Free Flowing in Fallbrook: Santa Margarita River Trail

The Santa Margarita River, aka Temecula Creek / Temecula River, is one of the last free-flowing rivers in Southern California.

The park is said to contain 1400 acres with 14 miles of trails that loop and crisscross the river. Not sure about that, but I do know that the main trail is about 5.5 total out and back. There are a number of offshoot trails, but it’s hard to imagine that they add up to 3x as much distance…

The main trail is a pleasant meander along the river under a canopy of trees.

There are a couple of swimming holes within the first mile or so if you care to take a dip. Before too long you’ll encounter your first of a half dozen creek crossings. Since the terrain is mostly smooth path or sandy, you might consider Tevas, instead of running shoes or hikers as you’ll be taking them on & off frequently. (That being said, if you don’t mind getting your running shoes wet, it’s not a bad spot for a little trail trot.) There are also a couple of lovely little oases along the way.

Apparently, this river corridor is known for raptor sightings and home to deer and other large mammals. We saw one shy turtle basking on rocks and a little fishey who seemed to be guarding her eggs – see video below.

Certainly a great spot to spend an afternoon, have a picnic or take a dip. (I wouldn’t drive too far for it, but if you’re in the area by all means.)

Note: It gets super hot in Fallbrook in the summer, be prepared and bring water.

BEWARE: Abundant poison oak &  quick sand???

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Distance: ~5.5 out & back

Difficulty: Easy – family friendly

Location: Fallbrook near De Luz Road & Sandia Creek Dr intersection, right on Sandia Creek Dr. then the parking area and trailhead are 1.2 miles ahead on the right.

Happy trails!

McGinty Mountain Trail: a sweet little gem in Jamul, CA

Location & directions

Trailhead: 13852-, 13998 Jamul Drive, Jamul, CA 91935

~25 miles from downtown San Diego.Take 94 East, exit at Campo Road. Follow Campo Road for ~ 4.5 miles, turn left onto Lyons Valley Road  and then left on Jamul Drive and you’ll see the dirt turnout / parking lot at 0.4 mile.Trail starts at the kiosk.

Main trail

~5 mile out & back

1,400 feet gain & loss

Moderate to strenuous depending on your fitness level

Dog and mountain bike friendly


My take

Drove down from North County for this one and so happy I did. Had low expectations as I’d never heard of this trail, but was pleasantly surprised. What a sweet little gem. This area is part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Not as well known as many of the popular SD area hikes nearby Mount Woodson, Iron Mountain, and Cowles Mountain, but definitely a contender for it’s beauty and views.

It’s a great hike with mostly friendly terrain, except for the steepest area not far from the top, which was a bit of a rock field. (If you have tender feet, you might be happier in hiking shoes versus running shoes.) Don’t worry, the steepest area is fairly short so you won’t suffer long.) Mountain bikes are allowed, but I didn’t see any and there were only a few hikers sharing the trail. It’s a good spot for a trail run too. It’s a relatively quick hike and a lovely way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Highlights

Late season wildflowers and wonderful views of San Miguel Mountain and Tecate peak to the East, Mount Helix , Cowles Mountain, El Cajon Mountain, and even Cuyamaca in the distance – apparently on some days you can see all the way to Coronado, Point Loma and the expanse of Pacific. And hiking uphill is always more rewarding —better views and better workout!

 

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Rock scramble at the top – optional.

 

 

Caution

There are no trail signs so stay on the most obvious (widest & well traveled)  route. (You can take a couple viewpoint detours, but return to the main trail.) Be on guard for rattle snakes and ticks and bring water. The trail is exposed the entire way so you’ll want to avoid hiking in the heat of the day.

For more info, visit:

US Fish & Wildlife Service: McGinty Mountain trailhead

View route or download GPX from CalTopo

 

Take or leave it, just leave no trace: Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

Location

Between Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Hills to the north and Mira Mesa to the south, near the 5 & 805. The south side entrance is off of Sorrento Valley Boulevard, about a 1 mile east of Vista Sorrento Parkway.

History

Evidence of Native American prehistoric culture within the Preserve dates back as far as 7,000 years ago and apparently remains can still be found.

