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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Photos of Love Your Wetlands Day in Mission Bay.

Love Your Wetlands Day took place in Pacific Beach at north Mission Bay's small Kendall-Frost Marsh.
Love Your Wetlands Day took place in Pacific Beach at north Mission Bay’s small Kendall-Frost Marsh.

Late this morning I headed up to Pacific Beach to experience Love Your Wetlands Day. The annual event provides a once-a-year opportunity for the public to visit the protected Kendall-Frost Marsh, which lies in the north part of Mission Bay.

I was really impressed by the efforts underway by the San Diego Audubon Society and the UC Natural Reserve System to restore this wetland, and by all the people who showed up for the event. Hopefully my blog will help raise awareness about this very important project.

I definitely learned a lot! Please read the photo captions . . .

The Kendall-Frost Marsh is being restored into a healthy wetland by the San Diego Audubon Society and the UC Natural Reserve System with the help of volunteers.
The Kendall-Frost Marsh is being restored into a healthy wetland by the San Diego Audubon Society and the UC Natural Reserve System with the help of volunteers.
The slough is a prime location for birdlife. Many different birds can be spotted in this protected wildlife refuge, which is usually off-limits to the public.
The slough is a prime location for birdlife. Many different birds can be spotted in this protected wildlife refuge, which is usually off-limits to the public.
Photos of bird sightings on the surrounding fence.
Photos of bird sightings on the surrounding fence.
I arrived a bit early to the event, and watched from the nearby street as last-minute preparations took place.
I arrived a bit early to the event, and watched from the nearby street as last-minute preparations took place.
A sign welcomes visitors to Love Your Wetlands Day. Lots of activities included bird watching, a water quality test demo, and a marsh clean-up.
A sign welcomes visitors to Love Your Wetlands Day. Lots of activities included bird watching, a water quality testing demo, and a marsh clean-up.
People sign in to the event. A few lucky attendees won raffle prizes!
People sign in to the event. A few lucky attendees won raffle prizes!
The San Diego Audubon Society had a table at the event.
The San Diego Audubon Society had a table at the special outdoor event.
Information at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program display shows the marsh boundaries and restoration efforts.
Information at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program exhibit shows the marsh boundaries and restoration efforts.
This super cool volunteer at a fun kids activity table gave me the thumbs up!
This super cool volunteer at a fun kids activity table gave me the thumbs up!
A nearby area where native vegetation is being carefully restored.
A nearby area where native vegetation is being carefully restored.
These plants will eventually call the marsh home.
These plants will eventually be transplanted into the marsh.
A look across the marsh southward, toward the greater part of Mission Bay, a large urban recreational park in San Diego.
A look across the marsh southward, toward the greater part of Mission Bay, a large urban recreational park in San Diego.
As the event gets underway, many more people arrive.
As the event gets underway, many energetic people arrive.
Fun nature mural on side of the Kendall-Frost Reserve Trailer in Pacific Beach!
Fun nature mural on side of the Kendall-Frost Reserve Trailer in Pacific Beach!
Many photos around the exterior of the trailer show insects, flowers, birds and other wildlife that make the marsh their home.
Many photos around the exterior of the trailer show insects, flowers, birds and other wildlife that make the marsh their home.
A row of waterproof boots await volunteers.
A row of waterproof boots awaits volunteers.
Putting on some boots before heading out into the muddy, mucky marsh!
Putting on some boots before heading out into the muddy, mucky marsh!
Tools that are used to remove trash from the environmentally sensitive marshland.
Tools that are used to remove trash from the environmentally sensitive marshland.
An art project for kids involved creatively decorating stones!
A fun art project for kids involved creatively decorating stones!
Speaker describes how the ReWild project of the San Diego Audubon Society is working to restore important wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.
Speaker describes how the ReWild project of the San Diego Audubon Society is working to restore important wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.
A chart at one table shows types of pollutants found on the beaches of San Diego.
A chart at one table shows types of pollutants found on the beaches of San Diego.
Water quality tests include monitoring pH, temperature, oxygen content and turbidity.
Water quality tests include monitoring pH, temperature, oxygen content and turbidity.
Folks are heading every which way, learning about the marsh and setting about to help restore it!
Folks are heading every which way, learning about the marsh and setting about to help restore it!
Walking over to collect a water sample. The Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve habitats include coastal sage scrub, south coastal salt marsh, tidal channels, salt flats and mudflats.
Walking over to collect a water sample. The Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve habitats include coastal sage scrub, south coastal salt marsh, tidal channels, salt flats and mudflats.
Water from a storm drain is collected by volunteers for testing.
Water from a storm drain is collected by volunteers for testing.
After putting on boots and grabbing buckets, a gang of volunteers is out in the marsh seeing it up close and removing unwanted debris.
After putting on boots and grabbing buckets, a gang of volunteers is out in the marsh seeing it up close and removing unwanted debris.
Netting is laid down by more volunteers to help prevent erosion during rain.
Netting is laid down by more volunteers to help prevent erosion during rain. A big storm is coming tomorrow!
Love Your Wetlands Day was a great opportunity for the public to help preserve and enhance the Kendall-Frost Marsh!
Love Your Wetlands Day was a great opportunity for the public to help preserve and enhance the Kendall-Frost Marsh!

