Quantcast
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

The main Cowles Mountain trail, perhaps the most popular hiking route in San Diego County, offers an annually recurring "solstice" event.

Winter solstice this year occurs during late afternoon on Thursday, December 21. Earlier that morning (and on the morning of the following day), at about 6:50 a.m., a predictable event will unfold on the south shoulder of Cowles Mountain. If you know exactly where to stand, the rising sun will clear a distant ridge and appear to be briefly bifurcated into two brilliant points of light.

According to local archeologists and anthropologists, today's visitors at solstice time are repeating a ritual that dates back centuries. Prior to about 200 years ago, Kumeyaay Indians kept a vigil on Cowles Mountain during the shortest days of the year. They watched day after day as the rising position of the sun drifted farther south along the horizon, apparently stopped its drift for a day or two, then finally drifted north. The precise day (or perhaps two days) marking the solstice (the word means "sun stands still") could be determined by any observer watching successive sunrises from the same precise spot. That particular spot on Cowles Mountain once held a circular array of stones crossed by an "arrow" of rocks pointing to the winter-solstice sunrise direction. Observers standing there -- centuries ago and today -- see the rising sun's upper rim briefly split into two halves by a distant boulder pile sticking up from a far-off ridge.

A 30- or 40-minute walk in brightening dawn will get you to the solstice site. The shortest route happens to be the main Cowles Mountain trail originating at Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive in San Diego's San Carlos district. This popular trail zigzags a rocky 1.4 miles to the top of the mountain. The solstice side path, 0.9 mile up the trail, branches right at a sharp leftward bend in the main trail. If you miss that turnoff and reach the intersection of a trail to Barker Way, then you've gone a little too far.

The side path leads to a small flat on the main, south-trending, plunging ridge of the mountain. Plan to arrive on either December 21 or 22 at no later than about 6:40 a.m. Some ten minutes later, the sun's upper rim will pop up over a distant ridge, its golden image initially split in two. Within a few seconds, the dual image fuses into one brilliant point of light. Guides from Mission Trails Regional Park or from the San Diego Natural History Museum will likely be on site to help with the identification of the "sweet spot" that allows the best view of the rising sun -- weather permitting, of course. If clouds sour the view, then there's always next year to look forward to.

Once the sun has risen, you might continue your hike up-slope on the main trail another half mile to the Cowles Mountain summit, where on clear days the view stretches across nearly all of metropolitan San Diego. If the day is crystalline clear, look for the Coronado Islands off Mexico, and dusky profiles of Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands rising from the flat, blue ocean horizon.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Chalk talk for Chief David Nisleit

Protestors call for the resignation of Nisleit and the officers involved in the July 9 shooting of Richard Price

Winter solstice this year occurs during late afternoon on Thursday, December 21. Earlier that morning (and on the morning of the following day), at about 6:50 a.m., a predictable event will unfold on the south shoulder of Cowles Mountain. If you know exactly where to stand, the rising sun will clear a distant ridge and appear to be briefly bifurcated into two brilliant points of light.

According to local archeologists and anthropologists, today's visitors at solstice time are repeating a ritual that dates back centuries. Prior to about 200 years ago, Kumeyaay Indians kept a vigil on Cowles Mountain during the shortest days of the year. They watched day after day as the rising position of the sun drifted farther south along the horizon, apparently stopped its drift for a day or two, then finally drifted north. The precise day (or perhaps two days) marking the solstice (the word means "sun stands still") could be determined by any observer watching successive sunrises from the same precise spot. That particular spot on Cowles Mountain once held a circular array of stones crossed by an "arrow" of rocks pointing to the winter-solstice sunrise direction. Observers standing there -- centuries ago and today -- see the rising sun's upper rim briefly split into two halves by a distant boulder pile sticking up from a far-off ridge.

A 30- or 40-minute walk in brightening dawn will get you to the solstice site. The shortest route happens to be the main Cowles Mountain trail originating at Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive in San Diego's San Carlos district. This popular trail zigzags a rocky 1.4 miles to the top of the mountain. The solstice side path, 0.9 mile up the trail, branches right at a sharp leftward bend in the main trail. If you miss that turnoff and reach the intersection of a trail to Barker Way, then you've gone a little too far.

The side path leads to a small flat on the main, south-trending, plunging ridge of the mountain. Plan to arrive on either December 21 or 22 at no later than about 6:40 a.m. Some ten minutes later, the sun's upper rim will pop up over a distant ridge, its golden image initially split in two. Within a few seconds, the dual image fuses into one brilliant point of light. Guides from Mission Trails Regional Park or from the San Diego Natural History Museum will likely be on site to help with the identification of the "sweet spot" that allows the best view of the rising sun -- weather permitting, of course. If clouds sour the view, then there's always next year to look forward to.

Once the sun has risen, you might continue your hike up-slope on the main trail another half mile to the Cowles Mountain summit, where on clear days the view stretches across nearly all of metropolitan San Diego. If the day is crystalline clear, look for the Coronado Islands off Mexico, and dusky profiles of Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands rising from the flat, blue ocean horizon.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Who stole your iPod, FM94's Mike Esparza, Hell's Angels, our Russian yacht, Seaworld sharks, why they leave San Diego

San Diego Reader stories with most clicks
Next Article

The evolution of Belle and the Dragon’s “Trees” video

And a lust for the perfect vegan taco
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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
Close