Cabrillo National Monument

After a relaxing morning with breakfast, coffee and reading, I decided to visit Cabrillo National Monument, part of the National Park Service. It’s an easy drive 10 miles north of San Diego, California, yet parking at the tidal pools was impossible. I parked further up the road, walked the half mile coastal trail to the tidal pools, past eroding cliffs and was able to keep a distance from others. (When within 6 feet of each other, people did wear masks, as required.)

There were plenty of birds, but no gray whales. The whales pass by mid-December till March, from the Arctic Sea to Baja California, and do not stop here to eat. They migrate each year of their 60 year lifespan. Most numerous were brown pelicans, double crested cormorants and western gulls.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped on this shore in 1542 as the first European (Spanish) on the now west coast of the USA. He had arrived from Mexico and anchored his ship in the now San Diego Bay as he liked “the enclosed port”. He died during the expedition, but his crew continued on possibly to what is now Oregon. A statue of Cabrillo at the Cabrillo National Monument:

This Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the original lighthouse, no longer in use. It was used 1855 – 1891 and restored in 2004. The lighthouse used now is further down the peninsula and at a lower elevation. There is plenty of history about both lighthouses. A military historical trail is interesting to walk also.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Driving a short distance outside of the national monument is the Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery, located on grounds of the former Army coastal artillery station Fort Rosencrans. I stopped along the road to take a photo which does not capture the thousands of headstones on the 77 acres of land. I also noticed a sign I had never seen elsewhere on the wall where I stood.

I am so thankful for the availability of national monuments, national parks, state parks and places designated for protection of land, animals, plants and some places even have “dark sky” designation. We need to prioritize the needs of our environment along with less pollution of many types and more awareness of how we as humans are dependent on having a healthy planet. When I visit places like today, I can only be thankful for the past smart decisions made and hope that we can be so smart in our present time for future generations to see and experience what I have been fortunate to enjoy. Let’s leave a healthy planet for others to enjoy life in!

Mission San Juan Capistrano

At least 55 years ago my family and I visited the Mission San Juan Capistrano. I remember nothing else around the mission at that time, yet now the town is jam-packed with homes and businesses. The old train depot has been converted to a restaurant and the nearby street has old houses with shops, but all else is new construction. Beautiful flowers are everywhere!

The story of the swallows and San Juan Capistrano is well-known, but if you do not know it, here it is in a nutshell. In the 1930’s the swallows were a nuisance for a shop-owner in town. As the person was destroying their mud nests, Father O’Sullivan asked the shop owner why they destroy the homes made by and needed for the swallows? In discovering the person’s annoyance, Father said the swallows were welcomed at the mission. The swallows did begin building nests at the church.

In the 1990’s the nests were removed from the ruins of the Great Stone Church and with the loss of habitat the swallows did not return. With the help of cliff swallow experts, they have been able to lure the swallows back to the mission. Nowadays the number of swallows fluctuates. Their migration along the Pacific Flyway is really amazing when you realize these birds are flying 6,000 miles one way from Argentina to California!

Here are some photos taken at the mission:

After a delicious lunch in San Juan Capistrano, I drove to the San Joaquin Wildlife Marsh, Irvine, CA, and parked near Tree Hill. Of course, now I realize how huge the water treatment district is with 5 ponds. I discover this first-hand walking from one end to another. I saw a number of birds; 2 new ones for me: black skimmer and Clark’s grebe. 

I had a fascinating moment watching bird behavior between a male and female house finch. The male house finch was singing loud, non-stop and looking at the female as he continued to sing. The female house finch was not impressed or playing hard to get. She flew off!

To find my car, I walked the road/pedestrian access walkway along the San Diego River. There was the killdeer on the berm again (saw it 2 days ago), yet it stayed on its nest as I walked toward it. I walked near the wall since due to “no trespassing” signs posted on the berm I could not go below it to give the killdeer more space. The bird remained on the nest, looked at me, and seemed unstressed by my walking by. Maybe the bird remembered me from a couple of days ago when I had seen the egg the bird was sitting on.

Here are a few other photos from the visit to the San Joaquin Wildlife Marsh:

Common yellowthroat

The mission was a busy place but people wore masks and kept their distance. Parts of the mission were closed and other indoor places they did limit the number of people inside at a time, so all was good. I ate my lunch at an outdoor table and waiters wore masks. Tables were close, but the outdoor air helped alleviate any concerns I had. At the two birding places today, people wore masks if within 6 feet of another and for the most part it was just me outdoors with the birds. Californians seem to follow directions well when masks are required and some people shared the fact they had been fully vaccinated. It seems travelers have a natural sense of doing all that needs to happen to be healthy and out traveling again. Heck, whatever it takes to motivate people to get vaccinated, I am for it! Stay healthy all!

Stop By Marana’s El Rio OpenSpace

In the 18th century Juan Bautista de Anza once camped in this area as he and his followers were on their way from southern Arizona to San Francisco. I could see how this area would be best to travel through; flattened by any run-off from the Tucson Mountain slopes and the Santa Cruz River overflow. Today, many people live in the Marana, Arizona area and enjoy the outdoor space for hiking, bicycling the Loop path, and bird-watching. Within the 104 acres, the wetland area attracts resident and migrating birds. Recently I observed 15 different species of birds of the 244 individual bird species reported to stop by sometime within a year. 

