Living in Orange County, CA.
“Pursuing Balance Through Adventure” is about finding one’s self by freeing the soul through bold experiences in nature and exploring that delicate balance between responsibility and wild abandonment.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a pleasant walk beside a saltwater marsh area, along a trail filled with lush greenery. It is fairly flat until you venture upon Annie’s Canyon. What a delight working through this little slot canyon. It was so cool, more than I expect with a tight squeeze, twists and turns as you went up. Annie’s Canyon was different then other slot canyons I have been to. It was close quarters, just room for one at a time and it went up in elevation. Others slots I have been in where fairly flat, but this had a bit of a climb. The sign said strenuous, but I would not describe it that way. I with describe it as fun.
Less than 8 miles, 4 hours in duration, over 2,100′ change in elevation, rated Hard
This is a must do hike for locals and visitors to the Poway area. It was rated as hard, but I would have to disagree with that rating as I would say it is moderate. Perhaps they gave it that rating as it has a descent elevation change over a fairly short amount of mileage. The elevation is quite gradual as you are pretty much always climbing as you head for the summit.
The terrain is very interesting it’s not alpine, it’s not desert, it’s something else. What it is, at least for my trip, was rolling green hills, (green from this winter’s unusual rain amounts), covered with brush and dotted with boulders, some of which are monstrous.
The most interesting of all the rock formations along the Mt Woodson Trail is the “Potato Chip.” I have never seen anything like it. It appears to me a large boulder where the whole underneath has eroded away leaving basically a “Walk the Plank, Arrrrr!” type of platform. It looks as thin and frail as a potato chip thus the name, “The Potato Chip”.
When you walk the plank, or in this case the Potato Chip, some say you can hear your foot steps echo as it vibrates with each step you take. You can only truly appreciate the peril of the situation if you are the person taking the picture. The person whom took my photo squealed, “oh geez”, as I just walked out there to the edge and especially when I dangled my feet over the side. He told me when he had gone out on the rock he crawled. From the top it pretty much looks like any other boulder you might be walking on. I figured I was not the first one to ever try this feat so it must be okay.
The “Potato Chip” is just shy of the Mt Woodson summit. If you care to dare then this is the only scrambling you will do on the trip, as you climb up on the first boulder. Then you take a bit of a leap over a crevasse to get out onto the rock. After my little adrenaline rush I slid down the boulder on the seat of my pants while attempting to jam my hiking boot into a crack as I went down to slow my descent.
The Mt Woodson trail has outstanding views in all directions much of the hike, but especially from the summit. Even though this was a cloudy Winter Monday, with temperatures in the 50’s, (which by the way is the perfect time to go as it is not too crowded), I could in the distance make out the skyline of downtown San Diego, Point Loma, and even further out a couple of islands off of Mexico.
I mentioned I went at the perfect time as it wasn’t too crowded. I did run into nearly 100 hikers on this well traveled hike but spread out nicely over the 8 mile trek. On a nice weekend, I am told, the wait to get your picture taken on the “Potato Chip” can be over an hour.
Really loved this hike, great workout, fantastic scenery, and the “Potato Chip” is pretty darn cool.
To access this hike I started in Lake Poway Park. There is a trail heading toward the Mt. Woodson Trail that goes by Poway Lake and then instead of following it around the lake you head on up.
4.5 miles, 985′ elevation gain, 2.5 duration, rated Moderate
The drive into the area is fantastic with all the rugged hills. The last bit of the drive is 5 miles back into the bush, down a bumpy, dusty road that is 4×4 recommended with some washboard and a couple rough areas, but most cars could probably make the journey. That being said, you would mostly likely not want to bring your luxury car there. You will need an Adventurers Pass or other acceptable pass for the National Forest.
The trail is rock and dirt twisting through the landscape providing nice views of the terrain and far off glimpses of the waterfall.
Upon arrival to the Three Sisters Falls there are three tiers of the falls with little pools collecting at each. I climbed a rope up to the top tier. You could scramble up this area, but the rope makes it much faster and much more doable. Then I made my way across a little smooth rock section that is steeply sloped toward death to a spot that you need hand holds and there are few. It’s really isn’t that bad, but you certainly want to take heed and this feat is definitely is not for everyone.
