Tag Archives: State Park

Borrego Palm Canyon’s Panoramic Overlook Trail

IMG_8973After Katie and my fun day with Ranger Don in the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves we headed over the the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Visitor Center to ask about the road conditions in Split Mountain for our plans for the next day. Two days prior I heard that it was do-able in a 2×4 truck, but every day after that everyone kept telling me we needed a 4×4 vehicle. While we were there we decided to take a walk to a short trail out of Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, the Panoramic Overlook Trail.

From the parking lot of the Visitor Center in Borrego Springs we hiked .5 miles along the paved path to the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. It’s kind of cool and has the planets in our solar system placed along the way so you can somewhat see how far apart they all are in terms of a .5 mile.  Once at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground we quickly turned to the left and easily found the start of the Panoramic Overlook Trail, a one mile hike with great views of the Borrego Valley.

The first part of the hike is through the desert valley floor with small shrubs a desert plants along the pathway. Though I tend to feel as though most desert hiking is a little confusing, this trail is pretty straightforward. Basically, just keep walking straight through the sandy ground.

After a short walk you come to a trail marker at the base of a hill. Yep, you guessed it, Panoramic Overlook Trail goes up to the top of that hill. In order to get great views you usually have to be up high overlooking something below. The trail narrows to one person wide and zig zags in small switchbacks all the way up to the top. Take a moment to check out the way the hill was formed. It looks like layers of rock that once laid flat have been pushed up to now lie diagonal across the ground. The colors of the rocks are amazing too, from bright red to dark, almost black colorations.

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As you go, stop occasionally to check out the valley below. The view just gets better and better the further you go. The path stops and there is only one choice left, a short climb up through a narrow and almost no existent path. Once there you are at the top. A collection of big black rocks lay there marking the end of the trail. It almost looks like a fist cheering you for making it to the top.

From the top you can see the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground below. It’s dark paved roads stick out like a sore thumb against the mountains that surround the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. You can also see Borrego Springs, a green thriving town in the middle of a vast brown land scape. If you go in the late afternoon you can watch the sun set on your way back down the hill. I have to say that the sunsets in Borrego Springs are one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. As the sun falls below the mountains to one side it lights the other mountains across the way with brilliant pinks, oranges, and bright reds that you won’t see anywhere else. Pictures can’t seem capture the true essence of the beauty, but I still try every time.

We headed down to the valley floor before the sun had begun to set, but once you are done taking in the view head back down the hill the way you came up. Finding the route you came up on is probably the trickiest part of the whole short hike. It seems like no matter which way you choose you are setting yourself up to fall off the mountain, but once you find it again you will see the narrow path and be able to follow it back down. Once you reach the bottom head back the same desert trail you followed out. Be careful not to veer off it. Usually there is a rock in the center of the path to tell you not to go those ways.

The Panoramic Overlook Trail is a great walk for people of any age to explore. It’s short, easy and everyone will feel comfortable on this gorgeous hike. The views are bound to having you telling all your friends about it time after time.

Giddying Up To Mud Caves with Ranger Don

IMG_8973Katie and I went to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park just a little under 4 hours away from Los Angeles for a weekend getaway. We arrived late in the evening at my friend’s place in Borrego Springs, super close to everything that we wanted to see. I have to say that I absolutely love the Anza-Borrego Desert. Only having been there once before I couldn’t wait to start exploring the desert again.

The next morning we woke up early and took a quick look at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Interpretive Activities. We headed out to Mt. Palm Springs Camp Ground to meet with Ranger Don for an Auto Tour to the mud caves of Arroyo Tapiado. Along the way our phones went in and out of service, but the route was very straight forward and clearly marked except for the final camp ground turn off.

Ranger Don was late due to some kids that were digging a trench in order to film a desert scene in their movie, but once he was there he was ready to go and so excited to show us the mud caves and his section of the park. He spoke to us for a few moments letting us know that we could ask him anything about the park or his job or anything related. Then we all jumped in our cars and followed Ranger Don to the dirt road that led to the mud caves.

