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.
Our National Monuments are in need of love right now (read this if you don’t know why). And with summer coming along, the mountains are awaiting your roadtripping escapades. My recommendation for this summer is to visit Giant Sequoia National Monument and the Trail of 100 Giants. It’s one of the most impressive sequoia groves you’ll ever see. And what’s truly wonderful is that you can stay right on the edge of it in a yurt at Redwood Meadow campground. Reserve in advance. Thank me later.
One that I wish I had known about and pursued when I was a student: whitewater guide. The major rafting companies offer guide programs programs every year. I recommend OARS. Check them out here.
Conservation areas need all the love they can get these days. California has a magnificent network of state parks, protecting an array of California’s unique landscapes, from beaches to high mountains to parched deserts and even an inland sea. Check out their many sites here. There are nearly 300 to choose from and 63 are right on the Pacific Ocean.
If you are looking for beachfront property you can actually afford, plan a camping trip. My picks in SoCal are San Elijo State Beach, though the proximity to the road makes tent camping a bit of a noisy proposition, and San Clemente State Beach where you can pitch a tent right on the bluff under the main lifeguard tower. You’ll have views to eternity, but watch out for the wind which comes in strong along this stretch of the coast.
Want to pitch in? The california state parks foundation is an independent advocacy group that schedules volunteer days for the public to help out with important resource management projects. Share the love here.