Friday, March 28, 2008

Springtime Letterboxing

Who says you have to go to the desert to appreciate the wildflowers? Borrego Desert has nothing on us at the coast this year. After our firestorm last fall and the heavy rains in December and January, the blooms this year are phenomenal. Today was the last day of "spring break" so we decided to take the afternoon to go letterboxing. We took the neighbor's kids with us. We had the best time ever! We love Lindsay, Sophia and Justin. And really, if it hadn't been for Justin's 12 year old powers of observation, we would have missed out on a lot. Thanks to him we found a badger (and its hole,) about 15 lizards (probably more, but we lost count) some stink bugs, and, tied for most impressive,.... a toilet. Yup, a potty-half buried in the dirt. (Now THAT would be great place to hide a stamp...) Since the oldest kid on the hike was 12, and three out of five kids are boys, that got a ton of laughs. And I now have something stranger than a pair of panties I can claim under 'strangest discoveries while letterboxing.' OF COURSE we had to take pictures. Probably the most impressive find was an owl box. We didn't see a bird in it, even when I zoomed in with my camera. My camera eye did, though. I didn't even know that until coming home and downloading the pictures. (Double click on th e picture of the owl will find him.) But the owl most certainly spotted us. As we approached the tree, poking around for feathers and bones-clues to the owl's last meal-it swept down and away, with a wing span of at least three feet. It was a beautiful white barn owl and it came about 10 feet from me before banking hard left and flying away. We were all so impressed that even the girls and Jonah didn't have a chance to scream or be scared. We were most certainly startled as we thought the box was empty. We also climbed around some abandoned farm equipment, which made me nostalgic for Montana with memories of my Dad's implement dealership. (And for those of you who know me-nostalgia and Montana aren't two words I use in the same sentence. Montana and Pipe Bomb, maybe. Nostalgia-never!) I think having Justin, the 12 year old along, reminded me of the summers I spent playing in the prairie grasses, feeding the horses across the street from our house, and laying in grass with my dog watching the clouds change shape.
The spring grasses were long and sweet smelling and the children disappeared into them as they raced across the meadows. They played hide and seek by simply sitting down. Rocket decided that the stems from the grasses that stuck to his fur like velco were much too annoying to warrent a romp. He stayed on the trail trying desperately to keep his feet clean.
Our two mile 'hike' took two hours. (But it was two hours without whining or bribes to stop whining, mind you!) We had so much fun exploring every nook and cranny of the preserve. We did find the letterbox 'Always Aspiring' in Fallbrook at Los Jilgueros Preserve. Here is some info that I cut from the clues. If you want to find it yourself, go to:, or Happy Trails!

Acquired in 1990, the Los Jilgueros Preserve is a 46 acre preserve just north of Fallbrook High School on the east side of Mission Road. Los Jilgueros (pronounced "heel-gyer-os") is Spanish for "linnet" or house finch. The Preserve is open to the public for jogging, dog walking, or just relaxing.

The preserve has a stream, two ponds, a 1.5 mile level loop trail, 400 newly planted native oaks, sycamores and alders, and a demonstration garden. The name comes from an 1889 map identifying the stream as "Arroyo de los Jilgueros".

There are three entrances to the Preserve,the northern entrance is provided by a 6' easement parallel to the Fallbrook Village Condos from Peppertree Lane. The other entrances are from S. Mission Road. The north entrance is about halfway between Rockycrest Road, the entrance to the museums, and the entrance to the Airpark. This entrance is marked by a sign, but has only limited parking parallel to Mission Road. The south entrance is immediately north of the new construction for the Peppertree Homes, which leads to a parking area.

The Preserve was the farm of Arthur Anthony in the 1920s, who constructed the small dams along the stream to store water for irrigation. In 1990, the Fallbrook Real Estate Company donated the land to the Conservancy.

The ponds dry up during the summer. One is at the northeast corner, just to the northeast of the trail. The other pond is to the south, west of the east branch of the trail.

The north part of the preserve contains a bronze sculpture of an eagle on an 8' pole, titled "Always Aspiring", which commemorates the memory of Pamela Van Der Linden, the owner of the Fallbrook Real Estate Company. Just to the west is a firescape demonstration garden containing over 100 types of fire and drought resistant plants, with many plants identified by labels.

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