Trip Report- Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA

The Quick and Dirty:

Location:  Backpacking Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur, CA.  The Pine Ridge trail head starts from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Beach and overnight parking is free at the lot.
Distance and Duration: 10 miles one way on the Pine Ridge trail to Sykes camp,  we finished the hike in about 4 hours one way.
Permit: No advanced permit reservation is required however a back country fire permit is needed if you want to cook with a stove or start a camp fire. At the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Beach ranger station, you can obtain the back country fire permit and for a $1 donation, the rangers will provide you with a nice trail map of the Pine Ridge trail.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed in the national forest and to the hot springs
Trail conditions: This is a very popular trail, therefore the it is well maintained and clearly marked.
Good to know: Beware of the abundant amount of poisonous oak on the trail. When arrived at Sykes camp, you will be required to cross the stream several times to get to the campsite and the hot springs. Be extra careful crossing the streams in the spring time when water flow is fast. It’s always a good idea to walk up and down the stream and pick a spot where the flow is the slowest before you cross. Having water shoes to cross the stream is a good idea or we just took off our hiking shoes and went bare foot across the stream.


Louis getting ready to start hiking at the Pine Ridge trail head

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San Simeon State Park and Hearst Castle

The Quick and Dirty:

Location: San Simeon State Beach is located  south of Hearst Castle and north of Cambria, CA. It is about a 4 hour drive north of Los Angeles.
Activities around San Simeon State Beach: Easy walking access to a beautiful stretch of beaches and within a 15 minute drive to William Randolph Hearst’s famous Hearst Castle.
Good to know: Camping spots at San Simeon state beach can be reserved through and it fills up quickly over the summer and weekends. Advanced booking is highly recommended.
Camping Fees: $35 car camping fee per night. The campsites are small but it can fit 3 backpacking tents or 2 Coleman (car camping) tents. The $35 fee only covers entrance fee for one car, each additional cars are $10.
Hearst Castle Tour Fees: $25/person for the grand room tour.  If you are interested in a guided tour at Hearst Castle on a weekend, it’s a good idea to make advanced reservations at least a couple days before your visit. This is a popular tourist destination and tickets have been known to sell out on the day of.


Windy day on San Simeon State Beach

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Road Trip Up the Coast of California

We truly believe we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Whether it’s going east towards the majestic mountains of the Sierra Nevada or driving up and down the California coast, the scenery always takes my breath away. For our week long vacation, we decided to take a road rip up the coast of California from Orange County all the way up to Redwood National and State Park.P1080885

Over the next couple of weeks I will update the blog with detailed trip reports of each of the places we visited. See links below to jump to any one of the places that interests you:

Saturday (Day 1)- Car Camping at San Simeon State Park
Sunday (Day 2)- Morning guided tour of the Hearst Castle and back packing into Sykes hot springs in Big Sur, California
Monday (Day 3)- Hike out from Sykes hot springs and drive to Medocino, California Tuesday (Day 4)- Drive to Redwood State and National Park
Wednesday (Day 5)- Day hikes around Redwood State Park and car camping at Elk Prairie campground
Thursday (Day 6)- Depart from Redwood State and National Park and drive south to Sonoma, California
Friday (Day 7)- Day in Sonoma, drive to San Francisco to visit friends
Saturday (Day 8)- Drive home to Orange County

The Google Map shown below outlines our travel itinerary along with the links of the detailed blog post on each place.

Trail Running at Riley Wilderness Park

The Quick and Dirty:

Location: Thomas F. Riley wilderness park or more commonly known as Riley Wilderness Park is one of the OCParks in Orange County, California. It is located on 30952 Oso Parkway, Coto De Caza, CA. 
Distance: We ran about 4 miles to the Skank Vista Point, down through Oak Canyon and looped around the Pheasant Run (this is the outer loop of the preserve). 
Difficulty:  Easy hike and trail run, lots of good rolling hills for a good workout but nothing too strenuous. 
Duration: It took us about 50 minutes to finish the 4 mile run with breaks in between.
Dogs Allowed? No dogs are allowed inside the preserve but ironically equestrians are allowed to ride their horses on the trail. 
Best time to visit: The preserve is open year-round from 7AM to sunset.
Trail Parking: Parking is $3 at the designated preserve parking lot. There was plenty of parking early in the morning when we started the run but the lot got pretty full by the time we left. If you visit OCParks often, annual passes are available for purchase at the ranger’s station. IMG_20160327_101619.jpg Continue reading

Sea Kayaking with Santa Barbara Adventure Company

On our last day at Santa Cruz island we booked a sea kayaking tour with Santa Barbara Adventure Company. While we’ve done our share of flat water kayaking, this would be our first time kayaking out at sea.

The normal cost of this tour without the ferry or camping fees is $125 during the time of booking. One useful tip for finding additional discounts is to sign up for the company’s newsletters as they generally have promotional deals. We ended up applying 2 promotional deals on our reservation, one for advanced reservation discount and the other for group discount. The final cost for the tour was about $110 per person after taxes.

We met our tour guides at the harbor Sunday morning at 10:30AM. About half of the people on the tour came to the island just for the day for kayaking and the other half camped overnight. Water shoes, wet suits and rain jacket were all provided by the company. After a quick safety lesson with the whole group, we broke off in a small group of 8 with our guide Janelle and began the tour.

I imagine each sea kayaking experience can vary widely depending on the weather, condition of the sea/tides and how adventurous the group is. The waves were a little choppy around the caves when we were out at sea, Janelle left it to us to decide if we wanted to maneuver through them. Since I was sharing a kayak with Louis, we were pretty comfortable maneuvering through the caves. Although there were some close calls (see video below), we never capsized our kayak!

Overall, the tour took about 3 hours to complete. If you are not sure you can handle the entire 3 hours of kayaking at sea, there is an option half through the tour to be dropped at the beach if you’ve had enough of the choppy conditions.

Good to Know
Overall we enjoyed the tour immensely and would encourage all to try it out if you ever visit the Santa Cruz island. Below are a couple of things that are good to know to prepare for the tour:

  1. Bring your own water shoes if you already have them at home. Although the company provides water shoes, given the primitive condition on the island, it’s nearly impossible for the company to keep them as clean as I would like.
  2. Mount a GoPro or something similar to your helmet if you want to take any videos or photos. The conditions out at sea are pretty choppy and you will not want to risk taking your camera out in the midst of paddling.
  3. Make sure to eat something before you start the tour. The tour is about 3 hours from 10:30-12:30 and all the paddling will leave you hungry if you had an early breakfast. This will also help alleviate potential sea sickness.
  4. If you are renting a double kayak, make sure you and your partner coordinate each other’s moves. This makes maneuvering through narrow sea caves and choppy water so much easier!

See below for some of the sea cave videos Louis captured on his camera.