Robert Arends

Three “Wild” Adventures in East County

Paws up! Make treks to San Diego’s rustic East County for up-close encounters of the wild animal kind.

Three one-of-a-kind animal sanctuaries top my must-see list – each sure to become as synonymous with San Diego as our world-famous Zoo and Safari Park.

Harris Hawk at Sky Hunters!

1. I recently discovered Sky Hunters, a preserve for our fine-feathered friends near Alpine, dedicated to teaching folks about raptors/birds of prey and caring for and rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned raptors. Owner Nancy Conney (also an instructor at the San Diego Natural History Museum) and her team look after 20 non-releasable raptors, including hawks and owls. They also work with as many as 300 “rehab raptors” each year, including barn owl babies that fall out of their owl boxes and palm trees.

Barn owl at Sky Hunters.

Sky Hunters is open to the public for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon until 4:00 pm. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 619-445-6565 or emailing skyhunters@juno.com. Visitor safety tip: Stay at least three feet back from the cages.

Roaring good times at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

2. Also located in Alpine is Lions, Tigers & Bears (oh my! Couldn’t resist…), a safe haven for lions, tigers, bears and other abandoned and unwanted exotic animals. BIG news: They’re adding two new black bears named Delilah and Blossom (become a Bear BFF!) to their family of 13 big cats and a black bear named Liberty. Two fall events coming up include a Wild Nights Camp Over with the Cats on September 23-24 and Wine Tasting Dinner under the stars on October 1. You can also spend a safari-themed overnight at their luxe bed & breakfast inn, White Oak Wild Nights.

Call 619-659-8078 to make a reservation to visit LTB; visiting hours are twice a week and just about every Saturday.

Howling good times at the California Wolf Center!

3. The California Wolf Center, located near Julian, offers visitors a thrilling opportunity to view packs of Alaskan gray wolves and endangered Mexican gray wolves while learning about their history, biology and behavior. They’re magnificent creatures and surprisingly timid and inquisitive. You could spend a couple hours just watching them play and explore their enclosures. Visitor tip: Schedule a visit in the morning when they’re most active. Click here for a public tour; private tours available too.

For REALLY up-close encounters inside the wolf enclosures(!), schedule an exciting Photo Tour.

Now that’s something to howl about!

Robert Arends

3 Tried and True Backcountry Adventures

Joy is in the journey! Ne’er so true in San Diego’s scenic East County where wild and wonderful adventure tours await. From gold mine trains to desert off-roading to flights into the wild blue yonder, following are three sure bets to put some “spring” in your sightseeing:

Mine a good time at Smith Ranch in Julian.

  1. Make tracks… For the Smith Ranch Train Rides in Julian! Just in time for the town’s big annual Daffodil Show (March 26-27), pioneers of all ages can enjoy a one-mile train ride up the mountain and through the blooming backcountry. Afterward, explore an authentic 1870 gold rush mine (climb into one of the mine cars for an unforgettable ride!), and then try your hand panning for gold!  
  2. Wheel good time… California Overland is roughing it at its finest, especially venturing deep into the vast (600,000 acres!) untamed landscape of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – “one of the most pristine desert parks in the world” (National Geographic). Hop board their open-air military vehicle for an unforgettable wildflower tour, as you discover hidden palm oases, slot canyons, wind caves, Native-American pictographs, historic ruins, stark Badlands, ancient fossil reefs, dry lake beds and breathtaking vistas {whew!}. Travel + Leisure Magazine-approved! 

    Go wild with California Overland!

  3. Fly like an eagle…  Just west of Borrego in Warner Springs, grab some serious air with Sky Sailing where your heart will soar high as the birds as you hitch a ride on a sail plane (also called a glider)! It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush and the views of pine peaked mountains and the desert floor in the distance are out of this world!

    Hip to the height with Sky Sailing.

Stephenie

High Speeds and Boatloads of Fun

speeding past a sailboat... eat our dust!

Last week, I had the time of my life on a San Diego Speedboat Adventures harbor tour. The new, two-hour tour allows YOU to jump in the Captain’s seat and drive a mini speedboat around San Diego Bay for a 13-mile guided tour.  

