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Lately it seems as though this blog has turned into a vegan travel blog instead of a foodie blog.  Rest assures, my temptations with food has not dulled, rather intensified thanks to the multitude of adventurous foods being introduced from living in Southern California.  One would think moving across the nation would not be as different as say moving countries, however it is not the case at all.  Southern California is a vast state full of different cultures and natural scenery for one to adventure.  Genki Husband and I have always wanted to live in such a place that never dulls our adventurous side, so hence my blog posts have been full of local scenes of interest since it is something going on in my life.  Hopefully all of you have enjoyed the scenes from this gorgeous state that we now call home.  Today I would love to share with you a state park near Santa Clarita called Placerita Canyon State Park.

Sitting in the San Gabriel Mountains is the Placenta Canyon State Park, a free park to enter and park.  Most state parks do have either an entrance fee or a parking fee, with this park you get everything for the great price of FREE!  As we have been adventuring to a lot of different parks in the LA county area, we were a bit surprised to see no fee and were a bit nervous just leaving our car parked without a pass.  Thankfully there were no kiosks or boxes so it is an all go, free people!

Yesterday I shared our hiking trip in the Santa Monica Mountains called Pt. Mugu, an Indian territory of the Chumash Native Americans.  The San Gabriel Mountains used to be Tataviam Native Americans and was actually considered part of Mexico until around 1842 through the Mexican Land Grant.  Not sure what I’m talking about, it’s okay because I am just learning now too as it really was not discussed in our East Coast history classes (or was that just my school?).

Okay, so back to the topic, hiking in the Placerita Canyon State Park.  As you enter the state park, there is a large free parking lot (we did see it almost completely fill up around 1PM on a Saturday, so please take that into consideration when planning a trip.  Oh did I mention too while you are traveling to the park, please take note of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch just a few miles before entering the park.  It is a large filming location with over 890 acres.  There is a large wooden entrance gate with the name imprinted in white but the way I noticed it was all the building and carnival style equipment sitting alongside the road, just inside the gates. According to Wikipedia, some famous movies were filmed in this located such as Old Yeller, Pirates of the Caribbean, Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Desperate Housewives, The Parent Trap and so on.  Disney has plans now to create a larger facility, so take a look now before everything changes.

Hiking Placerita Canyon State Park, near Santa Clarita, California. (Free)

There are a few different trails to choose from but we chose the waterfall trail. It was a hot day but we are getting more used to the heat, just not the elevational changes yet.  The trails are very nicely laid out, I assume it would be hard to get lost.  Normally we do get lost (I have issues finding my car in parking lots), so if we managed to come back alive, I am sure it is reasonable to state most people will find the trails easy to navigate without assistance.  These mountains are busy, so even if you were to get lost, it would not be long before being found.  But that doesn’t suggest to go off trail.

Placerita Canyon State Park, near Santa Clarita, California.The views are absolutely breathtaking, it is no wonder Disney bought up all those acres years ago in this area.  He was a great business man and a future thinker.  It is an area undeveloped (hopefully the new Disney studios don’t change this) so it is absolutely silent.  When times are tough and you find yourself needing to find some silent and meditate in nature, this is the place to catch up with your soul.  As you can tell by the photo, the area is undisturbed, so refreshing to find this gem less than an hour from LA and Lancaster.

Accessibility throughout the trails, this is a tough one to suggest to a lot of people.  While I would suggest this hike to those just starting out (especially compared to Pt Mugu), I would not suggest it to those needing a clear trail for wheelchair needs.  The trail is a bit rugged at times, tree roots are exposed and the trail does get a bit narrow at times.  While we did see kids on the trails, even one mother who dared to have her kid take a tiny bike up (all I thought about was how she was going to have to carry it and the kid down), I would suggest caution for kids that are not a “follow the path” style of walker.  There are cliff edges that do not have protection, so constant attention would be required.  Again, the hike is not that strenuous for the most part, just a bit dangerous for being rugged.  My suggestion may be a bit different than those whom have grown up in the area though, I did not grow up hiking mountains but rather adventuring through forested fields in Michigan.

