Holiday fun at the new SMARTS Farm in East Village!

People check out many planters full of vegetables and flowers at the new SMARTS Farm in East Village.
People check out many planters full of vegetables and flowers at the new SMARTS Farm in East Village.

Today I walked to East Village in downtown San Diego to check out a holiday event at SMARTS Farm. I didn’t realize that this cool community garden had recently moved. Their new and improved location is at the corner of 13th Street and Broadway.

At SMARTS Farm, anybody is welcome to become an urban gardener–growing flowers or vegetables in the heart of our sunny city. Downtown residents can relax here, kids can learn about farming, botany and nature, and I believe photography classes are still offered.

If you’re ever downtown, swing on by to see for yourself!

SMARTS Farm in San Diego's East Village is a community garden where hearts can grow and minds thrive.
SMARTS Farm in San Diego’s East Village is a community garden where hearts can grow and minds thrive.
A wreath is hung on the barn inside SMARTS Farm to celebrate the holiday season. They've moved to a new location and are open to everyone in the community!
A wreath is hung on the barn inside SMARTS Farm to celebrate the holiday season. They’ve moved to a new location and are open to everyone in the community!
Someone makes a wreath the week before Christmas during a special SMARTS Farm holiday event.
Someone makes a wreath the week before Christmas during a special SMARTS Farm holiday event.
These guys were rolling out yummy pizzas!
These guys were rolling out yummy pizzas!
Walking around the large colorful garden. Schools and community groups can grow their own plants in an urban environment downtown.
Walking around the large colorful garden. Schools and community groups can grow their own plants in an urban environment downtown.
Lessons about how to plant urban crops were underway in the late morning.
Lessons about how to plant urban crops were underway in the late morning.
A young gardener sows some seeds at SMARTS Farm.
A young gardener sows some seeds at SMARTS Farm.
Hands on farming includes a children's garden and plants grown by nearby school KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy--my neighbor on Cortez Hill.
Hands on farming includes a children’s garden and plants grown by nearby school KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy–my neighbor on Cortez Hill.
A pleasant day can be had tending a garden and learning about gardening in the middle of downtown San Diego!
A pleasant day can be had tending a garden and learning about gardening in the middle of downtown San Diego!
Nature, Water, Air. At SMARTS Farm, every day is Earth Day!
Nature, Water, Air. At SMARTS Farm, every day is Earth Day!

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 from Kumeyaay Lake to the Old Mission Dam.

Hikers head from the Kumeyaay Campground at Mission Trails Regional Park toward a shady nature trail that runs beside Kumeyaay Lake.
Hikers head from the Kumeyaay Campground at Mission Trails Regional Park toward a shady nature trail that runs beside Kumeyaay Lake.

I enjoyed an amazing walk last weekend at Mission Trails Regional Park. The guided hike met under the flagpoles of the Kumeyaay Campground, and started down a pleasant nature trail at nearby Kumeyaay Lake. The hike then proceeded at a leisurely, easy pace along several trails by the San Diego River, ending up at the Old Mission Dam.

Every month, anyone can go on a variety of free interpretative nature walks at Mission Trails Regional Park. The walks are led by experienced trail guides, who point out the native flora and fauna, and relate the fascinating history of this mountainous wilderness in the city. To learn more check out the park’s website.

Please enjoy my photos and read the descriptive captions to join me on a virtual hike. Not only will you experience natural beauty, but you’ll learn a bit about early San Diego history!

A couple walks slowly along the Kumeyaay Nature Trail, enjoying a beautiful November day.
A couple walks slowly along the Kumeyaay Nature Trail, enjoying a beautiful November day.
Signs along the nature trail include descriptions of wildlife that can be found around Kumeyaay Lake (once called Hollins Lake). Open water can be glimpsed beyond cattails.
Signs along the nature trail include descriptions of wildlife that can be found around Kumeyaay Lake (once called Hollins Lake). Open water can be glimpsed beyond cattails.
At Mission Trails Regional Park, birds of all feathers include quail, gnatcatchers, herons, egrets, ducks, woodpeckers, scrub jays, owls, and the endangered least Bell's vireo!
At Mission Trails Regional Park, birds of all feathers include quail, gnatcatchers, herons, egrets, ducks, woodpeckers, scrub jays, owls, and the endangered least Bell’s vireo!

The sign includes the following: “Because of our diverse habitats, San Diego County has 486 bird species–more than any other county in the United States! Birds from as far as the tip of South America to north of Siberia pass through, many stopping here either to breed in the summer or to winter in our mild climate.”

