Hundreds of new trees planted in Balboa Park.

I was walking through Balboa Park on Sunday, making my way toward Park Boulevard, when I noticed a newly planted tree with a shiny plaque beside it.

I veered across the grass to investigate…

The plaque states:

TREE BALBOA PARK

This tree and hundreds of others have been planted throughout the park by the Balboa Park Conservancy, Urban Corps, Tree San Diego, and Parks & Recreation.

Funding for this California Climate Investments grant project has been provided through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Urban and Community Forestry program.

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 hike near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center.

A beautiful, very easy nature hike can be enjoyed at the south end of Oceanside near the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center. The quarter mile hike follows a quiet looping trail with views of the Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

Yesterday I walked the trail and took these photographs.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society runs the Nature Center, which is located at 2202 South Coast Highway. The trail begins and ends a few steps from the building’s front entrance, directly across the driveway.

The Buena Vista Audubon Society engages the community and local students by offering nature education and various birding opportunities. They are also active in working to protect and restore wetlands and other environmentally sensitive land. You can learn more about their mission at this web page.

The Nature Center was closed when I happened by, but the trail was wide open and inviting on a sunny July day.

Here and there through dense bulrushes, or at viewing platforms, one can see the placid lagoon, and birds floating in the water or taking flight. Not only does local wildlife depend on this important natural habitat, but Buena Vista Lagoon is used by thousands of migrating birds that follow the Pacific Flyway.

One section of the hike was on a wood plank boardwalk over shallow water, then the trail turned toward dry land where I saw majestic trees, including sycamores, cottonwoods, and even a few Torrey pines.

During my walk I happened to meet Buena Vista Audubon Society’s Executive Director Natalie Shapiro. Before I began my hike, I observed her picking up trash along the Coast Highway, where it crosses the lagoon. Then I saw her again on the trail! She asked if I’d like to volunteer! Volunteers are always greatly appreciated!

She was super friendly and explained to me the difference between bulrushes and cattails, which I tend to confuse. At the margins of the lagoon, the plant community includes both of these, not to mention pickleweed and saltgrass.

Since the 1940s, Buena Vista Lagoon has been sealed off from natural tidal fluctations, and it has consequently become a stagnant fresh-water system. But there are now plans to open the lagoon to the ocean, creating a more healthy wetland.

If you’d like to enjoy this very easy, educational nature hike, head to Oceanside. And plan to visit when the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center is open! I need to do that, too!

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!

Ghostly branches of a cottonwood in spring.

In late spring and early summer the branches of a cottonwood tree can become very ghostly!

I walked under a Fremont cottonwood by the San Diego River this morning. My eyes were intrigued by the windblown white “cotton” that had collected on its own gray limbs and branches.

Check out the upcoming photos. Those drooping white puffs that resemble cotton candy are actually a fruit called achene. Seeds are dispersed by the wind.

I’m no botanist, so I don’t pretend to understand much about it.

I do know, however, that these seeds can plant themselves in a fertile imagination. The cottonwood’s fuzzed branches appear ethereal, like phantom forms from some unearthly world…

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 water saving demonstration landscape in La Mesa.

If you live in San Diego and love having a beautiful, lush garden in your yard, but also want to save water, there’s a fine demonstration landscape full of drought tolerant native plants, trees and flowers you can check out in La Mesa. The demonstration landscape can be found on two sides of the Helix Water District building at 7811 University Avenue.

I enjoyed looking at the demonstration garden last weekend and took photographs. According to a sign, water can be saved by not only planting vegetation native to the San Diego region, or well suited to our arid climate, but by installing a drip irrigation system under a layer of mulch to prevent evaporation. A smart irrigation controller can adjust watering times based on the weather.

Having such a WaterSmart landscape can help “beautiful plants and trees thrive on half, a third, or a fifth of the water a traditional lawn needs.”

If you can’t make it to La Mesa, go to the Helix Water Districts’ website and check out their Sustainable Landscape page here. You’ll find lots of great ideas, including numerous plants that you might use!

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 historical walking tour of Encinitas.

If you’re a San Diego resident or visitor, I recommend going on a historical walking tour of Encinitas.

The free guided walks, which are led by a member of the Encinitas Historical Society, typically occur every two months and begin inside the society’s headquarters, a restored one-room 1883 schoolhouse. For the location, and to see the dates of upcoming walking tours, check out their website here.