Since Katie and I were driving her 2×4 truck we opted to stay right behind Ranger Don. He headed out of the camp ground and didn’t waste any time reaching the dirt road that takes us to the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves. He pulled off the road and let everyone else catch up, then headed down the dirt road and out toward the caves. Pretty much every path reconnected with the original path except at one main turn and then once in the canyon there was only one way to go. It was so much fun!

Being that we were keeping right up with Ranger Don and the rest of the group was falling behind, occasionally Ranger Don would stop his jeep and come talk to us while the others caught up. He reminded us that since we didn’t have a 4×4 if we felt like we were gonna get stuck we should just step on the gas and “giddy up through it.” He also pointed out a little campground Hollywood and Vine that we might camp at sometime this winter and the cave where the young man had recently gotten trapped inside and died. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, the mud caves really are very fragile. They might look intriguing, but it is advised not to go exploring these caves as they can collapse at any time making rescue difficult to impossible. It really was an unfortunate event that they were unable to rescue this young man.

Eventually, we reached the main Arroyo Tapiado mud caves. The first mud cave we saw Ranger Don chose not to have us explore inside. It was right beside a plaque that told us all about the caves which are just walls of dried mud. Over centuries water has been sculpting these canyons and caves and rains and flash floods continue to form and change the tunnels today. Ranger Don told us that according to Google there are about 22 mud caves in the area. He took us to a three that he hadn’t explored in a few years.

The first mud cave that we explored had a small opening about 4ft tall to 4ft wide. We ducked under the low ceiling and came out into a tunnel that was pretty tall. As we followed the tunnel the path it became pitch black. Good thing we had borrowed Ranger Don’s flash light or we would not have been able to see anything. The cave become narrow in some sections and wider in others. Some places you had to climb over, duck under or scurry around to continue into the darkness. It seemed to go on and on forever. We eventually decided that the others were waiting for us so we headed back to the beginning of the tunnel.

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Ranger Don told us that some of the mud caves go straight through the mountains and come out the other side in complete darkness while others end up on the top of the mountains and have openings along the way. It all just depends on which you explore. He took us to the next cave which the entrance had been blocked by a huge chunk of stone that had fallen from above. I squeezed underneath and came to a short pathway that led back into a big open room with a large opening at the top. If it wasn’t just dried mud it would have been a rock climber’s dream. I could only think that when it rained water might run down the wall similar to a waterfall. There was one small tunnel to the side, but the slit was so small no one of our group could fit through it.

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The last mud cave we explored had extremely high walls and many open ceilings. It was beautiful. We left the group for a moment and followed the path back where dried mud walls would slant across the path and we would dip beneath them for a few moments and soon be in another open section. It was interesting to see how the mud sat in layers within the walls and bubbled in others. Realizing we had been gone for a while we hurried back to the entrance to say our goodbyes to Ranger Don. I got a picture with him and his truck and then we followed him back out to the main road.

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I have to say Katie and I had a great time that day and for not having had much desert driving experience Katie did an awesome job driving and following Ranger Don. By the end of our tour we had ear to ear smiles and Ranger Don was a big party of it! I am so grateful that the Rangers at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park make time for visitors and truly enjoy showing guests around the area.

Spooner’s Cove in Montana De Oro

IMG_8973On our way home from Morro Bay State Park Katie and I stopped by Montana De Oro State Park. It is only about 15 miles south of Morro Bay. With the girls still with us I had found a beach in the park that they were allowed to run around on and enjoy with us, Spooner’s Cove.

Once we finally found Montana De Oro State Park, the campground, and the visitor center or what used to be the Pecho’s family ranch house we headed to the beach just below. We parked in the lot in front of Spooner’s Cove, leashed up the girls, and headed out to check out the beach. Punky was ecstatic. She barked and barked as we trudged through the rough white sand until we reached the water’s edge where she continued to bark until Katie finally picked her up to calm her.

