Playing Favorites: Anza Borrego #ParkPride

Playingย favorites… guys, it is something I am not good at. I would say I’m a person of good taste. I can definitely tell when I like something and when I do not like something. But picking a favorite ย  whatever ย ? Not really my game.

When I was inspired by outdoor wear company Cotopaxi, whose products include jackets and hiking backpacks, to blog about my favorite park (National, State, or City park) I was at a loss. Would I write about Balboa Parkย here in San Diego? Mesa Verde orย Garden of the Godsย in Colorado? Hiking in Sedona which I just experienced for the first time last weekend? I could even mention Coronado Heights in Kansas…ย I think one of my favorite things about getting outsideย is that there are so many different climates and experiences in this wide and rough country, the United States.

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The park I am currently groovin’ on is Anza Borrego [California] State Park. Located just a hop and a skip away from San Diego, it is a great location for an easy afternoon hike (home in time for dinner) or a couple nights of camping. Desert camping is so radically unique when compared to “classic” forest/mountain camping; it can be almost like sleeping in a moonscape. It provides a great variety and is particularly good in the spring before things get too hot (as in, like, this month and April).

The cacti and drought-tolerant plants that pepper this funky desert landscape are “so in right now” and make for cool photographsโ€”just don’t get too close! I have a coworker that swears he will never go back because he got a zillion cactus needles in the leg. I guess that would put a damper on the trip.

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As you may have heard, San Diego and the surrounding areas have gotten a historic amount of rain so far in 2017. Everyone is predicting a “superbloom” of desert flowers, so I’m sure you can guess what is on my itinerary for this upcoming Saturday: Flower scouting. I can’t wait!

Something I’ve been paying much more attention to in the past two years is making sure to get out and explore nature. Growing up in Colorado Springs, my parents were excellent at getting us out and about in the mountains and taking long road trips to see the country from the car window. Of course, there came a certain age where we were “too cool” to explore nature centers and would rather be at the mall. It’s encouraging to observe that the pendulum has swung backย in the favor of authentic, outdoor experiences.

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The US National Park Service turned 100 last August, and the centennial celebrationย is currently underway. Doug and I have some trips planned out for this summer, including Zion National Park, so we went ahead and bought our America the Beautiful park pass. It will surely pay for itself in 2017.

If you don’t want to buy the park pass because you don’t have a ton of trips coming up, please make sure to mark down the upcoming free weekends in April: the 15/16th and 22/23. There are 10 free days in total during 2017 but four of them are coming up real quick. Time to plan a weekend to be spent outside in our beautiful country!

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To celebrate #ParkPride this season, you can get 20% off your purchase at Cotopaxi by using the coupon code REDBOOK20. It could help you upgrade or replace any of your gear or even help you start building your own gear collection. Or, if it’s a better deal for you (do a little number crunching), you can get $20 off of an order of $75+ by using clicking here. With that link I’ll get store credit too, so it’s a win-win!

I was prompted to write this post by Cotopaxi, a certified B-Corp, but it is not a sponsored post.ย 

I’d love to hear more about your favorite National or State Park. Please share in the comments!

Desert Camping at Anza Borrego

A few weeks ago I went desert camping with a couple of my buddies! Actually, it was Coachella weekend, but we didn’t go all the way to Indio for that. Why spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a concert ticket when you can rent a modest campsite for $25 a night, eat hot dogs, and listen to iTunes?

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Oh, did I tell you guys yet? I’m into camping now. I’ve been 2 1/2 times! To explain the “half” time, it was on this particular trip, when I drove over for the day and then went home that night. I was unsure about camping overnight in a tent with Mosey (we’ve never done that) plus, this semester was just exhausting for me and I couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping on the ground (even with my comfy air sleep pad).

April in in the Anza-Borrego desert was just perfect. It was nice and hot, but not too hot. Just hot enough that you don’t feel bad about sitting in the shade drinking cool beverages (instead of exploring). We were a couple of weeks too late for the famous wildflowers, but nonetheless there’s just something to be said about the beauty of the desert.

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I love the greens and yellows against the blue and purple mountain backdrop.

The campsites were very nice and new. I was impressed! Later I read in a guidebook that the reason the campsites were so new was that a massive flash flood in the mid 00sย had washed everything out. So, everything was rebuilt anew. Sad, but glad for the nice new digs, which are pretty rare in the camping world.

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There was a nearby hike to an oasis(!), but the trail was dog-prohibitive (so as not to disturb the wildlife, which included jackrabbits and bighorn sheep) so I went with everyone to the trail head but then Mosey and I went back to the campsite toย arrange all the food, read my kindle, and build the fire. Doug took a few cool shots at the oasis though. Next time, I’m definitely hiking all the way there.

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The following day, while I was at home relaxing with Mosey, the crew took a much more grueling hike to Maidenhair Falls. Sounds wimpy, but I’m glad I wasn’t there to slow everyone down. It sounded really hard, but the waterfall at the end must have been so magical!

How do you guys feel about camping?ย I won’t say I love sleeping on the hard ground, but I love how affordable it can beย for a quick weekend escape. Any favorite campsites to point me toward?