Located approximately 30 miles away North of San Diego and filled with incredible scenery, Lake Hodges was my destination on one extremely hot Saturday morning. Perfect for a full day hike, a small walk, or even just a picnic by the lake – Lake Hodges was my choice for Episode 16 in my journey to complete 52 hikes in 52 weeks!
Unfortunately, my husband was away for business that weekend and would not be joining me on this little adventure. While solo hiking is not new to me, hiking in California on my own was a brand new adventure that I was about to jump into. Hiking solo comes with experience and confidence, as well as a small list of elements to consider. The one thing that I knew I am not prepared for was hiking in Southern California with its danger of rattlesnakes, especially during spring. I am from Bulgaria, a country that does not have many poisonous snakes and I have not had any experience dealing with snake bites.
During the last 3 months, we have hiked almost exclusively in California and so far we have not encountered any snakes. Now that we have fully entered the rattlesnake season, though, one is left to wonder when it is going to happen. Alex is an extremely calm individual and I had always counted on his composure in stressful situations. This time, however, I had to get ready for my first solo hiking adventure in California.
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Note: An easy tip if you are also scared of snakes, grab a walking stick or hiking pole and make sure to tap it in front of you. Snakes tend to sense the vibrations and are more likely to slither off!
Prepared with my hiking poles and backpack, I headed to Lake Hodges! I have to admit that Alex is normally the one who plans our hiking routes and I did not have a full plan as to where I am heading. This being my first time in the area and due to the numerous hiking options, I was not sure what to choose. I made it to Lake Hodges Recreation Area and started along the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail.
The easy, relatively flat path runs close to the road on your right and offers incredible scenic views of the lake to the left. It was almost immediately that I realized this is not a popular trail, as I did not meet any other fellow hikers. Far away from the ocean, there was no breeze to refresh the air and the morning was only getting hotter and hotter. Keep in mind that there is barely any shade along the path.
Even though there are no trail signs, it is impossible to get lost as long as you keep following the meandering dirt path.
Despite my fear of encountering a rattlesnake and constantly checking the path for signs of movement, I was able to soak in the views of Lake Hodges in the distance ahead. Dominated by lush greenery, the surroundings were truly incredible. Only occasional cricket sounds were breaking the otherwise perfectly still air. It felt like I had found a little corner of the world only for myself. Under normal circumstances, I would be thrilled by these moments of peace and quiet. Today, however, I was torn between enjoying the tranquility of nature and facing my fear of snakes. Combined with the unbearable heat, I started questioning my decision.
My stubbornness did not allow me to give up yet! I continued following the trail and soon enough I could hear voices in the distance. I had reached another parking lot providing an excellent opportunity for exploring and hiking along Lake Hodges. A trail sign suggested it would be another at least 2.5 miles to reach Rattlesnake Viewpoint and over 3 miles for the Gorge Bridge. After a quick evaluation, I could tell this was not a hiking adventure I could embark on that day. The path is flat and easy to follow, so I would definitely consider taking the 7 – 8 mile hike another time when the temperature is not close to 90 degrees.
I still continued for a little longer to take a glimpse of this section of the trail, taking mental notes for the next time I come back to Lake Hodges. It was almost immediately that I realized that this area is a lot more popular than the one that I had just hiked along. While some families were already coming back, others were just getting started. Either way, the trail here seemed to be full of nature lovers! It kept curving close enough to the shore, offering tremendous views of the rolling hills.
The presence of other people soothed my nerves and I stopped for a little longer to catch a few more glances at the surroundings. I took a deep breath in and enjoyed the clean nature scent, even though the still hot air. After a few minutes, I turned around and made my way back to the parking lot where I had started from. Other than taking a smaller path running closer to the lake’s shore, I followed the same path back.
Walking on the way back, I was wondering if this could even count as one of the 52 in 52 series. Not reaching any definite destination made me wonder if I have failed. I felt scared and nervous the entire time, worried that I might see a rattlesnake. I also did not plan accordingly for the heat as the amount of water I had brought was not enough for a longer hike. Tracking close to 3 miles, however, could still be seen as an achievement considering the circumstances. Later on, as I shared my little solo hiking adventure with Alex, he encouraged me to write about it and make it part of the 52 in 52 series.
We started the year with some trips to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. We also visited some of San Diego’s most popular sights allowing us to have a very dynamic and adventurous 3 months. Originally, I wanted to share our full hiking guides as we keep exploring and experiencing California; however, and being realistic – we are unable to have a remarkable hiking adventure or be climbing peaks every week. But that is also not what the 52 in 52 series should be about.
We will not be becoming mountaineers, we are just two individuals enjoying the outdoors life. We see the beauty of Mother Nature and we want to experience and explore as much of it as possible. We love being in nature because it allows us a few hours of peace and quiet – this precious time away from the city traffic and the technology we are otherwise fully dependent on. With that being said, maybe not all episodes of the 52 in 52 series will reveal incredible, once-in-a-lifetime hiking adventures. Some of them will be small walks we took in a local park. So regardless of what your hiking skills are, you can join the 52 Hike challenge for yourself and find happiness by spending a few hours per week diving into the natural beauty that surrounds us!