This past November, I was fortunate enough to travel with my club soccer to the National Tournament in Mesa, Arizona. While my team did not play as well as we had wanted to, our early elimination had one silver lining: we got to stay an extra day and go on a really cool hike!
Just a heads up – these are all iphone photos so they won’t be as great as quality of usual, but I think you can still get a good idea of the hike.
Wind Cave Trail is an easy, 3 mile, out and back hike in Usery Mountain regional park. The trail is fairly flat for most of the hike until the end where it gets moderately steep. The views from the tops are not the best I’ve ever seen, but the hike itself is really enjoyable, and there are a ton of interesting plants to see.
Our team’s goal while we were in Arizona was to see a lot cactuses, and this hike really delivered on that. Some of these cactuses were 15 plus feet tall and it was really cool. One of the girls brought along her polaroid camera and we had a lot of fun posing with cactuses and playing with her camera.
As I said earlier, the first part of the hike is pretty flat. You’re walking on a twisting path between a lot of cactuses. On a couple occasions, the trail dips down into a dried out creek bed. The trail is flat like this for about a mile.
Next, the trail begins to climb. It’s not that steep, but it climbs steadily. Sadly, the cactuses are not as frequent as you get to a higher elevation. The trail sort of follows the edge of the mountain until it wraps around and you make it to the caves. I was told by fellow hikers that the caves make a whistling sound when its windy out. From the caves, you get a view of the trail you just climbed, and a big sign made out of rocks on the side of the mountain that says Phoenix, Arizona with an arrow pointing towards downtown, Unfortunately, it was too far away to get a great picture of it.
If you keep climbing up past the caves, you get a cool view looking out over the park. This is a good place to take a quick break and maybe eat lunch or some snacks.
The climb down is fairly quick. I think the whole hike took us about 2.5 hours, but we were messing around and taking pictures and took a long break at the top. Even though we didn’t move on at Nationals, I’m still had a ton of fun in Arizona and I’m really glad we got to do this hike. If you’re ever in Mesa and looking for something to do, I would definitely recommend this hike!
Beginning Note: I have heard this hike called both Red Rock and High School Hill, but I think High School Hill is the more common name for it.
This is one of my favorite short hikes in San Luis Obispo. It’s a 4 mile out and back hike that’s moderately difficult. My favorite part of the hike is that there is an interesting metal structure at the top that you can climb and play around on. When it’s clear, there are great views of Bishops Peak, Madonna, and you can occasionally see all the way to the ocean. In the spring when the hills are green and the wildflowers are blooming it’s especially beautiful. This hike is also part of the Three Peak or Tri-Tip Challenge in San Luis Obispo where you hike Bishops, Madonna, and this hill and then you go eat a tri-tip sandwich at Firestone Grill downtown. If you have a whole day to spend in SLO and enjoy hiking, I would definitely recommend doing these three hikes (and getting the sandwich because Firestone is bomb).
Another great thing about this hike is that it’s very easy to find the trailhead. It’s at the end of Lizzy Street. You drive up the hill until the street end and then the trail starts there.
The trail starts on a fairly flat, but rocky, narrow trail that is fenced in my a wooden fence. This is the only part of the trail that is shaded by trees so enjoy it while you can.
After this first part, the hike basically just climbs at a fairly steady and steep pace until you reach the top of the hill. The trail cuts up the hillside, and there are often wildflower and Yucca plants in bloom along on the trail. Unfortunately, on the way up your back is turned towards the view, but, because this trail is such a steady climb, I usually take some breaks and that offers you a chance to turn around and look out at the view.
Another note: if it has just rained or it is going to rain, DO NOT DO THIS HIKE. It gets super slippery when its wet because of the steepness and the rocks on the trail. I also would not recommend this hike for a sunrise hike due to the weather in SLO. It’s often foggy in the morning and usually doesn’t clear away until mid morning. I made the mistake of doing this hike at sunrise once and the fog was so thick that it looked like there was a white sheet behind us in photos.
