Hiking Alone: Yay or Nay?

By Heather

I see  both sides of this question.

On the one hand, it can be dangerous. When Darren and I were hiking Hermit Gulch in Catalina, I got a little ahead of him and ran into a man on the trail. He asked if I had seen a woman, and described her. I said that, yes, I had seen her.

As I was talking, though, he kept asking for more details and inching closer and closer toward me. I started thinking, “There’s only one way she could have gone…and why is this guy getting so uncomfortably close?”

It always takes me a minute to right myself in these situations, to see them for what they are and understand what’s happening. That asshole was planning to hurt me, I have no doubt about it now.

That’s when Darren came around the corner and said, “Hey, babe!” The guy backed away, said thanks, and continued down the trail. I sure hope he didn’t catch up to the girl.

The case for solo hiking

On the other hand, though, I find being alone restorative. I find hiking restorative. Combine the two and it is bliss, just you and nature.

I want to continue to hike alone from time to time, to not let vague fears of “something bad happening” deter me from that. Climbers don’t let a fear of falling stop them, surfers don’t let a fear of sharks stop them. And I certainly don’t want to avoid something I enjoy just because I’m a woman. But I also really don’t want to be stupid.

(If I do happen to die in this way and major news outlets happen to cover my stupidity and people look for me and find this website, welcome new readers! Steve, Regina and Darren will be handling the updates from here on out while I rest for eternity).

I’m not the only woman who has struggled with this question.

The linked article reaches many of the conclusions that I have: man or woman, don’t be stupid. Don’t think that you’re perfectly safe. Take precautions if you’re going to hike alone. Assume that if something happens to you, you’re on your own, so brush up on some basic survival skills. And also:

  • Be alert, no matter what.
  • Wear bright clothing that is easily spotted if you need to be rescued.
  • Carry a compass (and know how to use it) (This is on my to do list).
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • Have a healthy fear and skepticism of people you encounter on the trail, and listen to your gut if someone seems off.
  • Hike on busier trails. The more people there are around, the better off you will be.
  • Stay on the trail!! STAY ON THE TRAIL!
  • Carry pepper spray or some other kind of tool for ass-kicking.
  • Let someone, or several people, know where you will be hiking, what route you will use and when to expect you back.
  • Hike in areas with some cell service and carry your phone with you.
  • If you are at all uneasy about a planned hike, grab a friend and go instead.

What Does the Name of Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite Mean?

housekeeping camp yosemite national park

Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

By Heather

Whenever we mention we’ve got a trip to Yosemite on the books, people ask us where we’ll be staying.

“Housekeeping Camp,” we’ll say, followed by a shrug. “I have no idea what it means. But it doesn’t mean you’re staying with the housekeepers.”

Yosemite did us a solid today and wrote a blog post about what the hell the weird name of this wonderful campground means.

Check it!

los liones trail pacific palisades california

Hiking Los Liones Trail in Pacific Palisades

By Heather

We are just stupid lucky to live in California. If ever you don’t realize that, I suggest a morning spent hiking Los Liones will result in a swift attitude adjustment. It’s a challenging hike, but it’s one of the best I’ve taken so far!

Getting there

For once, there’s good news about parking and getting here. Getting there is a snap: take the 10 to the 1 heading north, turn right on Sunset, left on Los Liones. You’re there.

There’s plenty of parking on the street outside the gates – that is, if you get there early. I arrived around 7:45 and had my pick; by the time I left around 10:15, the street was filled up.

The hike

This hike is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. The farther you go, the better it gets. I was like this the whole time:

big lebowski

For the first two miles of the hike, you’ll take a narrow, rocky trail that has some shade. It’s a moderate incline nearly the entire way.

You’ll know you’re done with this leg of the hike when you come to a large area where there’s a bench to take in the views, as well as a steep hill that takes you to the next leg of the hike. This leg does have some uphill parts that cumulatively will leave your butt sore that night, but there breaks where the ground is flat or downhill.

