REI Force of Nature: Outings, Classes, and Events for Women

Be a #ForceofNature !

REI is constantly encouraging everyone to get outdoors and right now they are helping in the push to show more women as inspiration for this. Force of Nature is a movement that is putting women on forefront in the outdoor community. Apart of this REI has created Force of Nature classes and events geared for women.

Whether you’re an avid explorer or a novice, REI is offering classes, events, and outings to enhance your adventurous side. These events range from night hikes, to learning how to cook while camping, rock climbing lessons, mountain biking, kayaking and standup paddle boarding to learning outdoor survival skills. Best of all some of these events/classes are FREE! While most of these do have a cost, they are reasonable especially for the experience they offer.

To kick off the movement REI is throwing a party! On May 6th at various locations REI will be hosting the Force of Nature Outdoors Women’s Party. This is a great way to connect and meet other outdoor women. There will be speakers, food and lots of opportunities to connect with other Forces of Nature.

To find more classes, outings, events and to register visit And get out there and explore!

Cruzin Mama

Hiking at the Santa Rosa Plateau

Spring time is here and it’s one of the best times to get out for a hike. The much needed rains have let up here in So Cal and that not only means we will see a lot of green but also the vernal pools at the Santa Rosa Plateau have been filled! So it’s no secret that one of my go to hiking spots for my family is the Santa Rosa Plateau, the ecological reserve is located in Murrieta about 4 miles off of the Clinton Keith exit. The Plateau hosts plenty of trail options, a nature center, historic adobes, and of course the vernal pools.

The vernal pools are only really visible after the rainy season. So this year is one of the best times to visit them since California experienced so much rain to help get us out of the long drought we have been under. The vernal pools are a great way to see a lot of the wildlife that the Plateau houses. Just on our visit alone we saw tadpoles, dragonflies, butterflies, ducks, a few different types of birds, grasshoppers, a snake (more about this later!) and the teeny hard to spot fairy shrimp. Plus the rains have brought about a Super Bloom so along the trails you are sure to see beautiful wildflowers.

*A fun game for my kids was to see how many different colors of flowers we could spot.*

For our visit to the Plateau I parked at the trail entrance for the vernal pools which is the last entrance to the Santa Rosa Plateau trails off of Via Volcano Rd. As were not planning on spending the day hiking the trails since we had come off of a little morning adventure I opted on this closer parking location. When you park at this location there is a trail that leads straight to the large vernal pool. You are also able to pay the visit fee at the drop box at the entrance of the trail. If you are up for it from this trail you can head to the historic adobe buildings as well. It all just depends on how much time you want to spend exploring. The trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau are great for beginners in my opinion. My kids have been on several hikes here and have done great. We have hiked just around the nature center, we have taken this trail to the vernal pools (during an off season) and continued down to the adobes. My kids and I on the way back from the pools ventured down a little on the hidden valley trail this visit. I would like to go back and check this trail out a little more.

So a little confession, before I headed down to the Plateau I did a little snooping on Instagram under the Places tab to see if there was any water still at the pools. Since the heavy rain I have been wanting to take the kids to see the vernal pools, but I didn’t want to make the trip only to be disappointed. The last time we hiked this trail was during the off season so while it wasn’t entirely empty it just wasn’t what I was expecting to see. So some of the most recent “posts” were up to days before and I was a little apprehensive that they would still look as full since the weather has begun to heat up. But it was still a chance to see them with water so we loaded up some hiking supplies and made for the pools. I was so glad we went, they were still full and the weather was warm so the muddy trails were dry. The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and we passed quite a few people on the trails but it was surprisingly not crowded.

There was quite a while that we had the vernal pool all to ourselves. It was so nice to just sit and enjoy the view. Of course the highlight for the kids was seeing all the inhabitants. I mentioned much of what we saw above but the most exciting one we saw was a snake. It wasn’t a very large snake but it was a snake and that was enough to make my kid’s day. We watched the little snake swim around the pool a bit and a fellow hiker informed us about how it was most likely hunting tadpoles. This went along well with what my daughter has been learning in school about food chains.

Our little friend may be hard to spot but he is located in the center of this photo. He wasn’t a very big snake so he camouflaged well amoung the vegetation.

Another great time exploring the Santa Rosa Plateau. I was almost tempting to go hiking further because of how picturesque the landscape was. In the distance we could even see a little snow caped mountain, this year the rain really brought it.

