Locations: Adobe Falls (San Diego), Valley of Fire (Nevada), Death Valley (California)
Thursday, March 31, 2016 – Adobe Falls – San Diego, CA
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’m from San Diego. In 2003, at twenty-one, I left for Portland and until semi-recently, never looked back. Portland has become home for me in all of the ways I needed it to be and more ways that I couldn’t have guessed (this nature life, for example). I’m planning to stay here for as long as I can, barring I don’t get financially pushed out in this insane housing crisis happening right now. As a teenager, it became obvious I wouldn’t try to make a life there: the lack of diversity in the gay/queer communities due to ye olde prizing of the moneyed gay man (I assume some of that’s changed in the thirteen years since I left) and the suffocating southern Californian beauty standards. I stuck out like a sore thumb even as a kid. I certainly didn’t appreciate the good stuff, but in that way where you just don’t when you’re young. Nearly four years ago, I brought my partner, Brie, home with me for the first time and she just kept saying how she couldn’t believe I was from such a paradise. This felt so bizarre to me, but through her eyes, everything I’d ever felt got turned inside out. It really is a fucking paradise! It is sunny every day and usually warm! And the beaches and the ocean! Palm trees, eucalyptus, succulents growing outside bigger than anything we’ve ever seen in Portland! Dolphins in the goddamn ocean, like NBD! I still don’t feel a call to live there, but I do enjoy my twice yearly visits more than ever and I always try to seek out some gem I never bothered to try to find before.
This time, it was Adobe Falls. I realized I couldn’t think of any waterfalls in or around San Diego, so I just plugged some words into Google and found it almost immediately. I was shocked I’d never even heard of it because it’s such a spectacle and right in the middle of the city. My mom, sister and nephew are always on board to adventure with me so off we went to trespass on some private land! It wasn’t nearly as sketchy as it sounds.
We pulled up in a residential area in Mission Valley, across the freeway from SDSU, and parked in a cul-de-sac.
From here: Take the path by the fence with the “off-road vehicle activity prohibited” sign. (There is another path to the left of where you park that seems more obvious, but skip it. It will get you to where you’re going, but the stream crossing is more difficult and the paths aren’t as obvious after you cross.) Veer left, cross the stream, and follow the path that leads to a wide access road. Turn left and follow the road to the top of the hill where you will see the graffitied rock beds. You will have to climb over and around them up and to the left just a bit to actually see the falls which are around a small bend.
My little sister and her son hung back when we reached the big rocks, but my mom was a trooper and followed me. It really isn’t difficult, but maybe a little too sketchy for a four-year-old. It is a sight! The waterfall is actually really beautiful. Lacey and fanning over graffitied red rock. I would love to know what it looked like before the graffiti, but the bright splashes of color in the desert landscape do not detract. I hear that if you continue up past the falls there’s a big graffitied tunnel, but being that I was with my family, I couldn’t explore as much as I wanted to. Next time.
The Google Maps directions for “Adobe Falls” were actually accurate when we used them, but here’s the run down:
– I-8E to exit 10 for College Ave
– keep left at fork following signs for College Ave N
– turn left onto College Ave 0.5 mile
– turn left on Del Cerro Blvd 0.4 mile
– turn left on Genoa Dr 0.2 mile
– turn right on Mill Peak Rd (turns into Adobe Falls rd) 150 ft.
– park on the cul-de-sac
This out-and-back trail is less than one mile.
My mom navigating the rocks behind me –> My sister and nephew on the service road.
Friday, April 1, 2016 – Valley of Fire, Nevada
The big thing I wanted to do on this trip home was go to Death Valley. My mom suggested we also go to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. I’d never heard of it and I really didn’t want to cut into my already short Death Valley time, but after I looked it up online, there was no way I could miss it. We woke up at 4am for the seven hour drive from San Diego. I love being on the road!
Valley of Fire is special. Insane. Gorgeous. One thousand nature prizes and artifacts at every turn and you can get all up in it, meaning so many things that would be fenced off or otherwise protected elsewhere are completely open there. Petroglyphs, red rock, crazy formations, short flat trails, etc. I kind of couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The park is super compact, so it’s phenomenal attraction after phenomenal attraction. I loved it. We spent the entire day at the park. I did all of the short trails, my favorite being the Fire Wave, of course. One of the most beautiful, strange things I’ve ever seen.
The Fire Wave
We left as the sun was going down. We had about a 2-hour drive to my Aunt’s house where we’d be staying for the night as it’s only an hour from Death Valley.
Saturday, April 2, 2016 – Death Valley, California
We only had a day and I knew that meant we’d be able to tackle maybe half of the park, but I developed what I thought was a pretty fool-proof plan. My mom, however, well-intentioned but a bit of a drinker, decided to invite my entire family to join us, so… many adjustments were made. We were supposed to be at the park by nine AM, but we didn’t get there until after eleven. Two hours is a lot of time to lose on a day trip like this and I was sweating it, though I knew there was nothing I could do about it. Let go and let God. Jesus take the wheel, etc.
Our day in order of stops:
-Devil’s Golf Course
It didn’t help that it was a Saturday and there were thousands of people there and no one in my group wanted to do even the shortest trail. When the heat rose to one hundred degrees, everyone, except for me, was miserable. At about half-way through our already too short day, I felt like I was dragging everyone to everything and it dampened the experience a bit.
I mean, it wasn’t a bad experience. I was grateful to be there and I got to see almost everything on my list. I even got to see some of the super bloom which only happens every ten years or so with the right weather conditions. I loved Death Valley and I know I can always go back and do it how I want to: three days, midweek, cooler weather, camping in the park, hiking, not with family.
What you should know about Death Valley before going:
-It is so popular. Hordes of people everywhere. Even if you know this before going in, it is really intense. Good luck taking a photo without other people in it. Go in the middle of week, if possible.
-The park is huge and everything is very spread out. Allot time for driving. Fill your gas tank, before you even get near the park because the nearest gas stations are $5 a gallon.
-Do a lot of research online before you go because most of the attractions are just family-friendly things for people who don’t really care about the stuff that makes the park special.
-If you like taking pictures: Go on a day that isn’t supposed to be totally clear. It was hard to take good pictures with the blinding light and vastness of everything.
-It’s hot. It’s called Death Valley. Be prepared.
Devil’s Golf Course
My neph and I at Zabriskie Point