You Might See Whales

9 02 2012

On Tuesday, I told you about a walk I took on a short hiking trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve. One of the reasons I kept that visit brief was because I had other plans: I wanted to get out to the Cabrillo National Monument as well.

Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

I have a thing about National Parks. in 2004, when I was driving cross country, I made the decision to make hiking and camping in National Parks the theme of the trip. This was partly because it was an inexpensive theme. Camping = cheaper than hotels, and a National Parks Pass was only $50 at the time, providing unlimited admission to the parks. But I fell in love. The sites themselves are amazing and well-maintained, the visitors centers are good, and the rangers and volunteers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and informative. While on the trip, I bought a walking stick and proceeded to cover it with medallions from the National Parks I visited.


This isn’t all of them — some didn’t have medallions, especially the smaller sites, but then a couple of years ago I discovered the National Parks Passport. I love collecting things, so this was awesome for me. I don’t have some Ahab quest to get stamps from all of the sites (there are 391-ish, depending on the source), but I do like to collect them anyhow.

Which was why, on Monday, I decided I just had to visit a National Park site while I was out in California. Some day I’m going to do a California National Parks trip, and go to Joshua Tree and Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic and…

Back on topic. Cabrillo National Monument!

The Monument, which was established in 1913 to commemorate the life and explorations of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, is at the tip of Point Loma, just past the naval base (so, a good place to see men in uniform as a bonus). Juan came to the Americas in the early 1500s, and in 1542, he set off from Mexico on an expedition on behalf of Spain to claim land and (surprise!) find a route to the Spice Islands. (Those explorers, so intent on getting spices.) On September 28, 1542, Juan and Company landed in a harbor he described as “a closed and very good port.” This very good port is now San Diego. Thus, the Monument in Juan’s honor.

From the well-staffed visitor’s center — which has a gift shop/information desk, a museum, and a theater, as well as snacks and restrooms — walk up the path to the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. You’ll be treated with a spectacular view of downtown San Diego on one side and the ocean on the other.

After that, walk up the hill towards the Point Loma Lighthouse. You can go inside and see rooms laid out as they would have been when a lighthouse keeper lived here with his (or her! they had female keepers here too) family.

Continue past the lighthouse and up to the Whale Overlook, where, if you’re lucky, you can do some whale watching. I stood there a while and didn’t see anything, but I’ve also had so-so luck on whale-watching trips, so maybe it’s just me.

Then you can loop back down and venture onto the Bayside Trail, which is a 2.5 mile walk descending 300 feet to the beach below. It’s a little steep, but not terrible. I walked on it a little ways, but decided not to do the whole loop because of time.

If you’re looking for something a little different, there’s also an exhibit on old defense systems, and tidepools to visit. Cabrillo is a small site, but the rangers there are as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as anywhere, and you might see whales! It’s worth a visit if you have the time.

Happy 2012!

6 01 2012

Well, hi there, Happy Her Side Hikers!

Yes, I’m back. I was on a self-imposed hiatus for some time for personal reasons, but it’s a new year and time for a fresh start.

Yay, snow!

First, I wanted to alert you all to some big events coming up. Tomorrow, January 7, is Winter Trails Day. What is Winter Trails Day, you ask? It’s a day where all over the country (where it’s winter, I guess) you can find a location to try out snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for free! Here in the Boston area, the Weston Ski Track is hosting, so get on down there and fall in love with snowshoes.

If that wasn’t enough, on January 14-16, the National Park Service is hosting a FREE weekend in the National Parks in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day. There are lots of parks to choose from, so if you’ve never been to a National Park or if you haven’t been in a while, next weekend is the perfect weekend to change that.

Second, here’s a preview what’s coming to Her Side in 2012:

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Boston: I found this book, by Helen Weatherall, published by the American Hiking Society, that details hikes close to Boston. It came out in 2008, but it’s new to me. The hike descriptions are my favorite kind: chatty and interesting while still providing information necessary to figure out what you’re getting yourself into and where you’re going. The hikes in this book range from Boston’s Freedom Trail (more of a walk in the city than a hike, but since I love the Freedom Trail I’m not complaining) to 8 mile hikes in state forests. Join me as I tackle these one by one (or two at a time, in some cases) over the coming months. First up, I’ll venture into one of the seaside hikes next week (don’t you love the beach in the winter?), take lots of photos, and let y’all know how it goes. Time to break out that winter hiking equipment, which we’ll also talk about.