At the water’s edge the sand became coarse rocks, sea glass, and shells about the size of mini chocolate chips. We jumped to the rugged rocks to explore the tidal pools. Slippery with algae we cautiously moved out toward the sea slowly as we looked at bigger and bigger pools. We found fish, snails, and small crabs living within the crevices.

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It got so slippery that we decided to head back. As I jumped back to the beach my foot sunk deep into the coarse sand and the water rushed into my sneaker. Not discouraged by my now wet shoe we continued to explore, walking along the shoreline in the bay. There were two scuba divers in the water and another man fishing along the shore. The birds were scavenging a fish skeleton and Frankie couldn’t resist charging toward them and sending them flying away. She absolutely loves running along the beach.

We examined the south side of the cove, took some pictures of the interesting rock figurations and formations and explored a bit more. If we didn’t have the girls we might have explored even further, but our time had run out. We needed to get home for a concert. We headed back to the truck with smiles upon all of our faces happy about the day, explorations, and sights we had come across.

Spooner’s Cove is fun for everyone. I can only imagine how much I would enjoy it in the summer. Laying on the beach, swimming in the gentle waves, exploring the rocks and trails along the shoreline, and diving among the fish. Seeing everything the area has to offer was all I could think about while I was there. It seems like a perfect summer vacation spot.

Schnauzers on the Black Hill Trail

IMG_8973While in Morro Bay Katie and I went on a hike with her two dogs, Punky and Frankie. From the campsite we jumped in our truck and headed out of the campground until we realized that the trail was actually right in the Morro Bay State Park. We parked back at our campsite and walked to the end of the campground past the group sites where the trailhead was located.

We reached the trailhead of Black Hill Trail, a 3 mile round trip hike that dogs are allowed to traverse and started our trek across a field surrounded by grass and short scrubs. As we continued the trail crossed a street and then declined for a short time before it narrowed between tall trees. At this point we started to see small red and green leaves all around us so we held Frankie and Punky in close to our sides. Poison oak lay along the edges of the trail for the rest of the hike.

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The trail started it’s incline, finishing at a total elevation of 600ft, along a dirt path with fences at different points along the way to discourage mountain bikers. Switchbacks then tracked back and forth up the hill side. With each step we took we rose higher and our view of Morro Bay and the surrounding area became better and better.

We came across a small building and just past that came to a medium sized parking lot that could hold about 30 cars. Turns out we could have skipped the whole mile of the trail and drove to about .5 miles from the top. Here, we took a small break for water for the dogs and a few pictures.

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Then we continued to the top of the hill where the scrubs and trees had disappeared and bright gold rock covered the surface. We scurried up the rocks and took in the final view. We could see the bay to the west and north, the marshland to the south, and even the land and valley filled with trees to the east.

After we had our fill of the view we headed back down the same trail we used to reach the top. It was a much quicker trip as most of it was now down hill. With the two girls at our sides we reached the bottom without any problems well before sunset.

Black Hill Trail is a great place to hike with or without a dog. The trail is well kept and easy to follow. A good trail for people of all ages and levels. Also, while we were there we were pretty secluded. On our 3 mile hike we saw 1 other dog and about 6 other people. If you are ever camping at Morro Bay, Black Hill Trail is a hike with views of the bay that you don’t want to miss.

Camping in Morro Bay State Park

IMG_8973On the weekend before Thanksgiving Katie and I headed up north to Morro Bay State Park with Punky and Frankie for a short weekend of camping fun. We arrived late at night and the campground was completely full. We quickly lit a fire and the proceeded to set up our tent and sleeping spot as the girls patiently waited in the car, or not patiently as pinky wouldn’t stop whining.

Once we were set up the girls came out for bathroom break and then we all huddled by the small fire to try to warm up. Within 30 minutes I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and Frankie started growling towards another campsite. That was our first encounter with the coyotes. We decided the girls would be safer in the car and within another 10 minutes the ranger drove through the park following another coyote through the campground. We decided to call it a night soon afterwards and all climbed into the tent. It was very cold so we huddled together for warmth with Frankie under the covers in the middle and Punky under them on the side.

