After having spent the past seven days in the San Diego area, I can safely say that I do not want to leave. On Thursday Ellie flew out and joined me here, and my conference ended. My vacation finally began!

Ellie and Alex on a pier on Lake Cuyamaca. It was super super windy and wavey!

We woke up reasonably early on Friday morning, as we had to pack up to move hotels. Ellie had some last-minute work to do before she could relax, so we headed out to the lobby where there was a wireless connection. This actually would later turn out to cause one of the defining moments of the trip, as it inadvertently caused us to run into another fellow conference goer, Alex from Australia. I had met him a couple of evenings before when we chatted about our feelings on the state of the industry, as well as our opinions on how the conference was going.

As it turned out, Alex invited us to join him on an adventure into the California countryside. He wanted to see the area outside of the city, and was told that there was an area east of the city that would most likely provide us with some good trails that were fairly close by. Honestly, at first I was a little nervous because the idea of joining a complete stranger on a mountainous hike seemed like an obviously bad decision, but Ellie was pretty excited about it so off we went. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made in a long time.We headed up into an area east known as Cleveland National Park, but due to a series of random occurrences including an amusing stop at an indian reservation / casino / help desk, we were pointed to continue up to little mining town known as Julian, through Cuyamanca Rancho State Park. The reason this was

Yeah! Conserve those fresh water fish guts!

particularly amazing was that the trip up to this location showed first hand a couple of things: The amazing geological features of California, and the powerful destructiveness that is humanity. The first point, California has amazingly rocky and hilly features that were extremely awesome to see. The second, we drove through an area devastated by a man-made forest fire. After talking with a local shop keeper, we found out that  back in 2003 the area was set ablaze by a drunk hunters flare gun, in which around 25 people died to one of the most destructive forest fires in California history. Insane.

On a lighter note, one important thing that I also wanted to take the time to shout out was that the town of Julian takes immense pride in their Apple Pies, so naturally we had to take the time to stop and try them. Coming from Upstate New York, which in my opinion is the Apple growing capital of the world, I can safely say they make some pretty good apple pie.

Overall, the experience with Alex out in the California countryside was immensely rewarding and I am thoroughly happy we took the chance to just explore and have fun. It was one of those life moments that Ellie and I will always remember and I'm grateful to have that opportunity.

I literally stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this sign.