By Audrey F. Baker
January in Mission Trails Regional Park reflects the sense of regeneration we feel at the beginning of a new year. Our mountains are showing off their “purple majesty” under the long clustered blooms of Ramona Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus). Its serrated, oval-shaped, dark green leaves and reddish wood now hosts subtle purple to blue blooms that blanket our slopes.
Among other early-year flowerings is the enchanting Padre’s Shooting Stars (recently reclassified as Primula clevelandii). This delicate signature of nature’s hand awakens from a seemingly spent state to brilliant flowerings boasting pale to mauve hues, separated by a white band that transitions into yellow and deep purple colorations.
All this magic stems from the winter rains, reinvigorating evergreens and bringing rapid growth to formerly dormant species. Come refresh and rejuvenate in the wealth of nature.
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, 9:30–11 a.m. Start from the 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, 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, Jan. 2 in front of the Visitor Center, for a two-hour tracking adventure.
Discovery Table: Kumeyaay Games and Toys exhibits Native American amusements that prepared children for life in nature. Presented by MTRP Trail Guides, our interactive station offers guests of all ages the opportunity to make their own ‘Staves and Stick’ dice game and take on the challenge of ‘Ring and Pin’ and more. Inside the Visitor Center lobby, on Saturday, Jan. 9 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Birding Spring Canyon and Grasslands with MTRP Birding Guides Jean Raimond and Millie Basden brings avian adventure amid sweeping grasslands and molded Spring Canyon. Both habitats are frequented by a variety of hungry hawks and we anticipate active viewing. Binoculars and bird book recommended. Join in Saturday, Jan. 16, 8–10 a.m. at East Fortuna Staging area lot off Highway 52 and Mast Boulevard, Santee.
Star Party Marvels is your invitation to explore New Year skies with MTRP Resident Star Gazer George Varga. The near-first quarter waxy moon will anchor us as we scan skies high overhead for Pleiades (Seven Sisters), Double Cluster in Perseus, Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and companion M32. In the southeastern sky, George will target Orion Nebula and more. Rain/fog cancels. Join us between 5–8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16. We gather at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot.
La Mesa Walk ‘n Talk combines ambling scenic shores with your MTRP Trail Guide with a brief chat on this month’s topic, “History of Lake Murray.” Your enjoyment of the lake’s engaging plant and active animal life will be enhanced by the story behind its formation. Runs 9–10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Meet at the boat docks, Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa.
Family Discovery Walk emphasizes actively exploring nature as a family experience. Fun and engaging, it is a unique opportunity for parents and children to interact in nature’s ever-changing seasonal surroundings. Our winter schedule examines how seasonal rains awaken plants from dormant stages and bring early wildflowers and other delights. We assemble inside the Visitor Center, 3-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24.
Birding Basics will increase your enjoyment of nature by learning five simple techniques to identify birds at a glance. Taught by experienced Birder and Trail Guide Winona Sollock, you’ll also get tips on field guide use. Bring your bird book if you’d like. See you in Classroom A, inside Visitor Center from 1–2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30.
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.
Meanwhile, come out and enjoy the park!
––Audrey F. Baker is a trail guide at Mission Trails regional Park. Write to her at email@example.com.