Joshua Tree National Park Campout with Amy and Kam - Campfire Chic

Amy & Kam go to Joshua Tree National Park

Last summer (August 2013), Amy and her husband Andrew joined Alex and I for a weekend camping trip in Yosemite National Park. We had a great time hanging out in our semi-secluded camping spot and tackling the 4-mile trail from Glacier Point to the Valley Floor.

This year, we headed to Joshua Tree National Park for a quick weekend getaway. We were a little short on time (only one night instead of two nights and JTree is much closer than Yosemite) but we knew we wanted to go somewhere.

Alex and I arrived at the campground (Indian Cove, our favorite!) earlier than Team Schubert so we practiced placing nuts/stoppers in the rock formations around our campsite. Alex and I took a top rope anchors class in Joshua Tree last year and haven’t made the time to actually climb outdoors at all to practice what we learned. We need some friends who climb outdoors who are willing to take us and show us…well, show us the ropes!

We talked about work, recapped 2014, and chatted a bit about 30 Days of Lists and our projected ideas for 2015 for Campfire Chic and Lemon and Raspberry. We drove a few miles out of the park to have dinner at Crossroads Cafe. It’s where Alex and I normally have dinner when we’re in Joshua Tree because there are a bunch of vegetarian options available and the mac and cheese is pretty darn good. We spent the rest of the night hanging out around the campfire enjoying adult beverages (yes, from our Stanley mugs and flask) before retiring to the camper.

The next morning, we woke up to the very bright desert sun and we made a few quick veggie tacos (thank you, Mountain House, for starting our morning with a warm bite to eat! The fire roasted vegetables were fantastic) before scrambling up and down the rock formations some more and packing up our campsite. Before going our separate ways, we stopped at Natural Sisters Cafe (which is across the street from Crossroads Cafe) for juice, coffee, and some snacks for the road.

It was a quick trip (we spent less than 24 hours together) but I think we all needed a change of scenery. Alex and I like spending time with Amy and Andrew, especially with how passionate Andrew gets about music! We learn a lot from him…like how tapes (yes, tapes) are a big deal in many circles and how we live near a famous-within-tape-aficionado-circles shop. Amy takes a ton of photos and is extra appreciative when I remember to snap photos of the two of them. It’s nice that we hang out so infrequently but are able to make easy conversation. If only we had more time together.

Where do you go when you need a weekend escape?

P.S. We didn’t stay in tents this time! We borrowed a camper van from JUCY rentals. You can read about the camper van and see some photos here.

P.P.S. Another thank you to Mountain House for sending the fire roasted vegetables to fuel our adventures. We are big fans of the brand (see: backpacking comforts) and I appreciate that they sent the packet for possible review. Opinions about the food are my own, of course.

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This is a product and service review for JUCY Rentals. JUCY allowed me to borrow a camper for a weekend adventure…the opinions expressed in this article are my own. For more information about JUCY, please visit their website.

JUCY Camper Review - Campfire Chic

I was contacted by JUCY Rentals a few months ago to see if I would be interested in borrowing one of their “champ” camper for a weekend adventure of my choice. I was hesitant at first because I don’t have any experience with campers or RVs. My camping is usually done on the ground with or without a tent. I messaged Amy to see if she and her husband would be interested in a quick camping trip (kind of like when we went to Yosemite National Park!) and after getting an excited response, I knew I couldn’t say no.

I picked up the camer at the Los Angeles location and the super friendly staff gave me a grand tour of the vehicle and put up with the million questions I had about the rental process, what amenities were normally included, the typical trips people take with the campers, etc. It didn’t take me long to get used to driving the camper (it’s essentially a tricked out mini-van) because I drive my SUV and regularly drive a Tacoma so big cars are my jam.

JUCY Camper Review - Penthouse Sleeper Selfie

Alex and I made our way out to Joshua Tree National Park on Saturday mid-day only making a few stops along the rode. It gets very windy in parts but the camper felt good in the wind. I was able to drive on the dirt road through the campground without worrying too much about clearance, too, which is nice. We set up camp and waited for Amy and Andrew to arrive (they had a lot longer of a drive than us) by scrambling up the beautiful rock formations in Indian Cove Campground.

