California

Lion slide Falls | Swimming Hole Adventure

Lion slide Falls | Swimming Hole Adventure

There is debate on what this waterfall is actually called. Lion Slide Falls or Hatchet Creek Falls. I decided to go with Lion Slide because it sounds way cooler than the other. You decide.

Backpacking Finger Lake | John Muir Wilderness

Backpacking Finger Lake | John Muir Wilderness

Finger lake is an unknown gem that gets over looked because of its popular neighbor, the 7 lakes loop which includes second lake and temple crag is known to fill summer quotas early in the season. If you know me well, I like my solitude and go where its not busy. I do extensive research looking for stunning yet relatively unknown places to go. Finger Lake is one of those places. Mind you, this hike is not a walk in the park but the reward of witnessing this small and narrow turquoise blue lake, palisades ridge towering over the lake, and view middle palisade glacier, is well worth the struggle.

Backpacking Minaret Lake | In the Shadows of the Minarets

Backpacking Minaret Lake | In the Shadows of the Minarets

I have been envisioning the Minarets for years now. I remember the first time I discovered them via Google Maps, I knew I had to go. The question was when? Finally the time for the trip came. I reserved the wilderness permits months prior to the October trip date. Usually later in the year, the Sierras can get wild and weather patterns change in the matter of minutes. I knew it was going to be chilly but I could not pass up this opportunity.

Balloon Dome | Finding Half Domes Sister

Nestled deep in the Sierra National Forest hidden from the average tourist, away from the hussle and bussle of everyday city life, lies Balloon Dome.  I dubbed it "Half Dome's Sister" from the original Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Only the true adventure enthusiasts will make the effort to witness untouched beauty that rivals many in the National Parks you see today.  Balloon Dome stand 6879 tall with a killer steep gorge which the San Joaquin River rushes through. We could hear the cascades all day and night.

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After I discovered this place online through google maps, I spent hours and multiple days researching about this hidden gem.  There is very little information about this area so I knew this was going to be a bushwacking adventure. There is an overgrown trail that leads to a bridge, however it does not lead to a summit where I wanted to camp and soak in the views very few have witnessed before. 

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We drove over 5 hours from our home in Vacaville, California which led us deep into the national forest. The closest town is Oakhurst which is roughly 30 miles away. After you head into the forest, there is one town to get some food which is called Jones Store. Nothing but roads and more side roads after that so this last minute stop will ensure you have everything you need. I found it weird that in the middle of the national forest there was private property with a small village of cabins near here. Many of their backyards were meadows. I need to move here ASAP!

Once we made it down the sketchy 4x4 5S84 road to the Cassidy Trailhead, we got everything set up and started our hike. The beginning takes you over the Granite Creek bridge and then you head right into the Ansel Adams Wilderness in Sierra National Forest. There is a quota for overnight camping of course so make sure you get your backcountry permit if you are staying overnight. I embedding the route we took to reach the summit of an unknown peak. It is short but half the hike was off trail. Once we made it to the top, it was well worth the research, time put in, and the hike to enjoy the incredible views. 

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One downfall of this was it was very foggy, we had about 20 minutes total visibility to view Balloon Dome then the fog would roll in. It stayed until we woke up in the morning. I set up a time-lapse to capture the insane cloud movements

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TIPS:

1. Ensure you have a 4x4 vehicle heading the road down to Cassidy trail. If not you will extending your hike 5+ miles most likely.

2. If you are looking to summit Balloon Dome, at around 9-10 miles you can make it in a day and back. Do a little more research and you will find a trail online to give you guidance on how to do so.

3. Plenty of creeks for refilling your water. Just stay away from the stagnant pools in my opinion.

4. Bears are prominent in the area. Hike at your own risk. Bring a bear canister as well.

5.  If you want to have a camp fire make sure there are no restrictions on the National Forrest website.

Backpacking Eagle Peak | Yosemite National Park

Backpacking Eagle Peak | Yosemite National Park

John Muir considered the view from Eagle Peak "the most comprehensive view of all the views" from the north wall. Standing at an elevation of 7783 ft and is the highest of The Three Brothers. 

