Carrizo Plain National Monument

Carrizo Plan National Monument is 151 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Two popular destinations in southern California during the wildflower season (March-April) are Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Pictures from there are breathtaking but they don’t allow dogs on the trails. And you know how I feel about hiking without Xena.

On the other hand, I heard Carrizo Plain National Monument is super dog friendly. So I took a day trip to the monument with my friend Jen last weekend of March hoping to catch some beautiful scenes. In spite of the long drive (180 miles from my house), the trip was totally worth it. We had a wonderful day exploring and enjoyed the wildflowers. We missed the super bloom by one week but it was still beautiful and amazing!

Soda Lake Boardwalk and Overlook Hill

Soda Lake is the largest remaining natural alkali wetland in southern California and the only closed basin within the coastal mountains.

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Interesting Facts about the Carrizo Plain

The Carrizo Plain National Monument owes its existence to the geologic processes that occur along the San Andreas Fault, where two of the Earth’s five great tectonic plates slide past one another, parallel to the axis of the Plain.

The dry climate of the area produces low erosion rates, thereby preserving the spectacular effects of fault slip, folding, and warping.

 

Jen was off work next day so she planned an overnight camping with her two dogs. We drove to the Goodwin Education Center to inquire about the campgrounds. There are two campgrounds in the park:  Selby and KCL. Both are free and first come first serve. Luckily we were there on Sunday so Jen expected the weekend campers would be leaving soon. I insisted that we get her a campsite anyway before we do more adventuring. I would feel better if she didn’t have to look for it on her own later. It was her first time camping with her 3-year old pups and all.

Selby campground is at the end of Selby Road 5 miles from Soda Lake Road. Off-road driving was fun in my Subaru. While my friend’s Toyota truck was sliding left and right in front of us, my little Crosstrek did great! As we hoped, we passed by lots of weekender on Selby Road leaving from the campground. Jen picked a campsite she liked and I helped her set up the camp. Then we had lunch and talked about other future road trips we want to go on.

After our peaceful lunch break, we got back in our cars and went for more exploring.

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Water break

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Jack, Xena and River ….and yes, River is a big boy 🙂 and he is a teddy bear

I have some videos on Facebook too. Click here and here.

Right after saying bye to Jen and the pups, I spotted a herd of Pronghorn Antelope on the field. I stopped the car and watched them roaming freely. I just loved how peaceful and untouched this place was. But still, I think one of my favorite part of the day was driving on route 58 in Kern County. It was so beautiful! I had to pull over and capture it. Click here for video.

Good to Know:

  • Adventure date:  3.26.17
  • Most part, you will drive on a dirt road.
  • No entrance fee
  • As long as your dogs are under your control, leash rule is not enforced
  • Carrizo Plain Recreation Map Guide

Never stop exploring!  Xo

Limitations

“Limitations tend to be illusions or self created barriers.” ― Steven Redhead

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Even though you can’t tell from this picture, I am sitting on a boulder that is about 9 feet tall and the boulders in the front are even taller. If you don’t know me, I have a fear of heights. It’s gotten worse over the years actually. I don’t like that I have this phobia. As you can imagine it gets in the way sometimes and limits me on the trails.

This photo was taken from the Castle Rock hike over the weekend. At Castle Rock, if you want a nice view of the lake you have to climb the boulders. I pushed myself to climb up the boulders to a point where I am scared but not panicking. I really wanted to go further to the boulders in front of me. I heard myself saying, you can do it! Just keep walking! But I couldn’t move one more step from here. As it always does, as I stopped moving and started listening to my inner voices fighting with each other on top of this boulder, the fear grew quickly and it immobilized me instantly. I felt the panic coming on. I sat and took a deep breath. I was scared but I didn’t want to go down right away. I resisted my wanting to go down to the ground where I’d feel safe. I didn’t want my fear to win again. Xena eventually found her way up and stood next to me. She looked uncomfortable with the heights too. Could that be my doing? I turned to her and said, ‘Well, we did it, Xena. I am ready to go down now.’ With that, Xena hurried down.

