North Oak Canyon is an East County open preserve gem at Mission Trails

0
45
WEBTrails.jpg

Spring turns these hills mad with enchanting colors and tantalizing perfumes coming from the wild blossoms and especially from the hundreds of Ceanothus trees taking over the north side of the Oak Canyon at the Mission Trails open space preserve. The best time to hike this wondrous path is starting in late fall and up to the end of spring.

Spring turns these hills mad with enchanting colors and tantalizing perfumes coming from the wild blossoms and especially from the hundreds of Ceanothus trees taking over the north side of the Oak Canyon at the Mission Trails open space preserve. The best time to hike this wondrous path is starting in late fall and up to the end of spring.

If you park by the Old Padre Dam across from the Kwaay Paay Peak entrance and start on the trail from this side, stop there for a minute to check the water basin which shows serious signs of drought in the summer. Otherwise, there is plenty of wildlife and mostly birds in plain view to be admired and photograph. One way up is 1.7 miles of moderate hiking and for the brave souls with time on their hands, there is also the option of a 6.7 miles loop that links Oak Canyon to the Grassland Trails and back to the Padre Dam.

The Old Mission Dam, also known as Padre Dam, has an interesting history. The natives Kumeyaay settled in this canyon hundreds of years ago until the Spanish missionaries came and turned them into work force. They were stripped off their land and then forced to work on the same land turned into a governmental property. The dam was the first major irrigation project on the west coast, built from rocks, bricks and mortar in 1813. There was a flume and a big reservoir, but now all of that is gone.

Pass the dam and cross the bridge, then follow the trail marks to the right along the San Diego River. Out of few options, my favorite is to go just along the water and under the trees and sometimes I find a shady spot to watch the multitude of butterflies flying around in pairs and landing on patches of native poppies. This is a relatively easy trail, nice for the whole family – pretty little wooden bridges, steps and rails to make it safe. The hike is sprinkled with lots of big boulders to climb, many trees for shade and picnics.

Choose to go in the morning and you will not be disappointed by the glittering hills sprinkled by the morning dew breathing steam and aromas into the air. Pick a gorgeous afternoon to delight with the sun rays filtered through the golden leaves of the sycamore and century old oak trees and stunning vistas once on higher grounds when you get to be mesmerized by breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. The whole experience throws you back in time to the years where the Kumeyaay used all of these natural resources to live on, such as the water, the plants and also the rocks. However, the park rules do not allow hikers to wonder off the beaten path to search for metates, so don’t do it.

Keep going up the trail to admire more and more of this luscious wildlife habitat dependent on the seasonal waterfalls along the way and the phantom creek that subsides completely during the summer leaving everything around dried up under the sizzling hot sun. During the wet season though, you’ll find the most amazing waterfalls in the county furiously roaming down the rocks and flowing all the way to the Padre Dam.

If you choose to go straight pass the Mount Fortuna trail, the path will take you all the way under Highway 52 on a section called North Oak Canyon which is less spectacular and more risky because it ventures into a restricted military area that’s too close for comfort for people who don’t like to follow maps.

I moaned and groaned all the way up to the “top” of North Oak Canyon, but once there, it was breathtaking and so well worth my soreness. Enjoy!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here