M*A*S*H Site Hike

The Mission: Hike to the site where the hit show M*A*S*H was filmed.

The Prep: I parked on Mulholland Drive to avoid the parking fee and started from the trail head along the road. You can also park at the main parking area for $12. There are restrooms and water fountains in the parking lot.

The Gear:
Trail shoes
Shades
Sunscreen
Hydration pack
Hat

The Execution:
I grew up watching reruns of the hit show M*A*S*H on television and couldn’t resist the opportunity to hike out to the site where the show was filmed. I arrived early enough to find street parking and avoid paying the fee at the park entrance. I entered the park through a trail head on Mulholland Drive and was quickly met with myriad forks in the road. I didn’t have a trail map so I pulled out my phone and looked for “Crags Road”. The actual site lies on this road so it was a good directional reference point.

A short way down the path, I ran into a lot of families heading towards the swimming hole. It seemed as though the majority of the people I saw were not here to hike, but rather to picnic and swim. I came to a fork in the road where the majority of the crowd veered to the left towards the water and I stayed right towards the M*A*S*H trail. The scenic hike took me up a short hill with expansive views of the canyon and mountains in the distance. As I descended, I was met with more trail heads in a variety of directions, I continued straight on hoping I was still on the correct path.

Eventually I was met with the sign above, and relieve washed over me as I realized I hadn’t strayed from my course. I crossed over a small bridge that was desperately trying to hide the smelly, stagnant water below. As the path grew narrower, I continued through the trees until the trail opened up to reveal the site I had been waiting for.

I strolled around the site admiring relics of a past life that were now overgrown and rusted. Informational plaques dotted the area offering a glimpse into the bustling past of the secluded site. It was hard to imagine this dense, dry habitat as a former home of Hollywood magic. I sat at a picnic table to enjoy my lunch and bask in the history and drama of the scene before leaving my old television memories to the past and heading home.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: casual
  • Trail is mainly exposed so it gets quite hot. Wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
  • Trails are not well-marked, but if you have your phone, use google maps to ensure you are heading towards or on Crags Road.
  • Park address: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Malibu Creek State Park, Agoura Hills, CA 91301

Solstice Canyon Loop

The Mission: Explore the ruins of Solstice Canyon.

The Prep: Once you turn onto Corral Canyon Rd, turn left into the parking area. There are very few parking spaces here so continue on over the one lane bridge to additional parking. This is also where the trail heads, bathrooms and trail maps can be found.

The Gear:
Trail shoes
Hiking shorts
Tank top
Hydration pack
Shades
Sunscreen
Trail map

The Execution:

I had read about Solstice Canyon and the “eerie abandoned ruins” as a must see so I decided to check it out for myself. Upon arriving at the park, I saw multiple trail heads so I grabbed a map and scouted out the Solstice Canyon trail head. The trail started out easy, flat and with plenty of tree coverage. As I continued on, I was met with several forks in the road and no trail signs. I consulted my trail map only to be more confused. I decided to continue straight on and went up and down a few inclines before I reached “the ruins”.

I walked up a few stairs to an old, demolished building now covered in graffiti and overgrown with foliage. A few old chimneys stood tall and an old stove lay idle in a corner, but otherwise the site was unrecognizable as a former home. As disappointment sent in, I heard someone talking about a waterfall close by. My excitement grew as I climbed the steps to the “falls”. I was met with a trickle of water cascading down boulders looking thirsty and aching for its’ former glory to be restored to pre-drought conditions. As I descended the falls, past the crowds that had amassed, I yearned for a quieter hike back and decided to connect to the Rising Sun trail to loop back to the parking lot.

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The Rising Sun trail started out on a fairly steep incline and continued up, and up and up. Most hikers go out and back on the Solstice Canyon trail and already I was relieved to shed the crowds and enjoy the serene peacefulness of the Rising Sun. The trail was completely exposed with no tree cover and became very hot very quickly. I stopped a few times to hydrate and look back down at the ruins I had just explored and take in the sweeping canyon views.

