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Best Reader stories from 2017

Spruce Street, Balboa Park trees, OB and Gaslamp night scenes, grunion, Fitzgerald, Border Angels, Trail Angels, Pendleton for kids, San Diego Zoo's bonobos, Los Coyotes deaths

Leonard Duguay’s car was found on a remote road near Warner Springs. Duguay was never found. - Image by H.G. Reza
Leonard Duguay’s car was found on a remote road near Warner Springs. Duguay was never found.
  • Spruce Street suspension bridge brings out demented thoughts

  • It’s early, the marine layer still a veneer over the city, when we park the car just shy of the suspension bridge. The day promises to be hot but, at this hour, the sun hasn’t gained full expression. It remains a suggestion of itself, arcing somewhere low and behind us. Jayde is dressed like an eight-year-old wholly unaccustomed to hiking. It’s my urban failing, and arrears are still owed to the campfire gods for Jayde’s lack of trailhead savvy.
  • By Thom Hofman, Nov. 29, 2017
Spruce Street suspension bridge. “You almost kissed Mommy here.”
  • The top ten trees of Balboa Park

  • If the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, the dark green pine needles at the top will catch the light and sparkle. These evergreen trees are native to the Canary Islands of Spain and have a fissured red-brown bark that looks almost like puzzle pieces. They are huge and awe-inspiring.
  • By Elizabeth Salaam, Nov. 22, 2017
The Guanche people of the Canary Islands used the dragon tree’s sap to mummify their dead.
  • Ocean Beach — seven blocks surrounded by reality

  • Brandon Brodes offers praise for the area in the kind of language and metaphor one doesn’t often find outside the neighborhood. “People here aren’t attacking the moment, they’re living in it. They live in the moment, not in the pictures. It’s happiness, the place you want to be.”
  • By Joe Miravalle, Sept. 6, 2017
Sunshine Company. "Ocean Beach is a magical place where anything can happen and you can be anyone."
  • Redbeard ministers to the Sweetwater homeless jungle

  • I once saw Redbeard riding his skateboard along Otay Lakes Road. It was close to midnight, there were only a few cars on the road, and the light from the streetlamps was dim. As he snaked his way down the slope, hands in his pocket, moving toward the Sweetwater Valley —where he sleeps against the wall of the Circle K, or holds his signs along the 805 exit for spare change or spreads the good news to the people of the jungle — I thought of a verse he once shared with me.
  • By Jonah Valdez, Aug. 23, 2017
To avoid the consequences of testing positive for meth, Redbeard fled the Constellation and went AWOL.
  • Border Angels takes water out to Jacumba area for migrants

  • A small crowd gathers in the courtyard outside the Border Angels headquarters located at the Sherman Heights Community Center on Island Avenue four blocks south of State Route 94 and five blocks east of Interstate 5. All 60 volunteer slots and ten wait-list spots were filled four days prior for today’s desert water drop. Filling spots was once difficult, but not since Donald Trump was elected.
  • By Siobhan Braun, Aug. 16, 2017
My eyes constantly scan the landscape for shade.
  • Camp Pendleton: A hell of a place to grow up

  • We were nearing the end of a late-afternoon soccer practice, trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of scrimmage time before the sun set when coach blew his whistle. The long, shrill tweet stopped the action and brought all of us dutiful 11-year-olds to silence, so we could hear a familiar pulsing sound approach.
  • By Ian Anderson, Aug. 2, 2017
We lived on Pendleton in the neighborhood called San Luis Rey Housing. We called it the 17 Area.
  • It's 9:30 p.m., and San Diego's Gaslamp crackles with anticipation

  • They’re all attractive young women dressed in Daisy Dukes and crop-tops or something similar. They dispense free-entry stamps to passersby in hope of getting a head start on becoming the “it” bar of the night. The storefronts are stacked with a series of hostesses greeting pedestrians in quick succession, giving the gauntlet-running pedestrian a sensation akin to celebrity.
  • By Joseph Miravalle, July 19, 2017
Omnia. “This looks fake. I’m keeping this. You can either leave now or we’ll call the cops.”
  • How Navy culture may have caused the Fitzgerald disaster

  • It is a big ocean. Until you’ve been far into it, it’s really hard to appreciate how big it is. Bringing a ship back from Japan to Hawaii, I once went ten days without seeing another ship, either by eye or radar. That’s a long time to be utterly alone in the world, especially if you’re moving in a straight line and at good speed. On the other hand, I think you’d be surprised at how crowded the ocean can get in certain places.
  • By Kevin Eyer, July 12, 2017
Fitzgerald. There is pressure to qualify officers for the deck watch, because not to qualify a young officer is a death warrant for that officer.
  • I'm in a rush. It's Ocean Beach. The grunion are running.

