Oil painted beauty at Torrey Pines.

During my walk through Torrey Pines State Reserve today, it occurred to me that my photographs of trees, sandstone bluffs and the distant ocean might be the foundation for beautiful oil paintings. Simulated oil paintings, that is!

As I do occasionally, I’ve used graphic editor GIMP’s artistic Oilify filter to transform my photos into something mysteriously different . . .

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A visit to the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center.

The San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a very special place.

Inside the Nature Center visitors can learn all about the nearby wetland and its wildlife. Outside, the building’s organic, curving lines seem to flow through the natural environment around it.

At every chance, I’ll poke my nose into any nature center. When I walked through San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and saw this beautiful structure, I was eager to walk all around it and explore inside.

The 5,600 square foot, multi-award winning building, completed in 2009, was designed by Zagrodnic + Thomas Architects. It is light-filled, spacious and visually stimulating.

The construction is environmentally friendly. The building is made out of recycled materials and has irrigated roof plants, solar panels and recycled water.

A big observation deck allows visitors to look out over the lagoon. Excited kids were exploring easy trails winding near its front entrance.

Approaching the Nature Center from the parking lot.

Board near front door announces Arrivals and Landings of resident and visiting birds.

Many informative exhibits greet visitors inside the Nature Center.

Coyote stands atop map of the watershed. Pollutants including trash threaten wildlife that depends on this habitat.

An explanation of San Elijo Lagoon’s biodiversity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Silvery Legless Lizard.

Piece of sandstone from Annie’s Canyon Trail in San Elijo Lagoon.

Outside light from the sunlit world touches the light of learning.

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Images and Expressions of a better world.

Three signs at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve contain the wisdom of local school kids. I noticed the signs during a walk up the Pole Trail. They are a bit distant from the trail, but easily spotted.

On one sign you’ll see Images of a better world; on another, Expressions of a better world. More words from young people who care about the world they live in can be read on the third sign.

Images of a better world. Skyline Elementary School, Grade 5, Fall 2007.

A world with no endangered animals.

Expressions of a better world. Cardiff Elementary School, MAC Kids, Fall 2007.

…With help from humans, mixed with the right amount of respect, the lagoon becomes a big, beautiful habitat for animals and plants, and a place for people to enjoy too…

Field notes and quotes. Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School, Grades 5 and 6, Fall 2007.

It’s best for people to know that our wetlands are very important. The wetlands are home to many creatures and it would be sad for them to go away because of habitat loss…

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A walk through San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

Several weeks ago I enjoyed a fine, very easy nature walk.

I proceeded from the murals at Harbaugh Seaside Trails (near Highway 101 at the north end of Solana Beach) down the main dirt trail. The trail turned, passed through a tunnel under the railroad tracks, and entered San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

I then proceeded north up the Pole Trail (which runs parallel to the train tracks), crossed a couple of bridges, and ended at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center at the south end of Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Come along with me as we look at these protected wetlands and watch for birds and other native wildlife…

Sign at Harbaugh Seaside Trails at start of my walk.

These trails were made possible by Nature Collective.

Beautiful words a short distance from the Harbaugh Seaside Trails murals. Annie’s Bench.

Nearby overlook with views of the Pacific Ocean off to the west.

Beginning our walk in earnest.

Here’s the railroad tunnel.

Artwork at the tunnel entrance depicts birds.

We are looking across San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

San Elijo Lagoon in the winter.

Pools of water support much life.

Heading north we encounter a fenced area and sign.

Map of the reserve. To the east there are additional trails to be explored.

A big mound of soil behind this fence.

Sign explains the sandy habitat restoration. The elevated sand dune attracts endangered birds, like the California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover.

Continuing north.

Vegetated and shallow channels are home to rare indigenous plant and animal species. Birds include Ridgway’s Rail and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow.

Here comes the first bridge!

A profusion of native sunflowers.

That interesting building up and to the left is the Nature Center.

A plaque along the way memorializes Beloved Friend and Engineer Brian A. Martin.

Another footbridge spans a channel of water.

