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.







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.



Water break




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

Road Trip Final Day: Ontario Ridge

This may be the best coastal hike we’ve done so far!

You can do this loop either clockwise or counterclockwise. We happened to do it counterclockwise and at the end we were glad we chose to do it this way. If you are like me and have acrophobia, I recommend doing it this way as well. There are multiple access to this trail. We started from Shell Beach.

Plug in the GPS coordinates (provided below) in to your GPS app and park on El Portal Dr near there. End of Bonita Street, you will see the trail access. Once you are on the trail, turn right. After 0.1 miles, turn left on the trail that’s going up north. This uphill soon meets up with Ontario Ridge Trail and when it does, turn right. At 0.25 miles, stay on your left. You will continue to gain elevation and have the view of San Luis Obispo on one side and the view of San Luis Obispo Bay on the other side.


We haven’t even start the real climb yet! It’s steep but very doable. A little bit of scrambling is required in this section.


We thought the top of that hill was the highest point of this hike but it wasn’t. 🙂 Meanwhile, we had a great view of San Luis Obispo Bay and the nearby beaches – Pismo Beach, Shell Beach & Avila Beach – along the way.


When we reached the top, we found a swing near the T-Mobile towers which is not visible when you are hiking up. What is it about a swing that makes you feel instantly like a kid again? Love it! There is another swing in a better location not too far away if you keep going. It’s kind of hidden away from the trail but you can see it on your left. I would’ve gone in and taken a picture for you but it was already occupied by a couple so I didn’t want to disrupt their private moment.


At 1.30 miles, you can either stay on Ontario Ridge Trail and make this hike shorter if you’d like or take Sycamore Trail on the right. Sycamore Trail soon became shady and cooler. And slowly but surely we started to go downhill. You know what that means. We’ll have to climb back up eventually.


After 0.28 miles of peaceful stroll, we met up with Ontario Ridge Trail and we were faced with 0.4 miles of steep uphill. This section kicked by butt! 😀 Look at Xena taking a breather and wondering how much more she has to go. Haha!


Ahh…at last we were presented with the view again. It’s all downhill from here. Just take in the view and enjoy the rest of the hike. When you come to a split at mile 2, turn right.


Best view of San Luis Obispo Bay!


As you know, Xena likes to roll on plants, grass, bushes, you name it… Well, she found this prickly plants to roll on. When she was finally satisfied, she walked out of the area looking like this. Her butt was in a worse condition. They were stuck between the layers of her fur. Ridiculous! First, I checked for ticks then had to remove those as much as I can.


Would you look at her vest! Guess who had to pull out those things one at a time next day before putting it in the washing machine.


Last hill before you reach Cave Landing Rd. This is the hill I’d rather go down then go up. I recommend shoes with good traction. Turn left on Cave Landing Rd and continue on to Shell Beach Bluff Trail which will take you through a neighborhood of impressive water-front properties. You will come out to Indio Dr. Turn left on El Portal Dr and you are done!


Perfect ending to our fun spring road trip! This should be on everyone’s must-dos when visiting San Luis Obispo area!

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  4.16.16
  • Trailhead:  35.175980, -120.702903
  • Distance (RT):  3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain:  738 feet
  • Free street parking in the residential area
  • No restroom

Happy Hiking!

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Road Trip Day 1: Wildwood Park

I get itchy if I don’t travel every 3 months. 2 1/2 months is the longest I can go happily with my daily routines. After that, I need to have a getaway plan to get through the routines. Couple weeks ago, I packed my bags for a long weekend at Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. I was happy that my sister could join us.

1st Day –

First Stop: Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks

Since I hiked here first week of April and wanted to go back and explore more. It was Hazel’s first time so I was excited for her. We began our hike from the main parking lot off W Avenida De Los Arboles at 9:25 am. From Mesa Trail, we took N Tepee Trail toward Tee Pee / Paradise Falls at 0.4 miles. Then, we took Stagecoach Bluff Trail.