We only went a little ways down the trail to the Hidden Valley. I would like to go back and explore this area more. What was nice was once we got into a shaded area there was a bench to sit on and just gaze out through a window in the trees to the valley.

Hiking Tips

*Always pack plenty of water
*Bring some snacks
*Wear good comfortable shoes
*Take plenty of breaks
*Use Sunscreen and Wear a Hat

And remember to just enjoy your time outside!

Cruzin Mama

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
39400 Clinton Keith Rd
Murrieta Ca 92562
Sunrise – Sunset
Nature Center • Tuesday-Sunday 9am to 5pm
Closed Mondays and all major holidays
Adults $4 Children 3-12 $3

Green Friday at California State Parks

National Parks Free Days 2016

Go Green this Black Friday!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is here and a day of fresh air could ease the stress of this time of year. California State Parks along with REI are offering just that a day outside away from the shopping crowds with FREE admission to State Parks.

You are being asked to Go Green this Black Friday and Opt Outside and enjoy one of California’s beautiful State Parks. Have you ever visited a State Park before? Well if you haven’t this is a great chance to! Or if you are a regular State Park explorer this is a wonderful opportunity to venture out to a new park. Honestly a great deal on a T.V. is nice or being able to do all your holiday shopping at a discount but with Black Friday now starting earlier and earlier it’s great to see a push for more quality time. Getting out and really seeing the beauty that California has to offer is priceless.

To Go Green is easy just visit Pick a park you would like to visit and get your ticket for your free entrance. Be sure to hurry as there is a limited number of passes to each park and some a very popular.

Have a great time going green!

Cruzin Mama

National Parks FREE Entrance Days 2016

National Parks Free Days 2016

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Birthday this year. So to celebrate NPS is offering 16 FREE entrance days in 2016! This 16 opportunities to get out and explore. 16 times to take in some of Americas natural wonders. There are 409 parks in the U.S. , 127 of those normally charge an entrance fee ranging from $3-$30. So feel free days are a great way to explore on a budget. Also be sure to visit Find Your Park to see all the events happening in parks nearby.

*Fee free days waive entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation fees. Fees for reservations, camping, tours, and fees collected by third parties are not included unless otherwise stated.*

2016 FREE Entrance Days

  • January 18th Martin Luther King Jr Day
  • April 16-24th National Parks Week
  • August 25-28th National Park Service Birthday
  • September 24th National Public Lands Day
  • November 11th Veterans Day

Park Passes

Can’t make any of the fee free day but are planning on visiting multiple parks, then an Annual Pass is what you need. There are actually quite a few different pass options for our National Parks.

  • Annual Pass

    The cost is $80 for this pass. It is available to everyone and can be purchased at a federal recreation site, over the phone (1-888-275-8747 ext. 3) or online.

  • Military Annual Pass

    This pass is FREE to all current members of the United States Military, Reserves and Guards. This pass can only be picked up in person at a Federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).

  • 4th Grade Pass

    Through Every Kid in a Park program all 4th graders are eligible to obtain a FREE Annual Pass. This pass provides free entrance to national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges for the 4th grader as well as all children under 16 years of age in the party and up to three adults. Paper passes accepted only no electronic passes will be honored. Pass is only valid during the school year (September 2015 – August 31st, 2016). For more information and to get the pass visit

For full information on passes and to see all pass options visit

California National Parks

Have fun exploring!

Cruzin Mama

Click here to find National Parks outside of California.

Discover Upper Newport Bay

Newport Bay Conservancy

Hiking around Newport Bay Conservancy and the Muth Interperitive Center

Saturday was National Trails Day and I attempted to take my family on a hike on the new trail here in Temecula. Unfortunately it was a completely unsuccessful, the trail is a new initiative to create a connection between Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Lake Elsinore. The Temecula trail is not very family friend from its intended starting point and after trying for about an hour we never reached the unpaved path. So instead of sharing all about that trail I decided to share about a great family hiking spot in Newport. Many times it is just myself and my two kids hiking so finding a kid friendly trail is a must. I especially like to find ones that have a nature center or learning centers so I can involve so education into our adventure.

The Newport Bay Conservancy fits just that, with its beautiful trails surronding the bay and two vistor centers. The first of which is the Muth Interpretive Center on the Upper Newport Bay side of the Conservancy. The second is the Back Bay Science Center. My family has yet to visit the Back Bay Science Center, but I know a trip is in the works to visit it this summer.

