Tag Archives: trail

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.

McWay Waterfall Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

IMG_8973Katie and I were hiking on our camping trip in Big Sur. We had just finished exploring all that the Ewoldsen Trail had to offer and had made it back to the parking lot with a few minutes left until sunset. I really wanted to show Katie the McWay Waterfall so we headed towards the ocean.

We easily found the beginning of the McWay Waterfall Trail just past the ranger’s station at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We walked down the short trail dirt path and through the tunnel that goes under route 1 stopping at a T right before a cliff. We turned right and started up toward the overlook.

As soon as we could see the waterfall we stopped. We never made it to the end of the trail as the sun had begun to set and there was a crowd of people standing at the overlook. We took in the sunset, the small cove, and the 80 ft waterfall that fell onto the sandy beach below from where we stood. It was a gorgeous site to see. Possibly one of the best sunsets ever as the sun streaked stunning pinks, oranges and reds across the sky.

The McWay Waterfall Trail is a short .5 mile trek. The trail is great for all ages and every ability level. With a small incline, the cool ocean breeze keeps the walk comfortable even on hot days and there’s a bench at the end if you need a rest before you make your short walk back to the car. Parking is free if you can find a spot on route 1, otherwise park in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for $10.  The waterfall itself is one of the most popular images people see when they think of Big Sur. Almost everyone that has travelled up route 1 has stopped to see it as it’s a must visit place if you are ever in Big Sur. It’s right up there with the Bixby Creek Bridge.

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.

Razor, Yucca, & Beach Trail at Torrey Pines

IMG_8973For a little less than a year now I have wanted to check out some of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Trails down in San Diego. Specifically the Beach Trail is the one that everyone has spoke to me about. They told me of the beautiful beach and the ocean views from lookout points as you make your way through the different scenery with bushes, trees, and sculpted sandstone until you finally reach the beach and what they call the Flat Rock. A couple weekends ago I finally got my chance when Katie and I were in La Jolla for a short weekend trip.

We headed over early in the morning to the north entrance, paid our $15 parking fee and drove up toward the Visitor’s Center to park near the start of the Beach Trail. Turns out the center was closed on the day we went, but they had a temporary information booth set up at the beginning of the trail. The sky was still covered with the morning haze, but we grabbed a map, took a few minutes to look at it and headed out on our hike.

Instead of just taking the .75 mile trail to the beach and Flat Rock and back we decided to add a little distance and see a few more destinations along the way. We started out on the Beach Trail. The trail is very clearly marked with occasional fences and wires in case there were any questions of the dirt path surrounded with bushes. Within .1 mile we came upon an option to take the Razor Trail, which we had decided we would do. We followed it and in about 5 minutes we had reached the Red Butte, a big compressed sandstone structor. We climbed around on top of it and took a few pictures before continuing down the well kept path toward Razor Point.

We trekked down stairs and passed distant ocean view overlooks. There were several very interesting looking trees and spots were we could see how the wind had weathered away the stone on our short trail to Razor Point overlook. It looked mystifying. We couldn’t quite figure out how the holes were created. They couldn’t have been manmade. Eventually we reached the point and the path ended into a sharp narrow section which  people were not allowed to venture out onto. I could only imagine the grown sliding away underneath someone’s feet and them tumbling down the cliff to the beach below. That wouldn’t be pleasant. We could see the ocean and beach below even though it was still hazy. It was beautiful.

We continued over toward Yucca Point, our next destination as the haze began to fade away. The trail began to get very warm as we got closer, but reaching the point gave us some relief as the cool breeze washed over us. It was very similar to Razor Point only it was much more rounded with two overlooks to watch the ocean from. If we looked toward the south we could see Flat Rock, our final destination. It looked so small from where we were standing.

As we headed back over to the connection between the Yucca and Beach Trail the sun only got hotter and hotter. We walked down numerous stairs and finally came to a clearing with stairs that led up and over toward Broken Hill Trail and a path that pointed down towards the beach. We headed down the passage as the trail narrowed and then gave us one final look at Flat Rock before it narrowed even more and became metal steps.

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Our last step landed us on the sand below the towering cliffs, just a short walk from Flat Rock. We made our way over, staying clear of the base of the cliff just in case the sandstone fell like it has before. Right as the rock and cliff meet we scrambled around and made our way over to the other side. We were trying to find the easiest and least likely way of getting wet to get onto Flat Rock. It didn’t seem to matter much so we waited for the waves to rush out, waded into the water. The cool water was quite refreshing.  We made our way to the little stair-like crack that everyone was using to climb up and down and we quickly scurried up before the waves came.

