Tag Archives: California

Adventures in LA – Horseback Riding

30 Mar

Location: Zuma Canyon, Malibu – Los Angeles, California
Zuma Canyon

It’s a habit of mine to find horseback riding opportunities wherever I am – whether I’m in Cuba, Egypt, or Los Angeles. And if you’re traveling with me, I will try my best to convince you to join me. I always encourage people to try new things, especially things I love! :)

Malibu Riders provided us with some trusty steeds for our 3-mile ride through Zuma Canyon.

They have horses for all levels of riders from novice to advanced. I was assigned to a quick little bay mare named Honna (at least that’s how it was pronounced). My friend’s never been on a horse before so our guide gave him a really experienced gray mare, Nay-Nay.
Too bad she was the one horse who wanted to kick every other horse that tried to pass her that day (apparently she doesn’t usually do this). It’s a little scary trying to get your horse away from the one that kicks when you’re on a narrow mountain trail with a wall to your left and a cliff to your right. At least it made for an interesting ride.

Other than that, the ride went smoothly. Our guide made sure that the riders were doing okay during the entire ride and we got to do a little trot and canter at the end of it when everyone felt comfortable enough to try a faster pace. Oh, and the friend that’s never been on a horse before? He enjoyed it a lot! (I’d prefer he love it, but I won’t put words in his mouth)

Riding in Zuma CanyonMalibu View

Okay so I’m not a riding instructor or anything close to being qualified as one, but here are some things you might want to keep in mind before you decide to horseback ride and during the ride:

  • Don’t wear open-toed shoes.
  • Don’t wear shorts. You can get saddle burn, and it ain’t pretty.
  • Relax. Breathe. Try not to let fear or nerves get to you. Horses can feel if you’re tense through the saddle and may take advantage of this.
  • Make sure your stirrups (the things you put your feet in) are even in length or you’ll feel lopsided and off-balance.
  • Your horse WILL try to eat. Just pull your reins a bit and nudge your horse on by squeezing/kicking your legs.
  • If your horse tries to kick another horse, nudge him on. When they’re moving, they can’t kick out as effectively.
  • If another horse is going to kick yours, move your horse ASAP. You don’t want to be in the way of a kick because those suckers hurt!
  • Don’t worry about steering too much. Trail horses are trained to follow each other – nose to tail – but never let go of your reins; you need them for control.
  • You can always hold onto the pommel (front of the saddle) if you need something extra to grab.
  • If you don’t want to go faster than a walk, make sure to let your guide know so s/he sets a comfortable pace for everyone.
  • Relax, relax, and relax. Have fun!

Malibu Riders operates in Malibu (Zuma Canyon), and Agoura Hills (Paramount Ranch and Malibu Creek) in Los Angeles, CA. They also offer 2-person picnic rides and riding lessons.

Malibu Riders Promo Video:

Adventures in LA – Canyoneering

22 Mar

Location: Altadena area – Los Angeles, California

When you think Los Angeles, you think Hollywood. You think big city. You think sun, surf, sand, and superstars (of course!). Now add canyoneering to that list.

Canyoneering (or Canyoning) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling/rappelling, and/or swimming.

Hiking up the CanyonSince we don’t have canyons close to Toronto, I figured I’d have to experience canyoneering on a trip – so why not in LA?

I signed my friends and I up for a Canyoneering adventure through Alpine Training Services via Kijubi.com (where there are plenty of activities and adventures to browse if you’re in California, Nevada, or Florida).

Our day started at 9am with a briefing and a drive to Rubio Canyon in Altadena where we packed up the necessary/provided gear (helmets, kids!) for the hike up the hills and the eventual descent by rope. At around 10am we started hiking some trails – flat ones to start off with, but the inclines started to get steeper (this is when one discovers how out-of-shape they are….).

After a mini training session where we rappelled down dirt inclines (for practice), we reached our first challenge – a 100-foot waterfall. Here’s where I got to test my new super cool shoes in water.

‘Super cool’ is my own personal opinion. I’ve received such comments as “omg those are so ugly” and “eew. wtf are those?”. I describe them as unconventional. Well, to each their own I guess!
Here, I present my Vibram FiveFingers SPRINT shoes which I purchased specifically for this canyoneering adventure. [Thanks to Off-track Backpacking's post for bringing these toe-shoes to my attention!]

Vibram FiveFingers

Okay, so they look a little weird, but I choose function over fashion when partaking in activities that require good footing. I think our guide, Gavin, doubted my FiveFingers as he told me to bring along my spare set of runners (that I didn’t end up needing).

These toe-shoes are flexible and surprisingly comfortable. They form to your foot and you can definitely get a good feel of the surfaces you’re treading on (whether it be ground or wall). They were great on land and also in water (although the SPRINTs probably don’t keep you as warm as the FLOW model). My only regret is deciding to break them in on this trip – I should have followed the instructions/heeded the warnings on the box and done the breaking-in process beforehand. For hiking and canyoneering, I give them a thumbs-up.

So it took a while for everyone to make their way down the first waterfall but this wasn’t surprising since we were new at this – and a 100-foot drop is pretty intimidating. Our pace was slow and steady.

At the top of the 100-ft waterfallOn the way downDown a smaller waterfall

Your life is hanging by a thread – or rather, several threads which make a thick rope. It helps that our guides are very experienced – this fact calmed my nerves. They made sure our harnesses and ropes were secure before sending us on our way.

Walking backwards the entire time – thinking “right foot, left foot. right foot, left foot” .
Focused on being balanced. Putting equal weight on both legs. Maintaining a good angle from the wall.
Gushing water from above.
Mossy parts were to be avoided – because your foot could slip.
My foot slipped. I swung from side-to-side for a bit.
All I could do was try to find good footing and get back in position.
Compose myself. And keep going.
Until I felt flat ground beneath my feet.
(And then let out a huge sigh of relief).

After the first waterfall, the ones that followed were much easier – they were smaller and we were getting the hang of it.

An 8-hour day of Canyoneering is challenging, exciting, and tiring. We thought we would be able to rest for a couple hours after this adventure and do some evening activities – we were right and wrong.
Right, because we did end up going out. Wrong, because we were so exhausted from the days’ adventure that we didn’t enjoy ourselves as much as we should have.

The 100-foot drop - view from the topGroup shot at the base of the 100-ft waterfall

Canyoneering takes a lot out of you, but if you’re looking to hike, take in some great views, and do something out-of-the-ordinary, it’s definitely a fun activity you’ll want to consider.

Our guides, Gavin, Travis, and Laura, have an obvious love for it and they were great at explaining the procedures for rappelling while making sure we were safe and aware of everything around us (those loose falling rocks can definitely hurt). You can check out their photos of our adventure here.