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Chaparral blooms in the springtime at Oak Oasis Open Space Preserve near Lakeside.

East County's Oak Oasis Open-Space Preserve covers 397 acres of oak woodland, boulder-studded hillsides, and mature stands of chaparral. Try visiting as soon as possible this month, when almost every living thing in the plant kingdom is green and the sweet fragrance of both blue- and white-flowering wild lilac (ceanothus) floats on the sun-warmed breeze. In early March, the trails here were awash in shallow water and mud. By May, barring any further rain, the wildflowers will be fading fast in the harsh inland sunshine.

The entrance to the preserve is at mile 4.2 on Wildcat Canyon Road, 4.2 miles north from Mapleview Street in Lakeside. Turn west onto a narrow paved road leading 0.1 mile to a trailhead parking lot, which is the start of the 2.4-mile walk described here. (This same lot is to be a future staging area for the proposed east-west, 110-mile-long Trans-County Trail, also known as the "Pines-to-Spines Trail" for its endpoints: the Torrey pines on the coast and the desert at Borrego Springs.)

On foot, continue west on a gravel road for 200 yards and veer right on a narrow trail down a north-facing hillside clad in tall chaparral. At 0.4 mile from the start you strike a disused dirt road following the bottom of a shallow ravine. Turn left (west), and for the next 0.3 mile enjoy the cool, oasis-like effect of walking under closely spaced coast live oaks whose opaque, overarching foliage blots out all but tiny glimmers of sunlight.

At the west end of this oak oasis, 0.7 mile from the start, you come upon a sagging cabin constructed of split logs in 1936. Continue west and northwest on the old roadbed (or you can opt for an alternate route up and over a hillside to the north). Very soon you catch sight of the sparkling surface of San Vicente Reservoir, a mile to the west and some 800 feet below. Ahead, there's a better view of the lake on a left-branching spur trail.

Next, you go up and over a saddle, traverse a grassy vale, drop into a minor ravine, and go gradually uphill to a flat area at the top of that ravine -- all the while circling right. By 1.8 miles, you're curving right into the "oak oasis" ravine you visited earlier. When you strike the old roadbed again, cross it and retrace your earlier steps up to the gravel road and back to your car.

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East County's Oak Oasis Open-Space Preserve covers 397 acres of oak woodland, boulder-studded hillsides, and mature stands of chaparral. Try visiting as soon as possible this month, when almost every living thing in the plant kingdom is green and the sweet fragrance of both blue- and white-flowering wild lilac (ceanothus) floats on the sun-warmed breeze. In early March, the trails here were awash in shallow water and mud. By May, barring any further rain, the wildflowers will be fading fast in the harsh inland sunshine.

The entrance to the preserve is at mile 4.2 on Wildcat Canyon Road, 4.2 miles north from Mapleview Street in Lakeside. Turn west onto a narrow paved road leading 0.1 mile to a trailhead parking lot, which is the start of the 2.4-mile walk described here. (This same lot is to be a future staging area for the proposed east-west, 110-mile-long Trans-County Trail, also known as the "Pines-to-Spines Trail" for its endpoints: the Torrey pines on the coast and the desert at Borrego Springs.)

On foot, continue west on a gravel road for 200 yards and veer right on a narrow trail down a north-facing hillside clad in tall chaparral. At 0.4 mile from the start you strike a disused dirt road following the bottom of a shallow ravine. Turn left (west), and for the next 0.3 mile enjoy the cool, oasis-like effect of walking under closely spaced coast live oaks whose opaque, overarching foliage blots out all but tiny glimmers of sunlight.

At the west end of this oak oasis, 0.7 mile from the start, you come upon a sagging cabin constructed of split logs in 1936. Continue west and northwest on the old roadbed (or you can opt for an alternate route up and over a hillside to the north). Very soon you catch sight of the sparkling surface of San Vicente Reservoir, a mile to the west and some 800 feet below. Ahead, there's a better view of the lake on a left-branching spur trail.

Next, you go up and over a saddle, traverse a grassy vale, drop into a minor ravine, and go gradually uphill to a flat area at the top of that ravine -- all the while circling right. By 1.8 miles, you're curving right into the "oak oasis" ravine you visited earlier. When you strike the old roadbed again, cross it and retrace your earlier steps up to the gravel road and back to your car.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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