Kauai North Shore

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I just got back from a little vaca in Hawaii, and it was AWESOME. Everyone who’s been to Hawaii already knows that, and if you haven’t been, everyone else has already told you that. I spent part of my time on the North Shore of Kauai and I’d highly recommend it. Below are some photos and quick suggestions of stuff to do.

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Hiking — When driving west on the North Shore, past Hanalei Bay, you’ll eventually get to the end of the road. Literally. There is no road going through Napali Coast State Park, but there’s plenty to do right there at the dead end. The Kalalau trail begins there, and even if you just hike for a couple of miles, it will take you up to a couple of beautiful viewpoints of the beach behind you and the cliffs ahead. Keep going for waterfalls and adventure.

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Beaches — All of the beaches in this area are good, too: Tunnels, Ke’e, and Ha’ena. There’s nice stretches of sand and some tree shade, with typically calm, crystal clear  waters and some great snorkeling. Parking can get crowded but you should be able to find a spot in one of the lots, and there’s a dry cave across the street from Tunnels Beach.

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Kayaking — The popular spot for kayaking in Kauai is Wailua, but if you want a far less crowded and more relaxed paddle, try the Hanalei River. It’s easy going, especially in the morning, and heading one way takes you into a nature reserve, while heading the other takes you to the ocean. No need to book ahead, and a rental is good for 24 hours, so come and go as you please.

This is only a snippet of fun stuff on the North Shore, let alone the rest of Kauai. Note that your chances of rain are higher in this region, but showers tend to be short and the landscape is ultra lush. Aloha!

 

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Kauai North Shore

Channel Islands National Park

Last summer I went on a sea kayaking trip at Channel Islands National Park. It was superb! Here’s some info in case you’d like to go this summer (and you should):

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The Channel Islands are located about an hour’s boat ride from Ventura, CA. No one permanently lives there (you can camp) and there is no transportation on the island. All there is to do is kayak or snorkel or hike, and it’s pretty glorious.

You can only get to the islands via a couple of companies. If you want to kayak, you can book your passage to the island and kayak expedition all together. There are different excursions to different islands, including one-day trips and overnight trips with camping. There’s lots of info on the park website.

My husband and I chose Aquasport’s one-day trip to Santa Cruz Island with ocean kayaking. The boat left at about 8AM and we returned around 5PM. Once we arrived, our guide provided helmets, jackets, paddles, and kayaks, along with basic instructions. We spent the next 3 or 4 hours paddling in the sea, nudging into sea caves whenever possible. Our guide was fantastic and, even though it was unusually windy, he was a pro at making sure we saw as much as possible.

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I’d recommend wearing a bathing suit with some quick-drying layers over top and lots of sunscreen. Water socks are also highly recommended. Oh, and a baseball cap. It’ll keep the sun out of your eyes and make your helmet more comfy. You can bring some dry clothes, water, lunch, more sunscreen, etc. and keep it in your guide’s lockbox on land. Store in a waterproof, airtight bag and/or hard-sided cooler.

After kayaking, we had a couple of hours to eat lunch and explore the island. There’s a small museum of sorts displaying the history of the island, and there are a few hiking trails. I made my way up one and took in breathtaking views free of traffic noise.

Note that the dock at Santa Cruz has been out of commission for a few years now, and the crew ferries everyone back and forth from the big boat in groups of 8-10. It takes a while, but it’s kind of fun, and they are working real hard. Just be patient.

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Channel Islands National Park

Vasquez Rocks

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This weekend I visited Vasquez Rocks, a natural area less than an hour from LA and the setting for many-a TV and film productions. I was impressed by the visitor center, free parking, upkeep, trails, and, well, the rocks. It rocked.

There are lots of trails to choose from, with short, flat jaunts leading to impressive formations, to longer hikes to nice views and vegetation. Kid and dog friendly, there’s also plenty of picnic tables for a nice lunch.

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Vasquez Rocks

Big Sur

Our northernmost destination on our roadtrip was Big Sur. It’s long been on my list of places to see, and it was definitely worth the drive. The best and only way to see Big Sur coming from the south is to drive along the 1 north of San Simeon and stop whenever you like to enjoy the view or go on a hike. It’s a very windy road that largely hugs the coast, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But take your time and enjoy it—there are plenty of turn-offs, viewpoints, and trails to enjoy.

Our first stop was Ragged Point, which is where Big Sur begins at it’s southernmost point. It consists of a hotel, viewpoint, cafe, and expensive gas station (pro tip: fill up in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo if you’re driving north. The gas is stupid expensive is Big Sur and few and far between). We parked and walked along the viewpoint, spotting a whale or two from the coast and watching for some time. It’s a great introduction to Big Sur and a chance to stretch your legs.

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Another great stop is McWay Falls, which is in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Park near the entrance of the park (there’s a big state park sign) and walk across the 1 towards the coast. There is a very short and easy trail leading to viewpoints all around the falls, which drops directly into the ocean. There is also a trail or two that start across the street in the park, and afford great views and lots of redwoods.

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We camped in Big Sur, and this was our tent plot. We were in a circle of beautiful redwood trees! Camping is a great way to experience the region, and fancier accommodations can get pretty expensive. Do your research and book early when it’s high season.

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On our second day before starting the drive back down, we drove up a few miles to Bixby Bridge. Next trip I’d like to keep going north a bit and check out the Monterey area.

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On our drive back down through Big Sur, we stopped at an unmarked trail that led us down to the coast, past a stream, through a tunnel, and to a couple of coves. Basically, you can’t go wrong stopping at any official trail. They all lead to something beautiful.

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Redwoods! This is the view looking up from our tent site.

