Hike Your Heart Out, California

I’ve always been drawn to the west. We ended up there on most summer vacations, booking it around the national parks of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, California. Hiking, biking, more hiking, looking at giant cracks in the earth and giants mounds of dirt rising high into the sky. The mountain air – I dream about it often. So when we found ourselves with the choice between spending a few days in LA or lost in the Southern California hills somewhere, well, it wasn’t even a decision. Sorry Nick. After the weekend in San Diego we drove north to Big Bear Lake (with an afternoon pit stop in Joshua Tree National Park) where we got ourselves a little cabin (#5). We took in our fair share of hiking the past few days. You can have the pleasure of reaping the rewards of our efforts with the pictures and notes below.

Joshua Tree National Park

Hidden Valley
Barker Dam
Keys View

This is the desert. It’s hot. It’s so quiet. Turns out, not a lot lives here. But the things that do are beautiful & weird & beautiful. Extremophiles abound!

Seeing as it’s mid September there was really no one else there. We maybe saw five or so other people hiking in any one of these places, but most of the time it was just us. That alone really allows you to get lost in a place.

We started at Hidden Valley. It was very desert-y. Crazy rock formations and lots of Joshua Trees. If you were wondering (thanks Wikipedia!):

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Barker Dam was recommended to us by the lady at the Park Rock Cafe which is connected to the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. Great sandwiches if you’re in the market for one. It was a really nice walk that ends at the dam. Supposedly all the wildlife comes to the dam to feed/drink but only the dragonflies kept us company. We climbed up a lot of rocks and enjoyed the breeze.

From there we took a little drive up to Keys View. This is just a lookout point and provides a nice rest after a lot of hot hiking. Offers a pretty awesome view. The smog is very noticeable but I like the blue-ness it gives off out into the distance.

The two hikes we went on were only a mile or two, but still, drink lots of water. Also, I was really hoping to see a roadrunner. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards. I’m comin’ for ya next time (said the coyote).

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Big Bear Lake & Forest Falls

Castle Rock
Cougar Crest
Big Falls

Castle Rock is only about 2.4 miles round trip but it’s REALLY steep. Your tush may or may not thank you tomorrow. If you’re feeling well-balanced, then there are lots of opportunities at the top to scramble up some big rocks for better views of the lake below.

Cougar Crest was the longest hike we took, still only about 4.5 miles round trip. At the top it connects to the Pacific Crest Trail so if you’re really feeling ambitious . . . Anyway. This was a nice hike. I don’t think we saw a single soul on this trail. Very peaceful. A good number of stop off benches to sit and admire the view. If I lived in Big Bear I’d visit those benches again and again.

Located about 40 miles away from Big Bear Lake is the Big Falls trail. This was definitely my favorite hike. About .1 miles into the journey the trail ends and it’s all up to you and your fancy footwork from there. We decided to ignore the giant caution sign at the beginning of the hike saying the rocks have claimed a lot of lives, yadda yadda. I guess you should be careful, but proceed with gusto! It was worth it. It’s also an adventure to go off the path, get your little piggies wet, and end up at the bottom of a waterfall. Who needs the beach?

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Best part of it all – didn’t see one bear.

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