Right after the first leg, your view will look like this:

los liones trail pacific palisades california

Nice, right?

Reaching the top

My favorite part of the hike was the last mile, where the trail meets a canyon, and you wind along through rolling hills until you can see the ocean and the canyon and it’s just too much.

And then, just like that, the air became very cool, crisp and refreshing, and I was at the top.

And I was all:


The photo at the very top is what your view will look like if the marine layer hasn’t already burned off.

los liones trail pacific palisades california

By the way, this is the last photo I got before my phone died.

All told, the hike was 8.25 miles round trip.

Other stuff to know

Shade on the trail is spotty, so bring a hat and plenty of water.

Mountain bikers also use this trail, they go very fast and they apparently don’t alert anyone with a kind “on your left” or somesuch. I dealt with this by hugging the right side of the road. Don’t wander all over the trail in a drunken, zig-zaggy line. You will get mowed.

Mountain lions, rattlesnakes and other things I’d rather not run into frequent the area. Here are some survival tips. You know that scene in “The Parent Trap” where the dad’s girlfriend starts banging the sticks to make noise to keep the mountain lions away, and she looks like a completely paranoid idiot doing it? I did that. I also notice that’s not one of the tips.


griffith observatory los angeles skyline hike

Hiking to Griffith Observatory and Mount Hollywood

By Heather

Our most recent hike happened last weekend, and it was glorious. Perfect weather, light crowds and a gentle breeze. It doesn’t get better than that.

But I think the one reason I love this hike is that it showed me you really don’t have to deal with the cluster that is the Griffith Observatory parking lot if you are in ambulatory shape.

We’ve been to Griffith a million times, because when people visit, it’s one of the things they want to see. While I’m happy to accommodate, I’m also sick to death of it. Taking this hike gave me a fresh perspective and I was actually happy to reach it instead of angry and frazzled!

But first: an apology. That photo right up there? Yeah. Somehow all the other photos I took with my phone were lost and this is all that remains. It was taken while on the Mount Hollywood portion of the hike, and the view only gets better from there. For everything else, you’ll just have to use your imagination. That’s not so terrible!

Observatory Hike

We did two hikes in one, starting with the Observatory Trail. To get there, take Los Feliz Boulevard, turn on Fern Dell at the Griffith Park entrance and drive up until you see the Trails Cafe. Park around there. The trails begin on the right-hand side of the road as you face the observatory.

The Observatory Trail hike itself took about 20-30 minutes. If you’ve been there, factor in the amount of time you have hunted for a parking space by first driving around the parking lot, finding nothing, getting in line to go back down the hill to find a roadside spot and then walk up to the observatory. I’m almost positive all that BS is longer than this hike.

The trail is wide and the incline is completely manageable. Next time your visitors want to go to Griffith, make them take this trail. People of all ages were using it, and it’s a beautiful way to get to the observatory.

Mt. Hollywood Hike

Once you get to Griffith, you can pick up the trail for Mt. Hollywood by crossing to the back of the parking lot and starting up the hill. You have two options for routes: the longer, windier way or the straight-up, scramble to the top of the hill way.

We’re all old, see, so we opted for the easier route. It was still plenty challenging on its own.

Both hikes total up to about 5.5 miles of good walking. We racked up about 13,500 steps on our FitBits and climbed the equivalent of 130 flights. Not too shabby!

For specific route info, I defer to Dan Simpson, because I’m awful at directions even when there are street signs. Don’t get me started on a trail. You’ll never be seen alive again. Here’s the Observatory hike, and here’s Mount Hollywood.

Neither trail has much shade, so bring a hat and plenty of water.


As always, parking. I’m quickly learning that to hike in LA, you’ve got to beat the rush and the heat. The later you sleep in, the worse both become, and people have died from hiking in the heat. Probably no one has died from parking woes, but it sometimes feels like you could.

If you get here before 9:30-10, you should be fine and there will be plenty of parking by the Trails Cafe. After that, you might have to do a little hunting.