Looking for another area to explore? Stop by when you are riding the bicycle Loop path or park your car and observe birds from the observation deck. A hiking trail seems to be taking shape and you’ll also notice a variety of bird houses. It looks like the area will continue to develop.

Here are a few birds I saw on my most recent visit:

Greater Yellowlegs
Solitary sandpiper

A Federal Prison Camp Was Just Up The Road?

Japanese Americans had once been sentenced to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp between 1939 and 1973. I had not been aware of the camp’s presence, just six miles from my Tucson, Arizona home, till recently. 

Mt Lemmon is in my backyard and years ago the original main road was up the north side of the mountain whereas I live on the south side. In 1933, the idea to build a road from the south side was decided so travel to the mountain top from Tucson was a shorter route. Prisoners from temporary prison camps were relocated to a newly built “Federal Honor Camp” in 1939. Prisoners provided the labor to build the 25 mile Mt Lemmon Highway. When the workers no longer used only picks to break rocks, but had jackhammers, tractors and bulldozers finally available to them the work went faster. Plus the prison was located just off the highway so prisoners quickly got to work each day. Anyone who drives the road today can fully understand and appreciate the amazing work these men had accomplished!

Prisoners were individuals who had been convicted of refusing to join the military for moral or religious reasons, examples: Hopi Indians from northern Arizona and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Others broke tax or immigration laws or were protesting the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, such as Gordon Hirabayashi.

But why is this place on the mountain where the prison, Catalina Federal Honor Camp once stood, now called the “Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site”? Today there is a trail head at a hiking trail, a campground and information placards about the area’s history. Here is what I learned.

There is plenty of history to be understood here. While I am no historian, this is my understanding of the facts. Gordon Hirabayashi’s parents were both born in Japan, emigrated to the USA, met and were married. Gordon Hirabayashi was born an American citizen, was an active Christian, and eventually attended the University of Washington. He never had any affiliation with Japan or Japanese individuals in Japan.

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA was attacked by Japanese military planes. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a proclamation of war with the Japanese empire and issued some executive orders which delegated authority to General DeWitt to issue specific proclamations. One such proclamation he established was a curfew in specific military zones requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to be home between 8pm and 6am and to report within 2 days to a civilian control station as a prerequisite to an assignment to an internment camp. Hirabayashi instead turned himself in at his attorney’s office and stated as a matter of conscience he was refusing to report to the control station. 

So in 1942 a Japanese American, aged 24, Gordon Hirabayashi, who violated a curfew was convicted and sentenced to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp. General DeWitt’s report explained why his internment orders were justified and that they had been unable to quickly determine loyalties of citizens with Japanese ancestry. But in 1987 Hirabayashi’s case was reopened, the US government officially apologized for the mass incarceration of 117,000 Japanese Americans and aliens alike, and President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act. There is much more to know of Gordon Hirabayashi’s life so if you are inclined it is really quite interesting history of a man, the US court decisions and governmental actions. 

In honor of Gordon Hirabayashi who questioned the constitutionality of the internment camps, this former site of the prison camp is here to remind us all of the importance in respecting each other so we can live in a peaceful world. As you walk this historical site where most the buildings no longer stand, it is easy to see why it was a good location for an outdoor prison. The camp closed in the 1970’s but I hope the history and lessons learned remain for generations to come.

Two important quotes from Gordon Hirabayashi:

“This is a great Constitution, but if it doesn’t serve you during a crisis, what good is it? We faltered once, but to show how good our constitution is, we were able to apologize and acknowledge an error, and we’re going to be stronger for it.”

“If you forget about it, you’re more vulnerable to having it repeated, and we don’t want to have this ever happen to any citizen again.”

So I walked up the steps and looked out upon the land and thought of all this history. In 1999, the Coronado National Forest named the site: Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site and at the opening ceremony Gordon Hirabayashi was present. In 2012, President Barack Obama presented the highest civil award of the USA, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Gordon Hirabayashi posthumously. It was accepted by family members and in 2014 donated to the University of Washington Library Special Collections.

As I stood on the land and contemplated all the injustices in our world, locally and globally, I can only wonder if problem-solving with pro-active solutions, resolution to conflicts with less hate toward one another, and wanting the best for each other each day and around the world is ever achievable. We are so capable of so much yet we seem so slow. It took 45 years for an acknowledgement of a wrong-doing in Hirabayashi’s case. We need to do better than that on so many fronts!

Visit San José de Tumacácori

Tumacácori is a park preserving a Spanish mission ruin where you can also walk to the Santa Cruz River and two trailheads of the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail on the park boundary. During this COVID pandemic, rules are listed at the entrance and certain areas, such as visitor center, are not open. Yet one can walk the property and feel its history.

Tumacácori is one of 24 missions founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, an advocate for the O’odham native people and spreader of the Catholic faith. As the O’odham people rebelled against Spain a military post was built in Tubac for Spain to protect its interests. Plenty of history to be understood and realized here and fortunately the National Park Service has an informative pamphlet available to help one understand it.

Walking the property, you’ll see fruit trees at the heritage orchard, water ditch, the church built during the 1800’s, a cemetery, lime kiln and courtyard. I also spent time in front of the place where there is a butterfly garden. A “monarch waystation” with flowers which truly attract many butterflies this time of year! This is a park worth visiting and I am sure when the visitor center is open to show displays and videos it will even be better.

Here are some photos from my visit:

The mission church and grounds at Tumacácori.
Another view of the church and Santa Rita Mountains beyond.