On the Road with Desert Dog

On Thanksgiving weekend, my boyfriend Bill and I took Cody on his first ever camping trip. From the moment we started packing up the car the night before, Cody was filled to the brim with excitement over what his new adventure had in store. He had no idea where we were going, but he knew we were going somewhere, and that was all it took. The next day, we were off to Death Valley for a weekend of camping and hiking with friends. Although this wasn’t my first visit to Death Valley, each experience is unique and special, and I was happy to share this one with Bill and Cody.

We weren’t sure how Cody was going to do on his first road trip, so Bill covered up the two large ice chests on the back seat with a comfy towel so he could relax and still be able to see the open road in front of us. First, he wanted to sit on my lap, but Bill nudged him to the back seat and he laid down on his towel. He looked so cute on his makeshift bed.

Death Valley is quite a drive from Long Beach. We decided to take the scenic route and drove in via the 190 from Olancha in the Eastern Sierra. It was a bit of a longer way in for us, but being that it was the more scenic route, we didn’t mind the extra time on the road. Plus, we got to see some of our beloved Eastern Sierra.

Upon our entrance into Death Valley, we stopped at our first vista point, Father Crowley Overlook. Bill, Cody and I got out to take a look and were instantly captivated by the majestic sight before us. I thought it looked like a mini grand canyon. Little did I know, we would see other places in Death Valley that were even more similar to the Grand Canyon. Cody was just as excited as Bill and I were.

Death Valley is on record as the hottest, driest and lowest place on Earth. The hottest rating doesn’t apply in November, though. However, the climate is so arid that it’s very important to stay hydrated, even if the cooler temperatures don’t make you “feel” thirsty. Bill and I made sure to bring plenty of water for ourselves and for little Cody.

I had been using this new Bubi Bottle and Bowl on some of my walks around town with Cody and was anxious to use them at Death Valley. Made from BPA Free Silicone, the Bubi bottle is ideal for kids, pets, work, travel, sports and adventures of all sorts. It was the perfect gear combo for our trip to Death Valley.

I’m so used to carrying plastic bottles of water on my adventures and they get to be pretty cumbersome after a while. When I’m out on the hiking trails, especially when doing long distance hikes, I drink a lot of water, and water sources along the trail are not always available. Carrying back empty bottles are quite a pain. Hydration bladders are more convenient, but they are hard to clean, as are the plastic 1-liter bottles. The Bubi Bottle is so soft and flexible that it can be cleaned inside-out.

When Cody and I took a break, I pulled out the Bubi Bottle and had a drink for myself, then attached his bowl to the top, unscrewed it and poured him some water. He gladly drank it as he was super thirsty from being exposed to such a dry climate. He loves his bowl so much. It wasn’t super warm or cold during the day, so we were fine drinking the water at air temperature. Since it cooled down overnight, the water had enough of a chill to keep us refreshed.

After we downed all the water, I scrunched the Bubi Bottle down, collapsed Cody’s cute little matching bowl and stuffed them into Bill’s pack. Even when the bottle was completely full, nothing spilled or leaked into the pack. The Bubi Bottle’s puncture-resistance withstood the beating that we gave it. I’m looking forward to using this bottle and bowl on future adventures. It’s so lightweight and portable that sometimes I forget I’m carrying it…until it’s time for a drink of water.

Cody enjoyed his first road trip/camping trip. There were so many sights and smells that he loved to explore and we had fun watching him. The smiles on his face were priceless. Cody did have a little scare the last night of our camping trip. He was sitting with Bill on a picnic bench near the campfire and a coyote approached. Neither of us saw it, but Cody did, and he freaked out and tried to go after it. Cody is a little dog, but very strong. It took Bill quite a bit of effort to restrain him. Thankfully, the coyote ran off into the night and we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief, but we remained on alert the rest of our time there.

On the drive home, we took a different route than the way we came in and stopped at the Trona Pinnacles, an area that sparked my curiosity a few years ago when passing through on the way to Death Valley. The Trona Pinnacles consist of an area of tufa formations, similar to those at Mono Lake near Mammoth Lakes, CA.

You have to drive five miles on a fairly well-graded dirt road to get to the Pinnacles. Then you arrive at the official entrance. Beyond that, you can drive in a loop around the Pinnacles or take the hiking trail and walk among them. There is a map posted at the entrance so you can easily familiarize yourself with the layout.

