The colors were amazing, brilliant oranges and yellows, worthy of a painting but instead only captured by cameras. It was with that brilliant light that I fell in love with the wilderness. This was my first time truly outside. Not just in the woods, or a few miles from a road. I’d been backpacking in West Virginia and North Carolina before this, but never had I stepped foot in true wilderness.
These three sites--Russell Cave, Ruby Falls, and Mammoth Cave--represent a range of karst landscapes that played varying historic roles in the southeastern United States. There's Russell Cave, which provided shelter to people for millennia; Ruby Falls, excavated only in the 20th century and opened as a tourist site, now renowned for its stunning formations and underground waterfall; and of course the incomparable Mammoth Cave, with its seemingly endless trails.
Located about 35 miles west of LA, Escondido Falls is the tallest Waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains. From smooth paths to rock climbing, the trail offers a little bit of everything for everyone.
The map of the area is wrong. The trail on the map continues due west from the pass, then descends a steep embankment down to Boulder Creek. In reality, the trail turns south and follows a sharp ridgeline gradually to the water. This way down to the creek was stunning. When I reached that ridge, I stopped and stood there in total awe of the valley unfolding before me.
The Culver City Stairs offers an intense climb up 282 uneven stair steps leading to the Baldwin Hills Overlook with amazing views of LA and some quirky sculptures along the way.
There are far too many food options for the field for me to mention all of them here, but needless to say, I’m a big fan of oat meal and quinoa. For lunch, I’ll typically just snack along the trail instead of actually stopping. Granola, almonds, peanuts, cashews, even chocolate.
The initial part of the hike involved tramping through a meadow, then climbing up through a mossy forest. Although we did this hike in late March, conditions were still pretty wintry, with snow lying in uneven patches on the ground. Small, interlocking streams wove like ribbons down the mountainside.