As the sun rose in the east, the neighbor’s heavy-laden avocado tree glowed pink with new light. The palm trees gently shook their fronds as the temperature began its morning rise, eventually reaching a pleasant 65 degrees. But we weren’t preparing to stay and enjoy the weather. We had a picnic to pack and chains to buy – tire chains. Late morning we hopped on the highway, medians overflowing with blooming wildflowers. Calling en-route, we discovered most stores were sold out of chains. But, several miles inland, in a hilly community surrounded by indigenous chaparral, a store held their last set for us. And we were off.
Our ears popped as palm trees gave way to pine. Every ten minutes the temperature dropped 5 degrees. Within 30 minutes, patches of snow appeared beside the road. Cars began to pull over on the interstate, eager to offload passengers who couldn’t wait for a legal turn-off to throw the first snowball. We exited the highway and joined a line of cars, slowing making our way to the heights of the Laguna Mountain range, whose highest point stands at over six thousand feet. Tires enchained, sleds ready, bedecked with layers of snow gear, we found our spot at a campground and spent hours sledding and playing in the sun.
I recalled a few months earlier, when relatives in the same county gave us oranges from their orchard. And a few weeks after that when we drove by a camel farm. And just three months ago when we spent several days in a valley filled with vineyards and olive groves. And a year ago, when instead of turning north off Interstate 8 toward the snow we descended into the desert valley and camped by an oasis.
It – San Diego county and surrounds – keeps taking me back to Morocco. These regions, on the western slopes of continents in the northern hemisphere, are too strikingly similar. The globe holds my answer. Geography matters.
The wine growing regions of northern Baja, bordering San Diego county, and the heights of the Laguna range cover nearly identical latitudes of central Morocco, the region we explored. Climate, weather patterns, vegetation – they’re all related. About thirty-two to thirty-four degrees latitude is the sweet spot, 120 miles south to north, where I discover continent disorientation. It’s a pleasant disorientation, because in all reality, I could live in Morocco just as joyfully as San Diego county.