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June 05, 2016

Mission Trails – Santee, CA

With the hectic weekend behind, it was time to put the hiking boots back on to test the comfort level not just the damaged foot, but myself in general.  Today’s urban hike is the Mission Trails Regional Park in Santee, the largest open space preserve in California.  The East Fortuna entrance is immediately south of 52 at the Mast exit.
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For a decent hike East Fortuna offers access to some good trails with a bit of variety, Mission Dam, Oak Canyon, but not easily to the Visitor's Center.  For a mountain bike workout try any of the entrances in Tierrasanta such as the end of Clairmont Mesa Blvd, which has lots of parking and restrooms.   The mountain bikers should call “On Your Left” as they approach hikers from behind – that’s the hikers queue to step to the right and let them pass.  If you’re on the bike please shout it out, us hikers expect it and appreciate it!

The Visitor Center is located in more of a rock climbing area.  While walking toward Mission Dam in about 3/4 mile there is an old metal foot bridge over the San Diego River providing access to the trails.

East Fortuna has a staging area for equestrians, it has ample parking, utilitarian restrooms and a doggie water fountain.  Behaved, leashed, dogs are welcome on all the trails.  At all the trailheads and locations throughout the park are trash and recycle containers.  Despite that I did see a couple beer cans, that’s just mean!  They’ve now been recycled.
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From the trailhead it’s a short half mile to where the various loops and crossings begin.  All trails are well marked, it would be very hard to get lost.  If in doubt listen for the traffic on 52 and follow the traffic back to the parking area.  Really, Mast south only goes to the parking area.
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Grasslands Crossing is a ‘T’ intersection with the trail left and right.  Note the sign only shows it going left, GO LEFT!
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GO LEFT, the shade under the 52 overpass is tempting, but go left - here’s why.  Go right and you’ll reach the Park Boundary in a few yards.  No other signs and there’s a wide service road onto the Marine property of Camp Elliott.  Best known as ordnance training area during WWII, it was also home to original 29 Navajo Code Talkers.  The Marine ATV patrols will turn you back, detain you, or may even confiscate your mountain bike.  Go LEFT!  (OK I went right, but just to take the picture)

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From the Grasslands Crossing Trail are loops to take as options.  This need not be an out and back hike.
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There are informative signs along the trails, and evidence of the early Kumeyaay inhabitants.  It could not have been easy to create moteros in the conglomerate rock.
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It does not take long to reach Mission Dam.  A bit of a marvel in its day to harness the San Diego River to supply Mission de Acala with reliable water.
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Yes there is a campground in Mission Trails!  Friday/Saturday only, but today I want to retrace a hike I did with my daughter some time ago, following Oak Creek back up thru the canyon.

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The Oak Creek Trail!  I did this with my daughter so long ago, back when California had water!  It was bliss then, hiking along a babbling creek, water falls, pools, wildlife. It was green!  Now it’s brown (aka California’s Gold) and the only wildlife is a bee hive in the tree.
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There are a series of ‘Time Line’ signs along the trail, providing the history of the area.  But I’d rather had water in Oak Creek!
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I’ve reached the return point on this adventure.  About 5 miles, but the foot feels good.  The East Fortuna staging area is less than a mile over the hill.
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I did see a few late blooming wildflowers.  Enjoy!
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