Photo of the San Diego River emerging from Kumeyaay Lake. This is near an outdoor amphitheater and fire pit. The park is a perfect place to learn about nature from rangers, and for stargazing at night!
Photo of the San Diego River emerging from Kumeyaay Lake. This is near an outdoor amphitheater and fire pit. The park is a perfect place to learn about nature from rangers, and for stargazing at night!
An Autumn wildflower at Mission Trails Regional Park.
An Autumn wildflower at Mission Trails Regional Park.
We head from the lake back toward the campground. Our pleasant hike has just begun.
We head from the lake back toward the campground. Our pleasant hike has just begun.
Non-native plants can cause serious damage to natural areas and wildlife. Park staff and volunteers work to protect the natural ecosystems.
Non-native plants can cause serious damage to natural areas and wildlife. Park staff and volunteers work to protect the natural ecosystems.
Hiking down the Grasslands Crossing Trail, my guide and I pass over the San Diego River. It has been a typically dry summer, and the pooled water here is still.
Hiking down the Grasslands Crossing Trail, my guide and I pass over the San Diego River. It has been a typically dry summer, and the pooled water here is still.
Leaves and reflections of trees in the quiet water.
Leaves and reflections of trees in the quiet water.
We spied a wood rat's nest of twigs and branches near the hiking trail. I learned these nests contain several rooms with different functions, not unlike a human home.
We spied a wood rat’s nest of twigs and branches near the hiking trail. I learned these nests contain several rooms with different functions, not unlike a human home.
Larry the trail guide showed me a photo of a wood rat.
Larry the trail guide showed me a photo of a wood rat.
Now we are heading along the easy Grasslands Loop Trail, following the north bank of the San Diego River. Riparian trees such as willows, sycamores and cottonwoods thrive along the river.
Now we are heading along the easy Grasslands Loop Trail, following the north bank of the San Diego River. Riparian trees such as willows, sycamores and cottonwoods thrive along the river.
Mountain bikers enjoy a warm, sunny morning at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Mountain bikers enjoy a warm, sunny morning at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Approaching an overlook of the Old Mission Dam.
Approaching an overlook of the Old Mission Dam.
Photo of the Old Mission Dam from the north. The dam was built around 1813 and powered a water wheel that drove a grist mill. A tiled flume brought water to the mission, about five miles away.
Photo of the Old Mission Dam from the north. The dam was built around 1813 and powered a water wheel that drove a grist mill. A tiled flume brought water to Mission San Diego de Alcala, about five miles away.
Families play on the rocks near the Old Mission Dam at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Families play on the rocks near the Old Mission Dam at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Lush trees along the San Diego River. Autumn leaves have yellowed a bit.
Lush trees along the San Diego River. Autumn leaves have yellowed a bit.
We have descended onto Oak Canyon Trail, and are working our way down to the river and the historic dam.
We have descended onto Oak Canyon Trail, and are working our way down to the river and the historic dam.
Standing on the north end of the Old Mission Dam. Materials used in constructing the dam include volcanic rock found in this area.
Standing on the north end of the Old Mission Dam. Materials used in constructing the dam include abundant volcanic rock found in this area.
A slot in the dam wall where a water wheel was located. The river water, after driving the wheel, flowed along an aqueduct south to the mission, where it was used to grow crops.
A slot in the dam wall where a water wheel was located. The river water, after driving the wheel, flowed along a tile-lined aqueduct south to the mission, where it was used to grow crops.
Walking along the Oak Canyon Trail. Mission Trails Regional Park is like a small wilderness in the city of San Diego. At 5,800 acres, it's the largest city park in California.
Walking along the Oak Canyon Trail. Mission Trails Regional Park is like a small wilderness inside the city of San Diego. At 5,800 acres, it’s the largest city park in California.
Riparian plants recover quickly after a fire because all are vigorous resprouters as long as they have a steady water supply.
Riparian plants recover quickly after a fire because all are vigorous resprouters as long as they have a steady water supply.
Granitic rocks seen along the trail.
Granitic rocks seen along the trail.
South Fortuna Mountain, elevation 1094 feet, rises to the south. It's sides are covered with native chaparral and sage scrub.
South Fortuna Mountain, elevation 1094 feet, rises to the south. Its sides are covered with native chaparral and sage scrub.
Crossing the San Diego River via a steel footbridge.
Crossing the San Diego River via a steel footbridge.
Looking down at the San Diego River. During rains, the river swells. The water runs down into Mission Valley and finally to the Pacific Ocean, sustaining an estuary near Mission Bay.
Looking down at the San Diego River. During rains, the river swells. The water runs down into Mission Valley and finally to the Pacific Ocean, sustaining an estuary near Mission Bay.
Larry, my knowledgeable trail guide, informed me that the tiny green vegetation is duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on the water's surface.
Larry, my knowledgeable trail guide, informed me that the tiny green vegetation is duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on the water’s surface.
Sign at one end of the Oak Canyon Trail, near the Old Mission Dam.
Sign at one end of the Oak Canyon Trail, near the Old Mission Dam.
A cool 3-D model of the Old Mission Dam beside the trail. The dam was constructed from granite boulders and limestone mortar. At the gap there was a 12-foot wide floodgate.
A cool 3-D model of the Old Mission Dam beside the trail. The dam was constructed from granite boulders and limestone mortar. At the gap there was a 12-foot wide floodgate.
It's possible to walk out onto the old dam, but one must be careful!
It’s possible to walk out onto the old dam, but one must be careful!
A vertical groove in the dam wall shows where the floodgate used to exist. The dam was completed around 1813, and the long flume to Mission San Diego was completed several years later.
A vertical groove in the dam wall shows where the floodgate used to exist. The dam was completed around 1813, and the long flume to Mission San Diego was completed several years later.
Inscription in a boulder dated 1941, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. OLD MISSION DAM. Built 1813-1816. A part of the first permanent irrigation project by Padres and Indians in California.
Inscription in a boulder dated 1941, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. OLD MISSION DAM. Built 1813-1816. A part of the first permanent irrigation project by Padres and Indians in California.
A plaque by the old dam. In memory of Edwin L. Feeley. 1917 - 1971. Artist - Dreamer - Doer who as a gift to his city, moved rocks and people to bring about the restoration of this historic site.
A plaque by the old dam. In memory of Edwin L. Feeley. 1917 – 1971. Artist – Dreamer – Doer who as a gift to his city, moved rocks and people to bring about the restoration of this historic site.
Bright fluttering leaves of a river tree growing beside the Father Junipero Serra Trail, a road that leads past the Old Mission Dam.
Bright fluttering leaves of a river tree growing beside the Father Junipero Serra Trail, a road that leads past the Old Mission Dam.
Heading to the parking lot by the Old Mission Dam, also called the Padre Dam.
Walking to the parking lot by the Old Mission Dam, also called the Padre Dam.
The site is a California historical landmark. A dam and flume system was finished between 1813 and 1816 by Indian laborers and Franciscan missionaries. It provided a reliable source of water for crops and livestock for Mission San Diego de Alcala. The system continued until 1831 when it fell into final disrepair.
The site is a California historical landmark. A dam and flume system was finished between 1813 and 1816 by Indian laborers and Franciscan missionaries. It provided a reliable source of water for crops and livestock for Mission San Diego de Alcala. The system continued until 1831 when it fell into final disrepair.
Wonderful hiking opportunities, and a fascinating bit of San Diego and California history can be found at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Beautiful hiking trails, and a fascinating look back at early San Diego and California history await at Mission Trails Regional Park.

