The Laguna Mountains lie about 45 miles straight east of Downtown San Diego. Reaching a maximum height of 6,378 feet they have a very different climate from the nearby beaches that San Diego is better known for. The many campgrounds in the Lagunas are our favorite places to camp near our home.
This week I took our older kids and some friends for a morning hike at the Wooded Hill trail in the Lagunas. It had rained a bit in San Diego over the weekend but we didn’t expect a snow covered scene when we reached the higher altitudes. It was a gorgeous morning, about 50 degrees, and with both evergreen trees and some oaks starting to change to fall colors.
We walked about 2 miles in 2 hours, taking time to throw snowballs, climb boulders, and enjoy the sunshine at the summit of the trail. (Strava recording in images below with more details along with some scenery photos.)
On the return journey to San Diego, about 50 minutes total drive time each way, we stopped at the absolutely fabulous Grand Ole BBQ y Asada in Flinn Springs (the Eastern edge of El Cajon). With current Covid restrictions the lawn games weren’t available but it was wonderful to sit in the 70 degree sun with a light breeze and enjoy the best barbeque in San Diego County. If visiting San Diego or live here, highly recommend a trip and the brisket or beef ribs.
San Diego has great beaches and wonderfully temperate weather for which it is mostly, and rightfully, known. The broader area has a wide variety of plants and land forms to explore and many like Mount Laguna deserve more love.
Banker’s Hill is a hilly, pretty neighborhood just North of Downtown San Diego and to the West of Balboa Park. It has a wide variety of old mansions, new condos, restaurants, churches, and everything in between. It has a quiet vibe but I would guess this will shift in the next couple of years as there are quite a few new housing units being built and one would expect supporting businesses – more coffee shops and restaurants, gyms, professional offices, etc. – to open to cater to the new residents.
I’m often in Banker’s Hill and have established a route I like to walk or run that has a good mix of nature trails in canyons, park space, and residential areas. I typically put a podcast on my phone and then go out for a break from work and listen to something interesting. I wanted to share my route with others that might be interested in exploring Banker’s Hill a bit more.
Here’s a map of the route I generally take although I frequently shift portions of the route. Start just East of the intersection of 6th & Laurel at the statue of Kate Sessions. Head north on one of the sidewalks (or walk on the grass) through the western portion of Balboa Park to Spruce Street and head West. This will bring you to the Spruce Street Bridge which you can cross and then take the meandering Curlew Street down to the bottom of Maple Canyon, which you can use to complete the loop and then cross the Quince Street Bridge to finish up. I finished this route today at the new James Coffee location at 2870 Fourth Ave, Suite 107, San Diego, CA 92103.
Following are a few photos from today, there are also a number of wonderful buildings (new and old) to look at. Hope you enjoy the area and this route!
We’ve had a couple of wood planter boxes in our sideyard that I made a few years ago for herbs and vegetables but have never had good luck with growing edibles. Yesterday, we decided to repurpose one as a butterfly garden, which is more in keeping with our lot flora in general and hopefully will be more successful than the tomatoes and basil were.
We went to a nursery in the Midway District of San Diego, Walter Andersen’s, which has quite a large selection and is on to the way to our favorite beach neighborhood, Ocean Beach. Our total purchase for the day was $77.49 for the following plants and one bag of bedding soil. I sprang for a couple of extra large choices rather than smaller pots, so the total cost could easily be closer to $50 for the same selections at a slightly smaller planting size.
Achillea Millefolium (Siren song angie)
Acelpias fascicularis (Mexican whorled milkweed)
Asclepias mix mojonnier (Milkweed)
Asclepias physocarpa (Hairy Balls / Family Jewels) – commonly named for the seed pods resemblance to the human testicle. Seriously.
All of these are butterfly friendly and pretty well suited to the San Diego climate. Some, like the cuphea and galvezia are also great for hummingbirds. Only the galvezia is a “true” California native plant but the asclepias mix is probably the most common milkweed you’ll see in yards around town and a great monarch butterfly attractor.
Wanted to share this project and plant selections in case others would like to easily add some habitat for butterflies at their own home. Cheers!
Going for a run on a Saturday morning in San Diego is a great joy. This is an undeniably outdoor town and seeing people out enjoying the sunshine and each other while I lumber by brings a smile to my face. The past couple of Saturday mornings I’ve taken a few photos during my runs through Balboa Park and wanted to post them here.
I hope you enjoy your Saturday mornings as well, and sharing and enjoying the beautiful place in which we live.
