Author: Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT
When I first landed an assignment in California I was most excited to see all the natural beauty the state has to offer. With 28 designated National Parks and many more state and county parks to explore it was time to get outside and explore! From the desert to the coast with many places to be seen in between, if you like to hike then you will never be bored here. Here are just a few of my favorites since I have been here but there is always so much more to see and do!
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California in Twentynine Palms. It was my first taste of exploring the desert and I was surprised by the large rock formations through out the park and by how much vegetation there was in a place that I was expecting to be flat and sandy. A few not to be missed spots include the Cholla Cactus Garden where hundreds of cactus are gathered with a winding pathway through them so you can see up close how alike and different each one is made. Skull Rock is an easily accessible formation near the road and you can climb among the many rocks nearby with no equipment needed but sturdy shoes. Keys View is a very short 1/4 mile hike that overlooks the San Andreas fault and Palm Springs below and is the kind of place you just can’t help but let a wow slip from your lips when you first see it. While there are many trails to explore and rocks to climb depending on your fancy, I chose to hike the Hidden Valley Trail. It is a relatively flat, easy trail and for a single woman traveling by herself it was populated enough to feel safe without being so crowded that you could not enjoy the scenery and a little bit of solitude to take it all in.
Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is made up of five islands off the coast of Ventura just north of Los Angeles. It is known as the Galapagos of California due to the magnitude of flora and fauna that are only found on these islands. Each island has something different to offer and I would suggest checking out the National Park website (www.nps.gov/chis) to see what island best fits your style. All of the islands are pack in, pack out style meaning there are no facilities to buy food or water on the island and no trash is left behind so take everything you need with you and take all your trash off the island as well. I chose to go to Anacapa Island for the day. The island is about one square mile wide and is located closest to the mainland so you can spend more time on the island and less on a boat. We were lucky to watch a rocket launch from a nearby base on the way out, saw a large pod of a few hundred common dolphins, and spotted two gray whales on our way to the island! The hike on this island is an easy one and quite frankly you will probably stop every few feet to just take in the magnificent view and take pictures. There is a lighthouse but you are not able to go into it as it is still an active lighthouse run by the U.S. Coastguard. The not to be missed point on this island is Inspiration Point. It overlooks the chain of islands and will take your breath away. This has been by far one of my favorite experiences since I have been in California and I would highly recommend booking a ticket on the boat, pack a lunch, and go enjoy your day!
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is located in central California along the legendary Highway 1 just south of Monterey. Plan to arrive early in the day as once the park reaches parking capacity it will close for the day and that happens fairly early. I arrived around 9 and there was still plenty of parking but by 11 they were no longer letting cars in. The fee is $10 and they charge an extra $2 if you want a map. Upon first arriving in the park I spotted my first wildlife as deer were crossing my path. I picked the first parking spot near the water that I found and started hiking, hugging the coast line as I went. Stop to enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing against the coast with large spikes of water coming over the rocks and appreciate the power of the ocean. Climb over the the different rocks and check out what life exists in the tidepools. Bring a pair of binoculars so you can see the whales playing in the ocean off the coast and get an up close view of falcons, hawks, and sea lions as they go about their daily business. It is a really excellent place to spend a day.
Muir Beach is a great place to explore and begin your hike. Parking is free and there are restrooms although there are not flushing toilets and it would be a good idea to bring your own hand sanitizer. The beach itself has fire pits around it and I even caught some glimpses of sea glass on the beach. From the beach there are different trails branching out and you can choose based on the length and challenge that you are wanting. I choose to go south and ended up going at a pretty steep incline for about a half of a mile before the trail evens out but the view is worth every bit of the leg muscle complaining on the way up. From there you can choose to go more inland or hug along the coast with each turn more awe inspiring than the last.
California seems to have a high number of jobs for travelers in the health care field and if you enjoy the outdoors more than just sitting on the patio drinking wine (although there is plenty of that here too!) then it just may be the right destination for you!
About the Author:
Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT is a Floridian with a passion for travel who realized she could combine her passion for travel with physical therapy and became a traveling physical therapist 1.5 years ago. If you want to read further about her adventures you can follow along at Suzanne’s Travel Adventures (suzannestraveladventures.blogspot.com)
All photos courtesy of Suzanne Martin