The fog gets real thick in SLO
Once you reach the top, you’ll have great views of all of San Luis Obispo. The town and Bishops Peak are laid out in front of you, and then to the side you can see the rolling hills of the Paso Robles grade. There is also a metal structure/bell tower at the top that I have always taken the time to climb and play on. This structure used to be red, but I believe it is currently green.
Overall, this is a fun, quick, but difficult hike that provides you with great views. It’s in a fairly central location in SLO and easy to find.
Today, we hiked both Pothole Dome in Tuolumne Meadow and Cloud’s Rest, but in this post I’m going to focus specifically on Pothole Dome (mostly because Cloud’s Rest really does deserve it’s own separate post).
Pothole Dome was about a 2-3 mile hike with only 300 feet of elevation gain (which a breeze compared to yesterday). Unlike some of the other hikes we did this week, I never felt like one misstep would mean near-immediate death, and it can be comforting to have that kind of security on a hike (especially when you are doing an abundance of near-immediate death hikes). When we went, the crowds were light. We did not see any other hikers on the dome; the few hikers who we passed were on the Tuolumne Meadow Loop.
Fun fact about me: I am OBSESSED with meadows. There’s something about a field of grass and wildflowers in the middle of a forest that really makes me content. I could wander in meadows all day without seeing gaining any elevation and be perfectly happy. I also love taking photos of wildflowers, and meadows often provide many different kinds of flowers as well as many different kinds of lighting to experiment.
Pothole Dome is on the west end of Tuolumne Meadow. It doesn’t have much of a trailhead, but there are a few spots you can pull into right off of Tioga Road. It’s easy to miss though, so make sure that you’re looking out for it.
the view of the dome from the parking lot
The beginning of the hike is just through the meadow and then it skirts around the edge of the dome. When we were there, there were lots of white and yellow wildflowers and the grasses were very tall and green.
i love meadowssss
Finding the place where you actually start walking up the dome is a bit tricky. Basically, its when the trail curves left for the first time and when the trail curves left for the second time. You have to walk through a small patch of trees and then you just walk right up the rock.
It is a bit strange to be walking up what feels like concrete in the middle of a wilderness, but that’s how you make it to the top. There’s not really a trail (although there were some markers when I went), but it flattens out at the top so you should know that you made it. It’s not particularly steep, but we were all breathing a bit harder by the time we reached the top.
The view from the top is, like everything else in Yosemite, beautiful and varied and the type of view you could only find in Yosemite. You can see clear across the meadow all the way to Lembert Dome. The river snakes lazily through the meadow in wide curves that look fake from the height you’re at. Off in the other direction is Unicorn Peak which was till covered in snow. Facing the road is a massive face of granite that I don’t even think you can hike. For such a short hike, you get incredibly varied views in all directions.
I would definitely do this hike again. It was short, easy, and had a big pay off at the top. Plus, you get to walk through a meadow, and meadows are the best.
So it is once again the best time of the year which is summer because that’s when I’m able to spend the most time in the outdoors. This year, my dad and I decided to take a summer trip to Yosemite because we both love the park and had a few big hikes we both wanted to do there. My friend Shayna is along for the ride too, but she’s left a day earlier than us because that loser has Hamilton tickets for the weekend.
Anyways, the way we planned this trip was a bit different than many of our other trips. Instead of doing a big backpacking or camping trip, we decided to actually AirBnB a house about 40 minutes outside of the north entrance to the park because I needed to be able to put in my weekly 12-15 hours of studying for the LSAT and my dad was on-call for work. From this house, we drove to various hikes in the park such as Upper Yosemite Falls and Cloud’s Rest (and many more). When my dad first suggested this idea for the trip I was hesitant because I felt like it wasn’t “real hiking”, but it has actually been a very cool way to get an extremely varied experience of the park and still be comfortable in the evening. (Don’t worry though, we’re planning a “real” backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park next summer already).
