Torrey Pines and Mount Soledad are among the highlights of San Diego and popular with locals and visitors alike.

Torrey Pines

2000 wild and natural acres comprise the Torrey Pines State Reserve at the north west end of and within San Diego City limits. In addition to the rare Torrey Pines trees there is a visitor center, 8 miles of trails, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that’s vital to migrating seabirds. Torrey Pines State Reserve preserves not only the trees, but also the last salt marshes and waterfowl refuges in Southern California. Torrey Pines State Beach stretches four and one-half miles from Del Mar past Los Peñasquitos Lagoon to thebase of the sandstone cliffs at Torrey Pines Mesa.
Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course has two scenic championship 18-hole golf courses. Torrey Pines Glider Port was legendary when I flew gliders for a couple years up in Northern California. Now that I’ve finally had a chance to visit I can see whyBlack’s Beach is located at the base of the up to 300 foot high cliffs that provide the deflection of on-shore breezes to support the hang gliders, paragliders and remote control gliders. The north end of Blacks Beach is clothing optional. Be sure to observe the signs and beach rules.

The United States Hang Glider Association is a good place to get information if you think you would like to try either hang gliding or paragliding. Although Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the first hang glider in the late 1400’s it wasn’t until 1971 that the Southern California Hang Gliding Association began, eventually becoming the USHGA. Charles Lindbergh may have been the first to feel the lift provided by the cliffs at Torrey Pines. Modern gliders are sophisticated technological marvels and pilots sometimes use a variety of instruments including altimeters, variometers and even on-board computers in addition to carrying reserve parachutes.

Paragliding is a newer sport, beginning in the ’60s and ’70s with the first experiments and then taking off in France in the late ’70s, reaching the U.S. in the ’90s. Its possible to gain considerable altitude and fly great distances in these unpowered aircraft. I remember records of over 10,000 feet altitude gain in hang gliders back in the ’80s (yes they carry oxygen), though not at this launch site. FAA regulations limit altitude gains at Torrey Pines to 300 feet because commercial and military aircraft use the same airspace at higher altitudes. The distance record, when this article was written, for hang gliders is 435 miles and it’s 263 miles for paragliders.

Mount Soledad

When Charles Lindbergh made the 1930s flight mentioned above he actually soared in a Bowlus sailplane launched from the top of Mount Soledad. Mount Soledad — towering more than 800 feet above sea level — provides 360° views of the scenic San Diego coastline, La Jolla Shores, Torrey Pines and Orange County to the north, San Diego highrises and Mexico to the south and, on a clear day, snow capped mountains beyond I5 to the east. Some of San Diego’s most expensive and elegant homes take advantage of the spectacular ocean and sunset views.

A controversial 43-foot tall white cross (originally known as the Mount Soledad Easter Cross) stands at the top of Mount Soledad. Serving as a war memorial since 1952, the Mount Soledad Cross has become a flashpoint for controversy about separation of church and state, free speech, freedom of religion and inter-community power struggles. The federal government purchased the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in the summer of 2006 to help insulate the cross from legal challenges—the California Constitution is less flexible than federal law concerning religious displays on federal property. Court challenges continued.

Donors can pay to have an individual, group or multiple recognition plaque added to one of six walls capable of accommodating over 3,200 black granite plaques honoring veterans from all wars. The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association — a non profit organization — constructed the monument in 1954. Additional information about La Jolla can be found on Elizabeth Hansen’s Blog.