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September 29, 2017

Tecolote Canyon - revisiting the central canyon

Last week we hiked through our favorite section at the bottom of Tecolote Canyon.  While we were in Ohio over the summer a great deal of work was being performed to restore habitat and open more trails.  That post can be found HERE

That raised our curiosity as to how far that work had progressed and if the ‘soon’ to be available new maps would have updates for the central Tecolote Canyon.  The trail begins well shaded and by the cuttings along the sides of the trail it is obvious that some trail maintenance has been performed.
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These majestic old coastal oaks are one of my favorite sections.  I think scenes for Harry Potter could be filmed in the clearings beneath. 
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Oops the trail improvements all too soon come to a gully where some serious erosion has erased the trail.  Taking advantage of a little downhill momentum I’m up the other side.  However, Fran thinks I might have forgot something …
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Shortly after this crossing we find that there is habitat restoration at this end of the canyon also.  And a new bridge for the project.  I suspect the gully we had to negotiate will have a bridge also ‘soon’.
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Ah so this is what is going on – Habitat West has been contracted to restore native vegetation within Tecolote Canyon.  Our only native palm tree is the California Fan Palm.  Although I support the project in principle there are aspects I really dislike.  Those tall Mexican Palms are among my favorites, but are not native and Habitat West web page shows the use of a helicopter to assist in removing them on their Featured Projects page.  My other main complaint is datura (jimsonweed) is native.  It smells like peanut butter, but is highly toxic and restoration teams do not just leave it alone but plant it in the restoration projects.
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I was not impressed with the spray can art last week, but this exhibit needs help.  Back-in-the-day the frog pond was not there and we could ride our bicycles underneath Balboa Ave through this storm drain.  But now we have to climb over it.
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The Harvest International Market is across Balboa Ave.  This is a great place to buy produce with some very reasonable prices.  The gotcha is we now have to walk back with our purchases, which consisted of a lot more than the mushrooms we came to get!
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Tecolote is a nice canyon with a bit of variety.  And check out those fall colors! The poison oak is turning crimson, it's pretty huh?

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Please note that it is not just the datura and poison oak but this year there is a much increased Hepaitas A outbreak found in the some of the canyons.  To ensure a clean Mission Bay we do need to have a clean watershed, and I do volunteer on the cleanups when I can.

September 23, 2017

Tecolote Canyon - our go to canyon

Our go-to hiking spot is Tecolote Canyon, we can enter and return from home with no driving required.  We enter the canyon off September Street across from University of San Diego.
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Before we left on Road Trip 2017 there was quite a bit of work scheduled for the canyon.  Both sewer and drainage were to be addressed.  Although the ‘trail closed’ sign remains in place it appears the sewer line is in place.  The areas disturbed by the construction have been replanted with native (sustainable) plants.  The plantings have a drip irrigation in place to help with their development.
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The 2017 Coastal Cleanup Day was last week, but I was not available.  Tecolote Canyon had only 20 volunteers to help – I woulda/coulda made 21.  Not near enough!  But kudos to those who made a difference!, I know it is difficult work, but so needed.

We now have a new crossing of Tecolote Creek at Cross Street near Gardena Ave.  This is where we enter the canyon.
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And a bunch of new trail markers.  The numbers are not distance, but do not know what they are … a stop at the VC is needed.  The datura (jimpson weed) is in full bloom.  This is the prevalent poisenous plant in the canyon.  So pretty … so fatal!
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The western end of the canyon is now a frickin freeway as the natural gas plant is expanding.    There is a need to allow the workers and equipment into the pumping station.  Past there the canyon is back to trails following the east side of the Tecolote Golf Course.
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Not sure who left this little jaw bone for me to photograph, but it is proof that critters also call the canyon home.  The Pampas Grass shows the invasives have also moved into the neighborhood.
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A couple more pictures of the new trail markers. Hmmm what do they mean????
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We’ll cross Tecolote Creek again here at the golf course.  This crossing is less stable and the drop down to the crossing is a bit skidish.  Fran is laughing at me for wanting a picture before I’ll help with the descent.
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Sweet!  We have a new ‘spray can artist’!  Sorry but I’ve seen better ….
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I returned to the VC to ask about the new signs.  Not sure they know for sure, but I gather that a new map of the canyon will “soon” be available where the numbers on the various signs will correspond to a meaningful entry.
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I ask “How soon?”  with the respose “Our volunteer is working on it in her spare time”.  That’s all there is folks!

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.