Volunteers restore habitat in San Dieguito River Valley!

Hard-working volunteers remove non-native vegetation in a small part of the San Dieguito River Valley.
Hard-working volunteers remove invasive vegetation in a small area of the San Dieguito River Valley.

Today I happened upon a bunch of energetic volunteers working to restore habitat in the San Dieguito River Valley! They were removing non-native vegetation near the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead!

Lots of invasive, rapidly growing wild mustard appeared to be the main problem. I also learned from a friendly San Dieguito River Park ranger that mustard is highly flammable, much more so than California coastal sage and chaparral plants that are native to our arid region.

Today’s work, coinciding with Family Volunteer Day, was an effort of several organizations, including the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. Their mission is to implement the vision of the San Dieguito River Park, a greenway that stretches all the way from Volcan Mountain near Julian to Dog Beach in Del Mar! Their conservation and educational programs, along with their purchases of land in the River Park planning area, will ensure that the beautiful San Dieguito River Valley will be a rich and healthy natural treasure for many lifetimes to come!

Want to learn more? Or maybe get involved? Here’s their website!

This Saturday event was part of Family Volunteer Day, a worldwide day of service promoted by generationOn.
This Saturday event was part of Family Volunteer Day, a worldwide day of service promoted by generationOn.
Youth have fun while they work to make the Earth a healthier place.
Youth have fun while they work to make the Earth a healthier place.
A San Dieguito River Park ranger had brought many pots of native lemonade berry to plant.
A San Dieguito River Park ranger had brought many pots of native lemonade berry to plant.
Another perfect day to work outdoors and help the environment!
Another perfect day to work outdoors and help the environment!

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Photos of Family Day at Tecolote Canyon Natural Park.

Someone walks toward the Nature Center on Tecolote Family Day.
Someone walks toward the Nature Center on Tecolote Family Day.

Today I headed over to Tecolote Canyon Natural Park. While I frequently drive around this narrow San Diego city park, which serves as a nature preserve inside Tecolote Canyon east of Mission Bay, I’ve never taken a single step inside. When I saw that an event called Family Day would be happening today, I decided to pay a visit!

What did I discover? Read the photo captions to find out!

