By Jennifer Morrissey
In late May, Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) staff and volunteers installed a new monument sign at the park’s South Fortuna Summit. This is the first of four new monument signs to be installed in the coming months, with the others to be placed at the summits of Kwaay Paay, Pyles, and North Fortuna. Cowles Mountain has had a summit marker for many years. With the completion of these monument installations, all of the peaks in the 5-Peak Challenge will be represented. Since the kick off of the 5-Peak Challenge in November 2015, more than 8,000 hikers have participated, received a certificate, a lapel pin, and discount coupons from REI and Adventure-16. To learn more about the 5-Peak Challenge, visit mtrp.org. Even if you’ve completed the challenge, lace up the hiking boots and come see the new monument at South Fortuna!
A few weeks back, MTRP volunteer and photographer David D. Cooksy got lucky, having a rare sighting of a California long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). A nearly daily visitor to the park, Cooksy was photographing hummingbirds one morning when, from behind a rock, up popped a California long-tailed weasel. Since his camera was at the ready for the next hummingbird visit, he was able to capture several images before the weasel darted off. The elusive California long-tailed weasel can be seen from southern Canada, throughout the United States and south through Central American into northern South America. Though small, it is a voracious eater and will consume a wide variety of smaller, live animals for its diet. It will also climb trees to raid nests of bird eggs or such other nest-dwelling creatures. While the California long-tailed weasel exists within Mission Trails Regional Park, it is seldom seen.
Connecting youth to nature
Though the school year is coming to a close, we at MTRP reflect on the thousands of San Diego County students who have visited the park through field trips and overnight campouts, taking what they’ve learned in the classroom to experience it firsthand at MTRP. Even the teachers and parents learn when they visit; sometimes chaperoning a group is their first trip to the park, or perhaps their first night sleeping in a tent. What better experience can our youth have than one that makes them gasp in excitement, a common reaction when they spy something on the trail that they’ve never seen before or step out onto the MTRP Visitor Center terrace and experience the stunning, panoramic view of Mission Gorge for the first time.
As we look ahead to fall, we at MTRP are already eagerly anticipating this fall’s visiting students, coming from all corners of the county. MTRP rangers and the foundation partner on our education programs; and the MTRP Foundation — through grants and corporate and individual gifts — provides bus transportation and educational programming to thousands of visiting students. In addition, the MTRP Foundation organizes and provides overnight camping experiences for local youth, from booking the campsites and lending equipment to providing guided nature hikes as well as visits from an astronomer and/or a Kumeyaay storyteller.
To ensure that we can continue to give children the gift of a visit to MTRP, please consider making a donation of any amount to support the educational programs of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. We thank this past school year’s donors and funders, including SDG&E, for underwriting thousands of students’ visits to the park. For information about how you can support Mission Trails Regional Park, please contact Jennifer Morrissey, MTRP Foundation executive director, at 619-582-4502 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Jennifer Morrissey is executive director of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation.
Mission Trails Regional Park calendar of events*
- Wildlife Tracking Walks – 8:30 a.m., first Saturday each month – Visitor Center
- Guided Nature Walks – 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday each week – Visitor Center
- Guided Nature Walks – 8:30 a.m., second and fourth Saturday each month – KLC Campground
- Birding Basics – 1 p.m., last Saturday each month – Visitor Center
- Bird Walks – 8 a.m., third Saturday each month – check website for meeting location
- Family Discovery Walks – 3 p.m., fourth Sunday each month – Visitor Center
- Discovery Table Demos – 10 a.m.–1 p.m., second Saturday each month – Visitor Center
- Live Hawk Demos – 9 a.m.–noon, first Sunday each month – Visitor Center
- Native American Flute Circle – 1–3 p.m., second Sunday each month – Visitor Center Outdoor Amphitheater
*Partial listing of monthly events at Mission Trails Park. Visit mtrp.org for a full calendar of free activities and programs, or call the MTRP Visitor Center at 619-668-3281.