  • It was only a few years ago when I added the ritual observation of this seasonal phenomenon to my panoply of pagan rituals. I had just established California residency as a maverick OBcean on Saratoga-at-Abbott. A fish biologist by training, I was thrilled to be able to visit the sea so easily.
  • By Noah J.D. DesRosiers, July 5, 2017
To find the fish so easily had me giggling, grinning, and frolicking like a madman.
  • Trail angels: From Campo to Canada on foot

  • North Park, well before the sun is up, Texaspoo and Grams are waiting intently out in front of some small row houses. Texaspoo shows a four-day beard and wears running gear. Grams is rigged out in quick-dry greenish walking shorts, boots with fancy blue coverlets, and layers. Prescription glasses. Both are lean as greyhounds. Texaspoo polishes off a smoke, claims the Jeep’s front seat and immediately goes to texting.
  • By Dave Good, June 14, 2017
Patrick Seibt — trail name Texaspoo — hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. He’s also completed the Appalachian and Continental Divide trails for a total of 7900 miles.
  • San Diego Zoo's rare bonobos

  • In late April of 1960, the San Diego Zoo’s curator of mammals, George Pournelle, traveled to one of the most inaccessible parts of the African rainforest on a collecting expedition. His goal was to acquire a female okapi or two. The Belgian government had given the zoo a male okapi a few years later, but to get a mate for “Bayaku” required Pournelle to travel to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Congo, then take a boat for more than 1000 miles up the Congo River.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, June 7, 2017
Liz Sauer and Kalli. “When the regulars find out you are passionate about bonobos, they’re, like, ‘Oh, welcome! We get you!’”
  • Canyon of death

  • Duguay did not know Cecil Knutson and neither had ties to the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation near Warner Springs in San Diego County. But each Orange County man ended up at the reservation and took a compact car on the same rocky, mountain trail that led to their misfortune.
  • By H.G. Reza, April 26, 2017
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Leonard Duguay’s car was found on a remote road near Warner Springs. Duguay was never found. - Image by H.G. Reza
Leonard Duguay’s car was found on a remote road near Warner Springs. Duguay was never found.
  • Spruce Street suspension bridge brings out demented thoughts

  • It’s early, the marine layer still a veneer over the city, when we park the car just shy of the suspension bridge. The day promises to be hot but, at this hour, the sun hasn’t gained full expression. It remains a suggestion of itself, arcing somewhere low and behind us. Jayde is dressed like an eight-year-old wholly unaccustomed to hiking. It’s my urban failing, and arrears are still owed to the campfire gods for Jayde’s lack of trailhead savvy.
  • By Thom Hofman, Nov. 29, 2017
Spruce Street suspension bridge. “You almost kissed Mommy here.”
  • The top ten trees of Balboa Park

  • If the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, the dark green pine needles at the top will catch the light and sparkle. These evergreen trees are native to the Canary Islands of Spain and have a fissured red-brown bark that looks almost like puzzle pieces. They are huge and awe-inspiring.
  • By Elizabeth Salaam, Nov. 22, 2017
The Guanche people of the Canary Islands used the dragon tree’s sap to mummify their dead.
  • Ocean Beach — seven blocks surrounded by reality

  • Brandon Brodes offers praise for the area in the kind of language and metaphor one doesn’t often find outside the neighborhood. “People here aren’t attacking the moment, they’re living in it. They live in the moment, not in the pictures. It’s happiness, the place you want to be.”
  • By Joe Miravalle, Sept. 6, 2017
Sunshine Company. "Ocean Beach is a magical place where anything can happen and you can be anyone."
  • Redbeard ministers to the Sweetwater homeless jungle

  • I once saw Redbeard riding his skateboard along Otay Lakes Road. It was close to midnight, there were only a few cars on the road, and the light from the streetlamps was dim. As he snaked his way down the slope, hands in his pocket, moving toward the Sweetwater Valley —where he sleeps against the wall of the Circle K, or holds his signs along the 805 exit for spare change or spreads the good news to the people of the jungle — I thought of a verse he once shared with me.
  • By Jonah Valdez, Aug. 23, 2017
To avoid the consequences of testing positive for meth, Redbeard fled the Constellation and went AWOL.
  • Border Angels takes water out to Jacumba area for migrants