We got up the first morning bright and early and managed to make it out the door at around 7 am. The drive itself was very uneventful, and we made it to the entrance of the park around 1 pm. My dad had been told by a ranger that there was a half hour to an hour wait time just to get into the park but there was only one car in front of us so we didn’t have any problem. Since we got there much earlier than expected we decided to do a short hike in Tuolumne Grove to get ourselves acclimated to the higher elevation and kill some time before we could go to our Airbnb and because Sequoia trees are gorgeous and very large.
Unlike many parts of Yosemite, there is a decent amount of close parking for this trailhead. We didn’t find a spot in the actual parking lot (of course), but we found a spot about a quarter mile down the road. I’m actually way happier we parked there than in the lot because the road ran through a meadow full of wildflowers and it was so pretty. (I also literally love meadows so much).
Flowers from the meadow!
Even the road in Yosemite is aesthetically pleasing
The hike itself is real short and easy. The signs by the hike kept giving different lengths for the trail, but if I had to guess I’d say it was around 2.5 miles (so about 3 miles total for us from our car). You start walking downhill on an old fire road surrounded by trees (that are not sequoias at this point unfortunately). It gets pretty steep at parts, but the trail is wide and flat and parts of it are paved, so it’s easy to walk on.
beginning of the hike
The actual Sequoia grove is at the bottom of the fireroad where the trail flattens out. Down here is about a half mile loop that takes you through the grove and past (and through) some awesomely tall and gorgeous trees. It’s much narrower and a little more rocky, but the trees are gorgeous. The orange-brown color of Sequoias is so unique, and it’s crazy to me that some of these trees have literally been around for 2000 years (that’s the time of the Roman Empire!)
Here’s some other fun facts of Sequoias:
They can live up to 3,000 years old.
While sequoias can grow up to 300 feet tall (that’s about the height of a 26 story building) they are mostly known for being massive in diameter and width.
The largest tree by mass is a sequoia tree know as General Sherman (although the tallest is a coastal redwood but shhhhh sequoias are still cooler).
The General Sherman tree is 2100 years old!
Sequoias reproduce by seeds in cones, which require fire to release them from their pods. Sometimes seeds spend 20 years inside a pod before they are released.
Their seeds are also tiny, there are about 91,000 of them in one pound.
They are pretty much only found in 77 groves in Northern California, but there are some in Europe that were planted in the 19th century.
They are incredibly resistant to fire and disease and could (probably) survive an apocalypse because they are so hardy.
Anyways, back to the hike. One of the first sequoias you see is just massive. Here’s me and Shayna for scale.
Another cool part of this hike is the tunnel tree. It was carved out as a tourist attraction in 1870. Here we are again for scale. (Don’t worry, they didn’t carve it out until after the tree was already dead). It has that double pronged top because it was hit by lightning at some point. The inside of the tree is very carved with people’s names and had almost a polished appearance because so many people have run their hands over it.
Another cool attraction of this hike is a fallen over sequoia tree. You are able to see the underside of its massive root system and really get a sense of how tall these trees could grow because you get to walk next to it.
The last part of the hike is just walking that mile back up the fire road. It can get pretty steep but, compared to most of my hikes, this one was really short. I would rate it on the easy to moderate scale. It’s certainly not flat, but it’s short and more than half of it is downhill or on mostly flat ground so it’s really not that bad. It didn’t offer those grand sweeping views of rock formations that Yosemite is so famous for, but Sequoias are just as beautiful in their own and I really did enjoy this short hike.
After the hike, we made our way out of the park and went to a grocery store to pick up some food for lunch and dinner for the remainder of our trip. We got to the Airbnb, made dinner, and hung out, planned our day for tomorrow, and watched a movie (or, in my case, did LSAT problems) until bed time. Tomorrow we were planning on doing Bridal Veil Falls, Lower Yosemite Falls, and Upper Yosemite Falls.
The Best (and pretty much only) hike in Avila Beach, CA.
