Hiking,  Travel

Hiking the Santa Margarita River

This past year I have been blessed with a plethora of new friends, some of whom love to hike.  Although my daughter and I go birding, which involves much stopping and staring fitfully into the bushes, my hiking friends hike as a wonderful form of exercise for the mind and body.  For the last six months or so I’ve been hiking with a zealous friend once or twice a week, going about four hours each time.  Yes, that’s a lot of hiking.  I also go to yoga and fitness classes twice a week at the Fallbrook Community Center.  I want to be sure that I can still move and think in ten years, so I’m moving it so I won’t be losing it.  If you catch my drift.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the simply tremendous hiking spots around San Diego North County.  Last week we hiked along the Santa Margarita River, the main trailhead just off of De Luz Road and Sandia Creek Drive.  The Santa Margarita is one of the last un-dammed rivers in Southern California (unless you fall in.  Get it?  Sorry.), and the trail is about five and a half miles round-trip.  The pathway is mostly shaded by huge sycamores and coastal live oaks; huge granite boulders stud both the riverbed and the hillside. 

These ancient boulders, millions of years old, are surrounded by what was molten rock.  An informative piece on the geology of this area is written by Tom Chester, at http://tchester.org/fb/geology/temecula_canyon.html.

 Erosion from our December deluge has greatly widened the riverbed and the trail that was there is no longer; however, hikers have moved it precipitously along boulders and farther up the embankment.  Snake-like tree roots have been exposed as the oaks cling to the hillside, sending their tendrils around obstacles to find food and water.

While hiking it was obvious that Southern California had shrugged off Winter and Spring was awakening.  Many other things were awakening, in fact.  As we climbed a hill to circumvent some enormous boulders in the riverbed, we passed three boulders stacked upon each other.  Alex pointed out a Western fence lizard of substantial size that was scurrying up one side.  I saw the lizard, then noticed something else enjoying a sun-warmed crevice in the rock about shoulder-high.

Do you see him or her?  Below the grafitti. 

An extremely sleepy Red Diamondback Rattlesnake of good size.  He or she must have come out of hibernation that day, because it sure wasn’t interested in anything but sunshine.  I hoped that he/she was waiting for the taggers to come back.

Kids, don’t try this at home. 

Humans walk about 3 to 3.5 miles per hour on average.  Since many of the areas we hike have steep inclines, we estimate about 2 miles per hour for us.  So this walk of almost six miles, with pauses for views, snakes and drinks of water, took us about three hours.  We saw two kingfishers chasing each other madly up and down the river screaming indignantly, and several pairs of mallards cozying up to each other.  The view, like so many hiking areas in Fallbrook, was breathtaking, and you forget that you are moments from town.

The poison oak was bright green, there were still some mushrooms above ground, and the penstamon led the way in wildflower bloom.  An unexpectedly pretty sight was the late afternoon sun shining through a deadly nightshade plant that had been slightly frost damaged.

The Santa Margarita Trail was developed by the equestrian community of Fallbrook in partnership with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy.   It is used by hikers, bicyclers, equestrians, joggers, families and hikers.  Even with all that traffic it doesn’t feel busy or misused.  The river is incredibly beautiful, although the pathway can be slick and involve some boulder-climbing since the floods.  Wherever you go, please pack out your trash and pick up that left by others, for the sake of the animals and plants whose home it is. 

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