And then it happened. Alex and I wanted to check out an area near our campground that had some bouldering problems that we wanted to check out. As I reversed out of the parking spot of our camping spot…I hit a rock. More like a small boulder. My stomached dropped and I’m sure I stopped breathing. How could I be so dumb?? I slowly returned the car to the parking spot and immediately called the JUCY Rentals customer service number. I was a little shaky (I mean, I just hit something with a car that isn’t mine!) as I spoke with the really nice customer service person and she thanked me for calling in, let me know that she was updating my account so that the Los Angeles office would know about the incident, and told me to not worry about a thing and to enjoy the rest of my weekend. Needless to say, I was only semi-relieved and refused to drive anywhere until we were ready to go home. Thankfully, the insurance for the rental was covered in my agreement (lesson to future Kam: Always get the insurance).

JUCY Camper Review and Setup - Campfire Chic

Once Amy and Andrew arrived, I pulled out cold drinks from the refrigerator in the back of the camper and gave them a grand tour, including setting up the “penthouse” sleeping area that is on top of the vehicle. Our campsite neighbors took a great interest in the vehicle and requested demonstrations, too.

The camper included:

  •  1 burner Gas Cooker that’s attached to the vehicle and one that is portable (I could take it to the picnic bench)
  • Small fridge
  • Sink with Tap and Drain, water tank, waste water tank
  • Internal Table
  • External Picnic Table
  • DVD player with screen
  • CD player and radio
  • 2 Bench Seats
  • Two Double Beds
  •  Curtains
  • Storage Space Under Benches

As part of the agreement, our camper also included personal kits for 4 (bedding + towels) and a provisioning kit (cooking equipment + utensils). We did not opt for the wifi for this trip because you can get very good 3G connection in the Indian Cove Campground.

That night, Amy and Andrew got cozy inside the car, which sleeps two comfortably. There are curtains that suction to the windows for added privacy, too. Alex and I climbed the ladder into the spacious penthouse above the vehicle and settled in. It made us feel like we were on a safari or something equally silly-sounding. There was a cargo net at the foot of the sleeping area for things like our shoes and a mesh pocket system for each of us that acted as a nightstand. Even though it was very windy throughout the night, the penthouse stayed warm and we didn’t feel the wind like we would in a tent.

JUCY Camper Review from Blogger Kam of Campfire Chic

Overall, the camper was a great addition to our weekend considering the wind we experienced. I think that it would be a better option for a longer weekend or even a week long tour through Utah’s National Parks! When I returned the camper, there was a couple from Australia returning from a very long trip from LA up to Seattle, over to Yellowstone National Park, and then a slow trek back to LA through a handful of other National Parks. It sounded like a fantastic option for them (and I’m already playing with the quote estimator to see if it would be a good idea for a big road trip from Alex and me in the Spring). I think this would be a great option for families with small children for a summer trip! What kid wouldn’t want to spend the night in the penthouse sleeper area? I do have to say, if anybody tosses and turns while they sleep, make them sleep elsewhere because the car is going to move and everybody will feel it. I would also suggest announcing which side the ladder will be on so the in-car sleepers don’t open that side’s door…and so the upstairs sleepers don’t try to exit in the middle of the night on the side without the ladder!

Have you tried a camper van for camping? Would you take a camper like this on the road?

New special: From now through March 31, 2015, travelers can rent a JUCY Campervan for any three night trip for the inclusive rate of $195. In addition to a complimentary provisional linen and cooking utensils kit (valued at $165), the rate also includes 100 mile per night allowance (this doesn’t include one-way fees, insurance, or additional mileage fees)

Thank you to JUCY Rentals for letting me take this green and purple beast on the open road for the weekend and hooking us up with a few of the extra amenities. It was a hit in the desert!

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Today’s post is brought to you by Stanley. 

Stanley Gifts for Adventurers - Campfire Chic

During a backpacking trip earlier this year, I tried to make a point of documenting some of the differences between how Alex and I camp…the things we bring, our preferred snacks…the kind of thing that would make for a really cute mini-album now that I think about it!

