In the Valley

Fascinating things in TRVEA and in this Valley !

TRVEA Logo(Always look at Topics ->Newsletters for very fresh information.)

Rough country’s rewards. A hiking tour of the Tijuana River Valley

April 9, 2015, Spooners Mesa, by Marty Graham in the San Diego Reader

There should be a sign, I say to myself every time I park at the end of Monument Road to go hike the Tijuana River Valley. Like the “welcome to our habitat” signs for rattlesnakes and the mountain lions and on the beach where endangered birds breed. But this sign should say: “You are entering a border enforcement area.”  You will encounter Border Patrol agents. But no one will put that sign up. So, an awful lot of people come hiking here once and leave a little perturbed or insulted that a cop stopped and asked them where they were coming from or where they were going to. Which is sad, because their presence here is why this Alice in Wonderland mix of endangered habitat, wildlife, trash, astonishing views, and rare plants and animals is a good place to go hiking. It’s safe and really interesting.

The county will be finishing up the first official trails to the two high mesas in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, Spooner’s, and the eastern one that goes by names including East Smugglers, Valley View, and Monument Mesa, per the parks. They’re urban trails in rough country that, when you get up high and look north, will knock you out with views of the valley and the cities beyond. But you are also less than a quarter of a mile from Tijuana, from a fence that tries to define the difference between nations. For more of this fascinating hiking tour across Spooners’ Mesa with photographs, click here Spooners Mesa Hiking by Marty Graham April 9, 2015 … .


What’s the Story on the “Horse Bridge” Across Smugglers Channel?

January 31, 2015, Smugglers Gulch: One of the questions heard most often is about the origin and name of the culvert-style bridge across Smugglers Channel, just south of Brennan’s Bypass Trail. Carolyn Powers was key in making this bridge. She said that equestrians and farmers long understood the need for an alternate crossing, especially during heavy rain when the channel had flowing water and flooded Monument Road where Smugglers Gulch crosses Monument Rd. The Border Patrol needed another crossing during these weather events. So Carolyn, an equestrian activist, and Doc Doolittle, Station Chief for the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, met with Frank Belock, City Flood Task Force Director. Under the guise that work on the South Bay Outfall stops during every rain event because construction crews cannot get to their work area at the beach, Carolyn, Doc, and Frank worked with the Border Patrol to engineer the crossing, and passed it in City Council with a $10K funding amount. The City built the bridge circa 1997. Carolyn had always called it simply “The Horse Bridge.” It was engineered for horses and pickup trucks to cross the flowing Smugglers Channel. This author’s apologies for any name misspellings, and notes the information is anecdotal.


Mountain Lion / Cougar Track Spotted

Effie May Crossing, March 27, 2011: Ray Fornario wrote to TRVEA to pass along the information that Border Patrol spotted this track.

In Ray’s own words: “I wanted to know if you are aware of the mountain lion tracks in the park. Border Patrol found them down at Effie May last Sunday morning. I saw the border patrol and they told me and pointed them out. I took pictures with my cellphone and forwarded them to Fish and Game which confirmed them. Backtracking , it was apparent that it came down the river bottom, walked around by the Butterfly Garden and then went back across the river crossing. There were also cougar prints by the nursery south of Wigginton’s. Fish and Game has also set traps out on the north side of the river so people that ride with their dogs need to leave them home. The traps are set for strays but now they are hoping to maybe catch the cougar. I think it is just passing through and will probably head back to the Otays from where it probably came. Tracks are about 5 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches long.”

TRVEA was unable to get any further confirmation or sightings, but we think it’s best to spread the word so that you can be aware of the fascinating and wonderful animals that cross our lives here, and make your trail plans accordingly!


Equestrian Facility in the Valley

June 4, 2009: TRV:A committee of valley equestrians formed to design the layout of the new county park located at the corner of Hollister and Sunset. It is envisioned as a complete arena-sports facility to support the entire San Diego region in professional equestrian sports, but also as accessible to small and amateur groups for any arena practice and use. Select these two document to view our submission to County Parks. Watch for annoucements of public meetings when the county displays the latest concepts and planning. Concept Drawing for TRV Equestrian Facility; TRV Equestrian Facility Intent and Concept Ideas.