Once on top there is a delightful pool, the best of the three. I was fortunate in that some teens were most helpful, yelling down instructions where and how to come up. They had braved the chilly heart attack water and were attempting to warm back up stretched out on the sun heated rock. During the Spring time the temperature dips into the low 40’s at night. The teens informed me the deepest spot was about 20 feet. In the summer I believe people jump of a rock that was probably a little less than that height, but you would have to hit just the right spot.
Thanks for joining me on this fun hike in the San Diego County backcountry, as I was ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’. Waterfalls even when they are not flowing furiously like in Oregon, are always relaxing and regenerating- just what is needed to rekindle the spirit, and that my friends is what PBTA is all about. There is always much more to come so I invite you to stick with me for more adventure by a few easy tasks: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. The menu you above is set up by location and sometimes by activity, each is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. If you like my hat and shirt you can purchase them at SHOP APPAREL, my line of Adventure Wear is top quality and boldly carries the PBTA Logo and Mantra. I hope that you are enthused enough to start planning your own adventure in nature real soon.
2.5 miles, 300′ elevation gain, 1 hour duration, rated: Moderate
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest State Park at almost 600,000 acres in the Eastern section of San Diego County. Anza-Borrego is a beautiful place filled with all sorts of formations of dirt, sand and rock.
One of the popular hikes in the park is known simply as “The Slot”. It is a tight, winding, short canyon hike. ‘The Slot’ is not far from Borrego Springs and is a couple miles of dirt off of the black top. Although it is 4×4 recommended, any car should make it to the trailhead. There is a $10 parking fee and when we were there last it was being regulated by the Park Service, and when the lot fills they turn people away.
My son Alec and I did the hike counter clockwise, but if we do it again I think that we will try it in the opposite direction, but either way is fine. It could be done as an out and back, but I recommend it as a loop. I always think that seeing something new is a bonus and in this case after you exit the tight canyon it opens up providing other desert views. The climb out on a dusty and steep Jeep Trail provids great views of the canyon and beyond. Super landscapes of open desert and far off mountains are yours to savor.
The hike down into the canyon is steep at first going, and there is a bit of a switch back to maneuver. The route winds through The Slot and there is a bit of a fat man’s squeeze as the walls close in. A tiny bit of scrambling must be traversed that is hardly worth mentioning, but it is all great fun.
A spire seems to have broken away from the wall falling forward forming an arch overhead. Someday it will come down, but for the time being it appears to be secure providing an interesting if not magical formation.
After we made our way through the canyon it opened up into a wash and we headed up the Jeep Trail to the left. We watched in awe some Off-Road Vehicles struggling on the steep incline not having any idea that in the not so distant future we would be joining some 4×4 friends and would take on the “Drop Off” at the Slot.
Thanks for squeezing through ‘The Slot’ with my son Alec and myself as we found ourselves ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ in this unique and fascinating section of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There are more adventures in the Park ahead. To ensure that you don’t miss a single exciting outing please COMMENT, LIKE, FOLLOW and SHARE. If you go up to the menu above you will discover that PBTA travels extensively throughout the West searching meaningful adventures. Each location or activity is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. It is important to find time to venture into Nature because it is a great place to unload the stresses and troubles of everyday life and our work a day world. Now that you are inspired to get off the couch, put down the TV clicker, your phone and enjoy Nature you will need Adventure Wear. I invite you to checkout my line atSHOP APPAREL.
We took our 4 Runner TRD Pro to the mud caves. You might make it in a regular car, but then again you could bottom out on a rock, or get stuck in the soft sand.
We checked out the first couple things that we saw, which were not the main event. They were interesting but… We hiked up the hill a bit in a couple places. There were drop offs into a large vertical hole that we could not see a bottom from where we were.
When my son Alec and I got to the actual cave it was a little disguised as it is not a large opening. Once we ducked inside it opened up and I was left with one word, “whoa…” I have to say although they were fascinating and very cool that this was the sketchiest cave, cavern, or mine I have ever been in as the whole place was made of what seemed to be the consistency of a dirt clod.
It was crazy. This cave of dried mud made twists and turns back and forth. Some times there were places that the light shined in, but mostly you were in pitch darkness. Alec and I were well armed with a flashlight and a powerful head lamp so we had adequate illumination. It was pretty spooky with cracks in the dirt walls, as well as places where chunks had crumbled off. While we were deep inside this mud hill a helicopter flew over and we could hear it pretty well which was freaky me out making me realize this was a big hollow hill of dirt without a lot of density. There were spots that we would come out into the light and then back into this cavern of dirt. The passageway was quite long, and then we emerged snaking our way through a slot canyon of this dried mud, which also was very cool. At the end of this arid mud maze we climbed up on top and enjoyed a great view of the badlands and distant mountains.
