valley floor. If you want to have a picnic lunch, choose a spot on the open meadow or beneath one of the spreading oaks. There are no facilities such as trash cans out there, so be sure to pack out whatever you pack in.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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