Located in the northern section of the Rogue Valley between Medford and Grants Pass sit two imposing mesas: Upper and Lower Table Rocks. Rising hundreds of feet above the surrounding landscape, these flat-topped monoliths provide excellent views of Mt. McLoughlin, the Rogue River, and the communities of the Rogue Valley.
The months of December and January rocked the communities of northern Ventura and southern Santa Barbara counties. A wildfire raged through the hills and communities, tearing through areas that hadn't burned in almost a hundred years. It burned 281,893 acres, making it the largest fire in modern California history, and its seventh most destructive, destroying over a thousand structures, including a large apartment complex several blocks from my home, and two people lost their lives. You'll still find signs around the cities declaring "Ventura Strong", "Santa Barbara Strong", and "805 Strong."
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park preserves mainly forest and riparian areas in the San Lorenzo River watershed, including a grove of old-growth coast redwood. Established in 1954, this 4,623-acre park is located near the town of Felton in Santa Cruz County and includes the non-contiguous Fall Creek Unit.
To celebrate my thirty-first birthday (woo! made it another year without dying!), my boyfriend and I drove up to Mt. Shasta for a hike. We woke up at quarter to five in the morning and made the five-hour drive up to the mountain. Along the way., we stopped at Hedge Creek Falls and ate lunch in Mt. Shasta City.
I walk the short paved path to Lower Falls. Pushed into a narrow slot between basalt columns, Lower Falls is the smallest of the falls but has the best swimming area above and below it. Even in the early morning, people are out fishing right at the edge of the falls. I follow a stairway up to a picnic area to get an overlook of the entire area. Later in the day, we follow the dusty River Trail to a secluded swimming area.
An hour east of Redding are the towering volcanic peaks of the lower Cascade mountain range and green meadows of Lassen Volcanic National Park. One of the least visited national parks in California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is an excellent choice for hikers looking to get away from the crowds of Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks. With a number of different landscapes to offer from sulfur vents to mountain peaks, Lassen is one of my favorite national parks.
Hiking is my favorite form of exercise. I can't think of anything better than enjoying beautiful nature, breathing fresh air, and the exhausted feeling of accomplishment when I finish. I don't hike nearly enough anymore. The rain this season put a hamper on a number of weekend days that I could have been hiking. Then there's my general laziness since I got a desk job. The only way to remedy that is to get out and do it more.
Fifteen miles south of Oxnard on the coast is Point Mugu State Park. Located in the Santa Monica mountains, the park features rocky bluffs and sandy beaches, rugged hills, and two river canyons. There are more than seventy miles of hiking trails here as well as surfing, kite surfing, and windsurfing activities. Parking at the Big Sycamore Canyon Trailhead is three dollars per hour or twelve dollars a day. There's also camping available here.
There's another post dedicated to my love of Fall Creek Unit in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I can wax poetic about the verdancy of the ferns, the towering heights of the second-growth coastal redwoods, and the rushing creeks forever. I love taking people to Fall Creek and manage to get out there at least several times a year, even though I don't live in Santa Cruz anymore.
I recently reduced my work schedule from five days a week to four days a week due to mental burnout and feeling like I never get away from my computer screen (yes, I am typing this on my computer). This affords me the time to get up out of my uncomfortable secondhand store chair and out into great outdoors. I'm slowly building my hiking abilities back up again. There's nothing like a desk job to decrease physical stamina and increase lethargy.
Piedra Blanca is a popular spot for hikers in the Los Padres National Forest. Approximately forty miles north of Ventura, the massive rock formations and sweeping views of the snow-capped Topa-Topa mountains bring hikers and horseback riders in droves. It's an unexpectedly wild and beautiful place and the short 3-mile out and back trail is the perfect hike for a sunny winter morning.
The Santa Cruz Mountains is home to a number of state, regional, and county parks. With its towering redwoods, lush ferns, and unbeatable views of the San Francisco Bay, these parks provide visitors with plenty of hiking and biking trails. Not far from downtown Saratoga and about halfway up Highway 9 on the San Jose side, you can find Sanborn County Park.
Technically part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Fall Creek Unit is tucked away up the street from downtown Felton on the way to Bonny Doon. I reverently refer to it as the "Magical Fairy Forest." Towering redwoods, a creek running full year round, and historic lime kilns, it is a favorite of locals and trail runners. The hikes run on the short side, but they are perfect for an afternoon hike in the hot California autumn.
If you want a beautiful, cool walk in the woods without the crowds you find at Henry Cowell or Nisene Marks, then Fall Creek Unit is the place for you.