Southern California Romance in the Outdoors


Keeping Up with Cupid

Did Valentine's Day weekend sneak up on you? Not to worry! Romance can still happen with a frolic in the great outdoors. Add a loaf of bread, some cheese, a bottle of wine, and—voilà!—l'amour fou. Here are some last-minute excursions that won't cost a fortune—or require reservations!

LAs Los Liones Trail

Magic Our

LA's Los Liones Trail might as well be called Los Lovers Trail. This charming ivy-covered stroll exudes romance, with a trail-top bench offering a sweetheart of a view overlooking Santa Monica Bay, especially at sunset. The 3-mile (round-trip) trail enters Topanga State Park from Los Liones Drive in Pacific Palisades. The ocean views are ongoing for much of this hike, which gently rises 550 feet and aims north following the wavy contours of the east wall of Los Liones Canyon. Early blooming wildflowers like purple nightshade poke out from a canopy draped with vibrant green ivy. Serenading birdsong is the only sound likely to be heard while making your way up the canyon wall. The top of the trail turns southeast, delivering a view of Santa Monica Bay that will sweep you off your feet. The lone bench perched just before the junction with East Topanga Fire Road at trail's end is the perfect place to snuggle up for an endearing sunset, watching the city glow red as the fireball in the sky melts into the sea. It's a quick hike down, but pack a flashlight just in case—unless, of course, you don't mind calling it Lost Lovers Trail.

Take PCH to Sunset Blvd. Drive two blocks inland and turn left up Los Liones Dr. Go half a mile to the trailhead at the end of the road. There are three parking areas on the right for hikers, including one with a bathroom. Head north on the only trail leaving from the cul-de-sac. There are no junctions before the top of the trail, where you will find the lone bench on the right. No bikes or dogs.

San Buenaventura State Beach bike path

Jolly Good Time

OK, Casanovas, think you're a good catch? Set your smooth moves in motion with a legendary aphrodisiac favored by the original Latin lover himself. (The real) Casanova breakfasted on 50 oysters a day to prepare himself for his arduous amours. Lucky for you, rousing a romantic mood is made easier with a simple pairing: a bike ride followed by an oyster feast. The setting: San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura. The ride: a 4-mile (round-trip) ramble on a beachfront bike path leading to the Ventura River Estuary. This easy route heads north along sand dunes to the Ventura Pier. From there, pedal across the Ventura Promenade and around a cove of white sand. Glide through the sea breeze along this popular surf beach to arrive at the estuary, where feathered friends like ducks and egrets enjoy their own watersport. Time to shift gears, coast back, and find the J-spot! The Jolly Oyster is found right inside San Buenaventura State Beach next to the bike path and a picnic area, and serves up ready-to-grill Manila clams and Kumamoto and Pacific oysters. Give the oysters, and your date, the proper treatment by bringing your own bread, salad, and wine (yes, you can bring alcohol into the park). You can buy BBQ supplies from The Jolly Oyster, including a ready-made Jolly Pack containing seasonings and shucking and cutting knives, plus a tablecloth. Grill 'em up on the beachfront and slurp 'em down. Here’s to being one shell of a Casanova!

TIP: The bike rental stand next to The Jolly Oyster is closed for the season (it's open in summer). Wheel Fun Rentals on the Ventura Pier is the closest bike rental shop. It even rents tandem cruisers!

Take US 101 to the Seaward Ave. exit in Ventura and head west. Make the second right on Pierpont Blvd. and drive a quarter mile to the entrance of San Buenaventura State Beach. Pull into the park and pay a $10 day-use fee (or find free parking outside the park). Proceed around the park to a large parking lot next to the bright blue stand for The Jolly Oyster bordering the bike path. Bike northwest along the beach for 2 miles to the estuary and turn around. The Jolly Oyster is open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oysters are $1 each and clams are $6 per pound. Dog-friendly on the bike path and in the picnic area, but not the beach.

Love Valley Palomar Mountains

Lovers' Corral

You're not in Montana, but this really is big sky country. Love Valley in northern San Diego's Palomar Mountain might well have been designed by Cupid, with a sprawling and becoming meadow that beckons a picnic with that special someone. The easy 2-mile (round-trip) trail to reach Love Valley sports a vista-worthy view of nearby Lake Henshaw, a giant reservoir at the base of the mountain. The valley is an open mountain meadow the size of a few football fields, so there's plenty of space to spread a blanket. Pick a sun-soaked section or settle in beneath an oak. Low green mountains shoulder the valley. There are no tables or garbage cans here, so you've gotta pack out what you pack in. Your only company in Love Valley may be an old abandoned barn. It's a bit ominous to approach it for a peek inside, making for a prime opportunity to clutch your companion's hand. Ahhh, paramours in Palomar!

BONUS: Forgot the picnic? The Round Up BBQ Grill (Santa Ysabel at 26439 Highway 76, a mile past the intersection with East Grade Road) serves up wood-fired meats covered in sauce. Lip-smacking good save!

Palomar Mountain is east of I-15 between Temecula and Escondido. Take I-15 to exit 46 and head east on Highway 76 for 30 miles to East Grade Rd. Turn left and drive 3.3 miles up the road to a large dirt pullout on the left (just before mile marker 3.4). Find the gated dirt service road leaving from the pullout and begin hiking down to the valley. After a third of a mile, if you come across a barbed-wire fence placed across the road by ranchers, open the left side of the gate and go through. The road reaches Love Valley after 0.8-mile and splits. Turn right to find the barn. Dog-friendly!

Climb for Breast Cancer Prevention

We've all heard that life is about the journey, not the destination. But sometimes the journey and the destination work beautifully together to help you reach new heights. The Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds is your chance to challenge yourself to climb one of the tallest mountains in the United States, Northern California's Mount Shasta (14,179 feet), in support of breast cancer prevention. The annual mountaineering expedition is designed for women and men of all abilities and supports the organization's groundbreaking initiatives to eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. The 2012 Climb Against the Odds expedition starts with learning the nuances of mountain climbing with the support of your team and an expert training leader. The three-day climb is an adventure of a lifetime. Starting from the trailhead at 7,000 feet, you and 39 new best friends will travel with professional guides, climbing above the tree line to base camp (9,400 feet), a spectacular moonscape setting. Refill your bottle with water from a glacier that's actually expanding (!), and enjoy meals prepared by your guides. Get an early start on summit day to reach the 14,179-foot peak or your own personal summit. Take a moment to fly a prayer flag in honor or memory of loved ones touched by breast cancer. Conditions permitting, you'll have the unique opportunity to glissade down the mountain back to base camp. Cap things off with a pancake breakfast followed by a rousing welcome from friends, family, Breast Cancer Fund staff, and the Mount Shasta community. Ready to take the first step? Join Climb Against the Odds now to begin your journey!

Climb Against the Odds is June 17–23, 2012.

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