Do you have a phobia that gets in your way when you are doing things you love? If so, what are you doing to overcome it?

Xo

Red Rock Canyon in Nevada

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 17 miles west of Las Vegas.

I made a PB&J sandwich for lunch from the room then packed our food for the day as I planned on spending all day at Red Rock Canyon. I picked up a soy latte from Starbucks at the hotel on my way out. I could have eaten my breakfast in the room I guess but I was too eager to start the day.

When we entered the Conservation Area, I let Xena out of the car for a quick photo. At first she was happy but that changed quickly when we heard shotguns. There must have been a shooting range very close by. Xena could not get back in the car fast enough.

Red Rock Canyon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System and it accepts the America the Beautiful annual pass. Although all the trails were open, the ranger warned me about the soft condition of the trails due to the recent rain storm. The park had to close midday the day before due to the heavy rain and strong wind.

I planned only one day for the Red Rock so I picked a couple trails to get a taste of the park. It was overcast and the temperature was in the upper 50s. As long as the wind doesn’t pick up more, it was a great condition for hikes.

Hike #1:  Moenkopi Loop

  • Total distance:  2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain:  149 ft (starting elevation:  3,698 ft)

Park at the visitor center. This easy 2-mile round trip hike is kid-friendly, educational and a great way to see the entire park. If you like natural history and geology like me, you will enjoy this little hike. The trailhead is at the west of the visitor center at the end of the 911 Memorial.

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When the trail splits, we went straight and did the loop clockwise. But you can go to either direction since it’s a loop. There will be signs to guide you and the trail is wide open. What a view, right?

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Is it lunch time yet?

Hike #2:  White Rock

  • Total distance:  6.7 miles
  • Elevation gain:  963 ft (starting elevation:  4,529 ft)

I planned on checking out the Calico Tank Trail on our way to White Rock trail but the parking area was packed and overflowing to the Scenic Loop Drive. There is no better Jamie repellent than the crowd. 😉 So I kept on driving and reached the White Rock lower parking lot off the Scenic Drive. You know how sometimes unexpected detours happen and make the hike better than if your plan wasn’t interrupted? That didn’t happened on that day. I parked further than I needed to and missed a critical turn so we ended up walking on the Scenic Loop Drive 2nd half of the hike. I saw parked cars at the lower parking lot and assumed that the upper parking lot near the trailhead was full so I parked at the lower parking. Wrong. This parking area was for people who just wanted to stop and take photos and move on to the next viewpoint spot. It does have a great view.

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We began our hike on White Rock Mountain Rd. I planned on doing the White Rock out and back but I saw the sign for White Rock Loop 6 miles at the trailhead. Instantly, I decided to do the loop. Who doesn’t like a loop, right? I followed the sign for Keystone Thrust and White Rock Loop. If you want to do this clockwise, look for a trailhead to the west of the information board.

The trail was busy in the beginning with tourists but after we passed the split to the Keystone Thrust, we were alone and it felt remote. The trail began on an incline. There was no steep incline or decline to mention though. I loved the rugged sandstone of Red Rock Canyon.

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We would go for like 30 minutes and see no one. I don’t need to see people for hours or even days but as soon as I don’t have the cell phone reception, I feel uneasy. Yes, I am one of those people who get anxious when my cell phone battery level drops below 65%. When I started to wonder if we were still on the trail, someone would come from the other direction.

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The terrain became more rocky and there were many big cacti along the trail.

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After this hike, I had to remove 4 half inch long cactus thorns from the top of her paws with a tweezer. 🤕 First I tried it with my fingers and it kept cutting off. The tweezer pulled those stinkers out with no problem.

At the La Madre Spring trail junction, we turn left. In hindsight, I should’ve turned us around and returned to the trailhead (out and back) at this point because the best part of this hike was over for us. La Madre Spring trail had more traffic and Xena did not like the gravel road. It was hard for her to walk. I felt bad for her.