As I continued on, I was met with an amazing panoramic view. Ocean on one side, canyon on the other. By this point, the trail had leveled off and I was able to stroll along easily while taking in the views. Eventually I reached the TRW overlook trail, from here you can take the TRW loop the long way (to the right) back to the parking lot or the short way (to the left) back to the parking lot. I chose to go left, went down a steep grade and then descended some stairs before arriving back at my original starting point.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Many parts of the trail are exposed and can be very hot, pack enough water and sunscreen.
  • Trails are not marked well so be sure to grab a trail map before beginning your hike.
  • Restrooms and water fountains available at trail head.

Moraine State Park

The Mission: Take a day trip to Moraine State Park.

The Prep: Packed a picnic lunch and strapped my bike to the car.

The Gear:
Shades
Sunscreen
Bike/helmet
Picnic lunch
Water
Sandals
Beach towel
Walking shoes

The Execution:
Growing up in Pittsburgh, my family would often take a day trip to Moraine State Park. An easy 45 minute drive from the city, the park has a gorgeous lake, bike and hiking trails, disc golf and even a beach. I decided to relive my childhood and spend the day at my beloved lake. I packed a cooler with water and a picnic lunch, strapped my bike to the car and headed north to the park.

I decided to start my day on the lake with some kayaking so I headed towards the South Shore. I put on my sandals and shades and rented a kayak at Crescent Bay boat rental. Canoes, boats and SUP are also available for rental here.

Out on the water, boats cruised by, fisherman made the catch of the day and my skin fried to a crisp. I paddled around a small island, over to the opposite shore and through some passing sailboats before my arms were completely worn out and I headed back to shore. All in all, I spent about an hour out on the water which was more than enough for my arms.

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After a morning on the lake, I stopped by one of the many picnic areas in the park to enjoy my lunch before heading to the bike trail on the North Shore. I brought my own bike and helmet for the day, but there is a bike rental area at the trail head if you don’t have your own.

The 14 mile RT trail weaves in and out through the trees offering glimpses of the lake. Along the trail there are several picnic areas, benches, restrooms and even a camp site. At the 7 mile marker, the trail ends with a great view of the lake. I stopped here to hydrate and rest my legs before heading back. This trail is NOT a loop; the trail is 7 miles each direction and there are many hills and curves. On my return, I stopped by the “beach” to cool my feet off in the ice-cold water before I continued my journey. There is a parking area at the beach if you decide to drive out after your ride. The actual beach is rather tiny, but there is a large grassy area, picnic benches and even a disc golf course. After my stop at the beach, I finished my 14 mile ride and headed back towards Pittsburgh utterly exhausted.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Photo ID and cash or credit deposit is needed for all rentals.
  • You will have to drive from the South Shore to North Shore- this is not walking distance.
  • Trail maps are available at the bike rental center.

Anatomy of a Day Hike

Anatomy of a Day Hike

So you want to go on a day hike….

If you’ve read my blog, you know I do a lot of hiking, but what you don’t read about is what goes on behind the scenes. Below, I’ll walk you through the steps I take to prepare for a day on the trails.

