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Story and photos by Karen Pearlman

January 8, 2022 (Mount Helix) -- More than 200 people circled the 3/4-mile winding road from the San Miguel Fire Station on Vivera Drive up to Mount Helix, where a festive atmosphere and the famed 360-degree view of San Diego County awaited them this crisp Saturday morning.

A possible threat of rain never emerged, with clouds making way for partly sunny skies during the Grossmont Mount Helix Improvement Association's 14th annual Walk to the Top of Mount Helix. Live music, fresh-picked lemonsand tangerines from trees of neighbors living in the Mount Helix area also awaited the walkers.


The event is mostly for those involved with GMIA -- estimated at 1,000 members strong representing 7,000 area households. The walk is GMIA's signature event held every January, in part to help create a more bonded community. The community vibe has taken on more significance during the continuing stress amid the COVID-19 health emergency.


Last year's event was scratched because of the pandemic and morphed into a scavenger hunt, with people looking for items scattered along the road to the top and at the apex. This year, walkers mostly wearing facemasks and staying socially distanced were once again able to take part in the beloved event.


"With COVID, we just weren't sure what kind of response we were going to get," said GMIA President Anne Kreuger. "But the crowd was comparable to previous walks. This was a great event for the community, especially after being cooped up in our houses for so long. I literally had no idea what the response would be until I walked down to the bottom of the hill and saw all those people standing there at the fire station. It's a really popular event. It means a lot to our community to get together and remember why we are all happy to live in Mount Helix."


Two young girls held up a special GMIA event banner to lead the way from the fire station to the amphitheater, where community partners such as the Helix Water District, Casa de Oro Alliance, Dictionary Hill Open Space Advocates, the La Mesa Historical Society and Peter Pan Junior Theater had booths with information and goodies to give away. 


More than two dozen dogs -- including one without back legs that rolled up with wheels and one elderly dog being pushed in a special dog buggy -- lapped up bowls of water. Meanwhile adults drank fresh cups of coffee and San Diego County Sheriff's Association RSVP volunteers kept walkers at the top safe while kids raced to see how many donut holes they could score at a booth that offered sweets from Mary's Donuts. The Animal Pad, a dog rescue group out of La Mesa, also had a presence at the outdoor soiree.


Mt. Helix Park Foundation, the nonprofit that keeps the park at the top of the hill accessible, safe and clean, had a booth at the top where information on coming events could be accessed.


Krista Powers, executive director of the Mt. Helix Park Foundation, grew up on the hill and still lives in Mount Helix. Today, she brought her two young sons up for the walk and said they enjoyed it as much as she did.


"The boys liked seeing a lot of their friends and petting the neighborhood dogs," Powers told ECM. "It was so wonderful to see so many neighbors and friends from the community show up and get out in the sun to walk together up to our gathering place at the top of Mount Helix. The weather had just the right amount of crispness to exercise in the beautiful outdoors,” she concluded, calling the experience “perfect."

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