Footloose and Fancy Free: Off Trail in Fallbrook, CA

Spring fever anyone? The air is so crisp, clean and fragrant with the pungent fertile earth and the scent of jasmine and citrus blossoms. And the hills are abloom with wildflowers already. The plan was to take a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll / trail run at nearby  Santa Margarita River Trail.  When we got there, we discovered that the area was closed due to recent heavy rains. As we drove along De Luz road the lush hillsides beckoned to me. “Let’s just run up this first hill”, I suggested. And we were rewarded with a mini-meadow sprinkled with California poppies and wildflowers. And then we climbed the next hill and so on. There weren’t any “Private property” or “No trespassing signs so we just kept going. Scrambling up through the bramble and brush until our car was a distant spec below. So on we went, bouldering up to the highest point on the ridge. It was exhilarating fun though my legs did sustain a few scratches…Once we reached the top, we looked for another route down. That’s when we came upon a hidden estate. We tried to traverse down another section, but the scratchy overgrowth was taller than we were. We ended up following a country road back down to De Luz and the car. A fun impromptu adventure that no doubt was more thrilling (and a better workout) than what we had planned. And my boyfriend, Ken,  knows me by now, if there’s a hill around, I’m likely to find it and want to “check out the view from there”.

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It was on this hike that I found that spontaneous stream for my nature mediation section.

Here are a couple more pictures Ken took and the cactus bloom I almost forgot to add earlier.

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Across the road from where we were is pristine fenced-off Camp Pendelton land. Oh, if only…


Nature Meditation: Spontaneous Spring, Fallbrook CA

My new Nature Meditation section is inspired by the CBS program Sunday Morning. It’s a homage to how they close the show with the sights and sounds of nature. Today, I leave you with a video of the spontaneous spring (a bonus from our recent rains) that I came across in a rocky alcove on my footless and fancy free, off-trail hike in Fallbrook last weekend.


Let me know if you’d like to see more of these.

Back in the saddle: Celebrating the New Year on the trails @ Calavera Nature Preserve, N.County SD

If I can’t be on the loose in the wild somewhere, I usually commemorate New Year’s Day by giving myself at least a half day of vigorous nature time. (It could be trail running, surfing, hiking, biking, rollerblading, swimming, or any combination.) With “base camp” in Southern California, it usually means I get a crisp, bright, sun-shiny day in which to play. This year, I had some physical downtime that interfered so my celebration was delayed until yesterday. It was one of those splendid, crystal clear, high- resolution,  after the rain kind of days that puts a smile on your face. The air smells so fresh and sweet, you can’t get enough. Precisely what I needed after 17 days of relative inactivity and indoor imprisonment.


It’s amazing how good it is to move freely outdoors after any amount of downtime – no matter the length or reason. This is what I am most grateful for and what I live for – the simple, primal pleasure of my body in motion out in nature.

While my body is still telling me to “take it easy”, I wanted to get my heart rate up just a bit so I pulled my mountain bike out for a short spin on the trails in the Calavera Nature Preserve. (And yes, I am spoiled to have this little gem in my backyard.) Not by accident mind you – it was one of the top 3 reasons I chose to live in this area.) Granted, the trails here can be a bit gritty, and there’s some rocky, rutted single-track and even nasty wide-track stuff that I can’t make on a mt. bike. Nevertheless, it’s a slice of nature in N.County , San Diego, a small habitat for many critters (49 bird, 10 mammal and 7 amphibian/reptile species) and a haven to two-legged critters like me who need a quick nature fix close to home.

A little about Calavera Hills.

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The word calavera, skull in Spanish, speaks to the preserve’s centerpiece, the ~500 ft mount, the remnant of a 22 million-year-old volcano.


According to some sources, this is one of only three volcanic plugs in Southern California. From the early 1900’s until ~1930, the area was mined for gravel, leaving a pocked and scarred West face.

Don’t expect well-marked trails, but you can easily navigate by the 3 landmarks – the lake, the top of the Mount, and the Water Tank with the new high school below it.

Water tank top right. (The “Mount” is to the left.)

If you’re hiking, biking, or running and want a good workout with some great views, go for both “heights”. If you’re a masochist for hills, there’s a brutal fire road that runs around the back rim. It’s punctuated by a half dozen or so steep rocky downs that flip in a matter of feet to fierce climbs. Guaranteed to get your heart rate up, up and over your comfort zone. Otherwise, there’s plenty of trails you can link together for some mileage that are flat or just a little rolly with a mix of easy to slightly technical. There’s fun discoveries for kids, including a cave,  the lake itself, cairns, a stone labyrinth, a funky memorial, (so much for leave no trace), a hidden wooden bridge, and more.

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How did you commemorate the New Year?