Sunrise at Balboa Park’s Desert Garden.

This morning I spent a few minutes in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden, enjoying a beautiful sunrise.

I had hoped to take photos of new snow on the mountains east of San Diego, but they were too distant for my small camera. What I did discover as I walked down one path was completely unexpected, and indescribably powerful…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Native garden near Old Town San Diego’s McCoy House.

Photo of historic McCoy House in Old Town San Diego from the Native Garden. Today's garden is located in a spot once close to the San Diego River, before it was diverted to the north, through Mission Valley.
Photo of historic McCoy House in Old Town San Diego from the Native Garden. Today’s garden is located in a spot that was once very close to the San Diego River, before the river was diverted to the north, through Mission Valley.

A small, ragged but beautiful native garden can be found in the northwest corner of San Diego’s Old Town, next to the McCoy House Museum. The Native Plant Garden contains vegetation which grows naturally along the rivers of our semi-arid region.

Long before Europeans arrived in Southern California, the Native American Kumeyaay lived where Old Town was eventually established; the Kumeyaay village at the base of Presidio Hill was called KOSA’AAY, or Cosoy. Many of the plants in the garden were used by the Kumeyaay people in everyday life.

Read the photo captions to learn much more. Click the garden plans and the two signs, and those images will expand providing additional information!

Plans of the Native Plant Garden in Old Town State Historic Park. Included are species used by the Native American Kumeyaay for food, shelter and medicine. Their village Cosoy was located here.
Plans of the Native Plant Garden in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Included are species used by the Native American Kumeyaay for food, shelter and medicine. Their village Cosoy was located here.
Looking northwest from the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego. The Native Garden is a bit dry and scraggly--but that's how local vegetation naturally appears.
Looking northwest from the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego. The Native Garden beyond the fence is a bit dry and scraggly–but that’s how local vegetation naturally appears.
150 years ago the San Diego River flowed nearby, bringing explorers, settlers, boats and traders to Old Town. California native trees and shrubs have been planted that once grew along the riverbank.
150 years ago the San Diego River flowed nearby, bringing explorers, settlers, boats and traders to Old Town. California native trees and shrubs have been planted that once grew along the riverbank.
Dirt paths meander through the small Native Garden at the northwest corner of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Dirt walking paths meander through the small Native Garden at the northwest corner of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Yarrow was used by the Kumeyaay as a treatment for various medical conditions, including burns, inflammation, and pain from toothache, headache and arthritis.
Yarrow was used by the Kumeyaay as a treatment for various medical conditions, including burns, inflammation, and pain from toothache, headache and arthritis.
Tall stalk of a yucca that already flowered still juts into the sky in Old Town San Diego.
Tall stalk of a yucca that already flowered still juts into the sky in Old Town San Diego.
The Kumeyaay people have lived here for at least ten thousand years. Their innovations in managing San Diego's resources in wet winters and dry summers are still used today.
The Kumeyaay people have lived here for at least ten thousand years. Their innovations in managing San Diego’s resources in wet winters and dry summers are still used today.
A variety of native plants found naturally in coastal San Diego's semi-arid climate.
A variety of native plants found naturally in coastal San Diego’s semi-arid climate, including sages and prickly pear cactus.
Fibers from the yucca were used by the Kumeyaay to produce cords, nets, shoes and other useful items.
Fibers from the yucca were used by the Kumeyaay to produce cords, nets, shoes and other useful items.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Flowers along a trail into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

Spectacular flower of a Coastal cholla cactus in San Diego. Seen along a trail near Morley Field Drive that leads down into Balboa Park's Florida Canyon.
Spectacular flower of a Coastal cholla cactus in San Diego. Seen along a trail near Morley Field Drive that leads into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

I took these colorful photos while walking Sunday through Balboa Park, along one of the rugged dirt trails that leads up out of Florida Canyon. A short hike can be enjoyed through native coastal chaparral and spring wildflowers, between Morley Field and Park Boulevard, just south of Morley Field Drive.

Flat-top buckwheat, or California buckwheat, flower clusters are opening in spring. These native plants grow profusely in arid San Diego.
Flat-top buckwheat, or California buckwheat, flower clusters are opening in spring. These native plants grow profusely in arid San Diego.
Small red flower clusters of flat-top buckwheat (Eriogonum deflexum) that have yet to open.
Small red flower clusters of flat-top buckwheat (Eriogonum deflexum) that have yet to open.
More buckwheat in Balboa Park's Florida Canyon. Native Americans used the plant to make tea with medicinal properties.
More buckwheat in Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon. Native Americans used the plant to make tea with medicinal properties.
Another flower on a very spiny Coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) makes for an interesting photograph.
Another flower on a very spiny Coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) makes for an interesting photograph.
A wild yellow prickly pear cactus flower at the rim of Balboa Park's Florida Canyon, just across Park Boulevard from the San Diego Zoo.
A wild yellow prickly pear cactus flower near the rim of Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon, just across Park Boulevard from the San Diego Zoo.
These buckwheat flower clusters have turned brown. Perhaps that's why the plant is sometimes called skeletonweed.
These buckwheat flower clusters have turned brown. Perhaps that’s why the plant is sometimes called skeletonweed.
These flowers that I randomly photographed along the trail have me stumped. I tried to identify them, but without success. If you know what they are, please leave a comment!
These flowers that I randomly photographed along the trail have me stumped. I tried to identify them, but without success. If you know what they are, please leave a comment!
A profusion of red and white buckwheat beauty.
A profusion of red and white buckwheat beauty.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you enjoy beautiful things? Visit my photography blog which I call A Small World Full of Beauty.

