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Out & About: Hidden gems in Mount Soledad

There is a special preserve here that not only offers some of the best coastal views around, but also boasts 42 acres of hiking trails!

My partner in crime is back---Jessica Johnson from Hidden San Diego! She's been helping me find some cool spots around San Diego, since we're all sick of sitting at home. On the couch. eating tacos. Oh wait, that's just me?! Moving on...

I met Jessica on the hills of Mt. Soledad. First, she took me to La Jolla Natural Park.

Holding some of the most beautiful (and expensive) homes in San Diego, Mount Soledad is like a magical, mythical world of its own.  The windy roads, endless coastal views and thick jungle-esque plants suggest there are more secrets lurking beneath the veil than meets the eye.

What many don't realize though, is there is a special preserve here that not only offers some of the best coastal views around but also boasts 42 acres of hiking trails!

La Jolla Natural Park is without a doubt a hidden gem. There are two ways to enter this park: one is a 1.5-mile climb up the mountain, the other is a 1-minute hike. Either way, the parking will be slim, which makes visiting it a bit of a challenge.

If you're ok with tight street parking along the curvy roads, then parking shouldn't be too much of a problem. If you park at the top, once you make it to the trailhead, within seconds you will be greeted with stunning views of the coastline.

Next up...the Munchkin house myth. 

How the legend goes is that back in the 1930's a group of munchkins who had acted in the movie 'The Wizard of Oz' moved into a group of tiny homes on Mt. Soledad.  Jessica had been hearing these rumors since high school. She and her friends would spend hours driving on the windy roads of the mountain, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous mansions.  Never once did any home's size stands out as being miniature.  It wasn't until a decade later that she found an article online giving directions to the last remaining "munchkin home", built by famed architect Cliff May.

Smith is quoted as saying, "The houses do indeed have smallish features, accentuated by an optical illusion. The steep road that passes them makes them seem even smaller than they actually are." It appears there were once four of these cottages, but three have been torn down and replaced with more common-to-this-area mansions.

La Jolla's Troll Bridges

Building on the rumors of the munchkin home would be the occasional child who swore they spotted a gnome. Jessica remembers a co-worker swearing his uncle was chased off a munchkin's property with a bat!  Although, the mountain that children's book author Dr. Seuss called home, I would imagine anything is possible!  Maybe the Lorax and the Grinch were inspired by "sightings" on these legendary roads!

As a teenager she used to follow online chat groups discussing the munchkin homes and noticed many users would talk about the "troll bridges" you had to drive under in order to find them.  Unlike the munchkin home myth, these bridges DO exist, although I highly doubt you'll find any trolls living beneath them.

The bridges were built in the late 1920's and 30's by developer William French Ludington, who also happens to be the son of a pioneering La Jolla family.  William was the owner of of Ludington Heights & had a hand in the development of the Cabrillo bridge in Balboa Park.

It appears these trolls bridges most likely were inspired by the Cabrillo Bridge, which was built a decade earlier.  The arch designs share a striking resemblance to the Cabrillo Bridge but on a much smaller scale.

As the story goes, Ludington initially purchased a plot of steep, hard-to-reach land and as a way to make it easier to access, had these stone bridges built.

Another notable feature of these bridges are the lush landscapes surrounding them.  This is not by chance.  In fact, the bridge off of Castellana/Puente drive has a garden planted in honor of local residents Delbert and Lois Colby, who owned the Rancho Santa Fe Nursery.


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