Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation news – May 19, 2017

By Jay Wilson 

Explore Mission Trails Day

“Connecting with Nature” is the theme for the 2017 Explore Mission Trails Day which will be held on Saturday, May 20 at the Mission Trails Regional Park East Fortuna Staging Area.

This popular event features free guided nature walks and talks and programs throughout the park, including live animals and special programs for children.

Explore Mission Trails Day features pony rides, a mountain bike track and learning booths. (Courtesy MTRPF)

There will also be free pony rides beginning at 9 a.m. The pony rides operate until 2 p.m., but the line will close at 12:30 p.m.

There will also be a mini mountain bike track presented by the San Diego Mountain Bike Association, a climbing wall, crafts for children, and many Discovery Stations.

Amateur Photo Contest

You are encouraged to enjoy the park and pause to take that special picture to be entered into our Amateur Photo Contest. Take advantage of all the spectacular wildflower blooms and spring growth provided by the winter rains and warming weather.

Children 12 and under are encouraged to participate; they will be judged separately.

Entries will be accepted through May 31. Reception and awards will be held at the Visitor Center on Sunday, June 25. The photos will be displayed from June 17 until July 14.

The two ways to enter the contest are: (1) deliver mounted photos to the Visitor Center or (2) submit digital photos online.

Check our home page at and click on “Explore Mission Trails Day” for more information!

Summer Camps

This summer, there are four fun and educational day camps at Mission trails, held Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for ages 6 to 12.

  • June 26–30 – River Camp
  • July 10–14 – Creepy Crawly Camp
  • July 24–28 – Nocturnal Creatures Camp
  • Aug. 7–11 – Nature Detectives Camp

Enjoy exploring our park and learn all about the fascinating plants, animals, and bugs that live in Mission Trails. The programs focus on science, natural history and more.

Each week-long day camp is $125 per child ($100 per camp if you sign up for all four). Go to “More News” on our home page ( for more information.

Our Unearthly Earthling: Friend or Foe

By Robin Hampton, trail guide

Grisly images flew through my head the first time I saw a Jerusalem cricket. I just knew that this “whatever it was” might be a throwback to its midcentury predecessors. It brought to mind the dreaded underground monster in the 1990 sci-fi film “Tremors.” A few fact checks later, I discovered I had nothing to fear.

Jerusalem cricket

Stenopelmatus fuscus, the species living in Mission Trails Regional Park, possesses a few common names: “potato bug” (the potato bug, not a true bug, is uncovered when potatoes are dug up); “old bald-headed man” and “skull insect” (supposedly Native American terms); and “niño” or “niña de la tierra” (child of the earth). As to its most familiar common name, a couple of websites suggest that in days past, when people spotted the cricket for the first time, they’d yell out the expletive “Jerusalem!”

Related to katydids, grasshoppers, and, of course, crickets, an adult can be 1 ½ to 3 inches in length. They burrow underground (and under rocks and logs) feeding at night on living and dead organic matter, insects, and roots. A large humanoid head, powerful jaws, and massive legs provide the strength to move it through soft soil to look for food and build tunnels. They’ll bite hard if threatened; they are neither poisonous nor will they attack.

This cricket is solitary. You won’t hear it chirp like its cricket kin. It can’t leap or fly or run fast, and it is not a garden pest. To entice a female, the male will drum its large abdomen on the ground. Being nocturnal this creature succumbs to predators that also prowl at night: skunks, coyotes and foxes, owls, bats, and many others.

Our “child of the earth spends” much of his time doing his part to recycle natural materials and aerate the soil. True, he’s got enemies and many times they win in the end. But he has admirers in us and then we, in turn, can pay it forward to others. Suddenly the ugly anti-hero doesn’t look so bad. Come to think of it, I believe I have a new twist on the title of the cricket/worm story. What do you think of “Beauty and the Beast”?

—Jay Wilson is executive director of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. Reach him at

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