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!

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!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

Plants that attract birds, butterflies in San Diego.

Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and a wide range of feeding insects and birds.
Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and a wide range of feeding insects and birds.

Tweet Street park on Cortez Hill has a sign with some very useful information. It shows shrubs and trees that attract local San Diego birds and butterflies.

Please refer to the information on the sign and my photo captions. As you can see, some of these plants are native to San Diego. All are beautiful and would fit nicely in most San Diego gardens. And all naturally attract winged life. Even in the heart of the big city.

A sign in the Tweet Street linear park on Cortez Hill shows beautiful plants that attract local San Diego birds and butterflies.
A sign at the Tweet Street linear park on Cortez Hill, a neighborhood in downtown San Diego.  It shows beautiful plants that attract local birds and butterflies.
Jacaranda (Jacaranda acutifolia) is a flowering tree that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. The trees host insects that are a food supply for insectivorous birds such as finches.
Jacaranda (Jacaranda acutifolia) is a flowering tree that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. The trees host insects that are a food supply for insectivorous birds such as finches.
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is a San Diego native. White flowers in March attract hummingbirds and butterflies. In winter, red berries are food for many different birds.
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is a San Diego native. White flowers in March attract hummingbirds and butterflies. In winter, red berries are food for many different birds.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora "Samuel Sommer") provides shade and perches for birds. The fragrant white flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora “Samuel Sommer”) provides shade and perches for birds. The fragrant white flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii "Purple Passion") has flowers that are a rich source of nectar, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii “Purple Passion”) has flowers that are a rich source of nectar, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Ornamental Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) has flowers, fruit and seeds that make a good food source for many birds.
Ornamental Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) has flowers, fruit and seeds that make a good food source for many birds.
Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis "Prostratus") is an herb that attracts bees, butterflies and insects that many birds eat.
Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”) is an herb that attracts bees, butterflies and insects that many birds eat.
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is a native clumping grass abundant with seeds that birds eat. The high grass tufts also serve as shelter.
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is a native clumping grass.  It’s abundant with seeds that birds eat. The tall grass tufts also serve as shelter.
Rockrose (Cistus "Sunset") attracts birds and insects with its magenta color and fragrance.
Rockrose (Cistus “Sunset”) attracts birds and insects with its magenta color and fragrance.
Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) is native to Mexico and attracts butterflies with its strong lemon-mint fragrance.
Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) is native to Mexico.  It attracts butterflies most of the year with its strong lemon-mint fragrance.
Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria) also known as Red Hot Poker, produces sweet nectar that hummingbirds love.
Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria) also known as Red Hot Poker, produces sweet nectar that hummingbirds absolutely love.
Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus) is a popular perennial that attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.
Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus) is a popular perennial that attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.

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

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun and useful photos that you can share and enjoy!

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.

Native garden near Old Town San Diego’s McCoy House.

Photo of historic McCoy House in Old Town San Diego from the Native Garden. Today's garden is located in a spot once close to the San Diego River, before it was diverted to the north, through Mission Valley.
Photo of historic McCoy House in Old Town San Diego from the Native Garden. Today’s garden is located in a spot that was once very close to the San Diego River, before the river was diverted to the north, through Mission Valley.

A small, ragged but beautiful native garden can be found in the northwest corner of San Diego’s Old Town, next to the McCoy House Museum. The Native Plant Garden contains vegetation that grows naturally along the rivers of our semi-arid region.

Long before Europeans arrived in Southern California, the Native American Kumeyaay lived where Old Town was eventually established; the Kumeyaay village at the base of Presidio Hill was called KOSA’AAY, or Cosoy. Many of the plants in the garden were used by the Kumeyaay people in everyday life.

Read the photo captions to learn much more. Click the garden plans and the two signs, and those images will expand providing additional information!

