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Sunbelt Spotlight: Baja’s Wild Side with Daniel Cartamil

In this Sunbelt Spotlight lecture, Daniel Cartamil shares the origins of his book, Baja’s Wild Side with the audience. The journey begins with shark research in the region. As Daniel explored and photographed more and more of Baja California, a book filled with breathtaking images of remote landscapes, wildlife, and cultural treasures emerged. During this talk, it was announced that a Part Two is in the works! Check it all out in the video below.

California’s First Independence Day with Iris Engstrand

Did you know California’s first Independence Day is actually in September? California was still under Spanish rule when Mexico won their independence. This long battle for independence began on September 16th, 1810 and ended September 27th, 1821.

In the video below, historian and author Iris Engstrand shares with us the ups and downs of the independence movement and how this impacted California in the following years. Hear stories of early San Diegans from the Mexican period and more!

Succulent Dish Garden Demo and Solana Succulents Nursery Tour with Jeff Moore

On his Sunbelt Spotlight, Jeff Moore showed us around part of his retail nursery, Solana Succulents, and demonstrated how to create not just one, but two succulent dish gardens, all while sharing his wealth of knowledge about succulent plants and the hobby.

Solana Succulents is located at  355 N. Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA. 92075. It is open Monday and Tuesday by appointment only, Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Coast to Cactus and the SDNHM Canyoneers with Diana Lindsay and Jim Varnell

Last week on our Sunbelt Spotlight, we talked to Diana Lindsay and Jim Varnell about how the San Diego Natural History Museum Canyoneers have adjusted their programming due to the pandemic, who they are, and how you can get involved. The recording is available to view below.

This fall, the Canyoneer hike program has moved online. Each season, they will be posting 10 hikes that you can tackle at your leisure on their website. Each hike has been given its own page with the distance, a difficulty rating, map, a written description, and information about what you might see on the trail. They also provide links to the website of the organization that manages each trail so you can check to see if the trail is open to the public.

The Canyoneer Website

If you want access to additional trail options immediately, pick up a copy of Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego OutdoorsThe guide has 250 hikes, each with its own map and photograph, hike description with mileage, elevation gain/loss, difficulty rating, directions to the trailhead with GPS, trail use, special features, and type of habitat(s) found on each hike. Each hike has a focus on a species or natural/cultural history feature associated with that hike.

Shop our Bargain Gems

Some of our best selling titles are bargain gems. If you don’t mind a cover scratch or nick, you can discover great deals browsing our shelves. Visit our warehouse to shop. We are still located in El Cajon at 1250 Fayette Street. You can also call or email if you have specific titles in mind. These shopworn copies are not available through our website. You may even find some discontinued or out of print titles!

We are open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and by appointment any other time. Call 619-258-4911 or email to schedule.

Sunbelt Spotlight: Nature Heals During Times of Uncertainty with Richard Halsey

When was the last time you experienced the great outdoors? How did it make you feel?

Since the discovery of agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago, the time humans spend outdoors has steadily declined to less than 7%! This lack of exposure has been linked to higher cortisol levels, more irritation, more distraction, and other physiological changes.

So let’s get back outside! Be conscious of what you are doing and why to really reap the benefits. Use all your senses to be aware of your surroundings, the sounds, the smells, the sights, and even touch. Connect with the environment you live in by knowing about what lives there, animals, plants, and even your neighbors. Engage with others and help them reconnect with nature.

If you would like to learn more about this any of the ideas presented here, watch our first Sunbelt Spotlight lecture with Richard Halsey, now available to view on YouTube!

These helpful links are from the California Chaparral Institute

How to make your home more fire safe

Protecting Your Home


Old Missions of the Californias with Max Kurillo

Have you ever wanted to know about all 48 missions of the Californias? We invited mission scholar and author Max Kurillo to Sunbelt Publications for a SB Live Chat on this very subject as covered in his new book, Old Missions of the Californias. In this book, all 48 of the California missions are detailed in the order of their founding and not based on a border that didn’t exist when the missions were built. Maps and photos from past and present provide a look at the missions from yesterday and today. Also Included are chapters on the founding Catholic Orders, on the mission road, El Camino Real, and a complete reference list of additional mission history sources. This comprehensive yet compact work belongs in your glovebox, backpack, and home library to enrich your travel and mission history experiences.