I was very happy to be included in an invitation to view and explore a new acquisition by the San Diego River Park Foundation just outside of Julian, California on Saturday, December 5. Below are a number of photos of the 374 acres that the Foundation is in the process of buying from the current owners. This acreage surrounds Temescal Creek, a coldwater creek that is part of the San Diego River watershed. This acquisition will ensure the land is preserved for future generations and remains a wildlife corridor preserve for mountain lions, deer, turkey, hawks, and many other animals. Executive Director Rob Hutsel noted that the vision is for this space to be open to the public and to host youth for overnight trips to explore and participate in science-focused lessons in nature.
Each September I organize a weekend bicycle ride, Ride For The River Park, from Ocean Beach to Julian and back to promote and support the idea of a continuous path for the entirety of the San Diego River. 2016 will be the 5th year for the event and if you’d like to join we’d love to have you. My goal is to see this path be a reality by the 10th year of the event – by September of 2021. The idea and the work is not mine, it is that of the River Park Foundation, I simply want to support and spur on the work they are doing. At the event on Saturday, a mile marker post was debuted showing the start / end of the San Diego River Trail. What a beautiful sight to see.
In the same vein of supporting the vision of a full River Trail, 2015 is the first year for which I am donating 1% of my Airbnb income to charitable causes. For this year that money is going to the San Diego River Park Foundation. I got the idea from the 1% For the Planet movement, in which “Members donate at least 1% of sales to nonprofit partners we’ve vetted for participation in the 1% for the Planet network.” I’m just a single person so after further research it doesn’t seem the 1% For the Planet program is a good fit for my giving.
Instead, I’m working with Airbnb for a roll-out to San Diego of their Charity Donation Tool which currently allows hosts in Portland to opt-in to donate a portion of their revenue to a local charity. I’m hopeful that this will soon be an option for hosts in San Diego to automatically and regularly support great local charities like the River Park Foundation. If you’re a host in San Diego and would like to help make this a reality please contact me. In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider a voluntarily donation to the charity of your choice from your Airbnb (or VRBO or other platform) earnings.
The acreage surrounding Temescal Creek features many mature oaks, ravines, and all sorts of native plants thriving. A beautiful, peaceful place to enjoy and savor the natural splendor of San Diego and a reminder that without support it will not endure. It takes the efforts of many to protect and preserve our natural bounty.
Plaza de Panama is the central plaza in San Diego’s Balboa Park and a great place for meeting friends, reading, and enjoying children running around. Until recently it was an ugly parking lot. Converting parking spaces to park space was a great improvement to this area but we can do more.
In the center of the plaza there is a gorgeous fountain (currently running intermittently due to drought concerns in California). The small earth area surrounding the fountain has been replanted many, many times over the past year. The plantings have primarily been small flowers – not drought tolerant, not native. The planting area also precludes visitors from sitting near or on the fountain which would be a natural setting to relax, especially if the fountain was tree shaded. I propose to improve the fountain area and Plaza de Panama in general by adding trees to surround the fountain to provide shade for people sitting and a focal point for the plaza.
Surrounding the fountain eight beautiful trees would shade those enjoying the plaza and echo the colors of San Diego and Spain – red and yellow. This shows civic pride and affirms the Spanish heritage of the park and many of the building structures which were built in Spanish-Renaissance style and feature Spanish names.
At each of the cardinal directions, Autralian Flame Trees would be planted. These trees would grow up to 60 feet tall but have a root structure that is well suited for street curbs or other small spaces. Flame trees also require little to moderate water once established and love full sun and heat which is present at Plaza de Paname.
Between the cardinal point Flame trees Tipu trees will provide the yellow prominent in both flags. Tipu trees grow 25-40 feet tall so would be a lower level canopy beneath the taller Flame trees. Tipu trees also have a root structure that would be appropriate for a small space planting as is the case here.
How does this vision become reality?
Feedback from landscape architects regarding size, type, coloration, cost, and other considerations
Approval from Balboa Park / City of San Diego Parks & Recreation to donate trees and labor to Balboa Park for beautification of Plaza de Panama
Funding for purchases and volunteers for planting from community. Total cost is estimated at $5,000. I selected 36 inch box trees, which would likely be the largest planting size advisable. Flame trees would be $500 each and Tipu trees run $425 each at that size. This estimate includes some money for mulch, soil, and nutrients but does not include labor which is hoped to be provided by volunteers. If labor is hired the cost would likely rise to around $10,000.