We did not do the second mud cave which had a large opening. We thought we had done one, it was great fun, we loved it, but this one must be similar. I decided that we had pushed our luck enough as it was. My son and I were the only ones out there and the State Park Rangers warned us how unsafe this place was and that it was cordoned off. Unsafe I would agree, but it was not blocked off. Probably just that it was not recommended is more like it. The Ranger, that we spoke to at the Visitor’s Center at Borrego Palms, continued trying to dissuade us by mentioning that if we got stuck that Triple A doesn’t come to Anza Borrego.
Thanks for joining Alec and I as we were discovering new places to be ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’. Being in a cavern of dried mud is certainly a different place, yet we found it exciting and fascinating, a spot that you don’t know what is around the next bend. Wondrous experiences in nature can certainly recharge one’s batteries and can make getting back to the world of school, and the pressures of making the grade more balanced which is so important. This was a special time together that Alec and I spent Off-Roading, hiking and adventuring. Wonderful Father and Son trek. To aid you in finding your own Wondrous Experience in Nature please say tuned by this manner: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. Go to the menu above and you will see that PBTA travels extensively throughout the West on Adventure. Each location or activity is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. SHOP APPAREL can fulfill your Adventure Wear needs with my line adorned with the ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ logo and mantra.
3 miles, 462’ elevation gain, 90 minute duration, rated Moderate
My son, Alec, and I started our Spring Break Adventure to Anza-Borrego California State Park by going to the Visitor Center. On the way to the Visitor Center we spied some of the cool looking metal sculptures that I had heard about. We did the tourist thing and snapped a couple pictures by the Wild Horses and by Big Bird. My understanding is these are the handy work of artist Ricardo Breceda and that there are some 130 of these works of art scattered throughout the desert. We got to checkout a few of them, but perhaps on another trip to Anza-Borrego we will try to search them out. Some are easily assessable to the road others are hidden away further out into the desert.
We made a quick stop to the Visitor Center and talked to the Ranger confirming some of the things we wanted to experience during our visit. The area of the Visitor Center and the nearby hike that we did had a $10 parking fee. One of the hikes that the Ranger suggested was Borrego Palm Canyon.
Borrego Palm Canyon is a short hike. The trail is well maintained and is one of the most popular in the park. We found it to be a really pretty spot with the desert hills and mountains surrounding us. Alec and I really enjoyed this gorgeous area. It really gave us a feel for Anza-Borrego and I would recommended it for the whole family. There were lots of different rocks to scamper on and a trickling stream.
Unfortunately we did not know much about the hike when we were doing it. We entered the trail, which turned out to be a loop, from the exit so we missed all the information that was posted. So we failed to include the oasis, which was a bummer, but as it turns out a fire in 2020 damaged the palm oasis spot so perhaps we didn’t miss anything. We heard that it might be closed for rehabilitation.
Really a beautiful hike that should not be missed. Bring water, a snack, sun tan lotion, and a hat- it’s hot, it’s the desert.
Thanks for joining Alec and I as we began out vacation in Anza-Borrego State Park by ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ in this desert canyon of wonder. There is alway more to come so stay with us by performing a few easy but important exercises: COMMENT, LIKE. FOLLOW and SHARE. We are wearing some PBTA Adventure Wear in the photos get yours at SHOP APPAREL. If you peruse the menu above you will see that the deserts of San Diego are but one type of adventures enjoyed by PBTA. The menu is categorized by location and sometimes by activity each of these locations throughout this great West of ours is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently.
Activity: Day Hike, Tour, Interview and Peak Bagging
6.5 miles, 1500’ elevation gain, 3 hour duration, rated Hard
There are a few different ways to get to Los Pinos Mountain. I actually added the Los Pinos Mountain Lookout to my hike to Corte Madera, San Diego’s Half Dome hike. Since not everyone wants to do do 11 miles for a day hike I split the two different peaks into two different posts. Obviously the first half of the hike is the same for both until you get to the four corner junction.
So from the beginning, the trip to the trail head is 5 miles along a bumpy, dusty, country road. You need an Adventurer Pass or other National Forest Pass for Cleveland National Forest.
