DIFFICULTY: HARD 7 miles
PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Beginner to Novice, Professionals always welcome!
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge
[RAIN CANCELS THIS EVENT!]
2019 is promising to be one heck of a roller coaster ride and the best way to start that off is to begin hard and fast so the rest of the year doesn't look so bad. For anyone looking to check off one of the Fortuna peaks on the Mission Trails 5 peak challenge, this may be the hike for you. (The hike will probably not last seven hours, but I've provided plenty of buffer in case our pacing slows significantly)
This hike aims to do three things: 1) Help identify and classify native and non-native vegetation communities and their relative sensitivity to urban encroachment, 2) Point out a few of the rare plants found in and around San Diego, even though many will not be in bloom, and 3) Get your new years resolution checked off so that you can get over regretting having made it in the first place. This is a hike with a high difficultly due to the elevation gain and distance we are planning to cover. It is not going be like our normal trips where we stop to identify each native plant that catches our eyes, but I will (try to) answer any questions about those species that interest you along the way.
Essentially, from the plush amenities of the not-yet-open-for-the-day Visitors Center [9AM to 5PM] on Junipero Serra Dr (Off Mission Gorge Rd) we will head through many of the native habitats found in Urban and Inland San Diego County. Starting with Coastal sage scrub and then down through the Southern mixed riparian woodland, we'll then climb into different types of chaparral, finding points of interest like ridges and rocky outcrops as we head up to either North or South Fortuna Peak from the saddle. Then down we go to the grasslands below to perhaps come across the few vernal areas (too early for species) and then back across the freshwater wetlands at the Old Mission Dam to the paved surface of the Junipero Serra Dr and on to return to the Visitors Center viewing riparian oak woodlands from the flat road above.
You will need to be able to pace yourself and have the gear to do this. Pack light, with most of your carried weight being water. Good hiking shoes will be essential, especially since parts of the trail are rocky and will be slippery and/or muddy. Bring sun essentials, light snacks, and a hiking stick if that's your thing. It will likely be very cold when we start out, but the brisk pace should keep us warm. Still, have covers for your ears to avoid earaches in the cold morning air. If you bring gear, be able to stow it or carry it while ascending and descending steep trails.
We'll be starting early, but parking space will fill up very quickly. Consider carpooling. I will provide my truck (black Toyota Tundra) with three (maybe 4) seats from Fashion Valley Mall Transit Center parking area nearest Fashion Valley Rd (west end of the mall) from 6:20 to 6:35 AM. Be prepared to drive if space fills up. Parking at the Transit Center parking lot is free for 24 hrs and is occasionally patrolled by security. That being said, the same risks apply there as to regular street parking. Donations for gas are welcome, but not required.