Mission Trails Regional Park – Docent Report and Photos Thursday December 29, 2011
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Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego, CA

Mission Trails – Hiking, Biking, Climbing and Camping

Mission Trails has over 6000 acres of natural habitat dedicated to the preservation of Southern California´s wildlife and native plants with over 40 miles of recreation: hiking, biking, rock climbing, equestrian trails, two lakes, camping (camping suspended due to budgetary constraints), and a 3 mile scenic stretch of the San Diego River. Visitors can enjoy free guided nature walks led by trained volunteer guides.  Educational classes are taught in the Visitor Center on birding basics and nature adventures for children. There are also free concerts and star-gazing for visitors to enjoy.

Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center

Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center

Hikes are defined by trail difficulty from easy, mostly level, such as the nature walks from the Visitor Center to the very challenging hikes up Cowles Mountain.  For first time visitors, a good place to begin is in the Visitor / Interpretive Center where you can learn about and view artifacts related to the indigenous people of the area, the Kumeyaay.  Upstairs you´ll find a variety of wildlife from a bobcat, a mountain lion, and a mule deer to local birds and reptiles.  In the reception area, there´s a discovery table set up each week with different educational materials to explore.

Toyon berry

Toyon berry

Mountain Lion at Mission Trails Regional Park

Mountain Lion at Mission Trails Regional Park

Poison Oak (Leaves of three – Let them be)

Poison Oak in Mission Trails Regional Park

Poison Oak in Mission Trails Regional Park

Looking out over the land, one can imagine it over 2000 years ago with its rolling hills of chaparral and mountainous views.  The Kumeyaay occupied the area in a nearby village they called “Senyaweche.”  To them, the land with all its resources was sacred. They made shelters called “ewaas” using the branches of the arroyo willow and cattail leaves for thatching. (In the back of the Visitor Center is an ewaa built by the local Kumeyaay of East County). The women gathered seeds and acorns while the men hunted mule deer and small mammals using projectile points made from quartz and other stone.

Phil Hoog, Director of American Indian Affairs, Museum of Man, squatting by Ewaa

Phil Hoog, Director of American Indian Affairs, Museum of Man, squatting by Ewaa

Mission Trails and the Kumeyaay

The walk from the Visitor Center down to the grinding rocks where the Kumeyaay processed acorns is an easy, fairly level walk that takes about an hour and a half. Your trail guide will discuss the native plants and their uniqueness toSouthern California´s Mediterranean environment.  Along the path is a 200 year old Coast Live Oak and underneath you´ll find a wood rat´s nest.  Further ahead is theSan DiegoRiverwhere large boulders are clustered near the river and several mortars are located.  The guide will explain how the Kumeyaay used the grinding rocks to process acorns and create a mush called “Shawee.”

Newly thatched Ewaa - Kumayeey home

Newly thatched Ewaa – Kumayeey home

Mission Trail Campground and Old Misson Dam

Camping is available at Mission Trail´s campground near Kumeyaay Lake.  You don´t have to be a camper to take advantage of the 5 mile hike led by a trail guide from the campground.  The hike winds through the grasslands and riparian environment around to the Old Mission Dam where you can view San Diego´s first water source built in 1812 by the Mission Padres and local indigenous people.  The native people knew how to tame the river utilizing boulders and other materials in order to store water including the area where the dam was built.  The Spanish were able to have the dam operational by 1813 and a flume was built that ran 6 miles from the dam to the San Diego Mission, where the water was used for watering crops and drinking water for large herds of cattle.

Mission Dam at Mission Trials Regional Park

Mission Dam at Mission Trials Regional Park

Mission Dam close up at Mission Trials Regional Park

Mission Dam close up at Mission Trials Regional Park

Cowles Mountain, San Diego, CA

Cowles Mountain (pronounced “Kohls”), named after George A. Cowles, a successful rancher during the 1870´s and `80´s, settled in the El Cajon valley where he grew raisins and olives.  Cowles was named the “Raisin King of the US” but he was just as successful with thoroughbred horses and maintained about 100 horses and 30 head of cattle.  The trail up Cowles Mountain is popular for serious runners and leads to one of the highest peaks (1,591 ft.) in the City of San Diego.  Whether you are a beginning hiker, a nature lover, biker, a bird enthusiast, rock climber, camper, or just interested in local history, Mission Trails Regional Park has something for everyone to enjoy.  See you on the trails.
Winter Solstice on Cowles Mountain

Winter Solstice on Cowles Mountain

Hearts Pest Management and Conservation

Hearts Pest Management believes in conservation of the natural environment. We know that pest control can have a positive or a negative impact on our natural resources. We trust that by supporting conservation efforts we train our pest control staff to work with nature rather than against it.

We encourage our staff involvement in conservation efforts and are honored that we have a Mission Trail docent working with us.

Article and Photos by Donna Walker, Hearts pest control customer service representative

And MTRP Volunteer Trail Guide

Mission Trails Regional Park – Bibliography

 Crooks, Pamela. 2003. San Diego´s Mission Trails Regional Park Official Guidebook.La Mesa,CA:RidgwayPark Publishing.

2008. Trail Guide Training Manual,MissionTrailsRegionalPark,San Diego,CA.

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