Double takes and a heartfelt San Diego welcome!

Tourists take the Coronado ferry across the bay to downtown San Diego. What will they see?
Curious tourists take the Coronado ferry across the bay to downtown San Diego. What will they see?

Yesterday I bumped into a few unexpected sights. No different than any other day. A walk through the world with open eyes can tickle both one’s funny bone and heart.

A pedicab advertising marijuana delivery!
A pedicab advertising marijuana delivery!
A walking, smiling iced coffee!
A walking, smiling iced coffee!
Upside down visitor information!
Upside down visitor information!
A heartfelt welcome on the bow of the USS Midway. Welcome home to the troops.
A heartfelt welcome on the bow of the USS Midway. Welcome home to the troops.

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!

An educational visit to the Living Coast Discovery Center!

Bat ray rises against glass of an outdoor tank at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.
Bat ray rises against glass of an outdoor tank at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.

Before my hike through Sweetwater Marsh, I enjoyed a visit to the Living Coast Discovery Center, which is located inside the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Exhibits inside the center and clusters of wildlife tanks and enclosures outside allow visitors to see and learn about the animals that make this refuge their home. The place is just right for families, with kid-size educational displays, short, easy paths, and even some picnic tables. If I were a young kid, having a birthday party here would be really cool!

After checking out the exhibits at the Living Coast Discovery Center, I ventured over to an adjacent building that is the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters. Some great displays outside provide more information about the unique and beautiful wetland that stretches in all directions. Not far from this building, one can easily find a hiking trail that leads across the marsh to San Diego Bay.

The Living Coast Discovery Center, located in the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, is where to get Back to Nature.
The Living Coast Discovery Center, located in the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, is where to get Back to Nature.
A short bus ride takes one from the parking lot near Interstate 5 through the protected Sweetwater Marsh to the kid-friendly education center.
A short bus ride takes one from the parking lot near Interstate 5 through the protected Sweetwater Marsh to the kid-friendly education center.
People near the green sea turtle exhibit at the front of the Living Coast Discovery Center.
People near the green sea turtle exhibit at the front of the Living Coast Discovery Center.
Many species of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish are on display inside the small center. There's even a mouse house popular with kids.
Many species of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish are on display inside the small center. There’s even a mouse house popular with kids.
Outside, visitors can explore exhibits featuring sharks, rays, birds and tortoises. One can also look across the surrounding Sweetwater Marsh.
Outside, visitors can explore exhibits featuring sharks, rays, birds and tortoises. One can also look across the surrounding Sweetwater Marsh.
Actions on land affect San Diego Bay. Pollution runoff flows via creeks, rivers and storm drains into the marsh then out to the ocean.
Actions on land affect San Diego Bay. Pollution runoff flows via creeks, rivers and storm drains into the marsh then out to the ocean.
A leopard shark. They are plentiful in the waters off San Diego.
A leopard shark. They are plentiful in the waters off San Diego.
This 3-million-year-old fossilized tusked walrus skull was found in the area. 470 different species have been found as fossils here, including sperm whales and now extinct flightless auk!
This 3-million-year-old fossilized tusked walrus skull was found in the area. 470 different species have been found as fossils here, including sperm whales and now extinct flightless auks!
Enclosures in the aviary area contain clapper rails, shorebirds and ducks.
Enclosures in the aviary area contain clapper rails, shorebirds and ducks.
A blue-billed ruddy duck swims in a pool of water at the Living Coast Discovery Center.
A blue-billed ruddy duck swims in a pool of water at the Living Coast Discovery Center.
In other parts of the aviary area one can see vultures, hawks, eagles and owls.
In other parts of the aviary area one can see vultures, hawks, eagles and owls.
A red-tailed hawk.
A red-tailed hawk.
Beautiful artwork on one building's side shows a beach and birds in flight. Swallows have built nests above it near the roof.
Beautiful artwork on one building’s side shows a beach and birds in flight. Swallows have built nests above it near the roof.
Bronze sculpture of a coyote. Many other works of wildlife art can be viewed around the center.
Bronze sculpture of a coyote. Many other works of wildlife art can be viewed around the center.
Sign near an enclosure describes the Sonoran desert tortoise.
Sign near an enclosure describes the Sonoran desert tortoise.
A tortoise take a slow stroll outside the Living Coast Discovery Center.
A tortoise take a slow stroll outside the Living Coast Discovery Center.
This amazing art showing marshland birds is just outside the entrance to the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters.
This amazing art depicting marshland birds is just outside the entrance to the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters.
Large signs explain the role of a wildlife refuge.
Large signs explain the role of a wildlife refuge.
National Wildlife Refuges are safe havens for species. The first one, at Pelican Island in Florida, was created in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt.
National Wildlife Refuges are safe havens for species. The first one, at Pelican Island in Florida, was created in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt.
Map of the extensive San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Map of the extensive San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
The wildlife refuge contains great biodiversity. The animals and plants are all parts of a complex and sensitive ecosystem.
The wildlife refuge contains great biodiversity. The animals and plants are all parts of a complex and sensitive ecosystem.
Different forms of life can be found in subtidal channels, mudflats, the low march and high marsh. The changing tide allows birds to feed and varied species to thrive.
Different forms of life can be found in subtidal channels, mudflats, the low marsh and high marsh. The changing tide allows birds to feed and variously adapted species to thrive.
Wildlife can find it hard to thrive in urban areas. The conserved habitat of this refuge is a critical safe harbor for many native species.
Wildlife can find it hard to thrive in urban areas. The conserved habitat of this refuge is a critical safe harbor for many native species.
This place is special. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to protect its wild residents.
This place is special. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to protect its wild residents.
A green sea turtle, one of those residents of San Diego Bay!
A green sea turtle, one of those residents of San Diego Bay!

