agua caliente.

Although I am currently thousands of miles away in Thailand, I keep thinking of what an important transition it is in my life when summer turns to fall, and the desert, off limits due to the heat of summer for so many months, once again welcomes us to explore.

Though I frequently espouse the beauty and grandeur of the big-ticket destinations like J-Tree and Anza-Borrego, there are countless other unsung places that will welcome your thirst for adventure or solitude.

A more obscure region that will take a little more effort to access is Agua Caliente.  Part of the San Diego County Parks system, it’s on the fringe of Anza-Borrego, out the Butterfield Stage Route along S2, and has hot springs to make the arduous journey worth your while.  Stock up before the drive –  it’s a desolate road.  Spend the weekend, hike the trails, or tackle them on mountain bike, and be sure to soak in the pools.  Discover the desolation and enjoy the millions of stars at night.  Now you are initiated into desert life.

Oh, and they now have cabins if camping isn’t your thing.

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trans-siberian

The Trans-Siberian is one of my dreams, though in the current political climate it’s probably best to put it on hold.  Truth is, I love all trains, local and long distance.  If I had one to recommend, I would suggest grabbing the Amtrak that runs up the coast from San Diego or Los Angeles and take it all the way to Seattle.

There is something about the relaxing pace of train travel, the uninterrupted enjoyment of the passing landscape, the ability to roam around the massive moving structure and the chance meetings with complete strangers that is ultimately captivating, the epitome of slow travel.

If you haven’t the time, the money or are still leery of trains, start by moving up and down the SoCal coast on the Coaster where the stops are frequent and the scenery mesmerizing, or taking the MetroLink commuter from the Inland Empire to the beach.  Surprisingly, after years of using Los Angeles as an example of how to build a city devoid of public transit, there is actually a pretty useful and functional lightrail system in place.  It’s great for exploring.  If I had to recommend a random stop, it might be Mariachi Plaza.

Enjoy this video of the Trans-Siberian Railroad trip.

monuments.

I spent a season long ago as a botanist on the Carrizo Plain, one of the coolest landscapes I have ever encountered, so I was a bit dismayed this week that it’s National Monument status might be up for revision by the new presidential administration.  Then I read that Patagonia (yes, the retailer) was standing up to the attack on monuments (read about it here).  It brought to mind one of the most significant and impacting films I have seen about adventure and the environment, 180° South.