Days of the Vaqueros in Old Town San Diego!

Two vaqueros chat during an event in Old Town San Diego that reenacts aspects of Californio history.
Two vaqueros chat during an event in Old Town San Diego that reenacts fascinating Californio history.

I enjoyed the Trades That Shaped the West event in Old Town San Diego last Saturday so much, I decided to return today to experience another Stagecoach Days event: Days of the Vaqueros!

Days of the Vaqueros invited curious visitors to experience what life was like when San Diego was a part of Mexico. The emphasis was on the vaqueros–the first true cowboys. During the era of the Californios, wealthy ranch owners employed vaqueros to manage their stock.

For a couple of decades–from the early 1820s to the mid-1840s–cattle hides were the primary export of Alta California. Merchant ships from the East Coast (and other places about the Pacific Ocean) would trade the plentiful hides for finished goods that were in high demand in early, geographically isolated, sparsely populated towns like San Diego.

Someone reads Days of the Vaqueros sign on the Robinson Rose House in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Someone checks out Days of the Vaqueros activities. The banner hangs on the Robinson Rose House in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Taking place during Old Town's summer Stagecoach Days, today's event celebrated life in San Diego when the small town and surrounding area was part of Mexico.
Taking place during Old Town’s summer weekend Stagecoach Days, today’s event celebrated life in San Diego when the small town and Alta California were part of Mexico.
Ladies in period dresses at the Days of the Vaqueros event in Old Town San Diego.
Ladies pass by in period dresses. One of many cool sights at the Days of the Vaqueros event in Old Town San Diego.
Tables contained information about life during the era of huge Mexican land grant cattle ranches worked by vaqueros. Vaqueros, the first cowboys, were mostly indigenous people employed to manage cattle by the wealthy land owners.
Tables contained information about life during the era of huge Mexican land grant ranches worked by vaqueros. Vaqueros, the first true cowboys, were mostly indigenous people employed to manage cattle by the wealthy land owners.
A vaquero shows a visitor to Old Town how to properly handle a rope.
A vaquero shows a visitor to Old Town how to properly handle a rope.
The visitor successfully lassoes his cow--the rear end, that is--first try!
The visitor successfully lassoes his cow–the rear end, that is–first try!
A gentleman who used to work for Buck Knives makes unique knife handles with elk antlers. He has developed his own technique, which takes great skill and precision.
A gentleman who used to work for Buck Knives makes unique knife handles out of elk antlers. He has developed his own technique, which takes great skill and precision.
A hat maker shows how beaver felt material was steamed then pushed over a hat-form block.
A hat maker shows how beaver felt material was steamed then pushed over a hat-form block.
What's cooking on the campfire? Some tasty pozole, I was told!
What’s cooking on the campfire? Some tasty pozole, I was told!
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or stew, made from hominy, meat and various vegetable seasonings.
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or stew, made from hominy, meat and various vegetable seasonings.
Preparing eggs for the cascarón. Near the end of a fiesta Californios flirted by cracking eggs filled with scented water or confetti over the startled head of someone they liked.
Decorating eggshell cascarones. Near the end of a fiesta, Californios flirted by cracking eggs filled with scented water or confetti over the startled head of someone they liked.
A group called Los Californios played authentic early California music--tunes that were preserved over a century ago on wax cylinder sound recordings made by Charles Lummis.
A group called Los Californios played authentic early California music–tunes that were preserved over a century ago on wax cylinder sound recordings made by Charles Lummis.
A couple dances to the happy, gentle music.
A couple dances to the happy, gentle music.
Publications by a project called San Diego Friends of Old Time Music. Author Vykki Mende Gray is helping to preserve the musical history of California.
Publications by a nonprofit project called San Diego Friends of Old Time Music. Author Vykki Mende Gray is helping to preserve the musical history of California.
A display of braided ropes and cut rawhide, once commonly used by vaqueros as they worked on the large cattle ranches around San Diego.
A display of braided ropes and rawhide, once commonly used by vaqueros as they worked on the large cattle ranches around San Diego.
On this table I see more ropes, a canteen, iron brands and boot spurs.
On this table I see more ropes, a canteen, iron brands and boot spurs.
A gentleman who teaches students visiting Old Town about history holds up an illustration of bear-baiting, which early Californians found entertaining.
A gentleman who teaches school students visiting Old Town about history holds up an illustration of bear-baiting, which early Californians found entertaining.
These guys were making adobe bricks. I learned earth and water are mixed, and straw or manure are often added for strength and cohesion.
These guys were making adobe bricks. I learned earth and water are mixed, and straw or manure are often added for strength and cohesion.
These authentic adobe bricks take weeks or months to properly dry. When hard, they'll possibly be used in new construction or restored exhibits at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Authentic adobe bricks take weeks or months to properly dry. When hard, these bricks will possibly be used in new construction or to restore existing exhibits inside Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Traditional dancing in the courtyard of Casa de Estudillo of Los Camotes (which translates the sweet potatoes), a tune from Mexican and Spanish California.
Traditional dancing in the courtyard of Casa de Estudillo of Los Camotes (which translates the sweet potatoes), a tune from old Mexican and Spanish California.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