Horse Camp

June 27, 2008, Tijuana River Valley: For the first time ever, TRVEA hosted a horse camp for children; June 23-27, from 3:30 to 6:00 PM each day.  Each of the young ”campers” and their companion horses worked on a variety of skills with different trainers.  Days one and two were spent at Rancho Los Amigos learning equitation skills, trail and ranch skills, and advanced equine carewith volunteers Lori Riis and Katie Shipley.  Campers journeyed east to Wigginton Ranch on days three and four to work with trainer Carly Potter, further refining equitation skills and playing many fun gameson horseback. On day five, the lucky campers headed south to Martha Torkington’s ranch called The Stable Place where they enjoyed a wonderful afternoon playing with miniature horses while building team skills. The summer camp ended at Wigginton Ranch with a sunset BBQ for all campers and their families.  Watch for TRVEA to sponsor children “camps” in the future.  (Photos by Brittany Barnard – click to enlarge)

Horse Campers Summer 2008 Can your horse do this? Advanced horse care Summer Camp 2008 Team Building with miniature companions Summer Camp 2008 Games and Fun Summer Camp 2008 Much harder than it looks Summer Camp 2008


Western Day

May 3, 2008, Wigginton Ranch, Western Days: TRVEA hosted a Western Day charity event for a large group of special kids and their families from Vista Square Chula Vista Elementary School.  A team of beautiful Belgium draft horses provided old fashioned wagon rides. Middle and high school students supervised crafts, face painting, horseback riding, a special horse show for the students and their families; all culminating with a western BBQ.  This annual event was created by Mary Christensen, and manned by TRVEA members.

Hayride - photo by P Hugill Awesome Cowboys - photos by P Hugill Western Day Fun for Everyone - photo by P Hugill A cowgirl writes about her Western Cowboy Days ...
(click to enlarge)


US Humane Society Features TRVEA and Local TRV People


Animal Sheltering Magazine, Mar – Apr 2008, Humane Society of the United States: The HSUS featured a story on the October 2007 firestorm in San Diego. There are interviews with TRVEA representatives and our local valley horsemen. Alexandra Kleinkopf wrote this story from the east coast after interviews around the nation. Read here …  Into the Fire by Alexandra Kleinkopf of the United States Humane Society, Mar – Apr 2008


Yogurt Canyon — Revealed!

April 8, 2008, Yogurt Canyon, BFSP: Yogurt Canyon is flooded again–how many times have you heard that? Like most of us, didn’t you wonder at the origin of that odd name–Yogurt Canyon–located east adjacent to Monument Mesa at Border Field State Park? No one seems to know! Finally, Doug Cruger, a Bonita Trails rider, might have solved the mystery. Doug worked in Tijuana for their newspapers for many years, and said there is a famous Tijuana spot, El Yogurt Place, located next to the old bullring, perched over the canyon at Monument Mesa. Likely, this is the origin of that name. Well, what do you think?

(Update: July 1, 2008:Park Superintendant Clay Philips met with Tijuana City Managers in June and determined the leak is from a sewer main that was identified. The Tijuana City Managers agreed to repair it within two weeks. Yogurt Canyon should be dry by now.)

El Yogurt Place (the round building), Monument Mesa, BFSP, photo by D Cruger Apr '08
(click to enlarge)


Why Are There So Many Abandoned Bicycles in The Valley?

