Tag Archives: Mission Trails Regional Park

into the wild

On my last little outing to my city’s largest open-space park, before the recent rains, while I wasn’t busy looking at sycamores, I was heading up the trail to Fortuna Peak, one of the highest point in the city limits. At 1291 feet in elevation and with good trails all the way, it’s no serious mountain climb, but the view from the top gives you views from the ocean to the west to the first ranges of real mountains to the east.

Many of the local wild parks have signs warning you about the dangerous fauna in the area–mostly rattlesnakes. Here the sign cautions hikers about the mountain lions that live here on the park’s more than 5000 acres and in the adjacent open space.

I’m used to being the top predator almost wherever I go. Even confronting a sign like this, I still manage to don that cloak of invincibility stitched through years of never confronting anything that might challenge that sense. I’m also a pretty statistics-driven person. I might think about how you’re many times more likely to meet your end by lightening strike on a golf course than hiking through land like this. Many more people die from smoking than they do through mountain lion attack.

For me, knowing that there are mountain lions in the vicinity adds to the adventure. Somehow this park feels more authentic, more alive, more complete because of it.

It brings to mind the only solo backpacking trip I’ve taken through Utah’s Cedar Mesa backcountry. Five minutes after entering the wilderness area I encountered the only human I was to see for the rest of the trip as he was leaving. Ten minutes into the trip I was crossing a stream bed still moist from an afternoon thunderstorm. As I stepped into the sand I noticed one immense, perfect paw print next to my boot. A mountain lion had passed this way in the last few hours. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a quick stab of fear at that moment. Welcome to the wild.

Maybe that’s a bit too much macho posturing on my part. If I were attacked by one of these cats, the first thing the authorities would do is to go after it. People would demand it. My recklessness would lead to the destruction of one of these elusive creatures. But I’m not a mountain lion’s favorite food, and these signs always seem like a park authority trying to limit their liability. Really, what are the odds of suffering any harm?

The wilds today didn’t offer anything so dramatic as mountain lions. A few other hikers were out, some of them totally fit and practically running, others looking like they were there because of a New Year’s resolution. Almost nothing was in bloom, but white-flowering currant (Ribes indecorum) provided bright accent marks along the trail to the top.

Once on top the view expands all around you. Look north and you see open chaparral and the runways of Miramar Air Station several miles away. Military installations may take up a certain amount of a city’s land, but they often manage to preserve open space in ways that suburban sprawl doesn’t.

Turn a little east and there you begin to see the ranks of foothills leading up to the Cuyamaca and Laguna ranges that divide the county, coastal region on one side, desert on the other. Yerba santa and black sage provide the foreground.

After I returned home from the hike I finally opened up the latest issue of Orion Magazine. One of the pieces, “Spectral Light” by Amy Irvine, describes a city family that has moved into a area in the Southwest as they come to grips with living in an area that is wilder than they ever imagined. Definitely got me thinking. It’s worth picking up the January/February 2010 issue to read it, or you can listen to the author read her piece or download the podcast [ here ].

gbbd: the garden and beyond



It’s spring, all right. The garden continues to bloom away manically, but the outdoor places around town have been no slouch, either, when it comes to flowers.

This Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens, features a gallery of some blooms from the garden mixed in with blooms from Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego.

In the top photo from Mission Trails you can see that the yellow-flowered deerweed, Lotus scoparius, has colonized many of the sunny areas that burned four and a half years ago. As the landscape recovers, other plants will come in and stake their claims. The second image from near the top of Fortuna Peak shows that other areas are also recovering from the fires, though slower than farther downslope.

You can hover over each image below for its name, or click it to see a larger photo. While you can probably tell what’s a wild plant and what’s in the garden, there’s an answer key at the end if you’re into quizzing yourself. (A few of thee are tricky in that they’re local native plants that have been incorporated into the garden.)

Wild, garden, garden;
garden, wild, wild;
wild, garden wild;
garden, garden, garden;
garden, wild, garden;
wild, garden, wild;
wild, wild, wild.

the view from the top

It’s spring, and the wildflowers wait for no one. I’ve been forsaking gardening and home projects and blogging (gasp!) a bit to check out some of the local open spaces. Here’s a panorama of part of the view from the top of Fortuna Mountian, at 1,243 feet the second highest “peak” in the San Diego city limits. (Click the image to enlarge.)


This peak burned on October 26, 2003 during the county’s big Cedar Fire. Revisiting the area is a great lesson to see how things recover from a major fire, either by resprouting from the roots or reestablishing themselves by seed. There are still plenty of dead branches poking up towards the sky, but there’s also a huge amount of green. And these big, gorgeous rocks didn’t hold on to their scorch marks for long. (Don’t you just love rocks in a landscape, either in the wilds or in a garden?)


Many of the plants and flowers aren’t ones you’ll find even in native plant gardens, but several have passed the “garden-worthy” test. In the second frame from the left above, you’ll see a bloom spike of the stinging lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus, sort of an awful name for a beautiful plant.

While I haven’t seen plants of this annual species offered for sale, several online sources do list seeds, including S&S Seeds, and Seedhunt.

Also on the summit were two other plants that are used fairly frequently in native gardens: laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) and mission manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor), both of them eventually forming large, interesting shrubs.

I’ll be sharing more bits and pieces of the trips as I get them more organized.