  • A small crowd gathers in the courtyard outside the Border Angels headquarters located at the Sherman Heights Community Center on Island Avenue four blocks south of State Route 94 and five blocks east of Interstate 5. All 60 volunteer slots and ten wait-list spots were filled four days prior for today’s desert water drop. Filling spots was once difficult, but not since Donald Trump was elected.
  • By Siobhan Braun, Aug. 16, 2017
My eyes constantly scan the landscape for shade.
  • Camp Pendleton: A hell of a place to grow up

  • We were nearing the end of a late-afternoon soccer practice, trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of scrimmage time before the sun set when coach blew his whistle. The long, shrill tweet stopped the action and brought all of us dutiful 11-year-olds to silence, so we could hear a familiar pulsing sound approach.
  • By Ian Anderson, Aug. 2, 2017
We lived on Pendleton in the neighborhood called San Luis Rey Housing. We called it the 17 Area.
  • It's 9:30 p.m., and San Diego's Gaslamp crackles with anticipation

  • They’re all attractive young women dressed in Daisy Dukes and crop-tops or something similar. They dispense free-entry stamps to passersby in hope of getting a head start on becoming the “it” bar of the night. The storefronts are stacked with a series of hostesses greeting pedestrians in quick succession, giving the gauntlet-running pedestrian a sensation akin to celebrity.
  • By Joseph Miravalle, July 19, 2017
Omnia. “This looks fake. I’m keeping this. You can either leave now or we’ll call the cops.”
  • How Navy culture may have caused the Fitzgerald disaster

  • It is a big ocean. Until you’ve been far into it, it’s really hard to appreciate how big it is. Bringing a ship back from Japan to Hawaii, I once went ten days without seeing another ship, either by eye or radar. That’s a long time to be utterly alone in the world, especially if you’re moving in a straight line and at good speed. On the other hand, I think you’d be surprised at how crowded the ocean can get in certain places.
  • By Kevin Eyer, July 12, 2017
Fitzgerald. There is pressure to qualify officers for the deck watch, because not to qualify a young officer is a death warrant for that officer.
  • I'm in a rush. It's Ocean Beach. The grunion are running.

  • It was only a few years ago when I added the ritual observation of this seasonal phenomenon to my panoply of pagan rituals. I had just established California residency as a maverick OBcean on Saratoga-at-Abbott. A fish biologist by training, I was thrilled to be able to visit the sea so easily.
  • By Noah J.D. DesRosiers, July 5, 2017
To find the fish so easily had me giggling, grinning, and frolicking like a madman.
  • Trail angels: From Campo to Canada on foot

  • North Park, well before the sun is up, Texaspoo and Grams are waiting intently out in front of some small row houses. Texaspoo shows a four-day beard and wears running gear. Grams is rigged out in quick-dry greenish walking shorts, boots with fancy blue coverlets, and layers. Prescription glasses. Both are lean as greyhounds. Texaspoo polishes off a smoke, claims the Jeep’s front seat and immediately goes to texting.
  • By Dave Good, June 14, 2017
Patrick Seibt — trail name Texaspoo — hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. He’s also completed the Appalachian and Continental Divide trails for a total of 7900 miles.
  • San Diego Zoo's rare bonobos

  • In late April of 1960, the San Diego Zoo’s curator of mammals, George Pournelle, traveled to one of the most inaccessible parts of the African rainforest on a collecting expedition. His goal was to acquire a female okapi or two. The Belgian government had given the zoo a male okapi a few years later, but to get a mate for “Bayaku” required Pournelle to travel to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Congo, then take a boat for more than 1000 miles up the Congo River.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, June 7, 2017
Liz Sauer and Kalli. “When the regulars find out you are passionate about bonobos, they’re, like, ‘Oh, welcome! We get you!’”
  • Canyon of death

  • Duguay did not know Cecil Knutson and neither had ties to the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation near Warner Springs in San Diego County. But each Orange County man ended up at the reservation and took a compact car on the same rocky, mountain trail that led to their misfortune.
  • By H.G. Reza, April 26, 2017
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