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California Hiking Trails • Hiking Trail Finder

This site is designed to provide quick access to California hiking and backpacking websites. Hiking enthusiasts like you have created excellent web pages and blogs on California hiking trails -- then posted those pages on free web servers -- only to be ignored by search engines. The purpose of this site is to provide a way to find these personal hiking pages, and make your research easier.

By popular demand -- to make navigation easier -- we've divided the site into four distinct sections:
1. California Statewide
2. Northern California
3. Sierras: Yosemite/Sequoia/Kings Canyon/Mt Whitney, etc.
4. Southern California

...hope this helps!

California Statewide

  • California Coastal Trail The dream of a trail along the entire length of the California coastline beckons those who love it to create the California Coastal Trail. Creating the Coastal Trail poses its own particular set of difficulties. The topography is difficult, natural features such as rivers block the path...not to mention the issues of private ownership, governmental absurdities, and who knows what else. Whether you're passionate or just plain curious about the California Coastal Trail, this is a great website.


  • Christian Backpacking Here's a group headquartered in Loomis, CA, called Sierra Treks (of Sierra Valley Church) that offers multi-day guided hikes in places like Yosemite, the Sinkyone Wilderness, and jaunts to further locales (generally west coast) such as Oregon's Three Sisters. We can't vouch for this organization, but we certainly know that they are using the right compass.


  • General CyberHikes.com website has unique, interactive maps that allow you to view specific hikes step-by-step, with excellent photos and descriptions. The map graphics have an older ANSI appearance, but fact is they load quickly and this site just flat out works. Absolutely a must click. We've added a few other specific links on this page to our favorites; this link is to the general index.


  • General -- Hundred Peaks California's ultimate peakbagging list, this happens to be a personal journal by Mike Sweredoski that has gradually evolved into a full-blown and very informative website.


  • General -- Hiking Women This is a group of women who take 50-mile backpack trips in California's Sierra Mountains who call themselves FLAB (Fun-Lovin' Adventuresome Broads). They represent a 30-year age span, with hikers with 20 years of FLAB participation all the way to women on their first backpack trip. Core group is in Southern California. Hiking with a bunch of "fun-lovin' broads?" Hey, I'd like to join...


  • General California hiking? We should tell you to click this site, by Kevin Gong, and not bother with anything else the slackpacker has to say. But that wouldn't be in our best interest, so we'll keep our mouth shut. This is truly a comprehensive California hiking site, best we've seen. Click away...please come back here from time to time, ok?


  • General Site Here's the Mountain Adventure Blogspot, which features a bunch of photographs and essays of the Sierra Nevada, Kern River Valley, Mohave Desert and more. We don't usually link to "blogs," but this is a good one for sure.


  • Pacific Crest Trail Fairly in depth PCT site by the author of Dances with Marmots, George Spearing. Helpful pack list; state-by-state narrative links at bottom of page. Fun, informative website.


Northern California, including Central Coast

  • Bay Area -- General This is the "Bay Area Hiker" site; an outstanding electronic offering from Jane Huber. If you're a slacker in the Bay Area, you better click and bookmark this one.


  • Bay Area -- General This is a link to the "Golden Gate Trek of the Month" on Trailblazer Travel Books website. Includes great descriptive info and photography; covers a random hike in the Bay Area. Definitely an enjoyable page.


  • Bay Area Wilderness Training This is a non-profit called BAWT that seeks to educate and promote wilderness training as a way to steer urban youths in the right direction. Don't normally link to this sort of thing, and I know this isn't a hiking resource, but hey -- if you're in the Bay area, and you're enthusiastic about hiking and helping people, you ought to check these folks out. You know, you can hike by yourself, and that's great. I hike by myself plenty. But if you can accomplish something while hiking -- more importantly, if you can make a difference in another person's life -- wouldn't that be cool?


  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park -- Berry Creek Falls nice short narrative of the hike by Ben Brothers.


  • Big Sur Not exactly a hiking site, but hiking info is here -- you just have to drill down a little. Normally we'd do it for you, and link to each of those pages, but this site is so full of information on all the California State Park locations in the Big Sur area, we wanted to be sure you have access to it. This is the type of page we'd like to have for, well, everywhere...written by an insider who's been there, done that, and put together an excellent page with all the right links to all the information you need. Camping reservations, directions, access points, key spots...you name it, it's here. Outstanding Big Sur site by John Rabold.