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Dance, music, fun at International Mariachi Festival!

People watch the 5th Annual International Mariachi Festival in National City's Pepper Park.
People watch the 5th Annual International Mariachi Festival in National City’s Pepper Park.

I took a bunch of colorful photos today at one of San Diego’s most wonderful festivals! The 5th Annual International Mariachi Festival was held today at Pepper Park in National City. (Actually, as I post this blog, the event still has about an hour to go.)

So what does one see at a Mariachi Festival? Read the captions!

The first performance featured the colorful Azteca Dancers - Danza Mexi'cayotl.
The first performance featured the colorful Azteca Dancers – Danza Mexi’cayotl.
The Azteca Dancers file onto the stage to the beat of drums.
The Azteca Dancers file onto the stage to the beat of drums.
The audience watches the dancers perform on the Main Stage of the National City International Mariachi Festival.
The audience watches the dancers perform on the Main Stage of the National City International Mariachi Festival.
Dancers of all ages participate in several ancient Aztec dances, including a Rain Dance.
Dancers of all ages participate in several ancient Aztec dances, including a Rain Dance.
Energy and joy are expressed as cultural traditions live on.
Energy and joy are expressed as cultural traditions live on.
The first of many wonderful performances at the Mariachi Festival!
The first of many wonderful performances at the Mariachi Festival!
Now here comes Danza Folklorica Las Florecitas!
Now here comes Danza Folklorica Las Florecitas!
Another amazing dance begins!
Another amazing dance begins!
Smiles and brightly colorful dresses are both big parts of Mexican culture.
Smiles and brightly colorful dresses are both big parts of Mexican culture.
Dizzily spinning color and pure joy.
Dizzily spinning color and pure joy.
Life as it should be.
Life as it should be.
The happy, rhythmic music had lots of people in the audience clapping along.
The happy, rhythmic music had lots of people in the audience clapping along.
Here come some youthful musicians! I believe these are Mariachi Maya de Southwest Middle School.
Here come some youthful musicians! I believe this is Mariachi Maya de Southwest Middle School. You wouldn’t believe the lung power and vocal range of that gifted young singer!
Watching from the side of the Main Stage.
Watching from the side of the Main Stage.
Meanwhile lots of other fun stuff was going on at the festival, including this guy creating cool spray paint art.
Meanwhile lots of other fun stuff was going on at the festival, including this guy creating cool spray paint art.
Vendors had all sorts of stuff for sale, including colorful Mexican dresses and fun lucha libre masks.
Vendors had all sorts of stuff for sale, including colorful Mexican dresses and fierce lucha libre masks.
Speaking of lucha libre, there was some of that as well. (The blindfolded guy somehow won!)
Speaking of lucha libre, there was some of that as well. (The blindfolded guy somehow won!)
Wrestlers entertain a small crowd at the International Mariachi Festival.
Wrestlers entertain a small crowd at the International Mariachi Festival.
My favorite photo of the family event!
My favorite photo of the family event!
And the event this year was very big! People kept arriving right into the afternoon.
And the event this year was very big! More people kept on arriving right into the afternoon.
The excellent entertainment continued non-stop at the Main Stage.
The excellent entertainment continued non-stop at the Main Stage.
Many great mariachi groups would perform from around San Diego, Southern California and Mexico.
Many great mariachi groups would perform from around San Diego, Southern California and Mexico. Many middle school and high school groups participated.
At the opposite end of Pepper Park, on the Port Stage, kids of all ages performed.
At the opposite end of Pepper Park, on the Port Stage, kids of all ages performed.
On the grass off to the side of the Port Stage a bunch of young performers awaited their turn in the spotlight.
On the grass off to the side of the Port Stage a bunch of young performers awaited their turn in the spotlight.
Now I'm back at the Main Stage one last time. The crowd has grown!
Now I’m back at the Main Stage one last time. The crowd has grown!
Rousing, emotional, much-loved mariachi music brought loud applause throughout the event.
Rousing, emotional, much-loved mariachi music brought loud applause throughout the event.
This young man sang several songs, and finished with an exciting mariachi version of Sinatra's New York, New York!
This young man sang several songs, and finished with an exciting mariachi version of Sinatra’s New York, New York!
Here come some young couples dancing! I'm not sure who these performers are.
Here come some young couples dancing! I’m not sure who these performers are.
A dance filled with life.
A dance filled with life.
Youthful energy at the Mariachi Festival in National City.
Youthful energy at the Mariachi Festival in National City.
And now--I believe--Danza Folklorico Nanahuatzin.
And now–I believe–Danza Folklorico Nanahuatzin.
Colorful skirts whirling like kaleidoscopes.
Colorful skirts whirling like kaleidoscopes.
A traditional Mexican folk dance delighting both eyes and ears.
A traditional Mexican folk dance delighting both eyes and ears.
Pure joy.
Pure joy.
Many wonderful performances could be enjoyed at the 5th Annual International Mariachi Festival!
Many wonderful performances could be enjoyed at the 5th Annual International Mariachi Festival!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Lots of cool street art in Mission Beach!

