Walk under cool bridges on Maple Canyon Trail.

View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.
View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.

Many nature hikes can be enjoyed in Balboa Park. But there’s another beautiful, quiet hike through date palms and eucalyptus trees and bright spring flowers that anyone can enjoy just a few blocks north of downtown San Diego.

The Maple Canyon Trail stretches from a trailhead near Quince Street and Third Avenue on Bankers Hill to a second trailhead at Maple Street and Dove Street in Middletown. It often seems that the only people who use the trail are dog walkers and joggers who live nearby. Those who haven’t hiked this easy trail are missing out on a unique experience. The Maple Canyon Trail passes under two cool historic bridges!

The Quince Street Trestle is a visually interesting wooden footbridge that was built in 1905. Back then streetcars ran up Fourth Avenue, and the trestle allowed pedestrians to cross the steep canyon from the west. A quarter century ago the bridge, weakened by termites and rot, was closed and almost demolished. Local residents took up the cause of saving the bridge, which was finally declared a historic site.

The Maple Canyon Trail also passes beneath the impressive First Avenue Bridge. The arched steel bridge was built in 1931 and was originally known as the Peoples Bridge. Its astonishing height above the trail is a reminder of San Diego’s unique geology. Southern California’s coastal region is crisscrossed in many places by deep, narrow canyons, which often serve as undeveloped habitat for native species of plant and animal life.

Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Looking down from the trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
Looking down from trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Wooden beams compose the high trestle.
Wood beams compose the high trestle.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited traffic.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited motor traffic.

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Cherry blossoms at Japanese Friendship Garden.

Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!
Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Because a big storm is on its way into Southern California, I got my weekend walk in this morning. I didn’t want to venture too far and get caught in the rain, so I decided to head up to Balboa Park to check out the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Next weekend is the big, super popular Cherry Blossom Festival. I don’t like crowds generally, so my small adventure today was just perfect! Relatively few people were visiting the quiet Friendship Garden. I guess other folks, like me, were worried about getting caught in a chilly shower. Turns out most of my walk was in sunshine!

Not long ago the Japanese Friendship Garden occupied just a small narrow spot in Balboa Park, and visitors could see and enjoy everything with a very short visit. No longer! The spectacular expansion into the canyon and additional coming expansions promise to make this a truly world-class garden.

In addition to traditional Japanese garden features and the cherry blossoms, one can walk among many beautiful trees and down shady hillsides of flowers, which include azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. Anyone with an interest in gardening must go see this incredible place!

A shout out to the friendly folks at the garden!

View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.
View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.

The above pic was taken from a viewing deck between the House of Hospitality and the Tea Pavilion. We’ll be heading down there in a bit!

Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Today's Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.
Today’s Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.

If you’ve ever been to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ve surely seen the Japanese Tea Pavilion right next door. Next time you enjoy a concert, grab a bite here!

People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego's sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden--Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden–Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit House.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit Hall.

The Exhibit Hall includes a room with benches that look out a big window at the Dry Stone Garden. The gravel is raked into simple patterns for meditation. I didn’t want to disturb people, so no photos of that.

Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit House with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit Hall with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
People stroll slowly along a tranquil path in one of San Diego's most beautiful gardens.
People stroll along a tranquil path in one of San Diego’s most beautiful gardens.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
Light of Friendship.
Light of Friendship.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That's another pink trumpet tree!
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That’s another pink trumpet tree!
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Visitors head down a fairly easy hiking trail to see the cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Visitors head down an easy hiking trail to see cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn't spring quite yet!
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn’t spring quite yet!
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A patient gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.
A steady-handed expert gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.  I envy him!
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I'll be going here more often!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I’ll be going here more often!
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park is a place of beauty.
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park is a place of beauty.

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A garden and poem at New Children’s Museum.

New Children's Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
The New Children’s Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

I can’t stand being cooped up inside, especially on Christmas, so around noon I went out for a short walk around a sunny but very quiet downtown San Diego. I didn’t intend to blog about anything, but here I am posting a few pics anyway. That’s because I was impressed by the beauty of a very small spot along a popular walkway.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade runs along a portion of Harbor Drive, and it passes San Diego’s fun New Children’s Museum. In addition to a playground right next to the pathway, there’s a very small urban garden. The museum’s Garden Project is a demonstration area that allows children to explore a few plants and the basics of gardening. Some art is incorporated into the space, and a surprising poem!

Small garden plot beside children's play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Small garden plot beside children’s play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Bicycle wheels and a couple scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
Bicycle wheels and a couple of scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.

I should’ve photographed this entire poem, but I assumed at the time that it could be found on the internet. I was wrong! The poem seems like a fun, playful bit of writing, and I can’t make heads or tails of it looking at my few photos. Oh, well. I’ll leave it to you to reconstruct the verses I’ve selected!

I did figure out that the poem was written by Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr., who used to be a professor at the University of California, San Diego, just up the coast in La Jolla. He is known for his biography of Miles Davis, the legendary jazz musician. Quincy also helped to write The Pursuit of Happyness, a true story which was adapted into the popular film starring Will Smith. (I love that movie!)

The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

Here are two photos I took the following spring of flowers in the garden:

Perfect beauty.
Perfect beauty.
Bursts of color.
Bursts of color.