When we awoke we clambered out into the crisp air to a whole new world around us. Everyone was up making breakfast so we slowly started our day. I made the fire while Katie walked the girls. Once again our wood was not the best, but we managed to heat up our burritos and some hot chocolate. The girls settled in their crate as the morning slowly wasted away.

Once most of the other campers had left we took Punky and tethered her to our table and then I played a little with Frankie as she at her breakfast. Eventually we decided to go on a hike within the campground called Black Hill Trail which took a couple hours and then we were back at our campsite relaxing again.

With the time change and the shorter days it got pretty late without us even noticing it. By 5pm we were already starting dinner and dessert, chicken sausages and banana boats. We started dinner so early we even had time for second dessert, s’mores with real graham crackers from Trader Joe’s.

As we sat by the fire and the night air grew colder Katie put Punky in the crate again and wrapped her up like a little burrito in her favorite fluffy blanket. Another two coyotes came around, but this time Punky was the only one to let us know as Frankie was huddled under my sweatshirt sleeping. We burned as much wood as we could, our fire hot with white flames and so large it encompassed the entire pit. Staying warm was the only thing we thought of.

We headed to sleep and this night the girls were a little less cuddly. Katie and I thought it was colder the second night than the first, but the girls must have adapted to the cold quickly since they chose not to sleep under the covers that night.

The following morning we were up earlier. We made breakfast, packed up our supplies, and said goodbye to Morro Bay State Park. It’s definitely a nice place to stay. You are within walking distance from a dock where you can rent kayaks, a little cafe called Bayside Cafe, a nice hike, and a golf course. Put it on your bucket list if you are into just relaxing camping trips.

Ewoldsen Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

IMG_8973While camping up in Big Sur I wanted to make sure Katie and I tried a hike since there are so many in that area. I googled some and found the perfect one only 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park called Ewoldsen Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It has the best of everything that Big Sur has to offer from spectacular ocean views to redwood groves and forests. I was super excited to give it a try.

We headed down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and pulled into the lot. The sign read parking $10, but since we were camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park our parking was free with our fee at the campsite. The lot was packed so we parked along the road on the way back out as someone left. I believe there is also free parking on the main road before you turn into the state park too.

After we parked we filled our camel packs and headed to the restroom and then to the head of the trail. Ewoldsen Trail is clearly marked to the left side of the entrance after you reach the small ranger house. It is a 4.5 mile loop hike with a 1,600ft elevation gain. It’s about 1 mile out to the 2 mile loop where you follow the same mile back to the start. And since you’re doing the 2 mile loop make sure you don’t miss the small jaunt uphill to the look out and the end of the trail.

Katie and I set out on the trail without much guidance and immediately were in the middle of huge redwood trees. We crossed the McWay Creek a few times back and forth over rocks and small wooden planks. In our back and forth we accidentally missed the sign for the first turn off to the Ewoldsen Trail and followed the creek until it dead ended at a 30 ft high gentle waterfall full of moss and green lush plant life called Canyon Falls.

We took a few pictures while getting attacked by small flies. Then, knowing time was of the essence due to the time change we quickly backtracked to the sign we had missed. If you’re going to hike the trail and want to skip the waterfall keep to the right of the creek.

We stood at the trail sign for a moment deciding if we had time. What the heck, we’ll give it a shot. If it starts to get dark before we hit the lookout we will just turn around and come back. Besides, there were still people on the trail heading out with us and it was only about 3pm.

We followed the trail to the right and up on some switchbacks. We zigzagged up and up and waited for the trail to level off which it rarely did. There were steeper and less steep sections, but it was almost always up. It felt as if the trail would never stop going up. We passed through groves of redwood trees and others labeled along the trail, each a little different than the last. We passed huge redwood trees standing on the trail hallowed out from who knows and even more lying on the ground cut down with the cuts completely smoothed by the weather.

