Leaves begin turning by the river.

Today is the first day of Autumn. The days are becoming noticeably shorter.

A few leaves down by the San Diego River have already begun to turn. Even through the weather has been hot due to our current Santa Ana conditions, the trees know summer is over.

I took a couple photos of Fremont cottonwood leaves changing their color in Mission Valley this morning. Some yellow has begun showing in all the green.

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!

Visiting the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway.

Once a month, every third Saturday, the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway opens to the public.

Today I enjoyed a tour of the archaeological site and its educational visitor center. I was surprised to find so much history preserved in this small island of natural beauty just off Poway Road.

Poway is derived from the Native American Kumeyaay word Pauwai, which means the shape of an arrowhead or the merging of two creeks. A short distance to the south is Poway Creek.

As you will see in the following photographs, a small Kumeyaay village of approximately 20 families once lived on the hill that I and my docent tour guide, Heidi, explored.

The Kumeyaay people have lived in this region for at least 10,000 years. These first people had their lives severely disrupted with the arrival of Europeans in 1769. Today, descendants of those who lived in Pauwai are members of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians.

Please enjoy the following photos to get a taste of what you might discover when you visit. Read the captions for a few of the things I learned.

Are you a local history or anthropology enthusiast? Or a community-minded person who loves the outdoors? The Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center is always looking for volunteers!

Check out their Facebook page and learn about the special days and hours when you can visit here.

Sign at the end of Ipai Waaypuk Trail, south of Poway Road, where there is parking.
Kiosk welcomes visitors to an important historical site.
My tour guide Heidi starts up stairs that lead to short looping trails.
At the Replica Village in a clearing stand several recreated Kumeyaay ewaas. These are shelters made of sycamore or willow tree branches, covered with cattails or baccharis, and tied with yucca or agave fiber string. These replica ewaas are old and need to be refurbished. The Kumeyaay would refresh their watertight ewaas regularly. A grinding stone, or metate, lies nearby.
This nearest ewaa was recently reconstructed. Volunteers who’d like to maintain this special place are welcome!
Heading up to the top of the hill along a very short, moderately steep section of trail.
I’m shown Wild Cucumber. Like many native plants, it had various practical uses. Seeds ground into a powder by the Kumeyaay were added to pigments to create rock art. The crushed roots, when tossed into water, would paralyze fish!
In the distance we could see Mt. Woodson, Iron Mountain, and Cuyamaca Peak. Depending on the season, the Kumeyaay would migrate east to the mountains or west to the Pacific Ocean coast.
One of several outdoor ramadas built for visitors to the Interpretive Center. Historical ramadas erected by the Kumeyaay were shady places for village activities and ceremonies.
It was thought that rock art might be found on these monumental boulders crowning the hilltop, but a thorough study using modern technology detected no traces.
A wise Kumeyaay observer found in this rock formation a whale, a turtle, and the head of a dolphin. Do you see them?
A nearby fire pit once used by the Kumeyaay villagers.
Soot remains in this natural rocky oven. A crack in the rear conveniently served as a flue for smoke.
Cooking stones would be heated in the fire, then placed in baskets to prepare food.
Many small broken pottery sherds have been found near this primitive kitchen.
At the top of the hill are very deep grinding holes, or morteros, where acorns were ground for thousands of years. After being reduced to powder, the acorns would be leached of tannic acid and cooked into a mush called shawii.
A important cultural site representing thousands of years of indigenous history in Poway.
A Coast Live Oak beside the trail. One of several types of oak trees in the San Diego region. Acorns were a staple of the Kumeyaay diet.
As I and my tour guide walk back down the trail, another group heads up toward the hilltop.
A hollow Elderberry branch. Not surprisingly, these were used to make musical instruments such as flutes.
Some of the rugged natural beauty that we enjoyed.
At another ramada replica, we saw a series of genuine metates that Third Grade students can use during educational field trips! These metates were rescued during road construction many years ago and were donated to the Interpretive Center.
There is much to learn about Kumeyaay tools, food, basket weaving, pottery and more!
Third Grade students use these small stones to paint their own rock art!
We head into the building at the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center to learn even more!
Look at all the smiling docents!
Dorothy M. Tavui was a Kumeyaay friend who helped to establish the Interpretive Center in Poway.
Shelves full of artifacts that kids can explore and handle to learn about Kumeyaay life.
A willow basket full of acorns. The long conical acorns are from Coast Live Oaks. The big acorns are from Black Oaks in the Cuyamaca Mountains. They were the largest and tastiest! The abalone shells you also see were obtained from the coast and often used as trade items.
Old photo of a 6 foot tall willow basket! Acorns would be gathered in season to last the entire year.
Sandals made of natural plant fibers.
I learned this is a seed beater! It’s being demonstrated on dried blooms of sage.
A beautiful mural inside the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway shows what village life was like here for many thousands of years. By artist Brigitte Lopez, 2012.

