Recently, I have been able to do something I haven’t done in some time: go hiking after work. Today, I ventured out to Santee’s Walker Preserve.
While I enjoy the Winter, and it may be my favorite season, one consequence is that my office hours don’t work too well with the sun going down. For quite some time, I have found myself putting my work laptop to sleep, only to look outside and see dusk approaching. Finally, sunset has creeped up late enough that in the last couple of weeks have I had time to get out and get some dirt under my feet.
Recently, I have been visiting Walker Preserve in Santee. There was a fire there on Christmas Eve which unfortunately damaged a good portion of its Eastern path near Lakeside. Part of my interest has been trying to find more locations to actually photograph the river. Considered, on paper, to be our principal watercourse in the County, it is interesting that there are so few spots to get a good photograph of it. One reason I think San Dieguito River Park is so much better is that you have a number of really good spots to photograph Lake Hodges. That is a challenge for the San Diego River.
I should also mention that to call this watercourse a river is a generous label. After the El Capitan Reservoir, the San Diego River isn’t much of a river. When I mention “lakes” along the river, I mean that literally. These areas were manually created to hold water, likely for underground recharge. Elsewhere in Santee, after seeing one of the lakes, downstream to the next roadway bridge, the river is nothing but dirt. The San Diego River is about as far from being a natural river as it gets.
Another issue is the unsightly industrial parks along the South side of the River, along North Woodside Avenue. They make for a bad backdrop to any photograph here. It would be nice if the San Diego River Park eventually had the money and ability to buy these out and create more open space, making this river more aesthetic.
Omicron, of course, has ruled over January, and this trail is about 12 feet wide, which is nice. Most people respectfully kept some distance and generally that wasn’t an issue. They have made a couple bench/rest areas, but apparently when they were built, there was a view that no longer exists. So with some difficulty in finding compositions, here are a few images.
Wither Mission Trails – No Afternoon Weekday Hikes For A While
Anybody who thinks that Mission Trails Regional Park is “open space” is seriously kidding themselves. The park itself is basically leftover land from WWII-era Camp Elliott (in case you wonder why your GPS often labels things East Elliott). What they call “hiking trails” are often ridiculous Jeep trails that often have slopes with gradients that are treacherous even on foot.
I mention this because my favorite trails section of Mission Trails Regional Park is partially and totally closed due to a major water treatment project. Essentially, this is a pipe system to bring in a million gallons of untreated sewage in an underground tank, before heading to area water treatment facilities. For the last 2 years, a major area of the “mesa top” in the West section of Mission Trails has been torn up as they build this facility. Their aim after finishing is to “rebury” the structure into some faux native habitat.
While it is expected that the chaparral brushlands will repopulate the area, it doesn’t speak for some of the rare and endemic flora that can be found in the area. Originally, they forecast to finish this project in the Spring of 2022, fully opening the trails in the West for wildflower season. But they are not even close to completion, and now they are guessing Fall of 2022. You can still get to some of the mesa top trails on weekends and partially during the work week, but it will be a challenge. Reader and friend Alex is still looking for one particular flower in the area, and the rain season may not have been good enough to bring it out, but we shall see.
It would be nice for people who manage our “open spaces” to use them less for utilities and more for….open space. I am not holding my breath.
Some Recent Images
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.