Historical marker near Midway and Rosecrans.

Historical marker recalls early San Diego's La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.
Historical marker recalls early San Diego’s La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.

While walking around Point Loma this weekend, I came upon another historical marker with a plaque that commemorates San Diego’s famous old La Playa Trail. This marker stands in front of a shopping center near the corner of Midway Drive and Rosecrans Street. It features one of six similar plaques created back in the 1930s.

You can see a photo of another such plaque at the east end of the La Playa Trail, near Mission San Diego de Alcala, by clicking here. You can see a third plaque at the base of Presidio Hill and learn about the remaining three plaques (which I have yet to photograph) here.

According to Wikipedia: “The La Playa Trail was a historic bayside trail in San Diego, connecting the settled inland areas to the commercial anchorage at Old La Playa on San Diego Bay…The trail was used during the Pre-Hispanic (Native American), Spanish, Mexican and American periods of San Diego history. Much of the length of the original trail corresponds to the current Rosecrans Street in the San Diego neighborhood of Point Loma…The trail was already established by the time the Spanish settlers arrived in 1769; the first inhabitants of the area, including the Kumeyaay tribe, used it to access the beaches of San Diego Bay. It was improved and extended during the Spanish colonization of the region, reaching Old Town San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley by the 1770s. Cargo which had been unloaded by ship at Ballast Point in Old La Playa was transported along the trail several miles inland to Old Town…”

US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. (New San Diego is where downtown is today.) Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Have you read the classic of American Literature, Two Years Before the Mast? It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Richard Henry Dana Jr. wrote an account of a sailor’s life on the coast of California in the mid-1830s, and a good portion of his fascinating narrative describes San Diego.

La Playa (then a beach on Point Loma just inside San Diego Bay) is where merchant ship Pilgrim unloaded cattle hides that had been gathered by Dana and his shipmates up and down the California coast. When Dana rode on horseback from the hide houses on the beach to Old Town, or farther east to Mission San Diego, he followed the La Playa Trail!

La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.
La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.

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A walk to Old Town during the pandemic.

A familiar sign as drivers enter Old Town from Interstate 5. Welcome to Old Town. Birthplace of California.
A familiar sign as drivers enter Old Town from Interstate 5. Welcome to Old Town. Birthplace of California.

I have more photos to post from my long walk yesterday. But first I’m going to share pics that I took during today’s walk from downtown San Diego to Old Town!

I didn’t pull out my camera until I was well past the airport, heading up Hancock Street. I passed very few people. My mind was far away. As you can see, I did capture a few amusing images!

After a brief detour to explore Witherby Street and the semi-decayed old bridges and underpasses leading to an entrance of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, I passed over Interstate 5 and entered Old Town.

I took a look around the quiet streets as I headed up Jefferson Street and Congress Street. Making sure there were no signs posted saying I couldn’t enter, I quickly passed through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which was almost deserted. Then I headed back south down San Diego Avenue.

Most of the shops and restaurants in Old Town were closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A few restaurants were offering take-out, but very few potential customers were anywhere to be seen…

If NOT is not NOT, can one park here?
I’m heading up Hancock Street. If that’s not a NOT, can one legally park here?
This might be the coolest little free library I've come across!
This might be the coolest little free library I’ve come across!
A superhero who resembles Superman flies from what might be San Diego's last phone booth.
A superhero who resembles Superman flies from what might be San Diego’s last phone booth.
These pigeons regarded me as I walked under the Witherby Street train bridge.
These pigeons regarded me as I walked along a gritty walkway under the Witherby Street train bridge.
Now I've entered Old Town. Check out this cool sculpture in someone's front yard!
Now I’ve entered Old Town. Check out this cool sculpture in someone’s front yard!
Flowers through a white fence.
Flowers through a white fence.
The African Latin Museum was closed. It's on my list of things to do.
The African Latin Museum was closed. It’s on my list of things to do.
This was part of the 1890 Ballast Point Light Station on Point Loma!
This was part of the 1890 Ballast Point Light Station on Point Loma!

To learn more about the history of this lighthouse, and why part of it is now sitting on a sidewalk in Old Town, click here!