View of N Tepee Trail and Mesa Trail from Stagecoach Bluff Trail

We hiked 0.2 miles to the top of the (little) hill (elevation: 730 ft) and enjoyed the view. We could see the Tepee Trail and the creek straight ahead. That’s where we were going.


View of Tepee Trail and the creek below

If you stay on Stagecoach Bluff Trail and continue on, you will eventually meet Mesa Trail. But, that was not my plan. We retraced back to a junction where Stagecoach Bluff Trail splits. This trail is a triangle shape here so both trails will take you back to N Tepee Trail. We chose the trail we haven’t been on yet. I am so glad we did because it was so pretty with wildflowers next 0.25 miles.



We met up with N Tepee Trail and hiked down towards Tee Pee. As I promised in my previous post, here is a picture of a close-up Tee Pee. It’s huge! One of the things I really like about this park is, it has many places you can relax and enjoy yourself. And the best part is, in my opinion, these areas are spread out all over the park. Note: there is a water fountain here if you need to fill up your bottle.



While listening to the waterfalls, we continued on Tepee Trail towards Paradise Falls. When we came to a path to the waterfalls after 0.13 miles, we ignored the sign and stayed on Tepee Tr. We could see the top of the Paradise Falls from the trail. The picture below was taken with a telephoto lens.


At 1.6 miles, we met up with Wildwood Canyon Trail and turned left. It led us to a spacious picnic area with a water fountain and a restroom. There were many picnic tables in the shade. Check out that cool BBQ!


After passing the picnic area, there was a little bridge so you can cross over the creek. At 2 miles, we reached at Paradise Falls. Since it was a weekday, we had the waterfalls all to ourselves. In fact, we were alone pretty much the entire time we explored the park. Aren’t the rocks behind the waterfalls beautiful?



Whenever you are ready to continue, go up and take Wildwood Canyon Trail again. This is the trail above the waterfalls with a fence to keep you safe. It leads you to a small picnic area next to the creek. It’s secluded and inviting. So we played there a little and worked on Xena’s fear of water. She is getting better. Yay!!



Once we were on Wildwood Canyon Trail again, we followed the sign for Indian Cave and at 2.5 miles, we took a single track to the cave. I’d like to check out Meadows Cave next time.


From Wildwood Canyon Trail, we took Moonridge Trail to go back to the trailhead. All of sudden, now we were in a land of cacti. Every trail on this hike had a different personality and kept us interested. Even though the loop we made was only 3.5 miles, it was full of outdoor fun! Our road trip started on a fabulous note!


Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  4.14.16
  • Trailhead:  928 W. Avenida de los Arboles, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
  • Distance (RT) and type:  3.5 miles, loop
  • Elevation change:  485 ft
  • Family-friendly
  • Restroom at the BBQ area (at 1.65 miles)
  • Xena’s wearing a Ruffwear Swamp Cooler cooling vest.

Next Stop: Santa Barbara ~ to be continued

O’Melveny Park to Mission Point

The trailhead is in O’Melveny Park located in Granada Hills. This 672-acre park is the second largest public park in L.A. after Griffith Park. We met up with my friend and his pups at the parking lot at 7:15 am. There were lots of spaces to choose from. You can also park on the street if the lot is full.

Take the main large path from the parking lot to begin the hike. Stay on your right and stay on the main road. You will pass through a picnic area and a restroom facility on your right. The park is clean and well maintained. Enjoy the nice stroll through the park because it will be all uphill soon. 🙂

I’d like to point out two things about this picture.


You can’t tell from this picture but it was muddy. It rained the day before so I expected a bit of muddy condition but oh boy! I was in for a surprise. And the second thing is, as I was going through the pictures for this write-up, I found Xena in most of the pictures with her head down like this one. No wonder she got sick! She must have eaten a ton of grass that day! She was sick for days. A serious case of identity crisis that day.

I got stuck at one point and couldn’t move forward. My hiking shoes felt like 30 lbs each. I’ve noticed that in muddy conditions my trail running shoes have better traction than my hiking shoes. I have the same issue with both Keen and Salomon. Does anyone else experience this too or are my hiking shoes just really bad in mud? Xena doesn’t have any problem walking in the mud. My friend had to pull me out. From that point on, I tried to just walk on the grass. Where are my poles when I need them. Oh, they are in the car. 