Disclaimer: I have probably done this hike over 50 times, which means that the pictures I have will be from various hikes, and also that many of the times I have been there I didn’t even take pictures. For example, I did this hike this past week, and I didn’t take a single photo, which I’m regretting now, because the fog created a cool effect over the ocean that I now don’t have a photo of. But I do have a million other photos that span over various years, so get excited.
The Ridge is a gorgeous hike and I think perfectly encapsulates the beauty of the Central Coast. You have panoramic views of the ocean for over half of the trail, and there are some fun and interesting caves/beaches you can explore at one point as well. You also have views of the grape and agricultural fields at various parts of the trail. It’s a respectable 3 1/2-ish mile trail which makes it perfect if you don’t have a ton of time but want to get some nature in. I’ve also had friends who have stopped here and hiked it with me while they were driving North on the 101 because it’s right off the freeway.
Sorry, I know some of these photos aren’t up to par but I’m fairly confident that last photo was taken on the first cell phone I even owned just to give you an idea of how long I have been doing this hike.
To get to the trailhead, you actually need to be in Shell Beach. You turn onto El Portal and Drive down that street until it runs into a fence. To the left of the fence there is a driveway and to the right of the fence there is the trailhead. Drive down the driveway and park your car in the lot. It’s really small, so if there’s no spots you can also park on the street across from the trailhead.
The trailhead starts you on a flat trail with your back to the ocean that basically walks below and next to the “ridge” mountain that you are later going to climb up and then back down. Right before you hit the 101, you start up a very steep trail. I know it sounds like it would suck to do a hike right next to a freeway, but once you’re past that initial climb, you can’t see it at all. And while you climb, you can see the ocean and the hills of the other side of the 101 so it’s never been a deal breaker for me.
Once you make it to the top of the ridge, you go through a series of up and downs as you traverse the trail. The rule with this trail is if you think you’ve gone up the last hill before you start walking down, you have one more. But fear not, the views along the way of the ocean and the houses in Shell and the agricultural fields means that you don’t really notice the incline all the much. Like seriously, the views are amazing.
After all that spread out uphill, you now get to do a very tricky and fairly dangerous thing: walk all the uphill back down in a very short amount of space. This part of the trail is essentially straight down. Make sure your shoes have some tread folks because you will be sliding a bit.
Side note: I’ve actually slid down this hill on pieces of cardboard in the middle of the night and had the cops called on us because our gleeful screams were confused for an injured hiker. The cop literally ran up this hill and we were all very impressed with his fitness level. We all thought we were going to get in trouble but the cop was pretty amused when we told him what we were doing and just told us to keep the noise down.
After that lovely downhill, it’s pretty much flat from here. If you go to your right there is a beach (that you have to climb down to) and some pretty sweet caves to explore. If you go to your left you are in the parking lot of Pirate’s Cove Beach. Fun fact: Pirate’s Cove is not a public beach, so if you wanna get naked/participate in some illicit activities (if you are of age of course) this is the beach to go to on the Central Coast.
check out dem caves
woo hoo for secret beaches
After you’re done exploring, the trail takes you past the gate on an old fire road that is no longer in use that goes on the bluffs above Pirate’s Cove beach. You don’t get much a view, because you’re surrounded by tall fennel, artichoke, and yucca plants, but the purple flowers from the artichoke and white blooming Yucca are pretty, and the fennel makes the whole part of this trail smell like black licorice.
After you get to the end of the fire trail, you actually walk down Bluff Drive/Trail, which is a sidewalk trail with the ocean on one side and giant McMansions on the other. I am a fan of ignoring the signs that say pedestrians must walk on the sidewalk and like to walk on the street because 1) the sidewalk has inclines and declines and the road does not and 2) the road offers you a better view of all the giant mansions and I like to look at them. Pretty much this entire street is #housegoals.
The end of Bluff trail is where your car is parked if you’re parked in the lot. If you’re on the street you’re going to have to walk out of the lot and then you’re there. If you’re ever visiting or even just driving through the Central Coast I would highly recommend this hike. It has varied scenery, it’s quick, it’s not too easy or too hard, and people at many different fitness levels are able to complete it.