Oak of the Golden Dream Tree in CaliforniaThis historical tree was actually one of the reason we chose to come to this mountain trail instead of others in the area.  It is the official first place of gold discovery in what is now called California.  At the time of discovery, this land was under an agreement with Mexico farmers, so it was not considered American news.  So, it has fallen off the record books for this reason.  Nonetheless this is American history in my eyes, so it was nice to find this discovery so close to our house.  Note:  To find the tree it was a bit confusing since this sign is at the main entrance on the right hand side as you are entering the park.  One must walk to this area, follow along the heritage trail to the right of the sign, go under the bridge and it is located to the right of the trail.  It is a bit understated for what should be a national treasure.

Oak of Golden Dreams in California

As the sign states, this is the real tree that beheld the first discovery of gold in America. The center was dug out for this discovery.  Seems strange to see most of it gone in the center but still living, Mother Nature does miraculous things.

Coconut Bliss Vegan Ice Cream BarOnce we were sweating and looking as if we had missed a few showers, we took to Whole Foods Market (as everyone does right?).  Unfortunately we do not have a Whole Foods Market in our area, so when we are near one we take full advantage.  It was near 100F outside, so we were definitely in the mindset for a cold desert to fight the raging hunger inside.  This was on sale, so we decided to test it out.  Note:  Whole Foods Market does have a lot of sales weekly, go down all the aisles if you are like me to find the deals.  The Coconut Bliss Bar was something I had seen but never fully investigated before testing out.  At first, I thought it was going to be a coconut ice cream with fudge drizzles on the outside.  Nope, it was actually similar to a childhood favorite of mine, I believe these were called Fudge Pops.  Anyone know the name?  It was super sweet so we were able to manage to share the bar between the two of us.  Highly recommended if you have a super sweet tooth and do not mind the natural coconut fat content, it is a bit steep for a snack.

Vegan Pizza at Tomato Joe's in Valencia, CaliforniaNext up, we took our full cooler and trunk of groceries to Tomato Joe’s in Valencia, California (Santa Clarita area).  For years I have been thinking about this location since I have heard it is one of the few that serves vegan cheese on vegan approved pizza dough in the area.  Finally my dream came true and we went to the restaurant to order.  There are a lot of options, so it might be best to select which pizza, crust and sauce you want before going in to order.  Tip:  Make sure you tell them a few times which sauce you would like to have on your pizza or they will place tons of oil and top your veggies on top. (Not appealing)  We selected a vegetable filled pizza and ordered the vegan sausage and vegan cheese.  These vegan options are extra charges, and no they will not reduce the price if you are taking off the original animal products.  I believe we also went with the beer dough, no extra charge.

Taste wise, the pizza was just okay.  We heard this place was amazing, however we felt it was just rather plain.  The dough was probably better than most chain pizza restaurants around the nation but nothing too mind boggling.  For 1 large pizza we paid over $30, the most I have ever paid for a pizza in my life and that includes vegan pizzas in Hawaii.

We also had a little issue with the ordering process, not our side but in general.  There are a lot of options and being the restaurant was busy when we finally made it there, it was hard to make an order.  I assume it would have been more smooth if we ordered online. The same 2 staff members answer telephone orders and walk-ins.   So, our pizza was messed up a bit and we received oil dressing instead of tomato sauce.  It was drenched in oil, not appealing at all.  We took a few bits and realized there was no sauce so back in we went.  Instead of being apologized to, we were “sternly instructed” by the manager (owner? he didn’t say) when we order it is the customers’ duty to tell the staff if we prefer tomato sauce or oil.  Indeed  we did follow the correct procedure so finally after a few tries, we finally got him to remake our pizza with the tomato sauce.  He wasn’t happy for the remake and actually yelled at the poor staff member that took our order, even though she was obviously bogged down with a doing multiple things all at once.  We felt terrible but for the price, we wanted to make sure we could eat it without getting sick.  Finally we received our pizza and left, probably close to around 1.5 hours later.  Thankfully the pizza was edible the second time around and we returned home with smiles still on our faces.  Sometimes one has to turn the other cheek and not take someones’ bad attitude and replace it with ones’ own happy one.

That was our adventure to the mountain city of Santa Clarita, California.  We hope to go back soon, maybe adventure into the city a bit more.  If you are or have visited this area, please leave suggestions in the comments section, we would love to hear from you.

Where should we adventure next?