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South Fortuna Mountain in Mission Trails park

Prepping hikers for stunning wildflowers

In the aftermath of 1998­'-99's anemic and spotty rainfall, the pale green sheen now covering San Diego's wildlands surely won't last long. By June the natural vegetation of the coastal region may look uniformly brown and gray. Still, you can try out the following hike in Mission Trails Regional Park during the next couple of weeks to appreciate decent if not stunning displays of wildflowers, plus sage-scrub and chaparral looking more alive than dormant. The destination of this hike, if you care to ascend far enough, is South Fortuna Mountain, perched some 1000 feet above Mission Gorge.

Start at the Old Mission Dam parking area, along the paved Father Junípero Serra Trail, 0.8 mile west of Mission Gorge Road in Santee. From the parking lot, walk west (downstream) on a wide, smooth trail past the old dam. Then go across the San Diego River on an iron footbridge. Double back east for 0.1 mile along the far bank, curve left across a hillside, and continue north (upstream) on a rough path along the bottom of shallow Oak Canyon. The canyon's stream barely trickles this year.

At 1.2 miles into your hike, the canyon pathway intersects a dirt powerline access road. Turn left and follow this road for 0.5 mile up along a ravine (very steep near the top) and attain a 910-foot saddle on the ridge between North Fortuna Mountain and South Fortuna Mountain. Bear left at the saddle, and follow a wide, rocky path southeast to the rounded South Fortuna summit, 2.3 miles from the start. There you can look northwest toward North Fortuna's summit and southeast over a row of lesser summits toward Cowles Mountain (highest elevation in the city of San Diego), which is distinctly marked with a cluster of radio antennas. It's easy to see why the diminutive range of mountains you stand upon was once called "Long Mountain" on century-old maps.

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In the aftermath of 1998­'-99's anemic and spotty rainfall, the pale green sheen now covering San Diego's wildlands surely won't last long. By June the natural vegetation of the coastal region may look uniformly brown and gray. Still, you can try out the following hike in Mission Trails Regional Park during the next couple of weeks to appreciate decent if not stunning displays of wildflowers, plus sage-scrub and chaparral looking more alive than dormant. The destination of this hike, if you care to ascend far enough, is South Fortuna Mountain, perched some 1000 feet above Mission Gorge.

Start at the Old Mission Dam parking area, along the paved Father Junípero Serra Trail, 0.8 mile west of Mission Gorge Road in Santee. From the parking lot, walk west (downstream) on a wide, smooth trail past the old dam. Then go across the San Diego River on an iron footbridge. Double back east for 0.1 mile along the far bank, curve left across a hillside, and continue north (upstream) on a rough path along the bottom of shallow Oak Canyon. The canyon's stream barely trickles this year.

At 1.2 miles into your hike, the canyon pathway intersects a dirt powerline access road. Turn left and follow this road for 0.5 mile up along a ravine (very steep near the top) and attain a 910-foot saddle on the ridge between North Fortuna Mountain and South Fortuna Mountain. Bear left at the saddle, and follow a wide, rocky path southeast to the rounded South Fortuna summit, 2.3 miles from the start. There you can look northwest toward North Fortuna's summit and southeast over a row of lesser summits toward Cowles Mountain (highest elevation in the city of San Diego), which is distinctly marked with a cluster of radio antennas. It's easy to see why the diminutive range of mountains you stand upon was once called "Long Mountain" on century-old maps.

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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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