Mitchell Caverns Tour in Mojave National Preserve

The Mitchell Caverns in Providence State Park are one of the only show caves in Southern California. They finally reopened after being closed for over five years, and if you haven’t explored them, do it now. The caves are only accessible via a guided tour that happens two days a week and is hard to book, but it consists of 1.5 – 2 hours of exploring the caves and learning about the area’s history. Here is all the information.

Details

  • $10 per person for the tour and $10 to park
  • Must call to get on a tour, they told me you could only call on Mondays currently. More information here.
  • Location: 38200 Essex Rd, Essex, CA 92332

Getting There

From Southern California, it is a long drive to get out to Mitchell Caverns, and I would recommend you consider spending the night at Hole in the Wall Campground or something so you can make the most of your time.

Take the 15 North to Barstow then head East on the 40 Freeway. It’s about an hour and a half from Barstow with no gas or food so get what you need before leaving Barstow. When you get to Essex Rd, you will get off and head north into Mojave National Preserve. Follow signs to the caverns and park in the lot.

The Tour

Since it is so far away, we ended up getting there about 40 minutes early. We took the time to explore the small visitors center they have, as well as walked around on the short trail to see cactus and a few historical plaques. There are two bathrooms here as well.

When it was time for the tour to start, they gathered up the 15 of us and started by telling us the history of the area and the Mitchell’s who ran the cave.

The short history is that the Mitchells moved out here in 1934 and they ran the caves as a desert resort and Route 66 attraction for 20 years. Jack built all of the stone buildings here and gave cave tours himself. He also developed the road that got here from Route 66, which was 22 miles. They left in 1954 when they were both in their 70’s, and that is when it was sold to the state parks system.

After learning this history, we headed out on the trail for about a third of a mile hike to where the cave is.

Along the way, we stopped multiple times to learn about the plant and animal life as well as the gold mines that were here. Lots of the plants and animals in this area are only found in this location and not anywhere else in the world. It is called a sky island.

When you round the bend and see the two eyes which are the entrance to the cave, it is a pretty cool sight.

After crossing the small bridge, you will be walking up a hill and will then reach the cave entrance.

The Caverns

From here the tour gets incredible and you spend the next 45 minutes or so in the cave.

The formations here are mind-blowing, featuring a column, which is a connected stalactite and stalagmites. Only 1 in 4,000 caves have a connecting piece like this.

The cave has many rooms that you will get a chance to spend time in and learn more about. I was fascinated by how impressive this cave was to explore; it was much better then I expected.

There are also formations called cave shields here, and they are only found in 60 caves in the USA.

The tour goes up and down stairs, through small tunnels and into large rooms, it’s fantastic.

We also learned about some of the animal life in here including the packrat, you can see his nest in the below photo.

The tour ended in the large room in the second part of the cave. This room was massive and let in some light, so it was easy to see without the man-added lights in the cave.

When you leave the cave, it is about a half mile back to where you parked, completing your time at Providence Mountains.

I loved my time at this park, I am so glad it is open again, and I hope others get a chance to explore this unique Southern California site. Let me know what you think if you go in the comments.

Mitchell Caverns Tour in Mojave National Preserve

The Mitchell Caverns in Providence State Park are one of the only show caves in Southern California. They finally reopened after being closed for over five years, and if you haven’t explored them, do it now. The caves are only accessible via a guided tour that happens two days a week and is hard to book, but it consists of 1.5 – 2 hours of exploring the caves and learning about the area’s history. Here is all the information.

Details

  • $10 per person for the tour and $10 to park
  • Must call to get on a tour, they told me you could only call on Mondays currently. More information here.
  • Location: 38200 Essex Rd, Essex, CA 92332

Getting There

From Southern California, it is a long drive to get out to Mitchell Caverns, and I would recommend you consider spending the night at Hole in the Wall Campground or something so you can make the most of your time.

Take the 15 North to Barstow then head East on the 40 Freeway. It’s about an hour and a half from Barstow with no gas or food so get what you need before leaving Barstow. When you get to Essex Rd, you will get off and head north into Mojave National Preserve. Follow signs to the caverns and park in the lot.

The Tour

Since it is so far away, we ended up getting there about 40 minutes early. We took the time to explore the small visitors center they have, as well as walked around on the short trail to see cactus and a few historical plaques. There are two bathrooms here as well.

When it was time for the tour to start, they gathered up the 15 of us and started by telling us the history of the area and the Mitchell’s who ran the cave.