Last Saturday I and a couple dozen others gathered at the old schoolhouse for the tour. The sky was overcast with May gray, but the cool temperature was perfect for a very active one and a half hour walk.

Our group headed south from the schoolhouse, checking out the two iconic Encinitas Boathouses and a few other historical homes and buildings. After a short eastward leg, we continued farther south down Coast Highway 101 to view the Golden Lotus Towers of the Self-Realization Fellowship from a distance, then headed back north passing numerous historical buildings until we reached Cottonwood Creek. Turning west, we followed the creek, climbed to a spot overlooking Moonlight Beach where we admired a Heritage Tree, then headed south a few blocks back to the old schoolhouse.

These photographs include sights I’d seen during a past walk in Encinitas. Back then I was on my own, wandering about randomly while knowing very little. The guided tour last weekend was extremely informative and I’ve provided a little bit of what I learned (and managed to jot down) in the photo captions.

If you want a great experience make sure to go on the tour yourself! Like every other beach city in San Diego’s North County, Encinitas has a rich history that is often surprising!

The unique Boathouses of Encinitas were built in 1927-1928 and were once called The Arks. They were constructed with recycled lumber from a dance pavilion and bath house that used to be located at Moonlight Beach.
The Petrie House, in the Tudor-Cotswold Revival architectural style, was built in 1931. Every cement block was made by hand.
The Self-Realization Fellowship Temple was originally the 1916 Mission School. The old Spanish architectural influences are still visible.
To the south down Coast Highway 101 we could see the distinctive golden towers of the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram.
The 1949 County Realty Building, now home of Encinitas 101 Main Street Association.
A surfboard bench and photo of Main Street, Encinitas, California, looking west, circa 1947.
Beautiful wood interior of the 1925 Payne Cleaners building. It is home to the longest laundry service business in San Diego County.
Rustic-appearing buildings across the Coast Highway at The Lumberyard shopping center were inspired by history. Trains running on nearby tracks once delivered lumber to Encinitas here.
Beautiful original glasswork decorates a historic building.
The Daley Double saloon was called the Rendezvous in the 1930’s. It once housed an illegal poker parlor and boxing ring.
Murals painted by Micaiah Hardison, born and raised in Encinitas.
The original Encinitas sign was erected in 1928, removed in 1937 for a highway widening project, then duplicated and returned to the same location in 2000.
The famous La Paloma Theater, also called Aubrey Austin Building, opened in 1928. Built in a Spanish Mission/Art Deco style.
The sculpture Encinitas Child was created by local artist Manuelita Brown. A young girl was killed on the nearby road years ago.
The popular, very colorful Surfing Madonna mural.

Last year I blogged about the Surfing Madonna mural with additional photos and information here.

Encinitas owes its origin to Cottonwood Creek, a source of water and wood on San Diego’s arid north coast. Trains coming down from Los Angeles stopped here. In 1881 the town of Old Encinitas was established.
Members of our tour group look down at a huge frog at the edge of the creek.
A large, rare Torrey pine tree, on a hilltop not far from the Pacific Ocean.
The 2nd Heritage Tree of Encinitas. Planted in 1952, the huge Star Pine is lit during the holidays and Santa arrives on a firetruck from nearby Fire Station One.
One of many quaint beach cottages built by the ocean in Encinitas.

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!

A shining sculpture dances in Encinitas.

A fantastic kinetic sculpture was recently installed on the Coast Highway in Encinitas. You can see it shining among trees in the small park in front of the Self-Realization Fellowship building, at South Coast Hwy 101 and K Street.

The titanium and stainless steel sculpture is called Orpheus, named after the poet and musician of Greek mythology. Orpheus played his lyre so movingly that even the trees danced. And indeed, the trees near this metallic Orpheus seem to dance with it as the sculpture’s curving arms move quietly in the wind like living limbs.

Orpheus was created by Encinitas artist Jeffery Laudenslager. His peculiar geometric sculpture Fuji San was photographed six years ago here.

Orpheus has been acquired by the Encinitas Friends of the Arts and, according to this article, is the very first piece of public art in the City of Encinitas’ Sculpture Installation Program.

I took these photos last Saturday. By sheer coincidence, I read an article this morning that another similar kinetic sculpture by Jeffery Laudenslager was recently stolen from his driveway, and he is offering a reward to recover it.

Enjoy a few photos of Orpheus, playing its visual music in the sky above Encinitas…

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!

Balboa Park’s new Moreton Bay Fig tree platform.