Even if you weren’t able to catch the talk live, it is available to view at your leisure below. Our full selection of Max Kurillo’s books are also on special through July 31st, so order soon!


Take A Hike and Reconnect with the Outdoors

For our first Sunbelt Spotlight on July 22nd, author and naturalist Richard Halsey is going to share how during this time of isolation, we can reconnect with our original home, the outdoors. To get you started, we would like to share a hiking trail from Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors. This trail is part of the beautiful Mission Trails Regional Park.

Take A Hike Tip: It is warming up in southern California, so don’t forget to pack extra water, a hat, sunscreen, and protective lip balm. Most importantly, let someone know where you are hiking and then let them know when you return, so that they can call emergency services if you don’t come back. This is especially important if hiking in remote areas.


Distance: 2 miles, loop, including short side trip
Difficulty: 2 out of 5 – a route of 1-3 miles with some up and down that can be completed in 1-2 hours with elevation gain/loss of up to 500 feet.
Elevation gain/loss:  Up to 600 feet
Hiking time:  1 hour
Agency: City of San Diego
Trail use: Bicycles, dogs
Trailhead GPS: N32.81956, W117.05592
Optional map: USGS 7.5-min La Mesa

Directions: From CA-52 go east on Mast Boulevard for 0.2 mile. Turn right on West Hills Parkway. Go 0.7 mile. Turn right on Mission Gorge Road. Go 2.4 miles. Turn right on Father Junipero Serra Trail at a large wooden sign for Mission Trails Regional Park. Continue a short distance following the signs to the visitor center parking lot.
From I-8 go north on Mission Gorge Road for 4.2 miles. Turn left on Father Junipero Serra Trail at a large wooden sign for Mission Trails Regional Park. Continue a short distance following the signs to the visitor center parking lot.

The Mission Trails Visitor Center Loop Trail is a great hike for those who want an introduction to San Diego outdoors. It has it all including a 14,575-square-foot, award-winning visitor and interpretive center with both audio and visual displays that help you understand the resources of this over 7000-acre park. Mission Trails Regional Park purports to be one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks. The loop trail is great for trail runners, mountain bikers, and dog owners. For those that do want a guide, park naturalists lead free interpretive walks on this loop on both Saturday and Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m.

Before you begin your hike, take time to enjoy the many displays at the visitor center. Learn how water was first transported to San Diego and how the early days of this park was part of the military’s Camp Elliott from 1917-1961. The visitor center is open daily from 9-5 p.m.

One of the amazing things about this loop is how quickly one can leave the noise of a major street and crowds gathered in the parking area and step into a natural environment. While we enjoy the quiet and hear the wind as it moves through the plants, the call of a wrentit, or the buzz of an insect, think about how the quiet is much more fundamental for many of the animals calling the chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and riparian woodland ecosystems home. Noise pollution is of concern to these animals since their hearing is so sensitive, having evolved in areas without the roar of freeways or of a jet flying above. A mouse for instance, may be temporarily deafened with a loud noise, leaving it more susceptible to predation, whereas in a quiet location, the mouse may have picked up on subtle clues giving away the presence of a predator.

The hike begins at the parking entrance to the visitor center off Junipero Serra Trail. The trailhead is signed “Visitor Center Loop.” The loop trail ends on the other side of the drive entrance. Begin walking north, noting common chaparral plants encountered at the beginning of the loop that include laurel sumac, California buckwheat, and chaparral candle. The large peak straight ahead is South Fortuna Mountain.

As you approach the San Diego River, cottonwoods will come into view. At 0.3 mile there is a turnoff to the Grinding Rocks Trail which leads to the Riverside Grinding Site where bedrock morteros may be seen. It was here that early-day Kumeyaay would grind their collected seeds and acorns to prepare them for meals. Take this short jaunt if you want to see this grinding area and then return to the junction to continue the loop.

