Photos to remember beautiful Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is now temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. When it might reopen is anybody’s guess.

I didn’t go to Balboa Park this weekend, the way I usually do. I already miss it.

I miss the sunshine and smiles, the gardens and amazing architecture, the fountains and beautiful art, the dancing and music. Over the years, my Sunday visits to Balboa Park have become an important part of my life.

As the warming spring weather greens the grass and trees and opens bright new flowers everywhere, wouldn’t you love to walk through one of the world’s most beautiful parks?

Come along on a random walk back through time, and enjoy some of many colorful photographs that I’ve taken over the years.

The following photos are all new to Cool San Diego Sights. They were originally posted to one of my other blogging websites, which is titled Beautiful Balboa Park.

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!

Do you love Balboa Park? Check out my other website Beautiful Balboa Park!

Fun scenes from the Fern Street Circus!

Today I took a long walk, wrote a little, and kicked back for a while as I enjoyed some entertainment in Chula Vista. Local favorite Fern Street Circus was performing in Bayfront Park as part of a special Port of San Diego event!

Circus in the Park: A South Bay Arts Event attracted a good crowd of happy people. Everyone got to watch jugglers, acrobats, and all sorts of thrilling circus acts. Kids were kept busy with an array of games and art activities, and everyone was treated by the Port of San Diego to some tasty food.

After watching the first circus performance, I walked by the water to a quiet park bench and looked out over San Diego Bay, thinking that much in life is indeed good.

(What I discovered once I resumed my walk was absolutely amazing. It’s something very few in San Diego know about–and one of the coolest things you’ll ever see! Those photos will be in the next blog post.)

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!

Finding tracks, signs of wildlife at Mission Trails!

A guided group walks through Mission Trails Regional Park looking for signs of wildlife.
A guided group walks through Mission Trails Regional Park looking for signs of wildlife.

This morning I went on a truly extraordinary guided walk. Two expert trackers took a small group on an easy hike in Mission Trails Regional Park to search for tracks and other signs of often elusive wildlife!

The immense, mountainous Mission Trails Regional Park, located within the City of San Diego, is home to abundant wildlife. But it can be hard to spot animals in the wild during a visit to the park. Many species are nocturnal. Many tend to hide in the scrubby vegetation to avoid predators, to watch for a passing meal, or protect a nest.

This morning I and others met at the Visitor Center to set out on this special walk. While we didn’t see anything very dramatic, we did observe how the living world around us is engaged in a perpetual dance. We learned that humans with open eyes and curious minds might find signs left by rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, deer, and even (but rarely) mountain lions!

We saw several spots where a skunk dug for grubs. We saw several wood rat’s nests. We leaned down to the ground to peer at the secret trap door of a spider. We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud, rabbit tracks in some green grass, and coyote scat. We learned what differently pressed tracks might indicate about an animal passing that way. Were they stealthily hunting? Leaning to one side? In a big hurry to avoid a predator?

We watched birds flitting through shrubs and trees and soaring in the blue sky high above, and we learned a whole lot about crows and ravens and red-tailed hawks. We learned why coyotes howl. We saw a hummingbird. We watched a fence lizard pump itself up and down. We discovered a small, perfectly circular hole dug by a digger bee.

We learned how scent is a critically important sense for both predator and prey, and how animals in the wild are all acutely aware of each other at any given moment. And how they are confused by oddly unpredictable human behavior. We learned far too much to mention everything in this blog!

Our two super knowledgeable guides have been leading these wildlife tracking walks, which are held the first Saturday of every month, for about 11 years.

Bob MacDonald and Mike Gibbs belong to the San Diego Tracking Team, an organization of experts and enthusiasts who track wildlife in our region. They advocate for good stewardship of the natural environment and provide researchers with data from about 20 sites around San Diego County, as far away as the Anza Borrego desert.

According to their website: “San Diego County has the most biodiversity of any County in North America… Many of the plants and animals that call our region home are found nowhere else in the world… The San Diego Tracking Team (SDTT) is dedicated to preserving the wildlife habitat in the San Diego region through citizen-based wildlife monitoring and environmental education programs…”

Both Bob and Mike were super interesting and personable, and even the young kids in our group never lost interest as we learned about the endlessly amazing dance of life all around us.