Sign near entrance of the Nature Center provides info about Tecolote Canyon Natural Park.
A sign near entrance to the Nature Center provides information about Tecolote Canyon Natural Park.
A narrow strip of natural habitat preserved in San Diego. Tecolote Canyon features hiking trails and a refuge for wildlife.
A narrow strip of natural habitat preserved in San Diego. Tecolote Canyon features hiking trails and a refuge for wildlife.
Sign inside the Tecolote Nature Center. The park was originally dedicated in 1977. Houses, yards and streets surround this area where the native environment still survives.
Sign inside the Tecolote Nature Center. The park was originally dedicated in 1977. Houses, yards and streets surround this area where the native environment still survives.
Many interpretive displays can be found in the Nature Center. The coyote is Tecolote Canyon's largest predator.
Many interpretive displays can be found in the Nature Center. The coyote is Tecolote Canyon’s largest predator.
One sign describes San Diego's Coastal Sage Scrub habitat, which is found in a small part of the world, along the coast of Southern California into Mexico.
One sign describes San Diego’s Coastal Sage Scrub habitat, which is found in a small part of the world, along the coast of Southern California into Mexico.
The Brown Towhee is one of many birds one might spot in the canyon.
The Brown Towhee is one of many birds one might spot in the canyon.
Along Tecolote Creek lies the Riparian Woodland habitat. Water attracts animals from the dry hills, and native trees like willows, cottonwoods and sycamores grow on the creek's banks.
Along Tecolote Creek lies the Riparian Woodland habitat. Water attracts animals from the dry hills, and native trees like willows, cottonwoods and sycamores grow near the creek’s banks.
One of the displays shows Lemonadeberry (a common chaparral shrub in San Diego), Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry, and a California Thrasher.
One of the displays shows Lemonadeberry (a common chaparral shrub in San Diego), Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry, and a California Thrasher.
A topographical representation of Tecolote Canyon, which you can see directly below Mission Bay. Up is west, right is north.
A topographical representation of curving Tecolote Canyon, which you can see directly below Mission Bay. Up is west, right is north.
Many of the plants and animals now in Tecolote Canyon are the same as those here 200 years ago. Golden eagles and mountain lions, however, have vanished because this natural space is limited in size.
Many of the plants and animals now in Tecolote Canyon are the same as those here 200 years ago. Golden eagles and mountain lions, however, have vanished because this natural space is too limited in size.
Families enjoy a special day to learn about the environment. It's Tecolote Family Day! There were lots of educational displays and activities at the Nature Center.
Families enjoy a special day and learn about the canyon’s environment. It’s Tecolote Family Day! There were lots of educational displays and activities at the Nature Center.
Special events at Tecolote Family Day included a scavenger hunt for kids, art, music, dance and a silent auction.
Activities at Tecolote Family Day included a scavenger hunt for kids, art, music, dance and a silent auction.
Inside the Nature Center, one table had lots of displays concerning insects! Another one had snakes.
Inside the Nature Center, one table had lots of displays concerning insects! Another one had snakes.
At another table I was shown a coyote skull.
At another table I was shown a coyote skull.
I believe these beautiful poppy paintings were part of the silent auction.
I believe these beautiful poppy paintings were part of the silent auction.
A friendly parrot was at a booth promoting Zovargo, a local company which offers animal summer camps for kids.
A friendly parrot was at a booth promoting Zovargo, a local business that offers animal summer camps for kids.
These kids were dancing to a fun song about pollination!
These kids were dancing to a fun song about pollination!
Nearby I discovered the Tecolote Native Plant Nursery.
Nearby I discovered the Tecolote Native Plant Nursery.
Work is ongoing to take back the native habitat from invading plant species.
Work is ongoing to take back the native habitat from invading plant species.
I saw some signs about the importance of composting. It enhances soil and protects watersheds.
I saw some signs about the importance of composting. It enhances soil and protects watersheds.
Behind the Nature Center, near an amphitheater and native garden, I saw this e'waa, a simple willow branch structure built by the Native American Kumeyaay.
Behind the Nature Center, near an amphitheater and native garden, I saw this example of an e’waa, a simple willow branch structure built by the Native American Kumeyaay.
A sign depicts the Tecolote Watershed. Pollutants can flow down the creek and enter the soil, Mission Bay and eventually the Pacific Ocean.
A sign depicts the Tecolote Watershed. Pollutants can flow down the creek and enter the soil, Mission Bay and eventually the Pacific Ocean.
Several signs can be found around a small native garden. This one, Aromas of the Canyon, depicts Black Sage, White Sage and California Sagebrush.
Several signs can be found around the small native garden. This one, Aromas of the Canyon, depicts Black Sage, White Sage and California Sagebrush.
On the way to the hiking trail that leads into Tecolote Canyon, one might spot this owl!
On the way to the hiking trail that leads into Tecolote Canyon, one might spot this owl!
Hikers read the sign at the Battle Trail trailhead.
Hikers read the sign at the Battle Trail trailhead.
Welcome to the Battle Trail - Nature's haven in the city.
Welcome to the Battle Trail – Nature’s haven in the city.
I start up the easy trail. The vegetation in Tecolote Canyon is still green in late spring, after a very rainy winter.
I start up the easy trail. The vegetation in Tecolote Canyon is still green in late spring, after a very rainy winter.
This lush greenery will soon dry out in the Southern California summer and turn mostly brown.
This lush greenery will soon dry out in the Southern California summer and turn mostly brown.
I am greeted by cheerful yellow sunflowers.
I am greeted by cheerful yellow sunflowers.
I believe this house on a post is for bats. I've seen similar boxes in other open space parks around San Diego.
I believe this house on a post is for bats. I’ve seen similar boxes in other open space parks around San Diego.
A family heads into Tecolote Canyon to explore nature.
A family heads into Tecolote Canyon to explore nature.

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Photos from a short hike through Sweetwater Marsh.

A group begins a nature hike down a trail at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
A group begins an easy nature hike down a trail at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

On Saturday I visited Gunpowder Point, just south of where the Sweetwater River empties into San Diego Bay. The marshy area is a wildlife refuge. It’s part of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, to be exact, and home of the popular Living Coast Discovery Center.

After visiting the Living Coast Discovery Center, I enjoyed a guided nature hike down a short trail through the Sweetwater Marsh.

I was pleasantly surprised by the bare natural beauty. I didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife during this visit, but I know our region’s marshes and estuaries are often teeming with birds. San Diego is part of the Pacific Flyway, a major route of migratory birds that stretches from Alaska to South America.

