Stunning Stonewall Peak Hike, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego

Cuyamaca Peak‘s little sister, Stonewall Peak, (5,730 feet) outshines her big sister with her stunning granite crown, haunting tree skeletons (remnants of the Cedar Fire) and lovely vistas of Cuyamaca State Park and out to Anza  Borrego. Before I moved to North County and started exploring the area, I had no idea that all this wonderful natural beauty is an easy drive from greater San Diego.

20180526_123510
Gradual ascent on a friendly trail

20180526_123853

20180526_123918
Expansive views
20180526_1327051
Interesting rock formations along the way
20180526_131650
Stairway to heavenly vistas

 

20180526_132305
Something about these beautiful trees and boulders
20180526_131807
A bit crowded at the actual peak – silly people looking down at their phones
20180526_133310
Lovely Lake Cuyamaca views on the way down
20180526_141756
A sprinkling of dazzling wildflowers

20180526_140149

Planning your Cuyamaca adventure

You can make it a day or a weekend adventure and do as much or as little hiking as you like. Ambitious, fit hikers can take on both peaks (Cuyamaca & Stonewall)  in a day. For the less ambitious, there are plenty of opportunities to add on easy short strolls by the lake and up to Stonewall Mine. Lots of wildlife viewing with trails for the whole family. Stay tuned for my next post. Happy trails!

The historic gold mining town of Julian is a mile or two away with its quaint shops, B&Bs, restaurants and famous pies.

Notes: This is the most popular hike in the park so go early to avoid the crowds. After you reach the Stonewall Peak spur trail and make a right, there’s a really short scramble over some rocks before you hit the last rocky stairway.  Keep your eyes open for the metal handrails.  On the way back, I recommend taking a right at the junction for a different route down ton what becomes a pleasant single track trail d. At about 3.7 miles, you come to a trail intersection. Make the left onto Vern Whitaker Trail. Shortly after that (around 3.9 miles) there’s another junction, continue to stay left. At 4.2 miles or so,you’ll encounter another side trail; stay your course to the left again.

Miles: ~<4 miles rt if you just go up and down the main trail.  My scenic route adds about a mile & a half for ~5.5 miles rt.

Elevation gain: 1,050 feet

Terrain: Mostly sweet, clear terrain (as in trail runnable). It’s gets a bit rocky and pesky for a while near the top so watch your footing. .The single track down was mostly friendly.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Depends on your fitness level and the route you take.

Trailhead: Across the street from the Paso Picacho campground, Cuyamaca State Park

Parking: $10 State Park Fee

Dogs: Only allowed on paved roads and must be leashed.

Camping: Paso Picacho campground has family campsites with tables, firepits, running water and bathrooms.

Takaragaike Park and scenes from another Kyoto walkabout

Takaragaike Park features a small, man-made lake with lovely trails that are laced with cherry blossoms in the spring. Though not a destination in and of itself, it’s great for a quick, refreshing nature fix or run if you’re staying at the Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto (made my top pick list) or attending a meeting at the Kyoto International Conference Center.

20160405_063727

20160405_070009_001

20160405_064530_004

20160404_173904
Convention center grounds

One of the more unusual sights I saw was a woman mediating in the park with a goose at her side. If you look closely in the top featured picture you can see them in the bottom left corner. The convention center is the large building in the background.

20160405_064356

Apparently, there’s an iris garden here that I somehow managed to miss despite the obvious sign.

20160405_063404

Some photos from my Kyoto walkabout – such a picturesque place!

20160406_153144_001-1

20160404_163214_001-1-1
Bike paths and healthy lifestyles!

Temples and shrines

 

Kyoto life…

 

A day spent strolling anywhere around Kyoto is a day well spent. Beauty abounds and it’s all so wonderfully clean everywhere.

Getting to the park, convention center or Grand Prince: Kokusaikaikan Subway Station, on the Kyoto City Karasuma subway line, which is located right outside the north entrance to the park. It is also about 10 – 15 minutes north on foot from Matsugasaki station on the same subway line.

Photo Post: Hiking in the hills of Kyoto

Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides so the opportunities to hike abound. I haven’t been able to locate my trail notes on this one so I’m just going to post some photos from my Kyoto walkabout for now.

20160409_123055_003

Sometimes your future

is clear and inviting. The

bridge appears; you cross.

20160409_135310_003
Hmm…

Sometimes it’s hard to

know which way to go so let

the forest guide you.

20160409_134906_003
Magical dappled light – must be the enlightened path

Find yourself in the

dazzling, dappled light-your path

to enlightenment.

20160409_133907
Hidden shrines

20160409_140506

20160409_142441
Traditional buildings and cherry blossoms
20160409_144103
Temples

20160409_122313

20160409_144317
Never too far from civilization
20160409_125722
Some signs are more helpful than others…
20160409_125550_001
Trail markers like this one at key intersections between Kyoto suburbia & Kyoto Forest trails were very helpful.