Illegal Immigrants Use Bicycles to Pedal Into the USA March 3, 2008: Through some of even the most remote trails, you often come across abandoned bicycles. They are single and sometimes bunched in groups of fifteen! Illegals started using this method about a year ago to evade the Border Patrol. They drop their bikes over the border fence, hop over and make a high speed run downhill into the valley. The speed is a great advantage over walking, but more importantly, the wheels don’t set off the impact and sound detectors used by law enforcement. Often these illegal pedalers use helmets and other gear to blend into the normal use of the trails. Once they near their particular destination trail, they dismount and proceed on foot. County Ranger Asbu will collect the abandoned bicycles wherever possible and aggregate them for shipment to Donovan Correctional Facility where prisoners restore the bicycles. The bicycles are then donated to needy children. Be aware of your horse’s response to ridden and abandoned bicycles when on the trails.


The TRVEA Logo — An Interview with Mary Johnson, the Artist

January 16, 2008: Have you ever wondered how artists create truly awesome designs? Then read this fascinating interview of Mary Johnson, on how she discovered the concept and drew the incredible new logo for TRVEA. (The interview was conducted on December 7, 2007.)

1. How did you come to design the TRVEA logo?

At the December 2006 general meeting, it was mentioned that TRVEA needed a logo to use on its stationery, etc.; whoever had any ideas or wanted to help should contact Mary Christensen.   I hadn’t been active in TRVEA, but I wanted to contribute something to the organization and I like to  draw horses so I volunteered to sketch some ideas.

2. What considerations did you feel were essential to the TRVEA logo?

A logo is a graphic emmissary of the organization it represents.  With symbols, pictures or stylized lettering, it creates an image in the mind of the observer of what the organization is about.  Its a  graphic shorthand.  I wanted something simple and strong, yet picturesque, that would portray what is special about our equestrian organization in the unique valley we inhabit;  a logo that would illustrate TRVEA’s byline: “Horses in Harmony with Habitat.”

To start out, I had to choose between an empahsis on letters or an emphasis on pictures.  Ford and IBM use recognizable, sylized letters as logos.   Toyota and Hyundai use abstracted letters as the company symbol.   This direction did not seem right to me for TRVEA because would convey little about us to anyone who did not know us;  it didn’t have ‘heart.’

Foremost, we are an Equestrian organization!  We are in the Tijuana River Valley.   What could be unique about our logo to differentiate us from “Bonita Valley,” “Lakeside” or any other equestrian group?  What would catch the eye of educators and politicians and scientists and the general public that would make them notice and remember us?  What would celebrate something our members could relate to and be proud of?  What would convey our mission of standing for horses in harmony with habitat?

Above all, the logo needed to include a horse because we are an equestrian organization!    Since I don’t draw people well, drawing a person on the horse’s back did not excite me as an artist!  Plus there is the tricky consideration of whether that person would be male/female/adult/child/Western/English/MAU/Vaquero or what?  I absolutely didn’t want the sterile circle-on-stickbody-with-no-neck-no-hands used on some street signs!   For all these reasons, I decided to focus on the horse, shared by all of us as equestrians, rather than trying to portray humans in our logo.

The instructions were to try and convey the spirit of TRVEA’s byline:  “Horses in Harmony with Habitat:”  TRVEA, supports the presence of horses in the Valley and  stands for horses being in harmony with the habitat.  We do this because it is the moral high ground.   We realize that the various forces that have moved horses out of most of San Diego County may well attempt to move them out of our Tijuana River Valley unless we stand for our horses and our show our equestrian selves to be good, valuable, harmonious, contributing members of this special place.

3. Did you eliminate any earlier ideas as design started? How many iterations did you sketch before you felt you found the right feel, content, and look?

The creative process is exploratory, fun, frustrating and often messy.  I played with a lot of ideas.

At first, I tried to cram everything in:   There was a horse, and a Heron in a meadow looking at each other over a creek with hills and sunrise in the background in a 3 sided frame with “horses” “harmony” and “habitat” spelled out around it.   Sweet picture, and the message was clear, but it lacked “punch” and missed our valley’s unique and vital connection to the sea.  It would be a nice ranch sign.