Some other notes about the trail: a lot of people actually do it in the reverse direction. I’ve done it that way once before but I didn’t like it because it’s really not fun to walk up that monster hill and then after that you might as well go sit back down because the rest of it is essentially downhill. I also like facing the ocean on my way up most of the hike and then down that monster hill as opposed to having it at my back for that first part of the hike and then a significant portion of the rest of the hike. It’s also very pretty to do this hike at sunset, but there are a few unmarked turn-offs and it’s hard to walk down that steep hill in the dark, so I wouldn’t recommend that if you’ve never done this hike before. All in all, this is a great hike that everyone who loves the ocean and enjoys creeping on rich people’s houses will definitely enjoy.
Fun fact about me: I really enjoy hand lettering and like to think that I’m at least semi-decent at it. This past quarter at school I’ve been working with one of my friends, who is an incredibly talented nature photographer, to combine my lettering with his photography into prints. These are only preliminary ideas that need a bit of work to get them to the final product, but I thought I would share them because I am literally obsessed.
This particular photo was actually what inspired the name of this blog, and I just changed it to be the header photo for this site. This photo was actually taken over a salt flat in Death Valley around sunset, which I think is sick.
I love puns, they are my favorite thing in the world.
I really like this one because I feel like the photo matches the quote super well. Also the single consistent color of the photo is pleasing.
This photo of a buffalo was taken on Catalina island. The sunset in the background is gorgeous and the detail on the hair of the buffalo is crazy.
I think this one might be one of my favorites because the reflection is gorgeous and the quote fits nicely into the photo.
This little girl is adorable and the bird detail is incredible. Words might need to be darkened but also a huge fan of this one.
Favorite quote in the entire world and one of my favorite place as well. This was taken in Big Sur at Pfeiffer State park.
Hope you enjoyed! 🙂 There’s a few more in the works and I’ll post updates as we work on them more!
We woke up this morning bright and early to pack up our stuff for the last time during the trip. While I was looking forward to using some soap, I didn’t want to go back to the real world with internships and responsibilities (although I did miss my dog, I have included a photo for reference because I am obsessed with him and he is the best). It’s always nice to get away on vacation, and this one was even nicer because we were so isolated without cell service.
After a last cup of that disgusting instant coffee, we made some final adjustments to our pack and we were off. My dad I snapped this cute picture as we were walking across the bridge out of the campsite for the last time. I think it might be the only picture from the trip we have together while wearing our packs. As I did for the whole trip, I had my trusty camera hanging around my neck.
Tuolumne Meadows (aka where our car was parked) is about 6 miles from Glen Aulin. Not counting an uphill patch at the beginning, the hike is fairly flat. The trail goes up the river for the first part, then across some flatlands where you have to cross these huge patches of granite rock, then through some forest-y type scenery, then you get to soda spring, and then finally you walk through the meadow until you hit Tioga Road and you’re back to the start.
Walking next to the river is definitely the most striking part of the hike. The water is pretty and often cascades down in larger and smaller waterfalls. It’s not quite as grand as waterfalls one sees in the valley, but still super pretty. The sound of the water is peaceful and it makes the air smell good in a way that only large amounts of fresh water can. This part is, unfortunately, mostly uphill, but walking next to the river makes it a million times better. We did stop quite a bit during this part though because we had to keep shedding layers as the day got warmer.
Next we walked through across some giant patches of rock and through a forest. I didn’t get a ton of pictures of this part because I was trying very hard to navigate the rock because it’s not even and I was wearing a backpack that’s roughly the size of me. During the walk in the forest, I was chatting with my dad and then forgot to take pictures. I noticed during the trip that I tended to take the most photos in the beginning of the trail and at the end. My theory is basically that I only thought about taking photos when I wasn’t talking to someone (or when something extra pretty popped up but those are exceptional circumstances). In the morning we didn’t talk to each other because it was the morning and we weren’t fully functioning humans yet and at the end of hike we were tired and also not fully functioning humans. That’s something I need to work on next time I hike so I don’t miss out on photos during large chunks of the trails.
