• the first encounter.

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

Apr 26, 2014

Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park

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Top of the World Park

Aliso and Woods Canyon is one of my favorite places to mountain bike in Orange County.  I usually park at the entrance on Alicia Parkway,  take the paved  Aliso Creek Trail south, and then head off road on right-hand spur trail for the Wood Canyon Trail.   The Wood Canyon Trail leads slightly uphill to Dripping Hole Cave.  It’s an easy trail for beginners.  If you feel like exercising, you can continue a few miles past Dripping Hole Cave and head up the steeper section of the Woods Canyon Trail to Canyon View Park. Canyon View Park has water fountains and a public restroom for a well-deserved rest at the top.

If you really want to try a butt-kicking ride, you can continue past Canyon View Park and pick up the Cholla Trail, then the Lynx Trail, and finally connect to the West Ridge Trail which will take you to the Top of the World Park. You can re-fill your water bottle in the park and then head back down to your car. I would only recommend attempting to bike from Alicia Parkway to Top of the World Park if you’re in pretty decent shape. The last section can be rough trip, especially when you’ve already been heading uphill for several miles. If you’re a beginner, a great way to do this ride is to use a two car shuttle.  You can park at the Top of the World Park  and bike downhill to the parking lot on Alicia Parkway and then drive back up the to your car.  It’s about an 11 mile drive back to the parking lot on Alicia Parkway.

Regardless of whether you plan on hiking or biking all the way to Canyon View Park or the Top of the World, I highly recommend taking the spur trail and checking out Dripping Hole Cave.  It’s not a huge cave by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the largest natural inland caves in Orange County.

Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park Address:
28373 Alicia Parkway

Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Apr 25, 2014

Five Hikes for Dogs in Orange County

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A lot of trails in Orange County have restrictions on pets, so I put together a list of 5 hikes in Orange County where you can bring your dogs. I would rate all of these trails and parks as easy. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them in the comment section a the bottom of the page.

1. Santiago Oaks Regional Park
Santiago Oaks Regional Park is located in Orange California. It has some excellent trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park is located in the heart of Orange County, but it feels surprisingly remote once you get into the canyon and up into the hills. There are several easy trails that follow the creek, and a few that go straight up the mountain.

2. Peters Canyon
Peters Canyon is a relatively small park. The main trail follows the perimeter of the reservoir and leads down into the canyon below the dam. There are a few side trails, but they just circle back to the main loop. All of the trails are fairly easy with only an occasional steep hill. One of the highlights of the park is a large eucalyptus grove at the end of the canyon. It's not a big park, but it's fun.

3. Fairview Park
Fairview Park is a great little park in Costa Mesa. It’s situated on a bluff overlooking the the Santa Ana River. The main trail is a wide, flat, gravel path that loops around the perimeter of the park.  The trail is shared by hikers, families and cyclists. Fairview Park is also the “secret” mountain biking spot where locals come to hit the jumps and the makeshift dirt trails that snake through the middle of the park. The mountain bikes trails and the dirt jumps are not maintained by the city, so you probably want to scout the trails before you do any hardcore riding. Fairview park isn’t very large, probably less than 2 miles in circumference, but you can turn your trip into a longer loop by combining Talbert Park, Canyon Park and Fairview Park.There are also public bathrooms and water fountains too. This park is also a great jumping off point for people who want tot bike on the Santa Ana River Trail.

The Huntington Beach dog beach isn't a hike. It's just a large beach where you're allowed to bring your dogs and let them off the leash. It's never overly crowded because it's located far enough away from the main Huntington Beach pier.This is also a pretty great surf spot, so don't forget your board. The park is located a bit north of Main Street between Seapoint Ave, and 21st Street. The beach is open everyday from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. To find the beach on your GPS using Google Maps, enter 100 Goldenwest St, Huntington Beach, CA

5. Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park
Aliso Canyon is one of my favorite parks in Orange County. I usually come in through the entrance on Alicia Parkway. When I'm typing it in to the GPS, I just use the address for the the Mormon church next to the trailhead at 28291 Alicia Pkwy, Laguna Niguel, CA . ‎The trail starts on a paved section of Aliso Canyon Road and heads downhill. After about a mile on the paved road, I like to pick up the Wood Canyon Trail on the right side and head to Dripping Hole Cave. Wood Canyon is a dirt trail that leads slightly uphill, but it's an easy hike. Keep an eye out for the spur trail on the left that leads to Dripping Hole Cave. 