On Sunday I finally stepped onto the new platform that recently opened in Balboa Park under the huge Moreton Bay Fig tree, north of the San Diego Natural History Museum. The shady platform with welcoming wooden benches made of old logs was built by the Friends of Balboa Park.

The platform is the perfect place to relax, eat a snack or read, while listening to a strumming guitarist, or birds in branches, or happy laughter from nearby picnickers.

I took a photograph from the Moreton Bay Fig’s new platform of a sign down by some huge roots. The sign describes the history of this impressive, very beautiful tree.

I’ve transcribed the above words:

A Legacy of the 1915 Exposition

This Moreton Bay Fig Tree was planted over a hundred years ago in a formal garden created for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. While it has not moved, its surroundings have changed. The garden, designed for the Southern California Counties Building was later replaced by the San Diego Natural History Museum.

It has grown to be the largest Moreton Bay Fig in Balboa Park and one of the largest in California. It exceeds 70 feet in height, the canopy extends 125 feet in width and the trunk is 16 feet in diameter.

Balboa Park becomes even more wonderful as the years roll on…

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!

Hidden art at the Market Creek Plaza amphitheater.

The Market Creek Plaza shopping center in southeast San Diego’s Lincoln Park community is a popular destination. But unless you’ve attended an event at the amphitheater behind the shops and restaurants, you’ve probably never seen this “hidden” public art.

Artwork that is truly extraordinary!

On the left wall of the Market Creek Plaza Amphitheater one might notice scattered colorful disks. This is just a small part of the Children’s Wall. Turn a corner and you’ll discover a copper-inlaid tree surrounded by circular ceramic leaves painted by more than 600 local children!

And perched before it, in the shade of trees lining Chollas Creek, by a patch of green grass, you’ll encounter a child with a dragonfly in his toes. The very fine bronze sculpture is titled Dragonfly Dreams, and it was created by local artist Jean Cornwell Wheat.

You can learn about this beautiful “hidden” artwork, and other public art that is located nearby, by clicking 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!

A very short, easy hike at East Fortuna.

Yesterday, as part of a much longer walk in urban Santee, I enjoyed a very short, easy hike in the northeast corner of 7,220-acre Mission Trails Regional Park.

I started at the East Fortuna Staging Area and proceeded from the Equestrian Circle Trailhead west a quarter mile or so, just to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.

Imagine my surprise when I quickly spotted a roadrunner!

The City of San Diego’s wild, rugged Mission Trails area, during World War II, was used to train members of the 2nd Marine Division. Camp Elliott is where they learned to fire artillery and operate tanks. According to the above sign posted near the trailhead: “At the height of the war, 50,000 officers and men were dispatched to combat zones from Camp Elliott in a little over a year.”

The canyons, mountains and grasslands of Mission Trails are now home to abundant wildlife and natural beauty.

Trees in the distance line the San Diego River where its life giving water flows through the park.

Some bright California bush sunflowers near the trail…

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!

Nature’s beauty on a west Santee walk.

I took the following photographs today during a long looping walk around the west half of Santee.

From the Santee Trolley Square transit station I headed north up Cuyamaca Street, then west along Mast Boulevard to the East Fortuna Staging Area at Mission Trails Regional Park. After taking a short hike in the park, I headed south down West Hills Parkway and back east to the trolley station via Mission Gorge Road.

During the walk through Santee I snapped these photographs. Much of the walk was past homes, schools and businesses, but there were also these glimpses of natural beauty. (Additional photos that I’ll post in the next day or two include my short Mission Trails hike, an unusual historical monument, and very unique public artwork.)

The following three photos were taken as I walked down Mast Boulevard over Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve. Far below, in the middle of Lake 2, two white pelicans were standing on a rock. I also saw dozens of swallows flying out from beneath the bridge, but the tiny birds darted about so swiftly I was unable to capture a good photograph of them. You can see one swallow zipping by in this first photo…

As I walked down Mast Boulevard under State Route 52, I saw an indication that I had almost reached Mission Trails Regional Park.

Then I headed into the East Fortuna Staging Area. From the entrance driveway and parking lot I took photographs of the mountains beyond trees lining the San Diego River, and some sycamore leaves.

Walking south down West Hills Parkway took me to the place where State Route 52 passes over the San Diego River…

Finally, where State Route 125 meets Mission Gorge Road, I was surprised to find a beautiful golden patch of California’s State Flower: the California poppy.

(Incidentally, last Tuesday, April 6 was officially California Poppy Day!)

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!