Category Archives: San Diego

Places near San Diego

Hiking at Iron Mountain

IMG_8050Iron Mountain is a hiking trail in Poway, CA. It is one of the peaks on a small mountain ridge that separates Poway from Ramona. It is a ranked as a moderately difficult 5.2 mile trail which I thought it was relatively easy. There is a parking lot nearby which makes it very easy to access and while I have heard it can become quite crowded it was not during my trip. Also, while dogs are allowed it is not overrun with them which was really nice.

IMG_8059You start out walking under the Iron Mountain sign that clearly labels the trail and down a dirt path which guides you to a beautiful canopy tunnel of trees. Follow these trees and continue out the backside of them to come to the trailhead. From there you hike your first mile and a half over rocks and boulders around to the back of the mountain and to the start of Iron Mountain Peak.

IMG_8060Here you can chose between a shorter less traveled hike or the longer trail leading to the main peak. I chose the harder trail of the two up to the peak. Another mile or so through gently sloping switchbacks bring you to the top where can see the most captivating views ever. You can see everything including valleys, other mountain peaks, more boulders, green bushes, and on a clear day even the city of San Diego. Unfortunately, by the time I made it to the top on the day of my journey the haze had engulfed the peak and it was hard to see thru to the beautiful sites promised.

I trekked down the mountain and on the way back I got to see one of the most stunning sunsets ever. The reds, oranges, yellows, blues and purples were washed together in the most mesmerizing sight I could have ever imagined. It made it all worth-while.

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Exploring Sunset Cliffs

IMG_8004Sunset Cliffs is a local hotspot for surfers as well as cliff divers. I couldn’t wait to start my day and headed there early in the morning hoping to see what everyone talks about.

I arrived well before the haze had lifted and searched high and low for some surfers. Throughout the whole time I was there I actually only saw two. One leaving the water as I walked along the cliffs early in the day and one surfing off a secluded beach section later. While the waves were big and forming nicely the water’s health conditions were low due to the rain the previous day. I could only assume that was why no one was paddling out and the water was so deserted.

IMG_8032I strolled down the shore calmly searching for a way to get down to the water’s edge. It was early and there were only a few people there. Some exploring, others on their morning run, and one doing her early meditation routine. Perfect spot to do that.

IMG_7988I found the spot where I thought most people did their cliff jump from. It looked different than the pictures and videos, but it was a small bridge with a sign that clearly stated “No Jumping.” I wandered around the rock looking at the hand drawn carvings that were gradually washed away during each high tide, carved something of my own and took a up a seat on a piece of dry sandrock. I listened and watch the waves crash along the cliffs for a long time.

As the haze cleared, other people slowly started to arrive. Two girls sat behind me and a group of teens looked over the edge into the water. I noticed two girls get up from their spot and walk over to them. They had a GoPro camera and asked the group if they were going to jump. The group said no and the girls explained that jumping wasn’t the issue, it was getting out of the water and back onto the rocks after the jump. The cliffs were steep and there was no place to grab on without a helping hand. The group wasn’t interested in helping so the girls decided to leave. So much for my idea of jumping if others were jumping. Maybe next time.

IMG_8029I followed the group down the road and they found a rope near a steep descend that led to rock covered beach. I watched them climb down and wondered what they would find down there, but did not follow. Off in the distance I could see one surfer down below surfing off the only beach section of the whole area. I wondered how he got down there and continued in his direction. I came across another steep descend. This one was longer and steeper than the other, that could only be it. I watched him surf wave after wave from above.

I headed back to my car watching the waves and thinking about how beautiful this beach was. It is a spot that I am sure I will come back to again and explore more. Exactly what I want to explore, well, that information is kept secret for another post.

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Balboa Park at Dark

IMG_7925Balboa Park is one of the handful of places that everyone says you must check out while in San Diego. It was created in 1892 with Kate Sessions being a major contributed. So much so that in 1935 she gained the title, “The Mother of Balboa Park.” There are many attractions, museums, and performances to see there. However, you should arrive before 5pm as many of the museums are closing at that time.

My visit started after 5pm, but there were still some sights to be seen and a few restaurants still open. I’m sure there were even a few performances going on, but I did not happen to stumble upon any of them.

IMG_7928I started just before dark at the San Diego Museum of Man with it’s gorgeous tower and captivating dome. I stood in awe wondering how they were able to make something that magnificent in the early 1900’s.

I headed down the street and took a quick look at one of the maps, seeing if anything might be of interest. I wanted to view some gardens, particularly the Japanese Friendship Garden, but they were closed as well. I decided to just check out the different museums from the outside instead and wandered the park taking in the amazing architecture of the beautiful night lighted buildings.