Apr 17, 2014

Adventures in Southern California on RebelMouse

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I have a new interactive newspaper on RebelMouse set up. It collects random hiking and camping stories from all over the web.


Apr 13, 2014

Renaissance Festival and Pleasure Faire

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Renaissance Festival and Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, California 2014

I’ve been living in Southern California for a few years and today was the first time I've ever made it out to the Renaissance Festival in Irwindale California. The first thing I want to mention is that the city of Irwindale is what Orange County would look like if a nuclear bomb was dropped on Irvine. If you've ever driven through Irwindale, you know just how Kurt Russell must have felt while he was on the set of Escape from LA.  Luckily, the actual festival is held in a charming park on the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. And when I say charming, I mean charming compared to the Thunderdome that is the rest of Irwindale. 

The Renaissance Festival is definitely huge and there are a ton of things to do. All of the shows are free and there were a significant number of free activities, but almost all of the games cost money.  You want to shoot 10 arrows? That’ll cost you $5. You want to throw 8 knives? $5.  You want to throw ten hatchets? $5. You want to throw 4 javelins? $5. And so on. I was a little upset with the lack of prizes for the games. A man dressed like Peter Pan’s gay uncle coaxed me to play one of the games. He bet me I couldn't match him in a javelin throwing contest.  I hurled my first javelin 30 yards through the dead center of the bullseye, and what did I get? Nothing.  

There was actually wide selection of food. It’s funny to see a Scottish pavilion set up next to a Mexican taco stand. It’s encouraging to see that two cultures that are so different can both agree to charge $3 for a small bottled water.

As with any renaissance festival, the best free attraction is always ‘people watching’. Where else can you see 300 pound woman dressed as a pixie squeeze her double D breasts into a corset made for someone half her size?

Tickets to the festival were $28 at the door for adults and $22.50 for kids. I don’t care what the website says, that was the posted price on the door. Walgreens has $4 off coupons, but we didn't use them so I can’t vouch for the price. Did I enjoy myself? Yes. Will I go back next year? Probably.  Did I spend 140$ to throw Chinese-made medieval weapons into a bale of hay for three hours? I sure did. 

Renaissance Festival and Pleasure Faire
Santa Fe Dam and Recreation Area


Apr 11, 2014

What backpack should I buy for day-hiking?

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Tahoe Backpack by Granite Rocx

If you’re looking for an inexpensive multi-purpose backpack for hiking, there are a couple key questions that I would consider:

·         Does it have waste strap and a chest strap?
·         Does it have low-profile design?
·         Does the pack fit my torso length?
·         Does it have plenty of extra compartments for easy access to your gear?
·         Is it made from a high quality, lightweight, ‘ripstop’ material?
·         Can you attach additional gear to the outside?
·         How long is your intended hike?
·         Can I afford it?

If someone asked me for a recommendation for a day-pack, my first choice would be the Tahoe backpack made by a company called Granite Rocx. For 65$, no one makes a comparable pack with anywhere near the number of features as the Tahoe. It has an adjustable waste and chest strap.  It has a low profile design that keeps the pack close to your back when you hike. It has 3 large compartments with a ton of extra smaller pockets for gear access. It’s made from ripstop nylon. It has a compression buckle to attach a tent, a nylon gear stash on the outside of the backpack for holding your beach towel and it has a insulated detachable cooler that can hold 12 beers.  The Tahoe also has a feature where you can unzip the main compartment and strap a beach chair to the backpack. I’ve never seen another pack with that feature. This is the best beach backpack on the market at any price point.

