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Stories by Steve Sorensen

Reader's Steve Sorensen publishes new book, A Branch of the Sky

And how he came to write San Diego feature stories

Editor: Steve Sorensen, who wrote for the Reader from 1976 off and on through 1997, has come out with a new book, A Branch of the Sky: Fifty Years of Adventure, Tragedy, and Restoration in ...

Baja California Sur – like Leucadia of the ’70s

Please don't tell anyone that old surfers end up here

Not long after the New Year, my friend and neighbor here in Zacatitos, Marilyn Z, sent me an email saying that, at 81 years of age, she had lost her battle with cancer and had ...

Five San Diego micro-publishers: Chubasco, Gene Kira, OldCastle, Blue Dove, In One Ear

Dreamy, creative, and shrewd

Chris Ahrens lives in the kind of house any surfer would love. It’s on the hill above Cardiff, with a view of one of the best reef breaks in San Diego county. Wet suits are ...

The Rusty Preisendorfer story is a San Diego story

A shirt for a surf hero

Five-thirty on a workday evening, the traffic is backed up stoplight to stoplight on Miramar Road, and 805 is choked from Chula Vista to Del Mar. At a shaded business park on Commerce Avenue, the ...

Don't pitch your tent on San Clemente Island

It's the Navy's paradise, not yours

“We went over to Santa Catalina Island and trapped eight goats, fit them with radio telemetry collars. Because goats are gregarious and tend to congregate together whenever possible, the Judas goats led us to the remnant herds.”

Range runners harvest scrap explosives in Chocolate Mountain target area.

Heaven sent

“There are four or five dealers in Imperial County who buy scrap off the range, and none of us has been harassed by the law. But the range runners have really been harassed.”

Seeds and advice dispensed on Carlsbad Avenue

Customers file in one at a time

“What’s the right time to plant celery?” “What’s the best thing to control whiteflies?" "Which beet is the best for making borscht’” "How do you get rid of gophers too smart to trap?"

A Jewish doctor, wife, and nine kids run San Onofre's oddest surf camp

Camp Awesome

The small ad in the back of Surfer magazine has a simple, irresistible appeal: "The Paskokwitz 7-Day Surfari. An experience that will last a lifetime." For young beach rats, aching to get away from mom ...

100 hot meals a day to Pala, Pauma, La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Indian reservations

The meal man

Foster, a Shawnee Indian originally from Oklahoma, has been delivering about 100 hot meals a day to homebound elderly people on the Pala, Pauma, La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Indian reservations.

Every San Diego hitchhiker has a story of his favorite ride

If you have to thumb a ride, you have to tell a story

The smartest hitchhiker I heard about was a guy who hitched carrying his belongings in a gas can with the bottom cut out. Drivers who will never pick up a hitchhiker will stop for a motorist out of gas.

San Diego's game wardens are watching you

If you are fishing or hunting

One by one, the men went around to all the traps and stole the lobsters that were inside. Foley watched the hoop netters until two in the morning, then she met them at the Shelter Island ramp.

The highs and lows of the SD&IV

Railroad to nowhere

Flfty years ago, railroad companies liked to give a away free calendars to encourage passengers to travel on their lines. On the cover of the calendars there was usually a picture of some dramatic western ...

The Kumeyaay celebration of winter solstice

Pictographs at Viejas Mountain, Cowles Mountain, La Rumorosa

The Christmas decorations came to Balboa Park the second week in November this year. Curious people couldn’t help but stop and stare at the strange sight of plastic reindeer dragging Santa’s sleigh toward the organ ...

The Imperial Valley as modern Dust Bowl

Those who work the land don't own the land.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-Americans were put in relocation camps, and their farms fell to pieces. "Local people went out to their farms, tore down their homes, hauled the materials back, and built homes for themselves,

Mike Doyle and Catalina, David Eggers and Gotcha, Chris Gage and Beach Towne, Pat Daly and Picante, Corky Carroll and Lite Beer

Sponsorship more important than surfing?

The commercialization of surfing started out innocently enough. The way ex-world-champion surfer Mike Doyle recalls it, it began in the summer of 1966, with the Catalina Swimwear promo tour. Before the mid-Sixties, Catalina Swimwear had ...

San Diego County has more endangered species than any other place in America

Up by the roots

Today, the largest populations of San Diego mesa mint are found on Miramar Naval Air Station. “Driving by there on 1-15 on a warm day in April, you can smell a pleasant, minty aroma,”

Henry Rodriguez, La Jolla Indian elder, goes back up Palomar Mountain.

And fights for Luiseno rights to San Luis Rey River water

It was through Henry’s persuasion that the La Jolla reservation built the campground and water slide below Palomar Mountain, on the San Luis Rey River. Those popular improvements now provide income for the reservation

Slab City and its neighborhoods: Poverty Flats, Niland Heights, Little Canada, Slab City Singles, and Drop Seven and Drop Eight

Hot place in the sun

One young, enterprising resident, recognizing the lack of trash disposal services in Slab City, painted a sign on the side of his trailer: ‘‘Trash Hauling — Big Sack 50 cents — Small Sack 35 cents.”

Three days along the San Dieguito River

From Volcan Mountain to the Del Mar racetrack

In the next three days, I learned that the San Dieguito River drainage is a kind of graveyard for dead automobiles. They litter the river’s canyons like dinosaur bones. That V-12 was simply the first.

With the flow at San Diego's Twelfth Avenue plasma center

Blood brothers

Before the cashier would give him his money, she put a drop of indelible ink on one of his fingernails, to make sure he wouldn't be back later in the day trying to donate under a different name.