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Nature and history on a walk in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.

Naturalist Mike Kelly leads a small group of hikers into Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from the Del Mar Mesa trailhead.
Naturalist Mike Kelly leads a small group of hikers into Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from the Del Mar Mesa trailhead.

Free guided nature walks in the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve introduce the public to unexpected wild beauty in the heart of San Diego. Yesterday I went on one of these easy walks.

Our guide, naturalist Mike Kelly, longtime member of the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, has been an advocate working to safeguard this beautiful and historic San Diego canyon for over three decades. He’s a friendly fellow whose knowledge of the canyon’s flora, fauna and fascinating history made for an extremely enjoyable hike.

Years ago, Mike and others fought to save Los Peñasquitos Canyon from development. Their efforts resulted in about half of the canyon being protected. Fortunately, the preserve is connected to other similar natural areas in San Diego through various corridors, allowing wildlife to move about and thrive. Owls, woodpeckers, hawks, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, mule deer, even an occasional mountain lion make the canyon their home. Native trees, chaparral, grass and spring flowers are abundant and the source of endless enjoyment.

I learned there are also wildlife tracking hikes, plus night walks, when deer are frequently seen. There are also free guided tours of San Diego’s second oldest residence, which stands near the east end of the preserve, the Rancho Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos adobe. To learn about all these wonderful adventures, which are ideal for families, click here.

To learn more about the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, click here! Perhaps you’d like to become a member!