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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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.

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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San Diego Harbor and Backcountry: Reiffel paintings.

A small part of a large, dynamic painting of San Diego's working waterfront.
A small part of a large, dynamic painting of San Diego’s working waterfront.

Yesterday I enjoyed a visit to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. In addition to checking out various fascinating exhibits, I paused for a moment to gaze upon two large murals on display that were painted in 1936 by Charles Reiffel.

Charles Reiffel was a renowned Post-Impressionist landscape painter who was sometimes referred to as the American Van Gogh. Looking at these truly impressive paintings, one can understand why! The viewer enters his color-splashed, dreamy world and simply wants to linger.

Two more wonderful Reiffel paintings can be seen in Balboa Park inside the Casa de Balboa. I have photos of them here!

Charles Reiffel, San Diego Harbor, 1936. Oil on canvas. WPA mural inside the San Diego History Center that was originally commissioned for San Diego High School.
Charles Reiffel, San Diego Harbor, 1936. Oil on canvas. WPA mural inside the San Diego History Center that was originally commissioned for San Diego High School.
This part of the fantastic oil painting depicts a pier and activity on San Diego Bay.
This part of the fantastic oil painting depicts a pier and activity on San Diego Bay.
Boats and buildings along San Diego's colorful harbor.
Boats and buildings along San Diego’s colorful harbor.
Charles Reiffel, San Diego Backcountry, 1936. Oil on canvas. WPA mural inside the San Diego History Center that was originally commissioned for San Diego High School.
Charles Reiffel, San Diego Backcountry, 1936. Oil on canvas. WPA mural inside the San Diego History Center that was originally commissioned for San Diego High School.
This part of the oil painting shows homes in the hills of San Diego.
This part of the oil painting shows homes in the hills of San Diego.
First introduced by Spanish explorers and missionaries, horse riding has become a popular activity in the country surrounding San Diego.
First introduced by Spanish explorers and missionaries, horse riding has become a popular activity in the country surrounding San Diego.
A farmer plows a field somewhere in beautiful San Diego.
A farmer plows a field somewhere in beautiful 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!

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 photos for you to share and enjoy!

Sitting on a bench next to Tuna Harbor.

Someone poses for a photo on a bench next to Tuna Harbor.
Someone poses for a photo on a bench next to Tuna Harbor.

Yesterday I spent some time writing. I sat in the San Diego sunshine on a bench next to Tuna Harbor. From time to time my lifted eyes spied something interesting, so I’d take a photo.

Fishing vessels docked in Tuna Harbor. A pier, sailboat and the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the distance.
Fishing vessels docked in Tuna Harbor. A pier, sailboat and the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the distance.
A cluster of (mostly) red floats.
A cluster of (mostly) red floats.
As I sat on one of the benches writing, the commercial fishing boat Tommy John entered the harbor.
As I sat on one of the benches writing, the commercial fishing boat Tommy John entered the harbor.
Fishermen on the boat get ready to dock.
Fishermen on the boat get ready to dock.
Gulls swirl about hoping for fish scraps.
Gulls swirl about hoping for fish scraps.
Folks walking by appear to be enjoying the day.
Folks walking by appear to be enjoying the day.
Another nearby boat is home to a curious dog.
Another nearby boat is home to a curious dog.
I see a blue sail jutting up from San Diego Bay, just beyond the G Street Pier.
I see a blue sail jutting up from San Diego Bay, just beyond the G Street Pier.
A gull swings on by to give me a look.
A gull swings on by to give me a look.

My short stories can be read here.