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Sunlit beauty in Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden.

Visitors walk through Balboa Park's Alcazar Garden on a summer day.
Visitors walk through Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden on a summer day.

There are many gardens in San Diego’s vast Balboa Park. One of the best known–and one of my favorites–is the Alcazar Garden.

Located on the south side of El Prado between the Museum of Man and the Mingei Museum, a visit to the spacious garden is like walking through an elegant painting of towers, arches and sunlit flowers. Thousands of blooming annuals, long green hedges and colorfully tiled fountains make this the perfect place to slow down and absorb the quiet beauty. A shady pergola is ideal for rest and reflection. The Alcazar Garden is so named because it was created to resemble the formal gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain.

Yellow blooms beneath an elegant museum tower.
Yellow blooms beneath museum tower.  The Spanish Colonial architecture adds elegance.
Moorish tiles on a fountain, colorful benches and an archway.
Moorish tiles on a fountain, colorful benches and an archway.
The California Tower and palm trees rise into blue sky.
The California Tower and palm trees rise into blue sky.
The formal garden can sometimes appear a bit ragged.
The formal garden can sometimes appear a bit ragged.
The garden is not easily seen from El Prado, but many people find and enjoy it.
The garden is not easily seen from El Prado, but many people find and enjoy it.
Rotary Club plaque reveals that the garden underwent a restoration.
Rotary Club plaque reveals that the garden underwent a restoration.
A picture I took while sitting in the cool, shady pergola at the west end.
A picture I took while sitting in the cool, shady pergola at the west end.

Here are two pics I took the following spring…

Beautiful flowers in Balboa Park.
Beautiful flowers in Balboa Park.
Sunshine sprouting from the Earth.
Sunshine sprouting from the Earth.

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Drama and music in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden.

Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park's small Zoro Garden.
Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park’s small Zoro Garden.

Today during my walk through Balboa Park, I noticed that the small Zoro Garden has become a venue for summer weekend entertainment. Usually the shady, sinuous, amphitheatre-like garden is left to the butterflies, who flutter here and there in sunbeams above ragged beds of colorful flowers.

As I walked down, actors were rehearsing for a comedic play on the bare dirt center of the garden. At two o’clock a musical performance began, and I listened while chowing down on a polish sausage. I love Balboa Park!

Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Jennie Buss' Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Jennie Buss’ Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Folks enjoy a musical performance in Balboa Park.
Folks enjoy an intimate musical performance in Balboa Park.

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Hiking Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Beach Trail.

Hiking to the beach from trailhead in Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Hiking to the beach from a trailhead in Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Today is National Trails Day, so it seems the perfect time to blog about one hike I took recently at Torrey Pines State Reserve! The hike was down the Beach Trail, which is one of the most popular hikes in this beautiful place. The coming photos demonstrate why!

The 3/4 mile downhill Beach Trail begins at the edge of a small parking lot near the Torrey Pines State Reserve’s historic lodge, which serves as the visitor center. On this spring day, many small flowers were blooming along the trail, and lots of hikers were enjoying the sunshine as well. Should you ever go hiking here, make sure you wear good shoes because it can be a bit steep in places and the sand often makes slippery footing.

Hikers take beautiful trail through coastal chaparral.
Hikers take beautiful trail through coastal chaparral.
People enjoy vistas from atop sandstone formation.
People enjoy vistas from atop sandstone formation.
Endangered Torrey pine seen beyond fork in the trail.
Endangered Torrey pine can be seen beyond fork in the trail.

You can observe many more examples of the endangered Torrey pine tree in the north part of the reserve. See my post about the Guy Fleming Trail!

The blue Pacific Ocean comes into view!
The blue Pacific Ocean comes into view!
Typical scenery along trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Typical rugged scenery along trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
The Beach Trail is often covered in fine sand.
The Beach Trail is often covered in fine sand.
Now we're getting really close to our destination!
Now we’re getting really close to our destination!

It gets much steeper as one approaches the ocean. You can see La Jolla way off in the hazy distance.

Erosion of layered sandstone creates unusual, fluid forms.
Erosion of layered sandstone creates unusual, fluid forms.
Flat Rock can be seen on Torrey Pines State Beach.
Flat Rock can be seen below on Torrey Pines State Beach.
Steps head steeply down from cliffs.
Steps head steeply down from cliffs.
Hikers arrive at the beach!
Hikers arrive at the beach!

The transition from the reserve to the beach seems very sudden as you hike down from the cliffs. Suddenly you hear the surf and see many sea birds. It’s an amazing experience!

Down on the sand.
Down on the sand.
People walk north along Torrey Pines State Beach.
People walk north along Torrey Pines State Beach.

A walk north along the beach about a mile or so brings one back to the main Torrey Pines State Reserve parking lot by the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’d like to enjoy a relatively easy nature hike, I’d highly recommend this one! (Going uphill is more difficult!)

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Flowers remember somebody’s best buddy.

Flowers remember somebody's best buddy.
Flowers remember somebody’s best buddy.

I snapped this pic today after work, while walking to a trolley station in Mission Valley. The simple memorial was by a busy sidewalk. It’s a sidewalk traveled by many homeless people. I’m almost certain Dago Dog was the best buddy of a homeless person. No more words are necessary.

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