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From its mouth at northernmost Mission Bay, Rose Canyon slices north past Soledad Mountain, then curves east toward the flat mesas of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. A quarter million or so people unwittingly follow parts of its shallow course every day: Interstate 5 parallels the lower canyon's stream channel for about three miles, and the Santa Fe tracks stick with it for more than six miles.

The picturesque middle section of Rose Canyon has been preserved as an open-space park by the City of San Diego. Lying only a scant mile from UTC's high rises, dense apartment complexes, and noisy traffic, the park offers up a near-level, smooth pathway perfect for walking, jogging, or lazy mountain-biking. Except for Coaster trains gliding through every hour or so, the canyon resonates more with the sounds of woodpeckers, meadowlarks, and crickets than with the din of auto traffic. Wildlife is plentiful, though it's mostly of the rabbit and squirrel variety. Many years ago, when this was a remote locale, my young Labrador retriever found this to be a happy hunting ground for the pursuit of cottontail rabbits (with consistently null results, though). Today, dogs are welcome, but only if kept on leash.

A large wooden sign along Genesee Avenue, across from University City High School, announces the existence of the park and its canyon-bottom path. Unfortunately, you can't park on Genesee itself, but there's curbside parking along Decoro Street, 0.2 mile north of the sign. Follow the sidewalk down Genesee, then veer right on the wide path going down along the south side of the canyon's broad floor. Dense clumps of willow and sycamore line the streambed and occasionally shade the path. After about 1.5 miles, you'll come alongside La Jolla Colony Drive, next to where Gilman Drive meets Interstate 5. This is a good place to turn around and return the way you came.

Here and there -- now that the dry season is upon us -- you can make your way north over the canyon bottom to reach a paralleling service road along the north canyon wall. This less scenic alternate route offers ups and downs suitable for thrill-seeking mountain bikers and for runners in training. Access into Rose Canyon via a narrow pathway is also available from either dead end of Regents Road. This will remain so for as long as a proposed connection between the two segments remains unbuilt.

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