Select date for delivery of trees and planting.
Install trees, water, enjoy shade which will increase with each year to come
Thoughts on this idea? Let me know in the comments or via email. Cheers!
SANDAG is preparing to implement bicycle improvements to Pershing Drive in the near future, creating a safe and functional route from North Park and surrounding communities to Downtown. This is part of the $200M SANDAG bicycle corridors program which has yet to stripe a single foot of bike lane in the nearly 3 years since being announced. The first project, running through Hillcrest, gutted the most important segment – an east-west connection to North Park – at the last moment as detailed in this film by Dennis Stein.
Pershing Drive is very different from University Avenue; it lies in a park rather than popular communities. Pershing Drive is currently a fantastic bicycle connection in many ways. It runs through the middle of Balboa Park’s open space area. Heading into town it offers gorgeous views of Los Coronados islands, Coronado Bridge, and Downtown. It connects the densely populated neighborhoods of Uptown and Mid-City to Downtown. However, it is also very intimidating to bike on. The painted lanes are adjacent to high-speed roadways with speed limits of 45-50 MPH (and we all know that 5-10 above that is the likely reality). Heading into Downtown, cyclists need to cross two separate onramps to Interstate 5, while drivers are ramping up to Interstate speeds. Both onramps lie behind curving corners with limited visibility.
I’ve been writing about the dangers of biking on Pershing Drive since early 2014 and serious injuries continue to accrue.
So how do we best create a functional, safe and protected bicycle corridor on Pershing Drive? Following are a number of specific ideas for what this project should look like. We should start with context and a general guideline. This project lies in the heart of Balboa Park – it should connect with and enhance the park, not take away from it. A guideline that should lead any transport project is to put people first – and that means pedestrians first, bicycles second, public transit third, and private automobile fourth. This is the hierarchy of preference used by the City of Chicago Department of Transportation and one that San Diego should adopt.
The Pershing Drive bicycle corridor should establish a two-way bike lane and two-way walking / running path adjacent to the Balboa Park golf course on the south / east side of Pershing Drive. The entry point would be located at Redwood & 28th. By siting the path on this side of Pershing the major friction points of the I-5 onramps are avoided (which fall under CalTrans purview and would be very difficult to address). It also presents the opportunity to put those biking or jogging in a shaded and enjoyable place along the roadway.
Connect the two halves of Bird Park at the north terminus of Pershing Drive (at 28th Street) and direct traffic either east on Redwood or north on Arnold. This will add parkland and avoid much of the backup that results from the awkward and overly large intersection now present at that location.
Reduce speeds for the entirety of Pershing Drive from the current 45-50 MPH to 35 MPH maximum and 25 MPH within 1,000 feet of the terminus at either end.
Add a path for those biking, walking, or jogging along the south side of the Naval Hospital to add a connection from Golden Hill and South Park to Balboa Park, as well as a connection for those traversing the improved Pershing Drive bicycle corridor.
Create dedicated and protected space for running / walking / jogging as well as for bicycling. Pershing Drive runs through the heart of Balboa Park and the context of this project matters. We should seek to improve the park as a whole with any project lying inside it. The space for biking and jogging should be protected by a concrete barrier or other substantial method.
Reduce Pershing Drive to one travel lane in each direction. There is one through street that intersects Pershing Drive currently – Florida Drive / 26th Street (the road changes names at the intersection). Other than this street there are only entry points for service yards and parking lots at the Velodrome and the Morley Field frisbee golf course. This matters because a prominent reason for back-up on a street can be waiting for an opportunity to turn. That option is very limited on Pershing Drive, greatly reducing the need for additional traffic lanes.
Establish trees on both sides of Pershing Drive as protective barriers for the bicycle lanes (on the south / east side) and for the running paths on the opposite side of the roadway.
Establish vines on the high fences adjacent the Balboa Park golf course and a tree line inside the fence on the golf course to provide shade for the bicycle path, better utilize the irrigation on the course, provide privacy for golf course users, and improve the aesthetics of the road for drivers.
Utilize a maximum lane width of 10 feet for all travel lanes on Pershing Drive. Any additional space should be reverted to parkland and narrower traffic lanes will decrease the incentive to speed on the roadway.
To connect the Pershing Drive bicycle corridor to adjacent neighbors add additional bicycle infrastructure on adjoining streets. These include: close Florida Drive to vehicle traffic to restore Florida Canyon while incorporating a biking and walking path. Add a painted bike line going up 26th Street into Golden Hill – the current road width does not appear to have sufficient space for a lane on both sides and the high speed differential going uphill warrants a lane before one descending onto Pershing or Florida.
