The Social Distancing Antidote: Nature Immersion

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.)

up

Once at the top, you can trace your way across the ridges as long as your heart desires.

P

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.

flora

Pacific Views From the P

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.

truck

The social distance—just right for a suburban hike.

L on P Trail

Storm King: Short, steep, sweet trail with sweeping views of Lake Crescent

Distance: 3.8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation gain: ~1700 ft

Difficulty: Moderate or Difficult, depending on your fitness level and daring level with the ropes on top. (Some call it strenuous. All call it steep.)

The trail climbs persistently through the pine, cedar, and hemlock trees.

 

 

 

After countless switchbacks, you’ll be treated to several expansive views of Lake Crescent and, if you’re lucky, out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 

 

 

The maintained trail ends at about 1.3 miles. If you are “up” for it, pun intended, you can continue on the “climbers trail”. Your scramble to further heights will be aided by several sections of ropes.

Ken on storm king
Ken on the ropes

Proceed with caution, it’s quite exposed and super slippery.

 

 

 

 

On the way down, follow the short marked trail to Marymere Falls for the cool solace of Barnes Creek and the waterfall.

M Falls

Getting there: Parking and the trail head for both this hike and the Marymere Falls hike is located right next to the Storm King ranger station, Lake Crescent right off Hwy 101, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, milepost 228.

Parking: Free

Be sure to stop by The Lake Crescent Lodge and beach for some refreshments and photo ops before you leave.

Lake Crescent Lodge

 

 

 

After you’ve worked up your appetite, head to the First Street Haven (before noon) or the Next Door Gastropub (noon and after)  and get your grub on at these great Port Angeles restaurants.

For more nearby adventures check out the Spruce Railroad Trail by foot or 2 wheels, the Elwah River and Coleville Bike Trails, Olympic National Park, and Port Angeles itself.

 

2 Short Hikes, 1 Bear Encounter, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Lake George

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

Lake George
Lake George’s Clear Waters
Lake George Light Lingering on the Granite

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

Panoramic Views From the Trail: Lake George and Lake Mary
Granite Rocks and Mountain Vistas
Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake
Along the Crystal Lake Trail

Bartlett Lake & TJ Lakes

Distance: ~1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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.”

Fisherman on the left. Shadow of the bear center bottom.

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.

A Charming Section of the TJ Loop Trail Pic Doesn’t Do It Justice
I Couldn’t Get Enough of These Vistas


More Eye Candy On the TJ Lake Loop
Barrett Lake Reflection
Barrett Lake Reflection
Barrett Lake Reflection

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 :

Duck Lake Trail

Sherwin Creek

Lundy Lake Trail

Another Scenic Delight Near St. George: Snow Canyon State Park

Spent a lovely morning exploring this spectacularly scenic Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah.  With dramatic, diverse scenery everywhere you turn, this park does not disappoint. If this epic landscape seems vaguely familiar, it’s because it was the backdrop for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson..

This 7,400 acre park has everything from black lava flows with tubes that you can crawl into to red rock and sandstone cliffs that you can scramble up. Here you’ll find 38 miles of hiking trails, a 3 mile paved trail, technical climbing (170 designated sport routes) and ~15 miles of  equestrian trails. If that’s not enough for ya, there’s some mountain biking and road biking with great climbs here too. Oh, and there’s also a  33 unit campground.

wildflowers black lava red cliffs Snow Canyon
Wildflowers, black lava rocks, and stunning red cliff vistas

snow canyon stream
Photo Credit: Ken Wells captured this spot much better than I did.

Snow canyon vastnessSnow Canyon red mtnsScenic snow canyon

Lava Tube Snow Canyon
Into the lava tubes

Snow canyon textures
Amazing textures

L Tree pose
On top of the world in Snow Canyon

dancer attempt pose
My attempt at dancer pose – a long way to go, I know

black lava rock and white mtn
Black lava rocks, desert vegetation, and white sandstone cliffs – oh my!

The park is actually inside of the 62k acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve that I romped around on my first day in town. Note, these areas are all exposed so not recommended in the summer heat. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and a hat.

I just had time for a quick stroll as I’d already visited Gunlock State Park earlier in the morning and still had more sights to see and things to do. (Mountain bike ride planned for the afternoon.) The trail I took by the lava flows was more suited to a stroll versus hiking at pace or trail running due to the sharp rocks. Not sure if all the trails in the park are like this, or if it’s just near the lava flows. If you’ve been here and hiked around let me know. Otherwise, I’ll update on my next trip to St, George.

You know me, trying to pack as much into my short Utah road trip as possible.

