After a two-hour wait, we finally arrived in San Diego. After a long night of restless sleeping due to Micah’s repeated trips to the bathroom, we were looking to simply take it easy. It was midday by the time we found ourselves heading north on the I-5 toward the hotel. Micah, though tired and weak, and with the aid of some ibuprofen appeared to be on an up-swing, and since we had plenty of time before we would be allowed to check-in, we decided to get lunch. But before we made any determination, a frail little Micah voice piped up, requesting that we visit his most treasured, most special of places on this here green Earth: the Chula Vista Nature Center.
The Nature Center is a sparkly gem of a place. Though it does not have the draw of the World Famous San Diego Zoo, nor Sea World, it is absolutely not to be missed on a trip to San Diego, especially if you have children. The history of the lands where the Nature Center is located is rich and colorful. At one time it housed one of the leading producers of gun powder used in the war effort during World War I. Potash and acetone extracted from kelp found in expansive beds along the San Diego coastline was converted to cordite, an explosive, that was used in fuses for the British. The road leading into the Nature Center has been named Gunpowder Point Drive as a tribute to the history. In later years, after the industry fizzled out, the lands were used for storage of cottonseed. Unfortunately, the plant caught fire and the business was lost. At some point vegetables were grown on the land and the fields became the backdrop for the cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. In the 80s the lands were turned over to the city of Chula Vista, who created a wildlife refuge in its Chula Vista Nature Center. Over the years, the site has grown, has become modernized, and has truly become a deep source of pride for the citizens of Chula Vista.
The entrance fee per person is completely reasonable and the aquatic center filled with aquariums and enclosures. There are touch tanks where you can get up close and personal with stingrays and sharks. There are birds of prey, sea turtles, endangered species, and trails. It is a wonderful place. It is home to a very successful breeding program for the endangered Clapper Rail. And perhaps one of the most unique features is that every single creature on exhibit at the Nature Center is native to Chula Vista. You don’t get a glimpse of that at the zoo or Sea World. So, all in all, it is a wonderful, magical place.
When Micah was a toddler, we visited the Nature Center nearly daily. And when I say daily, I mean DAILY. It was absolutely the only motivator that worked to get my little guy potty-trained, and after more than a year of trying, I was ready to try ANYTHING. And it worked. Within weeks, my little man was 100% potty-trained. Seriously. Amazing. It was at the Chula Vista Nature Center that Micah developed his love of animals, of nature, where he became the naturalist that he is today. We used to joke that my then 3-year-old knew so much about the Nature Center that he would actually be an incredible docent. At 4 years of age, he was already counting down the years until he was old enough to become a volunteer.
So, needless to say, one of things that Micah misses most about living in San Diego is the Nature Center. Period. It is the place where he feels most free, most balanced, most inspired in the world. And that speaks volumes of this place because my Micah lives in a world where he rarely feels any of those things consistently.
Our visit was wonderful. We reminisced, we rejoiced, we explored the new additions and improvements to the center. We basked in the warmth of the California sun and immersed ourselves in this very special, and unique place.
And so we enjoyed the time, we drank in the day. It was very bittersweet when we left. Very.
TO BE CONTINUED…