We took some time exploring the tide pools on Flat Rock. They were so much fun to explore. Each hole and crack had something else for us to see. We saw a few fish, many small crabs, and even some snails that had gotten trapped as the ocean’s tide lowered beneath the rock.

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By the time we decided to head back the haze from the morning had completely lifted. Walking up the Beach Trail, which was the most direct route back to the parking lot was not as easy as any of the other trails we had taken that morning. What we didn’t realize, was that the Beach Trail was also the route with the most stairs and we would no longer be walking along the water’s edge so our breeze would be gone. Plus, the sun had also gotten very high as it was somewhere around noon and it was extremely hot that day. We made it to our car, but we took a few water breaks along the way. As we reached our car we were glad we were done. It was fun, but the heat made it exhausting.

The trails at Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve are great fun for every age. Old or young there is somewhere to hike for everyone. Stay on the beach for a cool relaxing walk or get a great workout by taking a trek from the top of the hill to the beach and back for something a little more rigorous. Whatever you choose it is sure to be an adventurous and fun filled day.

Stellar Jays, Bats, Sunsets, & a Rustic Ski Lodge at Mt. Pinos

IMG_8973My friend Katie and I headed up to the cabin in Mt. Pinos for the weekend and what an experience it was. Mt. Pinos is about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, in the Los Padres National Forest. It is off Route 5 past Pyramid Lake. In the summer it the average temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s while in the winter it gets a lot of snow. Luckily, we were there in the spring, but it was still very hot.

We left late on a Saturday evening, stopping for a pizza as we got close. As the sunset and the last of the light left the sky the bats came out. It was my first experience seeing so many of them feed I was extremely excited. Walking up and into the pizza shop I kept spinning around trying to see them all and hoping I wouldn’t miss any. The following night I was in for a surprise and was able to watch them for at least half an hour as they had their lavish dinner. They flew sporadically through the sky zipping back and forth and up and down. It was so interesting to watch, I sat there completely captivated by their every move. As each one disappeared I found myself yearning for another to come swooshing past until the last of the light was gone and their feast was complete.

We got our pizza and some beer and finished our drive to the cabin. We arrived very late and struggled to find our way bringing in our stuff in the dark. We settled in and called it a night soon after, making sure to be well rested for our next morning.

We awoke the next morning and it was quite chilly. We headed upstairs, started a fire and put seeds in the bird feeder on the balcony. Soon there were so many Stellar Jays that it was hard to count them. They were gorgeous with their blue and black feathers and their pointy heads. I asked Katie if she ever let them feed from her hand and she said that she hadn’t, but her friend had. I decided to give it a try. I was so nervous the bird might miss and get my finger so I held real still with a peanut in the palm of my hand completely flat. I tried to watch out of the corner of my eye as the bird sized me up to see if I was a threat or going to trap it. It slowly got closer, keeping an eye on me and eventually decided to trust me enough to snatch the peanut. It was so quick I almost missed it as it swooped in and barely even touched me. I can’t tell if it was his wing or the air that I felt on my finger tips it was so fast. The next day I tried again and this time the bird was much slower and one of his friends also took one from my hand too. I can only imagine that if I could do this for a few months straight I could have that bird sitting calmly on my finger tips.

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We made french toast with cinnamon raisin bread that was delicious and topped it with blueberries. The following day we smashed bananas into the egg mix and covered the bread which made the french toast even better. I thought it was so delicious that when I got home I recommended all my friends try it sometime. So next time your home has eggs, milk, cinnamon raisin bread, and bananas in it make some.

We decided to go out for a drive so I could see the area. We checked out the country club and then drove over to Mt. Able where there’s an old ski lodge at a campground. The ski lodge is no longer open. It is all locked up and closed down, but it was interesting to explore the area a bit. With what looks like an old fire pit where people used to stand to get warm, the big lodge, a smaller building which might have been where they rented equipment and another smaller building where people might have changed there was a lot to explore. Oh, and the pine cones were huge! Like the size of my entire hand, all over the ground everywhere. While I was there I couldn’t help wonder what happened and why the ski lodge closed down. I tried to google it when I got home, but I couldn’t find anything about it on any relevant websites.

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We headed back to the cabin and stopped for a moment to take some pictures of one of the strangest things I’ve seen. The trees on the side of the road were standing with half of their root exposed due to the erosion of the dirt from underneath them and down the side of the mountain. Since we were stopped anyway we  hung around to watch the sunset as well. It was stunning as you can see in the pictures below. So beautiful full of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples. We headed to get something to eat but everything was closed so we went back to the cabin, came up with leftovers and then called it a night.

