Tag Archives: views

17-Mile Drive Around Pebble Beach

IMG_8973Before Katie and I headed home from Big Sur we drove farther north past Carmel to Pebble Beach to check out gorgeous the 17-mile drive. It costs $10 do drive the secluded coast of Pebble Beach, but I thought it was well worth it. It was an extremely relaxing drive and very quiet due to their no motorcycle policy and calm roads. The ocean views were amazing with a tremendous amount of variety and a ton to see.

We started out inland where we made our way through thick trees all around us down the road. We passed under and over bridges and twisted our way to the first overlooks. We reached points one and two, Shepherds Knoll and Huckleberry Hill, where we could just barely make out the ocean due to the clouds that morning. I can only imagine what the ocean would look like on a clear day, beautiful.

Then stopped at the Poppy Hills NCGA Golf Course and made our way to the Spanish Bay. Don Gaspar de Portela, the Spanish explorer, and his crew camped there in 1769 while searching for Monterey Bay. We stood at the boardwalk and watched the surfers catch a few waves. With multiple spots to catch the waves, there were waves  of all sizes that day ranging from shoulder high to overhead. A short rain shower started and we headed back to the car to grab a snack as we watched a little longer.

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Once at Spanish Bay the rest of the drive was right along the shoreline and coast. We stopped at almost every point along the way including the Restless Sea, Point Joe, China Rock, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell Overlook, and Cypress Point Lookout. At each spot we learned something interesting. Point Joe was where mariners often crashed upon the rocks after mistakenly setting their course for this point believing that it was the entrance to Monterey Bay. Bird Rock was where we saw hundreds of birds with a long row of binoculars set up to give visitors a better view and a list of animals that can be seen through Pebble Beach. Fanshell Overlook was gorgeous. As we pulled up we saw otters playing in the water as the waves wash over them. I excitedly jumped out to check it out trying to get a picture before they vanished into the vast ocean.

We continued and came across The Crocker Grove, Lone Cypress Tree, The Ghost Trees, and Pescadero Point. Crocker Grove was vastly different than everything else we saw on the drive. The trees stood tall and on the way there we saw a huge buck standing nearby. The Lone Cypress Tree was one of my favorite points to see. It is one of California’s most everlasting landmarks. It has existed on its rocky perch for over 250 years and no one knows how it has thrived there for so long. It has inspired many and is revered as a symbol of Pebble Beach Company.

The drive concluded at the Lodge of Pebble Beach. Inside the courtyard were stores for shopping and dinning. We walked through the lodge and came to the 18th hole of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links which overlooks the Stillwater Cove. The golf course was so green and lush. The cove was just amazing to see. The water in the cove was completely calm while  just a few miles before the waves crashed roughly onto the shore.

The 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach was absolutely inspiring. From Stillwater Cove to Spanish Bay the coastal views were breathtaking and unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. With the green golf courses, tall cypress trees, and crystal blue waters it’s a great activity for people of all ages. Everyone would enjoy this drive.

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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.

Powerplant Tour at the Hoover Dam

IMG_8973Katie and I were in Las Vegas for a long weekend. Having never been to the Hoover Dam I was hoping for an opportunity to check it out knowing that it was less than an hour away. One afternoon we jumped into the car and headed toward the border of Nevada and Arizona where the world re-owned structure was built and still stands today.

The Hoover Dam sits along the Colorado River. Above it is the man-made Lake Mead, below it lies the Hoover Dam Powerplant. The dam was built during the depression and took less than 5 years to finish. It is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.

Before the Depression water would flow down the Colorado River unhindered. Depending on the season and the amount of runoff from above, the cities below would be saved or destroyed by the relentless waters. The Hoover Dam was built to tame the river and protect the cities below from anymore harm that might come to them.

As we arrived at the Hoover Dam I got my first glimpse of what everyone had been talking about. However, for some reason I was a little unimpressed by it’s size. Maybe it was due to the bridge they built right nearby which seemed much more amazing to me or maybe I just needed to get a little closer to grasp the immensity. We followed the signs and next thing we knew we had drove over the top on a narrow two way road only about 45 feet wide. Realizing that the Visitor Center was on the Nevada side we back tracked to find a spot to park.

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Inside the center we walked through a metal detector and had our stuff checked. Apparently they are very worried someone might harm the Hoover Dam and the Powerplant. We walked up to the ticket sales counter and asked about the tours for the day. The only tour that had open spaces left was the Powerplant Tour so we got two tickets, at $15 each, and made our way to the front of the line. Along the way we took a picture at a green screen, received a ticket to view it later, and sat down on the bench as we waited for the next tour to begin.

While we waited we read up on some Hoover Dam facts. The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet tall from the foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam. It is only 45 feet thick at the crest, but  660 feet thick at the foundation. It is 1244 feet long spanning across the Colorado River, weighs 6,600,000 tons and contains 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Our tour finally started where we were guided into a small theater to watch a short film about the construction of the Hoover Dam. It was really interesting to see the old black and white film of how they diverted the river, built small dams, and filled the square boxes inches at a time to finally create the enormous structure we see today.

