By Audrey F. Baker
There’s something special about visiting the park during the holidays. Replete with enchanting settings, holiday foliage, scenic wonders and the welcoming umbrella of nature, Mission Trails mirrors the true spirit of the season.
Come relax. Take in “the simple life,” brushing aside the hectic aspects of the holidays. It’s a place to meander, enjoy small details, reflect on majestic scenery and embrace your surroundings. Here the rhythm is comfortable, interspersed with the poetry of patterned leaves, the whistle of wind, the music of bird song, and beat of your own footsteps.
Emotions calm. Each turn on the trail offers a fresh perspective, sparking passion and appreciation. It’s a peerless opportunity to refresh amid the beauty that surrounds and inspires us. For San Diego visitors and residents alike, an outing at Mission Trails is “coming home for the holidays.”
Our MTRP Trail Guide walks are an opportunity to learn more about natural Southern California, with its unique landscapes, habitats, local history and plant and animal life. The walks are free, interesting, fact-filled, and geared to all ages and interests. Grab sturdy shoes, that comfortable hat, a water bottle and sunscreen and hit the trail!
Morning walks are offered every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, from 9:30 to 11:00 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. We meet by the flag poles.
Wildlife tracking reveals the secret life of animals and brings insight into their survival techniques and habits. Tracking Team members assist in identifying and interpreting tracks, scat and habitats. Join us at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 6 in front of the Visitor Center (1 Father Junipero Serra Trail), for a two-hour tracking adventure.
Star Party Marvels is your invitation for solar exploration. MTRP resident star gazer George Varga tells us one night past full moon, we can expect good views of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and its companion M32. He’ll also target Pleiades (Seven Sisters), Double Cluster in Perseus and numerous open clusters across the sky. Rain or fog cancels. We’ll observe 7 – 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6. Meet us at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot, Mission Trails Regional Park (2 Father Junipero Serra Trail, Santee).
Discovery Table: Animal Tracks presents the ancient art of animal tracking used by modern trackers to identify and read animal behavior signs. Stop by for hands-on science presented by MTRP Trail Guides and discover which track looks like a baby’s handprint, which is the largest of local wildlife and other interesting facts about San Diego wildlife. Try our skill game, matching animal to tracks. See you inside the Visitor Center lobby, on Saturday, Dec. 13 between 10 a.m. – p.m.
La Mesa Walk ‘n Talk combines ambling along scenic shores with your MTRP Trail Guide with chatting up the topic, “Indigenous Holiday Plants and Rituals.” You’ll learn fun facts about plants with historic associations, a connection to Hollywood, and Native American ceremonials. Join us 9 – 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 16. Meet at the boat docks (Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa).
Winter Solstice Hike is an unparalleled visit to a Kumeyaay spiritual site to observe the phenomenon of rising sun rays visually split in half by distant Lyon’s Peak boulders. Bundle up and bring your flashlight for a memorable predawn walk up Cowles Mountain with your MTRP guide. Saturday, Dec. 20 or Monday, December 22, 6 – 8 a.m. Meet at Cowles Mountain staging area (Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road, San Carlos).
Bird Winter Waters along with MTRP Birding Guide Jean Raimond to seek resident and migratory water and landlubber sage and chaparral species. Keep an eye out for the tri-colored blackbird found year-round only in San Diego. Bring binoculars and bird books if you’ve got ‘em. Join us Saturday, Dec. 20, 8 – 10 a.m. Meet at the parking lot off Kiowa Drive, Lake Murray (east side) San Carlos.
Meanwhile, come on out and enjoy the park!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Audrey F. Baker is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.