DIFFICULTY: EASY < 1 mile walking [HARD driving]
PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Novice +, Professionals always welcome!
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge
[SEVERE WEATHER CANCELS EVENT - Temps over 95F (35C) or Storm Warnings]
ATTENDEE LIMIT: Enforced on this trip - please do not sign up if you aren't going. Please reply to the "head's up" email on June 18 to 20 or you might be dropped. We need to utilize attendee vehicles capable of the trip - high clearance AWD or 4x4.
Otay Mountain is visible from all across the County on a clear day, standing tall on the boundary of the US and MX on the Southern border. Last year, the truck trail trip revealed a variety of communities, with each going up the mountain representing more rare diversity than the last. I chose this time of year for the high elevation (~3000' amsl) bloom that will hopefully be amazing in June.
At our first stop, we'll find a number of inland sage scrub and low Toyon / Laurel sumac chaparral species. At the second stop, the mountain chaparral becomes dominated by Southern Mtn misery (Chamaebatia australis) with Otay mtn Ceanothus (Ceanothus otayensis) and natural stands of Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii). At the final stop at Doghouse junction, the area has the Otay Mtn manzanita (Arctostpahylos otayensis), Cleveland's monkeyflower (Diplacus clevelandii), Gander's pitcher sage (Lepichinia ganderi), and Felt leaf monardella (Monardella hypoleuca lanata) among other rare species.
It is imperative we carpool this trip to limit the traffic on the road up to Doghouse Junction. There will be no more than 5 vehicles heading up due to the limit on parking availability at the stops. If you have an AWD or 4x4 truck or SUV, please volunteer space in yours to head up. We'll meet at Mountain Hawk Park to decide who carpools with whom. From Mountain Hawk Park, we'll drive to the Pio Pico trailhead and head up.
Drivers should be comfortable driving on moderately steep truck trails and be able to back down the mountain when necessary. The Event title is not a typo - driving this trail is for confident drivers only - there are few rails protecting many very steep dropoffs. There are a few turns where mirrors have been installed. Vehicles going up have right of way - use turnouts wisely. Having said that, I will say this trail is one of the best maintained I've ever been on.
Bring your gear for the conditions and weather, which means sun gear, solid boots, and food / water. Snakes are possible in the thick chaparral, but the most dangerous thing we'll face will be the road. For anyone using iNaturalist, add San Diego Plant Atlas group as well as Frontera Border Bioblitz (your observations are counted year-round). We may also be doing a few collections to update the botanical records if we find species not on the plant list or haven't been collected on the Mountain since before the 80's.
CARPOOL: One Carpool will be available for anyone who might find it convenient, especially anyone using public transit. Arrive between 8:00 and 8:15AM at the Fashion Valley Transit Center Parking Lot (West side parking area of the Fashion Valley Mall near Fashion Valley Rd). Look for a black Toyota Tundra. Spaces may fill up, so please be prepared to drive at least to the Park. Fashion Valley Carpool participants should expect to return around 3 PM. Parking is free for 24 hrs and has roving security at Fashion Valley Transit Center, however risks are the same as parking anywhere on the street. Message the group for possible alternatives.
PARKING: Parking at Mountain Hawk Park is free. We'll return well before the Park closes.