As the trail begins to follow the river, more riparian plants become visible including mule-fat, western sycamores, arroyo willows, and rushes (Juncus spp.) that were used by the Kumeyaay for making collection baskets. Watch out for western poison-oak near the trail. At about 0.9 mile, you approach the San Diego River Crossing from which you can go right to head to the Fortunas. Go left and head right up the hill passing a small stream to your right. Note the blocks of ancient granite that rise above the steam bed where cattails are visible. The green material floating in the pond eddies is a freshwater green alga known as pond scum or pond-moss (Spirogyra spp.), although it is not really a moss. The alga is photosynthetic—a chlorophyte that typically forms greenish mats on the water’s surface, especially during dryer months when water is stagnant.

The loop continues past the Jackson Staging Area. As the route parallels Mission Gorge, the quiet is interrupted with the sounds of street traffic and soon the parking area comes into view.

Enjoy the great outdoors on bike!

As parks and trails begin to reopen, what better way to get outdoors than bike! Try out this easy ride from Cycling San Diego 4th Edition.

San Luis Rey River Trail

Starting Point: Neptune Way, Oceanside
Distance: 18 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Riding Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy, not-technical
Road Conditions: Smooth, paved trails
Traffic Conditions: Light on trail
Equipment: Any bicycle

The San Luis Rey River Trail is a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail that is completely separated from streets and highways. It’s a great way to enjoy a traffic free ride along the San Luis Rey River, one of the County’s biologically-richest river corridors that provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species. The river has its headwaters in the Cleveland National Forest near Mount Palomar, and is over 69 miles long. This ride is an out and back that traverses the final 9 miles of the river to the coast.

Start by pedaling north on Neptune Way which quickly curves east to begin following the meandering path of the San Luis Rey River. After a short distance you’ll pass under I-5 and then parallel State Route 76 (SR-76). At 2.5 miles the trail passes under Benet Road and to the north of the Oceanside Municipal Airport. You’ll notice connector trails at each road crossing allowing you to easily access the road from either direction.

The trail begins to swing north at North Foussat Road. Look to your right to spot the old Valley Drive-In theatre, now housing the 40 acre Oceanside Swap Meet since 1971. During its heyday the drive-in had 4 screens and finally closed in 1999. After your nostalgic pause, the trail then follows the river east past Douglas Drive at 5.5 miles and soon arrives at Mance Buchanon Park at College Boulevard. The park, with tables, water, and public restrooms, is a great place to stop for a snack and top off your water bottle.

After College Boulevard the trail then curves east and then south around a housing development with streets named after American presidents. Trail connectors allow you to access the trail near the junction of Andrew Jackson and Polk Streets and Tyler and Harding Streets. Soon the trail heads east to the parking area just north of Highway 76 at North Santa Fe Avenue. This is the turnaround point where you’ll enjoy the mostly downhill ride back to the start.


The easiest place to start the ride is the western end in Oceanside. You’ll ride generally uphill to the eastern end and then enjoy a mostly downhill run on the return route. Take I-5 to exit 54A for CA-76 (State Route 76) east toward Coast Highway. Turn left on CA-76 heading west. Turn left on North Coast Highway then right on Neptune Way. Follow it to the end and park on the street nearby.

To start at the eastern end and have the uphill ride on the return, take CA-76 to North Santa Fe Avenue. The trailhead is on the north side of State Route 76.


The North River/Guajome Loop ride explores further east on the San Luis Rey River. See that ride for more details if you would like to extend this ride eastward. The Coastal Rail Trail ride heads south a short distance from the Oceanside Transit Center a few blocks south of Neptune Way on the west side of the railroad track. See that ride for more details.


Stores and restaurants are located near the western start in Oceanside and on College Boulevard on the eastern end of the trail. Public restrooms and water are available at Guajome Regional Park, Mance Buchanon Park on College Boulevard 7.3 miles from the start, and the Oceanside Transit Center a few block south of the start.