Fill your life with adventure. Have stories to tell and not things.

Category: Hiking Page 1 of 2

Hike the Historic Donner Tunnels

Dylan and I recently drove to Truckee, California to hike the Historic Donner Tunnels. It turned out to be more of a walk than a hike, but it was interesting and a little bit creepy. The tunnels are dark and there are bats and rats living inside them. If you walk through all of the tunnels it is about 5 miles roundtrip. Most of the path is gravel or hard-packed sand.

Where to Enter Donner Tunnels

There are a few places to start this hike. We decided to start closest to tunnel 6. The day we went to the Donner Tunnels we encountered multiple road closures due to construction. We were finally able to circle back to Donner Pass Road (Old Highway 40) and we parked in the Sugar Bowl dirt parking lot. The entrance to tunnel 6 is a short walk through this parking lot.

This is the entrance to the Historic Donner Tunnels from the parking lot.

The History of The Donner Tunnels

In the late 1800s, the Central Pacific Company wanted to extend their railway lines from Sacramento, California to Ogden, Utah and that meant that they would have to cross Donner Pass. CPC employed Chinese immigrants to dig tunnel #6 by hand. One man would hold a drill bit while two others hit the bit with a sledgehammer. They would continue hammering until their hole was big enough for explosives. Using this method the men only averaged 14 inches of progress a day. CPC completed the tunnel in a year and a half and the first trains were able to pass in 1867. Trains ran on this route for 125 years until 1993 when the route was changed and the railroad tracks were taken out of the tunnel.

A Sign about the Historic Donner Tunnel #6

Tunnel #6

Tunnel #6 is the most impressive of all the historic tunnels. It is the longest at 1,600 feet. When I looked up at the top and at the sides I could see the solid granite. It is amazing to think that men had basically carved out this tunnel by hand. As soon as I walked inside the tunnel I couldn’t believe how cool it was. It was at least 20 degrees cooler than outside. Although it was the middle of August and the snow had long since melted we had to watch where we were walking, because of all standing water throughout the tunnel.

Historic Donner Tunnel #6

Walking Through the Historic Donner Tunnels

Not all of the tunnels are pitch black. Some of the tunnels have slits on the walls near the top and these let in light. These slits were my favorite part of all the tunnels. The lighting is amazing as it bounces through the slits and lights up the corridor.

The light slits in the tunnel.
Light streams in through the slits.

There are also a few spots where the wall is open either via a rolled-up door or a broken wall. Step back out into the light and you will have a great view of Donner Lake.

An exit from the tunnel.
Donner Lake

I Was Scared in the Donner Tunnel

I thought I knew what to expect in the tunnels, but I was unprepared for the bats, rats, and the pitch black. We brought flashlights, but when we were in the middle of tunnel #6 it was pitch black even with the flashlights on. The bats never bothered us, but we could hear them. The rats freaked me out. I lost my cool when I almost stepped on a dead rat that was as large as a small house cat. At one point we heard a noise that at first sounded like the wind and then it got louder and louder until it sounded like a train coming through the tunnel. I looked down to make sure there were no train tracks and then I had visions of a ghost train. It turned out it was a truck from the railway company driving through the tunnel.

Inside a dark tunnel.

Graffiti

Like it or not there is plenty of graffiti in the tunnels. For the most part, the graffiti is all contained on the inside of the tunnels and is not spilling out into the surrounding areas. Some of the graffiti looks like art and some look like just a normal tag. I’ll leave it up to you if you think it belongs here or not.

Tips to Help You Enjoy the Donner Tunnels

  • Bring a sweater or jacket even in the summer. It’s much cooler inside the tunnels.
  • Wear good shoes. You will be walking on lots of uneven gravel.
  • Wear closed toe shoes. Even in summer there is standing water inside the tunnel. I wouldn’t want that water on my feet.
  • Bring a big flashlight. The tunnels are dark!
  • The tunnels can be dangerous in the winter and spring because of falling icicles.
  • Bring a friend because only the brave would want to do this hike alone.

Hiking Mount Baden-Powell

On a Friday in June Sally and I decided to try hiking Mount Baden-Powell. We have both done this hike before, so we fooled ourselves into thinking that it wouldn’t be that hard of a day. Boy were we wrong. We encountered crazy weather, large banks of snow, and the added difficulty of trying to hike with two dogs.

The view from the beginning of the trail.

Driving to Mount Baden-Powell

The trailhead is located off of Highway 2 outside of Wrightwood. Be aware that Highway 2 is often closed. The highway is prone to landslides and Cal Trans spends a considerable amount of time scraping rocks off the road. Be sure and check for road closures before you drive there. The trail starts at Vincents Gap and there is a large parking lot. The parking lot fills up on the weekend and an adventure pass is required to park. There are two vault toilets, but no running water.

Mount Baden-Powell

The summit of Mount Baden-Powell is at 9,406 feet and it is one of the tallest peaks in the San Gabriel mountains. The trail to the summit intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in case you want to channel your inner Cheryl Strayed. The mountain was named for Lord Baden-Powell the founder of the Boy Scouts.

Up We Go

The trail up is pretty straight forward and easy to follow. It is about 4 1/2 miles to the top and we climbed about 3,000 feet. The incline felt a little more gradual than some of the other Southern California peaks because there are over 40 switchbacks on the way to the top. When we first started up the air was cool and the sky was clear. We didn’t pass many people because we were hiking on a weekday.

Snow in June

A couple of miles into our hike and we encountered our first snow. We let the dogs stop and have fun in the snow. About a mile from the top we got to banks of snow that were covering the trail. It wasn’t possible to go around, because it was too steep above and below so we had to go through it. Unfortunately, because it was June the snow was soft and we post-holed through the banks. The dogs had no problem going over the snow, but somehow Sally and I came out looking like we had rolled around in a snowbank.