Crossing the River
views from the trail
one last picture of the waterfall as we left
some granite patches
as you can see, it was a steep trail!
About 1.5 miles from where our car was parked, we hit Soda Springs and Lembert and Parson’s cabin. I didn’t good photos of either of these cabins, so I should probably explain them. Lembert’s cabin is essentially the ruins of the tiny cabin he lived in for 10 years or so as a hermit in High Valley (my kind of man to be honest). The cabin may also have been used as a spring house rather than a dwelling as it is built over some of the natural springs there, and his actual cabin was probably somewhere else (it’s not like the guy documented his life as he was a hermit). There’s not much left of it but a few walls of stone. Parson’s cabin was built by the Sierra Club in his memory. Parsons was on the Board of Directors for the Sierra Club, and the cabin was used as a meeting place when it was first built and is now used for educational demonstrations by park rangers.
The area around the cabin is called Soda Springs, so named because the water in the springs is naturally carbonated. Geologists aren’t really sure why this phenomena occurs. It can be kind of interesting to stand over a spring and watch the bubbles come and pop to the surface (although I may have been so tired from sleeping in a tent all week that I reverted back to the mindset of a toddler and that’s why I found this entertaining). It wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip, but it did make me curious why no one can figure out why this happens. I also wanted to drink it, but my dad told me not to.
The next part of the hike was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We got to walk on flat ground while looking at gorgeous views, which is a rare thing in Yosemite. We simultaneously got views of the Meadow (sometimes with water/mini lakes), the forest, and the mountains peeking up behind the trees. There were quite a few more hikes on this part of the trail because it is closer to the campground, but I’d gladly trade some isolation for some pretty views. It also never really gets that busy up in High Valley because it’s so deep into the park, so that’s not something I would worry about if I visit again. Karson went ahead of my dad and I during this part of the hike, but my feet were hurting so we just cruised and enjoyed the scenery for the last time before we had to head home.
oh hey there dome
and more meadow
My dad wanted a pic with Lembert Dome
Eventually we made it to the road, and I think we were all bummed to be leaving but also ready to go home (we all smelled pretty rank at this point to be honest). On our way out, we (and by we I mean by father) started talking to a group of middle-aged women who live all over the country but meet once a year to get their friend group back together from college and go backpacking. I thought that this was an awesome way to stay in touch and stored it in my memory for later when my friends and I don’t all live in the same place.
As we were walking along Tioga Road to get to where our car was parked, a lady surprised us by whipping open her van door and offering us a bag of vegetables. I know what you’re thinking, which is that we probably shouldn’t have taken a bag of food from a stranger in a van, but you’ve got to keep in mind that we hadn’t eaten anything fresh in 5 days. I have never been so freaking excited to eat raw broccoli in my entire life, and doubt I will ever be that excited to eat raw broccoli ever again.
After profusely thanking the vegetable lady and devouring the bag in about a minute, we finally made it to our car and headed home. On our way home we stopped at this super good pizza parlor and I got some ravioli and we ordered a pizza. It was a satisfying close to a wonderful trip. Despite the fact that we had hiked around 35 miles in 5 days, I went home feeling more relaxed and content than I had felt in a long while.
A quote from John Muir’s book The Mountains of California succinctly sums up how I felt when we left the park that day:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
I always find the John Muir can describe how I feel about nature much better than I ever could.
Thank you so much for reading this series (if I haven’t bored you yet). Hopefully there will be more to come soon 🙂 Also, my dad and I are traveling to Yosemite again in August so stay tuned for stories about those adventures as well if you’re a Yosemite fan. If you’re sick of Yosemite, I should be talking about some hikes in and around SLO for the next few posts so you can look forward to those as well.