Joshua Tree National Park

Southern California is a great place to live because it’s so close to many national parks. Miles, Nick, Lexi, and I left San Diego for Joshua Tree National Park on a Thursday around 3 pm. There was a little bit of traffic on I-15 as usual and we hit every stop light in Hemet. The drive was pretty neat because we could see Mt San Jacinto, which we were planning to hike on Saturday, along the highway. On I-10 there are hundreds of windmills which are fun to watch spinning.

An unusual green landscape

We arrived in Twentynine Palms around 6 pm and stopped at Pie for the People! for dinner. This pizza joint is tasty but expensive.


Chimney Rock

Once we finished dinner we headed into the park. Although we had a National Park Pass, we didn’t have to show it because there were no rangers at the gate.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

We stayed at Hidden Valley Campground which was $15 for the night. We didn’t bring a tent or sleeping bags since we thought Jtree in July would mean intense heat and no rain. We were very wrong. Around midnight a thunderstorm passed through and didn’t let up for over an hour. Luckily we ran for cover in the car just in time. Once the storm was over we lay a tarp on the ground and drifted into a half-sleep until about 5 am. All of the coyotes in the campground started howling which was terrifying.


Early morning moon

The next morning we packed up the campsite and headed out to do a little bit of bouldering.

Baby Joshua trees!

Nick and Miles climbed on Pothole Rock which had climbs from V-easy to V0. I found it pretty terrifying so I just watched and spotted.

Obligatory crash pad shot

After bouldering, we drove through the park to see Skull Rock.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

Overall we were in Jtree for about 14 hours. I’d like to come back during the fall/winter months and do some more climbing.


Mt Woodson Trail Hike

Lake Poway is a suburb in San Diego. Miles, Nick, Lexi, and I decided to hike the Mt Woodson Trail after learning about the famous potato chip rock. We got a late start around 9 am on a Sunday morning for this 8 miles round-trip hike. The summit elevation is about 2,000 ft. There are signs everywhere telling hikers to bring lots of water. They aren’t kidding.

Cloudy Lake Poway at the start of our hike

Cloudy Lake Poway at the start of our hike

The views of the lake are gorgeous. While the hike started out cloudy the sun didn’t take long to come out. The trail is well-maintained but there is little to no shade.

Made it to the top of Potato Chip!

The line to take a picture on the potato chip rock was very long by the time we got there. We waited for about an hour. Most people are pretty considerate about snapping a few pictures and then moving off the rock.

Almost to the end of the trail

Almost to the end of the trail

Don’t stop at the potato chip rock though! Technically the trail continues upward a bit more.

View from the top

View from the top

We were psyched to finish this hike and had a fun time going back down.

Having fun hiking back down

Having fun hiking back down

I would hike this trail again but would recommend leaving earlier than 9 am as it took us about four hours and the desert heat was intense.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Nick and Lexi planned a weekend getaway to Sequoia National Park and invited us to join. Of course we said yes! We researched things to do and found some hikes and waterslides to check out.

We headed out around 5 am to ensure we wouldn’t hit LA traffic. The drive took about 6 hours from San Diego. The drive is really scenic as you see Joshua trees in the desert and then all of the sudden you are surrounded by the giant sequoias as you reach 5,000 ft elevation.

First we parked at Hospital Rock and walked the trail toward Buckeye Flat Campground. We checked out the Paradise Creek trail which is a nice and easy path along the water.

Paradise Creek Waterslide

The Paradise Creek rapids seemed too strong to be a waterslide so we waded around at the bottom of the falls to cool off. Nick and Miles found a rock to jump off across the creek. All of the sudden a couple came racing down the rapids toward us. They showed us where the slide started and we had a blast sliding down!

Congress Trail / Alta Trail Hike

After our first waterslide adventure we drove to the Giant Forest Museum. There is plenty of parking and free in-park shuttles that offer five different routes. One of the rangers recommended that we try the Congress and Alta trails for hiking.

"The President" sequoia

“The President” sequoia

The Congress Trail hike is about 2 miles and the Alta Trail hike is about probably about 3 miles. We linked the two trails together to walk from the General Sherman tree back to the Giant Forest Museum. I made everyone stop at every named Sequoia and take a picture. The Sequoias are beautiful and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Feeling small among the sequoias

Feeling small among the sequoias

Moro Rock Hike

Moro Rock is a steep 0.6 mile round-trip hike comprised of about 400 steps. We started around 5 pm and found ample parking at the trailhead. During peak hours I would recommend parking at the Giant Forest Museum and taking the shuttle to the trailhead.