Fun photos at the Red Bull Air Race!

Skateboarder at end of G Street Pier looks out at Red Bull Air Race course an hour before the cool event begins on Saturday in San Diego.
Skateboarder at end of G Street Pier looks out at Red Bull Air Race course about an hour before the cool event begins on Saturday in San Diego.

Have fun checking out these photos! I took them during a long walk up and down the Embarcadero, before and during today’s Red Bull Air Race.

What did I see? Read the captions!

And if you happen to be in San Diego, the event continues tomorrow! There’s lots of cool sights to see!

Smart people grabbed seats on the Seaport Village wall by the water before the air race began. The guys on the boat are there to rescue pilots should they crash into the water.
Smart people grabbed seats on the Seaport Village wall by the water before the air race began. The guys on the boat are there to rescue pilots should they crash into the water.
Some aerial entertainment starts early! It appeared several pilots were practicing the course before the official time trials would begin.
Some aerial entertainment starts early! It appeared several pilots were practicing the course before the official time trials would begin.
The little airplanes are awfully fast and super maneuverable. The pilots had to steer a twisty course between those inflatable pylons and avoid losing points.
The little airplanes are awfully fast and super maneuverable. The pilots had to steer a twisty course between those inflatable pylons and avoid losing points.
A crowd is gathering by my friend Mitchell's spot--he plays didgeridoo. I held the fort while he bought a pretzel. That ice cream looks pretty good.
A crowd is gathering by my friend Mitchell’s spot–he plays didgeridoo. I held the fort while he bought a pretzel. That ice cream passing by looks pretty good.
Near one paid entrance, at Embarcadero Marina Park North, a sign showed the event schedule and provided info about the Red Bull planes and pilots.
Near one paid entrance, at Embarcadero Marina Park North, a sign shows the event schedule and provided info about the Red Bull race planes and pilots.
The public could purchase all sorts of Red Bull merchandise and souvenirs at a trailer by the boardwalk.
The public could purchase all sorts of Red Bull merchandise and souvenirs at a trailer by the boardwalk.
And at nearby Seaport Village, kids could visit the Easter Bunny!
And at nearby Seaport Village, kids could visit the Easter Bunny!
These poor guys had to work during the big event. Superyachts docked behind the convention center need constant maintenance!
These poor guys had to work during the big event. Superyachts docked behind the convention center need constant maintenance!
I saw this below in the water and had to take a photo. Love the color.
I saw this below in the water and had to take a photo. Love the color.
Then I had to climb to the top of the San Diego Convention Center...
Then I had to climb to the top of the San Diego Convention Center…
...where I discovered a great view of the Marriott Marina and a good portion of the Red Bull Air Race course out in San Diego Bay!
…where I discovered a great view of the Marriott Marina and a good portion of the Red Bull Air Race course out on beautiful San Diego Bay!
As I walked south toward the Hilton, more pilots were practicing out on the bay. Zoom!
As I walked south toward the Hilton, more pilots were practicing out on the bay. Zoom!  I see the Coronado Ferry Landing across the water.
Lots of people were finding spots to watch the action.
Lots of people were finding spots along the water to watch the action.
Another guy who had to work today. But one couldn't find a better workplace!
Another guy who had to work today. But one couldn’t find a better workplace!
A Red Bull pilot rolls in the sky high above marina masts!
A Red Bull pilot rolls in the blue sky high above marina masts!
Meanwhile, this guy was testing out a water jetpack. A bunch of these daredevils entertained the crowd later, as you'll see.
Meanwhile, this guy was testing out a water jetpack. A bunch of these daredevils entertained the crowd later, as you’ll see.
Almost time to start the official racing! Lots of people got free seats on the grass. The Embarcadero was jammed with spectators!
Almost time to start the official racing! Lots of people got free seats on the grass. The Embarcadero was jammed with spectators!
This line contained folks who paid to get an up close view. The paid area also featured videoboards, exhibits and special refreshments.
This line contained folks who paid to get an up close view. The paid area also featured videoboards, exhibits and special refreshments.
Here's that sign again. I've been walking my way back north.
Here’s that sign again. I’ve been walking my way back north.
The San Diego course map for the Red Bull Air Race.
The San Diego course map for the Red Bull Air Race.
The racing has officially begun! Those pilots are fast and super skilled! They probably drank some Red Bull, too! You need to be on edge!
The racing has officially begun! Those pilots are fast and super skilled! They probably drank some Red Bull, too! Because you need to be on edge!
Planes make multiple passes through the difficult course.
Planes make multiple passes through the difficult course.
Just cleared that pylon!
Just cleared that pylon!
Uh, oh. One pylon deflated for some reason. Sometimes pilots would clip them. Anyway, now it's being refilled with air.
Uh, oh. One pylon deflated for some reason. Sometimes pilots would clip them and lose points. Anyway, now it’s being refilled with air.
All of San Diego seems present for the big international race!
All of San Diego seems present for the big international race!
Look at them go.
Look at them go.
This pair of pylons at the north end seemed the most difficult to clear. Pilots had to make a hairpin turn through them.
This pair of pylons at the north end seemed the most difficult to clear. Pilots had to make a hairpin turn through them.
Made it!
Made it!
Young aircraft enthusiast has pins from many aviation events and air shows.
Young flying enthusiast has pins from many aviation events and air shows.
These kids simply like ice cream.
These kids simply like ice cream.
Now I'm out on the pier just north of Seaport Village. A great view of the race can be enjoyed here, and for free!
Now I’m out on the pier just north of Seaport Village. A great view of the race can be enjoyed here, and for free!
A big wake made this fishing vessel bob by the pier like crazy, causing a moment of excitement!
A big wake made this fishing vessel bob by the pier like crazy, causing a moment of excitement!
During a lull in the aerial action, which allowed ships and boats to pass through the course, the paying crowd was entertained by a bunch of water jetpack guys.
During a lull in the aerial action, which allowed ships and boats to pass through the course, the paying crowd was entertained by a bunch of water jetpack guys.
Coast Guard guys check with pilot rescue guys during a break in the action. The rescue guys had wetsuits and fins on, ready to be on the scene of a crash in seconds.
Coast Guard guys check with pilot rescue guys during a break in the action. The rescue guys had wetsuits and fins on, ready to be on the scene of a crash in seconds.
The dog was enjoying the sunny San Diego day as much as the humans.
The dog was enjoying the sunny San Diego day as much as the humans.
The Red Bull Air Race has resumed! A pilot descends toward the starting pylons!
The Red Bull Air Race has resumed! A pilot descends toward the starting pylons!
Here he goes!
Here he goes!
Now to bank rapidly around a couple of single pylons...
Now to bank rapidly around a couple of single pylons…
That's pretty darn fast!
That’s pretty darn fast!