The following day we decided to go on a short hike on a trail not too far down the road from the cabin. We walked to the end of the road and reached the trailhead. The trail was a narrow dirt path with rocks lining the edges making it very distinguishable between the rest of the woods. The trail was surrounded with plant life which also helped and right along a creek. The water was moving extremely slow in the creek which is a great breeding ground for bugs but meant that if we stopped even for a few seconds they were all over us trying to get a taste. We quickly followed the creek until we came to a huge tree laying on it’s side. It looked like someone had been in the area and chopped a bunch of them down and just left them to rot. On our way back I found a huge walking stick with these really cool bug made grooves in it. My plan was to cut it down, remove the extra wood sticking out at the branch sites and paint it with something to make it even smoother. I carried the stick all the way back to the cabin and we tied it into the back of Katie’s truck. It was so big it stuck out the back. I can’t wait to see what the finished project is gonna look like.

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We got back to the cabin, cleaned up the place and then headed home. What a great weekend it was. So many new things to see and try. Who would have thought going to the cabin at Mt. Pinos would allow you to feed Stellar Jays, see bats feed in the night sky, explore an old ski lodge and hiking trail, have amazing french toast and see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

Lizard Rock & Paradise Falls at Wildwood Park

IMG_8973My friend Arpy and I went for a hike at Wildwood Park to check out Lizard Rock, Paradise Falls, the teepee, and Indian Cave. The park is located in Thousand Oaks, CA and we had mapped out a route to make it about a 4-5 mile hike or so we thought. According to some websites the route to Paradise Falls is 2.5 miles, adding on about 1 mile to make the additional trek to Lizard Rock. However, there are so many paths once you are inside the park and head out to Lizard Rock that it starts to get confusing even with a map. Some trails are not on the map while other trails seem to be missing from the land. Our hike ended up being about 8 miles after we were all finished exploring, getting lost, and seeing the different attractions we planned on seeing.

In general, the hike was supposed to be pretty easy. We started out on the main trail, Mesa Trail, and headed toward Lizard Rock. The trail was wide, smooth, had a gradual incline and descend to start and looked promising. You could see the mountains in the distance as we walked through fields of high, dried, golden grass. We passed many cacti and easily followed the signs marked along the pathway.

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As we approached Lizard Rock the trail signs became few and far between, but we were able to easily navigate the map and figure out the correct way to go. The route gradually got harder with a steep incline. At the end of our climb we finally spotted Lizard Rock. We took some time exploring the area, climbed up onto the top of the rock, and took pictures. We were excited we made it and it didn’t seem that far from where we started, maybe a little over a mile or so.

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Things were going well, so we headed down the zigzag switchbacks, down the steep mountain on our way to our next stop, Paradise Falls. We followed the only trail available which on the map had us believe that it would only take about a mile to reach the waterfall. This route seemed to take forever though. We didn’t see any paths to take along the way and it took us far out of the way, pass a lake that wasn’t even on the map. When we finally passed the water treatment facility on our right I knew we were back on track. At least we were finally in an area where we would hopefully be able to find ourselves on the map.

The path became very narrow with plant growth on both sides and we started to follow a river. We hoped this would lead us to the waterfalls. We crossed the river at this really cool double tree in the middle of it and came to a picnic area. We finally passed a side trail noted on the map and stayed to the trail we thought would be the most direct route. This turned out to be a dead end so we double backed and tried the other trail.

Up and down multiple staircases and down trails with beautiful views and overgrowth of plants we hoped we were heading in the right directions. We finally came to another river crossing and a campground on the other side. We crossed and were at we thought was Skunk’s Hollow. A sign in the area read “Hoegeman’s Hollow.” We found a bathrooms, water fountains, and a really cool fire pit. I scouted the area for a bit to see which way we should go and luckily was able to find another sign nearby that pointed the way to Oak Grove which meant we were headed in the right direction to Paradise Falls.

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Just a little father and we finally arrived at the 40 ft waterfall, Paradise Falls. We were so happy to finally have finally reached it. We climbed down the stairs and reached the Arroyo Conejo and Paradise Falls’ pool. No one else was there except a couple people that looked like they were having a photoshoot. I found a dry path to cross the creek and climbed the rocks on the opposite side to get a better view. It was absolutely beautiful with it’s strong flowing water, green algae and yellow stained rocks contrasting against the dark water, green plant life, and brown rocks.