I learned that Mike Gibbs was an Army Green Beret with extensive wilderness survival knowledge. He has worked in law enforcement and search and rescue as an educator and as a human and animal tracker. I’m anxious to read his book Spirit Wolf, a novel that takes place on the High Plains. (Which, by pure coincidence, is where I once lived and is the setting for a short story I’m now working on!)

But enough of that for now! On to a few photographs!

One of two experienced animal trackers addresses our group near the Mission Trails Visitor Center before we begin our adventure.
Mike Gibbs, one of two highly experienced animal trackers, addresses our group near the Mission Trails Visitor Center before we begin our adventure.
Our short but super fascinating wildlife tracking walk took us up the Oak Grove Inner Trail.
Our short but super fascinating wildlife tracking walk took us up the Oak Grove Inner Trail.
A hiking stick has been laid down to show where a skunk has dug small holes in the soil looking for grubs.
A hiking stick has been laid down to show where a skunk has dug small holes in the soil looking for grubs.
As the skunk moved forward, nose to the ground, it dug a series of additional holes.
As the skunk moved forward, nose to the ground, it dug a series of additional holes.
Walking again along the trail, searching for more signs of local wildlife.
Walking again along the trail, searching for more signs of local San Diego wildlife.
One of our guides points to the lair of a trapdoor spider! They pop out to catch prey, and lay their eggs inside their smooth burrow for safety. Yes, spiders can dig!
One of our guides points to the lair of a trapdoor spider! They pop out to catch prey, and lay their eggs inside their smooth burrow for safety. Yes, spiders can dig!
We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud. The heavy front pads indicate a breed with a forward center of gravity. Coyotes have much neater, straighter tracks.
We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud. The heavy front pads indicate a heavy breed with a forward center of gravity. Coyotes have distinctive, much straighter tracks.
Way up there on that distant tree we spot a hummingbird!
Way up there on top of that distant tree we spot a tiny hummingbird!
Rabbits made these tracks in the bent grass as they moved forward eating. We saw a couple calm rabbits feeding in the distance, seemingly unconcerned about predators.
Rabbits made these tracks in the bent grass as they moved forward leaving a U-shaped trail. We saw a couple of calm rabbits feeding in the distance, seemingly unconcerned about predators.
A gopher hole in the trail, long abandoned. The hole was subsequently widened by curious dogs poking in their noses, excited by an old scent.
A pocket gopher’s hole in the trail, long abandoned. The hole was subsequently widened by curious dogs poking in their noses, excited by an old scent.
Fresh moist coyote scat. These droppings seemed to show a recent vegetable diet.
Fresh moist coyote scat. These droppings seemed to show a recent vegetable diet.
But nearby, other dried, ropy coyote droppings contain rabbit fur.
But nearby, other dried, ropy coyote droppings contain rabbit fur.
This small perfectly circular hole was dug by a digger bee. Yes, bees can dig, too! It seems a lot of critters dig. Snakes don't. They like to digest their food in the safety of Wood Rat's nests.
This small perfectly circular hole was dug by a digger bee. Yes, bees can dig, too! It seems a lot of critters dig. Snakes don’t. They like to digest their food in the safety of a wood rat’s sturdy stick nest.
What will we discover next? Life continues its dance, and the natural world is ever changing.
What will we discover next? Life continues its dance and the natural world is ever changing.

Wildlife Tracking Walks are held at Mission Trails Regional Park the first Saturday of every month, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. To learn more about the park’s different guided walks, click here.

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Life and friendship in Balboa Park.

Let’s see. Today in Balboa Park we had an orchid show, Chinese New Year, food, dance, laughter, fountains, smiles, bright gardens, picnics, music, happy dogs, art, green grass, sunshine…

In other words: a paradise full of life and friendship.

Another typical weekend in the park.

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!

Finishing a 19th century quilt in Old Town.