You can see Moro Rock as you drive into the park. When you get to the top you have a 360 degree view. The views are incredible and terrifying at the same time. There is some climbing at Moro Rock but check to make sure it’s open; the park closes Moro Rock between April through August for peregrine falcon nesting.

View from the top of Moro Rock

Tokopah Falls Hike

The Tokopah Falls hike is about 3.4 miles round-trip and the trail is mostly flat. Tokopah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the US.

Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Falls

We climbed down to the base of the falls and took some pictures. Nick did some cliff jumping. Lexi and I walked back up to the trail where we saw a marmot!

Tokopah Falls Marmot

Tokopah Falls Marmot

On our way back from the hike we saw a mama bear and her two cubs.

Sequoia National Forest Waterslide

The second waterslide we visited is located in Sequoia National Forest. We set off for Sequoia National Forest after the Tokopah Falls hike. By the time we arrived it was getting late but we had to check it out. We ran into some families leaving for the day and they told us they behind trash bags to slide in. The trail down to the slide is an easy walk. We quickly dressed in the trash bags and went down the waterslide.

The water was freezing but that didn’t stop us from going down for over an hour!

Summer in San Diego: Big Bear Lake / Holcomb Valley

Miles, Nick, and I headed up to Big Bear Lake for a weekend of camping and rock climbing. About three hours from San Diego, Big Bear Lake is located within the San Bernardino National Forest. The views were amazing driving in.

Big Bear Lake

We reserved site 79 at the Hanna Flat Campground in the town of Fawnskin the day before our trip. This campground has many amenities including a camp host, vault toilets, trash collection, and water spigots (to be used only for putting out camp fires). Each campsite has a picnic table and a campfire ring with a grill. The road leading to the campground is mostly dirt and gravel but our Nissan Altima rental car handled the bumpy ride just fine!

After we pitched the tent we drove into Fawnskin to pick up a $5 Forest Adventure Pass. The Forest Adventure Pass is needed in parts of National Forests for daily parking.

We also picked up firewood outside the campground at a local’s home. Some houses sell various bundle sizes between $3-$20 while the camp host sells firewood for $8/bundle.

Holcomb Valley

After waking up at the crack of dawn, we headed to Holcomb Valley. The drive took about an hour due to the dirt roads. There was plenty of parking when we arrived around 7am.

We used Mountain Project as our guide. We had some trouble finding the walls, but luckily two climbers were really friendly and pointed us in the right direction. By about 11am, Holcomb Valley was very crowded as there were two Meetup groups.

Fever Pitch (5.3), Gunsmoke Wall- This route was basically a ladder which made the first sport lead of the day a confidence booster. We also got Nick up on his first sport climb on this route.

Medicine Man (5.7), Thunderbird Wall- Miles fell while clipping in the third draw and I shot up about 4 feet into the air. I was freaked out but Miles felt comfortable continuing. Nick and I both followed on top rope.

View from above on Medicine Man (5.7), Thunderbird Wall

View from above on Medicine Man (5.7), Thunderbird Wall

Hidden Gold (5.7), Gold Wall- Miles sport lead this route easily. Once Nick and I followed, Miles top roped up to clean.

Climbing Hidden Gold (5.7), Gold Wall

Climbing Hidden Gold (5.7), Gold Wall

After a full morning of climbing and hiking we were ready to head back to camp. On our way back we stopped at the lake!

Miles and me at Big Bear Lake

Miles and me at Big Bear Lake

I was hooked on camping after this trip. Eating s’mores for dessert and breakfast definitely helped my camping experience 🙂

Summer in San Diego: Places to Eat

Places to Eat

There are top 10 and top 20 restaurant lists all over the place for San Diego. Here are my top picks for food in no particular order.

First things first- the California burrito. I had never heard of a California burrito before. They are life changing as the tortillas are stuffed with carne asada, salsa, cheese, guacamole, and french fries.

La Perla: Based on my extensive California burrito research (which was a lot), this Pacific Beach restaurant has the best. Their french fries are always crispy and the burritos are huge. I only ever ordered the California burrito but Miles tried the King Kong (filled with carne asada and chile relleno) and Oaxacacalifornia (California burrito wrapped with a quesadilla) burritos. The owner is very friendly and the food is always delicious.