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 photos for you to share and enjoy!

Red Bull Air Race plane flies above San Diego!

Look! Up in the sky! A Red Bull Air Race plane is about to buzz the San Diego Convention Center!
Look! Up in the sky! A Red Bull Air Race plane is about to buzz the San Diego Convention Center!

Check out this cool sight that just went up in San Diego’s Gaslamp, right next to the trolley station and Tin Fish restaurant! A Red Bull Air Race plane appears to be flying low over downtown! I think it might buzz the nearby convention center!

This morning, when I took these photos, I spoke to friendly guys putting up some promotional banners and learned the cool “plane on a post” had just been installed. A couple cranes were nearby. It appears to be an actual plane that is flown during the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

The next big race comes to San Diego Bay in two weeks. The best pilots in the world will fly a few feet above the water through an insane aerial obstacle course. Some years back a Red Bull Air Race was held in San Diego, and I caught some of the incredible action from a distance. All I can say is those pilots must have amazing reflexes and nerves of steel!

This unique motorsport was devised by the people at Red Bull. The planes move at high speed and are extremely maneuverable. This year the Master Class category features fourteen of the world’s top pilots.

There are eight races around the globe, mostly in cities by water, and San Diego will be the second race. I hope to catch it! If I do, I’ll post photos!

A cool airplane of the type San Diego will see in two weeks at the Red Bull Air Race above San Diego Bay.
The type of cool airplane flown at a Red Bull Air Race.  The upcoming aerial race will be through a unique obstacle course above San Diego Bay.
San Diego Trolley leaves the Gaslamp Station and passes a new banner advertising the Red Bull Air Race in mid-April.
San Diego Trolley leaves the Gaslamp Station and passes a new banner advertising the Red Bull Air Race in mid-April.
Poster promotes the upcoming Red Bull Air Race over San Diego Bay, on April 15 and 16.
Poster promotes the upcoming Red Bull Air Race over San Diego Bay, on April 15 and 16.
It might be small, but it's highly maneuverable and super fast!
It might be small, but it can turn on a dime and is super fast!
One can see some of the airplane's inner workings. There doesn't appear to be much room in the cockpit!
One can see some of the airplane’s inner workings. There doesn’t appear to be much room in the cockpit!
Now the Red Bull Air Race plane seems to be banking toward the Gaslamp! Perhaps it will fly up Fifth Avenue!
Now the Red Bull Air Race plane seems to be banking toward the Gaslamp! Perhaps it will fly up Fifth Avenue!

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!