The temperature down by the base of the falls was much cooler than above. If there weren’t signs posted about not swimming due to water quality I would have taken a dip in the pool and swam right under the falls. We hung out for a bit taking it in and resting up for the rest of our hike back.

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Eventually we decided to leave. On the way back we stopped by the teepee. I’m not really sure exactly what the big attraction is, but it’s a man made wooden teepee with a fire pit in the middle of it. It took us all of a minute to look at it and then we moved on. Our last stop was at the Indian Cave, which was very interesting. We climbed up inside and through it and it put us out on a few smaller trails that overlooked another field. The view was nice, but the most fun part was crawling through the cave to get there. The rocks were rounded and it looked like there was even a little spot that used to be used for fires and cooking or such.

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We headed back to the car, once again picking the not most direct route, but it was a nice walk along another creek and brought us to another smaller waterfall. When we finally reached the road we were grateful to see the parking lot and some civilization. I couldn’t convince Arpy to walk through the field instead of along the road though. She was done.

What a fun hike. So much to see, so many different trails to try. As long as you stay inside the main park you shouldn’t have too hard of a time figuring it out. The signs are pretty clear to Lizard Rock, Paradise Falls, the teepee, and Indian Cave. It’s the trek from Lizard Rock to Paradise Falls that is iffy and hard to figure out. Definitely check it out next time you’re in the area though.

Beautiful Views at Doe Mountain Trail

IMG_8973My friend Caroline and I had only a little time left in Sedona Arizona before we had to head back to Los Angeles. We wanted to do a hike so I picked out one from my book, Sedona’s Top 10 Hikes by Dennis Andres, I got from the Oak Creek Visitor CenterDoe Mountain Trail was it’s name and it was said to have some of the best views of all the hikes nearby.

We headed through Sedona on 89A and took a right at a light onto Dry Creek Road, heading north. We reached a T and turned left onto Boynton Road and followed that until we hit another T taking another left onto Boynton Pass Road. The trail was down the road on the left, right off a big parking lot at the base of the mountain. If you reach Aerie Road you have gone too far.

As we arrived at the base of the trail and looked up to the mountain top Caroline and I caught ourselves thinking, ‘We’re going to hike all the way up there in just under a mile? This is gonna be tough.’ But the book informed us that the hike and trail would be moderate difficulty with many switchbacks making the journey a gradual climb up the mountain side. It stated that we would barely notice that we were going up at all with the trail being so gentle and it would be easy to lose our focus.

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As we started our journey we saw two older folks that looked like they hiked often on their way back down the mountain and felt a sigh of relief. ‘If they can do it surely we can do it,’ we thought to ourselves. We headed down the trail, past some trail markers and the sign in book, which we opted not to sign. Before we knew it we were at the base of the mountain and as we looked back toward the car, we were already up above it in the parking lot below.

We began our climb up the mountain and the dirt path narrowed as we reached the switchbacks. We curved around bends and climbed over rocks back and forth, each level leading to a longer distance of walking before reaching the next turn. The dirt was dark red and trees were perfectly green making for a beautiful contrast of colors. We gained elevation pretty quickly and each time we stopped to look at the view there was a drastic difference as we got higher and higher.

Trail was a little tricky and I stumbled a few times as my focus was on the scenery around me not what was under my feet. I tried to stay alert for the occasional rock, stump, and super narrow spots where you have to climb up the rocks or up some stairs without falling down the side of the mountain. The last thing I wanted to end my trip with was with a long tumble down to the bottom of the mountain.

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We reached just below the top of the mountain and noticed an arrow pointing the way back down. Just past this was the last climb up through a narrow chute bringing us to the top. We stopped for a moment to take in the view of where we had come from. It was beautiful. We also took a moment to take one last look at our remaining route up. Cacti scattered the edge of the mountain ridge and gave an interesting and drastic look that you can’t see anywhere else.

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As we came out of the chute I made a mental note of where it was so that we could find our way back. We started to head across the flat top of the mountain. At this point the trail becomes lost with only a few old markers left to guide you. Some have arrows, some do not, but luckily you can usually see the next one from the one before. After a short jaunt we came to the other side where it was even more beautiful than where we came from. Words cannot even describe it.

Instead of heading toward the east, like the book suggested my friend and I opted to take the walk through the different cacti, trees, and over uneven rocks to see if we could reach the other end of the mountain. We passed more amazing views and crossed over and coyote poo and tracks. We made it pretty far on our own trail, sticking close to the edge not to lose our way. We eventually came to one last overlook that we felt was worthy of our final pictures. It was getting late and we still had to climb down and drive all the way home so we decided to head back.

