Hooves on the Ground: San Gorgonio Mountain

With summer winding down and higher elevations soon becoming inhospitable and inaccessible, we set out for an impromptu trip to Southern California's tallest peak, San Gorgonio Mountain. "Old Grayback," as it's nicknamed, is in the San Bernardino Mountains and is part of an expansive wilderness (home to many of my deer relatives) about 10 miles southeast of Big Bear Lake and 20 miles northwest of Palm Springs. 

There are many different trails to the summit, which is a popular destination with hikers training their legs and lungs for Mt. Whitney. E+J and I did an overnighter and decided the shortest but steepest route was the way to go. But enough of this buck's prose. Following is how E experienced the mountain (as recorded in her travel journal), and how J saw it (in photographs). 

Read More

Hooves on the Ground: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra

Summer is the perfect season to visit the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The famous Range of Light, as John Muir called it, is 400 miles long -- from Tehachapi Pass in Kern County to the south, to Fredonyer Pass in Lassen County to the north. The Sierra is home to three national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon), 20 wilderness areas, and many notable features, including Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney (highest point in the contiguous US). 

For a buck like me, exploring the Sierra is like going home. Much of the range is mule deer habitat, so traveling around the mountains with E+J didn't turn any heads -- though I did have to pack away my smoking jacket for this trip. 

Read More

Hooves on the Ground: Mecca Hills Wilderness, Salton Sea & Slab City

Though I'm a mule deer by birth, at heart I'm a desert rat. That is to say that, while I would never trade the life-sustaining bounty that the oak woodlands and chaparral-covered mountains of my home provide, if given the chance to saunter off to an unknown place for a few days, I will gladly choose a desert landscape. What is it about these arid lands that draws me in? In part, it's the elegant simplicity of the landscape -- no towering trees, no verdant, superfluous overgrowth under every fallen log, no view obscured by heavy fog. In the desert, an invisible hand seems responsible for placing each rock and plant just exactly where it belongs, like a sparsely choreographed dance forever fixed in place. But what calls me to the desert even more is the simple fact that every living thing there has an innate will to live that's stronger than anywhere else. 

Lucky for me, E+J share a similar curiosity for the desert. And so we found ourselves exploring a few less-traveled corners of the Colorado Desert of Southern California over Memorial Day weekend. 

Read More