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Photos of a nature walk in Tijuana River Estuary.

Sign near the entrance to Visitor Center of Tijuana Estuary, home of a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Sign near the entrance to Visitor Center of Tijuana Estuary, home of a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.

What place in North America officially contains the most plant and animal species? You don’t know? San Diego and the Northern Baja California region!

Yesterday I took a nature walk around and through the northern section of the Tijuana River Estuary. The large estuary, which is located at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States, where the Tijuana River empties into the Pacific Ocean, contains abundant life which reflects San Diego’s amazing biodiversity and range of habitats.

The Tijuana Estuary is not only a place of tranquil beauty, but it’s a scientific laboratory, protective refuge, and outdoor classroom where the public can learn about our natural environment. It’s managed by several agencies, including the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the National Wildlife Refuge System under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I absorbed so much information while walking about, reading signs, and listening to a volunteer guide during a short nature walk near the Visitor Center, that I couldn’t possibly convey it all on my blog. So I’ve selected some photos and have captioned them so you’ll get the gist of what I saw and learned. And hopefully you’ll want to visit, too!

Relatively few people partake of the scheduled weekend nature walks at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center. Joan, the plant expert, said that some days nobody shows up. What a shame. Because there’s so much beauty, so much to see.

I strongly encourage anyone who lives in the San Diego area to head down to Imperial Beach and take a long, leisurely walk where life thrives!

