Strawberries, a Meadow, and a Peak

Tree on the Trail to Strawberry MeadowOn Saturday, we hiked to Josephine Peak via Strawberry Meadow, a 14-mile car shuttle that was supposed to begin at Colby Ranch. However, the gate to the ranch was closed for some unknown reason. At that point, we initiated Plan B, which was to go to Red Box Rd. and begin our hike on the Strawberry Peak trail. While we didn’t climb Strawberry Peak, our trail took us around the base of the north side of it where we were treated to some enchanting views.

It was a beautiful day, although there were periods of fog. When the sun was out, it was nice and warm, but when the clouds blew over, it got breezy and cold. During the first 6-7 miles of the hike, we had to dodge TONS of bikers on the trail coming toward us. As it turned out, they were doing some sort of marathon called Mud Foot and one biker told us that there were about 75 of them total, all spread out. One biker even suggested that we find a nice place to stop, relax and wait for all of them to pass. We decided to go on despite the warning, because we didn’t know how long it was going to take all of the bikers to go through.

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By the time we made it through Strawberry Meadow and into Strawberry Potrero, we had seen the last of the bikers and the trail was peaceful again. At the end of the day, we had hiked 14 miles with roughly 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Not too bad for a day’s work.

The tale of the trail?
Just because you find one door (or in this case, gate) closed on the way to your destiny, don’t give up and throw in the towel. Stay on the path and be open to other opportunities. There is always another–and sometimes better–way. You will get there. You will conquer your mountain.

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“I didn’t sign up for this!”

A lot has happened over the past couple of weeks and I have many stories to share, but I’m going to start off with this one tale of the trail from my most recent trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California. This is a place I had been longing to visit, so I was happy to see it posted with a group of adventure enthusiasts I’m familiar with.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Among the list of adventures planned, the big draw for me to sign up on this weekend getaway was the hike to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge. I had seen various pictures and videos posted of the hike and of the bridge itself and had grown very intrigued. The prospect of finally getting to do the hike filled me to the brim with excitement. I set out with the group on Saturday morning, GoPro and camera ready.

As we started out of the campground in Borrego Springs, a brief check of Google Maps showed that the trailhead to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge was at least 2 hours away and almost 100 miles. This wasn’t what we initially thought or planned for and it didn’t bode well for us since we had a caravan trailing behind. It probably would have taken us closer to three hours to get there, leaving us with less time for the other things we had planned for the day.

To my dismay, we had to axe the Goat Canyon Trestle idea and move on to Plan B, which in my mind wasn’t as spectacular. I was crushed since one of the main reasons I signed up for the event was to see that darn bridge and take tons of pics and video footage of it.

Thankfully, all was not lost. My disappointment over not getting to hike to the bridge almost rendered me unaware of the blessing of great friends and company by my side. We may not have had the bridge, but we still had each other, and there were adventures to be experienced.

The CaravanAs we approached our first destination under “Plan B,” we had a little fun in the truck by opening the sunroof and all the windows and hanging out of the car waving at the caravan of five or so cars behind us. Two people maneuvered up through the sunroof and climbed onto the luggage rack on top of the 4 Runner. It was quite a sight!

The slot canyons were pretty impressive. We started out heading the wrong way at first down a trail that led to a cliff where there was no way to proceed. After backtracking to the parking lot, we found the route leading down into the winding canyon. The canyon walls were steep and narrow and reminiscent of the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah.

Slot CanyonIn order to make our hike a little more adventurous, we turned the hike into a loop and exited the canyon a different way. This required scrambling up some steep, rocky terrain and crossing over multiple washes before making our way back up the ridge to our cars in the parking lot. Once we made it back, we enjoyed oranges and ice cold water.

Gaining the RidgeWe stopped at a small general store on the way to fill up with gas to get to our next stop and spent a lot of time there just hanging out. We chatted with the store clerk, ate ice cream, checked out some local maps and educated ourselves a bit more on the area we were in. There was so much to be discovered in the desert and we knew we were at the brink of something great and spectacular.

