Kent Falls State Park Hike

This past summer, during the college-visit process, I was staying in Connecticut. Luckily, Kent Falls Entranceamid the jumble of college tours and application essays, I was able to get out a few times and relax. On one such day, for a short hike, I went to Kent Falls State Park with my family. The park is very green-like much of Connecticut-and the falls for which the park is named are amazing. In the park, there’s one small trail loop that takes you up around the falls and through a portion of the forest and, of course, there’s the park itself, which is a wide, slightly sloping expanse of grass, perfect for a picnic or game of Frisbee.

We wanted to see the falls from the top, so we took the trail loop up along side the waterfall. The trail is pretty steep, but a large portion of the trail to the Kent Fallsright of the falls is paved, or has steps, so it’s not too hard to hike up. (It’s about a quarter of a mile to the top, and the falls have a vertical height of around 200 feet.) Spaced regularly up the falls are wooden lookouts (great for taking photos) that jut out to the edge of the falls so you can get a bit closer without any dangerous excursions onto the rocks alongside the falls. While the trail and lookouts are regularly maintained, you should probably keep an eye on your children and make sure they don’t try to get close enough Top of the Fallsto touch the water.

 

The park is a great place to relax and the trail is short enough to be doable by people of all ages. On the weekends, there’s a parking fee of $9 for Connecticut cars and $15 for out-of-state cars, however during the week parking is usually free. It’s definitely worth it though for a relaxing hike and great look at the falls!

Backpacking in Holcomb Creek, Big Bear

Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months. I have been very tied up with school and extracurricular activities. However, I have gone on a great backpacking trip in the time since my last post, so here goes!

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For my trip, I traveled out to Holcomb Creek, in Big Bear (in the San Bernardino Mountains) with a group of friends. All of the cars were parked in an open area of the dirt road we took to get to the trail head. After parking, we traveled down the road a bit until we spotted an opening on the left side of the road. We climbed over a knee-high chain and began our hike.

For the first couple of miles, we trekked up and down some low hills on a trail that paralleled Holcomb Creek itself and a fireroad. The trees at points looked quite burnt, so I assume there was a fire there within the past few months or so. On the left hand side of the trail, Holcomb Creek meandered along. At this point the creek was very small and was largely obscured by giant plants and grasses. These plants seemed to go on forever through the valley and were quite pretty.
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After these first couple of miles, we left the trees and river behind as the trail continued into a desert environment. The trees weren’t numerous and were very scraggly. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we started gaining elevation with steeper inclines and soon stopped for lunch high on a hill, at approximately the halfway point. From here, the hike began going increasingly downhill for a couple more miles, punctuated intermittently with a couple of inclines. The scenery slowly melted into a more forested environment and we encountered the creek again a few times as we hiked alongside it.

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For the last couple of miles, there were only a few inclines, but these were pretty steep, and not that thrilling, probably due to the fact that the trail seemed to be made of sand at this point. Eventually we crossed another fireroad. At this point we encountered some people on dirt bikes and ATV’s. (As a matter of fact, Holcomb Creek Valley is quite popular for these people. When you look up Holcomb Creek on the internet, much of the information is related to ATV usage and trails for ATV’s.)

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As we continued on, we crossed the creek a couple of times in the last mile and a half. Eventually, we reached the campsite. This is a trail campground called Holcomb Crossing. The area is filled with pine trees, but there is still a lot of space to pitch tents. My friend even managed to pitch his tent hammock between a couple of trees!

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I really like this area. There’s a lot of shade, and the creek is right by the campsite. This proved to be a very useful source of water and we were able to set up a couple of gravity filters there. There is also a bountiful amount of small sticks and branches that can be used to build a campfire.

The next day, the trip back was much of the same, although I did almost lose my water bottle. I was climbing over a boulder in the creek to get to the other side, when my bottle fell out of one of the mesh bottle holders on the side of my backpack. I jumped the last couple of feet and made a mad dash through the trees, then jumped from the bank onto a little sand bar in the center of the creek. Luckily the current brought my bottle just within reach and I was able to retrieve it. (And that, folks, is why its important to have everything on your backpack secured tightly!)

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We passed some more people on ATV’s and a group of people driving up a trail of boulders in their trucks. It looked pretty fun! It probably is until the truck flips when it goes over a particularly large boulder. (However, I’m nowhere near close to being knowledgeable in this field and I don’t think that happens often.)

20130609-005228.jpgAfter 6 or so more miles, we reached the cars, and for many, this was a very nice reunion indeed. I had a lot of fun on this trip. I don’t go backpacking a lot, but when I do, it’s a nice break from car camping. Now, some of you are probably interested in some more information on the trail itself.

The hike is approximately 16 miles round trip. It would probably be best to hike the trail in the spring or fall, because in the winter it does snow here and in the summer it can get to be pretty hot. For driving directions, you can go to the following link that REI has: http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/california/hiking/holcomb-crossing-trail-camp-loop-backpacking/17129.