I’ve hiked with a ton of backpacks and this is the first pack I’ve ever used that satisfies the medium between the too small camelback type backpacks and the over-sized internal frame backpacks that hurt my shoulders. Last week, I took my Tahoe on a 17 mile round-trip up Mount Wilson in Southern California. It was the first hike I've done in months where I didn't have shoulder pains. You can order it directly from Granite Rocx website or through Amazon for 65$. I’m not the only person who loves this pack, it currently has a perfect 5/5 rating from users on Amazon. Hope this post was helpful on your quest for a new day-pack. 

Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack

Newport Beach  Picnic


Apr 6, 2014

Hiking from Chantry Flats to Mount Wilson

Hiking to Mount Wilson with my trusty hiking pole and Granite Rocx backpack

Some general Advice about hiking the loops from Chantry Flats to Wilson:

There is a lot of confusing information online about hiking the loop from Chantry Flats to Mount Wilson. I’ll try to cover the basics in a single paragraph and give more details in the rest of the post. Including a stop at Cosmic Cafe on the top of Mount Wilson, this route is over 16 miles long and should be considered strenuous.  The Cosmic Cafe has extremely limited hours and is only open on weekends in the spring, so be sure to check the hours. You will also need a forest adventure pass or purchase a 5$ parking pass from Adam’s Pack Station at Chantry Flats. Don’t get locked in the parking lot, they close the gate at 8 pm. Make sure you have the appropriate gear for the hike. The temperature can fluctuate up to 50 degrees colder at the top of the mountain, so a jacket and gloves is definitely recommended. Bring plenty of water and a headlamp. Most of the loop is in a canyon and you don’t want to get stranded without a light if the sun goes down.  Make sure your boots are in good shape and wear a long pair of comfortable socks to avoid getting blisters.  Make sure you have a comfortable backpack. This is one of those long day hikes where a camel-back type backpack is too small for your extra gear and an overnight backpack is overkill.  This was my first hike with my new Granite Rocx daypack and it was a life saver.  I have shoulder problems when I hike with a heavy load on my shoulders, so I had to find an ultra-light backpack with a bunch of extra compartments for all of my gear.  This was seriously the first time I've hiked all year without any shoulder problems. 

Chantry Flats Loop to Mount Wilson:
Landmarks on the loop: Chantry Flats, Upper Falls Trail, Cascade Picnic Area,  Spruce Grove Campground, Sturtevant Trail, Mount Wilson Observatory, Cosmic Cafe, Mount Wilson Toll Road, Upper Winter Creek Trail, Chantry Flats.

The hike to Mount Wilson starts in the Chantry Flats parking area. From the parking lot, You head downhill on a winding paved road all the way to the canyon floor. Then head North on the Gabrielino Trail towards Sturtevant Falls. Make a left at the Fern Lodge Junction and continue North on the upper Falls trail,  or hike to the falls and then scale the incline on the left of the falls to reach the trail. This shortcut has eroded quite a bit in the last few years, so I don’t recommend it.  Continue North-West. You will pass the Cascade Picnic area, the Spruce Grove Camp and you will pass the spur trail that heads to Newcomb Pass.  You will eventually reach the junction for the Sturtevant Trail to Mount Wilson. This is the trail you want. Make a right onto the Sturtevant Trail and head up to reach the summit of Mount Wilson. From this junction, it’s approximately 3 ½ miles of endless switchbacks up the mountain. Once you reach the summit, you will see the Mount Wilson observatory telescope. From here, follow the paved road to the Cosmic Cafe. There is a large bathroom facility and a fill station for water bottles at the observatory.  To head back to Chantry Flats, the trail starts in the parking lot directly adjacent to the Cosmic Cafe. Its partially eroded and not obvious, even if you’re standing next to it. You hike down the steep trail until you reach the wider dirt road marked as The Mount Wilson Toll Road. This Road is no longer in service because of the landslides that block it. Head South on the road until you reach the junction for Upper Winter Creek Trail. Hike until you reach the trail junction for Hoegees Camp.  Do not hike to Hoegees Camp, stay right instead at the junction to remain on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. This trail heads slightly uphill for the first half mile, but will lead you around the mountain and downhill for the remainder of the trail right into Chantry Flats.  The loop is approximately 16 miles round-trip. It took us 8 hours to finish it, but we did stop for an hour at the top for lunch.

