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Memories of Torrey Pines State Park

Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
Penasquitos Lagoon in Del Mar, California. San Diego County.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch - Sitta canadensisThere are three sections to this state park: the bluffs, the slough or lagoon, and the extension. When most folks think of Torrey Pines State Park, it is the bluffs high above the beaches that come to mind. This because it is here that the famous trees abound. These trees grow only in this region and on Santa Rosa Island off the California coast 20 miles west of Ventura and 190 miles over open ocean from this preserve. Yet the annexation of the lagoon and the “extension” have expanded the shroud of protection to include these other two important components of the local ecosystem.

The Torrey Pines Bluffs are iconic. They rise straight up from the sandy beach below. They stretch just over four miles from the pier at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, all the way to the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. Raptor enthusiasts love to come and visit Peregrine Falcons nesting on the soft sandstone bluffs. Still, there are ample chaparral loving species lurking here to entertain those interested in meeting them. Entry to this part of the reserve is accessed from the beach where the park road intersects to North Torrey Pines Road. There is beach parking near the start of the park road, but there is also parking is at the top of the bluffs near the visitor center. From the parking areas above there are several trails maintained for exploring the park, including the Guy Fleming Nature Trail.

The “Lagoon”, for this discussion includes the beach and the marshes upstream into Sorrento Valley, where Interstate 5 passes over the creek. Everything at or near sea level, I refer to as “the lagoon”. Access to this area is limited to its perimeters. The north bank is bordered by Carmel Valley Road and Sorrento Valley Road. Some of these routes are travelled by vehicles, and some by foot or bicycle. Likewise, the south bank has a trail accessed from Flintkote Avenue. I believe only foot traffic is permitted on this trail.

The Torrey Pines Extension is a hidden gem. Nested between housing developments on all sides, it hosts a relatively primal coastal sage scrub habitat, and stands of the protected Torrey Pines. Here you can find the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail and the Mar Scenic Nature Trail as they wind into other trails leading explorers through the small canyons and bluffs, and experience the habitat and its occupants.

I was born and raised in this part of the world, as was my father and his father. In 2010 I came to appreciate it in a fresh new way when I took part in the third BioBlitz with the San Diego Natural History Museum. Until my tour here with Phil and the rest of the museum crew, I wasn’t aware of the Marsh Trail along the south border of the lagoon, nor the trails through the Torrey Pines Extension. The gallery below has images collected during the BioBlitz, and others from visits during different times.

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