Plaque describes The Buhr Nature Bridge. Gabriel Buhr’s forward-thinking, planning and vision helped make the restoration of the San Elijo Lagoon possible.

Almost to the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center!

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New trees planted at Bennington Memorial Oak Grove!

Twenty five new oak trees were planted today in a very special place in Balboa Park!

Forever Balboa Park, trained Tree Stewards and dozens of volunteers gathered in the USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove to revitalize a historically important area of the park that’s a bit off the beaten path.

Perhaps you’ve driven down 26th Street from Golden Hill toward Naval Medical Center San Diego and seen many old oak trees off to your left. Those live oaks were planted in 1905 to memorialize 66 sailors who died in San Diego Bay when the boiler of the USS Bennington exploded.

As these coast live oaks have aged, some have died or approached the end of their life. Planting small new oak trees infuses new life and meaning into this truly special urban forest.

Walking along, camera in hand, I got “volunteered” to help plant three of the twenty five trees! Cool thing is, when I walk this way again, I’ll know that I and others have tangibly touched the future with these living trees. They will be growing more beautiful long after I’m gone.

If you’d like to become a volunteer Garden Steward or Tree Steward in beautiful Balboa Park, click here!

Before the planting of new trees, Kathleen Winchester tells everyone the history of the USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.

Some of the spots where new coast live oaks will be planted.

Everyone learned the proper way to plant a tree so that it thrives.

Here’s a tree my group planted.

Using the shovel to make sure the tree is planted at the correct depth.

The planting of these 25 live oak trees in Balboa Park was the final phase of the 26th Street Trail park improvement project.

Last year members of the California Conservation Corps greatly improved the trail that leads up 26th Street to Golden Hill Park. The path, badly eroded in many places, was replaced with decomposed granite, and three new footbridges were built!

I walked up the trail to take some photos…

Lastly, thanks again to the Boy Scouts and sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who made their mark improving and beautifying the oak grove five years ago. If you’d like to see what they did, click here!

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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!

Winter beauty, a new waterfall and future weddings!

The Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park is always beautiful. Even between winter showers.

As I walked down into the Lower Garden today, I noticed great progress has been made on JFG’s big new waterfall.

I spied other construction, too! A special space is now being built where outdoor weddings can be held among all the natural beauty.

Expert, artistic pruning in the Upper Garden.

Naked branches during winter. Grays among greens.

Today is JFG’s “free entry for residents” third Tuesday. Several folks were setting up on the patio, including the garden’s long-time beekeeper! She showed me this wood home constructed for native bees.

Heading into the Lower Garden a few minutes after the Japanese Friendship Garden opened.

Looking across the canyon, I could see how the big new waterfall appears just about finished.

Walking down one of the garden’s special paths.

I was surprised to see a new area under construction. A worker told me this little plaza will be for outdoor weddings.

This path leading up to the new waterfall is still closed.

A structure near the new waterfall. I was told special events will be held up there.

I can’t wait for the new waterfall to be activated!

These stairs will allow visitors to climb toward the top of the waterfall.

Beauty is abundant down in the Lower Garden.

A rain chain at one corner of the Inamori Pavilion is dripping! After taking this photo, I hurriedly put my camera under my jacket.

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Big shark mural in University Heights!

This large shark mural in University Heights was painted many years ago. But every time I’ve walked by it in the past, taking photographs was problematic. (Here’s one instance.)

A couple days ago I finally captured the entire mural! (Well, almost all of it.)

The artist is Cinzah, who hails from New Zealand. He painted this wall for the 2016 Sea Walls Festival organized by PangeaSeed Foundation. He wanted to increase awareness of a severe threat to shark populations: the act of finning. Around 100,000,000 sharks are killed every year for their fins, sharply reducing their numbers. The mural is titled 100 Million.

You can see this cool mural from the Park Boulevard sidewalk, to the east, half a block south of Monroe Avenue.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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A descent into La Jolla’s Sunny Jim Cave!

For over a hundred years, curious visitors have descended into Sunny Jim Cave in La Jolla. I recently ventured down into the sea cave for my very first time! And I’m glad I did!

