San Diego Has a Beach?

Canyon views from Kwaay Paay Peak Trail

Jan 27 – We’ve been staying in San Diego County since January 1st but hadn’t been into the city yet. I had to tell Rita and Charlie that San Diego is on the ocean, and we will get to go to the beach! The main reason we’ve been holding off is to wait until family and friends from the East Coast arrived yesterday for a few days to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. Also: rain. Lots of rain.

As the sun finally emerges again and the temperature starts warming up to an acceptable level for vacationing East Coasters, I’m excited to get to spend lots of time with my family exploring the beaches, parks, and historical sites in San Diego.

Before the festivities begin, I want to write about the incredible Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the largest urban parks in the US. The landscape in East County San Diego is rugged and gorgeous –  steep hills and deep canyons that are bright green, thanks to all that rain, and the rocky Cuyamaca Mountains. Mission Trails covers over 7,000 acres, but even the little bit we’ve explored over a couple days is wonderfully diverse.

We’ve been in a lot of State and National Park Visitor Centers over the past few months. Mission Trails stands out as one of the best overall, and entrance to the park is free. Rita, Charlie, and I comfortably spent a few hours at the Visitor Center one day while it rained on and off. The kids worked on activity books in the engaging Interpretive Center. We used telescopes to look at the cool mountain rocks up close. We watched an excellent 16-minute film, one of several available, about the native Kumeyaay people. We sat in the cozy library where I wrote, and Rita and Charlie read National Geographic Kids magazines. The whole time we could admire a panoramic view of the mountain-framed valley from inside, and even got to see a rainbow. (Full story: When we were in the library I had my back to the windows as I was telling the kids to speak quietly and not bother me while I was working. Rita interrupted to say there was a rainbow behind me. Fine, lecture over.)

If you have time while in San Diego, I highly recommend a visit to Mission Trails Regional Park. It’s only 30 minutes from the beach and a great opportunity to take a mountain hike, learn some local history, and experience another beautiful yet dramatically different Southern California landscape. 

Visitor Center view with rainbow (and a few raindrops falling on Charlie’s head)
Visitor Center with traditional Kumeyaay shelters (and less traditional headgear)
The two-level Interpretive Center
View from the Visitor Center’s second story
The library, stocked with nature books and kids’ books and magazines.
Visitor Center Loop Trail
The 200-year-old Old Mission Dam
Indian Grinding Rocks at the San Diego River, just off the Visitor Loop Trail
View of El Capitan and the city of Santee, from the Kwaay Paay Peak Trail (we did not make it to the peak – imagine that view!).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I didn’t know this information, but it sounds great, Michelle!

    Like

    1. MichelleNeale says:

      Hi Agnes’s, I’m glad you liked it! I was disappointed at first to not be staying near the beach and downtown, but am so glad we got to discover the Santee area.

      Like

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