Today, when I stepped into Threads of the Past in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, I found several ladies working on quilts. One beautiful quilt in particular was spread out before them, and on top of it was a small very old photograph showing two sisters from a century ago.

I asked a question or two and jotted a few quick notes. I didn’t really achieve a perfect understanding, and some of what I’m about to write might be incorrect!

I believe the spread quilt and another folded beside it had been pieced in the late 19th century by two sisters, Gertrude and Mabel Raymond, who were school teachers in National City, and who are now buried in Greenwood Memorial Park. The old quilts had been found by a family in their attic, and brought to Threads of the Past to be completed.

One of the quilters I spoke to was working on a modern “Sanitary Commission” quilt, which will be auctioned off on the Fourth of July. The fabric squares were designed by local school children. (You can glimpse a bit of their artwork in the second-to-last photograph.) I learned that there are only six authentic United States Sanitary Commission quilts from the Civil War known to exist, and was told that if you see those words on an old quilt at a rummage sale or swap meet, buy it!

Walk into Threads of the Past and not only will you see historic quilts hanging on the walls, but you’ll learn something new about that big colorful quilt known as History, and you might find skilled quilters working to preserve it!

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!

Making beautiful candles in Old Town.

Today I watched as a father and his son made beautiful candles in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The father, Paul, is the owner of Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop. His son is a super friendly young man named KC.

This talented family has been making candles by hand for three generations. I learned their business has been operating for about 38 years (including a period at Knott’s Berry Farm) and has been located in Old Town now for about 24 years.

For a few minutes I watched as Paul used a special carving tool to cut and curl back soft wax as he made an elaborate, very beautiful, multicolored candle. He told me he had about 8 minutes to complete the task, before the wax cooled and hardened. After carving a well at the top of the candle, he dipped his finished creation in clear wax, then a hard glaze.

Sometimes he’ll add shells or figurines to these decorative candles, to make them even more fantastic. I also learned that these fancy many-layered candles, which begin modestly as a solid mold, can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to create!

Outside the shop, tourists and curious passersby were watching KC dip taper candles. He’d dip each group of wicks, which are suspended vertically in a circle, about 30 to 35 times, depending on the outdoor temperature. He was careful not to leave the forming candles in the hot wax for too long. After the candles grew in girth to the correct size, he removed the excess wax for future use, and used scissors to cut the candles free, as you can see in my last photo!

Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop is located in the historically and architecturally important Sessions Building, which was designed by renowned San Diego architect Richard Requa. Learn more about it here!

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A ride on the San Diego and Arizona Railway!

Today I took a wonderful ride aboard an historic train!

In the morning I drove out to the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, about an hour east of downtown San Diego, in order experience the 100th Anniversary celebration of the San Diego & Arizona Railway.

Before the gold spike reenactment ceremony took place, I wandered about the extensive museum grounds, enjoying all sorts of nostalgic entertainment and attractions, then boarded an old passenger train at the depot for a short but very scenic excursion!

I took photos as I rode the route of the Golden State west several miles through rocky terrain. The San Diego & Arizona Railway, founded by San Diego entrepreneur and philanthropist John D. Spreckels, earned the name of The Impossible Railroad because of the logistical difficulty of routing a train through this very rugged countryside.

The train’s cars were all packed on this special day, and we were rolling past other old locomotives and railroad cars belonging to the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum before the conductor came down the aisle to collect our round-trip tickets. As you might imagine, kids and families were super excited!

On the way out, I sat in one of the seats on the south side of a coach car. Because my long legs were a bit cramped, and I wanted to see the countryside to the north, I went to the observation car during the return trip. You can see some smoke coming from the diesel locomotive in a couple of my photographs.

Too soon we were once again passing the Gaskill Brothers Stone Store Museum (the distinctive building you see in one photo), crossing over Highway 94, and back at the museum. We continued past the old depot and stopped near the place where the San Diego & Arizona Railway centennial gold spike ceremony would be staged. (I’ll blog about the fantastic event in my next post!)

Should you ever visit the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, make sure to enjoy a cool train ride!

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!