Big Sur One last view. Every view is beautiful in this part of the state, including inland, since there’s lovely forest, streams, and big beautiful trees. We saw whales a few times while just staring out at the ocean, and sometimes you can spot happy seals. We’ll be back, and you should check it out, too.

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Secret Stair Walk #3 Glassell Park

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I’m working my way through the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles, which I’d highly recommend by the way. A few days ago I did Walk #3, which takes you through part of Glassell Park. It was maybe a mile or two from my house, and seemed like a no-brainer.secret stair walk #3

It begins at the intersection of Avenue 40 and Scandia Way, where a short, old wooden stair case leads up to a paved walkway (pictured above), which drops you on Verdugo View Drive. Take a left, and take a right on Avenue 42. Walk through the neighborhood to straight through the intersection until you’re on Palmero Drive. secret stair walk #3

Continue on Palmero, and then bear left onto Oban Drive. There are some pretty homes and greenery down this street. Bear right onto Oneonta Drive, and then bear right, following Oneonta as it goes around and up. On the right past an empty lot is the second set of stairs. secret stair walk #3

This a bigger, newer set of stairs, and has nice views as you go up and from the top of Occidental College and the mountains. secret stair walk #3

It drops you at Olancha Drive. Take a left and admire the homes before taking a hard left onto N Nobb Hill Drive. Bear right at the fork and head downhill. The next staircase is at the bottom of the hill on your right. secret stair walk #3

It’s another wooden one followed by a paved walkway. I was well-attended by some rowdy dogs just behind a fence along this walk, so beware. You’ll be dropped on Cleland, with Bicentennial Park across the street. Turn left and turn left again on Terrace 49. secret stair walk #3

When the street ends at El Paso, take a left, and turn left again on Division Street. Walk along to Avenue 42 and take a right, walk a few blocks and turn left on Verdugo View. You’ll end up back at your original staircase, which will take you back down to Avenue 40 and Scandia Way.secret stair walk #3

If you’re not familiar with Glassell Park, it’s a great walk to introduce you to the neighborhood. There’s a nice view at the top and the wooden staircases are rare in LA now. If you live in the area, then you should go strictly because you can! This walk has less stair action and more just walking through neighborhoods, but I still enjoyed it.

Secret Stair Walk #3 Glassell Park

Mt Baldy

Mt Baldy

A couple of friends and I drove out to Mt Baldy today and had a nice hike. No, not to the tippy top, because I would still be there huffing and puffing and trying to make it down the mountain before dark right now. But we had such a nice day hanging out on the mountain, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking to get our of town for half a day.

Since it’s not a weekend and there’s no snow on the mountain (except for a tiiiiny bit on the very top), Mt Baldy was pretty empty. The visitor’s center was closed, so we stopped in the lodge across the street to ask if we needed to get a permit to park and where we should start out trek. There was a guy named Pavel behind the bar pouring himself an iced coffee (he didn’t work there), and he gave us the low down and so much more. He said no permit needed, and that Top of the Notch, the restaurant we were heading for half way up the mountain, was closed today and so were the ski lifts. It felt like bad news, but he also said the hike to Bear Flats via the Bear Canyon Trail that started across the street was a similar hike with some really nice views. He was going for a hike anyway, so he’d catch up with us.

Mt Baldy

Mt Baldy

The hike is about 2 miles from the road, so a little under 4 miles round trip. A vast majority of the hike to Bear Flats is uphill, so be prepared to gain some elevation. Luckily the distance isn’t so bad, and there is some reprieve and some very nice scenery. It starts out paved next to some cabins and a creek, and then criss-crosses up the mountain on dirt or gravely paths. There are beautiful big fir trees and lots of happy vegetation, along with some lovely wildflowers right now. Once you are most of the way up, there are some very nice views of the village below, the hills around and the top half of Mt Baldy. On a very clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island (or so I’m told). Even on a lightly hazy day, the views were beautiful.

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Bear Flats is just a lightly sloping grassy field with a nice view and spots to pitch a tent. Pavel had caught up with us with four beers in his back pocket, so we all had a celebratory beer and a rest before heading down. He also pointed out different plants and told us some history about the mountain. He goes hiking once or twice every day, and definitely knew the trails (and otherwise) like the back of his hand.

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Afterwards we had lunch with Pavel and some of his friends from the town at the Lodge. There is a small porch with outdoor seating on the front of the restaurant that literally has a sign that says “Pavel’s Porch.” We all shared beers and laughed a lot, and met what felt like half of the town. It was a merry time, and I’m sure we’ll be back.

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To reach the visitor’s center, use the address 6700 Mount Baldy Road, 91759 in your GPS. It’s about an hour outside of LA and a nice drive. The visitor’s center will be on your left and the lodge on your right. The entrance to the Bear Canyon Trail is just slightly south of the lodge, across the street and past the church. Be sure to follow all signs—the path is maintained and well-marked, but it can still be easy to miss a couple of the turns.

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Temescal Canyon

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I’ve been in the mood to try some new hikes, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of friends to volunteer to go with me. We ended up at Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades, a popular spot that was on my list of to-do’s. We took the loop, which inclines for a lot longer than you think it will, but there are lots of places to rest and a surprising amount of shade. Plus, once you reach a certain point, you have amazing views of the Pacific Ocean that only get better and better. We turned and walked along the ridge before crossing down towards the waterfall (dried up that day, unfortunately) and eventually making it back to the entrance. It was a good couple of hours and the perfect intensity for me, with a well-maintained trail and beautiful scenery. Plus, we went to Bay Cities after!

Note: it’s impossible to capture the view in photo form. Just go see for yourself.

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temescal canyon
dogs aren’t allowed on most of the trails– check all signs and watch for rangers!

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Temescal Canyon