After three years, I’m finally back in the USA! I’m in California and in this San Diego travel diary, you can read all about my first days in San Diego.
A little nervous before departure
I’ve been looking forward to it for months, this spring I’m going to hike the Arizona Trail. Although I have already booked the trip last September, I’m still nervous on the day of departure. Due to all the travel restrictions and cancellations in the past two years, I am not sure the trip will actually take place. Which is a very strange feeling to start a 10-week journey.
Fortunately, everything goes according to plan. My COVID test is negative, so I’m allowed to fly to the US. The day before the flight I travel to Amsterdam, where I have a pleasant evening with friends. I sleep in the Hampton Inn right next to Hoofddorp station and from here it’s only a couple of minutes to Schiphol Airport by train.
Traveling to San Diego
I’m at the gate well before departure. My flight is 40 minutes late, so I just hope I can make the connection to San Diego in Salt Lake City. I can’t do much about it myself at the moment, so I just sit down and relax.
Boarding goes very fast and before I know it, we are up in the air. Only 10 hours to go. The last time I was on such a long flight was in July 2019 and I’m not used to it anymore. The first hours seem to last forever, but after that, it (thankfully) goes very quickly. I watch a few movies, listen to some music, and spend the last hour looking out the window. We fly over the Rocky Mountains and I see endless mountains with snow. It’s absolutely gorgeous!
Finally, we arrive in Salt Lake City with only a fifteen-minute delay. Everything here goes very efficient, there are hardly any lines. At immigration I have a very nice conversation with the officer, he thinks it is great that I am going to hike the Arizona Trail. He stamps my passport and for the first time in three years, I’m back in the USA. Yes!
The flight from Salt Lake City to San Diego is just under two hours, and I’m stuck with my nose to the window the whole time. Snow-capped peaks give way to a desert full of red rocks and canyons. The view is really breathtakingly beautiful!
In San Diego, I immediately take off my vest and scarf. It is hot here! Unfortunately, my backpack broke during the last flight, and one of the straps that should keep it closed has snapped. I hope I can replace it before starting the trail.
Paulo (we both hiked the PCT back in 2019) picks me up at the airport and we have dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the university district. San Diego is close to the Mexican border and you can taste it. The food is so good! We go to Point Loma for a nice view of the city and then I’m pretty much crashing. It was a long day and the jetlag kicked in.
Balboa Park & Downtown San Diego
Because of the jet lag, I barely sleep that night (I am wide awake from 1 am), but I feel well enough to go out. I can’t wait to explore San Diego, since it’s my first time here. After a tasty breakfast with a smoothie and avocado toast (I try to eat as healthy as possible before I start the trail), I walk to one of the most beautiful places in San Diego: Balboa Park.
It is full of beautiful buildings (mostly museums) and there are several gardens. I especially like the cactus garden. Would it look like this on the trail too?
In the afternoon I head Downtown, where I walk through the Gaslamp District full of bars and restaurants. But most of the time I spend next to the water. It’s about 25 degrees Celcius, I’m tired of the jet lag, so it’s nice to sit down with a book in the many parks.
I am especially impressed by the huge statue of The Kiss with the USS Midway behind it. It’s a very awesome thing to see!
At the end of the afternoon Paulo picks me up (he has to work this week) and we do some sightseeing in some neighborhoods outside the city center. San Diego is a huge city (I think the 8th largest city in the USA), and there are many things to see and do.
Nature in the city
On the second day, I travel around by public transport to discover more beautiful places. I walk over the Suspension Bridge and straight through Maple Canyon. It is very nice that the city has these kinds of nature reserves.
Then I walk through Little Italy (a neighborhood full of Italian flags) and take the trolly to Old Town San Diego. This is the site of the first European settlement in the USA from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are several historic buildings (most of them have been renovated, so it feels a bit like Disneyland) and there is a very Mexican atmosphere. Fun to see!
I end the afternoon in the Ocean Beach neighborhood which reminds me a bit of Venice Beach in Los Angeles. Lots of nice cafes, restaurants, hippies, and surfers. A great place to end the day and at the Sunset Cliffs you can also see the best sunset in San Diego.
USS Midway Museum
Then it’s time for my last full day in San Diego. The weather has changed, it is cloudy and there is a cold wind. I decide to visit one of the biggest highlights in San Diego: the USS Midway Museum. This is a huge aircraft carrier.
I walk around here for no less than three hours and it’s a very interesting place to explore. The ship is enormous and there are corridors and rooms everywhere. The deck is also very spectacular. From here you have a great view of the coast and there are several planes to see. All in all, it’s been a good idea to go here, it’s really worth it.
The rest of the day I am mainly busy arranging things, buying gear (including a new buckle for my backpack), and figuring the last things out before starting with the trail.
In the next few days, we’re going road tripping through the desert to get to Tucson and I couldn’t be more excited! More on that soon.
Check out the next post: Hiking the Arizona Trail! | Mile 0-50 | Arizona Trail #2
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