Additional details will follow this post, including street sketches and other visuals. The important thing is to gather community support for real improvements now, and to do so in a constructive way. This is not about bikes vs. cars – it’s about taking real action about public health, climate change, quality of life, park space. In general, it’s about making the project area better for all San Diegans. We cannot afford to let basic, functional bicycle infrastructure get axed in a program specifically designed to create bicycle infrastructure, as happened in Hillcrest.
I would love feedback and criticisms or additional suggestions regarding Pershing Drive. Please drop them in the comments, social media, or email. Thank you.
I love plants. Trees, shrubs, and especially in San Diego native species like manzanita, oak, sage, and pine. I am frequently in the yard trying to find more space to add additional plants or replacing ones that have died. (My approach to plants is mostly trial-and-error and learning as I go about what thrives in San Diego so there have been some poorly picked casualties along the way.)
However, plants cost money – especially big trees. Recently I’ve recently reading a lot of books and articles about personal finance and philosophy like the Mr. Money Mustache website and the book Early Retirement Extreme. These readings, and others like them, are focused on thinking about priorities and lifestyle, not penny-pinching though the names may suggest otherwise. In regard to my quest for trees for my property it led me to think about other methods than buying trees at a nursery to get some nice specimens.
I started with calling a number of nurseries to comparison shop and get an idea of the price for 3 good-sized trees (24 inch planting box or larger). After calling around the best price I could find was $680 for 2 Palo Verde trees and one New Zealand Christmas tree. That’s a good amount of money but plants are something I feel ok spending money on since you can’t make up the years it takes to establish a tree.
I talked about making this purchase with my wife and we decided to wait a couple of months and think about it. As with many purchases, delaying for a bit is a good way to step back and contemplate to see if it’s really a legitimate desire/need or just a short-term itch wanting to be scratched.
During the “waiting period” I decided to search on Craigslist for free trees since I had gotten some plants and trees on the site in the past. In San Diego most of the free trees are palms which I wasn’t interested in but a quick search for “tree” or “trees” in the morning took less than two minutes and I thought worth doing for a week or two to see if something more attractive might appear.
Was I in luck! In less than a week I had found some large, gorgeous trees – an Australian Flame tree and a few African Sumac trees that were 100% free and within 10 miles of my house. Since I care for two young kids most days, I scheduled a Saturday morning to go get them. I arrived to the first tree, in Coronado, with a spade and my mini-van. It was advertised as 12-15 feet but was easily 20 feet tall. Undeterred, I spent the next two hours digging out the root ball and calling for a UHaul truck and a friend to help me carry the tree.
I headed home after the tree was out of the ground for lunch, the UHaul, and a good and willing friend. We returned and loaded up the tree in short order then dropped it off at my house before heading to East Village for the other two
trees which were thankfully already in boxes. 24 inch boxes were advertised but this ad overdelivered as well and we found three 36 inch boxes awaiting us, along with two 60 inch boxes. The three remaining trees are in the Pocket Park at J Street and 13th behind Mission if anyone is interested.
We proceeded to use a dolly, which broke, to move the trees into the UHaul. With the dolly broken we slowly shimmied the trees up the ramp and then headed home.
That evening and the next day I dug 3 large holes – 36 inches cubed – to fit the trees. All told, I spent about 12 solid hours digging and moving plus about 6 hours of time from my friend and wife. 18 hours plus a total of $92 ($76 for the UHaul rental and $16 for celebration beers) for three amazing trees. My original budget was $680 so this seemed like a great deal. Then I priced the trees that I did get – $450 per for the Sumacs and $1150 or likely more for the Flame. Awesome! Not only had I saved 86% from my original budget but I’d received far larger and more valuable trees as well. Based on the nursery prices, I’d paid 4.48% of the value of the trees I ended up with. Better yet, I’d potentially saved 3 gorgeous trees that may have ended up in the trash. Someone else may have taken the trees, but if not they likely would have been chopped down.
If you’re looking to add some trees to your yard, take a look at Craigslist and save some major money. It’s also a fantastic place to get free or discounted furniture and other goods. (And also a great way to get rid of items you don’t need anymore.)
If you live in San Diego you can even get free street trees that come planted for you! It’s a great program and you can even apply online. I received a Hong Kong Orchid tree under this program that has done great and has beautiful flowers.