Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego's San Carlos neighborhood.
Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego’s San Carlos neighborhood.

Please enjoy the following photos. They are from a hike that I took yesterday to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park. Cowles Mountain, elevation 1,593 feet, is the highest peak in the city of San Diego. Because it’s located near so many urban residents, hundreds of hikers can be found on its trails on any given day.

Yesterday, around noon, I started from the trailhead at the Cowles Staging Area on Golfcrest Drive, and I slowly climbed the zigzagging trail to the summit. It’s a fairly steep ascent–one gains 950 feet in just 1.5 miles. Furthermore, yesterday the footing was more difficult than usual. A small stream was flowing down much of the muddy trail, due to the recent rain.

But the climb was definitely worth the effort!

The higher I ascended, the more fantastic the views became. At the top I could survey nearly all of San Diego and much of the surrounding region. From mountains to ocean, Mexico to North County and beyond–the spectacular views stretched in every direction!

Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be somewhat crowded on weekends.
Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be very crowded on weekends.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His two ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance experience of other hikers.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance the experience of other hikers.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is required. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is entailed. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
A group hikes up the trail.
A group hikes up the trail.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren't prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate those in distress.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren’t prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate people in distress.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it's possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it’s possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer cone-like peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego, very faint in the far distance.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
The trails zig-zags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
The trail zigzags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day (see the previous blog post) was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870's.
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870’s.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could just barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, distant San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue thread.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue line.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in amazing views.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in some amazing views.

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A short hike in San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. The colors appeared astonishingly bright this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.
There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. Nature’s colors appeared astonishingly rich this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.

My 9:00 hike this morning turned out to be shorter than expected. That’s because I was the only one to show up for a scheduled nature hike in a beautiful section of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Following directions, I parked a few minutes early at the Par 4 trailhead in Jamul, near the Cottonwood Golf Course. I kept checking my watch, hoping the US Fish & Wildlife Service ranger would arrive. I was looking forward to identifying the spring wildflowers and flowering plants along the trail. But it wasn’t to be. I suppose the event was cancelled due to yesterday’s rain.

I didn’t walk far because I didn’t want to adversely impact the still wet trail. Near the trailhead the footing was packed and firm, and my shoes barely made an impression, but perhaps a quarter mile into my hike there was just too much mud to continue.

As you can see, the hills of San Diego are bright green! This winter has been very rainy. During the summer the green in these photos will vanish as the native grasses, sagebrush and scrubby chaparral dry out in the relentless Southern California sun.

During my short hike, I did capture a few photos of tiny flowers and a bird! I’m sorry to report that I can’t properly identify them. Perhaps you can!

Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California. (Click image to enlarge.)
There are patchy wildlife refuges in some of San Diego County's undeveloped areas. This map shops where they are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
There are various wildlife refuges in San Diego County’s undeveloped areas. This map shows where several managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
A wet trail heads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across the open space.
A damp trail leads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across this open space. The morning’s short hike was made pleasurable by a fresh cool breeze and warm sunlight.
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don't know. Leave a comment if you do!
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and lingering raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don’t know. Leave a comment if you do!
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I tried to identify this small bird, using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn't decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I tried to identify this small bird using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn’t decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I'm no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
I’m no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego's East County the day after a big storm.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego’s East County the day after a big storm.

After this very small hike, I drove along Highway 94 to Campo, winding my way through bright green rocky mountains. Then I headed back toward San Diego via Buckman Springs and Pine Valley, without any particular notion of where to stop. Then it occurred to me: Why not hike Cowles Mountain today? So I did, as you’ll see 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!

Fun fungus fair! A mushroom show in Balboa Park!

A mushroom fair was held this weekend in Balboa Park inside the Casa del Prado. The event was put on by the San Diego Mycological Society.
A mushroom fair was held this weekend in Balboa Park inside the Casa del Prado. The event was put on by the San Diego Mycological Society.

There’s a fungus among us! I’m not kidding!  (Groan.)

All sorts of mushrooms were on display inside Balboa Park’s Casa del Prado today during a special show by the San Diego Mycological Society.

I wandered through this cool “mushroom fair” and took a good look around. And I learned quite a lot!