Rock Creek Swimming Hole | Natures' waterslide

Rock Creek Swimming Hole | Natures' waterslide

Located 40 miles east of Chico, California. Rock creek offers multiple swimming holes with a natural water slide. This spot is perfect for a nice day trip to a relatively secluded swimming hole. If you continue to explore deeper into the creek you'll be rewarded with more spots to swim and cascading falls.

Gods Bath Swimming Hole

Gods Bath Swimming Hole

Gods bath is located deep in the Stanislaus National Forest. The closest town is Sonora, California. I hope you do not get car sick, this drive is a very windy one! If you have to pick up snacks or use the restroom, I would recommend stopping somewhere in town before you venture off into the forest.

Seven falls swimming hole. Plumas National Forest, CA

Seven falls swimming hole. Plumas National Forest, CA

I have been on a mission to conquer the best swimming holes northern California has to offer. This adventure is about Seven falls not to be mistaken for the seven falls in Colorado Springs which is awesome by the way or seven falls in Santa Barbara. This swimming hole consisted of 7 plus waterfalls that plunge into their own swimming hole. Stunning emerald-green water, cliff jumping, and the roaring sounds of the waterfall was an incredible peaceful experience.

Donner Pass Summit Tunnel Hike | An Old Abandoned Railroad Trail.

Donner Pass Summit Tunnel Hike | An Old Abandoned Railroad Trail.

When do you ever get the chance to hike a tunnel? A tunnel that speaks volume of history and that allowed emigrants into California from the East. Yes, Donner Pass is named after the Donner Party. If you don't know anything about the Donner Party, click the link for a quick history lesson. I found out about this hike the night before, and immediately knew this was a must do hike! I did some research and the next morning I packed up Joose (my dog) and off we go, day trip with the pup

The 6 Best Day Hikes in the Bay Area.

The 6 Best Day Hikes in the Bay Area.

One of the best parts about living close to the bay area is the influx of outdoor activities whether it's a leisurely stroll through the presidio or grueling uphill hikes throughout the bay. Each with incredible views at the top or along the way. The bay area has it all. Hundreds if not thousands of trails with dozens of waterfalls throughout the vicinity. I compiled a short list of my favorite day hikes in the bay area. All within an hour drive from San Francisco.  If it has a view, I'm there or it's on my list. Enjoy.

Short and Sweet Day Trip to Big Sur.

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Despite route 1 being extremely crowded, it is by far one of the best scenic drives in America. The drive is absolutely stunning. From Monterey down to Big Sur, the drive offers multiple vista points and beaches to snap a picture, stare at the gorgeous ocean that looks like a thousanddiamonds strewn across a blue blanket, or if you are like me, people watch. In this case, tourist watch. My favorite spot had to be Bixby Bridge. It may be just a bridge but it had aesthetics  with the beach and the turquoise blue waters, it was a stunning view.

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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was a disappointment to be honest.This was the first stop and the website said they allowed dogs but half the trails in the park did not allow dogs. Our plan was to hike Pfeiffer Falls but with signs everywhere and other places to see before sunset, we didn't take the risk. We walked around for a total of ten minutes along the creek so Joose my dog could get some exercise in. What a waste of $10. No worthy pictures here. Next stop!

Pfeiffer beach was next with a decent crowd. It was so windy it felt like I was in a sandstorm. There was a few natural arch rocks that offered great views which apparently is one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur. How about them apples? In the water along the rocks there were clams and these neon green sea orchids so that was a must to take a picture of. We had to wait in line to park because parking was full but it worth the narrow road you have to take to get there. Make sure you don't miss the turn on Sycamore Canyon road because it is unmarked so you have to pay attention. If you are heading south on route 1 it's after Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park but before the post office on the right hand side. Oh! Make you have that Alexander Hamilton bill because they only accept cash.

