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To develop more appreciation for and enjoyment of our many parks and preserves, here are a few suggestions I put in the strong recommendation category. These are all fairly close-in and any can make for a pleasant outing.

  • Presidio Park. Off I-8 just east of I-5 is this lovely park of historic significance and many marriages.  Good picnic areas, strolls, views and history museum.
  • Mission Trails Visitors Center, a gem that won in the “orchids” architectural competition when it was built. Then take your pick of a dozen trails, from easy (around the old dam) to heavy duty (up Fortuna Mountain). Probably the most popular trek in the county is Cowles Mountain, with some recent trail improvements (or head up the less-crowded back way from Barker Way).
  • San Dieguito River Park’s Mule Hill Trail.  Heading eastward from I-15 at the southern end of Escondido, is this pleasant jaunt that will add much to your knowledge of the historic characters and activities that occurred here 150 years ago.  If you’re into heavy trekking, you can keep going for 10 miles and out past the Wild Animal Park.
  • Iron Mountain, out 67 at Poway Road.  On any weekend you’ll see many cars parked off the highway as this is one of our most popular and easily-accessible hikes.
  • Up Escondido’s way, take the Elfin Forest’s Way Up Trail. Head off to the left around the fairly-new reservoir and over to a view down onto Lake Hodges.

— TOM LEECH

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