Fire recovery is a work-in-progress at Oakoasis Open Space Preserve near Lakeside

Serene Oakoasis Open Space Preserve covers 397 acres of oak woodland, boulder-studded hillsides, and young chaparral vegetation recovering from the 2003 Cedar Fire. Try visiting during winter, when the air is clean and fresh, or during March, when almost every living thing in the plant kingdom is green and the sweet fragrance of annual wildflowers and fragrant wild lilac (ceanothus) floats on the sun-warmed breeze. The hiking loop described here measures 2.4 miles and involves an elevation gain of only 300 feet.

To get to Oakoasis from Lakeside, turn east on Mapleview Street where the freeway portion of Highway 67 ends. After 0.3 mile on Mapleview, turn left (north) on Ashwood Street. Ashwood will become Wildcat Canyon Road ahead. From the beginning of Ashwood, proceed 4.2 miles (mile 4.2, according to the roadside mile markers) to the driveway for Oakoasis Open Space Preserve on the left. At 0.1 mile ahead, there's a parking lot -- a trailhead for the preserve and a future staging area for the uncompleted Trans-County Trail.

From the trailhead, descend north and west on the Trans-County Trail. (Within a few years, it will be possible to make your way west on this trail all the way to the ocean at Torrey Pines State Beach.) At the next two trail junctions, stay right so as to make a direct descent to an old dirt road near the bottom of a shallow, oak-lined ravine. Keep going west on this road, which meanders amid the oaks. This "oak oasis" is in a post-2003 fire-recovery mode and is already regaining its shade-giving character. At the west end of the oak oasis, 0.7 mile from the start, you come upon the ruins of a cabin constructed of split logs in 1936. Little more than the foundation and chimney remains, a consequence of the 2003 firestorm.

From the cabin ruins, make a right (go north) on the Upper Meadow Trail, where you soon catch sight of the sparkling surface of San Vicente Reservoir, a mile to the west and some 800 feet below. Just ahead, there's a short side trail to a scenic overlook offering a better view of the reservoir.

Next, you go up and over a saddle (1480-feet elevation), traverse a grassy vale (an "upper meadow" dubbed Daisy Flat), and drop into a minor ravine. You climb gradually uphill to a flat area at the top of that ravine, and then descend slightly -- all the while circling right. By about 2.0 miles, you're back down in the oak-oasis ravine you visited earlier. Just ahead is the trail you used earlier to descend into that ravine. Use it to return to the trailhead.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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