In an effort to bring you some new voices on Ottsworld, here is a guest post from an Ottsworld reader and blogger Stacey Ebert. Not everyone loves hiking like I do, for some it’s an acquired taste. She tells us how about how she has discovered her love of hiking. All opinions and experiences expressed here are hers. –Sherry
I grew up on Long Island, New York – in the northeast coast of the US. As an allergy-laden kid with seasonal allergies that left my eyes swollen and head ready to explode for much of the year, it was no surprise to anyone that my favorite season was summer. To this day, my motto is ‘any day by the beach is a good day’. Any waking hour I could find, I spent at the beach. With my undying love for sand and sea and allergy to all things trees and grass, I moved to an ocean front apartment and spent a decade breathing the healing powers of the ocean and simultaneously limiting my time in pollen-friendly locations. I had never thought much about making hiking a priority. Then I went to New Zealand, met a boy and all things changed.
The Beginning of the Hiking Shift
As a high school teacher, I had built in holidays and was off from school in the summer. Working every summer as lifeguard/aquatics director, I traveled during those other breaks and always veered towards warm weather and beach-focused spots. I was bound by the search for vitamin D. From the start of the warm season in NY, I barely left my spot on the sand. All were always invited to join, but it was rare that I voluntarily put on shoes and always spent much of the season smelling like sunscreen and ocean air. Life was gauged by the arrival of lifeguard stands, sunsets, boardwalk wanders, beach yoga, s’mores and sandy toes. After a one-year around the world honeymoon following the sun, it was harder to return to the land of freezing winters, pollenated springs, and ragweed infested autumns and only waiting for those precious sun-filled summer weekends on the sand. Life shifted, we wanted more of those warm days, more of those pollen-free breaths and more of the year with the ability to spend outside. We headed to San Diego – that shift made all the difference.
Is Hiking in My Blood?
My Dad had spent years on the hiking trails of Long Island. Relishing the peace, quiet, views and natural elements; the serenity he found seemed akin to what I got from afternoons on the beach. I wanted to know what it felt like, but couldn’t find the right time – until we made that westward move. For so much of my New York life, summers were meant for camp and the beach and the rest of the year was too allergy-laden or too cold for my asthma-focused lungs. On our international jaunts, the husband and I got to take in a few hikes, but we were never in one space long enough to have a continued hiking pattern. In December of 2014, we headed west to San Diego to ditch a New York winter for 3 months – it’s now been 3.5 years and we feel like we’ve found our spot.
Finding the San Diego Trails
In San Diego, we have 365 days of an outside lifestyle. Sure there are a few where you need socks and a jacket, and a few where an umbrella is necessary – but for the most part, this flip-flop, ocean loving girl has found her tribe. Here in the southern California, the ocean meets the land and the seasonal shifts are limited. Although I’ve always been of the opinion that ‘every day’s a beach day’, for me – in San Diego, the percentage of potential beach days are even higher than New York’s. Feeling the limited temperature changes, living by the ocean, regularly ‘earthing’ on the beach, surrounded by the desert-heavy environment, and met by more tropical and island friendly fauna – my lungs have eased, my allergies lessened and the possibilities of time on the trail has increased exponentially.
It’s in San Diego, where I truly found that love of hiking. This is where I began to lace up my newly acquired hiking shoes and set out on the trail. Of course, I often tend towards those trails that overlook a body of water, have sandy/dirt lined paths and can end with my feet splashing through the waves; but there’s far more here. We’ve taken to desert trails in parks like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree, Crystal Cove and Palm Springs’ Indian Canyon. We’ve spent time on the lake trails of Big Bear, the tree-lined paths of Iron Mountain, camped in Cleveland National Forest’s Mount Laguna Recreational Area and got to share our love of Torrey Pines with Dad when he came to visit. On weekends, we’ve tried to spend one day on the trails and one day on the sand. Of course, often we head to the sand after the trail too, but this is me, I may actually have salt water running through my veins.
Our favorite San Diego Trails So Far
Within San Diego
- Torrey Pines State Reserve (Torrey Pines/Del Mar)
- Batiquitos Lagoon (Carlsbad) – short, flat trail around a lagoon/marsh atmosphere complete with heaps of wildlife sightings
- Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve (Mira Mesa) – consists of many trails, some are flatter than others; main trail ends at a waterfall
- Iron Mountain (Poway) – hike the inclines all the way to the top of the mountain (the views are worth it)
- California Coastal Trail (Downtown – Shelter/Harbor Island) – city center to island locale (part of the grander trail) running alongside the San Diego Bay
- Cabrillo National Monument (Point Loma) – national monument site complete with 45 minute hike, tide pools, whale watching spots, video, visitor center, monuments and landmarks
- Big Sky Ecological Reserve (Poway) – fantastic trail ending in incredible incline and lake views
- Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (Escondido) – endless trails and beautiful views
1-2 hr drive
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Borrego Springs) – brilliant desert scenery including heaps of trails, campsites, visitor centers and animal sightings
- Joshua Tree National Park (Palm Springs/Palm Desert area) – multiple trails, campsites, bouldering locations and ever present signs of two deserts and epic trees
- Crystal Cove State Park (Laguna Beach) – beautiful trails leading to a pristine beach setting
- Indian Canyons (Palm Springs) – desert landscape in the middle of Palm Springs
2-3+ hour drive
- Big Bear Lake (Big Bear) – picturesque mountain/lake town surrounded by nature’s beauty
See my Essential Hiking Gear List
Now that you’ve chosen a hike, you need to know what gear to take with you! Don’t leave on your hike without these hiking gear essentials.!
Generational Connections Through Hiking
They say hiking changes your brain and in this short time, San Diego’s hiking trails have taught me more lessons than I ever expected. My Dad always told me that ‘any day is a good day to be on the trail’, and back east, I wasn’t able to experience it – here, I am. Somehow, life in San Diego has given us a love of the trails. So much so that on the four cross-country road trips we’ve taken recently, we spend far more time searching for trails, hiking in national parks and changing direction when we know there’s a natural site than we ever did before. Somehow our time in San Diego has made this girl who couldn’t ever imagine spending any time away from the ocean actually choose to head to a desert or a land-locked trail and go for a hike. And with my Dad’s unexpected passing late last year, every time I set foot on the trails, I know he’s with me.
Meet the Author
Stacey Ebert is a freelance writer, blogger, educator, event planner, volunteer manager and organizer who has traveled to over 50 of the world’s countries. Writing about adventure, journeys, choosing happy and perspective changing shifts, she encourages travelers to take the leap, use the world as their classroom and get outside their comfort zones. She has lived in Long Beach (New York), Melbourne (Australia) and is presently based in San Diego (California). Check out her blog at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.