Navy bombs Chocolate Mountains – Reader sends first journalist to visit

The place to come to get your big deer

The northern, more rugged sector of the Chocolates that is owned by the navy. It is probably the most beautiful area of the range, but unfortunately it is also the most heavily bombed, by far.

San Diegans remember their days in the Civilian Conservation Corps

The way we worked

""At Pine Valley, the guy who owned the store put up a wooden dance floor with lights, and on the weekends all the gals would come up from Imperial Valley, 'cause it was so hot down there.”

Jerry Balistreri is a model recycler, but don't say that to Adams Ave. neighbors

Will San Diego fisherman's son get a landfill contract?

“Right now the landfills charge twenty-seven cents to dump a tire, because they're bulky, they don’t decompose, and they keep coming back to life — they keep floating up to the surface. So tires are a big pain."

Confessions of an avid eavesdropper —from Oceanside to downtown Greyhound station

So I've heard

I was intrigued by one woman who kept saying to her fussy two-year-old child, “If you don’t shut up, I’m gonna bust you one, little girl.” She said it with as much affection as anger.

San Diego's he-man Jerry Schad – the rougher it gets, the better he likes it

Life on the crest

I made my bed in the lee of a stout little juniper, but Schad, fond of wind and rain and discomfort,made his on the crest. Then we huddled together to cook noodles and tuna, with a Kahlúa chaser.

Eden Gardens grows hot

The other side of Solana Beach

"When I was a kid growing up here, during the war years, Eden Gardens was little more than a place to contain Mexican farm workers,” Frank Renteria said, folding his hands on his desk and ...

The king of Moonlight Beach

And the other outcasts of Encinitas

Anyone not familiar with the curious habits of Louis Ortiz might mistake this rasty-looking character rooting through the fire pit at Moonlight State Beach for just another beach wino out on his dawn patrol, rummaging ...

The wild horses of Coyote Creek

Abandoned years ago in the rugged Anza-Borrego, the elusive horses have made it their home.

Apparently the horse thieves drive as far as they can down the rough dirt roads south of Anza, then ride into Coyote Creek on horseback. “They go in and rope the young foals.”

The RV show in Del Mar - what's not to like?

Heaven on wheels

I was sitting in the captain’s chair of a big thirty-four-foot Executive, surrounded by all the plush comfort's due a man of significant corporate weight: rich burgundy carpets, vinyl-walnut cabinets, and dramatic scarlet curtains. In ...

Why bike lanes in San Diego are not the answer

Ten-speed terror

Until January of 1984, Kathleen O'Brien had been thinking she had a very good chance of making the U.S. Olympic cycling team. Though she had only been a competitive cyclist for a couple of years, ...

San Diego's prosperity gurus – Judith Larkin, Sami Sunsong, Terry Cole-Whittaker

Our new-age community takes a turn for the purse

It’s amazing how quickly new-age fads come and go. The fire-walking rage burned itself out in less than a year. Flotation tanks, those sensory-deprivation aids to meditation, can be found lying belly up at garage ...

San Diego's houseplant industry had to change

Coastal North County was the center

“When I first came to Encinitas, in 1975, every street in Encinitas had its own greenhouse. And every greenhouse had a family with its own story — the Andersons, the Weidners, the Eckes. And every greenhouse had its own clientele."

Canon Tajo — as large and impressive as Half Dome

Like wind through the canyon

“What I don't understand is how people can be so cruel to each other.” this big, kind, brokenhearted cowboy was saying. Just two days ago, he had walked into a restaurant in Phoenix and ordered ...

Bury my bait at Bombay Beach

Between catastrophe and the Salton Sea lies a truly strange little town

According to the department of fish and game, the catch of one-and-one-half fish per angler hour in the Salton Sea was much higher than any other non-stocked fishery in the state, marine or freshwater.

Coach Wayne Branstetter pushes his Poway wrestlers to the limit

On the mat

“If we had this Poway team back in Iowa,” Branstetter lamented, “the local paper would be covering our matches move by move. Here in San Diego, hardly anybody notices.”

Women drug and alcohol abusers recover at Lakeside's Kiva house

Anne's story

From the outside, the Kiva house looks like a magazine portrait of the tidy, all-American dream home. It sits on a two-acre lot on the outskirts of Lakeside and has a broad view of the ...

Bring back the grizzly bear to San Diego

Unblinking examination of this near-mythic ursine icon.

Not long ago the state of California failed to take advantage of an opportunity it may not have again until after the next ice age: the chance to reintroduce grizzly bears to this overcivilized and ...

Bobby Riggs, the legendary tennis hustler, has a hundred bucks that says he can beat you. Somehow.

Great Top Spin Never Stops

The legs may be long gone, but at 67, the tennis trickster can still outhustle the best of 'em.

Forty Miles of Bad Road: In search of the authentic El Camino Real

From Mission San Diego to Mission San Luis Rey - on foot

The modern-day El Camino Real picks up about a half-mile to the west, climbs the bluff, and continues across Encinitas Boulevard to La Costa. But a more obvious route lay directly ahead, along Rancho Santa Fe Road.

The spectacle of Encinitas' Moonlight Beach

Where the myth meets the sea

A kid on a skateboard weaves his way down the asphalt trail, swinging the cast on his forearm in front of him like a club, twisting and contorting his body in pursuit of some mystical kinesthetic release.

Sant Ysabel Indian leader Steve Ponchetti leaves the earth

Opposed Pamo dam, pushed use of Ipai language

Over the years he had acquired a lawyer's knowledge of Indian law. At his home he kept a copy of the Santa Ysabel patent, written in long-hand and signed by Benjamin Harrison in 1893.

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