Thursday, January 22 – Aguanga, CA

For the record, it’s pronounced, “ah-Wong-gah”, which, in the local Indian dialect apparently means “dog-place.”
Happily, the rain held off with just a few spritzes during the night. But it is quite cold this morning – around freezing and quite damp. The humidity is frighteningly high compared to what we’ve experienced ever since Dodge City back in Kansas and four months ago. Very chilling even with a serape to help.
Back in 1847, at least one of the Battalion had thrown away even his blanket to save weight. He recounted that he would wake up in the night and have to “rub and roll” himself to stay warm. I’m not going to reenact that particular journal entry.
As soon as Denny arrives with the yellow truck, we pack things away and trade for Jerry’s Suburban with the toilet trailer. Peter and I leap-frog hike through the valley courtesy of the Vista Water District which owns the land now. The staff was most helpful and encouraging towards our little project.
Remember the “Battle of the Cows” back in Iowa? See blog entry for July 8 if you don’t. It seems our reputation has somehow been telepathically communicated from herd to herd all across the Southwest. Denny was surrounded by a herd in New Mexico back on September 25 (I didn’t write about THAT one in the blog), and today we are beset by the herd here at Warners.
Peter dropped the vehicle and started hiking. By the time I arrived at the truck a few minutes later, it was swarmed with bovines that did not look happy. They were on the other side of a gate, so I climbed up and “shoo-ed” them from a respectable distance. They were not impressed and continued to mill around the truck. In fact, I could see that they were mauling the truck. That was distressing because of how much Jerry loves his Suburban. So, I climbed across the fence, started waving my hat and making “cowboy noises” like I knew what I was doing. Happily, cows aren’t able to distinguish bluff from substance and casually moved off away from the vehicles.
Yech! Bovine nostril and oral slime – all OVER the Suburban. The cows licked and boogered the windows, mirrors, doors and tires of Jerry’s truck. He is NOT going to be happy about this. Me? I just plain grossed out. Told you - I’m a city kid.
And on that happy note, Denny took up the driving responsibility. Kurt Castro and Don Smith from the ranch and Vista WD caught up with us and we shared our respective histories.
Warner’s was the keyhole entrance into southern California. Historically, there were a couple Spanish/Mexican land grants that nearly everyone passed through into the area. Hiking through the valley, you can see why. It’s the confluence of three routes. The hot springs are here. It’s lush and wet. The land is greener here than we’ve seen since eastern Kansas. The mountains that surround the area seem to protect it.
The oak trees along our route have dropped their long, thin acorns. Historically the Luiseno Indians made into an acorn mush they called “wee-wish.” Perhaps it was such a meal that healed Levi Hancock of his “gravely bowel complaint” back in 1847.
Returning to highway 79, we proceed northwest towards Temecula valley, passing the old stagecoach station at Oak Grove along the Butterfield stage route that came through here in the 1850’s. Off to our left is Mount Palomar Observatory, home of the 200-inch Hale Telescope and a bunch of smaller ‘scopes. We can see the protective white domes in the sunlight. I’ve loved that place ever since fifth grade when I read its story. Another juxtaposition of time-space and history for me.
The old trail seems to cut both left and right of the highway and isn’t very apparent for most of the day. But every once in awhile, a stretch appears that just “looks right.” Dr. Anne Miller is a local historian who is researching the early survey maps for the area trying to determine where the trail is located. Anne has been very helpful and will be important to our passage through the next 40 miles or so.
Our evening is spent as the guest of Mary Halley and the Rancho California RV Park. The Park is part of the Outdoor RV Parks of America chain. Anne Miller joins us in the evening for a presentation at the community center. About twenty folks show up and we have a good time sharing the Battalion story. The Park was wonderful to us and it is a beautiful community for folks who live the RV lifestyle. Manager Brian Boersma graciously provided for all our needs and took good care of us. We are most appreciative of the kindness shown to us.

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