I decided at this juncture in my Sixty60 journey I would take time to pause and reflect on at least 15 of my first 60 hikes, with a brief description for each of the hikes and links to each of them, in case you are looking for some hiking adventures of your own! The AllTrails app for my iPhone has been of great assistance in recording them and as a GPS device for most of them.
Here they are in hiking order:
The Sixty60Journey began here. Even though I had hiked Torrey Pines many times before, in particular the Beach Trail, I decided to hike ALL the trails that Torrey had to offer, west of North Torrey Pines Road. I had no idea how long it would take me or how many collective miles I would tally, I only knew I had set aside the day to kick off my journey! A lovely mystical friend joined me for the Beach Trail leg and the rest I hiked solo. If you have not ventured off into some of the other trails, I highly recommend! My favorite find was off the Broken Hill Trail, where you overlook a couple of craggy canyons that reminded me of a mini Bryce Canyon. Just gorgeous. And…it’s off the beaten path allowing for some good contemplation time and a good place to take a break. Another great discovery was the North Fork Trail (leads to Broken Hill Trail,) a wheelchair accessible trail. Beautifully manicured level trail that ends with a nice ocean view. I had no idea. I plan to hike that trail with Stanley Vigil soon!
I ended up logging something around 9-miles traversing all of the trails at Torrey Pines. It was a great kick-off for my journey and a nice start to my birthday! I consider Torrey Pines my go-to hike. It’s close, beautiful, offers diversity and tons of unending beautiful scenery.
As I released my hiking intention through the venue of social media, asking friends to participate with their favorite trail and to hike with me, one of my dear high school friends contacted me saying he was coming into town and would like to take a hike with me! We got an early Saturday morning start…and the parking lot was already full. New to this hiking thing, I have been blown away by what I had been missing out on throughout the San Diego County wilderness. While the view from the top of Iron Mountain is cool…and crowded on weekends, I preferred a point where a group of large and brightly colored boulders are nestled on the west side of the trail. I swear I heard them say “Come up and sit on me!” The westerly view is stunningly gorgeous overlooking the valley you just hiked through. I hesitate to comment on how easy or hard the hikes are, given this was hike no. 2, so I won’t. Comb through the comments you find and decide for yourself, based on your level of fitness and hiking experience. I was huffing and puffing the last bit of incline switchbacks on this one…you bet. Did I already mention it was only hike no. 2?
On the way back from a work gig in Manhattan Beach, I stopped in Long Beach to crash the night with my hiking hero and set out the next day to hike with her one of her favorite Orange County trails. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is located in Lake Forest between Foothill Ranch and Santiago Canyon. We took the Dreaded Hill Trail (named for its steady 600 ft climb in 1-mile) to a hidden gem called Red Rock Canyon. Being in that canyon I felt transported to somewhere in Arizona, say…Sedona. We scrambled up into the canyon, each finding a nook to hang out in out of the sun and eat our lunch. Here we are, geographically, hiking the wilderness in the middle of two housing subdivisions, which gets lost from view when you reach the towering boulders of Red Rock Canyon. As we loop back to the trailhead, my mind is boggled with diversity of nature along the trails. Red rock, beautiful vistas, open fields and a welcomed shaded oak grove. This was a 10-mile loop with a 1,484 ft elevation gain. I’ve learned to pay attention to that last number…
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a very little known part of Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve. I say this only because as I have spoken about it to others, like me, nobody seems to be aware of this section of open space to the east of Torrey Pines Road and north of Carmel Valley Road, that was acquired in 1970 through the efforts of local conservation groups (Torrey Pines Association, the Sierra Club, the Citizens Coordinate.) The acquisition added approximately 197 acres and 1500 trees to the state reserve. I was introduced to this part of Torrey Pines by my friend Sarah who grew up romping through the open space long before it was a part of the reserve. It is a little slice of heaven, weaving through flora and fauna you don’t see on the other side, but with the familiar Torreys dotting the landscape. It’s an easy stroll through the few trails, and a great place to wander, stop, breathe, contemplate, write or just simply be. My trail camera (iPhone 6s) met an untimely death on the way to this hike, adding to the secret and sacredness of this sweet area. No pictures to share. I highly recommend this one as a sacred getaway—if that is what you are looking for. Quietude and serenity reside here.