  • Big Sur Here's an extremely well-done, professional looking website by Jon Iverson that positively is another "must-click" if you are Big Sur bound. Starts right in with a quick "Must See" guide for those with only a day to spare, and does it well. The main hiking content offers up 14 key trails/routes ranging from Andrew Molera Loop in the north to Salmon Springs in the south, no doubt more are on the way. Excellent photos, maps, descriptions.


  • Big Sur Site is loaded with links for hiking, lodging, general information, and a very nice clickable trail map for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Site is run by the Pelican Network.


  • Big Sur -- Ewoldson Trail nice description, info, links, many nice photos. On the Pelican Network Big Sur site.


  • General -- Northern California Here's John Soares' blog. In northern Cali hiking circles, that's like saying "this is the source." If ever there were a royal family of hikers and backpackers in Northern CA, the Soares are it. Between John and his brothers they've penned dozens of books on all aspects of hiking in the Golden State, so if you want to read some regular commentary, this blog is a definite click and bookmark. Scroll down through it completely, and you'll see that John has a bazillion links to all sorts of hiking and trail information. Many Californians have grown up hiking on the writings of the Soares, and if you check out this blog you'll see why. John does a "hike of the month" and that sort of thing to keep it fresh. Terrific website.


  • Golden Gate NRA - Coastal Trail report from the Natural Born Hikers on this popular walk featuring Baker Beach and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Brief write-up with some outstanding photos and helpful info.


  • Lake County -- Boggs Lake Preserve Here's a wonderful "on-line field trip" for this hidden gem, and you don't have to be a student in Mary Beth Abordo's Riviera Elementary School class to enjoy her site. The web site is a compilation of virtual field trips, lesson plans, science experiments, nature poetry, nature journaling tips, and information on the flora and fauna of vernal pools. Kid-Safe, Family-Friendly, and all that. Of course if you're in Ms. Abordo's class, don't forget to do your homework tonight.


  • Lassen Volcanic National Park -- Bumpass Hell Nature Trail Outstanding site with trail description, map, excellent photos. Join the hike step by step by clicking on an interactive trail map. Well done, on the Cyberhikes.com site.


  • Mt. Lassen Here's a backpacking trip report on "Nick's Outdoor Adventures," a nice guide to some backpacking spots in CA. Good resource for trip notes, ideas, photos; other reports include Rush Creek Loop in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Desolation Wilderness, and more. Good site worth clicking around; couple good topo maps as well.


  • Partington Cove Trail Big Sur; great page includes trail description, information, and numerous photos. Must see prior to heading to Big Sur. On the Pelican Network Big Sur site.


  • Partington Cove Trail Narrative of a morning hike to Partington Cove, Big Sur, by "California Connie." Nice photos, enjoyable read.


  • Pinnacles National Monument -- Bear Gulch Caves another great page on the Cyberhikes website; uses interactive map with numerous photos, description pages. This is a must click.


  • Point Reyes National Seashore -- Chimney Rock nice short description of the Chimney Rock Trail with some terrific photos, this on the Natural Born Hikers website.


  • Point Reyes -- General Here's the ProTrails page on Point Reyes, all fresh and new for 2009. This is a great site, with detailed descriptions delineated from some 15 trailheads. The guys at ProTrails are sharp as a whip -- they give you cool photos, detailed descriptions, GPS coordinates (snort.), contact information, directions, phone numbers, pdf maps, elevation data, blah blah blah. Everything you need, and it's all free. If you're headed to Point Reyes, you gotta click this. Did I ever tell you what GPS stands for? Going Places Slowly. Seriously, every other moron on the highway has one of these things plugged up on the dashboard, telling him how to find his way to work in the morning. And these people hang on every word! I don't get it. Every time the car rental counter tells me I got a free GPS I tell 'em to rip it out. But I digress. The deal with Point Reyes is that a lot of people make the mistake of thinking you can see it quickly. You can't. It takes a while to get in and out, and trails are a little longer than most seaside hikes. You really have to budget an entire day (at least) and you really ought to enlist the aid of the ProTrails guys. And get rid of the GPS. Luke didn't need no damn GPS to blow up the Death Star.