Mural in front of a couple businesses on Congress Street depicts the early days of San Diego.
Mural in front of some small businesses on Congress Street depicts the early days of San Diego.
Right part of the mural.
Right part of the mural.
Signs by the parking lot of Rockin' Baja point to different distant destinations.
Signs by the parking lot of Rockin’ Baja point to different distant destinations.
On the island beneath the signs I spotted this plaque.
On the small island beneath the signs I spotted this plaque.
In Memory of Joe Flynn. 1902 - 1963. Joe loved Old Town and helped re-create Casa de Lopez. Old Town Chamber of Commerce.
In Memory of Joe Flynn. 1902 – 1963. Joe loved Old Town and helped re-create Casa de Lopez. Old Town Chamber of Commerce.
Mexican themed outdoor decor but no customers at this eatery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mexican themed outdoor decor, but no customers at this eatery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Voted best pizza in America! I gotta try some one day.
Voted best pizza in America! I gotta try a slice one day.
The plaza in the middle of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is deserted. But the grass is long and green!
The plaza in the middle of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is deserted. But the grass is long and green!
The many Old Town museums and attractions are all closed due to COVID-19.
The many Old Town museums and attractions are all closed due to COVID-19.
On an ordinary Sunday, this photo would be filled with people.
On an ordinary Sunday, this photo would be filled with people.
Now I'm heading down San Diego Avenue. Another popular restaurant is temporarily closed.
Now I’m heading down San Diego Avenue. Another popular restaurant is temporarily closed.
But Cafe Coyote is open for take out! And I got two yummy handmade fresh tortillas!
But Cafe Coyote is open for take out! And I got two yummy handmade fresh tortillas to munch on as I walked!

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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Two wise MLK quotes for challenging times.

Peace as the world commonly understands it comes when the summer sky is clear and the sun shines in scintillating beauty, when the pocketbook is full, when the mind and body are free of ache and pain..but...true peace...is a calmness of soul amid terrors of trouble, inner tranquility amid the howl and rage of outer storm...
Peace as the world commonly understands it comes when the summer sky is clear and the sun shines in scintillating beauty, when the pocketbook is full, when the mind and body are free of ache and pain..but…true peace…is a calmness of soul amid terrors of trouble, inner tranquility amid the howl and rage of outer storm…

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has suddenly made all of our lives very challenging. There is disruption, isolation, uncertainty, fear, and for too many, grieving.

As I took my exercise in downtown San Diego, careful to maintain social distance as other walkers neared, I noticed a couple of wise quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. enshrined along the MLK Promenade. They are perfect for this difficult time we live in.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

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.

Honoring those who make the world more beautiful.

Beauty fills and surrounds the Botanical Building in Balboa Park. As do words that honor those who’ve made our world more beautiful.

Seeds that were planted many years ago live on and on.

Last weekend I saw and read a few plaques.

Alfred D. Robinson, Founding President of the San Diego Floral Association in 1907, originated the use of a "lath house" for displaying plants at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Alfred D. Robinson, Founding President of the San Diego Floral Association in 1907, originated the use of a “lath house” for displaying plants at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

Ruth C. Smith, founder of the City Beautiful of San Diego, has left a legacy of beauty for all San Diegans to enjoy for years to come.
Ruth C. Smith, founder of the City Beautiful of San Diego, who worked to plant 10,000 trees in San Diego parks, has left a legacy of beauty for all San Diegans to enjoy for years to come.

In Memory of Miss Daisy O. Tompkins, Teacher. This world is a better place because of her.
In Memory of Miss Daisy O. Tompkins, Teacher. This world is a better place because of her.

Barbara Hart McLean. Artist, Scientist, Mother, Friend. She loved life in all of its diversity and color.
Barbara Hart McLean. Artist, Scientist, Mother, Friend. She loved life in all of its diversity and color.

Honoring a man whose vision of a Botanical Building became reality, adding beauty to the lives of millions.
Honoring a man whose vision of a “Palace of Lath” became reality, adding beauty to the lives of millions of Balboa Park visitors for over a century.

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!

Life and friendship in Balboa Park.

Let’s see. Today in Balboa Park we had an orchid show, Chinese New Year, food, dance, laughter, fountains, smiles, bright gardens, picnics, music, happy dogs, art, green grass, sunshine…

In other words: a paradise full of life and friendship.

