If one has the time, and the luxury of having a car, or rented a car, driving around the South Island of New Zealand is one of the great adventures in life. Aside from cities and towns, a majority of the island has little traffic, and nothing but sweeping views of far off mountains, expansive coastlines, and almost everything in between. While it is hard to single out one specific drive with the “best” views, any list would surely include the stretch of State Highway 94 from Te Anau to the Milford Sound (otherwise known as the Milford Road). Along this 118 kilometer (73 miles) stretch of road, one has fantastic views of Fiordland National Park, with alpine meadows, snowcapped peaks, waterfalls, old growth forests, and glacial valleys. The only downside to this road is that unlike other stretches of New Zealand highways, it is narrow, and at times, does not have places to pull out and admire the view.
While the gold rush of the nineteenth century in California was largely confined to the northern portion of the state, prospectors also fanned out to all regions of the state, seeking to strike it rich. In San Diego County, most of the mining exploration occurred in and around the town of Julian, but the largest and most productive mine was located a little bit further south, in what is now Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. In 1870, gold was discovered, and after a great deal of legal difficulties, the Stonewall Mine began operating. Over a fifty year period, the Stonewall Mine became the most productive and profitable mining operation in the county, producing over two million dollars of gold.
With miles of pristine beaches, rolling chaparral covered hills, and a constant semi-arid desert climate, San Diego will never be identified as one of the hot spots for waterfalls or hikes to waterfalls. However, unbeknownst to many people, from December through Memorial Day, San Diego does have a number of great seasonal waterfall hikes that highlight some of the best features of the county’s backcountry. As all of these waterfalls are seasonal, timing is everything, and also somewhat dependent on the weather pattern for the year. During wet winters and springs, these waterfalls will have high flows, and creek crossings; and during drought years, there may only be a trickle and dry stream beds. Similarly, with respect to timing, at the right times, these waterfalls can and will appear spectacular – but at the wrong times, may be a letdown after a hot, dusty trek. Keeping all that in mind, these hikes can also be great gateways to explore other regions of San Diego County, and again, at the right times, great spots to view spring wildflowers. I’ve listed the below hikes in order of difficulty, and let me know your thoughts about them, or any additions you have to the list below!
From the North to the South, and the East to the West, Ireland is a country with extraordinary natural beauty. While there are a plethora of sites and National Parks to choose from, the country’s top and most well-known natural feature is the Cliffs of Moher. With over one million visitors yearly, and in recent years, over 1.5 million visitors, the Cliffs of Moher are not just the top natural feature in Ireland, but one of the top overall tourist destinations overall, second only to other iconic Irish destinations like the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Book of Kells, and the Giant’s Causeway (in Northern Ireland). One of the reasons the Cliffs of Moher are so iconic is because in modern times, they have been featured in all sorts of movies like Harry Potter; but the main reason that they are so popular is because they have been a tourist destination since the eighteenth century, and a historic spot for centuries before that.
The emerald island has 3,171 kilometers of stunning coastline. Some of this coastline – like the Cliffs of Moher, and the Giant’s Causeway is well-known, and well visited. Other areas, however, feature pristine, off-the-beaten track gems with no tourists, and no locals. In the middle of this spectrum is the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, the island’s only extreme historic coastal adventure. Created over three hundred and fifty years ago by salmon fishermen to connect Ireland to Carrick a Rede Island, the rope bridge was originally a single handrope which crossed the distance – some sixty feet (20 meters)– and depth – some hundred feet (30 meters) from bridge to ocean. At that time, the local fishermen crossed this rope with their fishing gear and catch to work at the fishery on the island. This fishery operated only during the summer months, and the bridge was dismantled and stored in the winter.
Julian is one of the most popular destinations in all of San Diego County for a number of reasons – in the winter; it is one of the few spots in the county that receives regular snowfall. In the fall, it is also one of the few spots in the county that allows apple picking. Year-round, however, it is popular for its distinctive – and tasty pies. While there are a number of trails one can select in the area in an attempt to mitigate the damage from pie and donut consumption in town, the easiest and most family-friendly with the best view is at Inaja Memorial Park, which is located some six miles to the east of Julian.
San Diego County is an amazing spot with a number of well-known hikes, such as Cowles Mountain (the tallest point within the city confines), El Cajon Mountain (San Diego’s toughest hike), Potato Chip Rock (San Diego’s biggest social media-post-hike), Cedar Creek Falls (the other of San Diego’s most popular waterfall hikes), Broken Hill (San Diego’s best coastal view hike), and last but not least, the hike to Three Sisters Falls. Like all of the hikes on this least, the trek to Three Sisters Falls is, and has been popular for an extended period of time, even during the summer of drought years, when the waterfalls become a trickle, and can be nonexistent. Like Cedar Creek Falls, the hike to Three Sisters Falls has also had its share of bad publicity, with hikers leaving trash, hikers needing to be rescued, and hikers on occasion, dying. While these items led to a permitting system at Cedar Creek, at the moment, the hike to the Three Sisters remains, by and large, unregulated, although as of 2016, plans are potentially in the works to make the “trail” safer for all skill levels of hikers. Despite the past and present risks, the hike to Three Sisters is a unique San Diego backcountry experience that despite the crowds, lives up to the hype surrounding it.