So I radically simplified the idea down to an abstracted bit of wood fence in the form of an “H” .  The H represented  horse, harmony,  habitat.   I used a Japanese brush style for the lines to honor historic TRV Japanese farms.   A Mexican Jay perched on the upright post.  Mmmmm, all sorts of wider cultural and natural nuances.   The little number “3” (meaning ‘cubed’) was raised to one side of the “H” gate as shortand for horses/habitat/humanity….Voila, a very simple design, but totally obscure and waaaay too abstract!  It would always need explaining and I’d LOST the HORSE!

Back to the drawing board.

Knowing the logo was needed for stationery, I tried to visualize the whole piece of paper.    I played with a background of partly greyed-out maps of the valley trails  with little horses and riders going along them.  TRVEA spelled out across the top in attractive typestyle.   Interesting idea, but not a logo.

Next , still with the logo/stationery idea,  I tried an empty  ‘scroll’ approach, leaving the center space for messages.  In the margins I drew a mini rendition of our habitat’s outstanding features:   the cresting waves (with dolphins),  the river (with fish),  the marsh (with egrets), the trails (with riders and horses),  and so on.    Most people we correspond with  have little to no idea where/what the Tijuana River Valley is so I figured this would give us a sense of place.  Still not a logo.

I doodled a few other ideas that went nowhere.  Nothing strong enough, nothing catchy.  Just nice horsey pictures.   I was getting frustrated. I should mention that I tend to always have too many projects going at once and I hadn’t worked on this logo consistently soon enough or long enough to get my head and heart around it completely.  The deadline by which I’d promised to give the Board some preliminary ideas was alarmingly near.

To lighten up, I sketched something silly and fun:  an anthropomorphic rendition of a horse wearing a fancy sombrero, sitting and strumming a guitar at a campfire party with native wildlife all around:  dancing lizards, a fish chorus, rabbits roasting marshmallows, etc.  It was a totally wild and crazy scene with musical notes wafting across it and TRVEA’s initials on the drum set played by a Great Blue Heron.  Maybe you’ll see it on aT-shirt one of these years.  It was certainly no logo, but it was fun and that somehow helped clear my head.

So I got serious and I got simple and I got silent and I connected with my heart and my guts on what I’ve found special in the TRV about horses, harmony and habitat.

HORSES:  I came to the TRV because I was looking for a ranch that would allow me to board my Rocky Mountain stallion, who is a very good natured fellow, but a stallion nonetheless.  I found a welcoming home for him and my mares at Suncoast. So I drew my stallion who brought me to the TRV!  With his chisled, classic head, strong body, and wavy mane he is an excellent model!  I kept his form circular and compact, and only portrayed the head, neck and chest to keep it simple.   I had the ‘HORSE’ !

HABITAT:  I love that our Valley has trails that lead to the beach and the ocean!   I remembered the day I rode with friends on the beach and we saw a school of DOLPHINs playing in the ocean.    In one moment, 3 dolphins surfed side by side through a cresting wave with the sunlight illuminating them!  That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.  Although it happened in a flash,  it is burned into my memory better than if I’d had a camera. So I drew a dolphin leaping alongside my stallion.  Dolphins represent our ocean and have great public appeal, too.

Now  I needed something to represent the marsh, the sky, the river, something to connect all of this together, make it ‘work.’  I didn’t have much space left if this logo wasn’t going to look like the overblown T-shirt design!

I remembered a day when I’d seen a Great Blue Heron standing in the Thoroughbred mares’ pasture at Suncoast.  Not knowing much about birds, I thought perhaps he was displaced by the storms (my husband said they come inland during rough weather) or the polluted river (likely, but ultimately not the issue here).   Anyway, I was feeling sorry for that bird and mildly guilty about all us humans/horses displacing the native fauna, etc.   I really had quite a story going in my head about this poor bird’s situation!  Next day, the ol’ Heron was back in the pasture again, standing stock still for the longest time, just as he had the day before.   I went on with my horse care.  Suddenly there was a flurry out in the pasture and I turned to see the Heron rising on powerful wings with a fat gopher dangling from his beak by its back leg. Oh my!  Heron gets meal and digging varmint who damages plants and precious horses’ legs is eliminated at the same time!  The whole cycle was so much more positive than my dire first imaginings!  Here was an example that horse-keeping could be in harmony with habitat.  So, between the bulk of the horse and the solid body of the dolphin, I inserted the slender form of the Heron.