Notes on the trail:
I was not in shape for this hike. Not even close. I've only hiked once in the past 3 weeks, and this was a poor choice to get back into shape. The switchbacks absolutely murdered my legs and tender toes. Many websites incorrectly list the loop at 12 miles. In actuality, its over 16. The parking lot at Chantry Flats is insane on the weekends. People were parked on both sides of the road a mile away lining both sides of the road down the mountain.
The Spruce Grove Campground is the only place on the trail where we passed an outhouse. The campground was almost full, which is surprising for the start of April. The last 3.4 miles of the Sturtevant Trail to the observatory are a murderous, never-ending, unrelenting set of switchbacks and inclines. The trail spur to the Mount Wilson Toll Road at the Cosmic Cafe parking lot is damn near impossible to find. We had to ask another set of hikers to show us where it was. There is no way we would have found it on our own.  

 From the 210 Freeway in Arcadia, take the Santa Anita exit North and follow Santa Anita Avenue for 1.5 miles to the yellow gate. Continue 3 miles up the narrow winding road to Chantry Flats parking area. It can easily fill up on the weekends, so expect to see cars parked along both sides of the road. Don’t forget your Forest Adventure parking pass.

Gabrielino Trail 

Sturtevant Falls


Mar 26, 2014

Adventures in Southern California now has its own online newspaper

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Adventures in Southern California is now an online newspaper. I've compiled literally hundreds of twitter feeds, rss feeds and hiking blogs into a digital newspaper. I've collected feeds from all over the world that focus on hiking, backpacking, gear reviews, biking, climbing, rafting, boarding, food and traveling with a special emphasis on Southern California. I'm adding new websites to my feed every day. Feel free to send me a message if you would like to add your website or blog to my feed. The newspaper updates every 24 hours with all new content, so check in as frequently as you like. If you follow the archives tab near the top of the newspaper, you can check out all of the hiking stories you might have missed. Check it out here: https://paper.li/AdventureSoCal/1394392412

Feb 23, 2014

Borrego Trail to the Red Rock Trail in Whiting Ranch

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Borrego Trail Whiting Ranch

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park has gained a bit of notoriety lately due to the high number of Mountain Lion sightings in the area. It’s been two weeks since someone last spotted a mountain lion in the park. I know this because the information was posted on a signpost at the Borrego trail-head.  Despite all of the hoopla in the press, mountain lions almost never attack humans. To my knowledge, there have only been 20 confirmed deaths in North America by mountain lions since people began keeping records in 1890.  If my math is correct, your odds of being killed in a mountain lion attack are approximately 1 in 160 million.  By contrast, there were 10 people last year in the US who were killed in “Frisbee related deaths.” Yes, more people have been killed by a Frisbee in the past two years than killed by a mountain lion the past 100.  But I digress.

The Borrego Trail starts at a Ralph’s grocery store parking lot in Foothill Ranch California just off Portolla Parkway. You have to pay the 3$ fee at the automated pay station and put the parking pass in your window.  Today was a sunny 70 degree Sunday, so there were a ton of hikers and mountain bikers in the parking lot.  The Borrego Trail is mostly shaded and flat. Mountain bikers use it as a launching point for several other trails in the area, but biking is restricted on the Borrego Trail to uphill riding only, so you won’t have anyone flying past you on the way down. The Borrego trail is an easy trail with almost no elevation gain, so it’s suitable for pretty much everyone. There is a little creek that runs parallel with the creek, so you’ll see and hear a ton of little animals scurrying around. We saw a lot families toting little kids along the Borrego trail. You hike through the shaded section trail for about a mile and half before you come to the intersection for the steep Mustard Road trail that leads to the top of the bluffs. There is a trail map and a bench at the intersection in case you want to take a little break. We decided not to hike up the hill because of the high number of mountain bikers in the park today. From this point, we continued forward on the easier trail to the Red Rock Canyon Trailhead. We passed several other trails that lead uphill in other directions. Just follow the signs for Red Rock.