Plans of the Native Plant Garden in Old Town State Historic Park. Included are species used by the Native American Kumeyaay for food, shelter and medicine. Their village Cosoy was located here.
Plans of the Native Plant Garden in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Included are species used by the Native American Kumeyaay for food, shelter and medicine. Their village Cosoy was located here.
Looking northwest from the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego. The Native Garden is a bit dry and scraggly--but that's how local vegetation naturally appears.
Looking northwest from the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego. The Native Garden beyond the fence is a bit dry and scraggly–but that’s how local vegetation naturally appears.
150 years ago the San Diego River flowed nearby, bringing explorers, settlers, boats and traders to Old Town. California native trees and shrubs have been planted that once grew along the riverbank.
150 years ago the San Diego River flowed nearby, bringing explorers, settlers, boats and traders to Old Town. California native trees and shrubs have been planted that once grew along the riverbank.
Dirt paths meander through the small Native Garden at the northwest corner of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Dirt walking paths meander through the small Native Garden at the northwest corner of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Yarrow was used by the Kumeyaay as a treatment for various medical conditions, including burns, inflammation, and pain from toothache, headache and arthritis.
Yarrow was used by the Kumeyaay as a treatment for various medical conditions, including burns, inflammation, and pain from toothache, headache and arthritis.
Tall stalk of a yucca that already flowered still juts into the sky in Old Town San Diego.
Tall stalk of a yucca that already flowered still juts into the sky in Old Town San Diego.
The Kumeyaay people have lived here for at least ten thousand years. Their innovations in managing San Diego's resources in wet winters and dry summers are still used today.
The Kumeyaay people have lived here for at least ten thousand years. Their innovations in managing San Diego’s resources in wet winters and dry summers are still used today.
A variety of native plants found naturally in coastal San Diego's semi-arid climate.
A variety of native plants found naturally in coastal San Diego’s semi-arid climate, including sages and prickly pear cactus.
Fibers from the yucca were used by the Kumeyaay to produce cords, nets, shoes and other useful items.
Fibers from the yucca were used by the Kumeyaay to produce cords, nets, shoes and other useful items.

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!

Small flowers sprout in a big city.

Sunflowers appear next to a Barrio Logan sidewalk.
Sunflowers appear next to a Barrio Logan sidewalk.

Sometimes flowers appear in unexpected places. In San Diego, as in any big city, they seem to sprout like small miracles. Here are a few glimpses…

A flower blooms in the window of a downtown San Diego tattoo parlor.
A flower blooms in the window of a downtown San Diego tattoo parlor.
A beautiful bouquet of flowers at an outdoor Little Italy cafe.
A beautiful bouquet of flowers at an outdoor Little Italy cafe.
Bronze statue of Kate Sessions in Balboa Park's Sefton Plaza holds flowers. She planted many seeds a century ago.
Bronze statue of Kate Sessions in Balboa Park’s Sefton Plaza holds a few white flowers. Kate planted many seeds a century ago.
Red bougainvillea poke through a white lath fence in North Park.
Red bougainvillea poke through a white lath fence in North Park.
Beautiful flowers in planters at Lou and Mickey's in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Beautiful flowers in planters at Lou and Mickey’s in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Chalk flowers on a playground's concrete wall, near The New Children's Museum in San Diego.
Chalk flowers on a playground’s concrete wall, near The New Children’s Museum in San Diego.
A San Diego trolley runs along the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade near The New Children's Museum's Garden Project.
A San Diego trolley runs along the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade near The New Children’s Museum’s Garden Project.
As I sat at the Seaport Village trolley station this morning, a homeless person with a bouquet of flowers passed in the distance.
As I sat at the Seaport Village trolley station this morning, a homeless person with a bouquet of flowers passed between fences in the distance.
Flowers and elegance near front door of the Tim Cantor gallery.
Flowers and elegance near front door of the Tim Cantor gallery.

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!

Have you ever witnessed a small miracle? You might enjoy reading my story An Unexpected Sunflower.

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!