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We left the La Madre Spring Wilderness and got on Rocky Gap Road. Walking on the pavement and looking out for oncoming traffic isn’t hiking! Long story short, I missed a trail that we were supposed to pick up after the Willow Spring Picnic area. I looked around but didn’t see it. I should have created a route on mapmyhike.com and loaded to my phone. I thought there would be signs. So we ended up walking back to the car via roads, Rocky Gap Road then Scenic Loop Drive. At least Scenic Loop Drive is one way road and I only had to watch out for the oncoming traffic. I saw some people walking on Rocky Gap Road but no one was as lost as we were to walk on Scenic Loop Drive. LOL. Sigh..

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I was going to stay at the park until the sunset but that didn’t happen. When we got back to the car around 3:30 pm, we were cold, thirsty and tired. After sharing a coconut water and some snacks, Xena wanted to go in the car. While I was loading the car, she was already dozing off.

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I thought to plan better for the next day. I was really excited about visiting Valley of Fire State Park and didn’t want to cut that trip short.

Red Rock Canyon is beautiful! Next time, I will definitely plan a longer trip to explore the parts of the park we didn’t get to see on this trip. Already can’t wait! For videos from this day, go to our Facebook page!

Good to Know:

Never stop exploring! Xo

Beek’s Place via Black Star Canyon

Would you believe me if I told you that these pups hiked 17 miles together in one day?

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L to R:  Trooper @trooperandmoe, Xena, Gin @miffydoggy, Jack and River @jen_dux

Our friend Kristine invited us to a pack hike to Black Star Canyon. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or would be able to hike 8 miles to the Beek’s Place and back, making 16 miles in total. I packed for 16 miles anyway but decided to play by ear depending on the trail condition and our physical and mental condition on the day of.

We met 3 ladies and their pups at the trailhead. We did a quick round of introduction before we began the hike. One of the pups (who is not in the group photo) wasn’t good with other dogs so the pup stayed on a leash and the pair hiked behind us. The trail began on a paved road but after a quarter mile or so, it turned to dirt. At the 2.54 mile marker, we came to the Black Star Falls trail junction.

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The trail to the waterfalls is unmaintained and has poison oak along the trail. The group decided to hike to the top of the waterfalls instead. On the way, Kristine took the group to this open meadow off the trail. You can’t see it from the fire road because it’s on a higher ground. This place was like The Sound of Music! ..except for the crazy wind. Look at those ears! Haha!

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Messy ears, I don’t care!

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After we let the dogs run around for a little bit, we got back on the fire road again. The side trail to the top of the falls wasn’t far from there. Although it’s unmarked, the long path descending through this open field will be hard to miss on your right. Here is the trail from the opposite direction.

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My GPS said 4.97 miles. Since we took a little detour, I would guess it is probably at around 4.7 miles. Most likely, you will see other people. From here to the top of the waterfalls is 0.17 miles.

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After the detour, we unanimously agreed to hike to the Beek’s Place. Everyone was feeling good. All the dogs got along very well. Xena was super happy on this hike. She smiled up at me many times. The Spring-like weather in January was enjoyed by all.

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The fire road gains 2,468 feet in elevation over a stretch of 8 miles so it has a gradual ascent. The easy terrain pretty much remains all the way to the top. However, the fire road is exposed and there is no shade so I wouldn’t recommend this hike with dogs during hot weather. We only ran in to a few bikers that day but I hear there are many speedy bikers on this trail so look out for them.

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From this gate, Beek’s Place is practically just around the corner.

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We were greeted by a 360-degree view at the top and we could see the snow cap on the Mt Baldy. But I was disappointed to find shattered glass bottles everywhere near the ruins of Beek’s Place. Please remember to leave no trace.