Tacos El Paisa: This was the best authentic Mexican food we found. I was happy with my usual order of beef tongue and tripe tacos. As always, Miles was more adventurous and tried the surf and turf burritos (carne asada and shrimp), adobada (marinated pork) burritos, and Al Pastor (slow cooked pork on a spit) burritos. I would also recommend the fruit waters.

Blue Water Seafood: I tried Blue Water Seafood the day before I left San Diego. The tacos were amazing, but not Mexican style. I tried the tuna and shark tacos while Miles ordered tuna and swordfish. The shark was the best hands down. Two tacos are very filling as each one has at least 4 oz of meat.

Oscar’s: Get the fish tacos and the ceviche! Oscar’s has one dollar fish tacos happy hour Monday – Thursday from 2:30pm – 5:30pm. Sometimes they only let you buy two happy hour tacos per person, other times you can get as many as you want. I only visited the PB location right across the street from La Perla.

Slater’s 50/50: Do you love bacon? Slater’s 50/50 makes 50% beef, 50% bacon burgers and they are mindblowing. Their $10 lunch special is a great size because you get a ¼ lb burger and a side of fries.

Baked Bear: The Baked Bear lets you create your own ice cream sandwiches. Pick from 10 different cookies, brownies, and/or donuts as the top and bottom of your sandwich. Then choose from over 10 ice cream flavors. My favorite was chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream!

Summer in San Diego: Climbing

I had an amazing opportunity to spend my summer in San Diego with Miles. We really tried to take advantage of all the activities San Diego offers. One of the first things we did was rock climb. Here are the local places we checked out.

Grotto Climbing & Yoga
Grotto is a boulder-only gym in the Mission Gorge/Grantville area. We only bouldered there so I can’t comment on their yoga classes. We both purchased a one-month membership on Groupon for $29. The walls are between 12-16 feet tall and have about 2 feet of padding. The setters put up new problems on a regular schedule. Since I had only returned to climbing three months prior, I wasn’t super confident on the slick holds. We didn’t go back after our memberships ended.

Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center

Mesa Rim, located in Mira Mesa, offers top roping, lead climbing, bouldering, yoga classes, and a fitness area. We purchased a 10 visit day pass. We only took the top roping test but there were a lot of fun climbs. Most of the walls are 55 feet high which had me pumping out quickly. The gym fills up quickly in both the bouldering and rope area during the evening weekdays.

Mission Gorge

Mission Gorge is the local crag. Two great resources for Mission Gorge are Mission Gorge Topos and Mountain Project. The walls are shaded until about 11am so get there early to beat the sun. You can walk around most routes to set up a top rope anchor or lead climb.

Knob Job (5.8), Main Wall Far Left- Traverse right, traverse left, and then scramble over the knob. Miles onsighted and loved this climb. I redpointed and came down with bruised knees.

The Blocks (5.4), Main Wall Far Left- This route is directly to the right of Knob Job and is great for beginners. I think it’s harder than a 5.4, but not as hard as a 5.8 as suggested by other climbers on MP. I fell in love with cracks on this climb.

The Chimney (5.4), Main Wall Far Left- Located to the right of Knob Job and The Blocks. Take everything off your harness. If you fall you will swing into the wall behind you and get some nice bruises on your back and butt. For a harder challenge, try climbing one face- I heard it’s a 5.10.

Skyline Arete (5.7+), Lunch Rock- We set up a top rope anchor by walking around the backside. Miles onsighted and found the holds easily, but I had a tougher time.

Skyline Face (5.7+), Lunch Rock- A variation on Skyline Arete, I had more fun on this. It was nice to get a second climb out of one anchor.

Empathy (5.10b), Main Wall- One of our coworkers showed us this pretty technical route. The wall felt polished and I had difficulty finding my feet.


Sending Empathy

As the Crow Flies (5.8), Limbo Area- Miles walked around and set a top rope anchor. The first bolt is pretty high up so I would recommend using a stick clip if leading. This was one of my favorite climbs in Mission Gorge.

The Ramp (5.7), Lunch Rock- Fun crack climb with a dihedral. We got two outdoor newbies up this route.


Getting my jam on The Ramp

Easy Rider, Middle Earth (5.7)- This is the first bolted climb at the end of the approach from the south Climbers Loop trail. Miles sport climbed this route, Nick and I followed on top rope. I’m really glad I didn’t lead this as it’s quite slippery and I had to really reach for some of the moves. Not a fan.

PSA: The REI Outdoor School typically climbs in Mission Gorge every Sunday from 7am – 1pm and they set up on Main Wall Far Left.

More to come on other activities in San Diego!