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Encountering nature at Mission Trails Regional Park

By Audrey F. Baker, Trail Guide

For ancient Greeks, the word “psyche” had two meanings — butterfly and soul. The striking beauty and fragility of these fleeting creatures leaves an extraordinary impression.

Lorquin’s Admiral (Limenitis lorquini), found along the willow-lined waters of Mission Trails Regional Park, is a true marvel. Its name honors French Entomologist Pierre J.M. Lorquin who came to California in the Gold Rush days, not for material wealth, but to catalogue ephemeral treasures. Its identifying markings are predominately blackish wings, orange upper wing tips and distinctive pearl neckless crossing all wings.

Our MTRP Trail Guide walks are an opportunity to learn more about natural Southern California, with its unique landscapes, habitats, local history, plant and animal life. The walks are free, interesting, fact-filled, and geared to all ages and interests. Grab sturdy shoes, comfortable hat, water bottle and sunscreen and hit the trail!

Lorquin%27s Admiral Limenitis lorquini AF Baker

Lorquin’s Admiral (Photo by Audrey F. Baker)

Morning walks are offered every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. You’ll start from the park’s Visitor and Interpretive Center, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Carlos. The walk beginning from the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station, 2 Father Junipero Serra Trail, at the San Carlos/Santee border, gives a different perspective of the park and its diverse habitats. These walks are offered from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and take in historic Old Mission Dam.

Wildlife Tracking reveals the world of tracks, scat, bedlays and other critter evidence indicating the presence of lesser-seen animals inhabiting the park. Join in for two hours of dirt-time fun – wear long pants for close-up observation. Meet your Tracking Guide at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 6 in front of the Visitor Center.

Discovery Table: Owl Pellets is your opportunity to participate in hands-on science and dissect an owl pellet to discover what scientists learn when using this important tool to study these night-time flyers. Inside Visitor Center lobby, Saturday, Aug. 13, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Evening Bird Walk is our special summer birding event led by MTRP Resident Birders Jeanne Raimond and Millie Basden. Travel the trail into the grasslands and learn about the unique features of owls. Look and listen for nighthawks, poorwills, bats, deer and more. Space is limited. Sign-up at 619-668-3281. We meet at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13 in the parking lot at Bushy Hill Drive and 2 Father Junipero Serra Trail, across from the Kumeyaay Campground Entry Station for two hours of avian exploration.

Star Party Luminaries delight. Join MTRP Star Gazer George Varga as he scopes in the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra, the Hercules Cluster (M13), Globular Cluster M22, the Lagoon Nebula (M8) in Sagittarius and more. Clouding/rain cancels. View from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, gathering at far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot.

La Mesa Walk and Talk combines a scenic lakeshore experience hosted by your MTRP Trail Guide with a brief topic in nature. We’ll chat up, “Birds of Prey,” then enjoy an easy walk. From the sea hawk Osprey to famed Red-Tailed Hawk, tales will be told. 9:00-10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 16. Meet at Ball Fields. Enter Lake Murray Community Park at Murray Park Drive and Belle Glade Avenue.

Summer Twilight Walk invites you to beat the heat with an evening interpretive walk. You’ll experience the dusky nocturnal world of MTRP and its transitions into night. Learn about changes that occur under night-time skies. Bring jacket and flashlight for this Trail Guide-led walk through wildland San Diego on Saturday, Aug. 20, 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. We start from the Bushy Hill parking lot, across from Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station.

Birding Basics enhances your nature experience by identifying birds “at a glance!” MTRP Bird Guide Winona Sollock explains five simple techniques and gives tips on field guide use. Bring yours if you like. Meet inside Visitor Center, on Saturday, Aug. 27 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Family Discovery Walk presents nature’s summer magic as a family experience, highlighting the seasonal changes it brings. Learn about plant and animal adaptations by examining those transitioning into summer inactivity and those flourishing under sunny days. Our Trail Guide-hosted interactive outing focuses fun, childhood enrichment, and memorable moments in nature. Meet inside the Visitor Center at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 for a 90-minute adventure in nature.

Visit mtrp.org for more information and our events calendar, or call 619-668-3281. Special walks can be arranged for any club, group, business or school by contacting Ranger Chris Axtmann at 619-668-2746 or at caxtmann@mtrp.org.

Meanwhile, come on out and enjoy the park!

—Audrey F. Baker is trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park. Reach her at aud1baker@gmail.com.

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