HARMONY:  I feel very strongly that we need to create horse and human spaces that are harmonious with the wider land, air and sea around us.   The pressures of society pushing horses farther out and away from ever-expanding cities does not bode well for the future of our beloved creatures.  I grew up in Chula Vista when it was still partly farmed.  On at least on one nearby farm, a horse named Diamond pulled Mr. Avery’s plow through the rich dirt of the tomato fields.   That entire farm has long since become apartments and parking lots, as has most of coastal Southern California.   The TRV is one of the last vestiges of our earlier history with horses and one of the last places where native creatures can thrive,  if we clean it up sufficiently for them to do so.

As equestrians, we celebrate the historical importance of the horse.  As horse lovers we understand the importance of the human-horse dialog in our increasingly urban and mechanical world.

For harmony in the graphics, I faced the 3 creatures in the same direction as if they were leaping together, just their forequarters and heads showing.  I wanted to convey power, unity and grace.  The mane of the horse swirls like an ocean current.  For printing reasons, the slender bird between the horse and dolphin is white (Snowy Egret or White Heron similar to a Great Blue Heron) because the logo will sometimes be printed black/grey/white;  the bird separates the horse and dolphin, both larger, darker shapes.

4. Once you settled on the final idea, what new challenges did you face?

At that point, my biggest constraint was that I was running out of time before the Board meeting and I was in LA, sitting with a friend at Kaiser’s outpatient skin cancer treatment center.  I was sketching on typing paper on a book on my lap when I came up with the ultimate idea of horse/bird/dolphin.  I got a pretty good rendition, but I couldn’t remember exactly how to draw a dolphin’s snout.   My friend, also an artist, wasn’t sure either.  In LA, like in NY, you can find virtually everything you need it is said.  I looked in all the magazines.  Nothing.  So I said, out loud:  “Does anyone here know how to draw a dolphin?” Sure enough, sharing the waiting room with us was a Hollywood set designer who just happened to have worked on things involving dolphins.  She was intrigued and graciously sketched in the little indentation of the forehead/nose that made it look like a true dolphin afterall.  Others in the waiting room were taking interest in the project and wanted to know about TRVEA.  It was a welcome diversion from the reason most of them were there and I was glad for their thoughts. too!   For a little time there, we had real community spirit and sharing (and my friend’s cancer was successfully treated)…I like to think TRVEA will always bring people together wherever we take it!

I called Mary Christensen and told her I’d meet her in Chula Vista at 4 and, blessedly, the traffic out of LA cooperated!  That night she took all the sketches to the Board meeting where they were roundly discussed over pizza (nice symmetry).  The horse/bird/dolphin was the unanimous logo favorite,  but there will be uses for the other ideas, too.  Ideas are never wasted:  they are just paths or byways to other ideas and always good to have.

6.  When finished, did the final design come out as you first envisioned not only the message, but the content and actual artwork?

Once the Board settled on the design, I took the pencil drawing to Harden (James) Miers who is a veritable genius at converting pencil drawings into computer compatible graphics.  Because everything nowadays is done digitally, it is important to set up the artwork so that it will translate into a wide variety of applications and ‘read’ well in all of them from the digital format.  Hardy was true to the character of my sketch, even leaving some expression in the eyes which is not always easy to do when things are simplified.  He added a bit of a wave curl that enhances the ocean feel and flow.  I’m happy with the result which is not always the case when original art is translated into electronic format graphics.

I look forward to seeing TRVEA’s new logo in all sorts of applications.  I hope the logo and these background stories will inspire other members to share their experiences in theTRV and, of course, get more involved in TRVEA!