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The Chirping of Crickets tells us the warmer weather of summer is well on its way. Their plaintive pleadings for mates are heard wherever bits of semi-natural scenery cut across the urban tapestry of San Diego. Try the Spruce Street suspension footbridge, west of Balboa Park between Front and Brant streets. From the swaying deck of the 70-foot-high bridge you can admire a canyon filled with green and gold grasses, nasturtiums, and eucalyptus, pepper, and palm trees. Sound effects begin by mid-afternoon.

Western Azalea, a native rhododendron, is blooming this month in scattered locations throughout the county's higher mountains. Fond of semi-shade, it's often found growing along creeks and canyon bottoms. Like its ornamental cousins, western azalea's fragrant white (sometimes pink or yellow tinted) flowers are borne in ornate clusters. Palomar Mountain State Park harbors a colony of them alongside a trail linking Doane Valley and Chimney Flats. White-flowering azaleas are recovering along the Azalea Glen Trail in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, the area thoroughly burned during the 2003 Cedar Fire.

The Blooming of Desert Annuals is over, but not so for the stolid desert willows and smoke trees. Rooted to the beds of dry washes throughout Anza-Borrego's lower valleys, both plants gather enough energy this time of year to put on an impressive floral show. The graceful, drooping branches of the desert willow hold fragrant, white blossoms, while the spindly smoke tree exhibits myriads of blue-purple flowers. To avoid the intense midday heat, confine your desert explorations to early morning or early evening. And watch out for bees -- they're attracted to the blossoms, too.

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