Our next and final stop was the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves. The mud caves are found along the walls of a wash canyon and are one of the most extensive mud cave systems in the world. They contain approximately 22 known caves and 9 slot canyons.

Inside the Mud Cave

Photo credit: Irina P.

We somehow ventured into one of the most difficult caves in the park, according to a couple of people in our group who were familiar with the area. We basically parked, walked up and said, “Hey, that’s a cool hole in the earth! Let’s go check it out!”

So we proceeded to investigate and what struck us immediately was the air conditioning down there. It was a very hot day and being greeted with a burst of cool air on our faces was an invitation to explore further. What we discovered was a multi-level cave with skylights further in where a rope had been installed to assist the climb up a sheer rock wall about 25-30 feet high.

Slot Canyon LookoutAfter exploring the one cave, we went and found another one a short distance away. This cave started out dark and then opened up into an amazing slot canyon with beautiful geological features and several places for photo opportunities where we could look down into the canyon.

As the sun began to set across the horizon, we scrambled up to a high plateau that provided us 360-degree views of the Badlands of Arroyo Tapiado. It was totally worth the climb to watch the sunset from there, but to do it in the company of great companions was absolutely priceless.

Sunset on PlateauOn our last day, before heading back home, we hiked the Palm Canyon Trail to a refreshing desert oasis where we were able to cool off in the shade and soak in pools of water while reminiscing over the weekend’s events. We even saw quite a few bighorn sheep that happened to be very photogenic!

The tale of the trail?

I was disappointed when the plan to go to the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge fell through. It almost ruined the experience for me before it even fully began. But because I made a slight attitude adjustment, I was able to embrace what was ahead with open arms and I ended up having one of the most incredible and thrilling experiences of my life with some really amazing friends.

Sometimes, the plans we make in life fall through. I’m not at the place I expected to be at this point in my life and despite the endless fun I seem to be having, I’m working through a great deal of heartache over some broken dreams. Despite the heartache, I have decided to make that attitude adjustment and embrace the many blessings I’m able to enjoy. It’s given me so much freedom.

Do I still feel the sting of disappointment? Yes. Do I let it drag me into a state of despair? No, absolutely not. I have learned to embrace new dreams and thank God everyday for the ability to do what I’ve been given the privilege of doing. This isn’t the life that I signed up for, but it’s what I’ve been given, and it’s not so bad.

It’s not what you’ve lost that counts. It’s what you do with what’s left.
–Charlie McGonegal

Hike on!

~Joyce

Photo credit: Irina P.

Photo credit: Irina P.

Strawberries and a Peak

We hiked to Strawberry Peak from Colby Canyon, my first time hiking that route. This took us up a few sections of class 3 climbing that challenged my fear of heights and was pretty adventurous. The climbing part wasn’t half as bad as I expected it be; it was 3/4 as bad. I knew there was some rather tedious climbing involved but I thought it would be a little more straightforward than it was. Thankfully, we did this hike as a one-way car shuttle to Red Box so we didn’t have to down-climb those boulders. From the peak, we enjoyed amazing views in every direction and feasted on chocolate covered strawberries for a treat. It was a beautiful day with great company.

Time and Seasons

Joyce at the WaterfallsA few days ago, I went on a short hike to a hidden treasure. This wasn’t one of my typical shin-splitting assaults, but basically a walk in the park. I had been down with the flu all week and really needed to get out among nature and breathe some fresh air, so I went to Whitney Canyon, one of my local favorites.

The hike is a 4-mile out and back trail that ever so gradually ascends through a wooded canyon following a mostly dry creek bed that leads to a stunning series of cascading waterfalls. The falls have been dry for the past several years because of the drought we’ve been having, but I held out hope due to recent storms.

Water in the TreeI sauntered through the canyon, pausing to snap a few pictures here and there, feeling encouraged at the slightest indication of water. Patches of the trail were damp and I noticed that some water had pooled inside of a large tree beside the trail. My heart leapt with anticipation as I progressed deeper into the canyon.

