Robert Arends

Rock Out – Rock Climbing in Mission Valley and Beyond!

Nope, we’re not talking rock concerts, but rather rock climbing! Located in the center of San Diego, within easy reach of most major attractions and activities, Mission Valley is the gateway to some of the best rock climbing and bouldering in Southern California.

If you’re looking for some serious face climbing (ascending a vertical rock face using finger holds and edges), scaling the best new handcrafted rock climbing wall in San Diego or just hiking to amazing photo-worthy rock formations (bring your camera!), Mission Valley and environs has something for everyone.

Following are a few standouts:

Grotto Climbing & Yoga

Mission Valley's new Grotto Rock Climbing & Yoga

Mission Valley’s cool new Grotto Climbing & Yoga

The new Grotto Climbing & Yoga is perfect for all experience levels (translation: you don’t need to be a pro). This urban rock climber’s dream features a massive 7,000-square-foot climbing/bouldering wall with 13,000 handmade holds that mimics San Diego’s rocky climbing trails. This is the spot to hone your rock climbing skills before heading into our great outdoors. Afterward, relax your weary muscles and Zen out in their studio offering 11 types of yoga classes.

Check out this cool time-lapse video of the action at Grotto Climbing!

Mission Trails Regional Park’s Mission Gorge

Climber's Loop Trail along Mission Gorge in Mission Trails Regional Park

Climber’s Loop Trail along Mission Gorge in Mission Trails Regional Park

For climbers ready to ascend real rock walls, Mission Gorge, part of Mission Trails Regional Park – one of largest urban parks in the U.S. – is San Diego’s best and oldest established climbing area, encompassing over two miles of the San Diego River. The granite slopes here are steep (40 to 80 feet high) and slick, offering a mix of crack and face climbing.

Main Climbing Wall in popular Mission Gorge

Main Climbing Wall in Mission Gorge

The one-mile Climber’s Loop Trail leads to a great mix of rock climbing areas, including a popular Main Climbing Wall, The Thumb, Skyline Pinnacle, Lunch Rock, Limbo (full of granite towers) and Middle Earth (calling all J.R.R. Tolkien fans!).

Santee Boulders

A bouldering playground at Santee Boulders!

A bouldering playground at Santee Boulders!

East of Mission Valley, the Santee Boulders is San Diego’s most popular bouldering area. (Bouldering is the practice of climbing on large boulders vs. rock cliffs 😉

Potato Chip Rock

The popular Potato Chip Rock atop Mt. Woodson Trail

The popular Potato Chip Rock atop Mt. Woodson Trail

There’s also the famous Potato Chip Rock on the Mt. Woodson Trail in Poway, which attracts shutterbugs galore. Our friends at So San Diego Tours did a great write-up on the hike up to this aptly named, narrow strip of stone.

If you’re up for a rock solid adventure in San Diego, look no further than Mission Valley and a couple popular points to the east. 🙂


Happening Family Hikes That Kids and Parents Will Love

One of the best parts about being in San Diego is enjoying all its beauty. With great weather and scenic views, hiking with your family is yet another way to appreciate America’s finest city. When it comes to adventures on foot with the kids, check out some of the top happening hiking spots compiled from suggestions of local moms.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines - La Jolla - Scenic Waterfront Walks

Walk among the famous Torrey Pines with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop.

It would nearly be a crime not mention this spot first! In fact, when gathering as much hiking intel as I could from other parents, this was the one place always mentioned. Sandwiched between Del Mar and La Jolla, the wild flowers can be enjoyed with one of the world’s most breathtaking ocean views. With three of the popular hike options being short ones, choose to walk to the water or get up close to the famous Torrey Pines! If you want to get your kids excited about hikes, start at this 1,750 acre seaside reserve. (12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, California 92037.)

San Elijo Lagoon

This 915 acre reserve is nestled neatly in North County with sprawling ocean views. Known for its bird watching, there’s also lots of unique plants to check out, too. In fact, you may even spot a fish or two in the lagoon on one of the eight trails to choose from! (2710 Manchester Avenue in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.)

Batiquitos Lagoon

The Batiquitos Lagoon is a great place to see wildlife.

The Batiquitos Lagoon is a great place to see wildlife.