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We came to a large bridge and finally decided it was time to ask someone how much father the 2 mile loop was down the trail. It seemed like we had been walking forever and being in the canyon the sun was shaded by the trees, shrubs, and mountain around us. We asked a couple and the guy told us the loop was another 5 minutes down the trail, that the loop should take us about an hour, and that we should be sure to take the turn off to the lookout when we reach it. It’s worth it was his reasoning.

We continued for another 15 minutes and finally reached the beginning of the loop. We spoke with a lady and man and she told us the loop was 2 miles long, which we already knew, but seeing her do it made us feel as though it would easily be accomplished. Then we realized that she didn’t finish the trail as she said the trial is easier to the right and she came from that way. She must have walked out as far as she could and then turned around. Still determined we could do it, we started up the trail to the right.

The trail continued with more elevation, but not as much as the beginning. It continued to zigzag back and forth and around curves. We placed our feet carefully as the trail was riddled with roots peeking out that we occasionally stumbled over our ankles giving out a few times when we landed on one smaller than expected. With a mountain ridge to one side and a long steep decline into scrubs and brush below falling was not something we wanted anything to do with. The trail steepened and I knew the turn off must be getting close.

Another couple passed us and shortly afterward we came to the turn off to the lookout. The trail steepened again and we headed up without giving much thought to how we would have to come back down that same section of the trail. We reached a map with the intersecting trails on it and headed left to a beautiful overlook. Further down we finally reached a bench and a sign that read “End of Trail”. We stopped here for a short rest taking in the view and eating some power bars to energize us for the 2nd half of the loop we would need to take back. We could see the yellow grass to the end of the cliff, the rocks and crystal blue water below, and then the ocean and clouds above the horizon for as far as we could see. It was incredible.

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The views didn’t stop at the lookout. As we continued the loop there were several clearings that gave us great views of the ocean. One where we were right on the edge of the cliff and another that you could see between the canyon ridges. We turned a corner and suddenly were back in the canyon trekking down between redwoods again. The way down went a lot faster than up even though the trail was trickier in some sections. Our pace just seemed to increase with each step we took and before we knew it we were back where the loop began.

We headed back out on the same 1 mile section we came in on and as we reached the original first turn onto the trail we realized where we should have crossed the small wooden plank the first time and skipped climbing the rocks across. We exited the trail with about 20 minutes to spare before sunset. Just in time.

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Katie and I both really enjoyed this hike. Katie even said it was one of the best hikes she’s been on with me yet. I’m not sure this one is great for people of all ages as along the trail we saw one elderly lady that turned back and another elderly man that had fallen and gotten hurt. I would say this trail is great for those that are somewhat in shape. Older children could probably do it pretty easily, though there are some tricky sections that they might need help with. All in all, this hike’s views are definitely worth the effort.

Camping at Big Sur State Park

IMG_8973Last weekend Katie and I headed to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for a weekend of camping. We had heard early in the week there was a chance of rain on Monday, the  final day we planned to be there. As the weekend drew near and it got closer for us to pack up and leave the report had showed more and more possibilities of it being a sun filled weekend. We were excited and ready to explore Big Sur as much as we could in the short time we would be there.

We headed up to Big Sur late Saturday afternoon with our camping gear knowing there was still a chance of rain but hoping the weather would hold out for us. We drove down the 101, the sunsetting just as we reached Avila Beach. Then we crossed over to route 1 which we winded our way up the coast. It had gotten dark and with a cliff and ocean to one side and a mountain to the other we slowly drove until we finally reached where the GPS said the campground would be. Not seeing it, but knowing it was nearby we continued on stopping at the Big Sur Station to call Katie’s parents and ask if they knew where it was. Another 1/2 mile down the road we pulled into the campground glad we found it and feeling that it was still early enough in the night to get everything ready and have a massive campfire.