We found the chute we came up and climbed down it. It’s really the only way up or down that’s safe and won’t leave you on the wrong side of the mountain or stranded half way down the side of the mountain according to the book. The trek down the mountain gave us a slightly different view, but it was just as magnificent.

Doe Mesa Trail is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never seen views anything like it anywhere else. As I continue my travels, I hope to find many places just as beautiful if not more beautiful than it. Even though it rained on and off during our hike I will never forget it. It’s one of those hikes that I will be sure to do again next time I am in Sedona and I hope that you will get to try it too.

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Choose Your Own Adventure Red Rock Crossing at Cathedral Rock

IMG_8973On my trip to Sedona Arizona with my friend I purchased a book of hikes from the Oaks Creek Visitor Center and was eager to try an easy one. We settled on Red Rock Crossing which is said to have beautiful views of Cathedral Rock.

We pulled up to Crescent Moon Ranch of the Coconino National Forest ready to start our hike. Since it was Memorial Day weekend parking in many of the parks was free, but because we got there pretty late in the day the lot was full. Not a great way to start our hike, but we weren’t concerned about it. We were excited to see Cathedral Rock.

We found a spot on the side of the road about .5 miles away and walked to the park. It was a little confusing to find the start of the trail since the park did not have proper maps that placed our hike on them, but with the help of the book we eventually found what we thought was the beginning.

As we headed to the beginning of the trail, far to the back of the park and past the OK ranch and first homestead on this site we stopped for a moment to view the ranch that still stands there today. In the late 1800’s Jon Lee dug new channels to bring water to this homestead. The water was used for irrigation, watering livestock, night baths, and cool drinking water. As the homestead grew and thrived they were able to sustain peaches, apricot, apple, plum and grape orchards in the early 1900’s. In the 1930’s they ordered a custom built water wheel that can still be seen today. With this wheel they were able to pump enough water to fill storage tanks and provide electricity to the ranch.

We reached the beginning of the dirt path that runs along Oak Creek and started to follow it. We stayed to the south path, but if you can figure out how to cross the creek without getting wet there is also a north path to explore. I believe there are a few main places to cross. One is at the very beginning, instead of walking toward Cathedral Rock walk away from it. There’s a small dam-like rock path that you might be able to cross over that we didn’t find until we were leaving. Another is farther down with three branches over a fast section of water, but looked super slippery while we were there. Other hikers also say that there were places to cross further down than that, but my friend and I didn’t find any of them.

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My friend and I stuck to the south path which was beautifully covered by trees with little openings to the creek that allow for amazing picture opportunities of Cathedral Rock. We hugged the creek most of the way until the trail ended without reaching anything of big importance. Along the way we saw multitudes of balancing rocks. The place was covered in them. Everywhere you looked and walked you were surrounded. They were on the ground, on rocks, in trees, in posts. It was crazy. We also stumbled upon an old water wheel and a few waterholes that looked perfect for fishing. We even came across a field that we walked through a bit and connects back to the trail.

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The fun didn’t actually start though until we waded through the water and played on the rocks that have been carved by the creek. The rocks are a bit slippery so be careful and the water was a bit chilly. However, no one seemed to care too much. There were people swimming, fishing, exploring and having a great time. We even saw some tadpoles in the crevasses of the rocks we were walking along so keep your eyes peeled.

This hike is great for all ages and very easy. It rained on and off the whole time we were there which made it a bit muddy but the trees helped shelter us so we didn’t get too wet. I would try to pick a day that isn’t raining unless you plan on going in the water. You can also make the hike more difficult if you cross the creek or pick some of the trails that run right near the water’s edge. And for the best views of Cathedral Rock be sure to wade out into the water and stand on the red rocks in the center of the creek.

Hidden Valley Trail

IMG_8973While in Joshua Tree National Park I went to check out Hidden Valley Trail. The trail is located off Park Valley Boulevard, the main east-west road near the Hidden Valley Picnic Area. It is a 1 mile loop trail that often draws rock climbers eager to scramble up the tall canyon walls. With markers along the way to help guide through the valley it is easy to keep your eyes peeled for a view of someone overhead.

I reached the trailhead and took a moment to read the sign about the valley’s history. Turns out the narrow rock gap at the trailhead funnels into a legendary valley that was used for rustling cattle in the late 1870’s. William and Jim McHaney and their band of cowboys, known as the McHaney Gang, brought their stolen cattle and horses to this corral for hiding and rebranding. They then sold their stock to out-of-state markets for a respectable profit until the end of the 19th century.