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Mcway falls was absolutely stunning. Watching an 80 foot waterfall cash into the ocean is something out of this world. This trail was about a half mile roughly stroll on a well kept trail that was crowded out and back. You can not miss this place due to the flock of cars and the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park sign across the road. I wanted to stay here and enjoyed this view for hours upon hours. My goal is to hang my hammock up and sleep overlooking the falls. I found a spot and I'm not telling til I do so:)

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A few things to keep in mind while traveling to Big Sur;

  • Plan ahead - We barely had any cell phone service (we have Verizon and AT&T) so bring maps, write down phone numbers, etc. (Write down numbers you say? I know we have to go old school here, suck it up you will be fine without Facebook)
  • Big Sur = Tourist trap - The shops and gas station will light a fire in your pocket so be sure to bring extra cash for the $6 peanut butter, $3 for that soda you have been craving, $11 for that puny sandwich, or the $50 meals that will make you hungry in an hour.
  • Staying overnight? - Don't stay in Big Sur unless you don't mind paying $300-1000 for a double. They do offer campsites but like I said earlier, plan ahead because they book fast.
  • Have fun - Stay for a few days and enjoy the trails they offer, the stunning ocean views, and get off the beaten path to enjoy the region from a different perspective.

Santa Cruz. Without the massive amounts of tourists.

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I don't know about you but I am not a fan of tourists wandering around aimlessly getting in someones way.  If you haven't been to Santa Cruz, well its just that.  This was my second time visiting and the first time was a complete mess during the summer.  People from all over the world walking around with a beer in hand and a funnel cake in the other. (Don't get me wrong, I fucking love funnel cake.) They get in your way because A. They are hammered and stumbling everywhere. B. Foreigners do not know that we as Americans are supposed to walk on the right hand side of the sidewalk. Unfortunately, half of Americans still have not figured this out. :-(

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Now, if you want to enjoy the beautiful pristine beaches and natural beauty of coastline, without the hassle of a busy crowd, check out Wilder Ranch State Park.  My girlfriend and I decided we wanted to get away from the busy city one day and head south to Santa Cruz. A short hour drive from Oakland. Well, depending who drives right?  She is a go-with-the-flow type of girl so I suggested this place and of course she was totally game. No questions asked. Women love the sun, beaches, and the ocean. Win Win!

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Wilder Ranch is located roughly five minutes north of Santa Cruz right off the famous Pacific Coast Highway Route 1.  One of the most scenic drives in America which I highly recommend to anyone. This is a State Park so there was a $10 Car pass to get into the park. Why can't all parks be free?! There are multiple hiking trails here but the one we hiked which is relatively flat the whole way was the Old Landing Cove Trail which connects to Ohlone Bluff Trail. At 7.6 miles out and back, this a very easy trail to hike with the lil chaps (children) or grand parents.

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When you first get to the ocean during the hike, there is Wilder Beach to your left which apparently is privately owned and were not supposed to go there. Rules are meant to be broken and i am not going to let a sign stop me to enjoy pristine views of a beach all to ourselves. The hard part is climbing down which wasn't too bad. Once you get down there, there is a cove that goes about 10-15 feet deep that looks into the ocean (see photo below).

Cove View
Cove View

The trail offers astounding views of the cliffs to gaze at along the way. You want to get close to the ocean or get in it safely you say? Well you are in luck my friend.  There are a few beaches you are able to walk down a path to catch some rays, have a picnic, roll around in the sand or jump into the bitter cold water. Your choice! Here is the Brochure they offer on the website so you have a better idea of the layout of the park. Another spot to stop at is Natural Bridges State Park as well. Murica!

Sundial Bridge. Redding, California

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I remember when I first found out about this bridge.  I was surfing the good ole internet for places to see and things to do on one of my favorite site to find stuff; Roadtrippers.  The picture they had on the website intrigued me instantly.  If you don't know me, I am a visual person.  If I like what I see, I am going after it. That can go multiple ways but we will keep it to landscapes and scenery. This was my first stop during my road trip to Oregon.