Did you ever wonder where the name for the Joshua Tree came from? We took the Boy Scout Trail which starts you off through the flat forest of Joshua Trees! This hike was with an adventurous friend who said, (when we were trying to make educated guesses on the naming of the trees) “I think when the first people saw them they said something like “Gosh is that a tree?” You get the picture. It was both fun and funny. The legend is that the Mormon pioneers thought the limbs of the Joshua trees resembled the open and upstetched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Anyway they are fun to photograph! That landscape turns into the area dubbed The Wonderland of Rocks, for the monzogranite boulders begging to be scrambled. The scrambling trail led to the end point (of our hike) to Willow Hole, a shady desert oasis in the center of Wonderland. Seven out and back level strolling miles with the occasional stop to scramble boulders—because they are there!
Well now. This hike kicked my ass. It started out all nice and friendly, then we got to the stairs! This is a six-mile loop that forms the shape of a heart! I’m a heart gatherer, so I just had to do this one. I enlisted a friend, who hikes the Mission Trails Park system regularly, to lead the way AND we hiked it mostly in the dark since it was a full moon evening. I found it really challenging for a few reasons…it was hike no. 6 (still huffing and puffing) and hiking on loose rock and shale— in the dark. Suffice it to say I’d like to do it again, so that I may appreciate the ground that was covered (in two ways) and measure my (huffing and puffing) progess. The Mission Trails Regional Park sponsors a 5-Peak Challenge, with the Fortunas being two of them. The others are: the overly hiked Cowles Mountain, behind it Pyles Peak and Kwaay Paay. I’ve completed them all now making me eligible for a certificate. Yipee! There’s also a fun surprise at the top of the North Fortuna summit. Unfortunately I didn’t get a selfie with the North Fortuna summit sign, proof that you completed each peak. I did say that I wanted to do them again—didn’t I?
My ultra-marathoner friend picked this one. I should have been weary since this was near the training ground for her 50k (31+ miles) earlier this year. In the end, this was a great loop, even though we didn’t really know we were on a loop! It wasn’t until after we found our way into the loop and didn’t find ourselves lost and spending the night…in the wilderness. It wasn’t until I came home to do some research and found that exact trail we had hiked, thanks to a couple of mountain bikers that gave us directions. We could have gone back the way we came, but a loop came be so much more interesting—if you know your way!
The trailhead is located along Sunrise Highway between Laguna Mountains and Lake Cuyamaca. We walked 100 yards and came upon some PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) hikers setting up camp, one guy from Germany making the distance from Mexico to Canada. Impressive! We met two snakes on the single-track trail, one who was distracted by the lizard in his mouth and the other stretched across our trail. So we waited until he/she moved on. Now who wants to lead? Breezes blowing through the grassy meadows on either side of the trail, once looked beautiful and now all I can think of is the idiom ‘snakes in the grass’. We pressed on until we turned onto the fire trail which took us down into a ravene where you could still see the effects from one of the most devastating fires in San Diego county’s recent history. Obviously, since I’m writing this, we made it back to our point of origin—and way before dark.
Over the river and through the “woods” on this one. What a lovely area and beautiful vistas at the top of the Way Up Trail. A long-time girlfriend suggested this one. You could continue to meander around, way up there, on other trails too if you wanted to extend your hiking miles. It was a cloud covered morning which turned into rain! That’s always fun—not a torrential downpour, just enough to muss up the hiking hair. Great fun crossing the river on the return. Ok maybe it was only a stream. Either way, when there is a water feature on a hike, especially in drought riddled San Diego, California—you can’t help but smile wide!
There are a couple of ways to do this hike/stroll, one is to start at Torrey Pines State Beach and flatland it to the area known as Black’s Beach—the unofficial, nudity-not-allowed, nude beach in San Diego County. Or you can scale a 300-foot cliff down to Black’s Beach and walk north to Torrey Pines. Either way the views both out into the ocean and along the famous red rock eroding cliffs are stunning. You’ll scramble over a section called Flat Rock, because it is—FLAT, and depending on the tide, you will enjoy this natural rock sculpture as a tidepool area as well. Increase your miles and elevation change by taking the Beach Trail which has stair access up and through the cliffs, out and back to the beach. Just an idea! My Keen hiking boots got a well-deserved yet unintentional ocean water wash. Eight layers of trails dust and dirt whooshed away, but the memories linger on…
My former life as a married woman and raising two boys happened in Rancho de los Penasquitos. I spent much time in and around the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, being literally in our backyard. For this hike I went with another PQ mom and friend and we hiked from the Black Mountain Road entrance through to Sorrento Valley with a lunch break at the, despite the drought, waterfall feature! It had been more than 20+ years since I’d hiked into the preserve, and then with a young boy in tow who was skipping stones in the creek. I also used it as a playground for my black and white photography class. The trail is fairly flat, but long if you go all the way through. You could do an out and back hike, up one side of the creek and back along the other. We chose to do it one-way and Ubered back to our point of origin. The chapparal and oaks just as lovely as I remembered. The stop for lunch at the waterfall, well deserved and just plain fun to scramble on the boulders. We took several detours off the trail to creekside, visiting with a man who had a Native American look and was singing in the breezes. Another young man, maybe 16 years old, have carved out a niche and was fishing for Bass. Our county is abundant and amazing with nature—you just have to get off the dang freeway!