Another typical weekend in the park.

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!

Historical markers at entrance to Presidio Park.

Several historical markers can be found near the northwest entrance to Presidio Park. If you’ve ever driven along Taylor Street just past Morena Boulevard and the Presidio Recreation Center, you might’ve glimpsed them. They stand beside a sidewalk that comes to an abrupt end, in a place where almost nobody walks.

The three markers were placed years ago near three sites of historical importance: the Serra Palm, Derby Dike, and the La Playa Trail.

I’ve transcribed the words on each plaque.

I was told by a park ranger who happened to be parked nearby that the Serra Palm is long gone. He said it was probably blown over in a windstorm, and pointed out a pine tree that was toppled by our most recent storms.

The Serra Palm was planted in 1769 by Padre Junípero Serra, and marked the beginning of El Camino Real.

I’ve photographed a similar La Playa Trail marker near Mission San Diego de Alcalá. To view that photo, click here.

According to Wikipedia: “In 1934, six commemorative terra cotta plaques were placed along the length of the trail by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups, based on a relief designed by sculptor Rose M. Hanks. The original six were located at Mission San Diego de Alcala; at the foot of Presidio Hill in Old Town; near the intersection of Rosecrans St. and Midway Blvd. in the Midway area; at the corner of Rosecrans and Lytton streets in Loma Portal, across from the Naval Training Center San Diego golf course; at the corner of Rosecrans and Byron streets in Roseville; and at the site of the fuel depot at Naval Base Point Loma…”

SERRA PALM

TRADITIONALLY THE EARLIEST PLANTED TREE IN
CALIFORNIA. DIRECTLY IN THE REAR, BENEATH
THE BROW OF THE HILL, LIE THE DEAD OF THE
SACRED EXPEDITION OF 1769, BURIAL PLACE OF
OUR FIRST UNKNOWN SOLDIERS.
STATE REGISTERED LANDMARK NO. 67
MARKER PLACED BY CALIFORNIA CENTENNIALS COMMISSION
IN COOPERATION WITH
SAN DIEGO COUNTY HISTORICAL MARKERS COMMITTEE
DEDICATED SEPTEMBER 2, 1950

DERBY DIKE

UNTIL 1853 THE ERRATIC SAN DIEGO RIVER DUMPED TONS
OF DEBRIS INTO THE HARBOR OR POURED INTO FALSE
BAY, NOW MISSION BAY. AT TIMES IT THREATENED TO DE-
STROY OLD TOWN SAN DIEGO. LIEUTENANT GEORGE
HORATIO DERBY, U.S. TOPOGRAPHICAL CORPS, BUILT A
DIKE THAT DIVERTED THE WATERS INTO FALSE BAY. THIS
WAS THE FIRST EFFORT TO TAME THE RIVER, AND ONE
OF THE FIRST U.S. GOVERNMENT PROJECTS IN CALIFOR-
NIA. THE RIVER WAS NOT FULLY HARNESSED UNTIL THE 1950s.
CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 244
FIRST REGISTERED JUNE 10, 1936. PLAQUE PLACED BY THE
STATE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION IN CO-
OPERATION WITH THE SAN DIEGO DEPARTMENT OF PARKS
AND RECREATION AND SQUIBOB CHAPTER, E CLAMPUS
VITUS, AUGUST 4, 1990.

LA PLAYA TRAIL
JEDEDIAH STRONG SMITH
PATHFINDER OF THE SIERRAS
HERE COMPLETED THE FIRST TRAIL FROM
THE ATLANTIC TO THE PACIFIC JAN. 1827
ERECTED BY
SAN DIEGO CHAPTER D.A.R. 1937

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Past, present, future, together in one walk.

Every moment, in the blink of an eye, is lost forever to the past.

My walk this morning through downtown San Diego made me wonder. Without leaving the present, I saw evidence of time’s passage.

In my small field of vision I saw people turning corners.

I saw buildings old and new.

The demolition and the construction.

Things that will be forgotten.

Things that are still remembered.

Many of the things I photographed this morning we’ve observed together in the past. Perhaps a little differently.

So now I offer a few passing images, which are like moments in a dream–or in a life.

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!