Check out a few fun photos and some informative captions…

Mushroom enthusiasts check out all sorts of displays at the mushroom show. Mushroom facts, art, and food products like jerky were plentiful.
Mushroom enthusiasts check out all sorts of displays at the mushroom show. Mushroom facts, art, and food products like jerky were plentiful.
Several tables exhibited different types of mushrooms one might encounter in nature. The San Diego Mycological Society puts the fun in fungus!
Several tables exhibited different types of mushrooms one might encounter in nature. The San Diego Mycological Society puts the fun in fungus!
These mushrooms are all edible. Some are said to taste better than others.
These mushrooms are all edible. Some are said to taste better than others.
A basket full of Bolbitius vitellinus. Labelled edible but mediocre. According to Wikipedia, it's inedible. I'm no expert.
A basket full of Bolbitius vitellinus. Labelled edible but mediocre. According to Wikipedia, it’s inedible. I’m no expert, so don’t ask me.
Cooking with Wild Mushrooms. (Click image to enlarge the sign for easy reading.)
Cooking with Wild Mushrooms. (Click image to enlarge the sign for easy reading.)
Okay, these are definitely poisonous! Children were advised not to touch. I steered well clear!
Okay, these are definitely poisonous! Children were advised not to touch. I steered well clear!
Here's a monster yeast fungus so villainous that Captain Marvel had a tough time coping with it.
Here’s a monster yeast fungus so villainous that Captain Marvel had a tough time coping with it.
I do know that much of the art displayed at the mushroom show was quite tasty!
I do know that much of the art displayed at the mushroom show was tasty!
Check out this fascinating poster and the following photo. Spore prints show how spores are ejected from the mushroom gills.
Check out this fascinating poster and the following photo. Spore prints show how spores are ejected from the mushroom gills.
These spore prints strangely remind me of human thumbprints.
These spore prints strangely remind me of human thumbprints.
An artist created some spore print cards, hand made from mushrooms found in San Diego! Cool!
An inventive artist created some spore print cards, hand made from mushrooms found in San Diego! Cool!
Volunteers from the San Diego Mycological Society are collecting mushroom specimens found throughout the county. Tiny tissue samples will be barcoded for species identification.
Volunteers from the San Diego Mycological Society are collecting mushroom specimens found throughout the county. Tiny tissue samples will be scientifically barcoded for species identification.
All sorts of arts and crafts, books and fascinating stuff was for sale at the mushroom fair.
All sorts of arts and crafts, books and fascinating stuff was for sale at the mushroom fair.
Colorful mushroom ornaments!
Colorful mushroom ornaments!

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A few cherry blossoms have opened in Balboa Park!

A cherry blossom has opened in mid-February at Balboa Park's beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden!
A cherry blossom has opened in mid-February at Balboa Park’s beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden!

Look what I discovered this afternoon while walking through Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden. A few cherry blossoms have opened!

I spoke to one of the master gardeners and he thinks there might be quite a show of beautiful cherry blossoms this year, because of our rainy winter. So everyone in San Diego who loves springtime and breathtaking displays of dreamy flowers should probably go to the Japanese Friendship Garden’s 12th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival! It takes place Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12.

I’ll be there!

A solitary burst of pink on a mostly bare cherry tree. A wet winter might produce a an amazing show of spring blossoms.
A solitary burst of pink on a mostly bare cherry tree. This unusually wet winter might produce an amazing show of spring blossoms.
Gray cherry trees in winter, but spring is around the corner!
Gray cherry trees in winter, but spring is around the corner!
Early cherry blossoms appear in Balboa Park.
A few early cherry blossoms appear in San Diego’s wonderful Balboa Park!

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Winter beauty at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

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I took a slow walk this afternoon through the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Even in winter, the garden is indescribably beautiful.

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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!

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Photos of San Diego River, after three storms.

The swollen San Diego River after three winter storms in six days. A gauge beside the water shows the river has subsided to about the 8 foot mark, after reaching a high level--I believe--of around 11 feet.
The swollen San Diego River after three winter storms in six days. A gauge beside the water shows the river has subsided to about the 8 foot mark, after reaching a high level–I believe–of around 11 feet.

I did some walking in a drizzle this morning before work.

I got off the trolley at the Fashion Valley station and proceeded to investigate the San Diego River in a section of Mission Valley that is often hit with flooding. Three very rainy winter storms were finally coming to an end. What did I see?