IMG_7940I came across the San Diego Botanical Gardens and was able to check out their pond and bridge out front. There were a bunch of ducks all around and I saw a white coy fish that was huge! It must have been over a foot long. I searched to see if there were anymore, but the dark made sure I didn’t find any others.

I eventually headed back to my car after my evening stroll making a note to come back during the day when I get a chance. Check out some museums, gardens, restaurants, and maybe a performance.

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Tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument

10929209_10100783519013867_6206459651272006589_nI spent the day exploring The Old Loma Point Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument and as the day got later I headed over to the tidepools as my last stop. The rain had finally stopped and the sun was starting to peer through the clouds. As I looked out toward the ocean I noticed there were 2 surfers out catching waves. I paused for a moment to watch and I longed to be out there with them, but knew that the waves were too strong for me here so I moved on.

1610868_10100783518699497_3103230481242903879_nI made my way over to the tidepool entrance trail which was clearly marked and while everyone else seemed to be confused as to which way to go I took no delay in starting my trek. I walked down the small path and was spit out right by the shore. I took in the sights and listened to the waves crash against the rocks. That sound never gets old. I spotted a couple coming from the distance and headed toward them. To my surprise I found a nice little trail that stretched along the coastal rocks. Since the Bay Trail was closed for repairs that day I was excited to find this new trail to walk instead.

I walked down the path moving further inland and then coming back to the cliffs at water’s edge several times. I found some old stairs that looked like they led down to the water and followed them. I came to some small ledges and more tidal pools. I hung out for a bit watching the waves and exploring the pools. I didn’t find much and decided to start my journey back. The tidepools closed at 4:30pm and it was getting late. I had no way of telling exactly what time it was since my phone had died much earlier in the day.

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As I wandered back I came across a family that seemed to be having a wake of some sort. They tossed roses into the ocean, said a few silent prayers and watched the ashes of their loved one be swept into the ocean. I thought to myself, ‘I’m here to start a new chapter in my life, exploring and seeing new things while they are here to say goodbye. Interesting how people can be in exactly the same place, at the same time, but be feeling two completely different emotions.’ I moved past, not wanting to disturb them or linger too long.

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As I got back to the entrance the traffic of people had really picked up. They must be hopefully the sun will set before a park ranger tells them to leave. I decided not to stay as I had other things I wanted to see. I got in my car and headed off toward my next adventure!

Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument

10915239_10100780977906267_2473415849167361056_nThe Old  Point Loma Lighthouse was on my list of places to see while I was in San Diego, CA. Little did I know it was part of the Cabrillo National Monument with so many other activities to explore around it! I arrived at Cabrillo National Monument, looked at their brochure, and decided to explore the lighthouse first.

The Old Loma Point Lighthouse was active from Nov. 15, 1855 thru Mar. 23, 1891. It’s 422 feet above sea level which seemed like a good place for a lighthouse at the time, but due to the area’s fog and low clouds the light was often faint and concealed from view of the boats in the bay and the ocean waters. A new lighthouse was built closer to the water and at the tip of the Point and has been the current lighthouse ever since.

1898076_10100780978205667_1438286431696455306_nThe Old Loma Point Lighthouse is still on display today with doors open.  As I stepped onto the front door perch and my foot crossed the front doorway I felt as though I had been dropped into a piece of history. I started by taking a peak inside the living rooms, bedrooms and closets. A normal sized person wouldn’t fit in their beds from then and the ceilings were very low. People in the past must have been short!

I ascended the center spiral staircases 3 floors for a chance to see the five foot tall 3rd order Fresnel lens. The ladder to the lens ended at a gate. It was closed off for the day, but as a peered thru it was beautiful. Shiny and clean and in pristine condition. I bet if they lit the light today it would still shine as brightly as it had in the past.

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I descended back down the staircase and headed over to the second building to gain a better understanding of lighthouse history on the West Coast. On display in the center of the room was another amazing lens. Around the outside of the room was information on living situations, the West Coast lighthouses and much more.

The rest of my day consisted of wandering the grounds and checking out the visitor center where I was able to participate in a reenactment from the 16th century. As they dressed me in clothing from the past they explained what I was wearing and why. They also spoke about what each of the men were wearing, why they wore it, what the jobs of a sailor and an army guy consisted of and much more. It was entertaining and a lot of fun, but sorry no pictures. I finished my day at the tide pools but that’s another story.

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Children’s Pool at La Jolla

10689657_10100780446206797_8506605576137678151_nEver want to get up close and personal with some harbor seals and sea lions? I know whenever I see them on TV swimming around I think to myself, ‘Wow, those are ocean dogs!’ They just swim and play without a care in the world. So short of going to an aquarium and paying big bucks for a sea lion encounter or learning to surf or SUP and hoping you come across one in the wild, which I must say does happen from time to time, where is a perfect place for you to go to check them out? The Children’s Pool in La Jolla, CA.

