Saturday, January 18, 2014

Elfin Forest

When I saw the above words on a North San Diego map I was intrigued and thought that perhaps it may be a good place to check out.  John and I have been to several wilderness areas here in California and quite often we have discovered that those sections of land have no roads into them, and also no parking areas.  So we thought it a hopeful omen when we saw road signs directing us to Elfin Forest,and became even more encouraged when Harmony Grove road brought us into a parking lot near a visitor's center.  Inside the center we were greeted by a park ranger who was eager to show us all the available trails in the recreational reserve.  While John was getting those instructions I wandered over to an area of the room where another park ranger was viewing fly larva under a microscope.  She had picked up a water sample containing the  larva from the Escondido Creek   She pointed out to me the different varieties of larva, as well as parts of their anatomy.  It probably is one way the water district does watershed environmental monitoring.
The chaparral plant community is common to the foothills and lower mountains of San Diego County.  The Elfin Forest was given its name because here the trees and shrubs are dwarfed, rarely growing more than twenty feet high.  The path (Way Up Trail) we chose to hike on took us across the creek pictured above and 600 feet upward to the Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir.  It proved to be a very warm day but most of the trail was shaded and a gentle breeze kept us cool.  Many other hikers were also on the trail.
The above picture should give you an idea of the view we had spread out in front of us as we approached the Ridgetop Picnic Area.  Off in the distance are the Laguna and San Bernardino mountain ranges as well the city of Escondido,  located on the left side of the picture.  Pictured below is the dam and reservoior, our last stop on the trail before heading back down into a riparian area along the creek.
The dam was built in 2003, according to park information it does not block a stream or river but it does box off a canyon.  It was filled with water from the California aqueduct and from Lake Hodges.  There is concern at present about its low water level, California now has had three years of drought.
Fortunately Escondido Creek flows year round, originating in the hills northeast of Escondido.  It was quite pleasant walking in this section of the park after passing by a lot of dry shrub.  Along the creek can be found the coast live oak and arroyo willow tree.  The park provided us with a botanical trail guide which helped us to identify the shrubs and trees along the trail, I really am not all that informed when it come to identifying trees and plants.  The forest has quite a few other trails which we may yet come back to hike. 


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