• 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

Aug 6, 2014

Angel Falls on Willow Creek. Oakhurst, California

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Angel Falls near Oakhurst,California

Since  Yosemite National Park is currently on fire, you might be looking for something to do outside the park. I thought I would do a post about Angel Falls near Oakhurst.
Angel Falls is located about 7 miles from the town of Oakhurst California. If you’re headed to Yosemite from Orange County of Los Angeles, you’re most likely going to be driving through Oakhurst anyway, so Angel Falls is definitely worth a stop.  

Angel Falls is a series of cascades and small waterfalls along Willow Creek. The largest waterfall is probably around 20 feet tall. In the summer, these waterfalls are really popular among the locals. There are several great swimming holes and a few great places for cliff jumping if you’re brave enough, or dumb enough, depending on how you look at it. If you head upstream, there is a trail on the left side of the creek that leads uphill, but I prefer hiking through the creek. The granite has been polished over the years by the water, so be careful if you decide to try and climb up through the rocks. Wet granite can be as slick as ice and it would be easy to crack your skull if you slipped and fell.

I visited the falls in mid-June this year for the first time and the water in Willow Creek was cold, but not unbearable like some of the creeks and rivers in Yosemite.  Diving off the rocks into the crystal clear pools was one of the highlights of my Yosemite trip this year, and when you’re talking about Yosemite, that’s a real compliment. If you’re looking to budget your time on the way into Yosemite, I would say that 2 hours would be sufficient to explore the falls and take a swim. There is another larger 50 foot waterfall about a mile upstream from Angel Falls called Devil’s Slide Falls. I only found out about this "secret" waterfall by accident a few days later when I was browsing the internet in our hotel room. I definitely plan on coming back next year to see it. 

A word of warning: I’ve read that Angel falls can get really crowded on the weekends with kids partying.  It was basically empty on a Wednesday afternoon in June, so you may want to plan your trip accordingly. 

Direction to Angel Falls:
Drive North of Oakhurst on Highway 41 for approximately 3 miles. Turn right on Highway 222 (Bass Lake Road). Follow Bass Lake Road for approximately 3 miles and bear left onto Route 274. Continue for 1 mile and look for the dirt pullout on the left-hand side of the road just before the small bridge.  Parking can be difficult on weekends.


Aug 3, 2014

John Muir Trail. Yosemite National Park

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John Muir Trail 2014

If nature would've cooperated, this post could have been a happy tale of 4 people trekking across green meadows and sleeping under stars. As it happened, our 3 day backpacking trip was cut short by a freezing cold rainstorm at 10,000 feet and our tent which kept out the water about as well as a single slice of Swiss cheese.

My brother had planned our little backpacking trip a few months ahead of time.  The plan was to hike 8 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to the Sunrise High Sierra Camp on the first night, then 5 miles to a spot on Sunrise Creek the second night, and finally 11 miles to Half Dome and back into Yosemite Valley on the third night to stay at the backpacker’s camp.

We headed out from Tuolumne Meadows early on the first day and headed to Sunrise High Sierra Camp on the John Muir Trail. This 8 mile section of the John Muir Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the United States.  You pass through redwood forests, towering mountains, across pristine meadows, past glacial lakes and granite domes.  There were several natural springs along the trail where you could fill your water bottle directly from the creek.  We had blue skies and 65 degree temps all day. It was a glorious day.

The Sunrise High Sierra Camp is built along the hillside of the High Sierra Trail. The canvas cabins were still down and the stone lodge was closed, so the only amenity we had was an outhouse and a creek for filtering water.  The mosquitoes were out in force, so we started gathering wood for a campfire the minute after we set up our tents. We made a huge pile of wood at the community fire ring. There were about a dozen other people at the camp when we arrived, but no one lifted a finger to help us gather wood. By contrast, you should have seen the amount of "help" we got when were actually lighting the fire. We spent the evening sitting by the fire, boiling water for our Mountain House Meals. The Mountain House “Chicken with Rib Meat ad Mashed Potatoes” is quite literally the best freeze dried meal I've ever eaten. By sundown, there were about 20 people hanging out by the fire with us. 

Fast-forward to 4am. The temperature outside plummets to 38 degrees and the rains starts, slowly at first, and then it turns into a torrential downpour that lasts 6 hours. By 10 am, our 2-man tent is sagging on top of us. Water has soaked our sleeping bags and all of our gear. My girlfriend is on the verge of tears. We can’t access the weather through her phone, so we have no idea how long the rain is supposed to last. The forecast had called for clear skies, so the rain was a complete surprise. There is no hell on earth like laying in a soaking wet sleeping bag in near freezing conditions, miles from civilization, while you're girlfreind is sobbing next to you.  We made the decision to break camp and head back to Tuolumne Meadows, rather than risk 2 more nights in the rain with a useless tent and soaked gear.

We hike 8 miles over the mountain in less than 2 hours with our wet packs that weigh twice as much as they had the day before.  The rain literally never lets up and temperature never really gets above 45 degrees. We stopped once for 5 minutes to eat a granola bar. The trail that had been so beautiful the day before, was now completely blanketed by a heavy endless fog. We passed at least a dozen other hikers on the trail who looked as miserable as I felt.

We reach our car around noon and change into dry clothes. We drove into 2 hours to Oakhurst and shelled out 189$ for a motel room that would have cost 40$ anywhere else in the United States. We spent that night in the motel watching cable movies and eating BBQ Brisket in our comfy queen-size bed.

My brother and his girlfriend actually continued on to Half Dome.  A bear raided their campsite the next day and rummaged through their gear. Other than that, he says they never ran into any more problems and they made it to the dome. 

I guess the lesson here is to splurge for a better tent? 
Cathedral Lake. John Muir Trail


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