Bill drove us around, then we stopped for a break and had lunch. After walking around the Pinnacles and doing a bit of rock climbing, Bill, Cody and I headed home. What a fun weekend.

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A Visit to Carrizo Plain National Monument

I was originally set to camp at Carrizo Plain National Monument this past weekend with friends, but due to the rainy weather on Friday, coupled with a series of other events, the plan fell through. After hearing all the talk of Carrizo and seeing the breathtaking pictures, I knew I needed to get up there and soon. The wildflowers won’t be there forever.

I thought about maybe driving up there for a day trip on Sunday or Monday and decided I’d sleep on it Saturday night. When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew I was supposed to go, so I checked out the BLM website to see the recommended route on getting there and what to see, saved it, got in my car and hit the road.

The route that I followed took me to the north entrance of the monument and BLM recommended driving down Soda Lake Rd. to explore the length of the plain and exit on Highway 166 at the south end. It sounded like a great plan to me since I wanted to see as much as possible in the time that I had.

Somehow, I ended up taking a left turn too soon and thought I was on Soda Lake Rd., but it turned out to be Elkhorn Rd. There was a sign pointing to Soda Lake, so I thought I was going the right way. It wasn’t necessarily the wrong way, just not what BLM specified in their directions.

I was looking for an attraction called “Overlook Hill” and the Soda Lake Boardwalk. Well, I saw a big hill on the left with tons of people ascending, so I thought that was the overlook. The trail took me to some stunning views and I got to see lots of pretty flowers, mostly of the yellow variety. However, the trail just went on and on and kept ascending further into the mountains. No one seemed to know where it ended, so I stopped about two miles in and turned back. I didn’t want to spend too much time in one place. Plus, the trail was very steep in spots and I didn’t want to burn myself out too soon.

I followed the road further down and ended up on a dirt road which I later discovered was 7-Mile Rd. It brought me close to the shores of Soda Lake and I was expecting to see the boardwalk soon, but I never saw it. There were plenty of opportunities to pull off to the side of the road and take pictures of the flowers and I later walked down to the shore of Soda Lake for an up close and personal view.

The next stop was the visitor center where I was surprised to find a line waiting to get in. It was such a small building that they could only allow so many people in at a time, which turned out to be a good thing. Once inside, I asked the rangers where the boardwalk was. They took out a map and showed me and that’s when I realized why I hadn’t seen it. I turned off too soon and missed it. But it wasn’t a big deal. The overlook and the boardwalk were only about two miles the other way on Soda Lake Rd. so I went there to check it out. I didn’t want to miss anything.

After visiting the Soda Lake Overlook and Boardwalk, I headed back south down Soda Lake Rd. as the ranger suggested and encountered a long stretch of dirt road that did eventually take me to Hwy 166 to go home, but it was a bumpy ride. At times, I was afraid and thought that I should turn back and leave the way that I came in, but I stuck with it and was treated to some more amazing views, pronghorn sightings and a beautiful sunset.

Mid-Week Wanderlust: Corral Canyon and Jim Morrison’s Cave

We had seen the incredible rock formations along the Backbone Trail during last year’s 67-mile section series. This time, we made it a point to go and explore Corral Canyon in Malibu and take a side trip to the Jim Morrison cave. We had the perfect weather; it was neither too hot or cold. Of course, you don’t want to be on those rocks on a hot day as the heat reflects off the rocks and makes it miserable. We had a small group and that made it easy for us to stay together and take time to help each other up and down the rocks. There were some additional rock formations we spotted from afar that we will go and explore on a future adventure.

Sensational Santa Barbara Series: Gaviota Wind Caves

In Part 2 of our Sensational Santa Barbara Series, we once again went to Gaviota State Park just north of Santa Barbara, CA to explore the Gaviota Wind Caves. The caves are located on the western half of the park and we did our hike as a one-way car shuttle to shave off some mileage and elevation gain. To reach our destination, we hiked on a variety of trails including the Yucca Trail, Hollister Trail, Beach to Backcountry Trail, Woodland Trail, Trespass Trail and Tunnel View Trail. At just over 7 miles and a mere 1,000 feet of elevation gain, we had ourselves quite an adventure and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Cats, Coffee and Potato Chip

I had only been to San Diego maybe a couple of times and wasn’t aware of anything more exciting to warrant a visit than the zoo. The drive down there from LA can be horrendous and take hours, especially on a holiday weekend. So why did my friend Jodi and I decide to make the trip on MLK Day other than the fact we were bored with nothing else to do?