We drove slowly through the now pitch black campground with only our truck headlights leading the way. We headed over the bridge and then down a one way street stopping at each sign we saw, inching our way closer to our site #180.  We finally got there and Katie backed the truck into its spot. We scanned the site for a perfect tent location and moved the small rocks away. We set down our tarp and I put up our tent while Katie pulled out our gear and firewood.

Then, while Katie set up the air mattress I started the fire. With in a few minutes it was lit and I was just coaxing it to catch onto the bigger, denser, and still somewhat wet wood. Once it was a decent size we ate our sausages and then made banana boats before calling it a night to sleep on our what we realized now was a partially deflated air mattress. Somewhere along the way our mattress got a hole in it. First thing on our last for the next day, get a new one.

We woke up the next morning on the hard Big Sur dirt floor. I got up and started a fire without using any matches, just the hot smoldering dense log we had left to die the night before and what I now realize are the best things ever, a few pieces of Starbuck’s coffee cup holders. My fire lit faster than it had the previous night and we heated up our breakfast burritos while we ate oat bars and apples.

We let the fire die down and got ready for the day. We headed to REI and the Target about an hour away and then went for a hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We came back to the campsite after dark again, this time due to the time change. I started our fire back up again without using any matches, it was still warm from earlier that morning a few hour ago.

We cooked our sausages and then had s’mores that night. Afterward we sat by the campfire talking for a while until we felt like having a second round of sausages and s’mores. We continued talking as we looked at the stars above us. It was crazy how bright the stars are when there is no other light washing them away. We sat watching the fire burn late into the night until we finally decided it was time for bed.

Early in the morning I awoke to rain drops on the tent. Too early for me to want to get up I reached outside to make sure our shoes were under the flap and tried to fall back asleep. A few minutes later I was awoken by an even more intense rain and I knew that it would be too difficult for me to sleep in any longer. I laid there wondering if the tent really was waterproof, so far so good, but it had just started to get heavy. When I couldn’t stand laying there doing nothing any longer I made my way out to the car to get my rain gear and then headed to the bathroom. I got back to the tent and tried to sleep some more. It was too noisy for me though and that’s when I realized that I forgot to bring my book into the tent from the car.

I laid there looking up and noticed a bug that looked like some kind of beetle. Compelled to move it off our tent I flicked at it and it grew to double it’s size with 8 creepy legs catching back onto the tent as it fell. From that moment on I was the defender of the front of the tent. I told the spider it could coexist with us as long as it stayed on the back half of the tent and didn’t attempt to block my exit. I thought we had an agreement until I made it’s move toward the front. I flicked at it and it scurried back. I laid there watching it’s every move. Allowing it to climb all over the back of the tent but not allowing it to adventure onto the front. Katie got up to use the restroom and eventually I could take it no longer. I told the spider that it was time to go and gave it one flick sending it to the floor below.  It tried to scurry it’s way back up the tent once more but by now I had made up my mind. It had broken the rules and it was time for it to go. One last flick and it was gone.

We climbed out of the tent and started to pack up our things. Even though it was raining we wanted to heat up our breakfast burritos so I tried to make a fire. It took us about an hour or so to get it started, but eventually with a little help from some dry cardboard, lighter fluid, wet wood, matches, an umbrella, and some charcoal the neighbors left the other day we did it. It lasted just long enough to heat our food up and then we let it die as the rain fell upon it. Any wood we had left was too wet to continue it, so wet that the few pieces we put on it hardly were able to dry enough to burn with any vibrance.

We packed up our gear within an hour, finishing at 12:05pm just after our set check-out time and just as the rain stopped. We ran to the bathroom, threw out our trash and stopped at the Big Sur Lodge to get myself a magnet and some postcards before heading north toward Carmel to start our day.

Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was so much fun and definitely somewhere everyone should camp at least once. Next time I go I hope to be able to check out some of their trails, many of which were closed while we were there. Maybe we can even try some fishing.