A beautiful garden and a brand new blog!

I’ve started a new photo blog! It’s called Beautiful Balboa Park! My first post concerns a beautiful but scraggly cactus garden that very few visitors see.

As you might know, I live in downtown San Diego very close to Balboa Park, so this new blog should be fairly active. I hope you enjoy it!

Here are a few of the photos:

Please follow my new blog by clicking the link below to see much, much more!

Source: A beautiful garden few visitors see in Balboa Park.

Spinning yarns (and twine) in old San Diego.

Yarns dyed many different colors out on display in San Diego's Old Town.
Yarns dyed many different colors out on display in San Diego’s Old Town.

One more quick post from today’s stroll through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. After going on the free walking tour, which I do every few years to jiggle my memory, I observed that a couple of unique exhibits were out on public display. One concerned yarn, the other twine. A “string” of coincidence too good not to blog about!

During the tour, our knowledgeable guide explained how red dye in the olden days was derived from a particular insect–the cochineal. The cochineal is a beetle that can be found on prickly pears, a cactus which grows abundantly in arid San Diego. While we watched, the guide plucked one from a prickly pear next to the Casa de Estudillo, then crushed it. His fingers turned bright purple from the beetle juice! (He explained the British Red Coats dyed their uniforms with cochineal, but Purple Coats didn’t sound quite so fierce.)

Tour guide about ready to make some red dye.
Tour guide ready to produce some reddish dye.

After the tour ended, two volunteers inside the Casa de Estudillo were demonstrating how yarn used to be made. To dye the fibers, both cochineal and indigo dye were commonly used. A spinning wheel served to demonstrate the hard work required to live comfortably before our more modern conveniences.

La Casa de Estudillo, an elegant house built in the early 1800s by a wealthy Californio who owned several large ranchos in Southern California.
La Casa de Estudillo, an elegant adobe house built in 1827 by a wealthy Californio family that owned several large ranchos in Southern California.
Volunteers in costume told me a little about San Diego's complex, fascinating history.
Volunteers in costume with baskets of color.  They told me some yarns concerning San Diego’s complex, fascinating history.
State Park volunteers describe life in early San Diego, when spinning wheels were common household objects.
State Park volunteers describe life in early San Diego, when spinning wheels were common household objects.

Out in one corner of Old Town’s big central plaza, some friendly Mormons were demonstrating the making of twine. Like the native prickly pear, yucca plants have always been plentiful in San Diego’s desert-like environment. The tough fibers in the leaves, once extracted, are dried and then twisted using a simple mechanism to create primitive but very practical twine or rope.

Making twine used to involve twisting dried fibers from native yucca plants.
Making twine involved twisting fibers found in native yucca plants.
Mormon guy smiles as he exhibits rope-making in Old Town. The Mormon Battalion was one of many diverse participants in San Diego's early history.
Mormon guy smiles as he exhibits rope-making in Old Town. The Mormon Battalion was one of many diverse participants in San Diego’s early history.

Someday I’ll probably blog about the amazing, hour-long Old Town walking tour. I need some more photos and many more notes before I undertake that, however!

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Cool street mural celebrates human imagination.

Lizards undergo transformations in a very creative street mural in San Diego.
Lizards undergo transformations in a very creative street mural in San Diego.

Here’s a very cool mural I spotted last weekend after I watched the Boulevard BOO! Parade. I was just walking along through a neighborhood west of San Diego’s College area.

You can find this artwork at the corner of 56th Street and El Cajon Boulevard.

Ant and cacti grown to gigantic proportions beside an ordinary sidewalk.
Ant and cacti grown to gigantic proportions beside an ordinary sidewalk.
Cool urban art attracts the eye and stimulates the mind of those passing by.
Cool urban art attracts the eye and stimulates the mind of those passing by.
Colorful images on a building at 56th and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego.
Colorful images on a building at 56th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Cool modified images of cacti in Balboa Park.

People take a walk through Balboa Park cactus garden.
People take a walk through Balboa Park’s amazing Desert Garden.

My walk through Balboa Park last weekend ended at the Desert Garden, located east of the Natural History Museum just across Park Boulevard. I was able to get some cool cacti pics before my camera’s batteries finally fizzled.

Here are some photos that I modified using good old GIMP.  It’s fun to goof around randomly and produce different effects!

While I recognized many different types of cactus, I sadly don’t know many names. Sorry about that.

Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
Slightly altered pic of jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
Slightly altered pic of cool jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
Sunlight amplified on green cactus in Balboa Park.
Sunlight amplified on a green cactus in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.

Here are even more modified cacti photos from late 2014!

Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
Now I'm radically altering some pics.
Now I’m radically altering some pics.
Cool silhouette in Balboa Park's cactus garden.
Cool silhouette in a popular Balboa Park cactus garden.
I completely changed these colors just for fun!
I completely changed these colors just for fun!