Check out my Kibune to Kurama hiking adventure too (trail notes included in that one).

Top Pick: Hakone Open Air Museum – art and nature in beautiful harmony

The town of Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 60 miles from Tokyo and one of the most popular destinations for Japanese and international tourists. Famous for its natural beauty, many hotsprings (onsen), traditional inns (ryokan), and the view of Mount Fuji across Lake Ashinoko (didn’t get to see that), Hakone is also renowned for its open air museum.

The Hakone Open Air Museum (Hakone Chōkoku No Mori Bijutsukan), is one of the most spectacular outdoor museums in the world. Surrounded by mountains and overlooking a valley, ~100 diverse sculptures (modern and contemporary, including works of Rodin, Milo and Moore) from around the world grace the expansive (~17 acres), rolling gardens. There’s also several indoor exhibits as well, including One of the world’s best collections of Picasso’s work, the 2 story Picasso Exhibition Hall displays a total of 300 pieces, including paintings, sculptures and ceramics. The exhibit also features photos chronicling of the artist’s life is one of world’s best collections.

 

 

 

20160411_124703

In addition there are shops, café’s, multiple kids spaces with art installations that they can climb on and a mini garden maze. And because the Japanese think of everything, there’s even an 65 foot heated foot bath to refresh your weary feet while enjoying the view.

You can easily spend hours here taking in all the beauty and the art.

Take the Hakone Tozan train there – it’s an incredible experience in itself!

The Hakone Open Air Museum is just a few steps from Chokoku No Mori Station on the Hakone Tozan (30 minutes, $3.55 from Hakone-Yumoto). It’s the last station before the terminal station of Gora. Taking the train is an experience in itself as it chugs slowly ,  traversing switchbacks up and backwards as it climbs the steepest slope of all railways in Japan through green forests above the splendidly scenic Haya-kawa River Valley.

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the train station, you’ll walk by Woody’s Café Bar first. I stopped in on my way to the museum. The hot artisan coffee was a cool wet morning so it was a perfect prelude to walking around outside. It’s quite a unique spot with a Toy Story theme, hence the name. It serves coffee, lunch, dinner and is a bar at night.

20160411_115225 (1)20160411_113142

Tokyo Photo Post and Top Picks Prince Hotel & Hamashiba Sushi, Minato

Had the good fortune to travel to Japan on business and to stay in the luxurious Prince Hotel, Minato, Tokyo. My bathroom and room had tremendous view of Tokyo tower (aka Eiffel Tower knock off). I have never been in such a large or luxurious bathroom – huge walk in shower, deep jacuzzi bathtub and enough room left over for a small dance party. Seriously, the bathroom seemed more spacious and outfitted than the room itself. In case you haven’t heard, the Japanese have a thing for outfitted toilets (heated seats, warm water spritz wash (biddett & hot air dry, etc…) and deep soaking tubs. We Westerners could certainly learn a thing or two from Japan and improve our WC experience…

 

While I was in town for business meetings, I still managed to sneak in a couple strolls and a quick run around the area to take in a few of the nearby scenic highlights.

20160413_07191620160413_071938_00120160413_07173720160413_07293120160413_07165620160413_07530520160413_07282120160413_07143620160413_07142020160413_072753 (1)

As my Japanese grand finale, I indulged in a sushi dinner at Hamashiba restaurant in the hotel. Forget everything you’ve heard about hotel restaurants – this one is superb. The sushi is outstanding, by far the best I’ve had and no doubt, will ever have. The maguro / tuna was absolutely exquisite and it was a treat and once in a lifetime experience to watch the master sushi chefs at work. Was it expensive? Duh. Was it worth it? Absolutely! (The company didn’t pick up this one.)

 

 

 

Sayonara!

20160412_051625
Garden and City views from my room at The Prince

 

20160412_080255
Oh, and it looks like the sole homeless person in all of Japan was sleeping under my window at The Prince.

Stay tuned for adventures in Kyoto and Hakone…Arigato.

Photo Post 5: Chiang Dao’s ancient ruins and temples

The Chiang Dao Cave adventure is not to be missed, but its spectacular setting is worth a thorough exploration as well…

Doi Chiang Dao, the mountain that you see rising out of the mist in a couple of the pictures below is Thailand’s 2nd highest at 7,135 feet. (No, I didn’t get to climb it on this trip, perhaps next…)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The story of  dragons and temples: Myth has it that a dragon approached a monk and about his desire to worship with him in the temple. The monk told him that dragons weren’t allowed inside the temple, but they are welcome to guard the temples. Throughout Thailand you’ll see dragons guarding temples.