For a short, 2 day backpacking trip, this trip would be great. It’s not that difficult of a hike and relatively short. On the other hand, it’s also nice way to get away from work for a small break on the weekend!

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

This campground is very good. Located in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Caspers Wilderness Park has 3 campgrounds with multiple sites (one of these is an equestrian campground) and 2 group campgrounds. There are also quite a lot of trails. When I was camping in East Ridge Trail SignCaspers Wilderness, I stayed with friends on a group site called San Juan Meadow Group Area and hiked the nature loop and the East Ridge Trail.

The East Ridge Trail hike was very beautiful and the panoramic view was amazing. We could see for miles around. The Nature Loop wasn’t as fascinating for me, although the hike itself was pretty good. The plant life seemed dried up and wasn’t that beautiful. However, this is most likely due to the fact that we hiked here in the winter in November and not in the spring or summer. The last time we camped at Caspers Wilderness was in January of the past year.

East Ridge Trail

East Ridge Trail

We hiked into San Juan Meadow Group Area from the Nature Loop and set out to stake our claims on good tenting areas (although all of the camping areas in this group site are relatively flat). At first I was quite surprised at the lack of plant life in the large open field in the center of the group area. The last time I had been to Caspers Wilderness the field was covered in a thick blanket of grass. Again, I attribute this to the time of year. (Winter is never the best time to see a lot of green plant life) Anyway, we set up our tents and then proceeded to explore the area and do some fun activities!

Caspers Wilderness Campground has some good amenities and is an ideal place for camping with children. The amenities of the campground include: a dump station, Tentsbathrooms, picnic tables, fire rings, trash bins, drinkable water, BBQ grills, showers, an amphitheater, a visitors center, and a playground. Firewood is also available. The playground would be a very good play option for children and is fairly big for a campground. The abundance of open space on the big field (or meadow) in the San Juan Meadow Group Area is great for a ton of activities, including frisbee, soccer, football, baseball, or anything else you could think of. We played ultimate frisbee the day after we got there.

That night we had a campfire (admittedly a bit large) and eventually went to bed when it

Frost on a Pot

Frost on a Pot

got too cold to do anything else. The night got even colder and it might have dipped below freezing. (When I woke up it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit). The pots we left out to dry he night before were covered in frost! (Word to the wise here: don’t leave pots or pans out overnight to dry; they could get dirty or wet again with morning dew or frost.)

Caspers Wilderness Park is a great camp for large groups or families with children. I was Giant Campfirevery satisfied with all of the amenities that I used and didn’t have any problems during my stay. My only recommendation for camping at Caspers Wilderness Park is to bring a frisbee or soccer ball or something. If camping in San Juan Meadow, you’ll have a lot more fun this way! Happy camping!

The campground address is: 33401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

The campground telephone number is: (949) 923-2210

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park: Crescent Meadow Loop

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. It has a majestic ring to it. Even if you don’t find the name itself to be majestic, though, the giant sequoias in the park will leave you awestruck.

Like many people who have visited the park before us, my family and I were impressed by the giant sequoias and amazing wildlife. There were beautiful plants and flowers, amazing trees, and the smell of the forest that makes you reluctant to go back to the city. To see more of the area we were currently driving through, we decided to take a hike on the Crescent Meadow Loop.

Before we got to the parking lot, we passed through a tree. Yes, I did say through it. The ancient sequoia must have fallen across the road, but instead of clearing it, a small tunnel was cut through the trunk, making it possible for cars to drive under/through the tree trunk. I have to say, that was awesome! I had never before driven through a tree. Anyway, we then arrived at the parking lot and parked, then walked over to the trail head and began our hike.

The beginning was pretty cool. We walked along a paved path through the weeds, grasses and trees and got to see a number of beautiful plants. Then we got to an area where the trees lost their greenness and rose out of the ground in charred, black spires. There had been a forest fire very recently, charring a lot of trees in the area. We could smell smoke on the air. Then we stopped. Up on top of a burnt hill, a big black bear came walking into view.

We all stopped walking and stood there waiting for the bear to move along. “This…is…so…cool,” I thought. The black bear walked down the hill, across the trail and into the trees on the other side. Okay, good to go. We began to walk again but then stopped. Two small black bears, cubs, walked into view atop the hill. (Is there a bear march going on here or what?) Apparently the bear that we saw a few seconds ago was the mamma bear. We checked the other side of the trail and glimpsed the mamma bear watching her two cubs from between the trees. Hiking safety lesson one: Do NOT get between a mamma bear and her cubs. It may not turn out to be the best day of your life. We stood there, waiting, until finally the cubs thumped after their mom across the trail. We waited a few more minutes and then proceeded with our hike. Just a bear sighting, nothing to get to worked up about, right?

We continued on our hike and came to a tree on the ground that looked like it was fitted out like a house. The sign next to it read, “Tharp’s Log”. It was super cool. After we passed Tharp’s Log, nothing of great significance happened for the rest of the hike. We got to the car, talking about what a cool hike that had been. Then we continued on in our self-guided tour of the forest on to Moro Rock. All in all, a really good, super exciting hike.