A pelican on an electrical box on Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach.
A pelican painted on an electrical box.  Photo taken on Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach.

Enjoy these photos of street art finds in Mission Beach!

I saw lots of cool artwork while walking along Mission Boulevard from Pacific Beach Drive south to the Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park. Almost every electrical box along the sidewalk had been painted with a lively beach or ocean theme!

A sailfish swims above the sidewalk.
A sailfish swims above the sidewalk.
These fish in some kelp appear to be made of a hand and two feet dipped in paint!
These fish in some kelp appear to be made of a hand and two feet dipped in paint!
A transformer box with a small beach scene wrapping around it.
A transformer box with a small beach scene wrapping around it.
Close look at one part of the impressionistic painting of the beach.
Close look at one part of the impressionistic painting of the beach.
A typical beach scene with sand, palm tree and surfer.
A typical beach scene with sand, palm tree and surfer.
Someone with a pail and someone walking a dog.
Someone with a pail and someone walking a dog.
Three orange garibaldis in the Pacific Ocean.
Three orange garibaldis in the Pacific Ocean.
A traffic sign warns of surfers crossing!
A traffic sign warns of surfers crossing!
A red, white and blue fish above a garage door.
A red, white and blue fish above a garage door.
Some fun surfer street art in Mission Beach.
Some fun surfer street art in Mission Beach.
And right next to it is another colorful, psychedelic panel of street art. Find it at Mission Blvd and San Rafael Pl.
And right next to it is another colorful, psychedelic panel of street art. Find it near Mission Blvd. and San Rafael Pl.
A tropical scene on a wall.
A tropical scene on a wall.
Perhaps take some gyros out on your boat when you go sport fishing.
Perhaps take some gyros out on the boat when you go sport fishing.
A goose is loose!
A goose is loose!
One of several cool, nostalgic beach images on one parking lot fence. A surfer girl and a woodie overlooking the ocean.
One of several cool, nostalgic beach images on one parking lot fence. A surfer girl and a woodie overlooking the ocean.
Another cool Southern California image on the parking lot wall.
Another cool Southern California image on the parking lot wall.
A youth with a surfboard looks out at the beach and sandstone cliffs.
A youth with a surfboard looks out at the beach and sandstone cliffs.
There seems to be a large hole in this wall. I see ocean waves through it!
There seems to be a large hole in this wall. I see ocean waves through it!
We must take care of our land and sea. Live aloha.
We must take care of our land and sea. Live aloha.
A wacky tiki character on a corner of a Mission Beach shop.
A wacky Deadhead tiki character at the corner of a Mission Beach shop.
Another painted scene shows natural beauty along San Diego's coastline.
Another painted scene shows natural beauty along San Diego’s coastline.
Another cool woodie with surfboards on the roof.
Another cool woodie with surfboards on the roof.
Whales and seals and fish on one watery wall.
Whales and seals and fish on one watery wall.
And a dolphin, too!
And a dolphin, too!
The most important things in life . . . aren't things.
The most important things in life . . . aren’t things.
Two sailboats painted on an electrical box.
Two sailboats painted on an electrical box.
Another underwater scene on a utility box, faded by the sun.
Another underwater scene on a utility box, faded by the sun.
A ringed planet appears to be surfing! Cosmic, dude!
A ringed planet appears to be surfing! Cosmic, dude!
Street art celebrates the Mission Beach Centennial, 1914-2014. The Giant Dipper roller coaster, the main attraction of Belmont Park, is in both the artwork and the photograph's background.
Urban art celebrates the Mission Beach Centennial, 1914-2014. The Giant Dipper roller coaster, the main attraction of Belmont Park, is in both the artwork and the photograph’s background.
More garibaldis on a large electrical box near Mission Beach's famous roller coaster.
More garibaldis on a large electrical box near Mission Beach’s famous roller coaster.
A migrating gray whale and pod of dolphins are part of the previously shown underwater mural.
A migrating gray whale and pod of dolphins are part of the previously shown underwater mural.