One thing I noticed for sure is that Alex is really rough on his water bottles. We have some very well-loved bottles that Alex has put through their paces. He’s dropped them from the top of rock formations in the Indian Cove Campground in JTree, they’ve rolled out of the truck and into the street numerous times, and sometimes they bang against poles/railings as they swing from his backpack. Alex is an excellent gear tester when it comes to seeing if things last!

We have an impressive collection of water bottles I picked up at Outdoor Retailer in August but I was a little hesitant to bring them camping with us last weekend because I wasn’t interested in getting big dents or huge scratches in the sides of my beloved bottles.

Luckily, Stanley reached out to me and offered to fuel our adventure with a few items that could take whatever Alex could throw their way. We received a one-hand vacuum mug, adventure flask, and classic pint glass to put through the paces one our weekend escape to Joshua Tree National Park.

Stanleyness Gift Guide - Campfire Chic

Stanley has been a part of my adventures since I was young. My dad had a Stanley vacuum bottle covered in stickers from Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes for as long as I could remember…in fact, my brother and I had to practically force him to upgrade his bottle a few years ago when it was looking a little too used. We replaced it with another Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle and a smaller vacuum set for soup and warm lunches. I’m glad that Stanley is one of those brands that stands the test of time and only improves with age :)

Alex and I filled the adventure flask with the last of our Jameson, brought delicious hot coffee with us on the ride out to JTree in the one-handed vacuum mug, and Amy and I tried a pear hard cider from the classic pint glass (that comes with a bottle opener!).

My favorite item is the one-handed vacuum mug because while I stressed that it was rolling around the back of my car (full of day old coffee) on Monday as I was in stop-and-go traffic on the I-405 freeway, I was beyond thrilled that the top kept things in check! The last time I left a travel mug in my car the tiniest movement would result in a ridiculous leak.

If you’re in the market for gifts that will keep up with the adventurer in your life, these will be great.

  • Get the Adventure Flask for: the peak bagger who deserves some whiskey at the top of a mountain
  • Get the One-Handed Vacuum Mug for: the weekend warrior who wants something to take to work and to the trailhead
  • Get the Classic Pint Glass for: the storyteller who prefers a microbrew around the campfire over whatever is cold and cheap

BONUS: Eddie Baur is offering FREE shipping of Stanley orders over $49. 

This adventure was sponsored by Stanley as a part of the Give the Gift of #Stanleyness campaign. Opinions and stories shared in this post are my own.

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Microadventure in La Jolla Cove with Campfire Chic

A small amount of cabin fever got Alex and me out of bed before sunrise one morning and we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather at the beach…but not the beach that’s 20 minutes from us, we wanted something different. So we headed south and found ourselves in La Jolla, a cozy coastal town in San Diego. La Jolla is known for expensive homes, great shopping, and beautiful beaches. There are kayak tours that will take you through sea caves, viewing points to see the seals and sea lions playing in the surf, and the rare Great White Shark sighting. You can find a sandy beach to enjoy the surf or explore the rockier tide pools during low tide just steps from your car. Alex wanted to go snorkeling in La Jolla Cove and I wanted to practice using the GoPro underwater so it seemed like the perfect microadventure for us.

Parking in La Jolla Cove - Campfire Chic

We used Alex’s boogie board on the beach immediately south of Seal Rock (map below) which meant keeping an eye on the surf to make sure you’re not too close to a curious seal wanting to cruise the waves with you. The water was very warm and super clear so it was fun to put the GoPro underwater to try and catch a glimpse of one of the seals swimming by. We didn’t end up getting photos of much more than a few schools of tiny fish, a bright orange fish, and plenty of sea grass.

After spending some time on the beach, we moved over to the very-very-very-very crowded cove that is known for snorkeling and Alex strapped the GoPro to his wrist while he swam for a little while. I set the camera up to take a photo every 5 seconds so he wouldn’t have to worry about it. He was more interested in how his new watch tracked his movement in the water.

La Jolla Underwater Photos - Campfire Chic

We ate lunch at a Himalayan/Indian restaurant with an ocean view and walked around the small town adjacent to the ocean. It was interesting to see stores like Kate Spade tucked in between cheesy tourist shops. If you walk around La Jolla, be extra careful while crossing streets because folks get extra frantic about finding parking and sometimes don’t pay attention. I suggest making your way to a paid lot and spending $3 – $10 for frustration free parking rather than battling for a free 2 hour parking spot. There were some life guards on duty where we were down there but be sure to double-check when you visit, be sure to follow posted rules, and use good judgment when walking along cliffs and in the water.