A map inside the nearby Living Coast Discovery Center show the location of the Sweetwater River and the marsh where it enters San Diego Bay.
A map inside the nearby Living Coast Discovery Center shows the location of the Sweetwater River and the marsh where it enters San Diego Bay.
Hiking through Chula Vista's protected Sweetwater Marsh on a sunny day. It's mid-May and the once green and flowering plants have begun to dry out.
Hiking through Chula Vista’s protected Sweetwater Marsh on a sunny day. It’s mid-May and the once green and flowering plants have begun to dry out.  In this photo I see some prickly pear cactus.  During the hike I also recognized black sage and coastal sagebrush.
Our guide shows us saltbush. It is adapted to the type of salty soil in this marsh on San Diego Bay. Its leaves taste salty!
Our guide shows us saltbush. It is adapted to the type of salty soil in this coastal marsh. Its leaves taste salty!
Sign by the trail. This area is called Gunpowder Point. During World War I, Hercules Powder Co. extracted potash and acetone here from kelp harvested offshore in the Pacific Ocean. These were used to make cordite, or smokeless gunpowder for the British.
Sign by the trail. This area is called Gunpowder Point. During World War I, Hercules Powder Co. extracted potash and acetone here from kelp harvested offshore in the Pacific Ocean. These were used to make cordite, also called smokeless gunpowder, for the British.
A sail on the bay beyond a drying field of San Diego Sunflowers.
A sail on the bay beyond a drying field of San Diego Sunflowers.
The short, easy hike is ideal for families.
The short, easy hike is ideal for families.
Some sunflowers are still yellow.
Some sunflowers are still yellow.
The San Diego Sunflower, or Bahiopsis laciniata, is often found in a coastal sage scrub environment.
The San Diego Sunflower, or Bahiopsis laciniata, is often found in a coastal sage scrub environment.
The Silver Strand and Coronado Cays can be seen across San Diego Bay.
The Silver Strand and Coronado Cays can be seen across San Diego Bay.
We've arrived at the wildlife reserve's narrow sandy shore. Birds could be seen here and there in the distance.
We’ve arrived at the wildlife refuge’s narrow sandy shore. Birds could be seen here and there in the distance.
As the group continues on, I linger to take in the sunshine and wide views. I notice what appears to be remnants of the potash manufacturing operation from years ago.
As the group continues on, I linger to take in the sunshine and wide views. I notice what appears to be remnants of the potash manufacturing operation from years ago. Some benches allow rest and meditation.
Stones and debris on a beach in the wildlife refuge.
Stones and debris on a beach in the wildlife refuge.
Some mysterious (to me) concrete ruins on Gunpowder Point.
Some mysterious (to me) concrete ruins on Gunpowder Point.
I arrived at a bird observation lookout. All was very quiet. I saw a California least tern hunting small fish along the water's edge. Few people seem to come out here.
I arrived at a bird observation structure. All was very quiet. I saw a California least tern hunting small fish along the water’s edge. Few people seem to come out here.
Depending on the tide, the area near the shore can be open water or a mudflat that supports shorebirds searching for food.
Depending on the tide, the area near the shore can be open water or a mudflat that supports shorebirds searching for food.
Bird's beaks are specially designed for feeding. Some beaks filter plants from the water, some grab flies out of the air, and some probe the mud.
Bird’s beaks are specially designed for feeding. Some beaks filter plants from the water, some grab flies out of the air, and some probe the mud.
The tide must have been out, because this platform stood above a drying mudflat.
The tide must have been out, because this platform stood above a drying mudflat.  I believe that might be bright green eelgrass in the shallow pool of water.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, or crystalline ice plant, is salt tolerant. My hike through the marsh produced some beautiful surprises.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, or crystalline ice plant, is salt tolerant. My hike through the marsh produced some beautiful surprises.
Hiking through an expanse of green in San Diego's South Bay.
Hiking through an expanse of green in San Diego’s South Bay.

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Kayakers, volunteers clean San Diego River Estuary!

Many ordinary people came out today to help clean up the San Diego River Estuary.
Many ordinary people came out today to help clean up the San Diego River Estuary.

Lots of good people volunteered to clean up the San Diego River Estuary today. Some took to kayaks, others walked along the shoreline, filling bags with nasty litter and debris. The river estuary, emptying into the Pacific Ocean between Mission Bay and Ocean Beach, is a very important wetland in this region, and millions of birds rely on it during their migrations. Small bits of trash ingested by birds and other wildlife can be fatal.

The estuary cleanup was organized by The San Diego River Park Foundation. Kayakers are permitted to enter the San Diego River Estuary only one time every year–during this special event. I walked along the river and saw what ordinary people can achieve when working unselfishly for the good of our world.