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Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego's San Carlos neighborhood.
Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego’s San Carlos neighborhood.

Please enjoy the following photos. They are from a hike that I took yesterday to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park. Cowles Mountain, elevation 1,593 feet, is the highest peak in the city of San Diego. Because it’s located near so many urban residents, hundreds of hikers can be found on its trails on any given day.

Yesterday, around noon, I started from the trailhead at the Cowles Staging Area on Golfcrest Drive, and I slowly climbed the zigzagging trail to the summit. It’s a fairly steep ascent–one gains 950 feet in just 1.5 miles. Furthermore, yesterday the footing was more difficult than usual. A small stream was flowing down much of the muddy trail, due to the recent rain.

But the climb was definitely worth the effort!

The higher I ascended, the more fantastic the views became. At the top I could survey nearly all of San Diego and much of the surrounding region. From mountains to ocean, Mexico to North County and beyond–the spectacular views stretched in every direction!

Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be somewhat crowded on weekends.
Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be very crowded on weekends.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His two ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance experience of other hikers.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance the experience of other hikers.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is required. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is entailed. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
A group hikes up the trail.
A group hikes up the trail.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren't prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate those in distress.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren’t prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate people in distress.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it's possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it’s possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer cone-like peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego, very faint in the far distance.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
The trails zig-zags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
The trail zigzags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day (see the previous blog post) was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870's.
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870’s.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could just barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, distant San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue thread.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue line.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in amazing views.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in some amazing views.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

A short hike in San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. The colors appeared astonishingly bright this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.
There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. Nature’s colors appeared astonishingly rich this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.

My 9:00 hike this morning turned out to be shorter than expected. That’s because I was the only one to show up for a scheduled nature hike in a beautiful section of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Following directions, I parked a few minutes early at the Par 4 trailhead in Jamul, near the Cottonwood Golf Course. I kept checking my watch, hoping the US Fish & Wildlife Service ranger would arrive. I was looking forward to identifying the spring wildflowers and flowering plants along the trail. But it wasn’t to be. I suppose the event was cancelled due to yesterday’s rain.

I didn’t walk far because I didn’t want to adversely impact the still wet trail. Near the trailhead the footing was packed and firm, and my shoes barely made an impression, but perhaps a quarter mile into my hike there was just too much mud to continue.

As you can see, the hills of San Diego are bright green! This winter has been very rainy. During the summer the green in these photos will vanish as the native grasses, sagebrush and scrubby chaparral dry out in the relentless Southern California sun.

During my short hike, I did capture a few photos of tiny flowers and a bird! I’m sorry to report that I can’t properly identify them. Perhaps you can!

Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California. (Click image to enlarge.)
There are patchy wildlife refuges in some of San Diego County's undeveloped areas. This map shops where they are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
There are various wildlife refuges in San Diego County’s undeveloped areas. This map shows where several managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
A wet trail heads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across the open space.
A damp trail leads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across this open space. The morning’s short hike was made pleasurable by a fresh cool breeze and warm sunlight.
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don't know. Leave a comment if you do!
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and lingering raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don’t know. Leave a comment if you do!
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I tried to identify this small bird, using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn't decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I tried to identify this small bird using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn’t decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I'm no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
I’m no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego's East County the day after a big storm.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego’s East County the day after a big storm.