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!

The beautiful Torrey pines of Cabrillo.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument is picturesque by itself. But the historic 1855 lighthouse, rising into the sky near the end of Point Loma, seems to belong in a painting when several rare Torrey pines that grow nearby are framed with it.

The lighthouse and tall windswept trees seem to belong together.

I did my best to capture the extraordinary beauty with my small camera during a visit today.

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!

Help build a new environmental field station!

Want to do something tangible to help the environment? Here’s an idea!

UC San Diego is working to fund a new Kendall-Frost Field Station on the north side of Mission Bay. They are raising funds for a much improved education, research and outreach center at the edge of the Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve.

I passed their old trailer today during my long walk through Pacific Beach, and I happened to see the following information on the fence. It includes a rendering of the proposed field station…

Join our fundraising campaign to build a new field research and education building to replace the 55-year-old trailer. The new building will feature a large multi-purpose classroom and community room, roll-up windows and a large deck, bird-watching overlook, and reception area.

Five years ago I visited the old trailer and the working area adjacent to it during Love Your Wetlands Day.

If you want to see the wetland restoration that is done here, and fun photos of that educational event, check out my past blog post.

If you want to help build the new field station, or learn more about this project, visit the UC San Diego web page here!

The trailer is covered with colorful art, but is getting very old.
The environmentally important Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve in Mission Bay.

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!

Amazing mural at San Diego Urban Timber!

Perhaps you’ve seen it already. The huge, amazing, recently completed mural on a building by Interstate 5, just south of H Street in Chula Vista. When you’re driving south down the freeway it’s hard to miss!

The large building has become home to San Diego Urban Timber, and the muralist is local artist Carly Ealey.

I took these photos today during a super long walk (with occasional bus and trolley rides) around San Diego’s South Bay. It’s my week off from work, so I’ll be collecting many more images all around the city in the days ahead!

What a sensational work of art.

Life, represented by brilliant images of nature, emerges from two strong females.

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!

An amazing walk along Sunset Cliffs!

One of San Diego’s most amazing, scenic walks is along Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma.

Yesterday I walked along the length of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, which stretches for about 1.5 miles beside the Pacific Ocean. I started near the intersection of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Adair Street and headed south to Ladera Street, where there’s a popular beach, nature trails and stairs down to a small cave and rocky tide pools.

The August summer day was perfect for a long walk. The sun didn’t break through the coastal marine layer until the very end of my adventure, and the sea breeze was pleasantly cool.

Views of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the steep, rugged cliffs seemed endless. The mostly dirt Coastal Trail I followed wound above the high eroded bluffs, past a few pocket beaches and past sea caves and picturesque sandstone arches.

In places the cliffs have collapsed from the constant powerful action of tides and incoming waves. Many signs warn people away from the edge of the unstable cliffs.

I met a painter. I met friendly lifeguards training for cliff rescues. I saw benches along the path dedicated to lost loved ones and sunsets. Many were standing and sitting at the ocean’s edge, peering at eternity with silent wonder.

As you can see from my photographs, nature’s hand creates beauty everywhere it moves.

If you like to stretch your legs and spirit, and you happen to be in San Diego, it’s likely you’ll love this walk, too.

Looking north for a moment. You can see the Ocean Beach pier in the distance.