Tasty Trail Food: Last year, two people gave me this book, by Laurie Ann March, that details make-at-home treats to take with you while backpacking. Because life gets in the way, I never got around to trying it. Some of the recipes lend themselves more to camping in the backcountry rather than simply packing lunch or snacks for a day hike, but I’m going to give some of these a try and let you know what I think in terms of ease of preparation and location of ingredients, ease of packing and carrying, and tastiness. Also, since I somehow ended up with two copies, I’ll be hosting a contest a little later on this year, and you can WIN the other one!

Also, in early February I’ll be taking a trip to San Diego to audition the area as a potential new place to live, and I’ll be sure to get in a good hike while I’m there. Suggestions welcome!

So I’m pretty excited about all of this — are you?

Set Your DVRs…

25 09 2009


So there’s this big thing happening over at PBS this weekend, and all next week.  What is it, you ask?  Drumroll, please…

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, a documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns, will air in a six part series premiering on PBS on Sunday, September 27, 2009.

I’m pretty excited about it, and hope it lives up to all the hype.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ken Burns, he is a documentary director and producer who became famous with his eleven-hour 1990 documentary entitled “The Civil War.”  He’s made many many other films (about “Baseball” and “Jazz” and “The Brooklyn Bridge” to name a few), and has won more than half a dozen Emmy Awards.

He’s also responsible for the “Ken Burns Effect” on your iPhoto application — you know, that thing were the camera zooms around the photo rather than just displaying it in one place — because his documentaries often rely on still photographs.

Now, this documentary has six episodes, which will air on six consecutive nights beginning on Sunday (and finishing up on Friday, for those of you who can’t count very well):

  1. Scriptures of Nature (1851-1890)
  2. The Last Refuge (1890-1915)
  3. The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)
  4. Going Home (1920-1933)
  5. Great Nature (1933-1945)
  6. The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)

It promises to be filled with beautiful shots of the parks, stories about Teddy Roosevelt, and the history of the founding, preservation, and enjoyment of the parks.

When asked in an interview why he chose National Parks as a subject for a documentary, Burns said:

“Our European ancestors essentially lived a geographically proscribed life, rarely venturing beyond where they were, and all of a sudden, the combination of land and democracy set in motion one hell of a great story.  We think the best one of all is the story of how a fledgling democracy suddenly decided you could set aside large tracts of natural land, not for the kings and royalty and the very rich who had normally cornered the market on beautiful places, but for everybody for all time….”¹

by joanarc4

Hoodoos. (by joanarc4)

If you have ever set foot in Yellowstone, or ventured into the Grand Canyon, or seen the sun rise over Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, or camped in Acadia, or seen grizzlies in Glacier, or wondered at the blue haze in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll understand where Burns’ enthusiasm comes from.

It also makes sense that the National Park Conservation Association is hyping the heck out of this premiere, with a party in Central Park, NYC, on Wednesday night, and even offering Party Kits if you want to host a viewing party.  In this age, where government spending is highly scrutinized and our own pockets grow increasingly shallow, it can be easy to dismiss the work the National Park Service does as inessential.  Faced with a raging debates on health care reform, bailouts, cash for cars, and shortfalls in education, a little bit of wilderness seems like it should just take care of itself.  I am hoping that this documentary showcases the rich history behind the parks, and the work that the National Park Service does to not only to maintain and preserve them but also to make them accessible through tours, educational programs, and events.  I am hoping that the documentary serves as a reminder that these spaces are worth supporting.

…if for no other reason than the fact that I personally want to keep enjoying them — and inspire you to explore them too.

National Public Lands Day is tomorrow, September 26.  Admission to National Parks (and many other sites) is free!

FN1: Kirkwood, Scott.  “National Parks: The Film; Ken Burns Focuses His Lens On America’s Best Idea.”  National Parks Magazine Spring 2009. National Parks Conservation Assocation.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.