A sudden change in the terrain confirmed the waterfalls were right around the corner, but it was eerily quiet. Then, I saw water. Not the kind of water I had hoped with great anticipation to see, but a stagnant pool of water at the bottom of the first waterfall. There was nothing running, not even the slightest little trickle.

Stagnant WaterI climbed to the top of the first waterfall, eager to see what awaited me at the next one. I was met with only another level of disappointment. I went further in and further up, but there was no running water. Everything seemed dead. I gazed up ahead at the large waterfall at the end, the one that I never had the courage to climb to, and decided I could go for it this time. But there was just another pool of stagnant water.

I paused and reflected on the first time I ventured out to Whitney Canyon a few years ago. I remembered how alive and beautiful and colorful that place was. It was as if the earth was singing and everything danced in unison to its beautiful melody. The waterfalls flowed majestically, endlessly with the heartbeat of the earth.

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009

Today, that magnificent place seems to have lost its song. Everything is dry, barren, lifeless. Nothing is flowing. Nothing is moving. Nothing is happening. All appears to be dead. The heart of the earth beats no more. Everything has come to a dramatic end. Or so it seems.

But I know better. There are seasons to everything and seasons go through cycles. As we have seen throughout the history of the earth, cycles can sometimes get a little off. This can even happen to a woman’s monthly cycle. When a cycle is off, sometimes a little boost can get it back on track.

Our lives endure cycles, and for some of us, it’s looking more like the drought state where everything is barren, seemingly dead, nothing is happening and we’ve lost the song of our heart. It’s times like this where we need to reflect on those seasons of life where the water was flowing, so to speak.

If things are looking bleak and dried up at the moment, just know that a storm is coming and everything will be in balance again. You’ve seen it before, so keep that vision inside of you and let it encourage your heart. Times and seasons change, so don’t ever give up hope because the rain will surely come.

One day, I will return to Whitney Canyon and find that symphony playing once again. One day.

Whitney Canyon Falls Dec. 2009 (2)Hike on!

Joyce

Taylor’s Transcendent Trek

I had no idea what I was getting myself into on this one. All I knew was that it was an endurance trek. Thinking that it couldn’t be any worse than a Mt. Baldy snow hike, I saw it as a piece of cake. This ended up being 9 of the toughest miles that I’ve hiked on any trail. We started out on a real trail and then took a “use” trail shortly after that. This consisted of miles of bushwhacking while ascending and descending steep, rocky terrain. At times, we could feel the terrain collapsing beneath every step. I have learned to never trust the rocks in the Santa Monica Mountains. Most of them move. They move under your feet, and they break away when you grab them to try and keep your balance or prevent a fall. I witnessed quite a few falls during this adventure, and three of them were mine. Two of my falls were caught on video, which you will see here.

Jackson Lake Walkabout (Video)

This is the latest episode of “Tales of the Trails,” last weekend’s hike, the Jackson Lake Loop. At about 10 miles with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, this scenic trek involved some cross country hiking, a stint on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT,) as well as a side trip to Pinyon Ridge, one of the Sierra Club’s “100 Peaks.” This was a bit of a trial run with my new GoPro action cam, so I didn’t do any talking except at the beginning, which was shot with my Sony. Enjoy! 🙂

Hiking to Piute Pass

A lush aspen forest, multitudes of wildflowers, pristine alpine lakes, all leading up to a pass overlooking an alluring backcountry. Piute Pass provides the quintessential Sierra experience. The elevation gain is gradual enough that anyone in relatively good physical condition can accomplish this hike in a day. The hike is 10.3 miles round trip with 2,300 feet of elevation gain, so it should take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete.

This hike had been on my list for a long time, so I set off on the adventure on the last day of August when summer was still in full swing. Come along on the journey with me and see why you should add Piute Pass to your list of Sierra destinations.

Hope you enjoy this latest episode of Tales of the Trails!  🙂