Daley Ranch – Jack Creek Meadow Loop

This mostly flat section of Daley Ranch takes you past the ranch compound, which features a number of old, picturesque buildings, and into the long, narrow Jack Creek Meadow. Come for an early morning hike, and you will encounter a great variety of wildlife.

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gained: 500′
Difficulty: Easy
Critters: deer, rabbits, hawks, egrets, coots, ducks, coyotes

Get there like this.

Daley Ranch has become one of my go-to semi-local hikes in San Diego. It’s only semi-local, since it’s in Escondido. This reflects the over-development of the area when the best prime hiking spot is still a half-hour away. However, it remains a great place to hike with a lot of variety. This section of Daley Ranch is one that I hadn’t yet devoted a specific visit, and I chose this cold, frosty apocalypse morning to take a leisurely stroll.

Jack Creek Meadow is a long, narrow open space framed on both sides by chaparral-covered hills. It isn’t quite as scenic as the Boulder and Engelmann Oak Loops, but it makes up for the lesser scenery by the abundance of wildlife and the quiet, intimate moments it offers. The entire loop itself is about 5.6 miles from La Honda Drive, but I cut it short today in order to avoid a confrontation with a pack of coyotes.

This was a pleasant way to spend the first morning of winter. A layer of frost covered the emerging grass and the reviving chaparral. Cold, crisp air invigorated my senses and snapped me out of my reluctance to get out of bed. The air was clean and crisp, allowing detailed, hi-definition views of the surrounding environment. It’s kind of strange to think about hi-def views when you’re outdoors, but often times the air can get so full of crap that everything is hazy in a VHS sort of way.

Cirrus clouds soared overhead as the weak, winter sun shone down. I’ve only got about four hikes left, and while I plan to go out with a bang on the last one, I have enjoyed re-visiting some of the old favorites during December. Having eased off the gas, I’ve been able to go back and savor the details and appreciate the uniqueness of each of the “haunts” I established in my quest to hit 1,000 miles this year.

And, although I stopped setting mileage goals, I did resume counting what I’ve done. I hit 1,100 miles on this hike, and I’m guessing I may make it to around 1,125-1,130 on the year. Not bad, considering I took a month and a half off.

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