Solace in nature, always. At least that’s what I’ve always said. And yes, you can say I’m an outlier as social distancing is my default mode anyway. However, I’ve always maintained that our lack of connection with nature and our physical selves is at the root of so many of our 21st century ailments—physical and emotional. We are wired to spend 8+ hours a day being active, outdoors and I believe that is the key to really thriving.
Of course, for most of us, that’s not practical. But certainly, squeezing in some form of outdoor activity every day is. Probably, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re like-minded and already reap the benefits of outdoor activities. It’s our indoor, sedentary neighbors we need to convert. Perhaps, the silver lining of social distancing is that people will get stir crazy enough to venture outside and explore their corner of the natural world. #optoutside
Here are some pictures from yesterday’s suburban hike in San Marcos. What a pleasant surprise to find a little network of trails right behind Palomar College. You can take a steep, direct approach to the “P”, or opt for the more, roundabout, meandering one. (You can probably guess, which one I took.)
Once at the top, you can trace your way across the ridges as long as your heart desires.
Either way, you’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the surrounding mountains and out to the Pacific. The air was so fragrant and clean. The red dirt and delicious post-rain scents reminded me of hiking in Hawaii.
Apparently, this area is popular with the off-roaders as evidenced by the debris. It appears many of them have lost control—careening and crashing through the rocks and scrub.
The social distance—just right for a suburban hike.
Bike up the backside of Palomar Mountain. Get a great workout while enjoying some solitude and splendid views of the San Diego back country, including Vail Lake and numerous snow-capped peaks (Thomas Mountain, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio). This is nontechnical mountain biking at its best. If you like a climb with views, it’s a good one. Exceeded my expectations.
We turned around at mile 8 as the trail was getting muddy and we were running out of daylight. It’s worth coming back to finish it off. Will update this post when I do. Until then, let the good times roll! What a spectacular way to spend the first day of 2020!
Miles: 12 Miles / 24 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation: ~4,000 ft
Difficulty: Depends on your fitness level, knee health, and affinity for climbs. Very doable, the super steep sections are relatively short. Terrain has some rutty sections, but mostly good. This would also be a great trail run, or training for the Catalina Marathon, or any endurance races.
Directions: From Temecula, take HWY 79 east for 18 miles. Stay on HWY 79 and make a right 2/10ths of a mile past the junction of HWY 371 to an RV park/resort. Follow the paved road for 0.3 miles then park in the large dirt area in front of the Fire Service Road 8S05
Notes: There’s no water along this exposed route—plan accordingly. It’s hot during the summer and you may encounter snow during winter, or mud after heavy rains or melts. Vehicles are allowed on this route, but seasonal closures for motorized access often occur. (A bonus for mountain bikers and trail runners.) Further up the mountain, the Forest Service has labeled the High Point Truck Trail (8S05) as 9S09 between this junction and the Palomar Divide Truck. When in doubt, stay on the most “main” looking route.
Bonus: Be sure to top off your ride with a visit to Ricardo Breceda’s amazing outdoor gallery of metal sculptures. Also, check out his work in wild open spaces of Anza Borrego too!
While there are plenty of more technical and longer rides around Lake Tahoe, the Flume Trail is world-renown for its scenic beauty and an absolute “must do” if you’re in the area. (I’m sure you’ll see why after you watch the videos.)
Lake Views: Spectacular, Stunning, Jaw Dropping
Distance: ~12-14 miles
Difficulty: Moderately difficult due to elevation of 7000′ to 8157 and a 1000 ft climb in the 1st 4 miles, technically simple
Description: Ride begins at the trailhead in the Spooner Lake Day Use Area in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Follow the Flume Trail signs from the parking area via the North Canyon Road. In the first 4 miles, you’ll climb 1000 feet on fire road through aspen groves and meadows, followed by short descent to picturesque Marlette Lake.
After ~1.5 miles of riding the dirt road along the lake, you’ll have ~4.5 miles of smooth, flat single track and breathtaking views 1600 feet above the east shore of Lake Tahoe. If you’re afraid of heights. some of the single-track sections might feel sketchy. Slow down and savor the beauty – the best section ends too quickly. You descend on a 3-mile fire road with lots of sand traps – beware.
Hourly shuttles summer and fall: $18 The Flume Trail Bike Shop (mtb rentals too), 1115 Tunnel Creek Road, 775-298-2501
Notes: I’d say a shuttle is a must. In my opinion (and others’) it’s not safe to ride on the roads in Lake Tahoe.
I did this trail 4 years ago and didn’t stop once on the climb. This time the ride was more of a workout with stops for me—a humbling combination of altitude, lack of bike training, the fact that I was in the hospital 2 weeks prior, and perhaps being 4 years older (sigh). Would definitely do it again if I have the chance–those views (unlike me) never get old.
Framed by the iconic Crystal Crag and the wall of Mammoth Crest, Lake George is lovely spot for a quick nature immersion and possible wildlife sighting. It’s just a short drive out of town, and the highest road-accessible lake at 9,250 foot elevation.
Features: Hiking, fishing, camping, rustic cabins, boat rentals, a tackle and snack shop (seasonal), bear proof food storage, and bear sightings
Winter access to Lake George is by ski or snowshoe only
Crystal Lake Trail at Lake George
Distance: ~2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level & altitude acclimation
Highlights: Panoramic views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin, captivating Crystal Lake
Bartlett Lake & TJ Lakes
Distance: ~1.5 miles
Big views for little effort. The trail crosses a stream then meanders up through lodgepole pines, hemlocks, western white pines to the shore of Barrett Lake.
It was along this trail on the edge of Lake St. George that we encountered a large brown bear. I was coming around the corner fast (trying to get as much hiking in before sunset as possible) when I heard a fisherman standing in the lake say in a low voice “Bear there.”
I stopped in my tracks. The bruin was blocking the trail and had its broad back to me. It was busy foraging in the fisherman’s backpack and appeared not to notice us. We quietly retreated up to a high spot off the trail. At one point, the bear looked up, I think he must have detected our scent. That’s when I snapped the shot. After taking another bear detour above the trail, we completed the TJ Lake loop, first passing Barrett Lake, Very picturesque and the light was perfect for reflection shots.
In all my years of hiking, this was my first bear encounter. (Well, I think there was one outside of my tent one night on top of San Jacinto, but I didn’t go out to greet it- just made loud noises to deter it.) What makes me sad is that this wild bear’s days are likely numbered due to it’s habituation to people.
More Mammoth Hikes
If you have more time than I did this trip, check out some of my favorite, longer hikes in the area :