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We took a lunch break here then took a group photo before we headed back. When we were ready, we went back down the way we came up. We enjoyed ourselves on that day very much. Sunshine, waterfalls and laughter but most of all, the beginning of new friendship.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  1.14.17
  • Distance:  17 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  2,468 feet (752.25m)
  • Duration:  7 hours 40 minutes including breaks
  • Difficulty Rating:  Difficult
  • No restroom
  • Best time:  Winter, Spring and Fall

Not all group photos are graceful

Happy Hiking!

Product Review: Alcott Explorer Outdoor Blanket

Super soft green fleece on top with the waterproof back, I bring our Explorer Outdoor blanket to many of our hikes. The waterproof back kept our bottoms dry on snowy summits this winter. We received a sample of the blanket for a test. This review is based on using the blanket for several months.

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Product Specs:

  • Color:  Green, Blue and Orange
  • Size:  One size
  • Dimension:  50″ x 50″ unfolded
  • Retail Price:  $29.99 for green and blue; $26.99 for orange

Design and Function – 4/5

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Explorer Outdoor blanket is pretty light and folds down to a rectangle shape and has a handle for easy travel. I removed the handle though after the Velcro part got tangled up with other articles in the washing machine couple times. I just roll it up and attach to my backpack using the external straps at the bottom. Besides, when I folded it, it was poofy and took too much space in the pack. I need the space for my hiking essentials like a tripod. Ha! I never said I am a light packer. It has two pockets but I never had to use them.

The blanket comes in 3 different colors but they have different names. Blue is called Mariner Beach blanket and Orange (not waterproof in the back) is called Traveler Comfort blanket.

Quality – 5/5

It’s big enough for Xena(34lbs) and me to share comfortably. The waterproof back kept our bottoms dry on snowy summits and safe from pointy rocks and plants. Xena loves to snuggle with it. The fleece top is very soft and cozy.

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I am not particularly careful with the blanket but it has been holding up well against our weekly trail adventures in different weather conditions and frequent wash (in delicate cycle).

Overall – 4.5/5

Alcott’s Explorer Outdoor Blanket is good for many different outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, beach, picnics to name a few. What makes this blanket stands out from others is that the back is waterproof. I’ve also heard that someone uses it in the car. Good idea. That made me think it would be also good for elderly dogs or puppies who have occasional accidents. Don’t let the name limit your use of this versatile blanket.

Solo Travel and Hiking with a Dog

I get asked often about hiking and traveling solo from other women, “Aren’t you scared?” with horror on their faces. Yes, I do get anxious at times on the trails when the trail doesn’t show up on my GPS and I don’t see anyone for a while but those moments don’t stay long. A little bit of fear is good for you like anything else.

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I may be little more adventurous than an average person but I am never reckless. Let me share what goes on behind the scene that you don’t see in my photos and videos. Maybe this will give you some ideas on how to start solo traveling or hiking with your pup if you’ve been thinking about doing it.

1. Life is better with a dog

To be honest, traveling with a dog is a lot harder and requires more preparation than traveling solo. Not all hotels, restaurants with outdoor seating and hiking trails allow dogs so I need to research prior to getting on the road to make sure we both enjoy our trips. However, traveling/hiking solo with a dog comes with irreplaceable benefits.

Xena attracts good people. I am lucky that she is patient with kids, not a barker and behaves well in public places. We always seem to meet the kindest people when we travel. I’ve received kind and encouraging words from older people. “It’s not usual to see a woman traveling by herself with a dog. Good for you!” and they always tell me to enjoy myself on the trip but be careful. Maybe because Xena puts strangers at ease. She makes everyone from kids to elderly persons smile when we pass by. I know for sure if I were to travel alone, I wouldn’t experience the same warm encounters.