As I walked along, I met Scotty Painta. He paints beautiful small scenes from Sunset Cliffs. We had a friendly chat and my day was enriched.

I met three lifeguards. They had slender ropes dangling down an almost vertical bluff. They were practicing cliff rescues. Jake told me a little about what they do. Thank you.

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Hundreds of new trees planted in Balboa Park.

I was walking through Balboa Park on Sunday, making my way toward Park Boulevard, when I noticed a newly planted tree with a shiny plaque beside it.

I veered across the grass to investigate…

The plaque states:


This tree and hundreds of others have been planted throughout the park by the Balboa Park Conservancy, Urban Corps, Tree San Diego, and Parks & Recreation.

Funding for this California Climate Investments grant project has been provided through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Urban and Community Forestry program.

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!

Quiet beauty at Maxton Brown Park in Carlsbad.

A small but very beautiful public park can be enjoyed in Carlsbad at the corner of Laguna Drive and State Street.

Maxton Brown Park is a quiet place. One can sit on a bench to read a book or gaze out at Buena Vista Lagoon.

During my recent walk in Carlsbad I rested on one bench that had a view of the lagoon. It was very peaceful.

I then briefly explored the park and found several memorial plaques that honor loved ones.

Here are a few photos…

The above plaque overlooking the lagoon reads:


515th SQDN

MARCH 5, 1915 – JULY 8, 1943



I did a little searching on the internet and learned that during World War II, on July 8, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant Maxton Brown of Carlsbad was downed over Sicily. He flew with the 515th Bomb Squadron.

The Buena Vista Lagoon is home of the Maxton Brown Bird Sanctuary. According to this page of the Carlsbad Historical Society, prior to the war Maxton “spent many hours at the lagoon sighting and recording over 150 species of birds.”

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!

A hike near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center.

A beautiful, very easy nature hike can be enjoyed at the south end of Oceanside near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center. The quarter mile hike follows a quiet looping trail with views of the Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

Yesterday I walked the trail and took these photographs.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society runs the Nature Center, which is located at 2202 South Coast Highway. The trail begins and ends a few steps from the building’s front entrance, directly across the driveway.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society engages the community and local students by offering nature education and various birding opportunities. They are also active in working to protect and restore wetlands and other environmentally sensitive land. You can learn more about their mission at this web page.

The Nature Center was closed when I happened by, but the trail was wide open and inviting on a sunny July day.

Here and there through dense bulrushes, or at viewing platforms, one can see the placid lagoon, and birds floating in the water or taking flight. Not only does local wildlife depend on this important natural habitat, but Buena Vista Lagoon is used by thousands of migrating birds that follow the Pacific Flyway.

One section of the hike was on a wood plank boardwalk over shallow water, then the trail turned toward dry land where I saw majestic trees, including sycamores, cottonwoods, and even a few Torrey pines.

During my walk I happened to meet Buena Vista Audubon Society’s Executive Director Natalie Shapiro. Before I began my hike, I observed her picking up trash along the Coast Highway, where it crosses the lagoon. Then I saw her again on the trail! She asked if I’d like to volunteer! Volunteers are always greatly appreciated!

She was super friendly and explained to me the difference between bulrushes and cattails, which I tend to confuse. At the margins of the lagoon, the plant community includes both of these, not to mention pickleweed and saltgrass.

Since the 1940s, Buena Vista Lagoon has been sealed off from natural tidal fluctations, and it has consequently become a stagnant fresh-water system. But there are now plans to open the lagoon to the ocean, creating a more healthy wetland.

If you’d like to enjoy this very easy, educational nature hike, head to Oceanside. And plan to visit when the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center is open! I need to do that, too!

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!

Archaeopteryx at Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center!

A prehistoric, Late Jurassic period Archaeopteryx is often seen lurking near the entrance of the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center!

The flightless, carnivorous, bird-like dinosaur apparently has arrived from 150 million years ago and found a home in Oceanside!

This particular specimen appears very shiny. That’s probably because it’s actually a cool metal sculpture, created in 2021 by local artist Dr. Paul Weber!

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!