Palm trees surrounded by river water. Photo taken between the Fashion Valley Transit Center and the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center.
Palm trees surrounded by flowing river water. Photo taken from the pedestrian bridge between the Fashion Valley Transit Center and the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center.
A tall eucalyptus tree knocked over by the gusty winter storms. A common sight around San Diego.
A tall, shallow-rooted eucalyptus tree knocked over by the gusty winter storms. A common sight around San Diego.
Fashion Valley Road this morning was still blocked off from traffic, even though the San Diego River's water had subsided to street level.
Fashion Valley Road this morning was still blocked off from traffic, even though the San Diego River’s water had subsided to street level.
A friendly San Diego Lifeguard makes the rounds to make sure nobody needs a swift water rescue. My photo just missed his wave!
A friendly San Diego Lifeguard makes the rounds to make sure nobody needs a swift water rescue. My photo just missed his wave!
The parking structures at Fashion Valley Mall that are susceptible to flooding were definitely well underwater. Thank goodness, I saw no submerged cars.
The parking structures at Fashion Valley Mall that are susceptible to flooding were definitely well underwater. Thank goodness, I saw no submerged cars.
Bright green grass and dark clouds. I was sheltered from raindrops by the trolley tracks overhead.
Bright green grass and dark clouds. I was sheltered from raindrops by the trolley tracks overhead.
As usual, the San Diego River was flooding Avenida del Rio south of the mall. The short street is appropriately named!
As usual, the San Diego River was flooding Avenida del Rio just south of the mall. The short, dipping street is appropriately named!
Yesterday someone foolishly trying to walk through this powerful moving water had to be rescued. They got washed away. A helicopter was even brought in.
Yesterday someone foolishly trying to walk through this powerful moving water had to be rescued. They got washed away. A helicopter was even brought in.
No worries about flooding for the trolley--at least right here!
No worries about flooding for the trolley–at least right here!
The Highway 163 underpass was flooded and muddy. I had to walk another way around to work. Good thing I got an early start!
The Highway 163 underpass was flooded and muddy. I had to walk another way around to reach work. Good thing I got an early start!
Sign by the San Diego River. The low rainfall and the geologic composition historically allowed the river to run below ground much of the year, hence the nickname--the Upside Down River.
Sign by the San Diego River. The low rainfall and the geologic composition historically allowed the river to run below ground much of the year, hence the nickname: the Upside Down River.
The beautiful river this morning through leaves.
The beautiful river this morning through leaves.
Morning sky and clouds through bare winter river trees.
Morning sky and clouds through bare winter trees.
The San Diego River is unusually wide in its swollen state after the storms. It looks like an honest-to-goodness actual river!
The San Diego River is unusually wide in its swollen state after the storms. It looks like an honest-to-goodness actual river!
Walking along Mission Center Road in the rain by the San Diego River.
Walking along Mission Center Road in the rain by the San Diego River.

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 few photos of natural beauty around San Diego.

Glorious sun and clouds high above Mission Valley.
Glorious sun and clouds through trees high above Mission Valley.

I’m going through thousands of photographs stored in my computer this morning. I’ve found a number of beautiful nature shots taken over the past year or so.

Sometimes I can be in a hurry (or feeling a bit lazy) and I don’t properly label or categorize my images. I’m not sure exactly where I captured a couple of these. Somewhere around San Diego . . .

I’d like to thank those of you who follow this blog. I know there’s loads of stuff on the internet, and a whole lot of San Diego websites that are slicker and more professional. I’m just a regular guy and my amateur photo blog is nothing more than a work of joy. And a way for me to see this complex world more closely as I walk around the city. I hope that together, in the weeks and months ahead, we experience even more beauty and many more Cool San Diego Sights!

Now I’m off on a leisurely Sunday walk. Where will I go? I haven’t decided yet! I guess I’ll begin by stepping out the door . . .

One tiny part of a vast, intricate, simply wonderful world.
One tiny part of a vast, intricate, simply wonderful world.
Dazzling bits of stone and broken glass in the water of Mission Bay.
Dazzling bits of stone (and a couple pieces of broken glass) in the water of Mission Bay.
Colorful leaves inside Balboa Park's Botanical Building.
Colorful leaves inside Balboa Park’s Botanical Building.
Complex, dramatic clouds above our fair city.
Complex, dramatic clouds above our fair city.
Delicate natural beauty seen during a hike in Mission Trails Regional Park.
Delicate natural beauty seen during a hike in Mission Trails Regional Park.
A pure white egret on a branch by the shining San Diego River.
A pure white egret on a branch by the shining San Diego River.
Crashing water meets smooth stones on the ocean shore in La Jolla.
Crashing water meets wet, smooth stones on the ocean shore in La Jolla.
A shapely succulent in Balboa Park. Nature produces another marvel.
A shapely succulent in Balboa Park. Nature produces another marvel.
Beautiful clouds and blue sky above San Diego Bay.
Beautiful clouds and blue sky above San Diego Bay.
I took this photo yesterday walking along Friars Road as I approached the San Diego River estuary.
I took this photo yesterday walking along Friars Road as I approached the San Diego River estuary. A few droplets cling to green leaves.
Photo of a beautiful pink rose taken during a walk somewhere in San Diego.
Photo of a beautiful pink rose taken during a walk somewhere in San Diego.

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 enjoy beautiful things? Please visit my other fun photography blog which I call A Small World Full of Beauty.