A few miles to the south of where I live is an old river channel called Otay Valley. It used to be a legitimate river; funneling the water down from San Miguel and Jamul Mountains to the San Diego Bay and supporting the bustling grain farming community of Otay Mesa. That was until a dude named Babcott decided to dam(n) the Otay Lakes in 1891. A catastrophe if there was ever one. The dam broke the following January and wiped out the town and its surrounding farms, not to mention the lost of many native plants and animal species that used to live in the river valley.
Nowadays the river bed is mostly dry except for a few ponds that used to be mine pits. It is a protected area now, a joint nature-oriented project by the County of San Diego and the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista. I asked around about it, but none of my native San Diegan friends had visited... They all thought the place dangerous and 'full of illegal immigrants'. I don't know why since many of these friends have no qualms about going hiking down Tijuana River Estuary and Slough considering that Tijuana Slough is right up against the Mexican border while Otay Valley is a few miles further north and well into the United States.
Being a proud survivor (and lover) of the U. City Loop AKA Delmar Loop in St. Louis (my aunt kept warning me off against getting an apartment there while attending St. Louis University because it was a 'bad' area of town. Well, it had gotten much better since she last visited and I loved the place and its eclectic residents and restaurants), I tend not to take second-hand warnings seriously especially when they come from folks who hadn't seen the place first hand. So I printed out this 'trail map' from Otay Valley Regional Park's website last Thursday and caught bus 929 south to have a look.
The nearest bus stop to OVRP is at Beyer Way and Palm Avenue. My main attraction was to be Finney Overlook, somewhere off to the east. It was a very gray and overcast day, though, so I decided to head west first and make for the 'Ranger Station' before doubling back to Finney and hopefully the sky would have cleared enough for a good panoramic view then.
The OVRP website says that there is also a staging area with parking on the Beyer Way trail head. Well, I didn't see one. The trails are quite wide and well maintained, but are also quite devoid of direction posts. It didn't help that there are branches that don't appear on the trail map... And so I got to see the park a bit more thoroughly than I intended, pocketing 2 dead ends (one a fade into nothingness and the other, a rather dangerous cliff-y drop off), and never managed to find Finney Overlook before my turn-around time (I have a life, after all, and can't keep on walking the thing forever!).
Other would be hikers would be glad to know that the staging station with parking lot and working restrooms at Beyer Boulevard does exist, though there were no ranger there to give any guidance when I dropped in. There was an information post, though, with identical information to what you would find online at the OVRP website. I ran into exactly 2 people on the trail. One was cycling away on his mountain bike and the other was walking 2 very cute dogs... No illegal immigrant lurking about as far as I can tell, but there was a family of hawk on a tall tree by Heart Pond about 100 meters west of Beyer Way that took off as soon as I got my camera out (hawks! I swear these guys are the paparazzi's worst nightmares. They can smell a camera from a mile away!).
They were very clever, mind you. The small and nearest hawk flew right off and did a bunch of tantalizing circles above a hill off to the east, drawing my camera with him so that I didn't spot the really huge hawk (the daddy hawk?) who went off in the opposite direction a second or two later. I turned to try to photograph the daddy hawk, and two more smaller hawks went off in yet another direction, leaving me spinning in place like an ill-coordinated top without catching any of the hawks in action with my slow-acting camera.
Come to think of it... The first and small hawk might actually have been a kestrel. Have a look at him. He's the first two shots in the panel above. The 'daddy hawk' in the third photo, though, is definitely a red tailed hawk.
They picked a good spot to hang out. Heart Pond is quite well reeded. There are only a couple of spots on the trail running the south side of it where you can get to the pond.
Le May Pond further to the east beyond Beyer Way is easier to get to. I intended to take the high trail out east to Finney Overlook and then come back on the pondside trail, but that was when I went dead-ended twice... And I'm actually not bad at trail-reading! They've got more trails than what appeared on the map, and none of them come equipped with sign post!
For what it's worth, the high trail that turned out to be a maintenance road that end at a cliff does afford some good views of the valley... It just so happened that the haze that was hovering over the ground never cleared that day. So the best shot I came up with is the one above.
I did drop by Le May Pond on the way back, though. Really nice and peaceful place with nobody else in sight (though the valley is a narrow one, so you can always see rows of housing at the northern and southern edge of it)... I sat there a while when this favorite bit of I Capuleti e i Montecchi popped into my head and refused to leave.
And here it is... And it has to be Kasarova as Romeo, too. With the voice comes the mood...