The surprising Coral Reef Garden at Scripps!

There’s a surprising garden on the campus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It’s called The McReynolds Family Coral Reef Garden.

Desert cacti and succulents planted among rocks strongly resemble an ocean’s underwater coral reef!

This isn’t coincidental. I read several information signs around the Coral Reef Garden and learned how two very different environments are alike in many respects.

You can view this fantastic garden for yourself by walking along the Scripps Coastal Meander Trail, where it heads down Biological Grade. Look for it by the Eckart Building.

Fascinated? Read more about this very unique coral reef-inspired garden here!

As I explored the garden, I saw this plaque by a bench. It reads:

Ricky Grigg

Big Wave Surfer

PhD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Pioneer Coral Reef Ecologist

Devoted his life to the sea and all it’s [sic] splendor

Two different ecosystems compared: a coral reef and a desert environment. Harsh habitat and abundant life. A seeming contradiction called Darwin’s Paradox.
The fore reef, with its many ridges and channels, contains the greatest diversity of corals, fishes, invertebrates and algae.
At the reef drop off, deeper, less turbulent water allows corals to grow taller and make more intricate shapes. Much like plants not subject to strong winds!

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A hike down Manzanita Canyon to Jamie’s Way.

Last weekend I hiked down part of Manzanita Canyon in City Heights. I started at the trailhead just east of the Ocean Discovery Institute and walked along the dry creek bed to a place where the trail splits, then I climbed a short distance up Jamie’s Way trail into Azalea Park.

It was an easy walk full of nature’s beauty. Manzanita Canyon is one of many canyons sprinkled throughout San Diego. These narrow semi-wild corridors provide habitat for birds and a bit of wildlife, and when there are trails like this one, they provide refuge for the spirit.

Jamie’s Way is named after a beloved child from the Azalea Park neighborhood who perished in a car crash. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing little person, who seemed like an angel, click here.

It appears the small rocks along the trailhead at the beginning of my hike were painted by kids at the nearby Ocean Discovery Institute. I saw many sea creatures. I once was told students walk into the canyon here to explore our natural environment.

To learn more about the small park area where Jamie’s Way begins (and where my short, easy hike ended), at the 4200 block of Manzanita Drive, click here. You’ll also see a photograph of a plaque on the bench which is dedicated to Jamie. I took a photo of the plaque, but it is severely weathered beyond recognition, so I’ve chosen not to post it.

Just ahead a few steps I turned to the left and began the short climb up Jamie’s Way.

If you’d like to see an amazing mural that depicts and celebrates the canyon trails in this area, and Jamie’s Trail in particular, click here!

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Building a beautiful waterfall in San Diego!

A couple months ago I blogged about a big new waterfall that is coming to the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park.

Yesterday I swung by again and noticed huge progress has been made creating the waterfall!

The step-like watercourse is being readied. Large boulders have been placed where the water will descend through the Lower Garden to the existing bridge, waterfall and koi pond by the Inamori Pavilion. Many smaller rocks will surely follow.

If you’d like to compare photos, click here for what I saw in late November.

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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Walking down the Juniper Staircase in Balboa Park.

The Juniper Staircase is located near the southwest corner of Balboa Park, just north of Marston Point. The rugged “staircase” descends toward a dirt trail that runs through Cabrillo Canyon along the west side of State Route 163.

Ninety eight stone steps that were built by the California Conservation Corps descend from a paved pathway that winds through trees on Balboa Park’s West Mesa. Google Maps refers to the several paths in Cabrillo Canyon as Bridle Trail.

You can locate the curving stairs on a map if you follow the line of Juniper Street east past the intersection of Balboa Drive and 8th Avenue.

I took these photographs walking down the rocky steps. I continued north along the dirt trail by the freeway and passed the place where one can turn to walk under the historic Cabrillo Bridge. I then completed this relatively short and easy hike at Nate’s Point Dog Park, on El Prado, just west of the bridge.

If you’re curious to see what it looks like standing directly under the Cabrillo Bridge, I took some really interesting photographs one day and posted them here!

Be sure to watch your step! The loose dirt and leaves can be slippery.

The Juniper Staircase is a destination for local joggers and runners seeking a workout.

A very peaceful spot, if it weren’t for the noise of nearby freeway traffic.

Looking northeast across Cabrillo Canyon, one can see Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower!

Make sure to wear good shoes. The trail is rough and eroded in spots.

Approaching a split in the trail, where one can walk down under the Cabrillo Bridge.

I was tempted to walk under the bridge again, but decided against it the particular day I took these photos.

Soon arriving at the fence around Nate’s Point Dog Park where happy dog’s can run freely off leash.

El Prado, the road that crosses the Cabrillo Bridge into Balboa Park, is to the right, just a short distance up the hill!

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!

The mysterious standing stones of Nestor!

Mysterious standing stones rise in Nestor, a community located in San Diego’s South Bay. You can find them in a quiet residential area, just north of Nestor Park, on Grove Avenue east of Hollister Street.

Few people ever see this unique public art. Why is it here?

The standing stone sculptures together are titled Plaza Piedras. They were created in 2001 by internationally renowned artist Roberto Salas. Plaza Piedras was commissioned through the City of San Diego Metropolitan Wastewater Department and the Commission for Arts and Culture. The public art was created to enhance the nearby Grove Avenue Pump Station.

Roberto Salas created these large, mysterious stelae to pay tribute to indigenous cultures. According to this website: “Salas chose a variety of monumental forms to evoke associations with ancient sites such as the Pre-Colombian pyramids, mysterious ruins of Stonehenge, and the massive figures of East Island…”

At the bottom of the central sandbox, kids digging down can discover various relief shapes. I poked around the sand with my foot like a lazy archaeologist, without success.

