by LINDA FRABL | photos by Soul of Photography

Exploring Nature


Jim and Jane Lea Smith are enamored with San Diego’s beautiful local nature trails. While on hikes led by volunteers with the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy (SDRVC), Jim was inspired to join up and lead his own hikes throughout Crest Canyon, the San Dieguito Lagoon, and Lake Hodges. Jim eventually became a SDRVC Board member, and both he and his wife also act as co-administrators for SDRVC’s Exploring Our Sense of Place (ESP) program.

Describing the ESP program in more detail, Jane Lea proclaimed, “It is a popular educational, social, hiking program in which participants explore the watershed through a series of Saturday excursions from October through May. We start at the Volcan Mountain headwaters and wind up at the San Dieguito Lagoon. The program is limited to 25 participants, or ‘Explorers,’ but we encourage alumni to participate as volunteers.”

Names: James C Smith and Jane Lea Smith
Professions: Jim – electrical engineer; Jane Lea – usability researcher
Community: Del Mar
Family: 14-year-old daughter, Emma
Hobbies & Interests: Jim – soccer, cycling, California native plants (identifying, planting, and propagating); Jane Lea – high intensity exercise, cooking, architecture, and design
Favorite Local Spots: Crest Canyon, Zel’s, Powerhouse Park, Viewpoint Brewing, and Choice Juicery


Jim added, “Each excursion starts with a light breakfast and social gathering, followed by an expert presentation on a topic related to the area. The expert then leads the group on an informative hike. Our ESP experts are well-known in their field and cover a range of topics, including local birds, native plants and wildflowers, Native Americans, geology, archaeology, and the ongoing San Dieguito Lagoon restoration.”

In addition to his ESP tasks, Jim is a member of the Acquisitions and Trails committee, which helps acquire land in the watershed to ultimately close the gaps in the Coast to Crest Trail. He also leads volunteers in removing invasive species in the Crest Canyon on the fourth Saturday of the month, and maintains trails around the lagoon/Dust Devil Park area through the Dust Devil volunteer group. As for Jane Lea, she helps out as much as she can at Canyon Crest Academy, the high school the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Emma, attends.

Asked what they love most about volunteering for local nature walk-related causes, Jim exclaimed, “We feel good about engaging in activities that support the health of our environment.” Jane Lea added, “We are committed to appreciating the beauty and natural diversity that San Diego has to offer. We especially appreciate that we can work closely together on a shared passion, meet new people, and always learn something new!”