Healthy Snack and Meal Ideas for Car Campers

By Heather

Last time, I wrote some tips on how you can eat a healthy, even highly restrictive, diet and continue to camp.

Now, I present to you ideas and inspiration. When it comes to food while camping, it’s fine to bring perishables. But I’d shy away from anything both perishable and likely to give you a case of food poisoning should it perish or not be kept at the optimal temperature.

Although I’m not eating or limiting a lot of things these days, including grains, gluten, dairy and sodium, the food ideas below are for anyone who just wants to eat better at camp. Make your own adjustments to this list accordingly, and please share ideas of your own in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to keep things interesting.


We rely on snacks a lot. We used to do lunch, but generally don’t anymore. Our first several camping trips always felt like we were forcing food down by dinner time.

For snack procurement, Trader Joe’s is the mecca of snacks. It is also the mecca of cashiers who also love snacks and will comment on your snacks and want to know what you’re going to be doing with your snacks, and they will suggest other snacks for you to try. It cracks me up every single time.

But the most wonderful thing about TJ’s is that they not only have a million snacks, a lot of them aren’t bad for you!

Wherever you go, look for stuff like this for your snacking merriment:

  • Hummus (Trader Joe’s has good hummus, and the Sabra brand is very tasty; Athenos is gross)
  • Unsalted roasted almond butter (Trader Joe’s all the way – no added sugar!)
  • Pretzels (Better than chips, am I right?)
  • Beef jerky (not terrible in small amounts, so take it easy, tiger)
  • Edamame (Heat it up at home, sprinkle with Kosher salt and eat chilled)
  • Bean dips/salads, such as Cowboy Caviar
  • Vegetables for dipping into hummus, bean dips or almond butter (celery, carrots are good)
  • Nuts (cashews, macadamias, almonds, pistachios, peanuts)
  • Rice puffs (Pirate’s Booty or the Trader Joe’s knock-offs)
  • Pita chips (Trader Joe’s has yummy baked ones, and surely we have all heard of Stacy’s by now)
  • Jiffy Pop (Can be tough to find, but if you see it, get it!)

Side Dishes

  • Diced potatoes, green peppers, onions, light butter made w/canola oil, seasoning in foil (cook for 45 minutes or so, turning once. Don’t put it directly in the flames, but hovering above them by a few inches, otherwise you’ll be eating el scorcho. Eat with mustard and ketchup if you so choose. I always so choose).
  • Canned baked beans (terrific with sausage)
  • Canned black beans (go nicely with eggs, tacos)
  • Corn on the cob (have you ever had grilled corn on the cob? Shuck it and place directly on the grate. No foil, no nothing. Takes about 10 minutes total; turn every so often. Serve up with this chili lime butter. You’re welcome.)



  • Sausage, no bun and lots of mustard (Sierra Nevada Mustard is heaven, btw)
  • Pulled pork tacos with red onion, queso, crema and lime (we get the Costco pulled pork)
  • Lean steaks with fat trimmed (also from Costco)
  • Skewers with shrimp or chicken and vegetables
  • Lean hamburgers with light cheese, no bun
  • Vegetable chili, topped with fat-free sour cream, green onions, hot sauce and light cheese

For more labor-intensive and creative ideas, check out Sunset Magazine‘s camp cooking recipes. We may have to try a few of these this season!


Well, here’s where things get a little less exciting and interesting. For breakfast, we are all about the mighty breakfast burrito.

Since we last went camping, I’ve cut out most grains, so I will not be having flour tortillas. Corn doesn’t seem to bother me much, so I’ll be making soft breakfast tacos. Top them off with some fat-free sour cream, a little avocado, a little bacon and some 2% cheese…yumsville!


And then there are some things that just don’t pair very well with camping and eating healthy. Mainly, it’s salad. It’s hard to keep cool and crisp, making for a very unappetizing side dish. Bleh. Leave it at home!

Got any of your own healthy meals and snacks to share? Let’s hear it! Plus, we need some breakfast ideas.