  • Terrain: Boulders, ice, gravel, paved, steep, flat? There are various types of terrain and different footwear options for each. Do some research on the trail you will be hiking and then decide on which footwear suits that terrain. From trail shoes to mountaineering boots, there are different levels of footwear. I recommend stopping by your local outdoor store (I love REI) to get fitted for a pair that suits your needs. Depending on the terrain, you may want to opt for a pair of trekking poles. I find they really help on steep or rocky terrain.
  • Weather: Hot, cold, rainy, windy? Check the weather before you start preparing for your hike.
    >Warm weather: Let’s face it, you’re gonna sweat. I love the wicking technology that “wicks away the sweat” and is fast drying. I go for a wicking/SPF top, hiking shorts, wicking socks, bandanna to wipe away the sweat, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, appropriate footwear.
    >Cold Weather: Layers, layers, layers. I still recommend wearing a wicking shirt as the base layer. I typically go with a long-sleeved “cold gear” specific wicking top. Next is my insulating layer; I like to go with a fleece. For my outer layer, I absolutely recommend a water-PROOF not water-resistant jacket, it will make all the difference if you get caught in the rain or snow. On the bottom, I again go with cold gear pants layered under a thicker pair of hiking pants. On the feet, I go with a thicker pair of wicking socks and waterproof boots. Don’t forget the accessories! A fleece lined hat, gloves, and a scarf top off the ensemble. I also like to take an extra pair of socks and an extra layer or two, it’s always better to be prepared in case the temperature takes a plunge.
  • Essentials: I like to keep a list of my hiking “essentials”. These are the items that I take with me regardless of the distance, duration, weather, or terrain of the hike. Keeping a list handy helps me ensure I never forget anything.
    >Directions: Weather you have a gps system or map and compass, make sure you know where you’re going! Also, let a family member or friend know your plans for the day and what time they should expect you back. Check in with them upon returning so they know you are safe.
    >Water: The most important item on your list. I typically take a hydration pack- a backpack that has a bladder inside to hold the water and a tube that comes out the top to drink from. It is so important to make sure you are properly hydrated. Take enough water for you hike and monitor your intake throughout the day. It’s not a bad idea to take a water purification system with you in case you run out of water and need to drink from a local source.
    >Food: Food is essential to keep you going. You will be burning a lot of energy while hiking all day so bring plenty of food and snacks including protein.
    >Sun Protection: Protect yourself from those rays! Sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply), sunglasses, hat or visor, SPF clothing.
    >First Aid: I recommend picking up a pre-packaged first aid kit- they have everything you need and in smaller quantities than buying everything individually. Insect repellent typically is not included in first aid kits so make sure you grab some. I love the insect repellent wipes with deet. They are portable, easy to use, and effective- again, I bought mine at REI. Another addition to your first aid pack- TP. Let’s face it, you will eventually have to go and having TP with you will make it way more comfortable to do your business. I also recommend taking a plastic zip lock bag to put your used TP in (leave no trace- take out what you take in).
    >Emergency Kit: Personally, I always have a whistle, lighter or waterproof matches, multi-tool, cell phone, compass/map and some sort of flashlight.

A Weekend in Yosemite

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The Mission: Spend a weekend camping at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley.

The Prep:
Depending on the year, the valley may not open until June based on that year’s snowfall. Accommodations in peak season are booked months in advance so plan ahead. I made a reservation for the Curry Village canvas tent cabins, but regular cabins with private bathrooms are also available.

The Gear:
Sleeping bag (blankets, pillows and towels are provided, but I prefer to use my own sleeping bag)
Headlamp
Hiking boots
Merino wool socks
Padlock
Camelbak
Extra layers
Earplugs

The Execution:
Living in central California, I was lucky enough to have Yosemite National Park at my doorstep. Only an hour from the park entrance, I traveled to the park most weekends for day hiking and exploring. When family came to visit, I decided to make a reservation at Curry Village so we could spend a long weekend in the park. I booked my reservation 2 months in advance and got one of the last tent cabins available. A tent cabin is basically a wooden platform and frame draped in canvas. Unlike typical tents, the tent cabins have an actual door. Inside, the tent is outfitted with cots including blankets, pillows, and towels. Outside, each tent cabin has its own bear proof storage locker. Communal bathrooms and showers are available for those staying in the village.

Upon arriving at the park, a fee is required for entry. The entrance fee is per vehicle, not per person and around $30 USD. I however possess an annual pass for all national parks which is a great deal at $80 USD/year. After entering the park, it’s about an hour drive down to the valley and Curry Village.  On the drive to the valley, we passed through a long tunnel opening up to one of the most magnificent views of the park, rightly named “tunnel view”. Here we got our first glimpse of the famous El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls.