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George, UT

First stop on the Utah road trip after 6 hours cooped up in the car, the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve rolled out their welcome trails. Not a bad stop to stretch the legs for hike or a mountain bike cruise. This picturesque reserve with expansive views out to the snow capped mountain range is right next to town and boasts 200 miles of non-motorized trails. (Yes, that’s 200 miles so you can stretch those legs of yours to your hearts content.)

wildflowers Red Cliffswildflower close up red cliffsmtn vistas red cliffs

The reserve was established in 1996 to protect critical desert tortoise habitat form being destroyed by development. It worked. You’ll notice tortoise scat on the rocks everywhere. And if you’re lucky, you might see one.

desert tortouise 2

I only hiked a couple miles here, but look forward to coming back to explore more. Perhaps on 2-wheels next time…

Note: the trails can be hard to follow in this terrain so bring a good map or GPS if you venture out very far, and plenty of water, of course, as it’s all exposed.

Stay tuned for more Utah adventures: Scenic delights near St. George Part I: Gunlock State Park and Ivins’ Reservoir

 

Short Peak Scramble, Flinn Springs County Park, San Diego

On the way back from 3 Sisters Falls, we decided to add on a roadside, quickie hike in Flinn Springs County Park. The hike begins at the back of the park.

This small 40-acre park near Lakeside has 1 short trail that takes you up a consistent, steep incline to a great vista above Escondido and Lake Jennings.

Once you reach the saddle you can go east to reach a short peak or west to climb Silverdome Peak or south for Flynn’s Peak. I’m not sure which one we scrambled up, but it was definitely a scramble.

views from flinn

It’s rated as moderate, but if you are less than moderately fit, it’s likely you will suffer. (Especially if it’s a hot day as the trail is completely exposed.) That being said, it’s a good, short workout and “bun burner”.

 

ken
A little trail eye candy

I wouldn’t go out of my way for this one, but if you’re driving by and want a leg stretcher / burnergo for it.

There’s picnic tables and a lovely wood pavilion too.

Flinn Pavilion

Total distance ~<4.3 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 1,443 FT

Parking Fee: $3

Address: 14787 Old Highway 80, El Cajon, CA 92021

Chasing Waterfalls and Wildflowers: Three Sisters Falls Hike, SD County

San Diego County’s 3-tiered seasonal waterfall  in Cleveland National Forest is definitely worth a visit when the water is running.

3 sisters fall trailhead sign

 

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of the hike, these 3 lovely trees will greet you.

3 lovely trees 3 sisters hike

The falls are much more impressive than you might expect. As you hike down the trail, you can see the frothy, white veils in the distance.

 

For me, it was vaguely reminiscent of Yosemite. Of course, I was fortunate to experience the area after a rainy season, during the spring super bloom. The hillsides were green and sprinkled generously with wildflowers. If you’ve been following my superbloom posts (Walker Canyon, Diamond Valley Lake, Denk Mountain) this spring, you know I can’t get enough of these wildflowers. (I wasn’t expecting any on this hike and what a wonderful surprise to see the colorful abundance along the trail – perfect wildflower filters for my distant water shots.)

poppy filter 3 sistersbest wildflower filter 3 sistersCactus bloom 3 sisters

It’s a pleasant single-track, out & back trail that takes you down to the falls and then bring you back up to the parking area.

L with flowers on the trail 3 sisters

 

Lydia taking pics

 

 

 

 

rock falls 3 sistersfalls flower filter

The falls are a wonderful spot to have a picnic, cool off, and while away the afternoon – that is if you don’t mind being joined by too many humans who have the same idea. (Heavy sigh.) Be forewarned, this is one of San Diego’s most popular hikes so go early or be prepared for the crowds and a full parking lot.

If you want to add on another hike, the Cedar Creek Falls hike is in the vicinity too. Since I’ve done that one already, I decided to take the scenic drive out the other side on Descanso Road.

Descanso dirt road

The Scoop on 3 Sisters Waterfall Hike

Distance: 4 miles RT (out & back)

Elevation gain/loss :1000 ft (downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level. Trail run friendly on a non-crowded morning.

Getting there: From the town of Julian, turn left on Pine Hills Road, right on Eagle Creek, and left on Boulder Creek Road, which will become dirt road for the last 5 miles.

Note: Both Boulder Creek and Descanso are dirt roads with potholes, but no suv or 4-wheel drive needed. A regular passenger car with adequate ground clearance will do the trick as you have patience with potholes and bumps. However, it might not be prudent to attempt it without a SUV or 4-wheel drive after a heavy rain.

Fee: Display a National Forest Adventure Pass – $5 day pass [purchase info]  https://www.fs.fed.us/portaldata/r5/ap/r5-ap-vendors.php

On the way home, I added on short, vertical hike / scramble at Flinn Springs County Park on old highway 80 off highway 8. Post to come.