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The Sundial Bridge crosses over the Sacramento River and when you walk to the other side of the river I remember standing at the tip of the sundial shadow and thought this was pretty cool, its hot out let me cool down for a little bit.  Then I look behind me and there is this concrete arc that the shadow traced during the day.  Every couple of feet or so there was a metal symbol with a time on it. I looked at the time it posted on the concrete arc and then my phone. They were almost identical.  I don't know about you, but the small things intrigue me. Back in the day as early as 1500 BC this is how they used to tell time and I was able to see it in action thousand plus years later.

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If you live near Redding, California or passing through, this is a great place to check out with the family because if once you are done admiring the walking sundial bridge or taking a dip in the river, Turtle Bay Exploration Park is next door. Exhibitions, a museum, animals, and a coffer bar in case you need that caffeine fix!  A few other places nearby I would recommend is Lake Shasta, Mt. Shasta, Waterfall hikes which I will be posting about in the near future, Lake Shasta Caverns, and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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Day 6. Hoover Dam and Calico Ghost Town

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Sometimes plans don't work out the way they should. We found out the hard way this morning when we were about to head to Havasu falls. We get in touch with reservations and they tell us we need a permit no matter what to get into the Indian Reservation. They no longer allow day trip hikes which is 10 miles to the campgrounds and falls. She also told us they are booked for the next 2 weeks. Great! Now what do we do? This was our last stop and our plan failed. Plan b? We didn't have one. Note to self; always have a plan B to plan A. Fuck it I'm pretty floored by now so what does Donny do when he's mad? Eat! Donny hungry! We decide over breakfast that we are just going to wing it and start heading back home and stop if there is anything exciting to see. Looks like Hoover Damn is on the way. The Hoover Dam itself was a great piece of work. An incredible engineering feat for sure. Lake mead on one side that was split between two states then the road you could driver over and then the other side was the river and the view of the Pat Tillman bridge. We drove over the Pat Tillman memorial bridge which was pretty cool because I've always been a fan of what pat was about. I read a book about him and it was probably one of the best books I've read so far. If you are looking for a good recommendation for a book, check that one out. After the Hoover Dam there is not much to see. Desert, bushes, and mountains but we found a Ghost Town in Calico, California bustled up against the calico mountains. An old silver mining town that has been around since 1881. I've always been a fan of abandoned buildings and towns like this so this would be cool to check out. Once we pull up to the gate there was a sign for $8 entry fee. Why does everything have to cost money?! Luckily for us it was about to close so there was no one was collecting money. Woot woot! Everything is better when it's free! When I first walked up the town, it wasn't what I expected. It looked like the town was being renovated and they had actual stores, tours, and a real steam engine that still runs which they used back in the day to get into the mines. It was nifty to see the old blacksmith building and noticing all the tools they used back then. I sat in a bathtub from that Era that was in front of a house. The house which had a bed was no bigger than a modern-day walk in closet. Talk about a tiny home! This is worth checking out since it's right off the interstate 40. Note to self, do not stop at the express gas station in Newberry Springs. I am pretty positive someone died in the restrooms. Bugs flying around everywhere and the stench of urine and who knows what else is unbearable. I had to take a deep breath and dive in and do my duties. If I had to hold my breath underwater for over 20 seconds, I'd totally die! Anyways, I have to say I had a blast with the group of friends I road tripped with. We butted heads and had our differences but we all got along in the end. A few lessons learned but that comes along with road trip. All in all, great success! Murica!

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Upper and Lower Emerald Pools California

Upper and Lower Emerald Pools California

After you see one swimming hole, you have to go see another.  Searching for one of the best in California, I found that lower emerald pools in the Tahoe national forest was one of the best in northern California. It just so happens that upper emerald pools nearby.