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    « Nature Knowledge Workshop Returns | Main | No NKW in San Diego this year »

    Idyllic Foster Lodge

    On the Flora & Fauna of the Foster Lodge Area

    By Emile Fiesler

    Near-pristine surroundings with a large biodiversity of plants and animals.  That is how our Sierra Club's idyllic Foster Lodge is situated.  The lodge itself is idyllic -- a historic cabin constructed with love from mostly of wood and boulders, -- and its surroundings enrich that impression, with refreshing nature abound and a breathtaking vista.

    The Foster Lodge is located at about 5500 feet elevation, high above the desert floor on the eastern-most range of San Diego County's peninsular mountains; the Laguna Mountains.  The highest parts of these roughly north-south oriented peninsular mountain ranges have unique climatic and geographic conditions that host ecosystems not found at lower elevations.  The discontinuity between these high-elevation ecosystems renders them sky islands.  The Laguna Mountains harbor large areas of preserved public lands; lands that preserve the natural beauty of these sky islands.

     Grand Collomia (Collomia grandiflora)

    Our Sierra Club is blessed with having our Foster Lodge surrounded by public land that has remained mostly unchanged and hosts a rich flora and fauna.  One only has to step out of the lodge to feel emerged in nature, with birds chirping, and greenery stretching in all directions.  A closer look reveals a surprising variety of plants and animals.  This variety is due to the unique location of the lodge on the interplay of two ecosystems: Oak-coniferous Forest and Mixed Chaparral.  Just across the Sunrise Highway, which provides motorized access to the Lodge, lie the Laguna Lakes, which are surrounded by meadows.  The lakes and meadows are other ecosystems close to the Lodge.  Not far from the lodge winds the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile hiking trail connecting the Mexican and Canadian borders.  Near the lodge, the trail follows the crest of the Laguna Mountains.  On the east side of the crest, the mountain slopes down fairly steeply to the desert floor.  Those slopes are mostly arid and harbor a desert-like ecosystem.  On these slopes, north of the Lodge, is a spring that flows fresh water and is home to a lush riparian habitat.  Having such a rich selection of fairly pristine habitats close to the Lodge, renders the area an ecological gem with high biodiversity, as a broad variety of plants hosts a broad variety of animals.

    Walking through these ecosystems, one encounters wildflower gems like Grand Collomia (Collomia grandiflora) (see photo 1) and the exquisite Yellow Mountainbalm, also known as White Monardella, (Monardella nana) (see photo 2), as well as its cousin Hummingbird Mint (Monardella macrantha) (see photo 3). 

     Yellow Mountainbalm, aka White Monardella, (Monardella nana)

    The San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club organizes its annual Nature Knowledge Workshop at the Foster Lodge.  Over the years, the workshop's docents have collected observations on the biodiversity of the area.  Thanks to their efforts, the avifauna, or bird biodiversity, of the area is quite well known.  The mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are more elusive and consequently less studied, but we have a reasonably solid understanding of what species are present.  The plants have also been studied to the extent that we have an fairly good idea of which prominent native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees are present in the area.  A more comprehensive plant list is a work in progress.  Remaining are the insects, arachnids, and other macro-invertebrates, which constitute the area's largest biodiversity.  These riches have barely been explored, and their study will likely bring forth a plethora of fascinating species, some of which new to science and endemic to the area.

     Hummingbird Mint (Monardella macrantha)

    Staying at the cozy Foster Lodge, gazing toward Garnet Peak, embedded in a flowing expanse of mountain ranges, pondering over the natural beauty of the area, is about as good as life gets.

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