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Books on the stairway walks of San Francisco and Los Angeles can be found on the shelves of bookstores in those areas. No such guidebook exists for San Diego, because -- despite the substantial vertical relief in many of our neighborhoods -- not many stairways were ever built here.

Some local stairways climb the palisades on the bay side of Point Loma, and others spill down the canyon slopes of Hillcrest. Noteworthy steps can also be found in the Rolando neighborhood south of SDSU and on the hillside neighborhood south of downtown La Mesa known by some as Windsor Hills. Dashed lines on the accompanying maps show the locations of the public stairways in these latter two areas. Try strolling these steps during early evening this summer, when the bright light of day fades to pastel hues and the balmy air bears the scent of jasmine.

Head for Windsor Hills to find what may be the county's most secret set of stairs. From the intersection of Windsor Drive and Canterbury Drive, you climb a total of 245 steps, interrupted by two cross streets, to reach the top of Summit Drive. Looking behind you, you may catch a glimpse of the sun sinking into a fog bank over Mission Bay. On reaching the 245th step, at Summit Drive, you're on one of La Mesa's highest knolls, elevation 830 feet. Continue by following Summit Drive about 100 yards to a second stairway descending east. Follow its 184 steps to Beverly Drive. Circle back the easy way to your starting point via streets such as Beverly Drive, Vista Drive, or Pasadena Avenue.

The Rolando neighborhood lies two miles west of Windsor Hills. Perched upon a series of bluffs and shallow canyons, its stairways connect streets at different levels. Here the challenge is more mental than physical. The stairways are short, but finding every one without retracing or crossing your steps takes some navigational effort.

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