After arriving and checking in at Curry Village, we went through all of our belongings and put aside ANYTHING that may have a scent to it. This includes all food, beverage, toiletries, chap-stick or anything else that has a scent and we stored these items in the bear locker outside of the tent. The bears in the park are very savvy so we secured our locker with our padlock and checked our car to ensure nothing scented was left behind. This may sound dramatic, but check out the car on display in the valley where a bear ripped the door off of a car because it smelled something inside!

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We spent the rest of the day exploring the park and taking in the natural beauty surrounding us. The park offers something for every activity and skill level; from short walks to the falls, rock climbing, rafting, bus tours, biking and long hikes there is something for everyone. One of the most famous viewpoints is at Glacier Point. Visitors can either make reservations for a bus tour or drive to the top where there is an amazing view of half dome.

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The next day, we decided to wake up early to conquer one of my favorite hikes in the park. This trail starts at Glacier Point and ends down in the valley. This is a one way trail so we took the bus up to Glacier Point so we could hike back down to the valley. There are two trails, but I prefer the 8.5 mile panoramic trail. While it sounds like this trail would be mostly downhill, it is quite the opposite. The trail is very strenuous and takes somewhere between six and eight hours to complete. Although this hike is demanding, it provides some of the most beautiful views of the park including panoramic views of the valley and an up close and personal encounter with Illilouette Falls. The trail eventually merges with the Mist Trail where you guessed it, it’s quite misty. Prepare to see some beautiful waterfalls, but also to get a little wet.

After an intense day of hiking, we spent our final evening in the park relaxing in the valley. That night, the valley turned intensely dark, ideal for star gazing and on this perfectly clear night, the stars were nearly bright enough to light the whole camp. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

The Highlights:

  • Make reservations early.
  • Take earplugs as the tents are close together and can be noisy.
  • Be sure to put all scented items in the bear locker.

Hiking Breakneck Ridge

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The Mission: Escape NYC for a day in the great outdoors.

The Prep:
Grab a train ticket from Grand Central to Breakneck Ridge. Travel time is approximately an hour and a half.

The Gear:
Trail shoes
Hydration pack
Hiking pants
Light layers on top
Shades
Sunscreen

The Execution:
Being an outdoor lover in NYC can be quite difficult. Central Park is great, but sometimes you yearn for something more. Every fall, the outdoor loving city dwellers of NYC clamor upstate to Cold Spring, NY for the fresh, crisp fall air and Instagram worthy foliage. We gather at Grand Central Station, clad in our lulu with coffee in hand to board the early morning metro-north train for Breakneck Ridge. While many take this time to enjoy the scenery from their train car window, we seize this opportunity to continue sleeping off our hangovers. After about an hour and a half, we arrive at our destination. We followed the throngs of fellow hikers exiting the train and headed to the trail head.

The beginning of the trail requires a lot scrambling and with hikers of all levels navigating the face, the initial ascent was slow moving. After conquering the steep slope, we were greeted with sweeping views of the Hudson Valley River. We stopped for some water and a few photos before continuing on. Most hikers continue on the white trail, but we decided to avoid the crowds and follow the red and yellow blazes down the bypass trail onto Wilkinson Memorial Trail. This part of the hike was much easier than the initial climb and dropped down into the tree covered valley. The leaves at this time of year boasted a variety of vibrant colors and offered a serene setting. We followed the stream through the forest until we ended up on the main road. From here we followed the signs to the town of Cold Spring.

Cold Spring is a quaint little town with a bustling main street lined with independent shops and restaurants. Alongside the train tracks is Cold Spring Depot Restaurant, the perfect spot for a post-hike drink. We grabbed a table near the band and ordered up some hot cocoa with Baileys, enjoyed some much needed grub and reminisced about our day before crossing the tracks and hopping on a train back to city life.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Approximate hiking time: 3-4 hours
  • Train time each way: 1.5 hours
  • Check the train schedule as not all trains stop at Breakneck Ridge.
  • Take plenty of water.
  • There are many restaurants downtown for lunch after hiking.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.

