We saw lots of variation between two main types of plant life. There were some areas that had much healthier, older looking trees surrounded by bushes and reasonably tightly packed. The others had lighter plant life, both in color and density. The trees looked younger and a little less healthy like there had been a fire recently.
Looking at Global Forest Watch once we were back home, we could see that there had indeed been a recent fire in the area, designated by the pink on the map. We were also accurate in our assessment of the density of the vegetation, as it was clearly denser in certain places. There was also some blue on the map, indicating that the forest was beginning to grow back in the areas that had burned.
The sources I read also seemed to confirm our theories and what was shown on Global Forest Watch. The Cleveland National Forest website has a news section, which contained sections about recent fires. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Julian area suffers from frequent fires because it is so dry and the land has little time to recover between fires, so they are more dangerous. NBC San Diego had an article that was about the 2014 fires in Julian and Ramona, which were described as having been in and near a part of the Cleveland forest, around where we were.