Coming in on Corral Canyon Road the trailhead is not marked so having a hiking App, (preloaded, as you will not always have cell coverage), would be helpful. There is only room for maybe five cars. Hike passed the locked gate then work your way up a windy dirt road (called Kernan on the map I saw), for less than a half mile, (again an GPS App could be beneficial to find the trail). Just passed a sharp turn in the road turn left onto the Espinosa Trail. The trek is through heavy overgrown thorny brush that wants to reach out and scratch, so long pants and sleeves are something to consider. Along the way there are some lovely oaks for shade until you break out into bright sunshine with green hills sprinkled with boulders where you can marvel at the sight of Corte Madera, “San Diego’s Half Dome.”
At the four corner junction you have the two choices to the left going up to Los Pinos Mountain. The first one is quite steep such as a path you might find for utility, but it is much shorter than the second option which is more of a fire road trail. What I did was take on the challenge of the steep option going up. Just because I would always rather have a loop than just out and back, along with going up steep and slippery is one thing, but going down steep and slippery is entirely another, I took the fire road down making it a bit of a loop.
On top I made a new friend interviewing Lookout Station Forester Dave, (the nicest guy), for PBTA. Dave was very informative and had a wealth of knowledge that he was more than willing to share. In fact truth be know, I think he was glad to have someone to talk to as being on the top of a tower, in the middle of a forest, all by your lonesome can get old I surmise.
His tower is the Southern most Federal Lookout in the region. Los Pinos Mountain has an elevation of 4774’ and the the lookout is perched atop a 1600’ tower. This gives Ranger Dave a birds eye view of the entire area and into Mexico. As he explained it, his job is monitoring the area for fires, but what he is really looking for is smoke, because if he sees fire he is too late. He also monitors storms and keeps tracks of lightning strikes. He loves his job and enjoys the views and the animals. He showed me his photo log book of animals and the birds of prey. Dave really had some wonderful shots. He certainly has the vantage point that is for sure!
We all certainly appreciate Dave and the important job that he does watching over and caring for our beloved wilderness. Thanks Forest Ranger Dave!
I appreciate your joining me and Fire Tower Lookout Forest Ranger Dave on this adventure into the Cleveland National Forest ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ and the visit to the Lookout Tower high atop Los Pinos Mountain. Stay with me for more adventurous outings in Nature by doing this: LIKE, FOLLOW, COMMENT and SHARE. Browse the menu and you will discover that PBTA travels extensively throughout this wonderful West seeking the balance that Nature can bestow upon us if we just take the time. For clothing that means Nature and Balance and Adventure I invite you to treat yourself at SHOP APPAREL.
7 miles, 1500’ elevation gain, 3.5 hour duration, rated HARD
San Diego’s Half Dome
The trip to the trail head is 5 miles along a bumpy, dusty, country road. You need an Adventurer Pass or other National Forest Pass for Cleveland National Forest.
The trail head is not marked so having a hiking App, (preloaded, as you will not always have cell coverage), would be helpful. There is only room for maybe five cars. Hike passed the locked gate then work your way up a windy dirt road for less than a half mile, (again an GPS App could beneficial to find the trail), just passed a sharp turn in the road turn left onto the Espinosa Trail. The trek is through heavy overgrown thorny brush that wants to reach out and scratch, so long pants and sleeves are something to consider. Along the way there are some lovely oaks for shade until you break out into bright sunshine with green hills sprinkled with boulders where you can marvel at the sight of Corte Madera, “San Diego’s Half Dome.”
Work your way up to a junction to Los Pinos Trail. You are dumped out on a 4×4 rough road for a short distance until back on the trail again.
This hike get prettier and more difficult as you go. The last quarter has some scrambling, and the trail is narrow, steep and rocky through manzanita all the way to the summit. On top there are spectacular views of the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
Note: I actually combined this hike with Los Pinos Look Out Tower, which I will post separately as not everyone might want to add on another four miles to this hike.