Snow in June

Wally Waldron

Just below the summit, we walked across a ridge and we came upon Wally Waldron the oldest living organism in the San Gabriel Mountains. Wally Waldron is an ancient Limber Pine estimated to be over 1,500 years old. Its roots are precariously hanging onto the edge of the trail. These large knarled roots help protect Wally from the wind and rain. There is a sign telling about the history of the tree. After passing Wally it is just a few short switchbacks to the summit of Baden Powell.

Wally Waldron
The Limber Pine has massive roots.

The Summit

We were so relieved to reach the summit. There is a monument to Baden- Powell, a logbook, and sometimes there is an American Flag and a summit sign. On this visit, there was no flag. There seems to be a debate going on within the hiking community about leaving flags and trail signs. Some people believe that leaving these things at the summit violates the leave no trace policy. There was a summit sign this time so we took pictures with it. This was Jinx’s 2nd summit. After our pictures, we found a place to hunker down and eat lunch and rehydrate. We used so much energy on the way up that after lunch we both lied down in the dirt and closed our eyes for about 30 minutes. It felt glorious to soak up the sun and rest.

A monument to Baden Powell.
Jinx and I made it to the summit.

Time to Hike Down

Some people might think that going down is easier than going up, but that is not always the case. When we are feeling tired going down can feel hard on our knees and if you add dogs and snow to the mix down can be even more treacherous. Getting past the snow was even more difficult on the way down because the sun had warmed up the snowbanks. We tried to step our way across, but we basically turned the snowbank into a giant slip and slide, and by the time we got to the other side our pants were soaking wet and we had a lot of good laughs.

Trying to cross the snow.
On the way down.

The Weather

During our hike, we encountered a wide variety of weather. In the morning it was cool and cloudy, however, when we got to the summit the sun was out and the skies were blue. On our way down very low clouds started to roll in and the temperature dropped. We felt like we were walking in a cloud bank. When we got close to the bottom it started to rain and then it hailed a little bit. Luckily, neither the hail nor rain lasted long and we just kept hiking down.

Walking through the clouds.
The trail is part of the PCT.

The Take Away

In June Sally and I were still training for Mt. Whitney so we were happy we completed this hike. We both agreed that hiking Baden Powell reinforced a few good lessons. #1 Sometimes your body just might not be feeling like hiking. Sally and I have both hiked Baden Powell before in half the amount of time that this hike took, but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t our day. #2 Always be prepared for anything. We both have micro-spikes and they would have made our trek over the snow so much easier, but who knew we would need micro-spikes in June in Southern California. Also, neither of us had brought rain gear. The rain wasn’t in the forecast at all for the day and when we left the valley it was sunny.

We Made It To The Car

Luckily, we made it back to the car without getting drenched. We might have to revisit Baden Powell in the near future because it is a beautiful hike that is great for conditioning and it is part of the Southern California Six Pack of Peaks.

Momyer Creek Trail to Alger Camp

Momyer Creek Trail to Alger Camp is located in Forest Falls in the San Bernardino Forest. When it’s 96 degrees in the valley and we want to hike we have to head to the mountains. We decided that since we were hiking with dogs and we did not want to push them too hard in the heat that we would try the Momyer Creek Trail, because there are water crossings and some shade. Our hike was 9 miles roundtrip.

Momyer Creek Trailhead

It was an easy one hour drive to the trailhead for us. Momyer Creek trailhead is reached by turning east off Highway 38 to Forest Falls, continue up the road 3 miles to the large parking area on your left 100 yards before the fire station.The address is 40560 Valley of the Falls Dr. in Forest Falls, CA. There is a dirt parking lot with trail signs, trash cans, and picnic tables, however, there are no bathrooms.

Momyer Trailhead

Crossing the Creek

The trail immediately descends into a wash and you have to cross Mill Creek. There is not a bridge, so use extreme caution. We were able to pick our way across on rocks and logs. The water was moving rapidly and looked a little too deep to plunge in and try to cross that way. Flash floods have occurred in the area that has resulted in many hikers needing to be rescued so make sure you are aware of the weather conditions before you cross.

Crossing Mill creek
Parts of Mill Creek are deep.

Heading up Momyer Creek Trail

Immediately after crossing Mill Creek, we saw a sign that states in 3 miles we would need a wilderness permit, however, we were heading towards Alger Camp and we wouldn’t be needing a permit. At this point, the trail starts to head up via switchbacks. The trail gains bout 1,800 feet in 3 miles and is moderately strenuous. A lot of the trail is shaded by big oak trees on the way up, so it makes it a great option for a hot day. We were hiking in June and the wildflowers were amazing. There were large patches of Lupine and Indian Paintbrush along with some flowers that we did not know the name of. After we had hike 2 miles we stopped on a log and gave the dogs a drink. We were able to find the perfect place in the shade.

A wilderness permit is required in 3 miles.
Lots of Lupine
Indian Paintbrush

Entering San Gorgonio Wilderness

At approximately the 3 mile mark we saw the sign for San Gorgonio Wilderness. Shortly after the sign, we came to the juncture for San Bernardino Peak, Alger Creek, and Dobbs Cabin. There was a sign for Alger Creek and Dobbs Cabin, but nothing for San Bernardino Peak. If you would like to head to the peak there is a small trail on the left side that heads straight up the mountain. It’s another 3,000 feet of climbing to reach San Bernardino Peak. In order to continue on that trail, you do need a wilderness permit. We followed the trail that veers right towards Alger Creek.