After this very small hike, I drove along Highway 94 to Campo, winding my way through bright green rocky mountains. Then I headed back toward San Diego via Buckman Springs and Pine Valley, without any particular notion of where to stop. Then it occurred to me: Why not hike Cowles Mountain today? So I did, as you’ll see in the next blog post!

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

Photos of 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic!

People gather near the beach to watch the 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic.
People gather near the beach to watch the 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic.

Here come some cool surf photos!

I went to the 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic today and enjoyed walking around and watching the action from atop the OB pier.

What a beautiful, perfect day. Check it out!

The OB Pier stretches into the Pacific Ocean on a beautiful morning in early February. A fun surf competition is underway.
The OB Pier stretches into the Pacific Ocean on a beautiful morning in early February. A fun surf competition is underway.
I believe these guys were signing up people for a beach cleanup.
I believe these guys were signing up people for a beach cleanup.
Catching a football on the beach while two surfers head toward the water.
Catching a football on the beach while two surfers head toward the water.
Considering the event is only two years old, a nice turnout was evident along the boardwalk.
Considering the event is only two years old, a nice turnout was evident along the boardwalk.
A musician plays in OB during a surf community celebration.
A musician plays in OB during a surf community celebration.
I believe the winners in different categories would take home one of these small surfboards.
I believe the winners in different categories would take home one of these small surfboards.
Hanging out on the sea wall and the sand berm. The latter protects the nearby street and businesses from high water during winter storms.
Hanging out on the sea wall and the sand berm. The latter protects the nearby street and businesses from high water during winter storms.
A horn sounds. The 10:30 heat is starting out across the beach! May the best surfer win!
A horn sounds. The 10:30 heat is starting out across the beach! May the best surfer win!
The surf competitors enter the water.
The surf competitors enter the water.
One of the surfers has caught a nice wave. The surf was very high today and made for some good rides.
One of the surfers has caught a nice wave. The surf was high today and not terribly choppy, making for some pretty good rides.
Pacific Beach and La Jolla can be seen in the distance.
Pacific Beach and La Jolla can be seen in the distance.
Two surfers tackle a good breaker!
Two surfers tackle a good breaker!
OB is a haven for Southern California surfers.
OB is a haven for Southern California surfers.  It’s fun to watch from the pier.
A nice shot. This local surfer went under the pier and emerged near the competitors.
A nice shot. This local surfer went under the pier and emerged near the competitors.
A fun surf photo. (About the best my little camera can manage at a distance.)
A fun surf photo. (About the best my little camera can manage at a distance.)
People on the pier look out across the turbulent water.
People on the pier look out across the foamy water.
Keep having a good day!
Keep having a good day!
More cool action at the 2nd Annual OB Pier Surf Classic.
More cool action at the 2nd Annual OB Pier Surf Classic.
A line of pelicans flies overhead.
A line of pelicans flies overhead.
People enjoy a warm San Diego winter day on the OB pier.
People enjoy a warm San Diego winter day on the OB pier. One of my favorite places.
Leaning over the rail watching surfers below.
Leaning over the rail watching surfers below.
The guys surfing the south side of the pier were catching some fairly big waves.
The guys surfing the south side of the pier were catching some fairly big waves.
Today we were under a high surf advisory. Perfect for experienced surfers!
Today San Diego beaches were under a high surf advisory. Perfect for experienced surfers!
Surfer in a wetsuit about to paddle under the pier.
Surfer in a wetsuit about to paddle under the pier.
Some photographers and videographers were recording the action.
Some photographers and videographers were recording the action.
Wow! Check out this pic of the surf competition! Very cool!
Wow! Check out this pic of the surf competition! Very cool!
Riding in toward the shore.
Riding smoothly in toward the shore.
Meanwhile, along the beach people were simply enjoying life.
Meanwhile, along the beach people were simply enjoying life.
An artist was displaying some cool surf art at the competition.
An artist was displaying some colorful surf art at the competition.
An announcer calls the action so everyone can follow along.
An announcer calls the action so everyone can follow along.
A wonderful day at the 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic. Here's to many more years of success!
A wonderful day at the 2nd Annual Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic. Here’s to many more years of success!