After the film was over we took an elevator down into the dam. Here our guide spoke to us about how the Colorado River was diverted through 4 tunnels around the dam that still sit there today, one of which we were currently standing in,  and how the workers also built two smaller dams, one to stop the water from reaching the dam construction site from above and another to stop the water from backing up onto the powerplant below. After the tunnels and dams were finished they opened the tunnels and allowed the water to flow through and around the dam site. When the dam was finished they closed three of the four tunnels, allowing the water levels to slowly rise before closing the final tunnel for good.

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As they built the dam, inches at a time, but 2 years faster than anticipated there were over 100 deaths. Rumor has it that some of these bodies were buried within the dam, but it is highly unlikely. The rate at which the dam was built, literally inches at a time, allowed anyone that accidentally fell into the concrete to basically just step back out easily. Plus, if that was the case and someone was buried within it would cause serious structural damage that would weaken the dam. There were however 96 deaths identified as official “industrial fatalities”, which allowed the deceased’s family to obtain compensation. There were also another 96 are individuals who died from from pneumonia, what is now believed to be a cover which allowed the Six Companies to prevent payment of death benefits to those families.

As the dam’s construction neared it’s end there were 2 spillways built, one on each side. These would aid in sending the water safely around the power plant if the waters ever got too high hopefully prevent the water from going over the top of the dam and landing directly on top of the power plant below. These have only been used twice in all of the Hoover Dam’s life. Once for testing purposes and once in 1983 when water levels rose allowing more than 2 feet of water to flow over and through the spillways.

Our tour took the elevator again, but this time moved onto the powerplant. We walked down a hallway and into a huge room the size of two football fields that was very echoey and  loud. As our guide spoke I could barely hear him even though he was using a microphone. He spoke about the generators, how they work and how the water is used to cool them down. There were three generators running while we were there. We could tell by the light on top of them. He also spoke about the huge  crane that could lift heavy the center pieces out of the generators if there was ever a need for repairs.

We headed back to the elevator and to the main floor. Our tour guide finished with a little bit about how the dam is actually 36% below water capacity right now and how there only has to be 260 ft in the dam to reach the water intakes.  I asked him what happens if the water gets too low and he only responded with a slight I hope that never happens, but also almost as if it was impossible to happen.

Our tour ended there and we headed to the overlook which was soon closing at 4:30pm. We got an amazing view of the dam there and could hear on the speakers a little bit about the cable cars that run along the far side. We then headed to walk over the dam where we could see just how low the water levels really were. There were clear lines of pure white rock with darker rock above it and I wondered if that was were the water level was when the dam was first created or if the line was created by something else. Without any more guides around I could only guess.

We walked and took pictures over the dam and that is when I finally realized how magnificent it truly is. I just needed to get up close and personal to understand the what everyone was talking about. As I peered over the edges and down to the water below the sheer size had finally sunk in and I now knew why everyone is so impressed. We stopped on the border between the two states and I stood straddling the line, in two places at one time. I was glad I had finally made it to the Hoover Dam, a place were almost every Californian has visited at one time in their life.

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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.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

IMG_8067I joined a meetup group in hopes of finding some new and exciting activities to do and places to see in the city. It turns out that in Los Angeles there are many different hiking trails. You can hike through the city, the valleys, over the mountains, and along the beaches and many of them have amazing views. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, located in Culver City, was one of the places that was suggested so one early morning I decided to check it out.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook trail is located off of Jefferson and Heltzer. You can drive to the top which has a parking lot with a $6 parking fee or there is free parking in a small lot at the base which is usually full or along the street which if you get there early enough usually has lots of availability. Once you start your hike you will notice that it has two main options to choose from, a 1/3 mile hike up the center stairs or a 1.25 mile walk along a dirt path that zigzags around and through the 58-acres park and  crosses the stairs a few times. Both end about 300ft above the trailhead for an amazing view of the city.

IMG_8072When I went I decided to tackle the stairs up the center, all 282 of them, right off the bat. I followed the path to the left of the main entrance and stopped at the bottom of the stairs for a few photo ops. It wasn’t a super clear day as the haze hadn’t completely lifted yet, but I could still see the top. It wasn’t going to be an easy trek.

The steps were quite big and I needed to take a couple breaks as I went, mainly because I was going right before work and I didn’t want to get all sweaty in case I didn’t have time to run home to shower. It turned out that I had plenty of time, so next time I will try to just power through the whole thing not caring and get my full workout.

IMG_8078Just before the last set of stairs there is a marker, putting you 375ft above sea level. It also has an amazing and motivational quote, “Step by step, your climb expands the cityscape a thousand-fold, framing it ever more broadly with hillside and sky.” I took the last set at a quick pace and arrived at the peak huffing and puffing. I took a moment to catch my breath and gazed out over the city. I could see the LA River and part of what I believe was Westwood to the northwest. To the east was downtown LA, but it was too hazy to see much of anything that day. Next time I will go later in the day, which will give the haze time to clear and allow me to take in the full view. I explored a bit and found a cute little explanation of the plants and animals that can be spotted in the area.

IMG_8082I started my descend down the trail that leads back to the entrance, not sure of which way to go. I easily found a trail heading down, but you could spend an hour just getting lost picking and choosing between back and forth paths and walking in almost any direction you would like to go. I arrived at the bottom using the driveway as my final path knowing that it was one of the quickest ways to reach the bottom.

All in all Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a nice little jaunt through a small park in the middle of a big city. It’s relatively easy so anyone join in the fun, tackle the stairs or trails, and take in the views.

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