Ecoroute Bikeway and sidewalk along Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach offers views of the north section of 2,500 acre Tijuana River Estuary.
Ecoroute Bikeway and sidewalk along Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach offers views of the north section of 2,500 acre Tijuana River Estuary.
A white egret and other small birds enjoy the fertile, nutrient-rich environment created by this important coastal wetland.
A white egret and other small birds enjoy the fertile, nutrient-rich environment created by this important coastal wetland.
A shorebird equipped with a long bill, used to poke into sand and mudflats for food. Over 370 species of birds have been sighted in the wildlife reserve.
A shorebird equipped with a long bill, used to poke into sand and mudflats for food. Over 370 species of birds have been sighted in the wildlife reserve.
Once a dump, and destined to be a boat marina, local citizens fought to have the Tijuana Estuary protected as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Once a dump, and destined to be a boat marina, local citizens fought to have the Tijuana Estuary protected as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Steps lead down from Imperial Beach Boulevard to one of many trails in the fascinating, life-filled estuary.
Steps lead down from Imperial Beach Boulevard to one of many trails in the fascinating, life-filled estuary.
There are many habitats in the estuary including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool.
There are many habitats in the estuary including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool.
Sign welcomes visitors to Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Five endangered and two threatened species of birds are protected here in their natural habitat.
Sign welcomes visitors to Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Five endangered and two threatened species of birds are protected here in their natural habitat.
I was told these old wooden pilings used to support a storm drain which ran out to the ocean.
I was told these old wooden pilings used to support a storm drain which ran out to the ocean.
A Snowy Egret perches atop a post, perhaps watching the water for prey. Small fish, frogs, reptiles and insects are part of the food chain in a shallow river estuary.
A Snowy Egret perches atop a post, perhaps watching the water for prey. Small fish, frogs, reptiles and insects are part of the food chain in a shallow river estuary.
The path to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center passes through a garden of native plants often found along the coast of Southern California.
The path to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center passes through a garden of native plants often found along the coast of Southern California.
This colorful abstract map at the Visitor Center entrance represents the 1,735 square mile watershed of the Tijuana River, reaching deep into Mexico.
This colorful abstract map at the Visitor Center entrance represents the 1,735 square mile watershed of the Tijuana River, reaching deep into Mexico.
The edge of the map, inside the Visitor Center's door, shows a part of San Diego and Tijuana. As it nears the Pacific Ocean, the Tijuana River crosses into the United States.
The edge of the map, inside the Visitor Center’s door, shows a part of San Diego and Tijuana. As it nears the Pacific Ocean, the Tijuana River crosses into the United States.
One of many educational exhibits within the cool Visitor Center. Wildlife abounds...at Tijuana Estuary!
One of many educational exhibits inside the cool Visitor Center. Wildlife abounds . . . at Tijuana Estuary!
Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.
Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.
Habitats in a changing landscape. All eight habitats in the estuary endure constant change. Water levels rise and fall with the tides. Salinity of the water fluctuates.
Habitats in a changing landscape. All eight habitats in the estuary endure constant change. Water levels rise and fall with the tides. Salinity of the water fluctuates.
Visitors can jot notable sighting of birds on a board inside the Visitor Center. Buds and blooms are also listed.
Visitors can jot notable sighting of birds on a board inside the Visitor Center. Buds and blooms are also listed.
A few people out on a nature walk on a pleasant Saturday in November. The estuary is full of blooms, birds, and animal activity, even as winter approaches.
A few people out on a nature walk on a pleasant Saturday in November. The estuary is full of blooms, birds, and animal activity, even as winter approaches.
Joan, a super nice park volunteer who is a plant expert (and author of a fun native plant book), shows us the yellow bloom of California bush sunflower.
Joan, a super nice park volunteer who is a plant expert (and author of a fun native plant book), shows us the yellow bloom of California bush sunflower.
Even though the blue blooms of this pleasantly aromatic Cleveland Sage have dried, the seeds pods have a bluish tint.
Even though the blue blooms of this pleasantly aromatic Cleveland Sage have dried, the seeds pods have a bluish tint.
A tiny hummingbird is perched on the branch of a shrub.
A tiny hummingbird is perched on the branch of a shrub.
The Galvezia, or bush snapdragon, is from Baja California. It has green stems, bright red tube flowers, and attracts hummingbirds.
The Galvezia, or bush snapdragon, is common in Baja California. It has green stems, bright red tube flowers, and attracts hummingbirds.
Hiking south down the North McCoy Trail in the Tijuana Estuary. Rising on the left horizon is Mexico. On the right horizon are the Coronado Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Hiking south down the North McCoy Trail in the Tijuana Estuary. Rising on the left horizon is Mexico. On the right horizon are the Coronado Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Ranger Debbie Good is super friendly. She answered a bunch of questions with a big smile. Here's she's putting away a table used to welcome volunteer workers.
Ranger Debbie Good is super friendly. She answered a bunch of questions with a big smile. Here’s she’s putting away a table used to welcome volunteer workers.
These volunteer students from SDSU are helping to plant native vegetation. Efforts to return the estuary to a natural state are ongoing. This area several decades ago was a dump.
These volunteer students from SDSU are helping to plant native vegetation. Efforts to return the estuary to a natural state are ongoing. This area several decades ago was a dump.
Looking across cordgrass and a beautiful wetland at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States.
Looking across cordgrass and a beautiful wetland at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States.
A quiet bench on the North McCoy Trail invites walkers to relax and take in the sunshine and surrounding tranquility.
A quiet bench on the North McCoy Trail invites walkers to relax and take in the sunshine and surrounding tranquility.
Plaque on another bench at the south end of the trail. In memory of Glendon I. Layton. Rest a moment and watch the birds.
Plaque on another bench at the south end of the trail. In memory of Glendon I. Layton. Rest a moment and watch the birds.
The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a place where amazing biodiversity and nature's beauty thrive.
The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a place where amazing biodiversity and nature’s beauty thrive.

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