The short history is that the Mitchells moved out here in 1934 and they ran the caves as a desert resort and Route 66 attraction for 20 years. Jack built all of the stone buildings here and gave cave tours himself. He also developed the road that got here from Route 66, which was 22 miles. They left in 1954 when they were both in their 70’s, and that is when it was sold to the state parks system.

After learning this history, we headed out on the trail for about a third of a mile hike to where the cave is.

Along the way, we stopped multiple times to learn about the plant and animal life as well as the gold mines that were here. Lots of the plants and animals in this area are only found in this location and not anywhere else in the world. It is called a sky island.

When you round the bend and see the two eyes which are the entrance to the cave, it is a pretty cool sight.

After crossing the small bridge, you will be walking up a hill and will then reach the cave entrance.

The Caverns

From here the tour gets incredible and you spend the next 45 minutes or so in the cave.

The formations here are mind-blowing, featuring a column, which is a connected stalactite and stalagmites. Only 1 in 4,000 caves have a connecting piece like this.

The cave has many rooms that you will get a chance to spend time in and learn more about. I was fascinated by how impressive this cave was to explore; it was much better then I expected.

There are also formations called cave shields here, and they are only found in 60 caves in the USA.

The tour goes up and down stairs, through small tunnels and into large rooms, it’s fantastic.

We also learned about some of the animal life in here including the packrat, you can see his nest in the below photo.

The tour ended in the large room in the second part of the cave. This room was massive and let in some light, so it was easy to see without the man-added lights in the cave.

When you leave the cave, it is about a half mile back to where you parked, completing your time at Providence Mountains.

I loved my time at this park, I am so glad it is open again, and I hope others get a chance to explore this unique Southern California site. Let me know what you think if you go in the comments.

Idyllcreek A-Frame Cabin in Idyllwild

This experience was provided free of charge, all opinions are my own.

Idyllwild is a nice mountain town near Palm Springs that’s a popular destination for people that live in lower elevation like myself. I have been many times over the years but when I saw some of the A-frame cabins available on Air BnB I knew I needed to go back. For this trip, I worked with Experience Idyllwild who manages eight properties, two which are A-frames, and Amie and I headed out to spend 24 hours relaxing in a cabin.

Details

  • You can book this cabin here, but it is popular so book it in advance
  • After booking, you will be sent information on how to get there and all the stuff you need to know about the cabin.
  • Pet-friendly but requires an extra fee

Idyllcreek Cabin

We arrived shortly after our check in time and had no problem reaching the cabin and getting set up.

It was just as beautiful as I hoped, with two bedrooms, a full bathroom downstairs and a half bathroom upstairs.

It also had a large kitchen, dining room table and living area with a TV and fireplace.

I didn’t even turn on the TV while I was there, but I got a ton of use out of the fireplace.

The cabin had central heating which was nice since it got down to the 20’s at night when we were there.

The main draw though is, of course, the excellent A-frame design that has been so popular on Instagram over the last few years.

Complete with market lights, outdoor fireplace, and seating, this was a great spot to hang out and to take photos while we stayed there.

There is also a spa out here which is a fun addition, especially on winter nights.

One of the biggest draws for us was that the property was pet-friendly and we could bring our old bulldog. He loved being able to explore the area and sleep by the fireplace.

We hardly left the cabin while we were there, but if you are looking to explore the town, there are some great food options and other spots to check out that you can read about in this post.

Thanks to Idyllcreek for hosting us and check them out online if you want to visit as well.

Searsucker: Upscale American Dining in San Diego

The Gaslamp area of San Diego is one of the top destinations in the city for both food and drinks. While there are a ton of options for great places to eat, for me Searsucker is one of the best for a nice upscale meal in downtown San Diego. The unique menu here and the relaxed atmosphere makes for an excellent night out, but do make sure to note that it can be pricey. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $20 – $30
  • Location: 611 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

The restaurant is located on Market St and Fifth Ave. You can valet park or you can find a parking lot or structure around the Gaslamp area.

The Restaurant

Searsucker is right in the middle of Gaslamp in a busy part of the city. The restaurant feels like a nice escape though with its wide open floor plan and high ceilings.

The menu starts with three unique takes on the traditional old-fashioned drink, including a peanut butter and jelly old fashioned with a small Uncrustable like sandwich on the rim and a cream soda old-fashioned.