Beginners should start here. And by that, I especially mean those with the age 3 and under set that just want to get a nice walk in with a view of the water. Enjoy ocean and lagoon scenery with an easy walk for all ages. (7380 Gabbiano Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92011)

Cowles Mountain

360 Panorama of Cowles Mountain

360 Panorama of Cowles Mountain. Via Wikipedia

Got older kids? Get ready to hike to the highest point in San Diego! Savor the 360 degree views of San Diego and a healthy 3 mile round trip workout, too. With the shorter distance, kids may not notice that the hike is a bit more of a challenge. And bragging rights of reaching the “top of San Diego” (and the view!) will make it all worth while. (At the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road.)

Old Mission Dam

For fun with finding shells along the dam, this hike is another great place to enjoy with children while collecting wild flowers along the way. With easy trails, the historical landmark is also great for bird watching. (1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119)

Mount Woodson

Known for its cool rock formations that look like potato chips hanging in the sky, this hiking trail is thought of as moderate in terms of difficulty but worth the effort for the photos sitting on the edge of the rocks. With great views, round trip will be just about 8 miles so make sure the kids are up for a true adventure if you go for the whole route. (Mt Woodson Trail, Poway, CA.)

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

The Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve features  hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

The Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve features hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

Kid friendly walking (read: easy trails) can lead to the excitement of a waterfall! One of the best options leaves from the Canyonside Rec center with a path that will guide you along the creek to the main waterfall event.  For a very different hike, be sure to check out the West Entrance as well. Either way, bring your swimsuits on a hot day and enjoy a little dip in the water to cool off! (12122 Canyonside Park Drive, San Diego, CA 92129.)

Black Mountain Open Space Park

For the over 5 years old crowd, get ready for some steep hills that will guide you to awesome views overlooking North County all the way to the ocean on a clear day! Reaching the top of the summit of Black Mountain, catch the views to downtown San Diego, too! (12115 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92129)

Remember, with so much beauty to explore in this city, be sure to get the kids outside and enjoying all the atmosphere that one of these family hikes in San Diego has to offer.



Golf Gets Him Going on the Right Course

It”s always fascinated when I come across someone who has been bitten by the golf bug. I enjoy finding out the how, the why, the when and the where for someone consumed by the game who is pursuing it with passion.

I met Jake Keeslar on the putting green Saturday morning at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Before we reached the first tee he said: “I”ve kind of set the goal for myself this year to shoot consistently in the 80s. Keeslar said his low round is an 89 (twice) at Camp Pendleton”s Marine Memorial Golf Course, so it is an ambitious goal.

Jake Keeslar prepares to make impact for his drive on the 14th tee at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

The 18 holes that followed at RB Inn on an enjoyable, springlike afternoon confirmed my suspicions — Jake has been bitten by the bug. He spoke exciting about obtaining the latest driver from TaylorMade. . . . He mentioned Mt. Woodson as among his favorite places to play in San Diego. . . . After a chip shot landed within a couple feet of the flagstick on the 13th hole, he credited a recent tip about keeping the ball forward in his stance. . . . Poor shots were met with an audible groan. . . . There was talk of attending a golf academy in Carlsbad in the fall.

While Keeslar played some golf while growing up in Big Bear, which is a couple hours north of San Diego, he didn”t online casino really get into the game until after “I was blown up” while serving in Iraq. Keeslar lost both legs — his left above the knee and his right just below the knee — five years ago while on a mission in the Anbar Province when the vehicle he was riding in was demolished by a deep buried IED. During his recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Keeslar was encouraged to go golfing by his prosthetist, an avid golfer who took him to a course called Sligo Creek in Silver Spring, Md.

“When it comes to amputees, golf”s great for balance, coordination and stamina,” said Keeslar, adding, “Just getting out of the hospital. It”s so much for your mind.”

Keeslar played three times last week at Camp Pendleton, which he noted is open to the public. Military members get preferred tee times, but the Marine Memorial Golf Course civilians can play for $30 weekdays and $35 on weekends, plus $12 for cart. The Monday special includes half price greens fees. For tee times or more information call (760) 725-4756 or go to

Pendleton is Keeslar”s home course, but that could change within the next two weeks when he retires. He is building a home in Fallbrook and enjoys the municipal course there. He appreciates Mt. Woodson for the mountain setting and its tight track. He enjoys Torrey Pines and finding himself playing some of the same shots the pros play. He also likes Arrowood Golf Course in Oceanside, although Keeslar was headed out to Morgan Run in Rancho Santa Fe (which will be hosting the Cox Celebrity Championship in May) when I caught up with him Monday morning. He considers himself fortunate to have settled in San Diego. Guess why?

“The amount of days you can play golf,” said Keeslar. “You can get 360 days of golf out here.”

And he seems intent on doing just that.