5 Tips for the Beginner Hiker: Safe Summer Hiking

Recently, I went on a hike up to a famous spot in San Diego, Potato Chip Rock. (Another blog will tell the details of that adventure.) And, it just so happened to coincide with the beginnings of the first heat wave I’ve experienced while in Southern California. I observed during the hike that too many people were taking on the steep incline and 8 mile round trip hike without so much as an 8 ounce water bottle. This shocked me, and as I talked about it with a friend, we determined that it must be because the spot has become particularly famous for cool social media pictures. In fact, it was probably these individuals’ first time hiking such a distance in hot weather. The views at the rock are almost 360 degrees of the San Diego skyline, so I don’t mind it becoming so popular among those looking for a cool social media picture – but I was worried for these individual’s safety.

Make no mistake, it is very unsafe to hike in the full sun, in almost 90 degree weather without the proper amount of water, especially during long hikes. Our group had the proper amount, and we all ran out of water at the end of the hike, even though we packed more than we thought we would need.

This got me thinking, if beginners don’t respect the dangers of hiking in such heat, maybe I should write a few quick tips on what you should do if you go hiking in the summer to get that cool Instagram picture. I know it seems like common sense to a lot of us, but it’s important for those enjoying their first high intensity hike to respect nature and protect themselves from the elements.

  1. Hike early in the morning – We planned ahead and knew when the temperatures would be the worst, so we could get down the trail before temps rose. Even though we hiked in the coolest part of the day, it still felt really warm!
  2. Carry 1 gallon of water when hiking in weather over 80 degrees PER PERSON – It sounds like a lot, but you will be so thirsty and will need to replace everything you are loosing through exercise and sweat. If you bring your dog, you need to pack AT A MINIMUM twice as much water, or only hike out 2 miles and turn back. It hurt my heart to see too many dogs on the trail who were overheated, and trying to take refuge in what little shade was available – all because their owners hadn’t been giving them enough water.
  3. Hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses – These items will help keep you cool, and help prevent sunburns. They also help with preventing headaches and heatstroke.
  4. Proper shoes – Regular tennis shoes work okay for flat terrain without any loose dirt. But most trails that lead to summits have steep inclines that require a running trail shoe or hiking shoe. Your feet will thank you if you invest in the proper shoe. Many hiking shoes will last you years, so they are a great investment.
  5. Take your time – Hiking in direct sunlight is tough even for the most experienced hiker. If you find shady spots are rare on the trail, take a moment to stop when you find one, look at the view, and catch your breath. This helps to ensure that heatstroke won’t set in, and you will be a much happier hiker anyway! 🙂

I hope these tips help a few people so they are better prepared for their first high intensity hike. Remember, it’s not about how quickly you get to the summit, but rather, if you enjoyed the journey.

Until next time, happy trails!

Top Things To Do In Big Bear, CA

A few weekends ago, my husband and I enjoyed a getaway trip to Big Bear Lake. I had never been to Big Bear, and as a Northern California girl who loves Lake Tahoe, I was eager to see what all the fuss is about.

Big Bear is about a 2 hour drive from Pasadena. The drive was very scenic with tall wildflowers peppering the cliff sides, gorgeous views of the L.A. skyline, and mountain tops dusted with snow.

Here are the top things I highly recommend you consider for your trip to Big Bear this summer.

Hike to Castle Rock Summit

We started our adventure with a moderate hike up to Castle Rock. At the summit the views of the lake were gorgeous! (I took the photo in the title of this post at the summit.)  I recommend the hike for individuals who want more of an uphill challenge. There are a few places where the trail is flat, but you do need to climb up to earn the beautiful view. No pain, no gain, right?!

Tip: The parking turn out is off of the 18, and easy to miss if you are going too fast. Also, getting to the head of the trail from our parked car was a bit tricky, since we had to walk against traffic on the 18. It isn’t impossible to get to the trail, just use caution.

Big Bear Village

In Big Bear Village there is no shortage of places to eat and shop. We tried out the famous Teddy Bear restaurant for breakfast, and it was mighty good! If you decide to go, be sure to get up early, as there are crowds later in the morning. They serve up hearty food, which is perfect after a hike.

Tip: If you have kids, we stumbled upon a crafting and painting shop in the village. I could see how an indoor activity like this would be great for kids when the weather isn’t so great, and you need a plan B to entertain them.

Big Bear Lake

We rented a tandem kayak for a different view of the lake. It was tranquil, and very fun! Since we rented the longest kayak, it felt safe enough to withstand wakes from the occasional speeding boat. Our rental lasted for 4 hours, and although the company offered 2 hour rentals, I don’t think our adventure would have been nearly as fun with the 2 hour limit. For those of you who haven’t kayaked before, I could see how the constant paddling and choppy water can get tiresome. However, as someone who has kayaked before, I felt safe out in the lake, and enjoyed the workout it had to offer.

Tip: Do some research before your trip to save money on a rental. I secured a 4 hour rental tandem kayak for a lot less than the last minute price.


