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Published May 23, 2002

At least a dozen Native American villages existed in the Cuyamaca Mountains until about a century and a half ago. These were the mountain villages or summer camps of the Kumeyaay tribe, who divided their time between the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains and the present Anza-Borrego Desert. Some of the same habitation sites are occupied by present-day camping or picnicking sites, and near those areas you can often find on slabs or large boulders of granite clusters of morteros, or mortar holes, used for the milling of acorns and other seeds. Some of Cuyamaca's village sites are a little more isolated, reachable only by trail. One such place, marked by a large cluster of morteros, lies a short distance from Paso Picacho Campground by way of a short section of the West Side Trail. Pine- and oak-shaded Paso Picacho, at elevation 4870 feet, is one of the two large camping areas within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, 12 miles north of Interstate 8 via Highway 79.

The morteros are only a few minutes' walk away. From the fire station outside the campground entrance, walk uphill on the paved (but closed to vehicle traffic) fire road leading toward the summit of Cuyamaca Peak. Beyond the gate that blocks vehicle traffic on the fire road, a sign marks the beginning of the West Side Trail -- a trail roughly paralleling Highway 79. You can also reach the start of the West Side Trail from the back (south side) of the campground. After about 0.2 mile on the West Side Trail, you emerge from the forest cover and skirt the north edge of a meadow. Look for a complex of about 30 morteros near the trail. There are others nearby.

With a modest leap of imagination, it's not too difficult to picture a typical scene on a summer's day 200 years ago: Indian women grinding acorn meal, children squalling nearby, the men off hunting small game, or perhaps fashioning stone tools or arrowheads. Collectors long ago carried off any small artifacts left behind, but the well-worn pits in the granite remain as reminders of an epoch that ended only a few generations ago.

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At least a dozen Native American villages existed in the Cuyamaca Mountains until about a century and a half ago. These were the mountain villages or summer camps of the Kumeyaay tribe, who divided their time between the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains and the present Anza-Borrego Desert. Some of the same habitation sites are occupied by present-day camping or picnicking sites, and near those areas you can often find on slabs or large boulders of granite clusters of morteros, or mortar holes, used for the milling of acorns and other seeds. Some of Cuyamaca's village sites are a little more isolated, reachable only by trail. One such place, marked by a large cluster of morteros, lies a short distance from Paso Picacho Campground by way of a short section of the West Side Trail. Pine- and oak-shaded Paso Picacho, at elevation 4870 feet, is one of the two large camping areas within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, 12 miles north of Interstate 8 via Highway 79.

The morteros are only a few minutes' walk away. From the fire station outside the campground entrance, walk uphill on the paved (but closed to vehicle traffic) fire road leading toward the summit of Cuyamaca Peak. Beyond the gate that blocks vehicle traffic on the fire road, a sign marks the beginning of the West Side Trail -- a trail roughly paralleling Highway 79. You can also reach the start of the West Side Trail from the back (south side) of the campground. After about 0.2 mile on the West Side Trail, you emerge from the forest cover and skirt the north edge of a meadow. Look for a complex of about 30 morteros near the trail. There are others nearby.

With a modest leap of imagination, it's not too difficult to picture a typical scene on a summer's day 200 years ago: Indian women grinding acorn meal, children squalling nearby, the men off hunting small game, or perhaps fashioning stone tools or arrowheads. Collectors long ago carried off any small artifacts left behind, but the well-worn pits in the granite remain as reminders of an epoch that ended only a few generations ago.

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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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