Book Review: The Cuyamacas: The Story of San Diego’s High Country

Before I moved to San Diego, I had visited the charming little town of Julian and heard that it was a mining town. I had also visited Lake Cuyamaca and enjoyed the area. Once I moved here and started hiking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, I was curious about where some of the names came from. I then purchased San Diego County Place Names, A To Z, by Leland Fetzer and really enjoyed reading the short descriptions of the places I was hiking.

Recently I saw his book The Cuyamacas: The Story of San Diego’s High Country and had to pick it up.

I wasn’t disappointed. Starting from the Kumeyaay Nation, to the Spanish Colonists and to the American Settlers from the east, this book really goes in depth at how the Cuyamaca Mountains fall into the history of the area and how their natural resources were both exploited and loved throughout the years.

Inlcuded are old photographs, old plat maps and descriptions of how and why certain areas were named, such as Airplane Ridge and Stonewall Peak. It is a great read, although, at points, it gets a little cumbersome, as Fetzer’s tremendous research bogs down the pace a little at points. The books covers the history of the area through the era of the Cedar Fire of 2003.

The only weaknesses of the book are the sheer number of people detailed (as I mentioned above, which can also be a strength, depending how you look at it), and the lack of maps that truly illustrate the various historical routes through the Cuyamacas that he describes.

When reading in bed, I would sometimes pop open the map on my cell phone or have my Cuyamaca Rancho SP Trail Map open up to follow along. Sometimes I would be at my desk with Google Earth open. But place names have changed, so it was, at times, difficult to keep track of where Fetzer was indicating.

After every chapter, however, I wanted to go back to Cuyamaca and roam around, with a new perspective. I recommend it.

Hiking Santa Barbara, San Diego, and beyond, one peak at a time. I encourage people to get outside, promote stewardship of the outdoors, and engage people in the spirit of the wilderness. Feel free to reach out to me with questions.

Comments

  1. I read that last summer, it was part of the reason I decided to volunteer up there. You’re right, it is a little hard to follow all the names, and changed place names, but I’ve found myself going back to it to when I hear or read other stories of the area. It’s interesting though, and I’m sure the place-names book backs it up, how some of those names, of wild-eyed entrepreneurs, are the common place names of San Diego now. A good read for anyone who wants to understand how San Diego became San Diego.

Leave a Reply