The Coast News Group
Jamie Higgins likes to head to the Northeast County where there are a plethora of trails, many of which are more enjoyable to do in the cool winter months. Courtesy photo

Nature Calls: Breathing room

Life moves so fast that sometimes it’s hard to catch my breath. I know I’m lucky to live in the land of fun and sun, where there’s always something to do and 60 degrees is considered cold.

Still, sometimes I need to ignore my To Do list (it’ll be there when I get back), step off the proverbial hamster wheel and recharge. Those are the times that I seek out nature.

It’s cheaper than a therapist and good for my waistline, but be warned — I have found spending time in nature to be highly addictive.

When I need my nature fix, I need look no further than my own backyard. San Diego County is a hiker’s paradise.

With scenic beaches, wetlands, grasslands, chaparral, riparian corridors, Oak woodlands, deserts and even real mountains, the variety of landscapes is incredible.

I’m not exaggerating — we actually live in the most biologically rich county in the continental United States, according to The Nature Conservancy. This means that whatever scenery floats your boat, we’ve got it here in spades.

This time of year, I like to head east.  Northeast County is home to a plethora of trails, many of which are more enjoyable to do in the cool winter months. Some of my favorite walking and hiking spots include Daley Ranch in Escondido, Palomar Mountain, Volcan Mountain outside Julian, Potato Chip Rock on the Mount Woodson Trail in Poway, Cedar Creek Falls in Ramona and Iron Mountain. I will save the wonders of Palomar Mountain for another column.

I really enjoy the 5.6-mile Iron Mountain Trail. This well-marked and well-travelled trail has a moderate 1,000-foot elevation gain.

In other words, it’s relatively easy but still challenging enough to make you want to high-five and feel like you worked off the donut you ate.

It takes two to three hours to complete and the trail winds through a scrubby chaparral landscape with great views. Comments from people online suggest doing the hike at sunrise — it’s supposed to be spectacular and worth the effort.  I’d also recommend doing the hike in the early morning or on a cool, cloudy day, as this trail has virtually zero shade.

You can’t miss the trailhead, it’s clearly marked by a Wrought iron sign and a large parking lot off Highway 67, with free parking.

A number of people had dogs with them on leash. Just remember to bring plenty of water for you and your furry friends.

For more information about these hikes and others, check out Jerry Schad’s, “Afoot & Afield in San Diego County,” considered to be “the bible of San Diego hiking.”

A great online source for information about local hikes is the San Diego Hikers Association’s website at

Lace up those running shoes or hiking boots and I hope to see you on the trail!

Jamie Higgins is a freelance writer who loves living in North County.