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Spectacular blooms at Mission Trails Regional Park

By Audrey F. Baker

For a show-stopping spring bloom, check out Holly-leaf Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia). Towering to 30 feet high and wide, its profuse blooms can all but mask its winter holiday-shaped serrated leaves. Look for it in moist areas of our chaparral, amid north-facing slopes.

The plant is a gathering place for wildlife. Insects (including honey and native bees) actively patrol its blooms. Come the dry summer months, it’s a favored mule deer browse. In September and October, ornamented with deep purple-red cherries described as “mostly skin and seed,” it becomes a festival of gorging for our wild canines, the coyote and gray fox.

Holly-leaf Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) AFBweb

Holly-leaf Cherry (Prunus ilicfolia) (Photo by Audrey F. Baker)

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, that comfortable hat, water bottle and sunscreen and hit the trail!

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 with MTRP Tracking Team members presents the world of tracks, scat, bedlays and other critter evidence that indicate the presence of lesser-seen animals inhabiting the park. It’s two hours of dirt-time fun, so wear long pants for close-up observation. See you at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, May 7 in front of the Visitor Center.

Discovery Table: Kumeyaay Games and Toys is an opportunity to play and learn the traditional games that amused generations of Native American children and prepared them for life in natural San Diego. Make your own Staves/Stick Dice game and try your skill at Ring and Pin, and more. Drop by the Visitor Center Saturday, May 14 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

La Mesa Walk and Talk combines a stroll along Lake Murray’s scenic shores with your MTRP Trail Guide and topics in nature. This month we chat up “Explore Mission Trails Day,” sampling many of the nature-related activities offered for all ages at our upcoming annual park-wide celebration. 9 to 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 17. Meet at the boat docks, Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa.

Bird Kumeyaay Lake with MTRP Birders Jeanne Raimond and Millie Basden for shorefront avian adventure. The area is active with newly fledged young and late-arriving May migrant species are actively engaged in nest building and incubating eggs. Join us at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 21 at the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot for a two-hour exploration. Binoculars and bird book recommended.

Sunspot Viewing with MTRP resident star gazer George Varga investigates daytime sunspot activity on “Old Sol.” George’s solar-filtered telescope permits safe viewing. We meet on the Visitor Center back terrace on Saturday, May 21 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Star Party Luminaries make their appearance as a full moon rises to replace the setting sun. Join MTRP’s resident star gazer George Varga as he scopes Jupiter high in the western sky, and at evening mid-point, Mars and Saturn to the east. He’ll focus on the Whirlpool (M51), Sunflower (M36), Black-Eye (M64) and Sombrero (M104) galaxies and more. Rain cancels. We gather between 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot.

Family Discovery Walk is an invitation to share in nature’s spring magic as a family experience. With fresh blooms dotting the landscape, both the plant and animal worlds are enlivened, shedding winter dormancy for spring-time regeneration. Our Trail Guide-hosted interactive outing focuses fun, childhood enrichment, and memorable moments in nature. We meet inside the Visitor Center on Sunday, May 22, 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Birding Basics enhance your nature experience by identifying birds at a glance. MTRP bird guide Winona Sollock’s class explains five simple techniques and gives tips on field guide use. (Bringing one is optional.) Class meets inside the Visitor Center on Saturday, May 28 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

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 a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park. Reach her at aud1baker@gmail.com.

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