The Steps to Elephant Mountain

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The Mission: Hike Elephant Mountain for a stunning view of downtown Taipei.

The Prep:
Take the metro to Xiangshan station and leave through exit #2. Follow the path next to the park and turn left at the park’s end. You will walk up a small hill and make a right where you will see the steps to the entrance of the trail.

The Gear:
Comfortable walking shoes
Raincoat
Water
Camera

The Execution:
Taipei 101, an immense skyscraper in downtown Taipei dominates the skyline. I had heard that the best way to see this tower was from Elephant Mountain. Unfortunately, this was my last day in Taipei and it happened to be raining, but I decided to go for it anyway. After finding the entrance, I realized I should have spent some more time on the step machine at the gym. The trail starts with some steps, continues with some steps and leads to, you guessed it…more steps. There was a small overlook platform to stop and take in the view before continuing on to the “real view”. Here there were several large boulders that other visitors were climbing on to get the ultimate photo. With the heavy rain and my ultimate clumsiness, I decided to forego the climbing and walk a little further. I continued up the trail until I saw a small path off to the left. This I believe was the best viewing area. From here I could see the clouds rolling by offering me short glimpses of that giant skyscraper, Taipei 101. Even in the rain, the view was incredible. I continued up the path a bit, but I had no idea where it led so I eventually turned around and headed back down the slippery stairs in the pouring rain.

The Highlights: 

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • When you reach the fork in the path, I suggest taking the route to the left. It’s a little less intense.
  • If you go in the rain like myself, watch your footing as it was quite slippery.

Biking the Coastal Trail in Anchorage

anchorage

The Mission: Bike 22 miles from downtown Anchorage to the chalet at Kincaid Park.

The Prep: 
No need to reserve in advance. Head to the Downtown Bicycle Rental  shop and pick up your bike, lock, helmet and directions. The trip should take roughly 3 hours. Bike rental is $16 for the first 3 hours. You will be charged upon return for any additional time you keep the bike.

The Gear:
Light layers as the wind can be chilly on the bike
Water
Sunscreen
Comfortable shoes

The Execution:
We started the day early and picked up our bikes at the rental shop where we received detailed instructions from the staff on how to get to the entrance of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. We pedaled through town to the trail entrance where we followed the coast of Cook Inlet. We encountered sweeping views of far off mountain ranges and a glimpse of bald eagle soaring high above us. The trail proceeds to parallel the train tracks for a bit before weaving back into the lush greenery. There were a few rest areas where we stopped to take in the view of Anchorage,snap some photos and grab a snack. You can choose to stop and turnaround at any point on the trail, but we continued on to the end (11 miles) and then turned around to head back to town- 22 miles in total. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a ton of wildlife on our ride, but it was still a beautiful and relaxing ride- a great introduction to Alaska and a must do if you visit Anchorage!

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: casual to moderate
  • If you’re not up for a bike ride, it’s a nice trail for a casual walk.
  • Keep your eye out for wildlife!
  • Wear bug spray- lots of mosquitoes.

Navigating Nha Trang

The Mission: Explore Nha Trang, Vietnam on my own terms.

The Prep: Do some research and decide what attractions you can’t miss and check out a few local tour agencies to compare prices.

The Gear:
Shades
Sunscreen
Bathing suit
Comfortable shoes
Water

The Execution:
Nha Trang- a beautiful beach town with blue skies and sparkling waters. From HCM you can either take an 8 hour train ride or a one hour flight into Nha Trang. I opted to fly via Vietjet for an incredible price of $50 USD roundtrip.