View La Jolla Map in a larger map

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Will of More Than Just Parks emailed me in October to share the first short film he created with his brother to document the 59 U.S. National Parks. Will and Jim spent a month backpacking and exploring Olympic National Park and what they captured is beautiful…I cannot wait to get back to Olympic NP to see more of the park!

Today, I am interviewing Jim of More Than Just Parks to learn more about the project and to get some tips on shooting video outdoors.

Tips for Shooting Video Outdoors with More Than Just Parks on Campfire Chic

Jim, can you tell me more about your project, More Than Just Parks, and why you decided to make short films of the parks?

My brother and I are, believe it or not, from Georgia, born and raised. We didn’t see a national park until just four years ago, when we took a trip out west to see the Grand Canyon with a few friends. Ever since that trip out west, what seems like ages ago, we have been hooked on the national parks.

More Than Just Parks is an effort to bring all 59 national parks to everyone through stunning visual media. Our goal is to build a greater awareness for the national treasures that reside in our own backyard. My brother and I are media professionals who have had a passion for film since an early age. We have a strong belief in the power of visual imagery, especially where some of the most beautiful places on the planet are concerned – our national parks.

You spent a month in Olympic National Park to create this short film. Why Olympic and how did you plan for such an extensive trip?

It surprises me how little planning went into our trip to Olympic National Park. We had this idea for More Than Just Parks and figured we would go for it while we had some free time. We chose Olympic as our first park in the series after coming across some breathtaking Instagram photos of the park and subsequently reading about it on the NPS website. We then looked at different blog entries covering the park in an effort to find the best spots to film and gain a better understanding of what people loved about it. After that we researched the gear that we needed and booked our flights.

We chose Olympic National Park because of it’s incredibly rich diversity. It’s glacial mountain peaks, lush rain forests, alpine meadows, high-altitude lakes, wild rivers, wilderness coast, and teeming wildlife were all the excuse we needed. Also, we had never been to the pacific northwest and wanted to get out to that part of the country and experience it.

We arrived in Seattle at the end of July and stayed in Olympic until the end of August. We started in the Staircase region and slowly worked all the way around the park ending up back where we began. Having never been to  Washington before, or even the pacific northwest, we were awed by the amount of evergreens and how enormous they were. After the first two weeks of incredible weather, we eventually got our fair share rain. I have to say, being in a rainforest while it’s raining is a very cool experience. It’s amazing how it brings out all of the forest’s natural color. After having spent a month in Olympic National Park you would have thought we would’ve gotten plenty of shots of the stars, but it was actually very difficult to obtain those shots. The reason it was so difficult was because of the near-constant fog and moisture in the air. Our lenses, and the lenses of other photographers we met trying to capture the night sky, kept fogging up! So you may notice that the night sky we managed to capture was mostly in high altitude areas where there is little to no moisture in the air. Being in Olympic for a month was an incredible experience – we met so many wonderful people, saw so many incredible things – it was truly life-changing. I find the expression “you may leave the places you go, but they never leave you” to be very true.

You were able to capture beautiful images from all over the Park. What are three tips you have for shooting video outdoors?

Shooting video outdoors can be really fun. Attempting to capture the wonders you see and bring it to people who may never get a chance to see it for themselves is an amazing and rewarding experience.

  1. My first tip is lighting. We have never run into a more challenging exposure situations than the ones we were presented with in the rain forests of Olympic National Park, especially the Hoh Rainforest. Too many of our shots were unusable because of over-exposed pockets of sunlight that kept creeping through time-lapses. Be weary of these pockets when shooting in forests with dense canopies and keep those exposures low.
  2. My second tip is preparedness. My brother and I were boy scouts and are very familiar with the saying – always be prepared. When you’re filming outdoors in an environment that you can’t control it’s important to always be prepared. You never know when someone is going to trip and fall, or when a piece of equipment is going to get lost/broken, or when the weather might turn, so try to be as prepared as possible – you won’t regret it.
  3. My third tip is to enjoy yourself. Remember why you’re filming in the first place and don’t let the work consume you. It’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in it when something isn’t working or a shot just doesn’t look quite right and forget why you’re out there. Don’t let it happen. Make sure to take in the sights and sounds without looking through a viewfinder, you’ll regret it if you don’t.