Entering San Gorgonio Wilderness
Entering San Gorgonio Wilderness

Heading Down to Alger Creek

The trail down to Alger Creek follows a series of small switchbacks. This is a shady section of the trail. At one point we walked into a small patch of Redwoods. The Redwoods are towering above the other trees. We also walked past a small spring that is bubbling out of the side of the mountain. The extra water in the area is helping the ferns grow. The path down to Alger Creek is just .7 miles. We saw a sign when we got to the creek and in order to get Alger Camp, we needed to cross the creek. Again we were able to get across on a combination of rocks and logs.

The sign for Alger Creek
A giant Redwood
Pretty ferns
Parker getting water from a spring.

Alger Camp

Alger Camp is located .25 miles below the creek. There are some big logs to sit on. We saw where someone had set up a tent before, but there wasn’t anyone camping there. Alger Camp might be a good location for an overnight backpacking trip. No fires are allowed, but you can use your gas stoves. With the creek running by there is an endless supply of water as long as you are filtering it. We ate our lunch and let the dogs rest in the cool shade. It was a peaceful location if you don’t take into account the biting flies. We could have continued on the trail for another 2 miles to Dobbs Cabin, but according to AllTrails, there isn’t much to see there so we turned around and headed back the way we came.

The sign for Alger Creek Camp

Hiking Back to The Car

The first .7 miles was uphill and after that, we were pretty much headed downhill until we got to Mill Creek. The way back was much warmer and we had to stop several times to give the dogs water. The views were great. We could see Yucaipa Ridge, San Bernardino Peak, and Mill Creek Canyon. According to the Forest Service this one of the most underused trails in the San Gorgonio Wilderness within the Sand to Snow National Monument. We saw a total of 3 people the entire day. We were again able to cross Mill Creek safely. There is not a clear path back to the car we just had to carefully step over rocks along the wash. Although this hike doesn’t have a big pay off it is a beautiful trail with good views and plenty of shade for a warm day.

There is shade provided by the oaks.
A view of Mill Creek.
Fields of Lupine.

Hiking in Big Bear, CA

In May sally and I went hiking in Big Bear, CA. We are training for Mt. Whitney so we headed to Big Bear to hike at a higher altitude. Living basically at sea level makes it harder to prepare for hikes that start at such a high elevation. We decided on the Castle Rock Trail but followed someone’s advice from All Trails and added Bluff Lake and Champion Lodge Pine to our hike.

Driving to Castle Rock

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes for us to drive to Big Bear from my house. This time we drove up CA-330 and I was unfortunately reminded how windy the road is. The trailhead for Castle Rock is located 1.1 miles east of the Big Bear Dam on State Highway 18. There is very little parking so it’s best to try and not hike here on a busy day. We parked alongside Highway 18, but there is a very small turnout North of the trail. According to All Trails, Castle Rock Trail is 2.6 miles round-trip and is rated as moderate. This is an out and back trail.

Castle Rock Trail

There is a large map posted on the trail sign at the start of the trail. Immediately this trail starts heading up. You will gain over 500 feet of elevation in a short amount of time. The trail is well maintained. It looks like the forest service has built some permanent rock cairns. They are a tower of chicken wire that is encasing a pile of rocks. The cairns along with the trail signs posted on many of the trees help people from veering off the trail. Castle Rock is a large outcropping East of the trail. We watched someone repelling down the side of Castle Rock. On the way up we crossed the stream several times, but the water level is so low so our shoes didn’t get wet.

Castle Creek Trail
Parts of the trail are steep.
Sally & I at the top of Castle Rock Trail.

Heading to Bluff Lake

After Castle Rock Trail we headed to Bluff Lake. When you get to the top of Castle Rock Trail there are signs and a dirt road that cars can drive on. At the sign head west on the dirt road. Turn left at the second road. There is a sign saying that it is a dead-end, but keep going. At the end of the road, there is a large gate to keep out the cars, but hikers are allowed to pass. On the other side of the gate is The Bluff Lake Reserve that is operated by the Wildlands Conservancy. The reserve is open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. May 1 – November 1st. Admission is free and dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash. Swimming isn’t allowed at Bluff Lake.

Bluff Lake

The History of Bluff Lake

In the late 1800s, there was a YMCA Camp at Bluff Lake. In the 1920s Pomona College bought the property to use as a nature field study area. Today there is one original cabin remaining that was a stage stop for the burro trains that went through the area in the 1880s. The 1961 original Parent Trap movie was filmed at Bluff Lake as well as the 2002 Dr. Doolittle 2 movie. The Wildland Conservancy obtained the land in 2000 to save it from being developed and they drained the 20-acre lake to rid it of non-native catfish in order to restore the native fish.

An original cabin.
The original cabin.
Ruins

Bluff Lake

In addition to the 20-acre lake, Bluff Lake Reserve is 80 acres of natural beauty. There is a one-mile trail that circles around the lake. The area is home to several species of rare plants. There are towering pine trees and a delicate meadow. We saw a few picnic tables if you want to sit down and have lunch with an amazing view, however, be warned the bugs were fierce the day we were there. The bugs weren’t biting, but they were flying up our noses and trying to get in our eyes.

The entrance to the reserve.
Bluff Lake
Bluff Lake

Champion Lodgepole Pine

Follow the trail signs to Champion Lodgepole Pine. Lodgepole pines usually only grow above 8,000 feet and in the Sierras where it is much cooler, however, there is a small group of them growing in a meadow near Bluff Lake. The Champion Lodgepole Pine was discovered in 1963. This giant towers over the other trees and is around 110 feet tall. It is estimated to be at least 450 years old. There are numbered trail signs for an interpretive trail, but we didn’t follow it.