  • Redwood Regional Park this is a narrative of a barefoot hike through this Bay Area park. Written by Mike Berrow on the "unshod.org" website. Hey, we're willing to try new things.


  • San Simeon / Big Sur nice site called CrystalineCove.net is really a guidebook to the area, from the San Simeon Cove to Hearst Castle, with articles about the wildlife and whatnot thrown in. Hiking articles about Limekiln State Park, Montaña de Oro State Park, and so much If you're headed to the central coast, this site is a must click.


Sierras: Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Mt Whitney, Desolation Wilderness, Carson-Iceberg, Tahoe, etc.

  • General -- Sierras This is a repeat of the Northern California section link to John Soares' blog. If ever there were a royal family of hikers and backpackers in Northern CA, the Soares are it. Between John and his brothers they've penned dozens of books on all aspects of hiking in the Golden State, so if you want to read some regular commentary, this blog is a definite click and bookmark. Scroll down through it completely, and you'll see that John has a bazillion links to all sorts of hiking and trail information. Particularly if you're looking for info on Desolation Wilderness, which this guy knows as well as anybody. Must click. Maybe your only click!


  • John Muir Trail John Muir trail runs 212 miles north/south from Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney summit in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. This webpage on the BackPack45.com website features descriptions, permit info, gear list, suggestions, map links, you name it. Good resource for this trek.


  • King's Canyon National Park Trip Report: Ionian Basin and vicinity, 17-24 August, 2002 by "Lizzy" fun narrative. Informative, great reading. Text file.


  • King's Canyon National Park - Rae Lakes Area good, informative page on the National Park Service site. You can backtrack from here to the full King's Canyon NPS site.


  • Lake Tahoe Here's a terrific resource for Tahoe hikes on the AboutLakeTahoe.com site run by Courtland Brock. It's a fairly complete roster of key hikes in the Tahoe area, clickable to trail stats & descriptions, as well as some outstanding photos. A very good site, "must-click" for the Lake Tahoe area.


  • Lake Tahoe area - Lake of the Woods A few miles from South Shore Tahoe, this 10 mile RT hike offers up some spectacular Sierra scenery, quite reminiscent of Yosemite. If the entire 10 is a bit much, there is a unique "water taxi" option available from a local concessionaire. Nice description and photos on Gary Williams' YosemiteTrail.net website.


  • moro rock at sequoia national park
  • Moro Rock -- Sequoia National Park Great webpage with hike description, stats, and super photos, by Kevin Gong. A must click.


  • Moro Rock and Little Baldy brief but helpful description on these two short hikes in Sequoia/Kings Canyon, with plenty of photos. Personal site by Anne and Lee Sneed.


  • Northern California - Sierras Site by Mark Candland with trip reports and photos on Red Lake, Crockers Point, Twin Redwoods, Penner Lake, Hawk's Rest, Long Lake, Beebe Lake, Echo & Summit Lake, Fourth of July Lake and others. Very well done, informative site.


  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks basic guide with locator maps, on the official National Park Service website. Semi-helpful.


  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks personal site by Anne & Lee Sneed, includes info on Yosemite, we put the link here because the Sneeds did a number of hikes of varying length in Sequoia/Kings, and provide us with nice narratives and photos. Worth a click.


  • Sequoia & Kings canyon National Parks here's a rather interesting website called "Message from the Mountains" by Bob Kenan, a back country ranger in the Sequoia and Kings National Parks for the last 30 years. It's a promotion for a nature DVD, but the site is cool, gives you a lot of flavor of backcountry Sierra Nevada and such, and the musical accompaniment makes you want to charge right out there. Nothing really trail oriented, so it doesn't really belong on this list, but what the heck.


  • Mt. Shasta two day climb report with photos, maps, links. Well-done site by Matthew Haughey.


  • Mt Tallac climb narrative and photos from this popular Tahoe day hike, on nice site by Ben Brothers.


  • White Mountain Peak rising 14,246 feet above the town of Bishop, California looms the summit of White Mountain Peak. It is the highest peak in the White Mountain range and the third highest peak in the state of California. The trail to the top is 7.5 miles along a dirt road giving it the infamous title of the “easiest fourteener” to summit. From the Natural Born Hikers website.


  • Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,497 feet. The trailhead is at an elevation of 8,365 feet leaving the hiker with ONLY 6,132 feet to gain. This trail is obviously very strenuous and most people take a couple of days to hike the entire length. The Natural Born Hikers, however, would have none of this. They went pall-mall to the top and back...excellent photos and description.


  • Yosemite National Park -- General Don't know where to begin...everywhere you look, this site has something you'll want to click on. Info, maps, reports, photos, lodging, secret places, you name it. Unbelievable. No need for the NPS website once you've clicked on this one, done by YosemiteFun.com. Outstanding hiker site.


  • Yosemite National Park -- Half Dome The trail to the top of Half Dome is 16.4 miles roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 4800 feet. Page describes hike via the John Muir Trail up and the Mist Trail down. As always, excellent photos and description on the Natural Born Hikers site.


  • Yosemite - general Videographer Gary Williams runs this site, called YosemiteTrail.net. Don't let the singular form fool you, he does feature more than one trail. (that's a little humor for those of us who were English majors). Anyway, Gary's got a great way of providing a bit of background and location information, and then letting his photos do the rest of the talking. Sprinkled among the usual "webcam" and "weather" links are some terrific trail descriptions, just surf around and you'll find them. But again, it's the photography that makes this a must-click site.


  • Yosemite National Park -- Hetch Hetchy This is a very well done page, with a cool 3D map and links to lots of great photos. It's done by "Morgan" who is somehow affiliated with Stanford University. If you follow the directory tree on the lefthand side of the page, you'll find all sorts of neat Yosemite trip reports. Anyway, I picked this one to stick in here to sort of give "equal time" to somebody who actually likes the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. (See below for my slant on the matter) Despite this erroneous opinion, he's got a great website.


Southern California

  • Aniso Trail - El Capitan Beach Santa Barbara area. Great narrative, all the stats, plus some nice photos. Not to be missed. Page by Jim Zuber on the LocalHikes.com website.


  • Antelope Valley This is the "Poppy Trail" where you can do the whole Wizard of Oz thing, courtesy the Natural Born Hikers.


  • Anza Borrego Desert State Park located in the eastern foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains, Anza Borrego features a number of canyon hikes, including 100' deep slot canyons. This page features a number of photos, description, and details on AmericanSouthwest.net.


  • The Backbone Trail -- California Coast roughly follows the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains for 70 miles from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers Historical State Park near the city of Santa Monica. It is so named, in part, for the resemblance of the knobby appearance of the volcanic ridges to the projections (vertebrae) on a spinal column. The trail is part of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area; this website is part of the California Coastal Trail site...very informative.


  • arch rock at east anacapa island
  • Channel Islands National Park For most of us a visit to Channel Islands NP involves reserving a spot on an Island Packers day-long boat trip from Ventura or Oxnard, CA. The closest and most popular Island to visit is tiny East Anacapa. Scenery on this rock is simply stunning, and as long as you are healthy enough to climb the staircase from the boat landing, you can pretty much cover the island. Best time to visit is in the late spring when the coreopsis bushes are in bloom; the entire top of the island is virtually draped in yellow. That's not to preclude visits at other times -- the view from Inspiration Point is worth the trip all by itself. Many people like to camp on this island, but I can't figure out why. Seagulls will harrass you with deafening cries all night long. A ranger-guided hike is the best way to visit East Anacapa for the first time. If your group is larger than a dozen people, however, this hike can take an eternity and will consume almost all of your visit. Best to do the loop trail on your own. It helps to have a guidebook, but not absolutely necessary. Be advised that it is not essential to walk up and see the lighthouse. It has an ear-drum piercing audio beacon -- you don't need to walk up to it. Spend your time at Inspiration Point or one of the other view points. If you plan to snorkel at East Anacapa, common sense dictates that you should hike first, then cool off in the water. Be advised that you generally will need a wetsuit, so it isn't as much a cooling off as a sweaty struggle taking the suit on and off. If the water is smooth when you arrive in the morning, that's the time to do your snorkeling. Another highlight of East Anacapa is Arch Rock. Your boat tour will take you past this beautiful feature; you cannot walk to it (see photo above right with lighthouse in background). If you look at a map of Channel Islands NP you'll see that this brief description is merely scratching the surface. There are a number of guidebooks available, but none of them get in-depth enough to be considered a "go-to" source. The best place to start is with Channel Islands National Park, written by Susan Lamb with George H. H. Huey. It provides a good overview, and it's priced real cheap. Read it, then talk to Island Packers to help set up your trip.