The Children’s Pool was constructed in 1932 to shield the shore from oncoming waves. It became the perfect setting for children to paddle out into the ocean safely, being protected by the new seawall, and an ideal spot for seals to bathe, bask in the sun, and give birth to their young. As the years have past swimming is still allowed, but highly discouraged due to the water quality condition concerns and there have been much controversy as whether to we should preserve the beach for marine life or the children.

10942654_10100780446795617_3237398606227234284_nI stumbled upon The Children’s Pool without even planning it. The goal was to check out La Jolla so I typed it into my iPhone maps and it dropped me off right in the heart of one of the best experience yet! I didn’t even know it until I parked my car and walked over to the sidewalk fence to look at the ocean. I looked down and to my surprise I was standing right above a cliff where people were getting about 5 ft or less from harbor seals and sea lions. I snapped a few shots on my phone and walked further down the way to the entrance.

I briefly scanned the sign, ‘Do NOT approach the seas and sea lions,’ and hurried down the path. It was quite slick from the rain earlier that day, but I managed to shuffle my way to the bottom where everyone else was. And then I was there, face to face with one of the most magnificent animals ever. Two sea lions watched over the group as the rest slept. They were so stoic, standing there poised like statues, barely moving. The ocean waves crashing behind them only added to the beauty. Wow, now this is what I call an adventure!

There were young pups and older ones all scattered around. They blended into the rock and as I moved away from the two on watch I almost stepped on another laying near by. He barked at me and I shifted away. Sorry.

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It started to sprinkle again and it was getting dark so I headed back to the street. On the way I stopped to talk to a photographer. He was taking stunning photos of the cove with long exposures which gave the water this amazing frosted effect. Seeing the pictures he was taking made me long for a better camera and tripod. Maybe next time. I continued down the coastline checking out the rest of La Jolla. This was starting out to be a wondrous trip!

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Hidden Sunny Jim Cave at La Jolla

10940409_10100779336026607_4462539331399142303_nHidden in a store in La Jolla, CA is a door that leads to a tunnel with stairs that you can journey down 144 steps to an ocean cave. They call this cave The Sunny Jim Cave. The cave was formed by marine erosion from the outside and subaerial erosion from within and the tunnel was dug out in 1903. This cave is the largest of The Seven Caves on the California coastline and is the only one known to have land access which was used to smuggle alcohol up from the sea during the prohibition. What an amazing place to explore, and my first stop of the second day in San Diego.

I arrived in La Jolla early morning, ready for an adventure at The Sunny Jim Cave in The Cave Store.  I stopped in at a local cafe,  Goldfish Point Cafe, to grab a bite to eat and the cashier told me they opened their doors at 10am so I took my time eating my muffin and headed over a little after.

10407133_10100780431466337_1262307726586102049_nThe owner to The Cave Store opened the doors right as I arrived and I checked to make sure I was in the right place. He told me I was and I asked to check out their cave. I paid my $5, a small price to pay, and headed to the door entrance. I read the sign and asked him, “145 steps?” He replied, “Actually, it’s 144.” Apparently their sign is wrong and so is the internet. He mentioned to make sure I held onto the railing as the stairs are probably slick due to the haze and rain. I thanked him and thought to myself, ‘Well, here goes nothing.’ I took the first step and started my ascend down into the darkness.

1509314_10100779336316027_5799527596848293765_nSmall lanterns lit the tight and narrow passageway and about 10 steps down I paused giving my eyes a moment to adjust. I could smell the salt in the ocean air, hear the roar of the waves crashing against the rocks below and feel the vibrations rumble through the stairs. ‘This is kind of intense,’ I thought to myself. I held onto the railing and continued down.

The ceiling was low and even though I’m not the tallest person I was concerned for my head. The stairs were very uneven, some short and small, some big and long. As I journeyed down they got slick. I almost stumbled, but caught myself. ‘He wasn’t kidding about holding on!’ I thought as I got to the final step. I walked across the short bridge to the overlook. I stood there for a moment taking it in.

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You could just see across the bay through all the haze. On any other day the view would have been amazing, but on that day it was rainy. However, the real two elements that caught my eye were the boulder and the lines in the walls. The big boulder that had fallen from the ceiling about 20 years ago and I just couldn’t believe that something that big would just fall from the ceiling. Talk about subaerial erosion! And the lines in the cave walls were beautiful. To see all the different soil compositions so clearly distinguished from each other was just captivating.

Other guests arrived and I took that as my cue to head back up the stairs to the store top. An awesome adventure to start my San Diego trip.

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