Champion Lodgepole Pine
The Champion Lodgepole Pine.
Pinecones

Siberia Creek

Sally, Jinx, and I continued on past the Champion Lodgepole Pine heading towards Gunsight. We walked alongside Siberia Creek. At one point we turned a corner and saw smoke smoldering under a tree. It was a little discerning to see. The further we walked we could see that the smoldering was remnants of a prescribed burn. The whole area looked a little like the Apocalypse. Siberia Creek Trail crosses 2 bridges and then starts to climb up a mountain. Soon we could see all the way to Mt. Baldy. We were unsure where or what is Gunsight, so after hiking on the trail for over a mile we turned back around and returned the way we had come.

On the way to Siberia Creek Trail.
The meadow.
Lots of green.
There were still pockets burning.

Keep Your Dog On A Leash

On the way back we had planned to stop at Bluff Lake and have lunch, but our plans were derailed by an encounter with a crazy man and his dog. The man didn’t have his dog on a leash. His dog was a giant Husky and it charged at us because it wanted to play with Jinx. Jinx is still fearful of other dogs and the whole interaction wasn’t positive. We ended up leaving Bluff Lake and hiking to the top of the Castle Rock Trail and ate our lunch overlooking Big Bear Lake.

Jinx on a leash.

Heading Back To The Car

After lunch on our way down a guy on the way up warned us to be careful because he had just passed a big rattlesnake. If you go with children I would be really careful about where you put your hands or where you step, because there are so many hiding places for snakes amongst all the big granite boulders. Overall the trail was a great workout, we ended up hiking over 8 miles. In the morning on the way up the trail, we didn’t see another person, but on the way down in the afternoon, it was really busy. Bluff Lake is beautiful, but if I ever went back again I would hike very early in the morning to avoid the snakes and the hoards of people. The nice thing about Big Bear is there are lots of beautiful hikes to accommodate all different hiking levels.

Castle Rock off in the distance.
Big Bear Lake
Watch out for the snakes.

.

Devils Slide to Tahquitz Peak

Devils Slide to Tahquitz Peak is a beautiful trail in the San Bernardino National Forest that leads to a National Forest Fire outlook. Tahquitz Peak is at 8,846-foot elevation. The hike is somewhere between 8 & 9.5 miles (round-trip) with a gain of 2,500 feet through the San Jacinto Wilderness. It is rated as moderate on Alltrails, but as far as peaks go if you hike often it’s on the easier side.

The Legend of Tahquitz

Legend has it that Tahquitz Peak was named by the Cahuilla Indians after a flesh-eating shaman who lived in the mountain. Tahquitz (pronounced tah-KEETS) was captured long ago behind Tahquitz Rock, so it is now safe to hike there.

A Working Fire Lookout

Tahquitz Peak Fire lookout was an active fire lookout until the end of 1993. In 1998 it reopened and is now staffed seasonally with volunteers. Inside the outlook are a single bed, an oven, and plenty of counters and tables for workspace. There is a sign at the bottom of the lookout asking that no more than 5 people at a time go to the top. The day we were there it was unmanned, but I’ve heard if there is a volunteer there they might welcome you inside for a chat. It is very similar to the lookout tower that Sally and I hiked to at Slide Mountain.

Driving to Tahquitz Peak

We started the morning on the 10 freeway heading East. In the city of Banning we turned on to Highway 243 and wound our way up the mountain to the city of Idyllwild. The trail starts at Humber Park, 24559 Fern Valley Rd, Idyllwild, CA 92549. You need an adventure pass to park in the Humber Park parking lot. Passes are $5 a day or $30 a year. Passes can be purchased at ranger stations or sporting goods stores.

You Need a Permit

There are very strict rules about obtaining a permit for this hike. If you are hiking on a weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day you need to obtain a permit beforehand. There is a quota of 30 permits per day. You can confirm all the details with the San Jacinto Ranger District Office. If you are hiking it any other time you need to stop by the ranger’s office on the way to the trail and fill out a self serve permit.

Hiking on Devils Slide Trail

We started hiking at 9:00 a.m. and even though it was the middle of May it was cold. Too cold to be standing in the shade and not moving. The trail starts at 6,000 feet. For the first 2.5 miles we followed Devils Slide Trail. The trail itself is a series of well-maintained switchbacks. It is a moderate uphill the entire way. We stop a few times to take in the sweeping views of the Hemet/San Jacinto area. We crossed the creek a few times and saw lots of pretty wildflowers. The trail is gorgeous with pines, oaks & manzanita the whole way up. We had great views of Lily Rock which is a popular rock climbing spot, but without binoculars we weren’t able to spot any climbers.

Devils Slide Trail
The start of the trail
An ominous warning
We were starting to get a good view.

Saddle Junction

The trail levels out when you get to Saddle Junction. As you walk through the trees you will notice signs for all the various trails you can take. It is possible to hike from Saddle Junction to Mt San Jacinto without taking the tram from the Palm Springs side. There is also a trail leading to Round Valley which is a backpacking destination. To get to Tahquitz you want to make a hard right onto the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT.) After the nice break at the junction the trail again starts heading up. We were only on the PCT for a little over a mile. We came to a sign pointing to Tahquitz Peak and we again turned right.

Saddle Junction
Saddle Junction

A Beautiful Trail

As a whole this is a beautiful hike. Along the way we crossed a few streams and saw a few little waterfalls. We came across two alien looking Snow Plants. The trees provided nice shade for us and we saw lots of birds, lizards and squirrels.

A Snow plant.
The trail is well maintained.
We saw lots of moss.
One of the streams we passed.

