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.
The Goat Canyon Trestle bridge, located in Carrizo Gorge near Jacumba, CA is the largest curved wooden trestle bridge in the world. We started our hike at the trailhead off the dirt road next to the De Anza Springs (clothing optional) resort. The hike was on a relatively flat trail that followed a railroad track all the way to the bridge. A few people in our group rode their bikes while the rest of us hiked. This was a 16-mile out and back trail in a remote location and it is not recommended to hike or bike alone. Round up a few friends, go out there and have a fabulous time on this epic adventure!
This hike reminded me of the hike to Telescope Peak in Death Valley, minus the barren desert views. Our intent was to hike up to Smith Mountain and then descend down to Bear Creek, which was about a 12-mile adventure. I arrived a tad late since I couldn’t find the trailhead, but the ladies waited and told the two gentlemen (Don Viejo and David) to go ahead. They were the only two from our small group that hiked up to Smith Mountain. We waited for them at the saddle. When I saw the half-mile stretch to the summit up close, I was glad I decided to wait. The trail was steep like Mt. Baldy’s Register Ridge and involved some bouldering, which I wasn’t feeling up to.
Once again, we were blessed with Don Viejo’s presence on this hike. The 88-year-old energizer climbed up Smith Mountain and descended like a champ. He amazes me on every outing and I’m in total awe of his stamina and endurance. He puts 30-something-year-olds like me to shame. But seriously, there is no shame in our group. We hike as a team and the stronger ones are always willing to support the ones who are either in development or recovery.
The hike beyond the saddle to Bear Creek took us downhill for about a 2000ft elevation loss over four miles on an unmaintained trail. A chainsaw or machete would have come in handy because we were bushwhacking and climbing over fallen trees. It was quite a challenge. Sections of the trail were also washed out and became very narrow on steep ledges with loose scree. At times, I wondered if the mountainside would crumble right beneath my feet and send me tumbling to my death. Thankfully, no one was hurt during this adventure.
I made it to within about a half-mile of the creek when I decided to turn around and head back uphill. I knew the climb back up to the saddle was going to slow me down and we’d be running out of daylight soon. I also noticed clouds gathering and threatening of an impending storm. It was a good thing I turned back when I did because I was very slow going back uphill and the rain started just as I got into my car.
Even though I didn’t make it to either of the two planned destinations along this trek, I still had a very fun day with friends enjoying our natural surroundings. During the quiet moments where I hiked alone, I spent some time in prayer and gained a new perspective on some things that were causing me a lot of worry and anxiety and now I have more peace and assurance that all is well. Time in nature is always time well spent.
This is the first part of our series of adventures in the Anza Borrego Desert. On this first day of the adventure, we caravaned from our campground at Borrego Springs and explored a narrow slot canyon that featured some extraordinary geological formations, such as a huge balanced rock and a cave.
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I’m a dreamer and I like to encourage others to dream. Dreaming is good. Well, it’s good until you get so caught up in dreaming that it begins to take the place of actually DOING something. What I mean by DOING is putting forth the physical effort necessary to see to it that what worked out so perfectly in your dream will come to fruition.
There are a lot of things floating around on the canvas of my mind, ranging from things I know I need to do, to things I really want to do, to things I’ve started but haven’t finished. For instance, I went on a desert trek in Israel a couple of months ago, volunteered at a youth camp, and toured the Holy Land. I took lots of pictures and recorded videos of the trek and the tour, but haven’t touched any of it. I know it’s going to make a great episode, or series of episodes (I haven’t decided) for the web series…
…if I could just bring myself to do it.
So what’s the holdup?
Well…I also have a ton of video footage to edit from a weekend adventure in the Anza-Borrego Desert here in California. I went there the week after I returned from Israel and had a blast. We caravanned on dirt roads while hanging out of the sunroof of an SUV, explored some really cool slot canyons, went spelunking in mud caves where it was pitch dark, and witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen from the top of a peak above some other freaking amazing slot canyons. This would make a really awesome episode as well…
…if I could just put some action to all of that dreaming.
I also have an upcoming trip this weekend to a breathtaking lake in the Sierras where I’ll be filming another episode of the web series. I’ve got to write a script to break it up into segments like a show because I want this one done right. I’m organizing and leading a group for this hike, so I need to get a lot of things coordinated and I have a limited amount of time to do it.
And I still have the Israel trip and Anza-Borrego unfinished. I also have to do laundry and pack for the upcoming trip. I need to go to REI and pick up some last-minute camping stuff. I need to make sure I remember to pack all my winter clothing to sleep in because it’s going to be in the 30’s at night and I just can’t go out there and freeze. I need to be sure to provide my group with all the information they need regarding this weekend’s trip.
Yet I still need to do those episodes that are waiting in the wings. See what procrastination does? It makes us look busy, like we have so much on our plate, when all we need is proper planning. A good, well though-out schedule will surely solve my problem with ease. But then there’s the issue of keeping up with the schedule. The act of DOING.
Perhaps I should call it the ART of doing. After all, it takes great skill to successfully balance multiple tasks and see them through to completion.
The antidote for procrastination is accountability. Now that I’ve opened up about these things, I’m obligated to fulfill my role of the artist, so to speak, and see these dreams materialize.
I wonder what sort of a tale I will find myself in while taking on this mountain?
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.
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.
As 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.
In 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.
We 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.
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.
After 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.
On 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.
A 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.