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: 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!