What was this small adventure like?

North of La Jolla Cove is a series of sea caves, with entrances that can be approached by water. One of the openings is to Sunny Jim Cave.

Visitors to The Cave Store can descend via tunnel into famous Sunny Jim Cave.

Historical Landmark No. 380. Tunnel & Cave Store – 1902. The City of San Diego.

Artwork in the Cave Store depicts someone sitting on a rock inside Sunny Jim Cave.

History of the Cave. In 1902, a German entrepreneur named Prof. Gustav Schultz commissioned two Chinese workers to dig a tunnel into the sea cave through the cliffs of La Jolla with the idea of charging visitors a few cents to enter…During Prohibition, alcohol was smuggled through the tunnel and into San Diego…Its nickname, Sunny Jim, comes from the resemblance of (its) silhouette to that of an old cereal mascot named Sunny Jim.

Starting down narrow stairs into the steeply sloping tunnel.

145 steps…All persons entering this cave do so at their own risk.

Here we go!

I’ve been inside mines, and this experience feels similar.

The stairs descend around several turns. In places the ceiling is rather low, and I had to stoop while carefully holding onto the railing.

When people pass in the narrow tunnel, it’s a tight squeeze! The wooden steps become more wet and slippery the farther down we go…

Almost there. The rock above and around is very damp now.

Walking out onto the wooden deck just inside Sunny Jim Cave.

The profile of Sunny Jim becomes apparent.

Several people were already on the deck, gazing out at ocean waves surging into the cave.

Sea lions sometimes hang out in the cave, but there were none when I visited.

The cave’s name Sunny Jim was suggested by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Sunny Jim was the prominent-nosed mascot for Force, the first commercially successful wheat flake breakfast cereal!

(Public domain image, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Venturing down into Sunny Jim Cave makes for a fun little adventure. If you can manage the steep stairs and narrow tunnel, you might enjoy it, too!

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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!

Kumeyaay history by the Sweetwater River.

The Marina Gateway in National City contains a small cluster of buildings located at the intersection of Bay Marina Drive and Marina Way. On the south side of the Marina Gateway parking lot, a walkway and outdoor plaza overlook Paradise Creek. The creek flows through a marsh into nearby Sweetwater River. Two signs at the edge of Paradise Marsh concern the history of the Native American Kumeyaay.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation owns property at the Marina Gateway, and I believe this plaza was built since my last visit almost seven years ago. The same plant and wildlife information signs remain, but, if I recall correctly, back then there was no plaza and the overlook was less developed.

One sign I didn’t spot years ago features a topographical map showing Kumeyaay ancestral village sites within 1000 feet of the Sweetwater River. It also describes how the Kumeyaay would move up and down the river as they traveled between desert, mountain, and coast.

The Kumeyaay people lived here for thousands of years, long before European explorers and settlers arrived. It is their ancestral homeland–a place of comfort, beauty, and enjoyment, a place that honors our past and that will be enjoyed by future generations.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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!

Nature murals at Harbaugh Seaside Trails.

Extraordinary murals depicting native wildlife, birds, flowers and plants welcome people who enter a system of trails in and around San Elijo Lagoon north of Solana Beach.

Heading up Highway 101, you might see an outdoor installation with the words Harbaugh Seaside Trails. That’s the donor plaza where you’ll find these mosaics. If the beautiful ceramic artwork appears familiar, perhaps that’s because local artist Betsy Schulz created them. You might have seen her similar work elsewhere around San Diego.

Harbaugh Seaside Trails is a 3-acre coastal overlook between Solana Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Should you feel in an adventurous mood, you can walk from this scenic area down an easy trail that passes under the railroad tracks.

On the other side of the tracks is the San Elijo Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, where you’ll discover a large wetland containing more natural beauty and wildlife. (I’ll be blogging about this shortly.)

You’d love to see these murals in person . . . and feel the fresh breeze, and watch birds moving down near the water, and simply experience this beautiful place.

Why not do it today?

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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!