Hiking Mission Trails Regional Park


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Just recently I wrote about how I would like to return to nature a bit and start exploring some more of the areas in and around San Diego County. Well, I made good on my promise to myself and set out on Saturday morning to Mission Trails Regional Park. It’s just about 25 minutes from my place, so I was able to make it there by about 8:45 that morning.

I entered the park of more than 7,000 acres of hiking trails, valleys, and rolling hill summits from Clairemont Mesa Blvd. I started my hike along the eastern edge of the park, not sure exactly how much I would be hiking, what type of intensity this trail would be, or really knowing much about it. There was already a decent amount of people in the park, but it didn’t seem to be completely taken over by foot traffic. Almost immediately upon entering the park, I veered off on a smaller trail that angled a bit downward and somewhat off of what I thought was the main trail.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Looking west from the North Fortuna Summit toward Downtown San Diego

It didn’t take long for a group of what had to be about 25 guys on BMX bikes making their way down the path came zooming past me. About half of them had the stamina to make it up the rocky incline, while the others gasped, sucking in air like they had just ascended some massive peak. I don’t really blame them, though. It still looked pretty tough, and there’s no doubt that this guy would’ve been walking his bike like he was taking his pet horse for a walk, through the majority of the trails. Anyway, the trail opened up onto a dirt road, leading me a bit further to the east.

Mission Trails Regional Park

My good ol’ trusty Coca Cola shirt has been with me on lots of adventures for the last 10 years!

As I reached the first ridge I looked outward at one trail the led straight ahead, climbing up to the North Fortuna Summit. My only trepidation, besides it looking like a pretty solid workout for the legs was the fact that some powerlines ran parallel with the trail. A bit further to the south, there seemed to be some cool rock figures and a lot of smaller trails zig-zagging their way through the brush. The good ol’ fork in the road had greeted me no more than 15 minutes into my walk in the park. Left? Right? Straight? I decided to go straight and get to the top of this massive mountain (just kidding…I think the elevation was 1,291).

Mission Trails Regional Park

The fruits on some type of Yucca plant, or something similar to one.

To block out the noise of the buzzing power lines, I popped in the earbuds to begin listening to my new audio book, The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. I marched onward, and after about 1,000 steps or so I began to find my rhythm. I swear, it seems like the beginning is always the toughest and once you break through that, you begin to find your groove and pound forward. I marched myself up the hillside, finally reaching the peak, with a nice burn in the legs going on, and a decent sweat starting to build up. As I veered to the north, a decent rock garden covered the ground, wreaking havoc on my slippery running shoes. There were times when people that had to be twice my age came charging past me, burying their trekking poles into the earth and propelling themselves forward. “That dude’s probably 70-years-old with a belly hanging over his belt, and he’s passing me?” I thought to myself. “Time to step up my game!” I continued on, finally reaching the peak, and finding a nice boulder that was a bit secluded from foot traffic, and enjoying the view to the west. The views were spectacular on this nice, partly cloudy day. I could see Downtown San Diego so clearly, and the coastline snaking its way to the north past La Jolla, and miles and miles past it. To the south, I could see the rolling hills of Mexico, seemingly just a quick hop, skip, and a jump away.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Flowers in the park

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.” –Jack London, Call of the Wild

Mission Trails Regional Park

A pretty typical footpath throughout the park.

Looking out to the east on the other side of the ridge, you could also see for miles into Poway, Lakeside, and up into the hills heading up to Ramona and Julian. After a quick break, I was back on my way, working my way across the ridge to the south. I stopped a few times along the way to admire the bright purple, pink, and yellow flowers. This was no race, and I was in no rush. I took my time meandering throughout the park for nearly four hours before I began to make my way back to the entrance.

Mission Trails Regional Park

The stairs heading downward from the South Fortuna Summit to the west.

In the end, it was a good solid hike that got the blood pumping, satisfied my thirst to smell, listen, and feel earth below my feet. If there’s a negative to this, though, it’s that there are still too many signs of civilization. The power lines were a major turnoff, and looking downward, you could still see highways, rooftops, and eyesores that have no place in nature. Next time, I will venture a little further off, perhaps toward Lake Cuyamaca or Julian to find some more serenity. But all in all, it was a great day…and my legs are reminding me that I need more practice!

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