Well, we are both hikers and Jodi likes to push the envelope a bit further with her mountain bike. I had heard of this impressive geologic feature, a rock outcropping called Potato Chip Rock and decided it was something I just had to see. Some friends of mine had been there a while back and I had seen various Internet photos of people standing, sitting, doing wild poses on this seemingly potato chip-thin rock.

Sign in the Cat Cafe

In addition to Potato Chip Rock, I had heard about a place called The Cat Cafe, which I discovered via an article shared on the Crazy Cat Ladies Unite Facebook page. I figured Jodi and I could go to The Cat Cafe first since it was downtown and then head back toward Poway afterwards and do the hike. Since the hike was only ~7 miles round trip, it seemed like an easy enough day.

Cats' PlayroomWe left Laguna Hills early and arrived in San Diego around 9am, parked on the street and walked into the welcoming doors of The Cat Cafe. Now, in case you’re wondering, The Cat Cafe does not serve cats up for breakfast, lunch or dinner. What they do serve is a nice cup of joe that you order on one side of the quaint establishment and a separate playroom for the cats lined with tables and chairs for you to sip your espresso while enjoying quality time with new furry friends.

Cat on a ShelfAt the time of our visit, there were 13 cats and all were available for adoption for a mere $25. We stayed for about an hour and I really got to know Barry, a black and white tuxedo cat who came and chilled on my lap for a while. Jodi also met a new friend whose name escapes me. The cat that stole the show was a Calico kitten named Frida who was literally bouncing off the walls running over everything as a little boy toyed with her. She was so cute and entertaining. We could have watcher her all day.

We left The Cat Cafe around 10am and arrived at Lake Poway around 10:30. The sign on the gate warned that the gate would be closed at 5:00, so we knew we couldn’t waste any time. Neither of us had done the hike before, but the trail descriptions we read online said the hike was 6-7 miles round trip with a 2,000ft gain. The average completion time was listed as 3-5 hours. We made our way to the Mt. Woodson Trailhead and started our adventure.

Gradual AscentThe trail begins a gradual ascent that takes you on a parallel incline providing expansive views of Lake Poway below. As we started out, it was pretty hazy with the marine layer, so we didn’t get the full lake effect until later in the afternoon on the way out. The marine layer served us well in keeping the temperature down because the trail is exposed pretty much the entire way.

Steep, Rocky SectionI had heard that the trail could get very crowded and didn’t know why I thought a holiday weekend would be less crowded. There were droves and droves of people of all ages, shapes and sizes enjoying this trail. Some only wore sneakers and carried a bottle of water. I figured that they had to be locals who most likely use the hike for conditioning purposes or just a regular workout. Jodi and I carried our backpacks and were in full hiking mode as if we were climbing Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio).

End of City Maintained TrailSpeaking of Mt. Baldy, this hike felt a bit like a mini-Baldy in that it got pretty steep and rocky at times. The trail climbs up a well-graded path initially, but then you reach a point where the trail is no longer maintained as advertised by a trail sign. Then you ascend through a boulder field where you really have to watch you footing. Trekking poles would have been useful, but I left mine in the car.

Sitting in a TreeWhen we got to within about 1.5 miles of Potato Chip Rock, we reached a tree where people were sitting on a rock slab enjoying a snack, the views and the sun that was burning its way through the marine layer. We had a snack and took a few pictures, then were on our way again.

It wasn’t long before we could see the radio towers that mark Mt. Woodson’s summit, and then just below that, a colorful line of people was visible, which drew my attention to the rock outcropping known as Potato Chip Rock. When we reached the end of the line, we knew we’d be there for a while as we watched various people get upon the rock and pose for various shots that someone in line took.

Mt. Woodson Summit

 

We patiently awaited our turn, and after about 45 minutes, were able to stand proudly atop Potato Chip Rock for our own personal two minutes of fame. Jodi got on first and I snapped a few pictures of her and then we switched and she did the same for me. I wasn’t bold enough to jump for a pic in mid-air like Jodi did, but I did sit on the edge swinging my legs.

Jumping Jodi

Sitting Pretty

On the hike back to the parking lot, we saw the lake in all its splendor with the glow of the sunset adding a nice effect on the still water. We finished the hike in time to take the short stroll down to the lake for some pictures and still made it out of the gate well before closing time. Another adventure is checked off our list.

Lake Poway at Sunset

Hike on!