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December 11, 2016

Ruffin Canyon– San Diego Urban Hiking

Ruffin Canyon extends from Sera Mesa 500’ down to Mission Valley as part of the San Diego River Watershed.  I’ve been wanting to do this canyon for awhile and when the Canyoneers had it on their schedule it was a no-brainer to join them.

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Although this is a “Y” trail, we’ll start down at the top of the east side of the “Y”and up the other side of the loop.  The entrance is on the east side of Taft Middle School, where Ruffin Road ends.   Here’s a pdf trail map.

There is a native plant garden here that is maintained by the students.  A very nice use of our tax dollars for the hands on education of SoCal native plant and animal life.  The students not only learn about the plants and maintain the garden and its pathways, but also the hand painted markings.

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Below the native plant garden is an example of the rocky makeup of the canyon walls.

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I stop at a beaver tail cactus that is covered in white spots.  These are cochineal bugs, which make a ‘natural’ red dye when crushed.  Snapple used this natural coloring in their ice teas.

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Enough goofing off, time to catch up with the Cayoneer group.  Our leader, Jerry, is a naturalist with The NAT.  Very knowledgeable and familiar with this canyon.
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After crossing the footbridge, the trail remains wide and well maintained.  The plants on either side of the trail are the ever present Lemonade Plant.
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But soon turns into a steep narrow decent into the canyon.  The steepest sections have stairs carved or built to make it easier and a lot safer.
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The trail narrows as it follows the canyon wall with switchbacks to the rocky base of the valley below.

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The brilliant red Christmas berries of the Toyon Bush  can be found throughout the urban canyons
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The Century Plant is considered an exotic (non-native) vegetation.  It is invasive taking over its area.  San Diego City Parks makes an effort to remove them, despite their majesty.  The overspray on this one has also damaged the native lemonade plant behind.
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This Wild Cucumber has already exploded and spread its seeds.  Fran and I tried to use one in a salad once … once!
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There are several Pampas Grass plants near the creek along the valley floor.  Our guide, Jerry, put a sample in his handy little pocket microscope for us to view the pink hues of the pollen.
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The fish in the pools, although not native, are mosquito fish placed there by the city.  That’s ok with  me, I’d rather have an exotic fish than a native mosquito!
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Our hike today was 3 miles, but I see on Google Maps that it should be possible to extend this hike into Sandrock Canyon making it a loop.  This is confirmed by an old article I found in the San Diego Reader.

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