Out of the 15-to-date hikes, this is my favorite. One bummer note is that I went with someone who couldn’t go the distance and even though she said it was alright to leave her behind on the trail so I could hike to the peak, I didn’t make it to the top, almost, but no cigar (whatever that means.) Returned by guilt! And…this only gives me opportunity and damn good reason to hike it again—TO THE TOP. That being said, I absolutely loved this trail. You go three miles out of town to get to a dirt road that takes you to the trailhead. The trail is well-groomed and mother nature provides some nice cushion underfoot with pine needles and leaves. We met two nice older women who told of their favorite places to stop and scramble boulders with unending vistas AND a not-to-miss feature called ‘Window Rock’. They said you can’t miss it. They were right! There is a formation of rocks that frames the wilderness beyond and the opening is large enough to walk through easily at 5′-4″. Beyond that opening is a whole other world. Enough room on the ledge of boulders to sit for a snack or rest, vistas across and into the valley far below, wind whispering through the pines. Could have lingered longer but there was more trail ahead (and back.) There was one point on the trail where I was overwhelmed with emotion, out nowhere and it happened on the way back through. It felt ancient—like connection to something from the past of this spiritual place.
The trail winds through oaks and at this time of year (May) flowering manzanitas, red snow flowers popping up, and the smell of pine answering the question of “Where would you prefer to live: Beach, mountains or desert?” Mountains. It took this hike. Farther up the trail heading to the peak, the trees turned to white boulders—I later learned that I was only .5 miles from the peak. I can’t speak to the views at the top—but I will soon! Plenty were had all along the way, with no regets and only lessons learned. I felt great on this trail!
Mother’s Day hike with my eldest son. As soon as he said “Hey mom, what would you like to do for Mother’s Day?” he knew he made a big mistake. HIKE of course! “Okay, as long as it doesn’t hurt me.” Another gem in San Diego, although it has a rough spot in the road where a young runner named Chelsea King was murdered. There is a memorial to her along the fence railing that you’ll see and can contribute to. Just an FYI.
From the trailhead we took the longer way around via Bernardo Bay Trail which overlooks portions of Lake Hodges and Bernardo Bay. We crossed a bridge which led us to areas where posion oak was present along the creek, a surprise of a waterfall about halfway out the Piedras Pintadas Trail and of course the Piedras Pintadas which translate in English to painted rocks.
Somewhere around the painted rocks area my youngest son called in from San Antonio, Texas for a Mother’s Day wish. Such sweet timing! You’ll read about our hikes together, nos. 28 and 30, in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park, Texas.
It’s been 20 years since I hiked Cowles Mountain and even though I went midweek, the parking lot was packed, the trail was crowded and junked up with trash. Humans. The only reason I did it was for the 5-Peak Challenge and the more rewarding part of the hike was the being on the empty trail over to Pyles Peak! There are other ways to get up to Cowles besides the route I took, and also to Pyles for that matter. Plenty is written about Cowles, being the most popular/used trail for the “fitness’ crowd. My journey, being more about what I see and experience, rather than something to conquer or workout on…I won’t be going back. But I did get those selfies to prove I was there and qualify for the 5-Peak Challenge.
Torrey Pines State Reserve has become what I will refer to as my go-to-hike place. It is sanctuary. In the event I don’t have anything big planned, like bagging a peak, or ability to travel to far away places or anyone to hike with…this is my place. AND my favorite place spot is located from a trail less traveled to the area called Broken Hill. It’s a stunningly quiet place to just BE. I love it here. Did I already say that???
My first hiking expedition out in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park took me through some seriously fun slots and narrows plus a steep climb up to a few calcite mines, where you can still pull the mineral straight from the mine’s walls. The surrounding ground shines likes diamonds. A definite yes on my list to explore more as we head into winter. You can count on some wilderness camping too!