Taking a break from grazing and rolling around on dewy grass. “What’s the matter, Ma. Your paws don’t work?”

As we gained elevation and the sun rose, the trail condition got better. So I took some photos of the beautiful surrounding. So green!




When you can’t decide if you want to eat the grass or roll on it




Here she is again, grazing


Stay on the main trail and it will take you to Mission Point. The last part is a steep uphill but it’s short. I found the view from Mission Point anticlimactic. It was nice but nothing we haven’t seen so far. We came across unexpected horseback riders though. That was kind of cool.


We took a short water break and came down. I had another friend and her group to meet up with. They were hiking there too and they spotted us from a hill. With my bucket hat and bright pink backpack, we are hard to be missed. 😉 They had a perfect picnic spot on the top of a hill. Five adults with 6 dogs. Pups had a wonderful time running around with each other. In Xena’s case, she enjoyed playing fetch in tall grass. What an awesome place to hike with dogs!



Impromptu How to Drink from a Camelbek demonstration     (photo credit: Katherine @robinventures)


Fun Fact:

Originally this park was known as the “C.J. Ranch”. It was purchased in 1941 by attorney John O’Melveny of the respected large law firm O’Melveny and Meyers and used to grow citrus and graze cattle.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  3.12.16
  • Address:  17300 Sesnon Blvd., Granada Hills, CA 91344
  • Distance (RT) and type:  5.1 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,337 ft
  • Restroom available near the trailhead


Happy Hiking!

Lost Horse Mine in JTNP

Unfortunately, this is not a dog-friendly trail. Please respect the trail rule.

For the history lovers:

Even before the California Gold Rush of 1849, prospectors were finding gold in southern California. As the take from the mines in the Sierras petered out, miners fanned out into the deserts. Hot summers, scarce water, limited wood sources, and the difficulty and high cost of transporting equipment and provisions created a challenging environment in which to operate a mine. But a few hardy adventurers persevered and about 300 mines were developed in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.  – Joshua Tree National Park

The trailhead is located off Keys View Road. Just follow the map you get when you enter the park. Once you make a left turn at the Lost Horse Mine trail sign from Keys View Road, you will be on a dirt road and the road will get narrower as you drive further in. As you get closer to the trailhead, you will see parked cars on this narrow road so drive with caution.


The loop trail wraps around the southwestern flank of Lost Horse Mountain. My sister and I had other plans afterwards so we decided on just hiking to the mine and back. Also from what we read, most interesting part of the trail is the first two miles to the mine anyway (if you do the loop clockwise). We decided to tackle the loop another time.

I was hoping to see some wildflowers in the desert. And I was not disappointed. Joshua trees started to bloom in the park.


We passed a section of burnt Joshua trees. A leftover from wildfires in 2009.



We walked by more wildflowers. How lovely!


Turpentine broom

As we got close to the mine, we started to see some old mine equipment near the trail.


Here are some pictures at The Lost Horse Mine.


The view of Lost Horse Mine trail from the mine

Fun Fact:

  1. The Lost Horse Mine produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver (worth approximately $5 million today) between 1894 and 1931. It was one of very few good producers.
  2. Here is a very short version of the story how the name was chosen:  Johnny Lang and his father drove their herd of cattle into the Lost Horse Valley in 1890. One night, while camped in the Lost Horse Valley, their horses disappeared. After they bought the rights to the mine, they named it Lost Horse. A longer version is available on the JTNP’s website. 🙂

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  3.5.16
  • Park entrance fee:  $20/vehicle for 7 days (FYI, annual pass per vehicle is $30)
  • Distance (RT):  4 miles, Out and Back
  • Elevation gain:  520 ft
  • Weather is pretty unpredictable in the desert, pack layers of clothing, hat and sunscreen.
  • Restroom is available at the trailhead but the one at the park entrance is much nicer.


Happy Hiking!