You obviously took camera equipment with you to create this film, but what is the 1 piece of gear that goes with you on all of  your adventures?

Great question. I thought about this one and my answer might seem a little lame, but bear with me. It would have to be my iPhone. I say that because of the camera on the iPhone just amazes me. The pictures I’m able to take on it blow me away. I love being able to catalog and capture the places I travel with something as simple as my phone. Check out our Instagram accounts – @morethanjustparks @jimpattiz @willpattiz

It sounds like you have a bit of traveling ahead of you. How can folks connect with you online?

I want to make it very clear to anyone who likes our video or likes what we’re doing – Please, email us! We love hearing from you, it reaffirms everything that we’re doing. It doesn’t matter if you just want to tell us you liked the video or if you want to find a way to get involved – send us an email and we’ll be happy to respond. You can click on our contact link on our website or send an email. Also sign up for email updates on our website, its easy and we won’t spam you because we hate that too. We’ll keep you updated with our latest projects and make sure you’re in the loop on everything More Than Just Parks. Vimeo – Facebook – Instagram - Twitter

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Point Mugu State Beach Campground - Thronhill Broome by Campfire Chic

Last month, we went on a quick family camping trip just north of Los Angeles at the Thornhill Brome campground, which is part of Point Mugu State Beach.

I made our reservations online a few months prior using ReserveAmerica.com, which I use for majority of the campsites we book ahead of time. I like that the site lets me check availability at different campgrounds and sometimes you can even see photos of each campsite! It was a great when I was booking a campsite in Yosemite last year for our camping trip with Amy and her husband. This campground, however, does not have photos and you are assigned your camping spot as you arrive.

After a scenic drive up Pacific Coast Highway, we were assigned our camping spot…right between the port-a-potties and the camp host’s giant RV. I wasn’t thrilled at first and was ready to be a total grouch, but the spot turned out to be an excellent location. You couldn’t smell the porta-potties at all (surprising!) and other than a carload of young women thinking they could park at our site for day-use parking, we weren’t bothered by anybody at all. There was a water spigot and outdoor shower nearby. The dumpster was also next to our spot but I wouldn’t have guessed it was there (unlike when you camp in bear country and people insist on slamming the damn dumpster closed at all hours). You can see our campsite in the bottom left of the collage above.

PROS:

  • Plenty of beach to go around
  • Price of park entry (for one car) is included in the cost of the reservation
  • Wildlife viewing is fantastic! We spotted pelicans, sea lions, and woke up to dolphins swimming by our site
  • Easy to reserve
  • You can buy firewood from the Camp Host
  • The firepit is large and comes with a grate so you can cook on it if you wish
  • Not too far from “civilization” if somebody gets homesick or there is an emergency

CONS:

  • The beach to the left of the entrance is great for the views and for getting your toes wet, but I wouldn’t recommend getting into the water. There are a ton of rocks (like, actual rocks not pebbles) in the surf and the waves pretty much pelt them at you as the water is coming in. It sounds like thunder as the rocks crash onto the shore and then move back out with the waves.
  • The porta-potties were getting a little full
  • Directions are a little wonky. This campground is past the first signs for Point Mugu State Park…keep heading north until you see the campground signs

We didn’t encounter wind the way the Yelp reviews for the campground warned about, so I’m not sure if it was just a good time of the year or if I was so tired that I didn’t notice the gusts. We bought a sunshade (which sounds ridiculous but it was an awesome purchase) and stored some of our items inside it overnight just in case the winds did pick up. If you’re looking for a shade for trips to the beach or the park, this one from Coleman is a good option and cheaper than a lot of the other options available.