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However, if Xena sees a person who looks suspicious(e.g., hood over their head so we can’t see their faces, refuses to make an eye contact while passing by, walking tensed, etc.), Xena stops still. Her body tight and tense, she stares at the person until the person is far from us or out of the sight. A lot of times, her fixed stare makes these suspicious grown men feel uncomfortable to move away from us instead of walking straight. “Good girl, Z”, I tell her when we are alone. She protects us from bad energies from every directions. Dogs can sense things humans cannot. I listen to her instinct without a question.

2. Common sense goes a long way

Often we travel to an area where there is no cell phone reception when we go hiking. While I love exploring wilderness, it raises a safety issue in case of emergency for sure. My biggest fear is ‘what if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.’ However, I have no interest in cars and don’t even want to learn how to fix a flat tire. I don’t even know if I can physically do it with my wimpy upper body strength. Any way you slice it, it’s a bad situation. So I religiously keep up with regular maintenance of my car. I should probably still learn how to change a flat tire…sigh..

I always let my sister know where we are going. We both use Waze, a free community-based mapping, traffic & navigation app, and we are “friends”. Before each drive, I send her an ETA from the app. She can check the app on her phone to see where I am on my route and gets a notification from Waze when I am about to arrive at my destination. This tool has been great for us especially when I am on a road trip because I am always on the go. This prevents her from worrying about us and also makes me feel safe that she can come and rescue us 🙂 or call for help for us if needed.

3. Get to know the trail before you go

Read trail stats (total distance, elevation gain, etc.), download the map of the hiking route to your GPS tracking app if you are going in to wilderness and do your homework on the current trail condition so you know what to pack.

  • Is it dog-friendly?
  • Is it exposed? Is there any shade?
  • What is the terrain? Do I need shoes with good traction?
  • Is there any water crossing? Do I need water shoes or a towel?
  • Are there any poisonous plants or wild animals to watch out?
  • Is it well-maintained or hard to follow? Is bushwhacking or scrambling required?
  • Is it shared with bikers and/or horses? How is your dog around horses? Look out for speedy bikers.
  • Is it a popular trail that gets busy during the day? How is your dog with a crowd?
  • Is there snow/ice? Do I need microspikes?

More information you have about the current trail condition, you are already better prepared to hike this trail and will be safer than someone who just shows up without proper gear and enough water. I recommend you always pack more water and food than you think you would need. You can get lost or you might decide to stay out longer. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are dangerous for you and your pup.

4. But just in case, keep the emergency kit close

Over time, my emergency kit grew. The list isn’t complete and I still have some items I would like to add to my backpack like a compass and a pocket knife. My phone has a compass but what if my phone get damaged?

So, what’s in my backpack?

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Extra battery pack, Xena’s first aid kit, whistle, antibacterial wipes and waterproof bandages

I also have two first aid kits in my car at all times – First Aid KitAMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit – and extra bottles of water. The AMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit has a comprehensive list of wound care, sprain/strain, medication and medical instruction for you and your pup. I recommend it to anyone who is active with their pup(s). The First Aid Kit is a backup plan and it’s also for home. I have it already so why not have it in the car. Did you know your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) covers for these?

5. Be your best friend and guardian

After taking care of things I can control, I try to stay calm and positive. When fear creeps in to my mind, I try to use my logical side of the brain. What is the likelihood of my car breaking down right here without any warning? Highly unlikely. What are the chances that someone will attack me from the back without Xena noticing the person first? Very unlikely. It’s more likely I will roll my ankle and sprain it or worse break it than the other terrifying scenarios. This type of self-talk works for me.

I enjoy solo travelling and the feeling of adventure. It’s a great opportunity to learn about myself. I learned to trust my instinct (and 6th sense) and especially Xena’s. At the end of each adventure, I feel more empowered and our bond deeper than ever.

Being aware of my surroundings, Xena’s guarding nature and being prepared for the possible emergency situations put my mind at ease. Hopefully, this blog helped you to get prepared for your first solo travel or hike with your pup. I am curious to know what other emergency gear I should carry in my backpack. Do you have any suggestions? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks so much!

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Never stop exploring!