Nha Trang is known for its beaches, but I had read about some beautiful waterfalls up in the mountains and was eager to do some hiking. There were many tour companies along the main roads so I took a stroll to check out some of my options. I could rent a motorbike and cruise the area myself, but I’m terrified to drive one of those things so I decided I would hire a driver for the day. Most companies offer tour packages that take you to many of the most popular sites, but I wanted something a bit different. I spoke with the tour operator and listed the areas I wanted to see. After a bit of negotiating, we came to an agreement that the driver would take me to my listed destinations over a period of 6 hours for $20 USD.

I met my driver, strapped on my helmet and saddled up for a day of exploring Nha Trang. Our first stop was Long Son Pagoda with the famous sleeping Buddha. I was warned by my driver upon entry that there were many scam artists in the area and not to speak to anyone. As I started to explore the area, I was approached by a number of people trying to sell me things and begging for money. My driver, being a bit protective, took notice and escorted me through the grounds for the remainder of my time there. After hiking the steps to see Sleeping Buddha and taking photos with the giant White Buddha, we were off. We stopped at a local home where I learned how to weave a rug, stopped by the fishing village, explored the Po Nagar Temple, cruised down the coast and through the rice fields on the way to Ba Ho Waterfall.

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Once at the park, my driver took to his hammock as I hiked towards the falls. The trail up follows the stream and is covered by trees. I hiked until I came to a fork in the road with a few women selling food and beverages. They pointed me in the right direction and I eventually saw the red arrows painted on the rocks. I followed the arrows up, around and over the rocks until I reached the falls. While not overly impressive, the hike was a lovely and refreshing change from the bustle of HCM where I had been the previous week. I wandered around for a bit and took a quick dip in the pools to cool down from my hike before I headed back down to find my driver and head back to town.

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The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the tour companies and get the experience you want for the price you can afford.

A Day at Sun Moon Lake

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The Mission: Cycle and Hike in one day!

The Prep:
From Taipei, take a train to Taichung. When you arrive at Taichung, stay in the building, but go all the way downstairs where you will see a counter to purchase bus tickets. Ask for a ticket on the Nan-Tou bus to Sun Moon Lake and which station to wait at. The bus ride will take approximately 90 minutes.

The Gear:
Comfortable shoes
Shades
Sunscreen
Light layers
Lots of water

The Execution:
The bus dropped me off near a 7-11 in town at Sun Moon Lake. I walked down the main road where I saw several places to rent bikes. I surrendered my photo ID and a cash deposit to rent a bike asked for directions to the Yuetan bike path. I chose to do the 8km trail, but you can also opt to do the full 30km around the lake!

The trail started out paved, crossing a bridge and weaving in and out through the trees before opening up parallel to a main road. Here the trail turned into an elevated boardwalk with vast open views of the lake. I continued on through the trees, over abstract bridges, around meticulously landscaped gardens and out to an overlook. I passed the visitor center and came to a fork in the road, I opted to ride up the ramp and eventually down along the lake again. After riding sever more kilometers, I realized I was no longer on the trail I had intended to do, but continuing further on. Since I planned on hiking later in the day, I opted to turn around and head back to along the trail to town. I was amazed by the variety of vantage points along the trail that provided a different perspective of the lake from every angle.

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With only one day at Sun Moon Lake, I decided to follow up my bike ride with a hike to Xuanzhuang Temple. After dropping off my bike, I went down to the pier and took a shuttle boat for $NT100 across the lake. the Mt. Shueisheda trail is approximately 5.6km and got rather steep in certain areas. It was a beautiful hike with lovely foliage, but not many tourists tend to hike that far back so it was not nearly as crowded as many of the other trails. I hiked the steps and reached the main road where I finally saw the temple. After touring the temple and the grounds, I stopped at a lovely covered sitting/picnic area and enjoyed the great view of the lake. After my legs recovered, I headed back down the trail and took the shuttle back to the other side of the lake.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Grab a lock from the bike rental company so you can stop and explore.
  • Take your camera for this scenic route!
  • The bike rental company will charge you by the hour so make sure to time your ride if you are trying to stick to a certain budget.
  • Take plenty of water for your hike, there are steep areas including a section of steps.