Thornhill Broome Campground in Malibu California - Campfire Chic

My favorite part of the weekend was trying out some new toys! I was able to walk around the the GoPro on a “selfie-stick” and play with the different modes as I hung out near the water. It was the first time I got to sleep in our Teton Sports Mountain Ultra 2 tent and I snuggled into my Teton Sports Celsius sleeping bag which is comfier than my other sleeping bag…how can I say otherwise when this sleeping bag is lined with brushed flannel? It reminded me of that first night in winter when you have flannel sheets on your bed instead of your regular sheets and everything just seems a million times cozier. The tent is larger than our REI tent, which has served us well and was at the campsite with us but being borrowed by family. The tent is pretty much all mesh, which will be fantastic when we go backpacking next and can enjoy the views without getting eaten alive by mosquitos. I’m looking forward to using both items again.

One item I was interested in bringing with us on our quick overnight trip was the LuminAID, which I heard about at Outdoor Retailer but did not get to see in person. The awesome folks from Eartheasy sent over the LuminAID for me to check out and I’m already planning on getting a handful for friends and family for Christmas. It’s not your typical lantern…it is a solar-powered inflatable light that is lightweight, doesn’t blind you, and floats! I find myself blocking our regular Coleman lantern (this is the more rugged version of ours) with a jug of water when we’re moving around camp at night because the light is just too hard on our eyes. The LuminAID has what is best described as a frosted exterior so the light is gentle on the eyes and doesn’t “hippie mace” you when you look at it. There are two modes to the lantern that I like to call “bright” and “less bright”. When fully charged, the lantern will last between 8 – 10 hours at the “bright” setting and can be stored for up to 3 months with a full charge…which makes me want to get a few of these for emergency kits for the car and home. You can buy 2 through Amazon (and it’s Prime eligible!) or go directly through the Eartheasy site to buy just one. This would make for a good stocking stuffer for the campers and preppers in your life. I’m hoping to do some night paddleboarding soon and am planning on bringing this lantern with me.

The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. Purchases made through those links support Campfire Chic with a small commission. I received the tent and sleeping bag from Teton Sports as part of my partnership with them and the Mountain Adventurers. Eartheasy sent me the lantern in exchange for a possible review. The opinions expressed in this post and across other social media channels are my own. 

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Aspen Grove in San Gorgonio Wilderness - Campfire Chic

Fall in Southern California is a bit of a mystery. The calendar says it is Autumn and the shorter days are clearly a sign that it is no longer summer…but the weather didn’t get the memo. My Instagram feed is filling up with photos of apple picking while wearing flannel and boots, I’m over here planning my day around free air conditioning and living in shorts and tank tops. It seems like October is deciding to stage an endless summer (if only it would stay light out longer!) and while it is nice that I was able to spend the day at the beach yesterday, the fall wreath on my front door is mocking me…palm trees don’t change color and I needed to find some signs of Fall before stores start playing Christmas music.

So, in an effort to catch up to the rest of the country and catch a glimpse of fall, I joined Jeff from SoCalHiker.net (and his wife, Joan) for a quick hike to Aspen Grove in the San Bernardino National Forest. I heard about this small patch of Aspens tucked away in our local mountains but haven’t braved the dirt road to get out there (it is the same road we would take to the trailhead for one of the highest peaks in the area, which is good to know for future hikes).

Aspen Grove in San Bernardino National Forest

I saw a photo of what the area looked like the weekend of 10/4 and was excited to see the golden leaves. Apparently the peak season only lasted a week because most of the leaves were off of the branches in the lower grove and the leaves were taking on a deeper (but still beautiful) golden tone than the rich yellow the trees are known for.

The walk to the grove is pretty straight forward and short enough that young children were able to make the walk from the parking lot to the first grove without much difficulty. This is not a wheelchair-friendly trail, nor is the road very sedan-friendly, but people drove it anyway. I knew I didn’t need a ton of water or supplies so I packed a few snacks and 1L of water in my Teton Sports Trailrunner 2.0 Hydration Pack and wore my KEEN light hikers so I wouldn’t get tired from wearing heavy boots (like my hiking boots, which are no longer available). Being comfortable on the trail is really important to me because  otherwise I’m focused on how I’m feeling (uncomfortable, itchy, chaffy, etc.) instead of enjoying my surroundings.

For a trail guide and information about getting to Aspen Grove, check out Jeff’s post here. You can find hikes all over Southern California using this great interactive map on SoCalHiker.net.

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