The menu continues the eclectic style with everything from short ribs and street corn to octopus. I usually just get a few of the small dishes since that allows me to try lots of things on the menu. Here is what my wife and I got last time we were there.

Short ribs – One of the flagship dishes here, the short ribs are very tender and practically melt in your mouth. They are served with creamy horseradish, whipped potatoes which add a great flavor to the rich meat. The dish is topped with fried onions, adding a nice crunch to the meat and potatoes.

Duck Wings – This was my favorite thing I ordered as the wings are full of flavor and had moist, easy to pick apart meat. It had a nice, salty taste, paired with chili oil and finished with a batter the provided a nice fried crunch.

Octopus – I don’t have a picture of this dish so I added a photo of the cheese plate. The grilled octopus was prepared well so that it was soft and not chewy like it often can be. Served with avocado, cucumber, and cilantro, which are things I would have never thought to eat with octopus but which paired great. Another dish I would easily order again.

Corn – Served with chorizo and spices, this corn is fantastic. It’s spicy from the jalapenos but evened out with the mayo flavor from the corn crema, like what you would find in Mexican street corn. Honestly, I would order multiple of this dish as it was excellent.

Brown Butter Pear Crumble – The dish consisted of sizeable spiced ginger streusel pieces on top of the roasted pear middle, flavored with cranberry jam and cream cheese ice cream. Great dish to share if you are in the mood for something sweet and it has a fantastic flavor.

As you can no doubt tell I really like Searsucker. The unique dishes and fun atmosphere is a great find in the heart of Gaslamp for a fancy dinner. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Searsucker: Upscale American Dining in San Diego

The Gaslamp area of San Diego is one of the top destinations in the city for both food and drinks. While there are a ton of options for great places to eat, for me Searsucker is one of the best for a nice upscale meal in downtown San Diego. The unique menu here and the relaxed atmosphere makes for an excellent night out, but do make sure to note that it can be pricey. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $20 – $30
  • Location: 611 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

The restaurant is located on Market St and Fifth Ave. You can valet park or you can find a parking lot or structure around the Gaslamp area.

The Restaurant

Searsucker is right in the middle of Gaslamp in a busy part of the city. The restaurant feels like a nice escape though with its wide open floor plan and high ceilings.

The menu starts with three unique takes on the traditional old-fashioned drink, including a peanut butter and jelly old fashioned with a small Uncrustable like sandwich on the rim and a cream soda old-fashioned.

The menu continues the eclectic style with everything from short ribs and street corn to octopus. I usually just get a few of the small dishes since that allows me to try lots of things on the menu. Here is what my wife and I got last time we were there.

Short ribs – One of the flagship dishes here, the short ribs are very tender and practically melt in your mouth. They are served with creamy horseradish, whipped potatoes which add a great flavor to the rich meat. The dish is topped with fried onions, adding a nice crunch to the meat and potatoes.

Duck Wings – This was my favorite thing I ordered as the wings are full of flavor and had moist, easy to pick apart meat. It had a nice, salty taste, paired with chili oil and finished with a batter the provided a nice fried crunch.

Octopus – I don’t have a picture of this dish so I added a photo of the cheese plate. The grilled octopus was prepared well so that it was soft and not chewy like it often can be. Served with avocado, cucumber, and cilantro, which are things I would have never thought to eat with octopus but which paired great. Another dish I would easily order again.

Corn – Served with chorizo and spices, this corn is fantastic. It’s spicy from the jalapenos but evened out with the mayo flavor from the corn crema, like what you would find in Mexican street corn. Honestly, I would order multiple of this dish as it was excellent.

Brown Butter Pear Crumble – The dish consisted of sizeable spiced ginger streusel pieces on top of the roasted pear middle, flavored with cranberry jam and cream cheese ice cream. Great dish to share if you are in the mood for something sweet and it has a fantastic flavor.

As you can no doubt tell I really like Searsucker. The unique dishes and fun atmosphere is a great find in the heart of Gaslamp for a fancy dinner. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Petco Park Tour in San Diego

San Diego is a baseball city with a stadium right in the heart of downtown. If you happen to be there when a game is going on, then be sure to grab a ticket as it is electric being in the city during a game. If your not there when the Padre’s are playing, it is still a lot of fun to take the tour of the historic stadium and see many of the areas you wouldn’t normally get to see on game day. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $17 for adults, $12 for kids
  • Tours offered on most days, you can buy tickets here
  • Location: 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

Petco Park is located right in the heart of Downtown San Diego. You can drive there or access it via public transit. The best parking structure for the tour is on 7th and K St, and it is only a dollar an hour, making it a great spot to park if you want to explore downtown San Diego after as well.

