San Elijo Lagoon: Annie's Canyon
San Elijo Lagoon turned out to be more beautiful and vibrant than I had imagined, with a lot of little unexpected surprises. There are several other access points to the park, but the trail entrance I used is located on Manchester Avenue. A quick search of the lagoon using Google Maps should easily lead you to the entrance using this road.
The Manchester trail head has a large map of the reserves. There are several other trails in the area, all of which can eventually lead to Annie's Canyon. The area of interest recently reopened to the public after temporary closure and renovation due to graffiti and vandalism. I hope that this post and others like it will increase support to conservation and preservation efforts of all other natural parks and wildlife, including this one, of course.
While the trail head does have warning signs for rattlesnakes and mountain lions- as many trails in California do-, I encountered this sign less than a quarter of a mile down the trail. Stella wasn't with me because the canyon didn't seem like an ideal hike for a dog of Stella's size. I turned back towards the entrance and did some quick research on my phone on mountain lion attacks in the area. They apparently are very rare- as in 14 documented attacks from 1986 to 2014 (source), and there is an ongoing project to track and monitor the mountain lions in the region. There are currently around 20 cougars being tracked in the whole of southern California, and their territories are quite large, making it really bad luck and "meant-to-be" if you are the unlucky individual who gets attacked. I also learned that the victims were mostly children or were of older age or engaged in activities which could have made them seem to be weak or appear as prey. After reading that, I really considered coming back again another day with friends and saving my solo hike for another time. As I debated back and forth with myself, a group of hikers who were gathered in front of the map at the entrance, asked if I had hiked the trail before. I explained to them that I hadn't, that I was looking to check out Annie's Canyon, and that there could be mountain lions in the area. They were excited when I confirmed they were in the right place and invited me to become part of their group. Most of them seemed to be in awe (probably thought I was a little stupid) that I would hike by myself, but they appeared to be genuinely adamant that I join them.
I'm glad I didn't go home because we entered an unexpectedly green forest that opened into a field of colorful plants and flowers. Beautiful homes graced the hills, and the I-5 was visible off to our right behind a vast lush green marsh. The trail is mostly flat with two or three gently rolling hills. While we encountered a few runners and several groups of hikers, this trail wasn't heavily trafficked like the more popular trails in San Diego on the weekends.
With the view of a gas station, the highway and lagoon on our right we headed below the overpass for the 5 Freeway. We could see the site of the canyon preserve upon making the left turn onto the trail.
A sign clearly marks the entrance to the canyon and the path is lined with wood chips all the way up to the steps that lead to the canyon itself.
The trails here and throughout the lagoon are well-maintained. The trees and vegetation help you to forget that you are in fact in the middle of a large, well-populated town.
I don't have the words to describe how neat this place is: so many nooks to hide in and crannies to crawl through! Of course, they aren't all accessible to the public, but you can see them nevertheless. While they did a good job of restoring the rock surfaces, you can clearly see evidence of damage and defacement. I will let the photos do the rest of the talking for me.
If you look up to the left in the above photo, you will see one of the hikers in my group in the awesome little cave we found and hung out in for awhile. Since we cave-dwelled for a long minute, we had a brief little conversation again about why I would hike alone, and I explained that sometimes I love having moments to myself and need a little relaxation and solitude. -Okay, I left out that the hubs doesn't like to be outdoors as much as I do, but that never seems to stop me!- They were also amused that they met me while I was researching the number of mountain lion attacks in the area and how not to die in case I got attacked.
I wish I could have explored all the grooves and formations in the park, but the property directly connected to the canyon is private and is off limits to the public.
Here is an impromptu selfie. I couldn't quite snap a shot while I was squeezing between the canyon rocks, but there is always next time!
Another photo of the canyon from above. This was taken from the thin ledge next to the metal staircase leading up to the photo area.
More views from the top of our climb out of the canyon.
This photo was taken above the canyon in the photo-op area. From here, you have a 360 degree view of the lagoon, the city of Encinitas, the I-5, and the canyon.
We headed back down the way we came from the stairs that are visible in the second to last photo. Being the extroverted introvert that I am, I came alone and left with a new group of hiking buddies! Thanks to them, I didn't have to fear facing any mountain lions on my own, and they invited me to come hiking with them again!
Here's to living out more adventures and celebrating them with good peeps!