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February 29, 2016

Hiking The San Elijo Lagoon to the Sand Canyons

The west secion of the San Elijo Lagoon would be a super easy stroll with lots of opportunities to bird watch if only going along the path, and follow the trail to the top of the Sand Canyons.  At the top of the canyons there is about a 6 foot butt slide into the slot and it’s all a narrow downhill from there.  I mention this up front because that was not how it went.

I started out to do the Broken Hill trail in Torrey Pines that is the Best-Of for sunsets mentioned in my previous post, but the light is flat with no chance of a green flash.  So I go north another exit on I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe.
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The trails are wide and well maintained, and popular with joggers, dog walkers, bird watchers.  This section of  lagoon itself is a series of interconnected marshes, between I-5 on the east and San Elijo Beach and Campground on the west.  For a shorter stroll there is an interpretive trail back to the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, apparently with a fair size blue belly lizard as a guide.

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There are a few well marked side trails.  Perhaps a red-throated hummer would be a decent guide.
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It is on this diversion I meet ‘Dave’ a local resident smoking on the bench I came to sit on.
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Since we are the only 2 around we chat a bit. 
Dave: ‘Where ya heading?’
Me: ‘Thought I’d check out the sand canyons, been there?’
Dave: ‘Sure, I’ve been hiking this lagoon for 50 years and now it’s home.  But I’d not go in there... Too dangerous!’

Yes Dave means the Lagoon is ‘home’ in every sense of the word.  He indeed lives 'nearby'.

Me: ‘Just out for the walk and needed a destination.’
Dave: ‘ I’ll show them to you, mind if I come along?’
Me: ‘I welcome the company, pleased to meet you Dave.’

So Dave, as my new BFF off we go.   The trees are buzzing with bees enjoying blooms.
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At first view the sand canyons are impressive, but do not appear as dangerous as Dave implied.
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Looks like staghorn fern clinging to the west facing wall of the first slot canyon. 
Dave: ‘ Let’s go to the top!’
Me: thinking what happened to danger?
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OK the slots are narrow, very narrow!, but on the bright side it is impossible to fall … or, on the other side, impossible to turn back.  At some point long ago hand and footholds have been carved into the sandstone.  Not recent enough as they are very well worn, even dangerously worn.
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Over the decades kids of all ages have left their signature in this cave.
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On the far wall a more ambitious set of ‘steps’ are carved into the wall.
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If you are going up from the bottom a partner is required!  A partner you can trust!  I only met Dave a half hour ago and now we have a 6 foot vertical to ascend.  May not sound like much and with my back braced against one wall and my feet on the other I make it easily to a small 12” ledge.  But altho well braced, I’m backwards on the ledge.  I give Dave a hand up, who has to step on me to be facing forwards in the last slot. 

But alas I’m still stuck and Dave is facing the wrong way to help.  We finally figure it out and with some loss of skin, a bit of blood, we are on the top!
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Me: ‘When was the last time you were up here?’
Dave: ‘1979, highschool graduation.’
Dave: ‘Not bad for an old guy!’
Me: 'sigh' feeling a bit insulted …
Dave: ‘I’m 59, got to be the oldest person to make it up the canyon!’
Me: ‘Dave, you can say that in another decade.’
Dave: ‘You’re 69!?!?’
Me: ‘Almost.’
Dave: ‘You’re F*n ancient!, How did you get up here?’
Me: ‘With your help Dave.’

So we agreed that we’ll meet again at the top in a decade, Dave deserves to have 'my record'.  If you do hike the lagoon, or attempt the canyon, and meet a tall fella picking up litter or having a smoke on the bench – say Howdy to Dave for me.  He’s one of the good guys.

And where are we standing on the top?  Remember that wide well maintained trail … it goes to top.
Advice: Butt slide into the canyon from the top and work your way down!

Next up: Camping with the Grand-girls.

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