A sign directs people to the river cleanup.
A sign directs people to the river cleanup.
Beautiful white clouds are reflected in the calm water of the San Diego River.
Beautiful white clouds are reflected in the calm water of the San Diego River as it approaches the ocean.
Many birds make the river and its sandbanks their home, including ducks, herons and egrets.
Many birds make the river and its mud flats their home, including ducks, herons and egrets.
A photographer captures images of waterfowl swimming through grass down the river.
A photographer captures images of waterfowl swimming through grass down the river.
My camera isn't quite so fancy, but I did get an okay photo of this snowy egret!
My camera isn’t quite so fancy, but I did get an okay photo of this snowy egret!
As I walked west along the San Diego River, I noticed a number of kayaks out on the water.
As I walked west along the San Diego River, I noticed a number of kayaks out on the water.
A sign by the river describes the problem of stormwater pollution. During rains, a good deal of runoff enters the estuary, carrying all sorts of pollutants and trash. (I had to really alter this photo so we could make out what the old sign says.)
A sign by the river describes the problem of stormwater pollution. During rains, a good deal of runoff enters the estuary, carrying all sorts of pollutants and trash. (I had to really alter this photograph so we could make out what the old sign says. Click the image to enlarge it.)
A cleanup volunteer with a kayak is arriving!
A cleanup volunteer with a kayak is arriving!
Plastic bags in these kayaks have been filled with garbage found in the river.
Plastic bags in these kayaks have been filled with garbage found in the river. I learned much of it was snagged in the grass.
Dozens of caring people were on the rocky river shore, looking for trash.
Dozens of caring people were on the rocky river shore, looking for trash.
San Diego is fortunate to have many thoughtful people, concerned about our environment.
San Diego is fortunate to have many thoughtful people, concerned about our environment.
Volunteering is often a family affair, teaching the next generation about generosity and responsibility.
Volunteering is often a family affair, teaching the next generation about generosity and responsibility.
This guy is carrying his kayak back to his car.
This guy was carrying his kayak back to his car.
Another guy showed me the trash he collected. He said he found a variety of garbage. Some of it is windblown. Some comes from Interstate 5 and other bridges which cross the river nearby.
Another guy showed me the trash he collected. He said he found a variety of garbage. Some flows downstream. Some of it is windblown. Some comes from Interstate 5 and other bridges which cross the river nearby.
A tent where people can sign up to volunteer and learn more about The San Diego River Park Foundation.
A tent where people can sign up to volunteer and learn more about The San Diego River Park Foundation.
From the mountains to the ocean, we care for the San Diego River!
From the mountains to the ocean, we care for the San Diego River!
Sadly, the river isn't healthy. A grade is assigned each year based upon trash, water quality and the extent of invasive plants.
Sadly, the river isn’t healthy. A grade is assigned each year based upon trash, water quality and the extent of invasive plants.
Sign shows volunteering possibilities. (Click these sign images to read--they will enlarge.)
Sign shows volunteering possibilities. (Click these sign images to read–they will enlarge.)
Picking up garbage and readying kayaks underneath the West Mission Bay Bridge.
Picking up garbage and readying kayaks underneath the West Mission Bay Bridge.
Collected trash was placed in a nearby dumpster.
Collected trash was placed in a nearby dumpster.
Smiles in the San Diego sunlight. A perfect day to make our world cleaner, healthier and more beautiful.
Smiles in the San Diego sunlight. A perfect day to make our world cleaner, healthier and more beautiful.
Kayakers launch into the San Diego River during a special event to clean the estuary.
Kayakers launch into the San Diego River during a special event to clean the estuary.

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A waterfall inspires a story about grieving.

One of several small waterfalls at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.
One of several small waterfalls at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.

Today I went to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. I’m a new member.

After walking along the beautiful stream in the garden’s canyon, and crossing a few bridges, I sat down at a table overlooking the moat and magnificent waterfall near the Inamori Pavilion. And I pulled out my notebook.

A story came to me at once. From where, I don’t know. Perhaps from the falling water. Perhaps from the water’s voice. I really don’t know.

The story is about grieving, the passage of time and release. It’s just a tiny, tiny little story, but I think it might strike deeply. You can read it very quickly on one of my other blogs, Short Stories by Richard, by simply clicking here. If you like it, there are ten other very short stories that you might also enjoy. Just click around.

I’ll be sitting at that table often this year. So I’m positive coming stories will also be filled with beauty, hope and joy. The garden inspires those things, most of all.

Oh–I recently provided a quick photo tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden on my blog Beautiful Balboa Park. You can check out those posts here and here.

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 Carsons 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.
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. 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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