One Day: Ocean, Mountain & Desert
Ever since I moved to California (November 2013), I wanted to put together an EPIC one day adventure which would begin with an early morning surf, then a noon ski session on the snow, ending with rock-climbing in the desert. It would be the ‘Mother of All’ one-day adventures, shared with a couple of fellow adventure-addicted mates. SO… last week, I did it and here’s my journey.
After studying the possible routes (and there were a few), we decided Southern California had the best to offer: San Clemente (Surf), Bear Mountain Resort (Ski) and Joshua Tree (Desert).
Thursday morning we loaded up the pickup truck and drove down Hwy 5. Along the way we passed endless fruit farms and breathed enough cattle ranch stench to last a lifetime. Finally, after 5 long hours we met the seven lanes of traffic that welcome all to LA. We rounded the city unscathed, found our campsite at San Onofre State Beach, pitched our tents and decided to have an afternoon practice surf. Gorgeous afternoon, a nice 3ft swell, rocky bottom reef.
We ‘topped-off’ at a local pizza joint in San Clemente and met a guy with no fingers… this random encounter made me ponder how hard life would be without 10 digits. After pizza, we watched the sunset over the surf break that we’d conquer the next morning. A wonderful end to the day! Then we headed back to camp ready for an early night.
6am came quickly and we headed to San Clemente to begin the EPIC 1 Day Adventure. We were met with perfect, glassy 3-4ft waves, peeling off to the right and we hit those bad-boys over and over for the next hour and a half. It wasn’t a very crowded break on the south pier so we got to catch plenty of waves. 400 ft away was a much bigger break and the surf lineup there was steadily growing as the morning wore on. I’m a below average surfer, so the space was nice for me to work on my riding.
At 9am we changed out of our wetsuits and headed to the car for the two and a half hour drive to the mountains. On the way out of San Clemente we found a local bagel joint and downed some precious calories.
On the way up to Bear Mountain traffic stopped dead still, never a good sign! Especially when you’re halfway up a steep mountain. Marc, an Ultrarunner, knew this was his opportunity to be a hero, so he donned his running shoes and bolted up the road to find the source of the traffic. After 30 minutes he came running down the mountain covered in sweat, stopping to share with those who asked what had happened up ahead. It turns out an SUV lost control, jumped over the barrier and the rear wheel caught the guardrail and stopped what surely would have been a certain-death drop. 6000ft up the side of a mountain we passed the wreckage, airbags deployed, windows shattered and we collectively thanked God everyone in the accident escaped and survived.
At 1pm we arrived at the ski resort, suited up and picked up our rentals. The snow conditions were pretty average (March), but there was enough coverage for us to get some good runs. The resort was to close at 3pm, so we wasted no time and jumped on the lifts. One quick practice run to make sure we all remembered how to ski, then we went up to the highest peak. It was 55 degrees, sunny and almost zero wind – a perfect afternoon. The snow was icy in the shade and slushy in the sun, which was a perfect recipe for some fun spills. The oddest part of the ski trip was the 55 year old European lady who decided that it was ok to disrobe completely in the ski rental area to put on her snow pants – It would seem underwear was optional that day. I of course took no photos! 3pm came way too quickly and the resort kicked us off the lifts. While at the rental return area we saw our European ‘friend’ and decided to speed up disembarkation to avoid another rather dubious encounter.
A quick load into the truck and we were on our way to the desert. The drive was spectacular! Watching the scenery change from green to desert was simply breathtaking.
We arrived at Joshua Tree and were greeted by the sun setting over spectacular rock formations. The notorious ‘Joshua Trees’ were copious and we were itching to get some climbing in so we stopped at an interesting looking rock pile and began exploring. I think the inner child comes out of ever man when he begins bouldering and exploring new terrain. We all bolted off in different directions and then yelled at each other to join when we made a brilliant discovery. As the hues on the rocks changed from yellow to brilliant orange and finally rested a dull purple, we had our fill of climbing and it was time to find a campsite.
We got lucky and found a nice Californian family not using all of their campsite and they let us pitch our tents at the Jumbo Rocks Campground. A word of advice, get to the campground early in the day to find a site… they fill up early! That night was the beginning of a new moon, so the stars were brilliant! We drove out from the campsite and spent an hour stargazing and marveling at eternity…. absolutely breathtaking! An EPIC end to an unforgettable day.
The ride home was long…. 7 hours, so we climbed a mountain on the way out of Joshua Tree. All in all, an amazing trip… can’t wait to do it again next year! You should join us.