Tag Archives: California

Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail: A Hiker’s Promised Land

Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail in Inyo National Forest, California has it all: from spectacular views of 14+ lakes, 14,000 ft. mountain peaks, and access to the southernmost glacier in the United States and the largest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Palisade Glacier.  There are flowing rivers and waterfalls, rocky switchbacks, Golden Trout, Jeffrey and Lodgepole pines, Aspens, a gorgeous rock cabin built by Lon Chaney Sr. and glacier-fed lakes.  This trail is truly a nature lover’s paradise.

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Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail by Julia at XplorMor

John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”  Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail gives life to these words.  From the moment your car leaves the 395 at Big Pine, California and heads into Big Pine Canyon, it’s clear another world awaits; the further into the canyon, the clearer the vision.  The road ends at the parking area for Inyo National Forest, and the trail head for accessing Big Pine Creek North and South Fork trails.

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Second Lake in Inyo National Forest by Julia at XplorMor

The trail is well-defined throughout its about 19 miles, except one mile in from starting at the Glacier Lodge trail head where signage is missing (Read more on Finding the Trail).  As the trail winds up Big Pine Canyon glimpses of a possible destination, Palisade Glacier, are seen through the trees and past the overlooks.  The trail to the glacier gains more than 4,000 feet in elevation with intervals of steep narrow rocky switchbacks and sharp drop-offs, yet the destination beckons an enticement of wonder and untouched natural landscape.  Many hikers do not reach Palisade Glacier as it requires extensive hiking and possibly an overnight stay in this rugged wilderness.  Regardless of whether the hiker follows the loop past seven lakes on a day excursion or ventures further overnight to the glacier, the scenery will not disappoint in this hiker’s promised land.

View slide shows and read more about Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail and Inyo National Forest.

Sanctuary of the Monarch Butterfly

Sanctuary of the Monarch Butterfly: NOW is the time to visit Monarch Grove Sanctuary. According to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California (also known as “Butterfly Town, USA”), the butterfly population is now estimated at 14,000.  The Monarchs cluster by the hundreds into beautiful orange cascades in the pine and eucalyptus trees of the Sanctuary. We were recently at the preserve and saw the clustered butterflies awaken and flutter about as the sun warmed the area.  A remarkable sight.

The Monarch overwintering season is from November through February. “Overwintering” means to pass through or wait out the winter.  The Monarchs venture to the mild climate of the Central California Coast to avoid colder weather. They may travel up to 2000 miles to make this journey. A docent at the Sanctuary, explained this phenomena is unique as several generations of Monarchs have lived and died since the departure of last year’s gathering, and so this generation appears without ever having been to the Sanctuary.

Big Sur Expedition - Jan 2014 XplorMor Inc

XplorMor: Monarch Grove Sanctuary

Monarch Grove Sanctuary is located at 263 Grove Acre Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950.  Open everyday from sunrise to sundown, and admission is free.  The Pacific Grove Museum emphasizes, “The community has always welcomed the butterflies and sought their protection. Citizens of Pacific Grove voted to create an additional tax to create the Sanctuary of the Monarch Butterfly, led by dedicated volunteers.  The Pacific Grove Police Department continues to enforce strict regulations that prohibit the “molestation of butterflies.”  The fine?  $1,000.”  

Read more about Monarch Butterflies and this wonderful Sanctuary of the Monarch Butterfly.

Big Sur: California’s Meeting of Land & Sea

This may be where the phrase  “California Beautiful” was coined, or at least it should be…

Drive along California’s Highway 1 for any distance past the sleepy beach town of Moro Rock and you quickly realize why the California Central Coast pulls thousands of visitors from around the world. On one side, the road winds along rugged coast with gorgeous expansive scenic views, and on the other, it bends past rolling fields and jagged mountains. Every car turnout has a worthwhile vista; there’s high cliffs covered with colorful ice-plant, whales, seals, dolphins and otters in the ocean waters, and birds gliding in cool breezes of fresh salty air. The climate is mild, excellent for trails to be accessed year round.  And, there are many hiking trails up into the hills and down to the sea coves and beaches.

Big Sur: California's Meeting of Land & Sea, Big Sur, Big Sur Expedition - Jan 2014 XplorMor Inc

XplorMor Big Sur Expedition by Julia at XplorMor

Places of interest along the coast are numerous, and may be accessed from easy walks to lengthy climbing trails. In fact visitors spend anywhere from four days to two weeks, and still find they haven’t had enough time to see it all. There is Lover’s Point, a large rock formation protruding into Monterey Bay, only a short distance from parking. Or for the more adventurous, the Pine Ridge Trail in Los Padres National Forest leads into the Ventana Wilderness and Santa Lucia Mountains with access to rivers, waterfalls and thermal springs. There are stands of rare, endemic Santa Lucia Firs visible at higher elevations.

Point Lobos is also a popular destination offering hiking trails along its shoreline that lead to hidden coves. (Note: Get there early as parking is limited and this California State Natural Reserve is well-known.  Also, make sure to adhere to parking signs as I watched a ranger leave tickets on unsuspecting windshields.  Really this applies to the entire coast.) There is also Andrew Molera State Park with hikes winding along the Big Sur River, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with groves of Colonial Redwood Trees. Nearby is Pfeiffer Beach with a wonderful stone arch in the sea, excellent for photographs, especially at sunset.

Big Sur: California's Meeting of Land & Sea, Big Sur, Big Sur Expedition - Jan 2014 XplorMor Inc

XplorMor Big Sur Expedition by Julia at XplorMor

There are many waterfalls along the California Central Coast.  One not to be missed is McWay Falls. The falls are nestled in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There is a short trail past the falls and into a pristine beach cove. Experiencing this beautiful trail, the hiker understands why Big Sur is often called “the greatest meeting of land and sea.” South of this state park, are Big Creek Park, Limekiln State Park, Mill Creek, Prewitt Creek, Sand Dollar Beach and Jade Cove. All worth a stop if you enjoy varying hikes and coastal scenery. Towards the southern end of Big Sur, near San Simeon, lies Piedras Blancas Rookery, an Elephant Seal sanctuary with excellent wildlife viewing and coastal hikes. Read more about this preserve in last week’s journal, Elephants of the Sea, and watch the XplorMor Big Sur Expedition Slide show.

Big Sur: California's Meeting of Land & Sea, Big Sur Expedition - Jan 2014 XplorMor Inc

XplorMor Big Sur Expedition by Julia at XplorMor