Robert Arends

Did You Know: Surprising San Diego Trivia!

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Three of my favorite words are “Did you know.”

As in did you know these surprisingly fun, eye-opening facts about San Diego? There are A LOT of factoids about America’s Finest City I’ve been collecting over the years, but following are five to start with and really impress your friends. 😉

Did you know…

1. SoCal’s Only Gold Rush

Family Panning for Gold - Julian Mining Company

Gold panning in Julian!

The only Gold Rush to take place in Southern California was in 1870 in San Diego’s historic East County mountain town of Julian. In March 1870, the richest SoCal gold mine, Stonewall Mine, was discovered.  Before it was abandoned in 1893, the mine produced $2 million in gold (valued today at $60 million).

2. The Most Missions

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala

San Diego County has the most missions in the state – four in all: Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Antonio de Pala and Mission Santa Ysabel near Julian. Mission San Antonio de Pala is the only California mission still used as a school and place of worship by Native Americans.

3. The Largest Collection of Outdoor Murals in the Country

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, located beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the downtown neighborhood of Barrio Logan, is home to the largest collection of outdoor murals in the country. In the early 1970s, resident artist Salvador Torres envisioned local Chicano painters and sculptors turning the bridge’s pylons “into things of beauty, reflecting the Mexican-American culture.” There are 20 large, colorful outdoor murals within Chicano Park.

4. A Head Above Our Piers

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

The Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach is the only pier on the West Coast that provides lodging over the ocean. The Oceanside Pier in Oceanside is the longest (1,942 feet), wooden construction over water pier on the Pacific Coast.

5. The Largest State Park in the Continental US

Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s East County is the largest state park in the continental United States, encompassing over 640,000 acres.  It was through the Borrego Springs Valley that Spanish soldier Juan Bautista de Anza discovered the first land route to California in 1774.

Candice

New Year’s Resolution Time: Get Outdoors in San Diego

Whether you’re a staunch resolution keeper, dabble occasionally in making year-end self-improvement plans or you think resolutions are just a bunch of hooey, who among us wouldn’t agree that spending a little more time in the great outdoors is a noble goal for 2012?

San Diego is one the best places in the world for getting out and getting active. Even in January, daytime temperatures are mild enough so that a light jacket will be enough to shield you from the winter chill. And with landscapes that range from rolling desert hills to rocky seaside cliffs, hiking in San Diego is a great way to get some exercise that offers much better views than the treadmill at your local gym.

A scenic hike can be enjoyed year-round at one of these spectacular locations:

Hiking Mission Trails

Only a short drive from downtown, Mission Trails Regional Park offers miles of hiking trails that meander along the San Diego River. The park’s Cowles Mountain offers an impressive 3 mile round-trip hike that will have you feeling the burn as you take in the views from the mountain top.

Torrey Pines State Reserve provides eight miles of coastal hiking along four major beach trails. The differing paths intertwine under forested ground displaying diverse scenery of trees, ocean, wildflowers and sandstone formations. During winter, you might even see California Gray Whales migrating south to Mexico in the distanced ocean view. Throughout the year, lucky sightings of bottle nose dolphins make these hikes a truly memorable experience.

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s East County community of Borrego Springs is an expansive outdoor playground, with routes that travel up rocky paths, along scenic streams and down steep hills. Three notable trails include Elephant Trees, a hike through desert flora and fauna and named after a rare type of tree covered with colorful flower blossoms; Ghost Mountain, a moderate uphill mountain hike ending at an abandoned stone house surrounded by breathtaking aerial views, and Pictograph Trail, a great family hike in which guests pass through an old Indian village to reach a 50-foot dry waterfall.

Looking for more ways to explore the outdoors in San Diego? Join me for a video tour of San Diego’s top outdoor recreation activities:

How do you plan to get active in San Diego this New Year?

Robert Arends

3 Tried and True Backcountry Adventures

Joy is in the journey! Ne’er so true in San Diego’s scenic East County where wild and wonderful adventure tours await. From gold mine trains to desert off-roading to flights into the wild blue yonder, following are three sure bets to put some “spring” in your sightseeing:

Mine a good time at Smith Ranch in Julian.

  1. Make tracks… For the Smith Ranch Train Rides in Julian! Just in time for the town’s big annual Daffodil Show (March 26-27), pioneers of all ages can enjoy a one-mile train ride up the mountain and through the blooming backcountry. Afterward, explore an authentic 1870 gold rush mine (climb into one of the mine cars for an unforgettable ride!), and then try your hand panning for gold!  
  2. Wheel good time… California Overland is roughing it at its finest, especially venturing deep into the vast (600,000 acres!) untamed landscape of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – “one of the most pristine desert parks in the world” (National Geographic). Hop board their open-air military vehicle for an unforgettable wildflower tour, as you discover hidden palm oases, slot canyons, wind caves, Native-American pictographs, historic ruins, stark Badlands, ancient fossil reefs, dry lake beds and breathtaking vistas {whew!}. Travel + Leisure Magazine-approved! 

    Go wild with California Overland!

  3. Fly like an eagle…  Just west of Borrego in Warner Springs, grab some serious air with Sky Sailing where your heart will soar high as the birds as you hitch a ride on a sail plane (also called a glider)! It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush and the views of pine peaked mountains and the desert floor in the distance are out of this world!

    Hip to the height with Sky Sailing.

Robert Arends

5 to Try – East County Desert Edition

Pre-historic Giant Sloth sculpture in Borrego Springs.

Fall is in the air – A perfect time to check out San Diego’s Anza-Borrego Desert and the quaint desert town of Borrego Springs. Following are five fun ways to explore and experience this captivating landscape:

1. Star gazing… Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky Community – only the second in the world! No doubt because downtown is illuminated by only 25 or so streetlights. At night, gaze skyward to behold the most spectacular sparkling display of stars in the state. The quiet stillness and sheer vastness of this stellar tapestry will take your breath away!

2. Walk with dinosaurs… Borrego’s fossilized past comes to life at Galleta Meadows Estate, a literal “Land of the Lost” along Borrego Springs Rd. featuring artist Ricardo Breceda’s “Sky Art” Sculptures – realistic steel-welded dinosaurs, mammoths, saber-tooth tigers and sloths, as well as life-size animals of the non-prehistoric kind, including camels, tortoises and wild stallions. On the way, be sure to pick up some delicious fresh oranges and ruby online casino red grapefruit from roadside vendors by the citrus groves.

3. Trip to the moon(scape)…The Borrego Badlands, located east of town off of Highway S22, are an incredible sight with jagged eroded hills, cliffs and giant cracks in the earth. There are some great overlooks just off the road to park your car and peer down on this other-worldly landscape. Sunset, especially, really brings out the red, yellow and orange sandstone layers!

4. Desert delights… For an up-close look at the boundless beauty of San Diego’s desert, a must-see is the Visitor Center at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo opps abound in their desert garden: cacti and towering ocotillo with spines of fiery crimson blossoms, plus postcard backdrops of clear blue skies, rugged mountains and the desert floor.  Be on the lookout and listen for rustling in the chaparral to spot lizards and roadrunners {beep beep!}. There’s even a palm-lined pond of tiny desert pupfish (yep! They’re native to the region.).   

5. Bird watching… for “snowbirds,” that is! A great way to end the day: dinner at Carlee’s Place (660 Palm Canyon Dr.) where you can spot snowbirds – RVers and other folks from colder climates who spend the fall/winter in the desert – and locals alike enjoying good ol’ American eats (mouthwatering steaks and seafood!).  For the bravest Borrego explorers, karaoke night is every Saturday.