San Diego is a hiker’s mecca. From the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve on the Coast, to the city’s highest point at Cowles Mountain, and through the East County trails of Iron Mountain and El Cajon Mountain, there is literally a hike for every person, and for every skill level. In addition to all of these trails, and the thousands more I didn’t mention, San Diego is also a great location for overnight camping, from backpacking to car-camping and everything in between. Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore much of San Diego’s backcountry in a number of ways, and am thrilled to be working with Expedia.com on this article to recommend some of the best overnight wilderness hiking areas. While overnight wilderness activities have innumerable perks, the locations within the confines of San Diego allow visitors the added benefit of a little extra wilderness solitude to recover from the hustle and bustle of everyday Southern California life. The locations listed below provide a great starting point for overnight wilderness activities in the County, and hopefully provide inspiration for many nights in some of the most pristine backcountry that can be found in Southern California.
Death Valley is a land of many wonders. While it is hard to pick just one thing that is wondrous and amazing about the park, to me it is the prevalence of water in the region, and the different ecosystems that the pockets of water support. Now, let us be clear – not all of the water in that can be found in Death Valley is potable, such as the highly saline pools near Badwater, or the water in Salt Creek. But, for each pocket of water that has high mineral contents in the region, there are also areas like Shorty’s Well that are small, green, pure oases year-round. Out of all these “green” zones in Death Valley, the most famous is Darwin Falls, which is also, aside from Badwater, one of the most accessible water features in the park.
Last Friday, I took a morning off to see how things were looking up at the higher elevations. Rather than head up the Whitney Portal Trail, I went up the Meysan Lakes Trail instead. Over the years, I’ve found that the main danger of such an early season hike is traversing the iced over parking lot for the campground early in the morning. Fortunately, I was able to not slip on the inch of black ice present, and I did make it to the trailhead, which was partially covered in places with one-three inches of iced out snow.
Amongst the general public, Mount Everest will always be “the mountain” – a place that is fascinating and amazing. However, among mountaineers, “the mountain” will always be K2. This is no slight to Everest – it will always be one of the seven summits, and it will always be the world’s tallest mountain. But in 2015, while Mount Everest remains a challenge because it is the tallest mountain on the planet, it also is a place where many of the challenges have been minimized due to the proliferation of professional guide services, and “mountain tourism”. While K2 has experienced some of the changes in the field of mountaineering, even today it remains one of the most dangerous climbs a mountaineer can undertake.
From the sand dunes of the Farewell Spit, to the volcanic terrain of Tongariro National Park, to the lush forests of Rakiura National Park and the tropical beaches of Abel Tasman, New Zealand has almost every type of backcountry terrain that a hiker could want. With so many picturesque and jaw dropping locations, it is hard to find first, a bad hike in all of New Zealand, and second, “the best” hike in all of New Zealand. However, if you are a person who likes superlatives and stunning alpine views, the best hike in all of the three islands of New Zealand (North, South, and Stewart) might just be Key Summit.
San Diego has a lot of great secret spots. Recently, I was lucky enough to re-visit one of my favorites, the Jamul Kiln on a sunrise trail run. The information about the kiln is located here, if you are interested, and if not, enjoy some of the shots I took of this wilderness area and historic structure.
It is without question that Iceland is the land of ice, snow, and beautiful wilderness expanses. But what people do not know about Iceland is that it is also a land where myth and magic intersect with reality. While Iceland is a sophisticated modern country, it is also a place where long-held traditional beliefs about fairies, ghosts, and elves (Huldufólk – “hidden people”) are still accepted and believed. While there are numerous Icelandic tales that are still believed, the strongest beliefs are reserved for the Huldufólk. Even through the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first century, road construction has been diverted – or altered to avoid disturbing the Huldufólk. While such beliefs may seem odd to many people, all one has to do is journey outside of Reykjavik in order to see that Iceland is a place where such things could exist.