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Photos of National City’s Heritage Square and Brick Row.

Brick Row at National City's Heritage Square, built by Frank Kimball in 1887.
Brick Row at National City’s Heritage Square.  The long brick two-story structure was built by Frank Kimball in 1887.

To those traveling through gritty National City, Heritage Square can be a surprising discovery. Venture into the picturesque block, just south of the intersection of East 9th Street and A Avenue, and you feel like you’ve stepped back 150 years.

National City has a fascinating history. Originally used by the Spanish to graze horses, the land in the early 1800s, after Mexican independence, was called Rancho de la Nación. In 1868, a San Francisco builder named Frank Kimball bought the rancho with an ambitious dream. He intended to turn National City into the western terminus of the Santa Fe Railway.

You might remember my photographic tour of the National City depot, built in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. It became the first terminus of transcontinental rail travel in the San Diego area. You can see that fascinating blog post here.

To accomodate executives of the Santa Fe Railroad and booming times caused by the arrival of rail, in 1887 Frank Kimball built Brick Row, a structure in the style of Philadelphia row house. It was designed by San Diego architect R. C. Ball. Over 240,000 bricks were used for the ten units.

Kimball’s full ambitions weren’t realized, however, when the Santa Fe Railroad soon turned their sights on Los Angeles, making that city their major center of operations in Southern California.

An early resident of the “Kimball Block” was legendary marshall Wyatt Earp, who came to Southern California after being indicted in Arizona for shooting the men who’d killed his brother. He is best known locally for opening three gambling halls in San Diego. In 1889, Wyatt Earp stayed in Brick Row when he traveled down to Tijuana, Mexico. There he famously refereed a prize fight during a fiesta that also featured cockfights, bullfights and a lassoing contest.

In the early 1970s, National City’s planning directer, Malcolm C. Greschler, interested in preserving the deteriorating Brick Row, came up with the idea of creating Heritage Square, which would be a historical tourist attraction similar to San Diego’s Old Town. In 1973 Frank Kimball’s house was moved to Heritage Square.

The 1869 Kimball House has its own unique history. It was the first house built in National City. Not only did it have a bathtub, but it had hot running water, which made it the first modern house in the entire county. President Benjamin Harrison visited it in 1891 during his tour of the western United States. At the time, it was the longest journey ever made by a President while in office. President Harrison’s 9,232 mile trip by railroad took one month and three days!

In 1976 two more historical houses were moved to Heritage Square: the 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House and the 1879 Steele-Blossom House, which is depicted on National City’s official logo.

A plaque that reads Heritage Square - Marked in honor of the National City Centennial by San Miguel Chapter NSDAR, 1987.
A plaque that reads Heritage Square – Marked in honor of the National City Centennial by San Miguel Chapter NSDAR, 1987.
Heritage Square in National City contains several historic structures from the mid to late 19th century.
Heritage Square in National City contains several historic structures from the mid to late 19th century.
The Steele-Blossom House, built in 1879, is used by the city of National City in its official logo. Elizur Steele was real estate agent for the Frank Kimball and his enterprising brothers.
The Steele-Blossom House, built in 1879, is used by the city of National City in its official logo. Elizur Steele was real estate agent for Frank Kimball and his enterprising brothers.
The 1869 Kimball house was moved to Heritage Square in 1975. It is now the Kimball Museum operated by the National City Historical Society.
The 1869 Kimball house was moved to Heritage Square in 1975. It is now the Kimball Museum operated by the National City Historical Society.
The 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House in National City's Heritage Square.
The 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House in National City’s Heritage Square.
The two-story Brick Row is composed of ten units with common walls.
The two-story Brick Row is composed of ten units with common walls.
Sign reads National City Historic Site - Kimball Block - Also known as Brick Row, this block of Eastern-style flats was completed in 1887 at the then considerable cost of 22,000.
Sign reads National City Historic Site – Kimball Block – Also known as Brick Row, this block of Eastern-style flats was completed in 1887 at the then considerable cost of $22,000.
Photo of section of the handsome Brick Row in National City. The building now houses several specialty shops and the National City Historical Archive Room.
Photo of a section of the handsome Brick Row. The building now houses several specialty shops and the National City Historical Archive Room.
Walking through the historic block of Heritage Square in National City is like a voyage back in time.
Walking through the historic block of Heritage Square in National City is like a wonderful voyage back in time.

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