The Del Mar Mesa trailhead is located near suburban homes at the north edge of Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
The Del Mar Mesa trailhead is located near suburban homes at the north edge of Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
A sign posted at the trailhead shows future trails proposed in the Natural Resources Management Plan.
A sign posted at the trailhead shows future trails proposed in the Natural Resources Management Plan.
Our small group of hikers heads down into the canyon through Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. We are passing California scrub oaks.
Our small group of hikers heads down into the canyon through Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. We are passing California scrub oaks.
We headed to Carsons Crossing before checking out the popular Waterfall.
We headed to Carson’s Crossing before checking out the popular waterfall.
Approaching the central part of the long, narrow canyon, which runs from Poway west to the Pacific Ocean. Peñasquitos Creek lies beyond those coast live oaks in the distance.
Approaching the central part of the long, narrow canyon, which runs from Poway west to Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean. Peñasquitos Creek lies beyond those coast live oaks in the distance.
Kit Carson crossing is an historically important spot in Peñasquitos Canyon. Kit Carson crossed the creek here during the Mexican-American War. General Kearny's US Army of the West was faced with formidable Californio lancers in San Pasqual, and the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson snuck away in the middle of the night to summon reinforcements from San Diego. The later 1857 Jackass Mail stagecoach line also ran through here enroute to San Diego.
Carson’s Crossing is an historically important spot in Peñasquitos Canyon. Kit Carson crossed the creek here during the Mexican-American War. General Kearny’s US Army of the West was faced with formidable Californio lancers in San Pasqual, and the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson snuck away in the middle of the night to summon reinforcements from San Diego. He knew to come this way.  The later 1857 Jackass Mail stagecoach line also ran through the canyon here enroute to San Diego.
Heading west through the beautiful canyon in the shade of oaks, sycamores and willows. It's an easy, pleasant hike.
Heading west through the beautiful canyon in the shade of oaks, sycamores and willows. It’s an easy, pleasant hike.
Looking north across a field in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in late October. Many leaves and flowers are now brown, awaiting winter rains.
Looking north across a field in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in late October. Summers are very dry. Many leaves and flowers are now brown, awaiting winter rains.
Walking slowly, senses alert. I smell the nearby sagebrush. I hear acorn woodpeckers and quail. I see beautiful clouds.
Walking slowly, senses alert. I smell the nearby sagebrush. I hear acorn woodpeckers and quail. I see beautiful clouds.
Mike Kelly is a guide and activist whose knowledge of Peñasquitos is deep. Here he shows us some poison oak which is growing a short distance off the trail.
Mike Kelly is a guide and activist whose knowledge of Peñasquitos is deep. Here he shows us some poison oak which is growing a short distance off the trail.
A peaceful walk through nature. Over several decades, activists like Mike have worked hard to preserve the canyon and protect it from development. Today it is maintained by both the City and County of San Diego.
A peaceful walk through nature. Over several decades, activists like Mike have worked hard to preserve the canyon and protect it from development. Today it is maintained by volunteers and both the City and County of San Diego.
Mike Kelly shows us some California broom. Native American Kumeyaay and pioneers used the plant like a broom for sweeping.
Mike Kelly shows us some California broom. Native American Kumeyaay and pioneers used the plant like a broom for sweeping.
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is a very popular place for jogging, hiking and mountain biking. Even marathoners use it for training.
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is a very popular place for jogging, hiking and mountain biking. Even marathoners use it for training.
Now we're approaching a sign and a large rock outcropping, which I learned is volcanic.
Now we’re approaching a trail sign and a large rock outcropping, which I learned is volcanic.
Sign shows proposed San Diego Trans County Trail, which when completed would run from the Pacific Ocean over the mountains east of San Diego and out to the Salton Sea in the desert.
Sign shows proposed San Diego Trans County Trail, which when completed would run from the Pacific Ocean over the mountains east of San Diego and out to the Salton Sea in the desert.
I see lots of prickly pear cacti. Now we are getting close to the popular waterfall!
I see lots of prickly pear cacti. Now we are getting close to the popular waterfall!
Approaching the Peñasquitos Creek waterfall from the east.
Approaching the Peñasquitos Creek waterfall from the east.
Descending rough stone steps to the waterfall. I learned the steps were a project of an Eagle Boy Scout.
Descending rough stone steps to the waterfall. I learned the steps were a project of an Eagle Boy Scout.
The small waterfall and its rocky pools are located near the center of Los Peñasquitos Canyon. It is the destination of many hikes. A great place to relax, cool off, and listen to the soothing water.
The small waterfall and its rocky pools are located near the center of Los Peñasquitos Canyon. It is the destination of many hikes. A great place to relax, cool off, and listen to the soothing water.
Water spills over rocks. It isn't Niagara Falls, but it is wonderful nonetheless.
Water spills over rocks. It isn’t Niagara Falls, but it’s wonderful nonetheless.
Hikers pause above a pool of water which is captured by large blocks of volcanic rock. When the creek crests, it can rise many feet and submerge this area.
Hikers pause above a pool of water which is captured by large blocks of volcanic rock. When the creek crests, it can rise many feet and submerge this area.
A hiker up above seems to walk in the sky.
A hiker up above seems to walk in the sky.
Families wander down a pleasant trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. There is much here to see and appreciate. So much to learn.
Families wander down a pleasant trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. There is much here to see and appreciate. So much to learn.
Naturalist Mike Kelly shows us a poisonous flower of Datura. In nature, beauty and danger are often found together. We didn't see any rattlesnakes or mountain lions!
Naturalist Mike Kelly shows us a poisonous flower of Datura. In nature, beauty and danger are often found together. One should be thoughtful when hiking, and be careful to wear sturdy footwear and bring water.  We didn’t see any rattlesnakes or mountain lions!

