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Last May, Mission Trails Regional Park opened a new trailhead parking lot and gateway that provides easy access to the park's western area from the community of Tierrasanta. To check out and make use of this new entry, simply follow Clairemont Mesa Boulevard to its east dead-end in Tierrasanta. On foot or bike you can proceed farther east using a dense network of dirt roads and trails covering the hills and valleys like a tattered net.

A sign at the start advises that the parkland ahead encompasses part of the former Camp Elliott, a World War II gunnery range. Thorough sweeps for unexploded ordnance have largely (though presumably not totally) eliminated the chance of coming across decades-old duds.

A nice, easy two-mile-loop hike to Suycott Wash, perfect for the cool of a summer morning or early evening, can be fashioned out of the trails radiating from the new trailhead. First you cross over a deep ravine on a sturdy, wood-planked bridge, built several years ago to support truck traffic during an upgrade project along the Second San Diego Aqueduct. On the far side of the bridge, turn left and hike for a minute on an old roadbed toward a narrow path intersecting on the right. Follow this contouring path a few minutes to a wide dirt road on a saddle, cross that road, and head east on another road descending into a valley. Follow the signs to "South Suycott," taking care that you do not swing too far right and descend the steep road leading to the bottom of Mission Gorge.

Suycott Wash, better described as a ravine than a wash, harbors shade-giving live oaks and (just recently) puddles of water left over from the meager rains of last winter. When you reach the bottom of the ravine, look for a shady picnic site on your left. Just two weeks ago, I startled a deer near here, who departed from my sight in a blur.

From the picnic tables, follow the shady Suycott ravine northward (upstream), then go left at the next dirt road you encounter. Use this to climb back up to the saddle, and then retrace your steps on the narrow, contouring trail you followed earlier.

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