The Tour

After checking in for the tour, you can head to the company store and look around until it starts.

The tour is about an hour and a half long with lots of stops all around the stadium.

Our guide was great as he knew a ton about the park’s history and the Padres. I learned a lot on the tour and enjoyed it even though I am not a baseball fan.

The tour started with the half of fame on the outskirts of the stadium. Less then half the teams in baseball have a hall of fame, so it was fun to check out.

From there we headed inside to the stadium itself and took a tour of the private suites first.

There were pretty epic, and I would love to watch a game in one.

From there we walked around the old Western Metal Supply Co. building that makes up the left field line and was built in 1909. Our guide said it is the oldest thing in baseball (not stadium) as this building precedes Fenway Park by three years.

The tour continued into the impressive bar space with pool tables and other games. Outside of that was a section called “The Rail” where you can watch a game from while sitting in barstool like chairs.

After that, we headed to the press box which had a great view of the field. Unfortunately, the field was dirt from a motocross event the previous day, but it was still cool to see.

Next, we went down to the locker rooms and then into the dugout. The dugout was a fun part of the tour, and if you are a fan, I imagine this being pretty awesome.

After about an hour and a half, the tour was over, and we were back to where we started. Even though I am not a baseball fan, it was still a great place to explore and a fun tour to go on in the city. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Petco Park Tour in San Diego

San Diego is a baseball city with a stadium right in the heart of downtown. If you happen to be there when a game is going on, then be sure to grab a ticket as it is electric being in the city during a game. If your not there when the Padre’s are playing, it is still a lot of fun to take the tour of the historic stadium and see many of the areas you wouldn’t normally get to see on game day. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $17 for adults, $12 for kids
  • Tours offered on most days, you can buy tickets here
  • Location: 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

Petco Park is located right in the heart of Downtown San Diego. You can drive there or access it via public transit. The best parking structure for the tour is on 7th and K St, and it is only a dollar an hour, making it a great spot to park if you want to explore downtown San Diego after as well.

The Tour

After checking in for the tour, you can head to the company store and look around until it starts.

The tour is about an hour and a half long with lots of stops all around the stadium.

Our guide was great as he knew a ton about the park’s history and the Padres. I learned a lot on the tour and enjoyed it even though I am not a baseball fan.

The tour started with the half of fame on the outskirts of the stadium. Less then half the teams in baseball have a hall of fame, so it was fun to check out.

From there we headed inside to the stadium itself and took a tour of the private suites first.

There were pretty epic, and I would love to watch a game in one.

From there we walked around the old Western Metal Supply Co. building that makes up the left field line and was built in 1909. Our guide said it is the oldest thing in baseball (not stadium) as this building precedes Fenway Park by three years.

The tour continued into the impressive bar space with pool tables and other games. Outside of that was a section called “The Rail” where you can watch a game from while sitting in barstool like chairs.

After that, we headed to the press box which had a great view of the field. Unfortunately, the field was dirt from a motocross event the previous day, but it was still cool to see.

Next, we went down to the locker rooms and then into the dugout. The dugout was a fun part of the tour, and if you are a fan, I imagine this being pretty awesome.

After about an hour and a half, the tour was over, and we were back to where we started. Even though I am not a baseball fan, it was still a great place to explore and a fun tour to go on in the city. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park

The San Diego Zoo is known worldwide and often voted one of the best zoos you can visit. With over 3,000 animals and almost 100 acres of land, this zoo is massive, and it’s a great place to explore with the whole family. While it can be expensive, I have always found the price to be worth it, especially if you can dedicate a half day to walking around and seeing all of the fun animals. Here are the details.

Details

  • Cost: As of 2018, $55 for adults and $44 for children
  • Least busy day to go: Tuesday
  • Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

From Downtown San Diego, You will want to head north on 11th Ave which becomes the 163 North. Merge onto Richmond St then turn right on Upas and right again on Park Blvd. You will see signs for the zoo on your right and parking is free in the large lot.

The Zoo

If possible, I always recommend going on a weekday as it’s way less busy. The last time I went, one of the workers told me that Tuesday is the best day of the week to go, so if you can go that day then do it. After getting your tickets and going past the turnstiles, you will be greeted by a few dozen pink flamingos, which are the first animals you see.