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Beautiful San Diego hiking trail welcomes wheelchairs.

Wheelchairs are welcome on the beautiful Jas Arnold Trail For All People in Black Mountain Open Space Park.
Wheelchairs are welcome on the beautiful Jas Arnold Trail For All People in Black Mountain Open Space Park.

A hiking trail that welcomes wheelchairs recently opened in San Diego’s North County. It’s called the Jas Arnold Trail For All People, and it’s located in the Black Mountain Open Space Park.

This morning I walked the short loop for the first time.

What a wonderful place. Peaceful, a bit meandering, easily accessible, with pleasant views into the sunlit distance, fresh air, the scent of sage, the sound of birds–it’s a fine place that one can explore at a easy pace and just relax–a place to feel energized, spiritually whole and free.

Here are some photographs. To read the signs, click the images and they will enlarge. This morning I spotted a shy rabbit, a curious scrub jay and a cheerful young mockingbird. And a bunch of small flitting birds that I couldn’t identify.

The Trail For All People is a 1076 feet long, nearly level loop. The elevation runs between 777 and 792 feet. The five foot wide hiking trail’s decomposed granite surface is very easily navigated on wheels or by foot. Those in a wheelchair who love nature and the outdoors should definitely check it out!

To reach the Trail For All People’s trailhead, drive up Carmel Valley Road and watch for the Black Mountain Open Space Park sign that mentions Miner’s Ridge Loop. You’ll spot it just south of the Valle Del Sur Court traffic light. Turn in to the narrow entrance and head up a slightly rough and winding paved road for about a half mile until you reach the trailhead parking lot. Once parked, it’s easy to spot the Trail For All People. (You might also see trailheads for the Miner’s Ridge Loop and Lilac Canyon Trail.)

On warm days, make sure to bring water! Enjoy!

To find the trailhead for the Trail For All People, turn off of Carmel Valley Road at this sign, just south of the traffic light at Valle Del Sur Court.
To find the trailhead for the Trail For All People, turn off of Carmel Valley Road at this sign, just south of the traffic light at Valle Del Sur Court.
Early morning walker with dog on the Miner's Ridge Loop Trail, across a parking lot from the Trail For All People.
Early morning walker with dog on the Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail, across a parking lot from the Trail For All People.
The Jas Arnold Trail For All People is an ADA Accessible loop composed of wheelchair-friendly decomposed granite. Four small shelters provide shade for those enjoying the views.
The Jas Arnold Trail For All People is an ADA Accessible loop composed of wheelchair-friendly decomposed granite. Four small shelters provide shade for those enjoying the views.
Native plants along the trail include Black Sage, Coastal Prickly Pear, California Sagebrush, Laurel Sumac, Chamise, Lemonadeberry and Flat-top Buckwheat.
Native plants along the trail include Black Sage, Coastal Prickly Pear, California Sagebrush, Laurel Sumac, Chamise, Lemonadeberry and Flat-top Buckwheat.
Animals one might spot along the trail include rattlesnakes, Red-tailed Hawks, California Quail, Greater Roadrunners, Desert Cottontails, Bobcats and Coyotes.
Animals one might spot along the trail include rattlesnakes, Red-tailed Hawks, California Quail, Greater Roadrunners, Desert Cottontails, Bobcats and Coyotes.
I'm hiking down the easy Jas Arnold Trail For All People on Black Mountain early one Saturday morning. The sun had just risen and few people were about.
Here I’m hiking down the easy Jas Arnold Trail For All People on Black Mountain early one Saturday morning. The sun had just risen and very few people were about.
One of the benches and shelters along the Trail For All People. Views to the north include mountains and nearby 4S Ranch.
One of the benches and shelters along the Trail For All People. Views to the north include mountains and nearby 4S Ranch.
Looking southeast toward a chaparral-covered slope of Black Mountain in north San Diego County.
Looking southeast toward the chaparral-covered slopes of Black Mountain in north San Diego County.
A topographical map shows the position of the Trail For All People in relation to its surroundings.
A topographical map shows the position of the Trail For All People in relation to its surroundings.
The Jas Arnold Trail For All People was built on a small plateau in the Black Mountain Ranch Open Space Park.
The Jas Arnold Trail For All People was built on a small plateau in the Black Mountain Ranch Open Space Park.
Another sign along the trail provides detailed information about some of the wildlife one might see.
Another sign along the trail provides detailed information about some of the wildlife one might see.
Another section of the relatively level Trail For All People. The easy loop is ideal for the mobility challenged and families with small children. On warm days, bring water!
Another section of the relatively level Trail For All People. The easy loop is ideal for the mobility challenged and families with very small children. On warm days, bring water!
One of many fascinating signs along the trail. The smell of sage adds a pleasant element to one's invigorating journey through fresh open air.
One of many fascinating signs along the trail. The smell of sage adds a pleasant element to one’s invigorating journey through fresh open air.
A pleasant view from the Jas Arnold Trail For All People on Black Mountain.
A pleasant view from the Jas Arnold Trail For All People on Black Mountain.
The natural beauty, open spaces and sunlight make one feel happy and alive.
The natural beauty, open spaces and sunlight make one feel happy and alive.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Floral Wagon Parade at Balboa Park’s Garden Party!