The Red Rock Trail is approximately half a mile long. It has a very slight elevation gain, but little shade, so you will be exposed to the sun. The canyon narrows slightly and the trail becomes a bit more rough and washed out. The final 200 yards of the trail dead-ends at Red Rock Canyon. You can scramble up the gap and take a few photos. There are several signs warning you not to go any further because you could damage the fragile ecosystem. From this point, you just turn around and go back the way you came, or you can try your mettle on the steep side trails that lead to the top of the canyon. Look out for mountain bikers flying down these side trails. 


Feb 17, 2014

A Roadtrip from Newport Beach California to Telluride Colorado

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Telluride Colorado

The drought in California this year has pretty much ruined the ski season. So I came up with the bright idea of driving 12 hours from Newport to Beach to Telluride Colorado this year. The plan looked great on paper. We would stay in Las Vegas and then drive a loop and stay one night each in Durango, Ouray, Telluride and then back through Las Vegas. I hadn’t counted on a blizzard dropping a foot and a half of snow on Route 550 between Ouray and Telluride the night we hit Colorado. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had debated ordering a 28$ set of snow chains off Amazon. Not buying them turned out to be a minor disaster.

There are a few ways to drive from Las Vegas to Durango Colorado. The most obvious route takes you through the entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Flagstaff Arizona.  If you've never seen the South Rim, this is the route you want to take. I've been to the South Rim a few times, so I decided to take an alternate route through Saint George Utah on I-15, across the Glen Canyon Dam and Page Arizona on the 98 and finally picking up the 160 to Durango. This entire route is so beautiful that it merits a trip all by itself. You’ll pass through the Virgin River canyon. You’ll see high desert plateaus filled with Joshua Trees. You’ll see the Colorado River, the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. You’ll see rock pinnacles, mesas, snow-capped mountains, wind caves, Indian Reservations and even a little town called Colorado City filled with polygamist Mormons.  

Durango Colorado is a great little town in its own right. We only had one night in town, so we ended up eating a place near our hotel called the Irish Embassy. The pot roast was mind-blowing. I also ordered a terrific IPA from the local Ska Brewery. It reminded me of Pliny the Elder. We woke up the next morning to 6 inches of fresh powder on the ground and temperatures that were around negative 5 degrees. We hit Durango Mountain Resort and it was so cold that my girlfriend decided to stay in the lodge all day and play on her iPad. I snowboarded for about 4 hours before I got so cold that I had to come in too. Durango Mountain  is a great little resort, but it’s expensive. My lift ticket cost me 77$ and they don’t do night skiing. That's a premium price for a smaller place. 

Around noon while I was snowboarding, the blizzard hit. It was a near whiteout conditions. Our plan was to drive up the 550 and stay in Ouray that night. We got word that the pass was closed due to a rockslide and that we probably wouldn't  be able to make it through. We decided to leave early in the afternoon and take the long way around before the snow got to deep. We drove up a mountain road with zero visibility in a foot of snow in a Toyota Corolla. We had so much snow and ice caked on the bottom of our car that every time we went over a bump we would bottom out. It took us almost 5 hours to drive 150 miles to Ouray in the blizzard. We skidded off the road twice, hit a snow bank and ended up following a snowplow for 100 miles at 15 miles per hour. 

Ouray is a unique little town. It looks like something you might find in the Swiss Alps. It sits right in the middle of a mountain valley, so the town is really only one main road.  There are several commercially operated hot spring pools in the town that are open year round. Ouray Hot Springs is the largest hot spring in town. Its bigger than an Olympic sized pool.  It may have been 0 degrees outside, but the hot springs were 104 and we spent several hours swimming outside.  The air was so cold that my wet hair actually froze to my head while I was running 50 feet between the hot springs and the locker room.