The Last Push To The Top

This part of the trail has some amazing views. We passed by views of Marion Mountain and San Jacinto off in the distance. The trail climbed in elevation and we were now above Lily Rock and that really gave us the perspective of just how far we had climbed. We ran into one giant patch of snow that made getting across a little hairy. On one side was a drop off to your death and the other side was a snow berm that looked unstable because it was melting. We took it slow and made it across. It isn’t possible to see the lookout until you are directly below it. After hiking a little less than a mile from the last turnoff we turned a corner and we saw it.

Our first look at the fire lookout

We Made To The Peak

The day we hiked to the peak the fire outlook was still closed for the season. We were able to climb up the stairs and enjoy the view, but we couldn’t see inside of the outlook. The view is outstanding. You can see Lake Hemet, Lake Elsinore, and looking in the other direction The Salton Sea. We took pictures with a trail sign and sat down on the rocks and had lunch.

This was Jinx’s 1st summit
An amazing view from the top
Sally

Hiking With A Dog

In March we got a dog from a rescue. She is a Cattle Dog mix and she has endless energy. I have been taking her on regular hikes and walks. This was her first summit. I packed her water bowl and extra snacks. Her favorite part was walking through the snow. She did great on this hike and I’m sure it helped that there is lots of shade on the trail and it wasn’t hot the day we hiked.

There were a few stream crossings
JInx loved the snow.

Hiking Down

The trail if you want to make it a loop.
Heading back down.
Tree art

From the top of Tahquitz Peak you have the choice to turn around and hike back on the same trail as you hiked up on or head down a different trail that takes you into Idyllwild. We opted to head back down the way we had hiked up. The trail we didn’t try makes the hike into a loop, but it is longer and it doesn’t end in Humber Trail Parking lot. If you opt for that trail you have to walk a little way on the street. Our hike back to the car was nice. Again, this is a beautiful trail. You are treated to amazing views the whole way. Sally, Jinx, and I had a great day and I’m sure we would hike in Idyllwild more often if it didn’t involve an almost 2-hour drive from my house up a very windy road.

Hiking at Red Rock Canyon

Before you go out for a crazy night of debauchery in Sin City you can head to Red Rock Canyon for an amazing day of hiking. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just a mear 25 miles West of the Las Vegas strip. On a Saturday in January, we drove from the Los Angeles area to Red Rock Canyon and it only took us about 3 1/2 hours.

Plan to Arrive at Red Rock Early

Check the visitor information page for their hours. We arrived at the entrance at 9:30 a.m. There were only a few cars ahead of us to pay. There was a $15 entrance fee. We stopped at the visitor’s center and looked around. Instead of hiking around the visitor’s center, we decided to head to the Calico Tank hike. After entering the park the road is 13 miles one-way loop. When we arrived at the parking lot for Calico Tank it was completely full at 10:00 a.m. I drove around and around the loop, but nobody was leaving. I finally decided to drive down the road and park off the roadway and hope I didn’t come back and find a ticket.

The entrance to Red Rock Canyon
There were lots of people out rock climbing with ropes.

Wildlife at Red Rock Canyon

We hoped to see some wildlife during our visit to Red Rock Canyon, but we only saw a few lizards. There are signs warning drivers to slow down for the wild tortoise, but since we visited in January they were probably still hibernating. We lept our eyes peeled for wild burros, but we didn’t see them either.

Use caution while driving.

Hiking to Calico Tanks

The park trail map rates the hike to Calico Tanks as Strenuous. From the parking lot to the tank is a little over 2 miles roundtrip. Even though the parking lot was full there are other hikes in the area and lots of people practicing rock climbing. The first part of the hike follows an actual path. There weren’t that many people on the trail when we first started. The weather in January was sunny and comfortable. I wouldn’t want to do this hike if it was hot outside, because there is little to no shade. After about 1/2 mile the trail becomes less clear cut and the hike becomes “choose your own adventure.” There are places that you can hop from rock to rock.

A trail map for the hike to Calico Tanks.
There are parts where you need to scramble up the rocks.
Heading up the canyon.
We found a little water along the trail.

Calico Tanks

There are a few signs along the way to let you know that you are still going the right way. Basically, you are heading up through a small canyon. The actual Calico Tanks is a natural holding pool for water. I’ve heard that the water dries up in the warmer months. We made it to the tank in a little over an hour with plenty of time for exploring and taking pictures. After the tanks, you want to continue going up and you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the Las Vegas strip and valley. We took in the view and took lots of pictures.

Calico Tank

Hiking Down From Calico Tanks

Coming down was a little dicey. The trail had become “The Disneyland of the Desert.” I couldn’t believe how many people were on the trail on the way down. A lot of the trail is on rocks that have a thin coating of sand on them and there were way too many people in Vans or Converse that were sliding all over. We saw some people scooting down on their butts in order to avoid falling. We made it down and walked back to our car. The parking lot was still full on our way out.

Halfway down the trail.

Petroglyph Wall

We continued driving on the scenic one-way loop. We drove to the parking lot for the Petroglyph Wall. Depending on where you can find a parking place the walk to the Petroglyph wall is very short. We walked across a wash and headed towards a cliff. The Petroglyphs are on the face of the cliff. The Petroglyphs are estimated to be 800 years old. After reading the sign and taking pictures we walked back to the car. We got a cooler out of the car and had a picnic at the Willow Springs picnic area. While we were eating the clouds rolled in and we started to get cold. We finished the scenic loop and decided we were done for the day.

A map for the Petroglyph Wall
800-year-old Petroglyphs

A Reason For Another Visit

We only did two hikes in Red Rocks. I would love to go back and visit, but preferably on a weekday when it is a little less crowded. We saw several groups drive by in open air 3 wheeled vehicles. Each car held 2 passengers and they all looked like they were having a good time. I would also like to come back and look around for some wildlife. All in all, we had a good visit and this was definitely a side of Las Vegas that I had never seen before.

Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Early Saturday morning Sally and I set out to hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. We parked on a residential street. Parking is limited so go early unless you don’t mind a long trek on the sidewalk. The hike starts on the corner of Lake Ave and Loma Atla Dr. in the city of Altadena.

Park along one of these streets.

The History of Echo Mountain

Today if you want to get to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point you need to hike, but from 1893- 1936 you could ride on the Mount Lowe Railway. The railway was a combination of a Funicular like Angel’s Flight that took passengers up the canyon and then a narrow gauge trolley that took them to the resort at the top of Echo Mountain. It is crazy to think that in its heyday the Mount Lowe Railway was the number one tourist attraction in California. More people went to the top of Echo Mountain than Yosemite or Catalina. Ultimately, the resort burned down in 1936 and the railway tracks were damaged in a storm in 1937. Today all that is left are the ruins.

Historic Photo of Mount Lowe Railway

The Cobb Estate

The hike to Echo Mountain starts at the Cobb Estate which is supposed to be haunted. At one point the Marx Brothers owned the estate. They were sure it was haunted and they tore down the property. The Marx Brothers tried to build a cemetery on the haunted land, but the neighbors were opposed. Eventually, a private donation allowed the city to purchase the land.

The Cobb Estate

Hiking to Echo Mountain

We started our hike by walking through the “Haunted Woods” of The Cobb Estate and luckily we didn’t feel anything weird. Our hike to Echo Mountain started on the Sam Merril Trail. It is a little over 2 1/2 miles to the top of Echo Mountain. The trail is rated as moderate and it is a single track. The elevation gain is almost 1,500 feet, but the switchbacks feel gradual. There are posts marking the 1 and 2-mile mark. You are half-way up when you are directly under the power transformer.

At the top of Echo Mountain

You know you are close to the top of Echo Mountain when you see the giant gear. The ruins are all that have survived from the Lowe Mountain Railway and the Great White Resort. This is a good place to stop and take a rest and there are usually people hanging around looking at the ruins and having a snack. Depending on the weather you might have an amazing view all the way to Catalina, however, if it’s foggy your view will be a blanket of clouds. In addition to the view, history buffs are in for a treat because there are plaques and signs with information about the Mount Lowe Railway. If Echo Mountain is your final destination then you will return on the same trail back to your car.

Hiking to Inspiration Point

After hiking to Echo Mountain we chose to continue on to Inspiration Point. We backtracked a little way to Castle Canyon Trail. The Trail is 2 miles in length and takes you to the Inspiration Point. It is rated hard and has steep inclines and you will gain about another 1,500 feet in elevation. We hiked in the winter and the trail was overgrown and there were a lot of trees down that make for interesting obstacles. You will see far fewer people on this trail than on the Sam Merrill Trail. Because the trail is in a canyon it isn’t possible to see the top of Inspiration Point until close to the end of the hike. When you have hiked about 1 3/4 miles you turn a corner and look up and see the shelter at Inspiration Point.

The Top of Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is not actually a point, it is in a saddle between two canyons, however, on a clear day the views can be amazing. There are picnic tables and plenty of spots to rest. Viewing pipes have been installed and they are labeled with the locations you are viewing. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Catalina. We hung out at the top and ate our lunches and took pictures.

We made it to the top of Inspiration Point.

Hiking Down

We decided to take a different route down from Inspiration Point. Castle Canyon Trail is step and it has lots of loose gravel and that can make it tricky to hike down. Instead, we opted for the Sam Merrill Trail. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your research and to be on the lookout for the sign for the Sam Merrill Trail. The first time I did this hike I missed the sign and ended my hike far from my car. This trail is pleasant and meanders through a canyon forested in large trees, however, the one downside is the mountain bikers. You need to keep an ear out for them so you don’t get run over. Castle Canyon Trails is 2 1/2 miles and it passes some ruins along the way such as Sunset Peak and an old observatory. The trail ends at Echo Mountain.

The sign for the trail back to Echo Mountain.

Hiking Down From Echo Mountain

From Echo Mountain we hiked down the same trail we had come up in the morning. In the afternoon there is barely any shade and the day we were there it was only in the low 70’s, but it felt really hot. Although it is only 2 1/2 miles down the trail seemed endless. Make sure you bring at least 2-3 liters of water even on a mild day because you will be working hard. When we made it to the bottom we still had to walk about 1/2 mile to our car. Our round trip from for the day was over 12 miles and we were ready to take off our boots and put on some flip-flops.

Mt Lowe Brewing Company

Sally and I have a hiking rule any hike over 10 miles and we stop at a local brewery and get a beer. Today we stopped at Mt Lowe Brewing Company in Arcadia. Mt Lowe Brewing Company has a cool vibe, it’s big, clean and the one beer I tried was good. I had to try to the Inspiration Porter because of its guarantee to ease my sore hiking muscles and my chapped lips. I love the giant pictures of the Mt Lowe Railway that they have hanging inside their brewery. The afternoon we were there a large crowd was playing bingo and a food truck was serving nachos and tacos. I will definitely be back and it was the perfect way to end our hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Out and About in Riverside, California

Riverside, California

Riverside, California is located in the Inland Empire about 55 miles East of Los Angeles. Downtown Riverside is home to the University of Riverside, the famous Mission Inn, and Mount Rubidoux. There is plenty of street parking and parking garages or there is a Metro Stop that offers shuttles to local downtown areas.

Mount Rubidoux

Mount Rubidoux has been designated as a park and a landmark. At one point the land was purchased by the owners of the Mission Inn. The land is now owned by the city of Riverside. Mountain Rubidoux is known for its Easter Sunday services. In 1909 the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux.