Kid pulls a Radio Flyer during Floral Wagon Parade. The fun family event was part of Balboa Park's big Garden Party!
Kid pulls a Radio Flyer during Floral Wagon Parade. The fun family event was part of Balboa Park’s big 2016 Garden Party!

I took more fun photos! They capture a bit of the cheerful color from this morning’s Floral Wagon Parade in Balboa Park! The unique flower-themed parade kicked off the park’s Second Annual Garden Party!

I’ve got even more pics of the 2016 Garden Party, which I’ll post later tonight on my new Beautiful Balboa Park blog! The event included dancing, butterfly releases, and all sorts of delightful stuff. You might enjoy checking it out!

Here comes the Floral Wagon Parade down El Prado. Lots of colorful blooms have been arranged to delight onlookers!
Here comes the Floral Wagon Parade down El Prado. Lots of colorful blooms have been arranged to delight onlookers!
An elaborate Friends of Balboa Park display near the front of the parade. Today was the park's Second Annual Garden Party!
An elaborate Friends of Balboa Park display near the front of the parade. Today was the park’s Second Annual Garden Party!
Here comes the morning parade! The Garden Party was just beginning and the later crowds hadn't quite materialized yet.
Here comes more of the morning parade! The Garden Party was just getting underway at nine o’clock, and the later crowds hadn’t quite materialized yet.
This cool musician was playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on a ukulele!
This cool musician was playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on a ukulele!
Towed by young people, floral displays head down Balboa Park's central El Prado.
Towed by young people, floral displays head down Balboa Park’s central El Prado.
Even though the spring morning was gray and overcast, these flowers brightened the day like small suns.
Even though the sky was gray and overcast, these flowers brightened the day like small suns.
A terrible disaster! A basket-trailer containing fruit overturned during the parade!
A terrible disaster! A basket-trailer containing fruit overturned during the parade!
Here comes Botany for Kids!
Here comes Botany for Kids!  (It seems the adults were having the most fun.)
These young ladies informed me that they were dressed as garden fairies.
These young ladies informed me that they were dressed as garden fairies.
Is that a digital Sheldon Cooper on the screen? No! It's a fun remote-control parade float created by the Balboa Park Online Collaborative.
Is that a digital Sheldon Cooper on the screen? No! It’s a funny remote-control parade “float” created by the Balboa Park Online Collaborative.
The colorful Floral Wagon Parade enters the Plaza de Panama, where speeches will kick off the day's big 2016 Garden Party.
The colorful Floral Wagon Parade enters the Plaza de Panama, where speeches will kick off the day’s big 2016 Garden Party.
Looks like parade participants had lots of fun decorating their flower-laden wagons!
Looks like parade participants had lots of fun decorating their flower-laden wagons!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

San Diego Zoo seed bank protects endangered plants.

Visitors at the San Diego Zoo Centennial Festival in Balboa Park learn how rare, threatened and endangered native plants are being saved by the zoo.
Visitors at the San Diego Zoo Centennial Festival in Balboa Park learn how rare, threatened and endangered native plants are being saved by the zoo.

Many know how the San Diego Zoo is a world leader in working to protect animal species from extinction. One important task is to store critical genetic material. Their world-renowned Frozen Zoo has been storing cryogenically preserved biological samples since 1976.

When I walked through the San Diego Zoo Centennial Festival in Balboa Park last Saturday, I learned something that really impressed me. Not only is the zoo striving to save the world’s most endangered wild animals, but San Diego Zoo Global has developed an important native plant seed bank, in an effort to conserve rare and threatened local plant species.