As you can see from my photos, this quiet park-like place sees gang activity and is frequented by the homeless. Vandalism on the standing stones appears to be regularly painted over.

I took these photographs while moving north through Plaza Piedras.

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More history at the Golden Hill Fountain Grotto.

Last month the Friends of Balboa Park installed a new information sign at the Golden Hill Fountain Grotto. The sign provides a good description of the fountain grotto’s history in Golden Hill Park. The community park, with views of downtown and Florida Canyon, is located in the southeast corner of much larger Balboa Park.

Five years ago I posted photos of the grotto on my now dormant blog Beautiful Balboa Park. You can read what I wrote and see those photographs here. I walked to the grotto again last weekend to check out the newly installed sign.

The sign explains how Golden Hill Park, developed in 1889, was the site of San Diego’s first playground. The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto was a decorative park installation designed in 1907 by Henry Lord Gay. He was also responsible for downtown San Diego’s Western Metal Supply Co. building, which is now a part of Petco Park.

Henry Lord Gay “created a sunken garden grotto built of stone and concrete with twin cobblestone stairways curving down to a sheltered fountain and seating area in a rugged canyon…Stones evoke mystery, creativity and contemplation; flowing water signifies life, and pathways lead out to the open sky…”

You can see in my photos how the fountain was made to appear like a natural spring whose pool trickles down into a hollowed rock.

Sadly, I observed evidence of homelessness and drug use in the secluded grotto. These tragic problems have become widespread in San Diego. Trash, graffiti and a burnt out fountain is probably not what Henry Lord Gay and the early residents of our city envisioned.

The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto is over a century old and is, according to the information sign, Balboa Park’s oldest designed feature.

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

A unique Fountain Mountain at Mission Trails!

Very unique public art with an environmental theme can be seen (and activated!) in the northeast corner of Mission Trails Regional Park. Fountain Mountain is located just outside the recently completed East Fortuna Equestrian Staging Area Field Station.

Fountain Mountain was created by renowned San Diego artist Roman de Salvo in 2020. The drinking fountain not only quenches your thirst after a hot day of hiking, but it’s the source of water for two small meandering rivers carved into a mountain-like boulder!

Instead of going down a drain, fountain water that escapes your thirsty mouth comes to life as it streams and sparkles down the small mountain!

According to this page from San Diego’s Civic Art Collection website: “De Salvo’s artwork references the archeological remains of grinding rocks used by the Kumeyaay, who were the first people to extensively live on and make use of the land that became part of the park. For de Salvo, these grinding rocks embody a sense of history, timelessness, and a connection to human activity in the park…”

To learn more about Roman de Salvo, check out this Wikipedia page.

I’ve photographed a number of his works around San Diego. To see more of his inventive, often often playful sculptures and public artwork, including a fun riddle encountered by riders of the San Diego Trolley, click here and here and here and here and here!

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 photos for you to enjoy!

Watermarks art at Mission Trails Regional Park.

Extraordinary public art can be found at one entrance to Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego. Titled Watermarks, the long, curving mosaic wall stands adjacent to the water pump station at Mission Gorge Road and Deerfield Street. Hikers proceeding through a gate in the beautiful wall find themselves on the Deerfield Crossing Trail.

Watermarks was created in 2000 by Lynn Susholtz and Aida Mancillas of artist collaborative Stone Paper Scissors. According to this page of the San Diego Civic Art Collection website: “Applied to the wall is a highly detailed mosaic of tile, indigenous rock and metal pieces etched sporadically with petroglyphs, text and animal tracks…(the wall) serves to illustrate the ecological, historical and cultural importance of the park and the San Diego River. Once used by the Kumeyaay Indian tribe and the Spanish missionaries, the San Diego River connects our histories, cultures and lives.”

I took these photographs on a gray day between winter showers.

I love how the blue tile mosaic river flows and meanders along the earthy wall. Native plants like mesquite, wild onion, yucca and sage appear like fossils on river stones, each labeled with both their English and Kumeyaay names. On the ground and bench, you can see how nature’s fallen leaves, and rain water collected in the sculpted animal tracks, imbue this amazing artwork with even more life.

Six miles downstream, in 1769, the Spanish established the Misión San Diego de Alcalá, creating the demand for a mission waterworks system which was continually modified from 1775 through the 1830’s. The Old Mission Dam, located at the top of the gorge, was constructed of local stone, clay deposits from the river, and a cement mortar mixture over a solid foundation of bedrock. The dam provided a reliable water source for crops and livestock brought in by the Spanish. The dam and subsequent aqueduct connection were fully operational for less than twenty years.

(If you’d like to see photos of a hike to the Old Mission Dam, click here.)

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 photos for you to enjoy!

Huge boulder crushes car on L Street!

An enormous boulder dropped from the sky and crushed a car that was parked by the sidewalk on L Street!

I witnessed the strange, tragic aftermath with my own eyes, as I walked past Southwest Boulder & Stone in Chula Vista.

Because no one will believe me, I took several photographs!

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!

Stones painted with love, optimism, dreams.

Paint a rock. Leave it here.
Paint a rock. Leave it here.

My walk around Cardiff-by-the-Sea today included a very short stretch of the Cardiff Rail Trail. I walked north from where this popular bike and pedestrian trail crosses Chesterfield Drive, just west of San Elijo Avenue.

As I walked I noticed what first appeared to be many small smooth stones spilled to one side of the path. Upon closer inspection, I discovered a treasure trove of colorful gems!

Scattered on dead leaves I found brightly painted butterflies and hearts. I read words expressing love and optimism. I saw painted dreams.

It appears these precious jewels were created by many generous hands.

Dream and smile.
Dream and smile.

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!