This map will show you all of the animals and exhibits that you can visit around the park. I usually opt to take the sky tram all the way to the back then make my way back from there on one of the many paths. You need a good day to see everything though.

Here are some of my favorite animals to see at the San Diego Zoo.

Polar Bears

As one of the animals I will probably never see in the wild; I have always been fascinated by polar bears. The polar bear exhibit here is fantastic and I have often seen them swimming in the area that lets you see below the water.

Elephants

Its hard not to be excited when you see one of these massive creatures. They have a large pen that you can walk all around the outside of, and since they are so large, you will see them most of the time you visit the zoo, which is not always the case for other animals. I have even seen them playing and squirting water from their trunks.

Camels

While I have seen these before in Africa, its still fun to see these strange creatures in person.

Giraffes

Such an interesting animal, giraffes are especially fun to see when they are eating as you get to experience their massive necks.

Rhinos

Another one of those animals you don’t get a chance to see in real life, they are genuinely daunting, tank-like animals in person.

This is of course just a very small percentage of the animals on display at the San Diego Zoo. There are pandas, lions, monkeys, etc. all scattered around the park. If you live close, consider getting a pass and you can go multiple times during the year to not feel rushed.

I always love exploring the zoo, and I would like to hear what your favorite animals are in the comments.

San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park

The San Diego Zoo is known worldwide and often voted one of the best zoos you can visit. With over 3,000 animals and almost 100 acres of land, this zoo is massive, and it’s a great place to explore with the whole family. While it can be expensive, I have always found the price to be worth it, especially if you can dedicate a half day to walking around and seeing all of the fun animals. Here are the details.

Details

  • Cost: As of 2018, $55 for adults and $44 for children
  • Least busy day to go: Tuesday
  • Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Getting There

From Downtown San Diego, You will want to head north on 11th Ave which becomes the 163 North. Merge onto Richmond St then turn right on Upas and right again on Park Blvd. You will see signs for the zoo on your right and parking is free in the large lot.

The Zoo

If possible, I always recommend going on a weekday as it’s way less busy. The last time I went, one of the workers told me that Tuesday is the best day of the week to go, so if you can go that day then do it. After getting your tickets and going past the turnstiles, you will be greeted by a few dozen pink flamingos, which are the first animals you see.

This map will show you all of the animals and exhibits that you can visit around the park. I usually opt to take the sky tram all the way to the back then make my way back from there on one of the many paths. You need a good day to see everything though.

Here are some of my favorite animals to see at the San Diego Zoo.

Polar Bears

As one of the animals I will probably never see in the wild; I have always been fascinated by polar bears. The polar bear exhibit here is fantastic and I have often seen them swimming in the area that lets you see below the water.

Elephants

Its hard not to be excited when you see one of these massive creatures. They have a large pen that you can walk all around the outside of, and since they are so large, you will see them most of the time you visit the zoo, which is not always the case for other animals. I have even seen them playing and squirting water from their trunks.

Camels

While I have seen these before in Africa, its still fun to see these strange creatures in person.

Giraffes

Such an interesting animal, giraffes are especially fun to see when they are eating as you get to experience their massive necks.

Rhinos

Another one of those animals you don’t get a chance to see in real life, they are genuinely daunting, tank-like animals in person.

This is of course just a very small percentage of the animals on display at the San Diego Zoo. There are pandas, lions, monkeys, etc. all scattered around the park. If you live close, consider getting a pass and you can go multiple times during the year to not feel rushed.

I always love exploring the zoo, and I would like to hear what your favorite animals are in the comments.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge: Historic Footbridge in San Diego

 

One of the elements I like about San Diego is how a lot of the historic charm of the city’s past is still on display today. The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is one of these spots. The bridge was built in simpler times (1912) when a small canyon like this was best crossed via an elevated bridge instead of leveled and zoned for housing. The bridge is always popular with many people walking on it, but that adds to the charm, here is all the information so you can check it out as well.

Details

  • Free
  • Location: Spruce St 1st Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

Getting There

It is all street parking here, but luckily there are two entrances to the bridge, so you should be able to find a place to park.

The bridge is not easy to see from the road, but you will see the stairs that take you down to it.

There is also a plaque with some information on both sides.

The bridge is relatively wide, so you can walk past people on it comfortably. It does sway ever so slightly with the wind and with people walking on it though.

It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the other side, and it is surprisingly long when you see it from an angle.

I spent about 20 minutes here just walking around and taking it all in before heading to my next spot in San Diego. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.