The zoo is member of the California Plant Rescue Partnership, whose goal is the long term conservation of wild plant species through seed banks and field work. One of the people with whom I briefly spoke has the job of hiking about San Diego County, searching for and monitoring populations of these rare plant species. What a fantastic job that must be!

The zoo has developed an extensive seed collection. Some native plants being protected are the San Diego golden star Bloomeria clevelandii, Dudleya brevifolia, Monardella stoneana, Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. diversifolia, and Corethrogyne filaginifolia var. linifolia, which is commonly called the Del Mar sand aster.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is also working hard to save the Tecate Cypress in Southern California and Baja California, a tree that the rare Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly depends upon. A poster at the zoo’s centennial event helped to explain why this effort is so urgent.

San Diego Zoo Global's Native Plant Seed Bank and horticulture departments have planted 500 Tecate Cypress trees to establish a field gene bank.
San Diego Zoo Global’s Native Plant Seed Bank and horticulture departments have planted 500 Tecate Cypress trees to establish a field gene bank. (Click to enlarge.)
The San Diego Zoo's important conservation efforts extend beyond protecting animal species threatened by extinction.
The San Diego Zoo’s conservation efforts extend beyond protecting animal species threatened by extinction.  Plants are important, too!

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Flowers along a trail into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

Spectacular flower of a Coastal cholla cactus in San Diego. Seen along a trail near Morley Field Drive that leads down into Balboa Park's Florida Canyon.
Spectacular flower of a Coastal cholla cactus in San Diego. Seen along a trail near Morley Field Drive that leads into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

I took these colorful photos while walking Sunday through Balboa Park, along one of the rugged dirt trails that leads up out of Florida Canyon. A short hike can be enjoyed through native coastal chaparral and spring wildflowers, between Morley Field and Park Boulevard, just south of Morley Field Drive.

Flat-top buckwheat, or California buckwheat, flower clusters are opening in spring. These native plants grow profusely in arid San Diego.
Flat-top buckwheat, or California buckwheat, flower clusters are opening in spring. These native plants grow profusely in arid San Diego.
Small red flower clusters of flat-top buckwheat (Eriogonum deflexum) that have yet to open.
Small red flower clusters of flat-top buckwheat (Eriogonum deflexum) that have yet to open.
More buckwheat in Balboa Park's Florida Canyon. Native Americans used the plant to make tea with medicinal properties.
More buckwheat in Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon. Native Americans used the plant to make tea with medicinal properties.
Another flower on a very spiny Coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) makes for an interesting photograph.
Another flower on a very spiny Coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) makes for an interesting photograph.
A wild yellow prickly pear cactus flower at the rim of Balboa Park's Florida Canyon, just across Park Boulevard from the San Diego Zoo.
A wild yellow prickly pear cactus flower near the rim of Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon, just across Park Boulevard from the San Diego Zoo.
These buckwheat flower clusters have turned brown. Perhaps that's why the plant is sometimes called skeletonweed.
These buckwheat flower clusters have turned brown. Perhaps that’s why the plant is sometimes called skeletonweed.
These flowers that I randomly photographed along the trail have me stumped. I tried to identify them, but without success. If you know what they are, please leave a comment!
These flowers that I randomly photographed along the trail have me stumped. I tried to identify them, but without success. If you know what they are, please leave a comment!
A profusion of red and white buckwheat beauty.
A profusion of red and white buckwheat beauty.

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A short nature walk along a National City wetland.

Rusty old train tracks are overgrown with wild vegetation, including many California sunflowers.
Rusty old train tracks are overgrown with wild vegetation, including many California bush sunflowers.

I made a cool discovery the other day. A little-known hiking path in San Diego’s South Bay provides a view of a beautiful natural wetland.

According to signs that I saw, the small estuary between Bay Marina Drive, Marina Way, Interstate 5 and the Sweetwater River is a protected wildlife refuge. I believe, after looking at Google Maps, that the water flows from Paradise Creek. But I’m not certain. Perhaps someone reading this knows.

Long-unused train tracks that are partially concealed by vegetation run along the edge of the wetland, and so does a narrow footpath. I didn’t see any signs naming the trail, or any that prohibited a short hike. So I walked down it a bit, enjoying the fresh air and peaceful surroundings.

