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September 17, 2017

Mast Park - Urban Hiking Santee

One of the communities that calls east San Diego home is Santee.  Santee is home to the fairly well known Mission Trails Regional Park.  The Santee Lakes are a well known recreational area and campground.  The San Diego River Trail passes through both these parks and continues to expand.  I noticed the Canyoneers had a hike planned for Mast Park in Santee.  An area along the San Diego River where I had not hiked before.
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Mast Park is the trail head for two trail systems.  A western section of about 6 miles out-n-back along the Carlton Oaks Golf Course, which could be extended to Santee Lakes and Mission Trails.  The east loop is about 3 miles, but can be extended into Wildcat Canyon.  The east loop offers better access to the San Diego River with more opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Regardless, the parking area is at Carlton Hills Blvd and the San Diego River.  The murals located on the trail as it passes under the roadway were a project of Boy Scout Troop 51.  Kudos for taking on such an effort.
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Mast Park has a large playground, basketball court, an offleash dog area, a frisbee golf course, restrooms along with picnic areas.  Dogs on leash are welcome on all trails.
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The park is home to a large variety of plants.  The beautiful datura smells like peanut butter, but take a good deep breath and you can feel your airways starting to close!  All forms of the datura are poisonous, especially the flower and the thorn-apple seed seen in the second picture. 
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Also found along the trail close to the river is large group of castorbean plants.  Properly prepared castor oil does have its benefits, however it can become the deadly poison ricin.
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With Canyoneer Jerry in the lead we approach a large saltbush, which has an ammonia odor.
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I don’t recall what this beautiful purple plant is, but it has the most noxious order!  Along much of the trail are the little cocklebur plants.  A bit of care may be needed to prevent their little velcro hooks from grabbing onto my socks.
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I do not have a picture of the poison oak, but I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever had this variety of plant life trying to get me in such a short distance.

Along the San Diego River a lot of water fowl can be seen.  The Great Egret (with its yellow beak) was a bit closer than its much smaller cousin, the Snowy Egret (with its black beak).
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A Great Blue Heron flew overhead and landed in a nearby branch, where he was content to check things out.
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There were quite a gathering of chatty mallard ducks, and the ever present coot.
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Also managed to capture one of the many hummingbirds and a commarnat in flight.
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It was a nice easy walk with Jerry as a very knowledgeable guide.