Upper Newport Bay

Upper Newport Bay Trails

Hiking Upper Newport Bay

When we arrived at the Conservancy we went up to the observatory deck to just take in all the views. The kids had fun looking through the view finder trying to find any animals out on the bay. We only hiked around a short trail as we ended up spending much of our visit at the Interperitive Center. On our next visit we will definitely get more exploring in.

Muth Interpertive Center

Muth Center Newport Bay

Newport Bay Turtle

Newport Bay Interpretive Center

*Coming Soon* Tide Pool Exhibit

Muth Interpertive Center

Newport Bay Muth Center

So we spent a lot of our visit at the Muth Interpertive Center. The kids had fun in the activity room playing with puppets, puzzles and coloring. The activity room also is home to an assortment of animals that are native to the bay, such as turtles, snakes and tarantulas. While in the activity room my daughter and I took the time to work on a free learning activity book. The book led us to the other half of the Center to answer questions in it. The other side of the Center features interactive exhibits with artifacts found in the area. This is the more educational side of the Muth building. There is also a movie room, but we did not happen to visit it during our trip. During our visit one of the exhibits was under construction, soon it will be a wave pool complete with Sting Rays.

Newport Bay Junior Ranger Program

Junior Ranger

The activity book that we completed at the Muth Center was apart of the Junior Ranger Program. This is a program to get kids involved with National Parks and in conservation. It’s a wonderful free program. When your child completes the program at a participating park or reserve, they are sworn in by a Park Ranger and given a Junior Ranger badge.

So the next time you’re out in the Newport Bay area take a hike and check out the Newport Bay Conservancy.

Cruzin Mama

Newport Bay Muth Interpretive Center
2301 University Drive,
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Hours and Cost
Open Tuesdays – Sundays 10am to 4pm
Parking and Entrance are FREE

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines Family Hiking

Living here in Southern California it’s hard not to be outdoors all the time with the favorable weather. I recently took advantage of this and went hiking with my kiddos at Torrey Pines State Reserve. Torrey Pines is located right at the northern edge of La Jolla. The name is perfect since it’s covered in pine trees but right next to the ocean. So you can also make a trip here a beach day. (We will be making a trip back to do that soon!) Torrey Pines State Reserve is a well known San Diego hiking destination. And after hitting the trails for myself I can see why!

Torrey Pines Visitor Lodge

Visitor Lodge

Since it was just me and my kiddos I decided to actually shell out the funds and pay to park. When speaking with the parking attendant he suggested to park near the visitors lodge at the top of the mountain since this was our very first visit. Most hikers park at the bottom lot or in the lots just outside the park. There is limited parking by the lodge but we were able to find a great space. Our first stop after parking was naturally to explore the visitor lodge. The lodge is filled with artifacts and animals(stuffed) that inhabit the area. There is a meet up area right in front of the entrance for a FREE guided tour on weekends and holidays. I hope on our next visit we are able to take advantage of this. We toured around the lodge for a bit and spoke with a very nice worker about the Reserve and the hiking trails. She was able to suggest a perfect trail for me and my two little companions.

Guy Fleming Trail at Torrey Pines

Guy Fleming Trail Map

Guy Fleming Trail

The trail recommended to me was Guy Fleming Trail, which was a short walk down hill from the Visitors Lodge. The Ranger suggested the trail since I had my little ones. It is an easier trail that went in a big loop. There wasn’t too many cliff sides to stress over which was nice. My son is pretty good at staying by my side or holding someone’s hand. The trail features a nice look out point where during migration season you can sometimes spot the whales. It’s also just a nice spot to just watch the ocean.

Torrey Pines Trail Lookout

Torrey Pines Ocean Lookout

We didn’t happen to spot any whales on our visit but the views were still worth it. A Ranger informed me that the best chance to see the whales migrating is early in the day, usually before and around 10am.

Torrey Pine tree tunnel

Rare Five-Needle Torrey Pines

The kids had a blast walking under the Torrey Pines on a section of the trail. These are the pine trees that give Torrey Pines its name. They are the five-needle Torrey pines that are only grow naturally in two places in the entire world! They are rare relics of a woodland coast past.

Hiking at Torrey Pines

My little family had a fun little adventure here. I can’t wait to go back and check out some more trails, some without the kids due to their terrain and difficulty. But I would definitely take them back to hike the Guy Fleming trail again or take a nice walk along the coast line. Torrey Pines is really a great family outing.

Have fun adventuring!

Cruzin Mama

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 North Torrey Pines Road,
San Diego CA 92037
Open Daily 7:15am – Sunset (varies 5pm – 8pm)