Parking at Mount Rubidoux

It is easiest to park your car at Ryan Bonaminio Park. The address is 5000 Tequesquite Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. Ryan Bonaminio is a sports park and it has a lot of parking spaces. From the park, there is easy access to the mountain. Head up the street about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you will reach the start of the trail. There are no bathrooms at Mount Rubidoux, but there is one at Ryan Bonaminio Park. At the beginning of the trail at Mount Rubidoux, there is a place to fill your water bottles and there are trash cans along the trail.

Hiking in the City

Mount Rubidoux boasts over 3 miles of hiking trails. There is a 2.7-mile round-trip trail. The trail is paved which makes it a great choice for days when your normal trails are covered with mud. The trail only gains a little of 350 feet in incline, so it is rated as easy. I have seen numerous people pushing baby strollers up to the top. When you get to the top there are a few areas to explore. The World Peace Bridge is a beautiful place to stop for a photo.

The World Peace Bridge
Under the World Peace Bridge

The Top of Mount Rubidoux

Once you reach the top of Mount Rubidoux there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view. There is built-in seating in the rocks for the sunrise services. We climbed up to the stairs to the base of the cross. The cross is dedicated to Father Serra. According to some old newspaper articles there was some controversy about the separation of church and state and now the small plot of land that holds the cross is owned by a conservancy that is responsible for its upkeep.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos in Riverside

After hiking back to our car we decided to drive over to Tio’s Tacos. I had driven past Tios when I was on the way to The Mission Inn and the large art out in front of the restaurant piqued my interest. The restaurant is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

Tio’s Taco

Eclectic Art in Riverside

We found street parking across the street from Tio’s Tacos. We wandered around the entire outside before we ordered out lunch. The art is all made from upcycled materials. One of my favorite pieces of art at Tio’s is a Christmas tree made from recycled Dos Equis beer bottles. There is a little chapel complete with an altar and pews. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the little details.

You can’t miss the art from the street.
A Christmas tree made from Dos Equis bottles.
Popeye The Sailor Man
Inside the chapel
Information about the artist.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos

After hiking and walking around Tio’s looking at the art we were hungry. There is both seating inside and outside at Tio’s and the day we were there it was chilly and extremely windy so we opted for inside.

We went to the counter to order and although it was after 1 pm, I asked if I could order breakfast. The good news is they serve breakfast all day. I ordered Chilaquiles with green sauce. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish with fried corn tortillas simmering with green or red sauce topped with an over-easy egg, sour cream, and cheese. I was happy to see an Aqua Fresca Bar at the front counter therfore I ordered a Mango Agua Fresca and it was very sweet but tasty. After ordering they give you a number and you seat yourself. I am a Chilaquiles connoisseur and my lunch was good, but definitely not the best Chilaquiles I’ve eaten. I would go back to Tio’s again just to see the art and maybe I’ll try a taco next time.

Chilaquiles Verde

Exploring Riverside

We had a good morning exploring Riverside. Mount Rubidoux was a scenic place for a hike and we all enjoyed the art and our lunch at Tio’s Tacos. We will have to plan another day to see some of the other things Riverside has to offer.

Road-Tripping to June Lake

June Lake is just a short 5-hour drive from the Los Angeles area on Highway 395, but it seems a world away. June Lake is popular in the spring and summer with the fishermen, during the fall for the leaf peppers and during winter for skiers. The first weekend of October we took a trip to June Lake over a long weekend. We were a little bit early for the peak leaf viewing, but it was beautiful.

Breakfast on the Road

We left the Los Angeles area at 5 a.m. Our first stop was at Great Basin Bakery in Bishop. Great Basin Bakery is a small bakery that bakes delicious, breads, cookies, pastries and serves breakfast and lunch. If you want to avoid the busses full of tourists at Schat’s Bakery, then Great Basin is your place. I ordered two breakfast bagels with eggs, coffee and two giant cowboy cookies to go. I’ve had both breakfast and lunch at Great Basin and both times everything I’ve ordered has been delicious.

Hiking at Little Lakes Valley

After leaving the bakery we continued driving to Little Lakes Valley Trail. The exit is off of 395 at Tom’s Place Resort. After passing Tom’s Place you drive on Rock Creek Rd to Mosquito Flat Trailhead. In the summer I backpacked all over Little Lakes Valley, but this day we were there for a day hike. We hiked into Heart Lake. Dylan spent the morning fishing in the beautiful Alpine Lake and I spent the morning reading. In the afternoon we hung up our hammocks and ate our cowboy cookies and took a little nap. When the wind picked up and we were frozen we hiked back down to the car and drove to June Lake.

Heart Lake
Little Lakes Valley
Little Lakes Valley

June Lake Motel

We had reservations at June Lake Motel. Our room had 2 beds and a small kitchen. During the night a vehicle struck a power transformer close to the Nevada border, but the entire area lost power. We woke up with no power, but the owner of the motel used her generator to make coffee and tea for all the guests. She also told us that they had lanterns for us if the power didn’t come back on before nightfall. I highly recommend the June Lake motel and I will definitely stay there again next time I’m at June Lake.

Gull Lake

The first night we were starving after all of our hiking and skipping lunch. We walked from our motel to The Tiger Bar. It is the quintessential small-town bar. They serve bar drinks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was packed when we arrived. They had the Dodger playoff game on the television and people were shooting pool. We finally got a table. We ordered a couple of beers a burger and a sandwich. The food was good and the servers were friendly.

Saturday morning when we woke up to no power we walked around the town and there was nowhere open to serve breakfast. The hotel owner told us that we should be able to get a sandwich at the June Lake Junction Cafe. She said that they run on a generator. We drove over there and unfortunately they were not serving any food. We bought some gas station snacks for breakfast and we learned an important lesson. Always have cash. They couldn’t process any payments except for cash and there were cars parked outside at the gas pumps and unfortunately, they don’t work without power.