Apparently the ruins of the El Cuervo Adobe (1857) are at the West end of the Preserve, but somehow I’ve missed it on my half dozen trips here – must not be well marked. Next time, I’ll make a point to find it and update this post.

Flora & Fauna

Surprisingly biodiverse given its urban location, it’s reported that Los Peñasquitos Canyon and its tributary, Lopez Canyon are home to over 500 different plants, 175 bird types of birds, and a large variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals (raccoons, mule deer, bobcat and coyotes). Many of these are rare or endangered and live a protected life in the Preserves 14 habitat types. From the steep slopes, flat mesa tops and grassy hillsides to the refreshing, shady riparian streams, apparently wildlife flourishes. In my visits here, I have seen little evidence of all the wildlife. No doubt, one would see more on foot at the prime wildlife watching hours of dawn or dusk…

Main Trail – Mild to Moderate

~7 mile loop

Some rutted and rugged terrain with a few climbs, but mostly flat and nontechnical. They’ve put down tons of rough rock on a mile stretch or so of the trail, which is a real pain in the butt (literally)  to traverse on mt. bike. Saw some guy with his young kids on bikes. They made it to the waterfall, but going through that rough rock section was an arduous journey that no doubt made for a very long day. You can avoid that section by juts taking the parallel trail out and back. It’s that is just a short bridge crossing away from the starting trail (both directions).

Highlights

The waterfall that springs out of volcanic rock and the 5 bridges that cross the stream and connect either side of the loop trail that runs the length of the park.

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My Take  

What can I say? When it comes to being immersed in beautiful places, I’m more spoiled than most. That being said, I wouldn’t go too far out of my way for this one. It’s good if you’re in the area and just want to get in a quick trail run, mt. bike ride or leisurely family stroll.  Also, it can be really crowded here with other bikers, hikers, families with small kids and dogs spread across the width of the trail. It always amazes / annoys me when people lack the common sense and courtesy to allow 2-way traffic.

 

 Warnings

Be on guard for poison oak and rattle snakes. The sign warns of mountain lions too, but highly unlikely in such a small area. Also, it can be super hot here in the summer – avoid the heat of the day.

Note

Trails may be closed intermittently due to flooding, call the county park ranger’s office for status after rains.  (858) 484-7504.

 

Have you been here? What’s your take? Like it, leave it, or love it?

My “Best of Thailand” Recap

What an amazing whirlwind month it was! So many incredible sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, definitely one of my top trips. Highly recommend Thailand as a destination. If you’re thinking about it, do it! My blog covers all the places I went and most of my activities – just use the search tool to get the scoop on the areas that interest you or do a browse and select Thailand for an overview of all the posts. There’s plenty more to see and explore there, but this was all I could pack into my trip. Let me know what spot is your favorite so I can check it out next time. If you have any questions, just send me a note.

Where I went

Bangkok

Chiang Mai

Mae Wang

Chiang Dao

Thaton

Chang Rai

Sukhothai

Ayutthaya

Koh Samui

Koh Phangan

Railay, Krabi

Phuket

What I did

These are my top picks from my month-long adventures

Best active tours: ActiveThailand

Best beach with restaurants, live music & mellow nightlife: Chaloklum Bay, Koh Samui

Best beach resort:  White House, Koh Samui

Best experience: Trekking and mountain biking remote areas of northern Thailand and homestaying with the Karen Hill Tribe

Best food: Chiang Dao Restaurant near the cave  – Chicken Tumeric, Chiang Mai & Bangkok Street Food – pork on a stick

Best health & Fitness Resort: Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort See post.

Best nature preserve island: Naugyuan

Best ruins: Sukkhothai

Best scenery: Railay, Krabi

Best town: Thaton

Best view from the room: Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa, Koh Phangan

Best wildlife: Railay, Krabi

 

Here are some scenes from my last night in Thailand, near the Bangkok airport:

Tip: The Paragon Inn is a basic, but decent airport hotel. It’s minutes from the airport and walking distance from the mall and street market. Super convenient for getting those last minute gifts and for catching those early AM flights.

