See My City: The Path Less Traveled

I have admitted time and again that I am a city person to my core. I love living in the middle of all the action and being able to walk to anything I could possibly want to do. But if I need to clear my head, I know I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Lucky for me, San Diego makes that very easy. So one day earlier this month, that need arose and I knew exactly what to do. Because I'm SO California now, I knew I needed to go on a hike. (WHAT??!)

I had seen photos from the Ho Chi Minh Trail (so named by surfers in the 1960s) in La Jolla and was struck by its beauty. The gorgeous, smooth sandstone looked similar to the slot canyons in the American Southwest. And the hike is known to be challenging but by no means meant for experts, so I wasn't too intimidated. I set off - how could I pass up a good photo opportunity while also clearing my head?

The smooth sandstone of the Ho Chi Minh trail in La Jolla, San Diego, worn from use and the natural elements.

The smooth sandstone of the Ho Chi Minh trail in La Jolla, San Diego, worn from use and the natural elements.

The entrance to the hike starts at a blink-and-you'll-miss-it little alleyway in the middle of a La Jolla residential neighborhood. As I stopped to take a photo of the view from the start, three surfers, still clad in their wetsuits, wearing no shoes, and carrying their boards, passed by me. If these guys could do it one handed and barefoot, I could TOTALLY handle this.

The view from the start of the trail. It ends on the beach at the oceanfront.

So I set off. I had my trail shoes on and the appropriate activewear for a hike (*wink*), and I felt like I was nailing it. Then I stumbled across the first indicator that this may be more than it seemed.

That plank (center). I am supposed to cross that plank. I am a 5'11" woman with LITTLE athletic ability to speak of, and I'm supposed to cross that plank. Well, I did. Hell. Yes. Minor victories for the win (little did I know what was to come).

I continued down the path, giving myself little pep talks and stopping every three feet for a photo. Then, I had a bit of a Robert Frost moment as two paths diverged on the hike;  I -- I took the one less traveled by. And (after the fact, completing the hike safe and sound with all limbs in tact) that has made all the difference.

I choose the path that diverged to the right. To say it is less traveled by is probably inaccurate; but to say it is probably less traveled by solo hikers would make sense. It is a narrow, steep descent into the slot between the smoothest of sandstone walls, walls that are difficult to get a footing or hand grip on. My heart was pumping (cheesy, I know), but I felt pretty good about taking it on. Not to get too personal on you, but it has been a long time since I pushed my limits, physical or otherwise. It was wonderfully empowering to do so here.

I continued down, noting the markings on the wall and wondering if I should leave mine. Then, I reached the end of this portion of the trail, and I realized that without a partner, I wasn't going to make the descent from the sandstone slot canyon to the clearing below. So I turned around. I honestly can't tell you which was harder: the descent or the ascent, but I will say I emerged sandy and dirty and feeling pretty damn good for accomplishing both. I then took the path to the right - the one more traveled by - which was much easier but equally as photogenic.

From there on down, it was a pretty straightforward path to the beach (although there is a rope involved to assist your final descent). A stream runs through the path and a small waterfall trickles at the end - it's a feast for the senses.

And once you reach the beach, it's heavenly. And if you are lucky like I was, you'll get a fine ocean mist blowing onto the shore, making for the most moody, wonderful scenes. It's almost enough to refresh you for the hike back up. Almost. (Thankfully, the hike back up was much easier than the descent!)

Coastal Hikes and Lifestyle Photography

I'll start by saying that hiking has never really been a thing for my family. Our lovely neighbors in England would have a bit of a giggle if we shared that we had taken a walk that day. We aren't outdoorsy people, what can I say? And don't even get me started on the idea of camping.

But hiking IS a thing here. A big thing. And I understand why. California has some spectacular landscapes. Why wouldn't you want to get out there and enjoy it, especially when the weather is as perfect as it always is around here?

So we did it. We drank the kool aid and went for a hike. Two hikes, actually, two weekends in a row! Who are we?? It turns out that we are people that kind of like hikes. And when I say hikes, I mean easy walks on marked paths with no special gear required. Except for maybe your superhero cape.

Our first hike took us on a quest to fine the secret swings of La Jolla. Turns out they are so secret, they don't exist anymore. But you know what? The photos from that hike are some of my favorite photos of my daughter that I've taken recently.

She's not one to pose for the camera anymore (I apparently take too many photos), which is fine because I'm not a huge fan of posed photos, anyway. These images capture her personality at this age far better than a photo of her smiling at the camera would. She's a superhero, a tomboy, a lover of cars, her dad, and her blue play shoes. And those curls? They are my favorite feature of hers.

So yes, this post is about our inaugural hikes in San Diego, but it's also a little about my philosophy regarding lifestyle photography. When she heads off to college in 14 years, these are the memories I want to trigger when I look back at photos. They represent her spirit that an image of her neatly posed in front of a tree just wouldn't. There is certainly a time and place for those photos, but when it comes to capturing families - and children, in particular - it's the spirit that I'm after.

We took our second hike with our best family friends who we are lucky to have living nearby. The Guy Fleming trail at Torrey Pines State Park is wonderful for children - an easy loop with interesting vegetation and gorgeous ocean views.

And the reward for all that walking? A run into the ocean, fully clothed, her spirit shining through the entire time.