After learning this I couldn’t wait to get started on my hike. I walked down the path that William Keys blasted open in 1936 giving us access to the valley we see today and reached the split off of the loop. Following the arrow I headed left and started my trek soon reaching my first nature trail stop. I learned that Hidden Valley has a special microclimate that supports many plants and animals due to the rocks ringing around the area that allow the space to collect moisture and avoid the harsh desert winds. This valley has had an appeal to humans both now and in the past due to it’s protection and sources of food that can be found within.

Today, the Mojave Desert is much drier than it was in the past. Pinyon-Juniper woodlands used to cover the lower slopes of the present desert ranges and even some of the desert basins. Now they are confined to higher elevations and areas such as Hidden Valley where there is enough moisture to support them.

I continued down the path looking at the beautiful rock formations and different plant life. I came across another pinyon-juniper tree and read a little about how the natives used the tree as food, glue and many other things. I snuck under the tree and off the trail for a moment as I noticed a small crevice in the rocks behind. It was interesting to see how the rocks has split apart, looking above to see a larger rock being supported by the tall walls of the crevice I was in I thought about how one small earthquake might set that hanging rock ajar to come tumbling down. Not being able to go any further and reach the other side I doubled back to the trail.

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I continued on and eventually reached what rock climbers call the Great Burrito. This wall was massive and so majestic. I took a moment to take it in scanning for climbers and then read that the same holes in the rock that climbers used as hand grips are also homes for the lizards in the area. There were no climbers that day, but I’m sure the lizards were nestled into their homes hiding from the hot sun.

I eventually reached a narrow path with stairs where the rocks were much closer together than they had been before. The vegetation of the valley was much greater in this area and I learned that these cavities are ideal for vegetation. As the rocks serve to collect moisture and provide shelter from the winds it is easier for the vegetation to survive the harsh desert conditions.

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As I met back up to the beginning of the loop I stopped to look at the valley one last time. I learned a lot about this little world in less than an hour. The trail was pretty easy and good for all ages. It’s pretty straight forward with only one or two spots that are a little confusing. While I would try to stay on the trail, if you do take a wrong turn it usually puts you back onto the trail after a little bit so I wouldn’t be too worried. Get out and check it out. You won’t be sorry.

Climbing Cliffs at Hemingway Buttress

IMG_8973As I was driving through Joshua Tree National Park I noticed a pullout from the main east-west road for a trail that was not on the map. The main map that you get at the Visitor Center actually is missing  a lot of the attractions in the park and I don’t think this is a main draw so I was not surprised, but since it was early in the morning I pulled over to see what I was missing.

The trail seemed short without much explanation or direction except that it was leading to a place called Hemingway Buttress and Banana Cracks that many rock climbers ascend each day. There were a few other people there already getting a closer look at the nature sculpted “classic lines.” Two of those people just happened to be rock climbers complete with backpacks full of gear and helmets and were heading down the path.

Eager to see them climb these giant monzogranite rock piles formed 85 million years ago from magma crystalizing 15 miles below the earth’s surface, then becoming stressed and cracked by earthquakes, being pushed up to the surface by movement where groundwater seeped into the cracks rounding and sculpting and weather continues to erode, I scurried after them keeping my distance as not to be noticed.

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Reaching the base of the cliff and a pile of boulders I stopped and picked a smaller boulder to sit on. I patiently waited for the climbers to scamper up the boulders to their final starting destination. They looked like they were talking everything through, equipment, routes, etc. They kept pointing at the rock and nodding. Eventually I got tired of waiting and decided to explore and come back. The wall was huge, at least 20 people tall. There was no way that I would miss them.

I walked down the path one way to basically a dead end. I turned and followed the wall the other way and eventually reached the Hemingway Boulders, or what I thought was them. To be honest it all looked the same to me. I didn’t see a big difference from where I left the climbers to where I decided to stop walking.

I turned back and reach where I had separated from the climbers. They were still in the same spot at the base of the cliffs talking. I realized that I would be waiting all day for them to finally make a move up the wall and headed back to the car stopping and looking back along the way. Maybe next time I’m in Joshua Tree National Park my timing will work out a little better and I’ll be able to see some climbers that are a little more advanced and prepared. Until then, at least now I know that Joshua Tree is a meca for rock climbers with some 5,000 routes described within the park and many more being pioneered every year.