 

Can’t emphasize enough how easy and inexpensive it is to tour around Thailand and have an exceptional time.  I’ll share more about what makes it so easy in an upcoming blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koh Samui: Highlights, Tips & Top Pick White House Resort & Spa

First impression of Koh Samui, not so good. Fortunately, as you’ll see, it got better after a little trial and error.

Drove several miles through areas that make Honolulu seem rural…It was so congested with buildings, bars and cheap tourist shops that you couldn’t see through to the beaches. Young tourists and aging Caucasian derelicts from all over the world were running amok, boozing it up and smoking in the heat of the day. Yup, major turn off.

A dozen or so miles beyond the airport, things improved, beaches became visible and I let out a sigh of relief. (Perhaps too soon.)  I happily paid ahead and checked into what appeared to be a lovely resort on the beach. While the hotel was well appointed, as picturesque as the beach was, I found out too late that the beach was not “functional”. Too short and rocky for walking or running and too coral filled and prone to low tides for swimming. I wanted out, but there was no refund coming so I made the best of my stay there. I took one of their free kayaks for a tour around to Lamai Beach, a more desirable area.

TIP: Learn from my mistake. Never pay ahead until you have thoroughly checked the place out.

TIP: Given the tides and the coral situation it can be difficult to find a swim-able beach in the islands. If that’s important to you, do your research.

Ok, don’t mean to whine,  it wasn’t terrible, just disappointing. I did enjoy their great view and a lovely breakfast.

 

Rented a scooter to scout the island for a better spot for the next two nights.

Discovered the Na Muang waterfall along with the rest of the crowd whom I somehow managed to edit out of the picture.

Na Muang Waterfall DescriptionNa Muang Waterfall

TIP: Go early and on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

Apologies on the video quality – I’ll get better…

 

Found a great spot, the White House Beach Resort and Spa. It was one of my favorites during my 30 day journey around Thailand. Staff was gracious; room was spacious. Tropical setting with an old world vibe, the resort is a peaceful paradise in a great location. At night, you can enjoy mellow live music down the beach and you have your pick of romantic beach-side dining. There’s a nice village feel with a handful of restaurants and excellent, inexpensive massage ($9 an hour)  right across the street. And it’s a great spot for your activity hub, as there are many tours and excursions you can join. (See my Tale of Two Snorkels post.)

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TIP: Book excursions direct from the tour places along the street – the hotel adds a significant surcharge.

Friendly felines and pooches make you feel at home. Gym is limited, small and not air conditioned. The most hilarious thing to me is that they have a sauna that costs $12 an hour. Who the heck takes sauna’s in this kind of tropical heat? All you have to do is go into the gym and sweat it out for free-lol!  Pool is on the small side, but I spent all my time in the the dazzling turquoise waters. Breakfast buffet is quite good too and the view can’t be beat. The beach is lovely and the resort is enchanting! I’d come back any day. Today would be good. : )

 

 

Next stop, take a walk on the wilder side with me to Koh Phanang, home to the infamous full moon party and the Cocohut Beach Resort.

 

 

 

Koh Phangan: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Yes, Koh Phangan is home to the infamous Full Moon Beach Party, but it also one of the more unspoiled islands in the Gulf of Thailand in southeast Thailand’s Surat Thani Province. Ngan means “sand bar” and refers to the many offshore sand bars. What makes Koh Phangan wild (other than when the party scene is on) is that the island’s interior is comprised of more than 31 sq mi of relatively unspoiled rain forest.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time for rain forest explorations, but I was able to make it around the island on scooter to see some gorgeous countryside and a couple bewitching beaches. The vibe here is very laid back; it feels a bit like Hawaii.

Arrival views from ferry:

Below is the view from my hotel room, the Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa  –  top pick post to come. (Great value, great spot!)

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(Disclaimer, it’s not a walk on the wild side as the title suggests, but I do give ya a little video tour of one of the wilder islands.)

 

 

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The best mango sticky rice & view to enjoy while devouring it! Anatara Resort Area.

 

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And after a day of explorations, the view to enjoy with a refreshing cocktail in hand.

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