Cartoon characters enliven Mission Trails Regional Park

Posted: August 28th, 2015 | Featured, Features | No Comments

By Audrey F. Baker

Tales of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner come alive at Mission Trails. Come delve into the true lives of these remarkable comic icons.

The greater roadrunner, with a 24-inch body length, is North America’s largest cuckoo. His cartoonish appearance (bushy crest, slender bill and long legs), embedded in our shared imagination, allows him to jump straight up and snag bats or hummingbirds while they are in flight.

A greater roadrunner at Mission Trails (Photos by David Cooksy)

A greater roadrunner at Mission Trails (Photo by David Cooksy)

True to his name, he patrols the trail, running down prey. Renowned for hunting rattlesnakes, the Kumeyaay celebrated the roadrunner’s courage, swiftness and endurance. His exotic diet also includes small mammals, insects, black widow spiders and, for desert dwellers, poisonous lizards and scorpions.

This terrestrial bird rarely flies. Concealing its nest three to 10 feet above ground in the crotch of bushes, cacti or trees, the roadrunner glides from perch to ground.

As to those fabled contests with Coyote, the roadrunner is wily, too. He camouflages himself well in the chaparral.

Our MTRP Trail Guide walks are an opportunity to learn more about natural Southern California, with its unique landscapes, habitats, local history, and diverse plant and animal life. The walks are free, interesting, fact-filled, and geared to all ages and interests. Grab sturdy shoes, comfortable hat, water bottle and sunscreen and hit the trail!

(Photo by David Cooksy)

(Photo by David Cooksy)

Morning walks are offered every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. You’ll start from the park’s Visitor and Interpretive Center at 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail in San Carlos. The walk beginning from the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station at 2 Father Junipero Serra Trail (near the Santee city limits), gives a different perspective of the park and its diverse habitats. These walks are offered from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and take in historic Old Mission Dam.

Wildlife Tracking reveals the secret lives of animals and brings insight into their survival techniques and habits. Tracking Team members assist in identifying and interpreting tracks, scat and habitats. Join us at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 in front of the Visitor Center for a two-hour tracking adventure.

Discovery Table: Bird Beaks investigates the wide variety of beak shapes and sizes, their specialized features, and how a bird’s beak enhances its wearer’s lifestyle. Test your skill matching beak to bird inside the Visitor Center on Saturday, Sept. 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Join us for a Star Party under a moonless sky as MTRP Resident Stargazer George Varga scopes one of our galaxy’s finest binaries, the double star Albireo, as well as Lyra’s Ring Nebula (M57), the globular clusters of Sagittarius (M22) and Pegasus (M15), and the Dubbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula. See you Saturday, Sept. 12, between 7 and 10 p.m. at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot. (Clouding or rain will cancel the event.)

La Mesa Walk ‘n Talk features scenic lakeshore environs as a backdrop to “chatting up” topics in nature with your MTRP Trail Guide. Join us for a relaxed morning stroll on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 9:00-10:30 a.m. We meet at the boat docks at Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa.

Birding Old Mission Dam with MTRP Resident Birders Jeanne Raimond and Millie Basden is your opportunity to explore bird populations at our national historic site. During the dry season, area waters are a bird magnet for both resident and migratory species. Binoculars and bird book are recommended. Saturday, Sept. 19, 8 to 10 a.m. We meet at Old Mission Dam parking lot, 2 Father Junipero Serra Trail, near the Santee city limits.

Summer Twilight Walk focuses on the nocturnal world of MTRP as dusk sets in and transitions into night. Bring a jacket and flashlight. The Trail Guide-led adventure is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. Meet at Bushy Hill parking lot, across from Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station.

Birding Basics, the 90-minute class conducted by Mission Trails Bird Guide Winona Sollock, teaches five simple techniques to identify birds “at a glance!” You’ll also pick up tips on using a bird field guide. (Bringing one is optional.) Class meets on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. inside the Visitor Center.

Family Discovery Walk is an essential “family time” experience introducing young children to the wonders of nature. Offered Sunday, Sept. 27 from 3 to 4:30 p.m., this interactive outing for parents and their children focuses on childhood enrichment and fun along the trail to the Kumeyaay grinding rock site. Meet inside the Visitor Center.

Whatever you choose to do, come on out and enjoy the park!

Visit for more information and our events calendar, or call 619-668-3281. Special walks can be arranged for any club, group, business or school by contacting Ranger Chris Axtmann at 619-668-2746 or at

—Audrey F. Baker is a Trail Guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.

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