  • Death Valley National Park -- Red Wall Canyon Reminiscent of the slot canyons of Southern Utah, this is an excellent webpage with photos, information, hike description on AmericanSouthwest.net.


  • Del Valle Regional Park in the East Bay Regional Park District in Alameda County; this page provide extensive, complete details and photos. On an outstanding Bay Area hiking site by Jane Huber; see general link above.


  • Devil's Postpile National Monument Brief but imformative page on the author's favorite hikes at DPNM. Nice photos; site by Craig Iwata.


  • Devil's Punchbowl Park Los Angeles area seismic formation, a deep "bowl" with odd rock formations, stunning desert scenery. Easily one of the top natural wonders in the LA area. Brief hike narrative and a half dozen great photos on the Natural Born Hikers website.


  • Joshua Tree National Park comprehensive hiking guide by John William Uhler. This is a must-visit website for Joshua Tree National Park hiking, backpacking, camping & climbing info. Great site.


  • Joshua Tree National Park -- The Castle Carey's Castle, a Joshua Tree mystery, sought by many but found and visited by few. Here's an interesting narrative with cool photos...unfortunately doesn't tell exactly how to find the place. We'll work on that...look for another link here soon!


  • Joshua Tree National Park Direct link to NPS "In depth" hiking page; laundry list of popular trails, distances, descriptions. Moderately helpful.


  • Joshua Tree National Park here's another resource, a very well done series of trail descriptions on the ProTrails.com website. Good photos, details, directions, comments...very informative.


  • Long Ridge Open Space Reserve/Santa Cruz Mountains nice photos and a page long hike narrative, informative, by Ben Brothers.


  • Los Angeles Area clickable map with specifications, directions, and locator maps for about 100 hikes of all sorts in the greater Los Angeles area. Features the trails you've heard of, and many you haven't...if you're in L.A. this site by Candice Riley is a "must click" and check it out and really, it just saves you a lot of time if you're looking for new places to venture.


  • Santa Barbara Area Lots of hikes are listed here with maps, topos and directions to the trailhead. Includes beach hikes, Santa Ynez Mountains, San Rafael Wilderness, Camino Cielo Road, and much more. This is a top-notch, professionally done private site by Diane Soini. Focused, helpful, easy-to-navigate...if you are ever planning to develop a hiking website about a specific region, this is how it's done.


  • park link shuttle from LA to santa monica mountains national recreation area
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area this is the general National Park Service site. Click around, and you'll find a pretty decent online map (we'd link directly to it, but the feds have a habit of moving things around on sites). Another nice feature is the "What's Blooming" page, which gives frequent updates on which hiking areas are currently surrounded with flowering plants. Another thing we especially like is the Parklink Shuttle, a new service that will take you from the L.A. area to the Mountains in just 1 1/2 hours!


  • Sea to Sea Trail relatively new trail that links the Pacific with the Salton Sea. It's a multi-use corridor; some of it geared more to hiking than anything else. Ambitious project spearheaded by the Sea to Sea Trail Foundation; also the hosts of this link. Lots of info here.


  • Skyline to Sea Trail The Skyline to the Sea Trail starts at Saratoga Gap Vista Point (where Highway 35 and 9 meet) and goes about 30 miles to Waddell Beach. This is a report of an uncompleted trip on Mark Candland's AvidBackpackers.com website...well written with lots of info. Poke around the site; some excellent trip reports throughout California.


  • Southern California -- General DesertMud is a member-generated website on Southern California outdoors; emphasis on hiking, with some biking (argh!) and whatnot. Quite comprehensive trail descriptions, directions, reports, etc. Definitely worth a click for Southern Cal hikers. Very well done site by Matt Gregg.


  • Southern California -- General Here's an unusual website by Courtland May & friends that is primarily about jumping off stuff -- cliffs, bridges, rocks -- into water. Preferrably deep water, I suppose. Anyway, this crew has amassed some good hiking trail information along the way. You'll find info on The Punchbowls, Red Rock, Rindge Dam, Box Canyon, and Mugu Rock. We only suggest this site for info on how to go "up," we urge you not to follow their example on how to get down, unless you're sure you can make the splash and not the, uh, splat.


  • Stanislaus National Forest here's a good laundry list of the key hikes at TheOutdoorForum.com. Includes brief descriptions and directions. Good intro to the trails.


  • Strawberry Peak -- San Gabriel Mountains climb of 6164' peak from the Colby Canyon trailhead, site with photos, maps, description, specifics, etc. well done page by Christopher Brennen.


  • Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness Areas Trail Conditions website provided by the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. Reports and info on virtually all of the trails in Central California's northern Santa Lucia mountains / Big Sur coast area. Hikers submit info, which is then reported right on the page for a given trail. Site has lots of info, a "must-click." Maintained by the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, an all-volunteer conservation and advocacy group dedicated to protecting the public lands in the region, particularly the Ventana and Silver Peak wilderness areas. I don't need to tell you that you should support the VWA because I'm sure you already realize how important organizations like this are to us. You certainly know that without groups like the VWA fighting to safeguard our trails, we'd have more shopping malls and golf courses. You're already a member, right? So no need to mention it.


Cabinessence

Alright, alright, you're going to Yosemite. The crowds...the crowds...ah, if only they would drain Hetch Hetchy, there'd be two breathtaking Yosemite Valleys, which would result in half as many people in each. But that's asking for "smart government" which is an oxymoron if ever there was. Some insist that Hetch Hetchy was actually more breathtaking than Yosemite Valley. Study some photos, use your imagination a little, and you'll agree that the Park Service isn't always a good steward of what we've entrusted them with. Then again, we get what we deserve; had more people taken a stand, perhaps the tragedy known as Hetch Hetchy wouldn't have happened.

So when you do go to Yosemite -- and you don't want to wait for the dam to be torn down -- I strongly recommend taking Hiking Yosemite National Park (Falcon Guide) by Suzanne Swedo...doesn't list every single trail, but provides enough information to give you an edge on the crowds, and you won't be wasting half your trip trying to find your way. Good maps, good trail details. Another book, a sort of "Yosemite Lite," in the same series, by the same author is Best Easy Day Hikes Yosemite. I'd opt for the first one, personally, but if you realize that you're more of a Park Service Nature Loop hiker, you'll do well to look at the latter.

The third book in the three-headed monster of top-selling Yosemite trail guides is Yosemite National Park: A Natural History Guide by Jeffrey P. Schaffer. If you're looking purely for a hiking guide, this is not the book for you; it does a mediocre job at that. On the other hand, if you are looking to gain a better understanding of all that you encounter on the trail -- geology, history, legends, origin, etc. -- in that regard, this book is one of the better ones out there.

It's Igneous.

Plan to spend any time at all in Northern California and you better know what this means, since you'll either be standing on basalt, granite, pumice, or some derivative thereof. With Lassen National Park at the southern end of the Cascade Range, Tahoe and whatnot at the northern end of the Sierras, plus the golden hills of the coast range, you've got some of the most fantastic hiking opportunities on the planet. The easiest way to sort it all out is with John and Marc Soares' 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California: Sierra Nevada/ Cascade Mountains/ Klamath Mountains/ Coast Range and North Coast/ San Francisco Bay Area, which, if you read through the links above, you'll know that these are the go-to guys for Northern California trail info. This is a terrific book made even better with color photography in this edition.

More About East Anacapa Island

If you read through my brief report above, or if you're familiar with East Anacapa at all, you may enjoy this little story. My experience with snorkeling is basically limited to the Caribbean and a few locations in the eastern USA. You know, you put on some flippers, a mask and a snorkel, and you gently wade into the water. Some of the underwater scenes are breathtaking, so the idea of doing this in the kelp forests of East Anacapa were not to be missed.

Rather than schlep all the gear for four of us on the airplane, I inquired about renting. I was told that would be best, after all, we'd need wetsuits. Wetsuits? Yes, the water can be brutally cold. OK, I've swam in the Pacific before -- Washington State mind you -- but if you think we need them, that's fine.

Once in Oxnard we fitted and rented wetsuits, outer shorty wetsuits, booties, flippers, masks, snorkels, and handy dandy bags to carry all this stuff in. It was convenient enough, right next door to the boat operator.

Landing a boat on East Anacapa is an interesting proposition. We were on a large tour boat, perhaps 100' long, with a deck quite high off the water. The island has no natural landing spot; it is surrounded entirely by cliffs, hundreds of feet high. A landing platform has been bolted to one of these cliffs in a protected cove. Protected, but still subject to currents and home to a viscious blow hole that can suck a smaller boat in and smash it to pieces. So the only boats that can dock are those licensed by the National Park Service, and then the boat must be large enough to have its rear deck close to the height of the platform. The captain has to maintain continuous power to prevent the boat from being dashed into the cliffs. The boat doesn't so much as "dock" as sort of power up to the platform, and stay mashed into it while passengers and gear are unloaded. The deck is about 12' to 18' off the water, it depends on the tide.

While we were unloading our gear I noticed two people quickly hustling into their wetsuits...slip, zip, the suits were on. I turned my attention to watch when the boat pulled away, then was soon surprised by a loud and explosive SPLASH! far below.

"What was that?" I asked.

"A snorkeler" came the reply from the park ranger.

The second snorkeler was now moving to the edge, and jumped -- it was easily 12'. They fell for what seemed an eternity before also exploding loudly into the drink.

"Is that how you get in?"

"Yes."

"OK. Let's go explore the island first."

Later, when it came time to put on our wet suits, I envisioned us doing a quick slip on, zip up, and hoped that the water level had risen. After sweating and struggling mightily for about 10 minutes to get into the torturous, infernal suits -- much to the delight of the assembled onlookers -- it was time to jump. Unfortunately the tide was now out, and the water was even lower than before. As family leader it was time to "cowboy up," show the way, and make the jump. I grabbed my mask, stepped to the edge and peered down. Way down. Mask fogged.

"Are you sure there's water down there?"

Somebody laughed. No, a few people laughed. I cleared my mask and looked down..."I can't do this..."

There are a series of iron ladders that lead straight -- straight -- down to the water. That's how you get back up, after you remove your flippers. I decided to use one of these ladders to get a little lower, a little closer to the water. The first three feet of ladder butts right up to the wooden platform; there's no way to turn around and climb down this first section with flippers on. So I started out facing out. Now I'm down three rungs, my arms stretched back to the ladder, flippers out, looking ridiculous in every way imaginable. If I let go, I'll pitch forward into the water, probably breaking some ribs in a 20' belly flop. So I'm frozen on the ladder in my size XXL wetsuit, can't go up, can't go down.

Slowly, slowly I tried to turn around, figuring I could fall butt-first like a scuba diver off a boat. What I found was that I was below the platform, below the wood, and there was just enough room for my giant flippers between the iron ladder and the cliff. So I boldly chickened out and climbed down the entire ladder. I believe it may be a world record descent of a ladder while wearing flippers and a wetsuit.

My wife and daughters, naturally, just jumped in. Hmmmph.

Orange Crate Art

Orange crate art was a place to start,
orange crate art was a world apart.
Room for two in view of Sonoma,
back when Ramona had heart...
Memories of her orange crate art.

Of all the tunes written about the Golden State, the one album that sums up the whole experience is Orange Crate Art, a collaborative effort by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks from 1995. It's about memories, halcyon days of youth, and palm trees. It soars from the excitement of San Francisco to a bucolic orchard in the countryside. You'll be transported from the golden hills of Northern California, to a starlit drive-in, to a sailboat in the surf. Orange Crate Art is truly a one hour tour of California.

Speaking of Brian Wilson, if you recognized Cabinessence as a composition slated for the legendary Smile album, give yourself seven slackpacker trivia points. If you knew that a decent version was later released on 20/20, add two more points.

-- Rick Bolger

Please click here for the Slackpacker web site

Want to add YOUR California hiking page? It's free, it's easy, and there are no strings attached. Please click the "Submit a Site" button, above left, for instructions and complete information.

PS: Here's a little help for fellow slackpackers. You might want to take a look at this game, called Stare!. Why? Well, "staring" is something we hikers do all the time, and if you have to play a game with your smart-alec niece or nephew, it's more tolerable when you can actually win. Please click the photo to check it out!

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comments? rick(at)slackpacker(dot)com

There are no limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder.

-- Ronald Wilson Reagan