Beautiful East County


It’s a beautiful April day in East County.
My husband and two grandsons have spent the morning learning about and interacting with the raptors at Sky Falconry in Alpine. It’s about noon and we’ are on the way down Mount Viejas, so there are still some hours left to have lunch and take a hike.
We take advantage of being in East County and head to Mission Trails Regional Park, east of Interstate 15 and south of Highway 52.
A beautiful 6,800 acres, its 60 miles of trails wind around rugged hills, open fields and broad valleys, and give visitors a glimpse of what San Diego looked like before Juan Cabrillo arrived in 1542.
Once home to Kumeyaay Indians, it’s difficult to believe that this vast, preserved space is only 8 miles east of San Diego’s downtown.
We stop at the park’s man-made amphitheater where the large, faux boulders call to kids who love to climb. Also on the steps of the amphitheater are sculptures of animals that inhabit the area, like the life-size mountain lion perched on a step. The big cat is a kid-magnet; one after another comes over to examine it and are impressed when they learn that there still are mountain lions like this one in the area.
The boys have to be reminded to eat; they are having too much fun exploring and climbing and trying to avoid wet shoes while jumping over a manmade water feature.
After lunch, we step into the impressive visitor’s center, with its soaring ceiling, massive picture windows and a view of North and South Fortuna mountains.  The building rivals some of the centers found in the national parks.
Then we set out to hike the 1.4-mile Visitors Center Loop, sporadically lined with wildflowers despite this season’s minimal rain. About a third of the way, a huge, stately oak tree appears – another kid-magnet.
The shade is welcomed and the boys can’t get enough of climbing and balancing on the thick limbs.
It isn’t easy convincing the boys that we have to keep moving. The last third of the trail presents an uphill grade, part of which parallels civilization – Mission Gorge Road. The presence of cars and pavement and stores reminds us why it’s so important to preserve and maintain open spaces like Mission Trails.
The park, founded in 1974, is one of the largest urban parks in the country. Some call it the Third Jewel in the San Diego City Park System, preceded by Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park. It has its unique history, charm and topography, and there are plenty of more ambitious trails for those who want a greater challenge and more solitude. Visit http://www.mtrp.org/.

The last time you flew, did you notice anything missing?
Yes, it was that SkyMall catalog with all those expensive, semi-useless, kitschy items which, if you actually did order, took weeks to show up at your house.
The SkyMall catalog is not there now because the owners declared bankruptcy and the brand was purchased at auction.
But at least one entrepreneur thinks the new SkyMall was a bad deal  because it didn’t come with agreements with the airlines that allow the magazine to be placed in that seat-pocket in front of you.
Enter Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of a multi-pocket clothing company. He says he’s got a better idea. It’s called SKY2BUY, and you’ll find it in some airlines by June or July.
Don’t look for a separate catalog, though. SKY2BUY offerings will be found within those airline magazines, and you’ll be ordering directly from the manufacturers, which will speed delivery.
Don’t look for any garden gnomes, ball launchers for your dog, or clap-on alarm clocks either. Jordan says he’ll feature products that are relevant for travelers. Yes, they can be bought elsewhere, but if you put your money down while in transit, you’ll qualify for “massive discounts.” Your boarding pass acts as “a ticket to savings.”
Passengers also will enjoy free wi-fi service while purchasing items. Check out http://www.sky2buy.com/.

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