My friend and I decided to share driving duties, so we each had the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and sit back and take in the sights. Following our tour guide’s lead boat, we zigged and zagged and bounced over waves, we sped past sailboats and harbor cruises and screamed and laughed the entire time.  My favorite part of the tour was making a U-turn underneath the Coronado Bridge. (Well, my turn was more of a “C” because I cut the corner a little sharp, but you get the gist.) 

Tour highlights include up-close views of sea lions, Naval ships, the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego.  We also got one-of-a-kind views of Coronado, the Coronado Bridge and the downtown skyline.

This sightseeing tour is like nothing I’ve ever done before and it definitely a MUST DO!!! Tours are offered daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; prices are $100 for a single person boat, $59 per person for a two person boat and $39 for kids.  

Gerrard, our tour guide

the route around San Diego Bay

check out that skyline! ignore the windblown faces

Stephenie

Ever Dreamed of Flying?

we laugh in the face of danger

we laugh in the face of danger

Here’s your chance!

As you may recall, back in May I told you about the new Flightline zip-line adventure at the Wild Animal Park. You know, the one where you soar 400 feet above animals, flying at about 40+ miles per hour?

Well recently, some of my fellow bloggers and I took it upon ourselves to test out the Flightline adventure to ensure our trusted readers the highest quality and most accurate information. (It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it, right?)

Check it out!

Here’s what we thought…

Continue reading

Benjamin Eastman

Glide your way to adventure!

Paraglider over Torrey Pines

Paraglider over Torrey Pines

OK, honestly, I’m not sure that I will ever be brave enough to do it, but I really enjoy going and watching the gliders at the Torrey Pines Gliderport!  I mean, are you kidding me?  Just this thin little sheet of fabric is all that is keeping you from plumetting to the ground?  Yeah, yeah, I know tons of people do it, but it is just going to take me a little while to work up the courage.  I really would actually like to try it out, because the views must be absolutely amazing (I wonder if they’d let me take my camera with me?).  I’ll just have to make it a 2010 New Years Resolution.

With amazing views up and down the coast, this is a fantastic location for those seeking the thrill of hangliding, paragliding, etc. as well as those of us who are just fine keeping our 2 feet planted on the ground.  The natural air currents shooting off the Torrey Pines cliffs make this a perfect location for gliders to cruise up and down the coast.  I think I counted as many as 10 parachutes/gliders up at once on my last visit.

Glider with La Jolla in the background

Glider with La Jolla in the background

Got a significant other who loves adventure?  Non-pros can pay to go tandem with a professional.  Would this not make a memorable birthday, anniversary, or “just because” present?

Going tandem

Going tandem

The Gliderport is a little tricky to find.  It is just west of the UCSD campus in the La Jolla/Torrey Pines area.  You need to snake your way between some science buildings in order to get to the dirt parking lot.  So keep an eye out for the signs on N. Torrey Pines Blvd and you should be fine.

Benjamin Eastman

Whales up close!

Well, the whale watching season has pretty much passed here in San Diego, but I wanted to share a fantastic experience I had a few months ago.  I took a whale watching trip with Adventure Rib Rides aboard a Navy SEAL rib boat.  These are the little half inflatable, half hard boats that the SEALs use in combat situations.  But for us civilians, these boats give you an AMAZING opportunity to get up close and personal to the whales!

Adventure Rib Rides Boat

Topping out at like 40mph, the rib boats cruise along the top of the water and can cover wide areas of the ocean searching for the whales.  Often times the captains of the larger whale watching boats radio the rib boat captain to see if he’s had any sightings.  Now remember, whales are big, but the ocean is bigger!  So it’s good to know that there are other oceanic inhabitants for you to see.  Like these dolphins:

Dolphins

During non-whale watching season, Adventure Rib Rides has other fun trips – such as going down to the Coronado Islands off Mexico – and they also do bay cruises, corporate buy outs, etc.  I’d definitely recommend the experience for any former/current military members, those who enjoy speed, or just anyone who wants an out-of-the-ordinary bay experience.

Stephenie

High-Flying Fun at the Wild Animal Park

Calling all adventure seekers…

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Check out Flightline at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park.  This new zip-line adventure soars 400 feet above exotic animal exhibits at speeds up to 50 mph!

The 1.5-hour experience includes a brief training lesson, behind-the-scenes education and an unforgettable aerial adventure. 

Participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds; the cost is $70 in addition to park admission.

Enjoy your flight…

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park