Passing the Fall foliage on the way to Parker Lake.

Hiking to Parker Lake

We had a full tank of gas so we headed out to hike to Parker Lake. The trailhead to Parker Lake is located at the end of the June Lake Loop. After the turn off there is a 2-mile dirt road, that is passable with a normal car. The trail is 3.6 miles out and back. The first mile is the steepest part and then it levels out. The trail is suitable for all levels. The trail starts in the sagebrush and then heads into a nook in the canyon. We were there in October and we walked through a grove of Aspens that was changing colors. After the Aspens, the trail runs parallel to a stream and then straight into a forest. The payoff of the hike is the lake. Parker Lake is on the backside of Yosemite and the views are jaw-dropping. We spent the day fishing and exploring. There were a few people that were camping at the lake. There are no bathrooms and fires are not permitted at the lake. At the end of the day, we hiked back down. We were treated with great views of Mono Lake off in the distance.

Parker Lake
The view on the hike back to the car from Parker Lake.

Dinner at June Pie Pizza Co.

We drove back to the hotel through the June Lake Loop. We got to look at the other lakes in the loop and the fall foliage that was just starting to turn golden. After driving around all the lakes we parked at our hotel and walked over to T-Bar Social Club. We were following the signs for June Pie Pizza Co. The pizza place is downstairs inside the Social Club. We sat at a table for two and ordered a local hard cider and a beer that were both on tap and a large Margherita Pizza. Our expectations were not high for the pizza and fortunately, we were 100% wrong. That was some of the best pizza that we have ever had. The crust was thin and it was cooked perfectly. It tasted like authentic New York Pizza.

June Pie Pizza Co.

Breakfast To Go

Sunday morning I woke up and took a walk around the village. All the stores had pumpkins sitting out front and looked very festive. I walked over to The Lift to get some breakfast to go. I wanted to pick up 2 breakfast burritos that they usually have in the case, but even though it was only 8:30 a.m. they were already sold out. Instead, I order 2 breakfast sandwiches and a latte. I waited 30 minutes for my sandwiches, but they were tasty when we at them and everyone that works at the Lift was very nice.

Time to Head Out

We had an amazing time in the June Lake area and I can’t wait to return. The village is quaint with amazing scenery, comfy accommodations, and a few good restaurants. I’m looking forward to planning my next trip to June Lake.

Hiking From Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak…..

Day 2 Of Our Backpacking Trip

Hiking from Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak was our goal. Friday morning we had backpacked from South Fork trailhead to Dry Lakes. We woke up early on Saturday morning. I had actually woken up a few times during the night. The first time was to a chorus of coyotes. The second time I woke up because something was sniffing around my tent. I almost had a heart attack and was way too scared to look and see what it was.

Backpacking Breakfast

Even though it was only 6 am we climbed out of our tents to make coffee. The only problem was it is so hard to open a bear canister when your hands are cold. I couldn’t get mine open and thank goodness for Sally being able to open mine or I would have starved to death. After a healthy breakfast of Pop-Tarts and coffee, we decided we would try to summit San Gorgonio. We have both summited from Vivian Creek, but never from this side. We packed up a lunch and put our supplies in small packs. The day before we had stopped at REI and picked up microspikes.

Heading up Mine Shaft Trail

Using Microspikes

We were following Alltrails. There are two ways to go. One is to hike back to the saddle of Dry Lake and Dollar Lake and head up from there or to start the trail near where we had camped and headed up Mine Shaft Trail. We opted for the closer trail. Within a 1/4 of a mile of camp we were in serious snow and we had to stop and put on our microspikes. It was early in the morning and the temperatures had been cold the night before so the snow was still solid and we had no problem walking on it with the microspikes and our poles.

First time using microspikes.

Navigating In The Snow

The real problem became navigating. It’s impossible to follow a trail that is covered in snow. Every couple hundred yards we had to stop and see how close we were to the red line on All Trails. After we made it to the top of a canyon we found out that we somehow got off course. At the top, we were on dirt and we had to sit down and take off our microspikes.

Using All Trails

Using the red line on All trails we went straight up a side of a mountain and somehow found our trail. We were at 9,960 feet above sea level, which meant we had 2,000 feet more to climb. Sally had a huge blister on the back of her heal and she wasn’t feeling it. We decided that San Gorgonio wasn’t in the cards for us that day. I again looked at All Trails and saw that we could continue on the trail we were on and we would be able to loop back to camp.

At the saddle.
Way too much snow.

Looking Up At San Gorgonio Peak

When we made it to the saddle we could either continue on Sky High Trail and in another 3.6 miles we would be at the top of San Gorgonio or we could take Fish Creek Trail and eventually end up back at Dry Lake we opted for Dry Lake. When we looked up at San Gorgonio there was so much snow we couldn’t even see the switchbacks. We were pretty confident that we could make it to the top, but we were scared of what it would be like coming back down after the sun had been out all day.

A New Plan

Fish Creek Trail had way less snow than the way we came up, but unfortunately, we ran into 100 feet of dirt and then huge mounds of snow completely covering the trail. We tried going over the snow, but we would either post-hole or start sliding downhill. Eventually, when we got to the snow we either went up or down the mountain to go around it. On the way back to camp we found Lodgepole Spring that we had looked for the day before. All together we hiked 8 miles and made it back to camp in one piece.

We spent one more night at Dry Lake and hiked back down to our car the next morning. We hiked a total of 25 miles and got experience with our bear canisters and microspikes. It was a good practice trip for the Sierras.

San Bernardino Forest Service

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén