Important thing to do on your birthday…

If you live in Southern California, you must make it a point to go to Big Bear for your birthday. I’m not just talking about going to Big Bear, I’m talking about snowboarding/skiing there. The reason why this is important is because if you have a birthday during snowboarding/skiing season, you get a lift ticket for FREE. It may be a little hard to encourage your friends to go along because it is not free for them, but if you plan enough time in advance, then you can make it happen.

This is one thing my sister and I try to do each year on our birthday if we are in town. This year was special because our older sister and her boyfriend were here from Switzerland and they made it the best.

– Misi

Thanksgiving for trips…

Every year since we were about 12, we have gone on a trip for Thanksgiving. We would pack our water proof bags and go on a journey to the Colorado River, in which we spent four days. No, we didn’t spend four days reading Harry Potter on the shores of the Colorado River, we spent four days canoeing down the river or up the river, moving our camps like nomads.

This year was exceptional for me, because not only have I not been on this trip for more than 4 years, but we didn’t get into the water at all. It was freezing and not just the water obviously. We spent the whole time with chattering teeth from the crazy winds. Enough about those things that don’t matter when you are on trips like this one.

Each day we would canoe several miles down the river. During this time, we would loaf with the other canoes and have some mate, a strong drink (tea) from Argentina. This was extremely soothing because it was cold and windy the whole time. While loafing we made sails with tarps and space blankets that we had. With the wind going toward our backs we were able to move much swifter and quicker in the water without having to paddle.

Before dinner, we would go on a hike to the highest point in the area- taking in each moment of sunsets and scenery around. When night fell we sang songs and told jokes by the fire. Out there a must do was to watch the million stars in the sky which you are unable to see if you live in the city of lights, Los Angeles.

If you live near the Colorado River, canoeing/kayaking is an obvious trip that should be made. The landscape and scenery is beautiful by day and the sky is bewitching by night.


P.S. Another adventure you can experience is depicted in the following video…

Arizona Hot Springs – another way

Five hour drive from Los Angeles, but well worth it. Walking through a wash most of the way, we found a hike that leads into Arizona Hot Springs. We’ve been there before, but only by canoeing up from Willow Creek Docking Area.
It was so windy the day we went in, but who cares, we got to go to a hotsprings. The one most annoying thing about the whole hike was that we were hiking on little rocks the whole 2 hours in, which made it harder to feel like we were moving. But, we were moving! After a couple successful rockclimbs, we found the Colorado River.

After arriving, we set up the tent on a sandy part right next to the river up on a ledge. We were covered by some bushes, but the wind still hit us pretty harshly during the night. We woke up to a pile of sand on our tent. Before we went to sleep, we headed over to the hot springs.

After going over the canyon we hit another wash, yes we were so happy to walk in the little rocks again. Once we found some water that was coming from the hot springs, we changed into our suits and sandals. The water kept getting warmer and warmer. Yes it kept getting even warmer, but not until we hit the ladder and had to climb it. That was an enjoyement in itself, though a little bit scary as well.

Once the climb was over, there was a small pool that was pretty warm. The higher you went there were three more pools and they got hotter and hotter. The middle pool was just perfect and kept us away from the harsh winds outside the canyon walls.

We spent about 3 hours there and were completely exhausted, because the hot water sucks the life out of you. Went back to the campground through the wash down to the river and over the canyon and back down to the other side. We found our tent and stuff butchered by the wind, everything was sandy. We cleaned up and made a fire, wasn’t to pleasant because of the wind, but still warmed us up.

Apart from the wind all went well. We headed out the next day to Hoover Dam. If you ever consider visiting Hoover Dam make your way over to Arizona Hot Springs, it’s a pleasant easy hike with a soothing reward!


Nicholas Flat Trail – Leo Carrillo State Park

Location: Leo Carrillo State Park
Elevation Gain: 1800 feet
Mileage: 7.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Type: Out and back

Nicholas Flat Trail is located just across Leo Carrillo State Park. The area offers easy to moderate hiking, a small pond and views of Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. 45 minutes away from Santa Monica, 30 minutes away from the Valley. You could go across the street right after your hike and jump in the ocean of course according to weather, but we have perfect weather here in Southern California!


Leo Carrillo State Park is only a 30 minute drive from Santa Monica.


From the south (Santa Monica) take 10 West to PCH (CA-1 North). Once on PCH drive 27.3 miles. The park will be on your right after the Decker Road (hwy 23) intersection. You will know you have driven past the park if you hit Mulholland.
From the valley, take Kanan Rd. exit off hwy 101. Take Kanan Rd. south for 6.5 miles. Turn right onto Mulholland and drive 0.9 miles until taking the fork to the left onto Encinal Canyon Rd. Drive 8.5 miles to PCH and turn right. drive 3 miles and the park will be on your right.

There is $14 parking across the street at Leo Carrillo State Park. If you do not want to pay that price, there is parking along PCH for free. Careful to read signs before you leave your car for a few hours. I would recommend going a bit earlier as parking is very scarce even at 8 in the morning.

Nicholas Flat Trailhead is a little bit past the entry kiosk.

Nicholas Flat Network

Recommended Gear

Nothing new, we wanted to get out of the city again but just a quick close by hike! This hike is nearly 45 minutes away from where we live, therefor thought it would be a cool new trail to explore. Luckily we did some reading before and headed there right before 7am and fairly close parking spot. We must of been the 10th person or so to park. We had been doing hikes that were a little easier, so we decided to find a bit more challenging one with a little more elevation gain and mileage.

The beginning of the hike starts a little bit past the entrance to the park. There are restrooms and water available at the campground just after the kiosk station and before the trailhead. The trailhead to look for at the beginning is Camp 13 and a short distance later there will be a junction with signs for Nicholas Flat Trail and Willow Creek Trail. This is a very popular hike to do a loop around as these two trail join up again later in the hike.

We took Nicholas Flat Trail heading a little bit towards the north. The trail almost immediately climbs quite steeply. The higher we got in elevation, the more we climbed, the better the views got (although for us it was a very misty morning in April and we didn’t know this until we were on our way back down after the sky cleared up).

The 1,800 feet elevation wasn’t the most gradual, but we finally reached more of an open area where we went steadily looking for Nicholas Pond. This area is a great place to have lunch or a small picnic before heading back down. I was expecting the pond to be empty

We went back to the top and with a view of the hills below had lunch there and headed down as the sun beat down on us. The way down was eventful as we passed many hikers coming up (we were alone in the morning) and the views became more and more clear. Since it was spring, the wildflowers were blooming.

Note to self: wear pants next time because of ticks! Nothing happened to us though, just a precaution.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook – Culver City


Location: Culver City, CA
Elevation Gain: 315 feet
Mileage: 0.4-2.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Type: Stairs, short workout


Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a perfect place to go not to far away from home, especially if you live in Culver City. The park is located in downtown Culver City; it is often referred to as Culver City Stairs even though it is part of the Baldwin Hills hence it’s name. The couple Ricardo Rabines and Taal Safdie are the architects behind the visitor center and trail construction including the stairs. Safdie Rabines Architects “principal goal of the Master Plan has been to preserve and enhance the unique qualities of this expansive site through the restoration of its natural ecosystems, creating a harmonious balance between community recreational activities and the natural systems within the site.” What’s interesting about their approach is that they built these stairs from concrete they found on the property. There are 282 unique steps that vary in size. The park re-opened in 2009 after being closed down after it’s purchase in 2000.

This is not a dog friendly hike, keep that in mind.


The park’s entrance is at 63000 Hetzler Rd. off of Jefferson Blvd. Parking is available at the top of the hill for $6.00 and free if you park on Jefferson (some hours are coin operated on Jefferson, be sure to check signs before leaving you car). From 10 Freeway, take the Overland Ave. exit south. Turn left on Washington Blvd. after 1.2 miles. Turn right on Duquesne Ave after 0.6 miles and in another 0.6 miles turn left on Jefferson Blvd. In about 1/2 mile you will see the trailhead on Jefferson just after Heltzer Rd.

Helpful Links

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Parks and Rec Website
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Map
National Park Service Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Information


I grew up in Culver City and for years never came to the Culver City Stairs; that’s the name I grew up knowing it. It is literally in the heart of downtown Culver City offering the stairs, winding dirt trails, visitor center, birds, flowers, many many snails in this park of 58 acres. We did the trail a few times and I found it fun to take the stairs up and run the switchbacks down the dirt trail few times. The area is perfect training for hiking, running or just a workout.

The Overlook offers a panoramic view of the entire Los Angeles Basin, the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains. On a clear day it’s gorgeous especially just after a huge rain where the local mountains offer snow covered peaks.