Well, there you have it! Big Bear is a wonderful community filled with lots of recreation opportunities during all seasons. While it isn’t Tahoe, it has all the charm of a small lake town, that is especially refreshing for a quick getaway from the bustle of Southern California’s cities. In fact, the small town feel is what I like even better about Big Bear, that Tahoe doesn’t have. Shocking, I know – that this Northern California girl could like another lake town just as much.

Until next time, keep adventuring!


Review: Galley Cafe, Newport CA

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting a diner that is so charming, I just can’t keep it to myself! If you are planning to visit Orange County this summer, do yourself a favor and eat a hearty meal at Galley Cafe in Newport.

Situated near Balboa, with views of yachts in the harbor, this establishment is a local favorite. And with great reason! The diner is rather small in size but big in character, and transports all visitors back about 60 years. In addition to the usual diner staples, this restaurant also serves specials that rotate each day. I had two eggs over-easy, breakfast sausage, with a side of fresh berries. Delicious!

After eating, we had a great time walking around the harbor soaking in the scenic views. I definitely recommend arriving early to ensure you are able to secure a table without waiting. This goes without saying, but it is a busy place – so the later it gets, the busier it gets. Something to keep in mind when planning your visit.

For more information about this great find, visit the Galley Cafe’s website here!

5 Tasty Treats to Try At Universal Studios (Hollywood)

It had been 10 years since I last visited Universal Studios, and since then they added a lot of new rides, so it was naturally time for a visit! I’m not only interested in the rides, but the FOOD. Who isn’t? So, I’ve got a list below of the top 5 things you should eat at Universal Studios in Hollywood, if you get a chance to go this summer.

DISCLAIMER: If you do eat all this, you should take the stairs to the lower lot, trust me, you will need to.

  1. Pumpkin Juice – If you are a Harry Potter fan, this needs no explanation. For those of you who aren’t, pumpkin juice tastes like a lovely crisp fall day. No other way to explain this one. Also, if you are familiar with the Harry Potter books, most people rave about the butterbeer, so you might be wondering why I like pumpkin juice better. It’s simple – the butterbeer was too sweet for me, and I loved the fall spices in the pumpkin juice. {Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.}
  2. Lard Lad’s Maple Bacon Donuts – These dangerously delightful and monstrous (there’s at least 6 servings in one doughnut) sugary creations will immediately undo ANY exercise you worked on while at the park. I might be guilty of eating 3/4 of one, but I’m not going to confirm this allegation. Anyway, they use hickory smoked bacon on top of a classic maple glaze, inspired by the Simpsons. All I can say is, “Mmmm…donuts…” {Located in Springfield.}
  3. Full English Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks – With healthy helpings of ham, eggs, sausage, pudding, potatoes, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, tomato, croissant, and your choice of a beverage, you really can’t go wrong with this meal. Since we woke up really early, we were hungry for second breakfast around 10:30, which was a perfect time to eat. There was no line, and the atmosphere in the Three Broomsticks is an attraction itself. {Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.}
  4. Frozen Butterbeer – Surprisingly, the frozen butterbeer was my favorite of all the types of butterbeer. It’s a bit like a slushie, which I preferred because it cut down on the sweetness that the plain butterbeers contain. They serve 3 types of butterbeer at the park, at least while we were there: cold, warm, and frozen. {Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.}
  5. Anything from Honeyduke’s – Honeyduke’s is a candy store and bakery shop that contains lovely sweets like chocolate cauldron cakes, pumpkin pasties, chocolate frogs, and caramel dipped apples. If you have a sweet tooth, this is definitely a must see. {Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.}

That’s it! I promise my next post will be more healthy… Maybe I should sign up for a marathon next or try a kale salad recipe? Nah, all things in moderation, right? 🙂

The Reagan Presidential Library

Today (March 30) marks the 36 anniversary of President Reagan’s assassination attempt. While this might be a rather dark way to start a travel review, I believe it is the perfect time to shed some light on one of the most interesting Presidents the United States has ever had.

Did you know, after the assassination attempt, President Reagan’s policy towards the Soviet Union pivoted? This pivot ultimately led to his famous Berlin Wall speech and resulted in the (brief) repair of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. It is interesting to consider – would the wall have come down if President Reagan hadn’t endured that experience?

If you live in California, a visit to the Reagan Presidential Library is a MUST. My husband and I had the opportunity to visit during a reunion of mine with other former Capitol Pages (another blog for another day). Not only is the location in Simi Valley beautiful, but you can, and likely will, spend an entire day at the Library.

Posing outside Air Force One

The Library has several exhibits for everyone, including an entire technology exhibit aimed at entertaining kids. And of course – the tour of Air Force One is impressive. What you might not know, is the Library also contains a Marine One, which you can also tour. The history exhibits will satisfy the biggest history geek, and for those wanting a more relaxing tour, there is an authentic working Irish pub that President Reagan visited during his tour of Ireland.

Overall, you will have a wonderful time touring through the history of the 80’s, reflecting upon surprising similarities between the challenges we faced as a nation then, and now. But don’t take my word for it – go visit and make your own opinions!

Have you had a chance to visit the Reagan Presidential Library, if so, what did you think? Also, if you remember when the attempted assassination happened, and you recall what you were up to, feel free to share your experiences below.