By Audrey F. Baker
With the sparkling reflection of Cowles Mountain mirrored in its waters and a shoreline dotted with multiple bird species, Lake Murray is a serene and active habitat that showcases the variety of landscapes offered at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Lording over this scenic gem is an extraordinary nester, the osprey. The envy of anglers, for its feet-first fishing technique, and naturalists, for its status as North America’s only exclusively fish-eating raptor — the osprey’s story is a tale of regeneration and renewal, benefiting from public awareness of environmental threats. Whether you visit the park under sunlight or sunset, we invite you to experience that same sense rebirth with your own excursion into 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 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. You’ll start from the park’s Visitor and Interpretive Center, One Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Carlos. The walk beginning from the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station, Two 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, Jan. 3 in front of the Visitor Center for a two-hour tracking adventure.
Reading with the Ranger combines a captivating nature story with an embellishing activity and arts-and-crafts project based on the story theme. Ranger Heidi invites 5 – 7 year-olds to join her on Saturday, Jan. 3, 10 – 11 a.m. and 8 – 10 year-olds to attend on Saturday, the 17th, 10 – 11 a.m. Reserve your spot at 619-668-3279 to meet Ranger Heidi in the Visitor Center Library.
Discovery Table: Critter Camouflage is hands-on science presented by MTRP Trail Guides. You’ll explore the many forms of camouflage and the surprising variety of critters that depend upon it to enhance their lifestyles and thrive in nature. See you Saturday, Jan. 10 between 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. inside the Visitor Center.
Bird Spring Canyon and Grasslands with expert MTRP birders Jeanne Raimond and Millie Basden for avian adventure amid sweeping grasslands and chiseled Spring Canyon to identifying birds that thrive within each habitat. Bring binoculars and bird book if you’ve got ‘em. See you Saturday, Jan. 17, 8 –10 a.m. at East Fortuna Staging area lot off Hwy. 52 and Mast Blvd., Santee.
La Mesa Walk ‘n Talk enjoins ambling along scenic shores with your MTRP Trail Guide with chatting up topics in nature. Lake Murray is a magnet for multiple animal and plant species, and is rich with engaging land and seascapes. Join us 9 – 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20 at the boat docks, Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa.
Star Party Marvels is your invitation for solar exploration with MTRP Resident Star Gazer George Varga. George tells us under a near-first quarter and waxy moon, he’ll scan the skies for Pleiades (Seven Sisters), Double Cluster in Perseus, Andromeda galaxy (M31) and her companion (M32), and the Orion Nebula. We observe from 5 – 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 24. (Rain/cloud cover cancel.) Meet us at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot.
Family Discovery Walk, our essential “family time” experience, connects your little ones to nature. This interactive outing for parents and their children focuses on childhood enrichment and fun along the trail! Meet inside the Visitor Center on Sunday, Jan. 25, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Birding Basics, the 90-minute class conducted by Mission Trails Bird Guide Winona Sollock, teaches five simple techniques to identify birds “at a glance!” You’ll also pick up tips on bird field guide use (bringing one is optional). Class meets on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. inside the Visitor Center.
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.