Information sign near edge of estuary identifies native plants. California Buckwheat, White Sage, Southwestern Spiny Rush, and Black Sage.
Information sign near edge of estuary identifies native plants. California Buckwheat, White Sage, Southwestern Spiny Rush, and Black Sage.
View of National City wetland from observation area south of the Best Western Marina Gateway hotel parking lot.
View of National City wetland from observation area south of the Best Western Marina Gateway hotel parking lot.
Beginning down the footpath on a sunny weekend day.
Beginning down the footpath on a sunny weekend day.
Some eroded sandstone adds beauty to the scene.
Some eroded sandstone adds beauty to the scene.
Prickly pear and chaparral yucca above a green estuary.
Prickly pear and chaparral yucca above a green estuary.
Beyond the sign lies a fragile wetland where native plants and animals are protected. I saw some birds out in the wildlife refuge.
Beyond the sign lies a fragile wetland where native plants and animals are protected. I saw some birds out in the wildlife refuge.
I turned about after a short hike and headed on back to the hotel parking lot.
I turned about after a short hike and headed on back to the hotel parking lot.

UPDATE!

On a later visit I discovered additional signs beside the hotel parking lot. They contain more interesting information.

I learned this wetland is called Paradise Marsh. It’s an environmentally important tidal salt marsh that’s part of the much larger San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Water reflects bright sunlight in National City's Paradise Marsh.
Water reflects bright sunlight in National City’s Paradise Marsh.
Paradise Marsh is a small part of the 2600 acre San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Paradise Marsh is a small part of the 2600 acre San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The birds of Paradise Marsh include the Willet, Mallard, American Avocet and the Great Blue Heron.
The birds of Paradise Marsh include the Willet, Mallard, American Avocet and the Great Blue Heron.
For hundreds of years, Native American tribes such as the Kumeyaay, Iapi or Tipai made their homes around the estuaries of San Diego Bay.
For hundreds of years, Native American tribes such as the Kumeyaay, Iapi or Tipai made their homes around the estuaries of San Diego Bay.
A beautiful tidal salt marsh wetland can be viewed in National City.
A beautiful tidal salt marsh wetland can be viewed in National City.

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Artist creates amazing lumen and cyanotype photos!

Uniquely beautiful Fern Lumen by artist Patricia Grabski.
Uniquely beautiful Fern Lumen by artist Patricia Grabski.

This weekend you have an opportunity to see something really unique. Patricia Grabski is displaying her amazing lumen and cyanotype photo art in Balboa Park. Her work is part of a five artist exhibition called Ain’t Nothing Like a Dame, which you can enjoy inside Gallery 21, in the always wonderful Spanish Village Art Center.

I learned that cyanotype printing was invented in England in 1842. Utilizing two chemicals, ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide, this process was used to create early blueprints. In 1843, the world’s first woman photographer, Anna Atkins, placed organic materials onto paper coated with cyanotype; when exposed to sunlight, ghostly, artistic photograms were created.

Lumens is a very similar process that uses old unexposed black and white photo paper. Exposure to sunlight creates all sorts of fantastic colors and effects.

My own poor photographs don’t do this fascinating artwork justice. You have to see the subtle detail in person. So head on over to Spanish Village tomorrow.  Patricia Grabski’s work will be displayed through March 14. If you want to contact the artist, her info is visible in one photo.

Patricia Grabski is currently exhibiting her unique creations in Gallery 21, in Balboa Park's wonderful Spanish Village Art Center. Her pieces are available for purchase.
Patricia Grabski is currently exhibiting her unique creations in Gallery 21, in Balboa Park’s wonderful Spanish Village Art Center. Her pieces are available for purchase.
Patricia Grabski uses neither camera nor lens--she contact prints her images with alternative photographic processes--cyanotype, platinum, palladium, albumen, van dyke brown, salt and lumens. Her prints are made on photographic paper, art paper, glass, tin, cotton handkerchiefs and old linens.
Patricia Grabski uses neither camera nor lens–she contact prints her images with alternative photographic processes–cyanotype, platinum, palladium, albumen, van dyke brown, salt and lumens. Her prints are made on photographic paper, art paper, glass, tin, cotton handkerchiefs and old linens.

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Leaf Lumen. Fantastic art created by Patricia Grabski.
Leaf Lumen. Fantastic art created by Patricia Grabski.

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Art springs up near New Children’s Museum!

Art is filled with growing strawberry plants at The Garden Project!
Art is alive (with growing strawberry plants) at The Garden Project!

Whenever I mosey down the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade, I spy something new.

This morning I noticed that some fun art has sprung up near the New Children’s Museum, in both The Garden Project and the playground. Someone created beautiful chalk artwork on the playground’s concrete wall, and strawberries have been planted art-fully in the public garden! It reminds me that spring is coming!

(I increased the contrast of my third photograph so the chalk artwork could be more easily seen.)

Kids created this fun strawberry art.
Kids created this fun strawberry art.
And young people created this chalk drawing on a playground wall. A heart encompasses the Earth and a puppy dog. Love is powerful.
And young people created this chalk drawing on a playground wall. A heart encompasses the Earth and a puppy dog. Love is powerful.

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