 Ouray has a waterfall you can visit right on the edge of town, but we didn't’t have time to do the hike in the morning because we had to make the drive to Telluride to go snowboarding.  I really think it would be worth the drive to to come back and spend a few days Ouray in the early fall.


Telluride Ski Resort is quiet simply the best ski resort I've ever been to. Snow conditions were amazing because of the blizzard on the previous day and it was actually sunny. The mountain is huge and the resort is divided into 2 sections, one at the top and one at the bottom.  Our hotel was at the bottom. The whole town is serviced by a series of free Gondolas that you can take to different areas around the resort. We were able to walk out of our hotel with our boards and catch the gondola 3 blocks from our door.  The shape and sheer size of the mountain makes it very easy to get lost. I found myself checking the map while I was snowboarding after every run just to figure out where I was.

The actual town of Telluride is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Main Street is straight off a holiday post card from the 1950s. I had read about all of the great hikes in the Telluride area, but it was just too damn cold to go trouncing off into the woods when its below zero outside. We checked out a few local restaurants, but we never really found any food that blew us away. I did end up drinking a few more of those beers from the Ska Brewery. Main Street in Telluride has a ton of cool shops. More recently, they have opened up a bunch of Marijuana shops now that it’s been legalized. We might have partaken if we could have tracked down a pot brownie. We’re already making plans to come back to Colorado next year, but it won’t be in the winter time. I don’t think I can handle another 5 hours driving through a blizzard on a mountain pass at 12,000 feet. 

Ouray Hot Springs


Feb 8, 2014

Arches National Park. Moab, Utah

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Arches National Park.  South Window

Arches National Park is one of the most amazing places to visit in the United States. The entrance to the park is located in the little town of Moab which is about a half hour south of Interstate 70, between Grand Junction Colorado and Richfield Utah. Moab is a mecca for bicyclists, rock climbers and hikers from all over the world. According to the National Park Service website, Arches National Park contains over 2,000 arches. I was only able to spend a single day in the park. I hiked approximately 8 miles total, covering 4 of the most popular hikes in the park. I easily could have spent a whole week in the park just taking photos.  

My favorite section of the park is known as the ‘Windows Section’. It contains a few of the largest and most impressive arches, the North and South Windows and the Turret Arch. These arches are located just a few hundred yards uphill from the parking area. They are accessible for small children and anyone who is physically capable of climbing a few dozen stairs. If you only had an hour or two to spend in the park, this is the hike that you would want to do.

The best hike we did in Arches National Park was definitely the trek to Delicate Arch. This is the arch prominently featured on Utah’s license plate. The hike is approximately 3 miles round-trip from the parking area at Wolfe Ranch, but it feels longer because most of it is uphill and the air is very thin when you’re at 6,000 feet above sea level. One section of this hike involves navigating up a large rock dome. There are rock cairns placed strategically along the way to help mark the trail, but we noticed several people getting lost and heading in the wrong direction. Just follow the cairns and you will be fine. The reward is definitely worth the effort. Delicate Arch is one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in any of the national parks.

Our final hike of the day was to see the Landscape Arch located in the ‘Devil’s Garden’ section of Arches National Park. The hike to Landscape Arch is approximately 2 miles round-trip with only a very slight elevation gain. This hike should be suitable for even young children. There are literally dozens of arches located just off the trail in the Devil’s Garden. This is also the section of the park where the campground is located. I’m sure this is a very busy campground because it was half full during a mid-week in the middle of winter.

The weather in the area of Utah varies a great deal, from scorching summers to brutally cold winters. I would highly recommend visiting this park in the spring or fall, especially if you plan on camping. The summers here are especially hard for hiking under the cloudless sky in the 100 degree heat. You would need almost a gallon of water per person for an 8 mile hike in the summer. 

The off-season hotels in Moab are very reasonably priced. We saw multiple places for 40$/per night on Travelocity