Thanks for joining me ’Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ to Corte Madera, known as ”San Diego’s Half Dome. Please stick around for more adventure by doing a couple easy tasks: COMMENT, LIKE, FOLLOW and SHARE. The menu above will enlighten you to the many fabulous locations and activities that PBTA ventures to throughout the West. Each is a separate Website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. This should wet your appetite and give you ideas about your next adventure. In business they sometimes say to take the pack off and put your feet up every once in awhile. In other words take your nose off of that grindstone and relax a bit. While I agree that you need a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy work-a-day world- I contend that you put the back on and hit the trail and get out into Nature, take on Adventure. Nature and Adventure is what will put Humpty Dumpty back together again, not sitting on the couch. If you like what I am wearing in the picture then I invite you to checkout SHOP APPAREL for your adventure wear.
12 miles, summit elevation 3675’, elevation gain 3743’, 6 hour duration, rated HARD
El Cajon Mountain, one of the coveted 6 Pack of Peaks in San Diego, sits in over 2,600 acres of natural protected land. Half a mile from the parking lot, (which by the way, plan accordingly as to when the parking lot closes, it is at 4:30 PM in the winter), are bathrooms and the trailhead. Also keep in mind that during the summer this would be a very hot place to hike, and the trail I have heard could be closed during August due to extreme heat. Make sure that you bring plenty of water and snacks.
El Cajon Mountain is not the highest, but has been called the “Toughest hike in San Diego.” It begins with rambling hills and a lot of up and down like a spin class. You will get some switch backs and there are some really steep sections with loose rocks so trekking poles would be of assistance. There is a split in the trail on the way up you will see that it talks about old and new. The official route is go right, but either will work I took left on the way up and the other on the way down. You will find a Stop sign at the half way mark reminding you that you still have a long ways to go and you need to plan for the closing of the parking lot. The thrill of being close is greatly diminished when you come over the rise and there is a peak that has to be scrambled still.
On top you have some awesome views of downtown San Diego off in the distance as well as plenty of hills and mountains.
On my way down I added El Capitan Peak, after all I am a peak bagger and it is right there for the taking. I also checked out old mines on the way back down the trail a piece. If you have not been in a cave then check them out, otherwise it wasn’t even worth putting on my head lamp lol.
My Hobie Cat/Peak Bagging friend Keith Christensen once said, “If it didn’t hurt then it wasn’t worth it.” This hike was worth it.
My side trips to El Capitan Peak, (no not that El Capitan Peak…) and to the mine.
This was an hike I was looking forward to as a tough one and it did not disappoint. It was a good one, One where you felt that you accomplished something. It was hard, it was long, it was wonderful. The area was superb, and the vistas so sweet. Stay with me to celebrate such endeavors, which is easy to do, just: COMMENT, LIKE, FOLLOW and SHARE. If you like my hat and shirt then checkout my adventure wear website SHOP APPAREL. I invite you to checkout the Menu above. It will show you some wondrous places all over the West that I have traveled to on behalf PBTA. The Menu is categorized by location as well as activity. Each is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently.
Volcan Mountain is one of the Six Pack of Peaks for the San Diego area, which means for Peak Baggers this mountain is rather significant. I arrived at the location earlier than the 8AM lot opening, but I was informed by hikers that it is fine to park on the road and head on up ahead of the lot’s opening.
The top of the mountain provides wonderful views all the way to the Pacific and even of Catalina Island on a clear day. The other direction has views of Anza-Borrego and the Salton Sea. This point was in the 1920’s an Air Beacon for the US Postal Service providing night guidance for pilots. Some of the equipment is still visible.
I took Volcan Mountain Trail up which is a broad road. It ventures through Oaks and Manzanitas making it a lovely trek. On the way back I took the Five Oaks Trails which is single track, narrow and winding, with some switch backs furnishing more of the nature feel that I prefer than a road. It more or less parallels the Volcan Mountain Trail, but it will add on about a mile to your adventure. I will always make it a loop if given the choice.
Besides the lovely trees and vegetation I mentioned, I saw some wildlife that was fun: Wild Turkeys, Bunnies, Vultures and other birds of prey, deer and a lizard. I did not see any of the posted wild life that isn’t fun: Mountain Lion or Rattlesnake.
Thanks for Peak Bagging Volcan Mountain with me as I was ’Pursing Balance Through Adventure’. I hope this episode encourages you to get out and say hello to nature soon, as such an outing can bring the rest of our lives back into the balance that is so important for our well being. Stay with me by doing a few easy tasks: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. If you care to peruse the menu above you will discover that PBTA ventures all across the West. The menu is divided up mostly by location. Each location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. If you like my shirt and beanie they are available for purchase at SHOP APPAREL.