Anza-Borrego State Park is one of the hidden gems of Southern California. While it does not have the notoriety of Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, or the Mojave National Preserve; it does have abandoned mines, long-lost nineteenth century stagecoach stations, a mountain with a cabin atop it, petroglyphs, the best mud caves in North America, the largest free standing railroad trestle, and much more, including strange myths and legends. It also is home to "the Slot", a little known but excellent short hike that has become one of my favorite hikes in the park.
One of the more obscure and strange hiking destinations in San Diego is located on the Eastern border of the county, and sits right on the border of the Anza-Borrego State Park and the Cleveland National Forest. In addition to being one of the strangest hiking destinations, the spot has some of the best views in the county as it is located on the edge of the Laguna Mountains. This spot is Kwaaymii Point, which has great views of the Anza-Borrego Desert to the East, and on a clear day, Mount San Jacinto to the North. I hesitate to say Kwaaymii Point is a hiking destination, as it is a half mile (.5) walk to the actual point one-way on a very wide and still almost flat path. However, the stretch of "trail" that goes to Kwaaymii Point is notable for two reasons; first, because it is part of the Pacific Crest Trail ("PCT") that runs from Mexico to Canada; and second, because this section of trail was actually the pre-1975 Sunrise Highway (as can be seen from the still existing retaining walls over Cottonwood Canyon). Finally, I mentioned that Kwaaymii Point is a bit strange, and the reason I said that is because it has become a popular area for official death markers - and unofficial death markers. While these markers are not actual "graves" per se, they are still formal remembrances to the people that have passed, and are located at the prime viewing location above Cottonwood Canyon. Unfortunately, other people have taken to tagging remembrances of other people (and other things) on the rocks above the old roadbed as well. If nothing else, however, these markers demonstrate that this spot is - and has been a special and unique place to people throughout the years, and is a great place for a quick visit, and short hike that is accessible for all ages and abilities.
Directions: Kwaaymii Point is located directly off of Sunrise Highway (S1) at mile marker 30.3. The road is well signed, and is the only paved road in this area of the Cleveland National Forest. To access Kwaaymii Point, follow the road to the end, and proceed on foot South along the PCT.
Tips: This spot is located directly next to one of my favorite hikes in the county, Garnet Peak, and in addition to that, is a great spot with dark skies for meteor shower, or other stargazing opportunities.
Long time readers of this blog know that while I am the first to proffer a sarcastic comment, joke, or weird quip about everyday life, or some of my experiences in the wild, I take wilderness safety and preparedness very seriously. In my opinion, being prepared in the wild is the only way to live and survive. This belief was inculcated in me at an early age as I journeyed through the Scout programs; and only grew stronger during my time working for both the State and Federal Park systems when I was called upon on many occasions to rescue and aid people who were not prepared. Aside from my professional experiences, a lifetime of travels and adventures in the outdoors on several continents has convinced me that in order to be a successful outdoorsperson, people need two things: the knowledge of how to respond in an emergency, and the proper gear to do so.
With respect to the gear, for most of my life I've used a modified version of the "10 Essentials" that I had created on my own; but for the next month - or longer, I'll be trying something new, as I'll be testing out the Wilderness Hiking Survival Kit for AXP. In terms of full disclosure, I was contacted by AXP to test out this gear - but after doing my due diligence about AXP, I was excited to do so, because I could see that they were a company that shares my opinions about wilderness preparedness. Plus, they've got a pretty cool motto - "AXP:Anti-Extinction". At this point, I've received my kit, and have gone through it the safe, controlled setting of my house. What's impressed me so far about it are two things: a) the hyperlight AXP roll bag it comes in; and b) the compartmentalization and organization of the kit. In my experience, when a disaster strikes, you need to know where the tools are to respond to it, and you need to be able to get at those tools immediately. The kit I have clearly breaks out items in separate compartments based on different needs.
Obviously, reviewing a kit in a controlled setting is one thing, but to me, the real test of any set of gear is to take it into the wild, so stay tuned as I take my kit on a variety of adventures before issuing my final review in the next month of how the component items hold up under real life conditions. Until then - see you in the wild, be prepared, and don't go extinct!
One of the best places to see waterfalls in the United States is relatively unknown, and a little off the beaten track. However, if you are willing to explore a bit, and have the flexibility to spend at least a day adventuring about without a set schedule, you will be amazed by what you will see; and by what you can discover. The location is the North Umpqua River, located in South-central Oregon. The North Umpqua is a tributary of the Umpqua River, and it flows 110 miles from its source in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness to the Pacific Ocean. One hundred and ten miles of river is a lot of terrain to cover - more than one person can reasonably expect to see in a day, but the region of the river I'm talking about is a much smaller area, which is the area along Highway 138 from Idleyd Park to Diamond Lake. This area is part of the Umpqua National Forest, and is known for its emerald green waters and great fishing. The Forest Service, which manages the area, calls it the area of "Thundering Waters", as there are over seventeen waterfalls that can be visited in the region. (Check out this map here). Although there is not a bad waterfall in the group, my favorite is Clearwater Falls.
Directions: Clearwater Falls is closest to Diamond Lake off of Highway 138. The Falls are located to the South on a Forest Service access road at mile-marker 69.5 along Highway 138. The Falls are clearly marked on both the East and West directions of Highway 138. From the parking area, it is a quarter-mile (.25) walk to the top of the falls, on a developed trail. The trail starts alongside the Clearwater River, and meanders up to the base of the falls, before ascending the remainder of the way to the top of the falls. Although this is a hike that contains minimal elevation gain, and a relatively short distance, it is one of my favorite hikes in the region because it provides great opportunities for exploration. Among the many things present to explore are a crossing at the Clearwater River near the parking area that allows access to both sides of the river; and a large pool at the top of the falls that partially feeds the falls itself. Best of all, this is an area that is usually free of visitors, and one that provides a great amount of solitude.
Tips/Facts. As part of the Cascade Range, Clearwater Falls, and the area around it has a great deal of volcanic rock. Like Burney Falls in California, much of this rock has eroded over time to store giant underground aquifers, which help feed the waterfall. Like Burney, Clearwater Falls has an impressive rate of flow. Unlike Burney, however, visitors can enter the water above the falls - which I did - only to find that this water (and the water from the Clearwater River) is extraordinarily cold (slightly above freezing). But, if it is a hot day, or if your feet are tired, the pool above the falls is a great spot for a restorative dip.