Friday, June 19, 2009

Gone for a Week




Birds in Flight, San Onofre State Beach
I'd be gone for a week to escape the civilization here in San Diego. Unlike these birds though who are free to fly, we would only be driving . We will leave early tomorrow for Big Sur, the first stop of our 9 days road trip.
Big Sur
Then we will head up North to the Park circle, which includes Redwood National Park (CA), Crater Lake National Park (OR), Oregon Caves National Monument, Lava Beds National Monument (CA) and Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA). I am hoping for a good weather ahead of us.
I scheduled 2 posts in my absence, which will be published on Monday and Thursday.
Hope everyone has a good weekend. I'll be around and get back to everyone as soon as we're back. 
Thanks......Betchai

Thursday, June 18, 2009

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon

Ooh-Aah Point, South Kaibab Trail
Grand Canyon, one of the world's 7 natural wonders, is often described as the greatest geological showcase on Earth. It is said that nowhere else features such a dazzling variety of colorful and artistically sculpted rock layers. Amazing how it was formed by the Colorado River, which had cut deeply through rocks, forming numerous steep-walled canyons.
South Kaibab Trail
The best time to visit Grand Canyon is early fall and late spring, where the temperature is not as scorching hot as in the summer, and the North Rim is still open. I myself have never been to North Rim, since for the two times I went to Grand Canyon, the North Rim is already closed due to icy road conditions on almost 6000 ft deep canyon hills. Nevertheless, visiting the South Rim is so much joy already I am thankful for.
South Kaibab Trail
Most of the visitors of Grand Canyon National Park just drive along park roads and stopping at scenic view points. After a few hours in the park, they are done and off to go exploring somewhere. Those who chose to spend more time at Grand Canyon however, have several options to enjoy the park, such as hiking, river rafting, taking mule trips down the canyon or viewing the canyon from air. Well, for me, the choice is always take a hike. Actually, my fear of heights stop me from taking the mule tour and the helicopter tour. Hiking for me minimizes the fear since I have more control over my steps.
Steep Trail @ South Kaibab
The Grand Canyon has many trails down the canyon, but there are only 4 main trails at the South Rim. These are: Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Hermit's Trail and Grandview Trail. These trails are steep, and most of them have no water along the path. South Kaibab trail follows ridge lines, thus it has an unobstructed spectacular view of the canyon, offering the most scenic route. Though this may be the best in terms of view, but this is also less traveled because of the heat, since most of this trail is exposed directly to sun.

South Kaibab Trail, Dusk, Grand Canyon National Park
The trail head for South Kaibab is South of Yaki Point. Access to the trail head is by the park's shuttle bus.

 For more information on Grand Canyon trails, please visit the Grand Canyon National Park site. For those who plan to simply see Grand Canyon from the rim, coming in the summer is not a problem. However, for those who plan to experience the magnificence of the rocks from the trail, cooler months are advised.
 
Sunset @ South Kaibab Trail
If you are planning for a Grand Canyon trip, and plan also to see other spectacular landscapes in the Southwest, you may consider the Grand Circle. The Grand Circle is really a beautiful, stunning landscape of the Southwestern United States. The "Hoodoos" at Bryce Canyon National Park would be one of the stops in this destination. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Prickly Pear and the Busy Bees


Prickly pear cactus is probably the most common cactus I can see here in Southern California.
Prickly Pear Cactus Among Yellow Wildflowers, Lake Hodges
From the coastal trails, to the inland hills and to the mountains, they are just everywhere. Bathing under the warmth of the sun, or coated with snow,
Prickly Pear Cactus in Snow, Mt Laguna
prickly pears have established their presence. Because they are almost everywhere here, some people may refer to them as "weed". Maybe a weed for some, but food for others, especially for these busy bees.
Busy Bees on Prickly Pear Flower
Notice how the bee in the top flower buried himself deeply, so busy enjoying the sweet nectar of the prickly pear. And here is one bee diving into the flower,
Diving Bee
so busy collecting pollens. Notice the happy face in this bee, probably so filled with nectar already :) .






Happy Bee
I cropped the above picture of the happy bee to be able to show the face more clearly :)
Cropped Picture of Happy Bee
Well, I do understand the busyness of the bees, for the taste of the pollen may really be something for them to dive for, plus the beauty of the prickly pear cactus flower, for me is such a sight to behold.
Busy Bees' Heaven, Prickly Pear Cactus Blossom

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blogging For Fun Friday- Food Transformation

It has been several weeks that I have not joined my Blogging for Fun group for our Fun Friday post. End of the semester is always busy in my end, but now that summer break has just started, I am excited to be back in the grove.

This week, our Fun Friday topic is about food transformation. We pick our favorite food that is unhealthy and fattening, and make a new recipe for it to be healthy. Frankly speaking, I do not think I really have a favorite food that is unhealthy, however, I think the way I eat food is fattening since I eat a lot!

Here are some of my food transformation:
1. Burrito - original burrito usually comes with carne asada (beef asada), guacamole, cheese and sour cream. Instead of beef, we used vegetables, and we omit the sour cream.
Vegetable Burrito by Betchai
Now, the concept is really not that original since there are vegetarble burrito in the Mexican restaurants too. However, their vegetale burrito usually comes with beans, lettuce, rice, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. Since I have no taste for sour cream, I usually ask not to put sour cream in my burrito. The burrito I made above actually has black beans (not in picture), instead of the usual refried beans. Then, I mixed the black beans with grilled mushrooms, grilled potatoes and sweet yam, grilled sweet pepper, tomatoes and 1% milk Mexican blend cheese. I wrap them like in burrito, and heat in oven or in microwave.
2. The next one, is my all time favorite, bittermelon soup. This can not be everybody's food because of the bitterness, but those who have developed a taste for bitter melon and other bitter foods list this as one of their favorites. I have very simple taste in food. I don't go for heavily buttered and creamed dishes. I prefer foods prepared in their own broth.
Bittermelon Soup with Mushroom by Betchai
I think even the original recipe of this one may still not be considered very unhealthy since the ground meat is balanced by the health and nutritional value of bittermelon. In the original bittermelon soup, the buttermelon is stuffed with ground meat. However, since we are not fond of meat, I modified the soup by stuffing it instead with tofu and mushroom, and I added mushroom in making the broth. For me, it still tastes as good as the original recipe. If burrito is a Mexican dish, bittermelon soup is an Asian dish. This vegetable is also known to lower blood sugar, thus in Asia is popular to help in conditions of diabetes mellitus and in infections. When I was younger, my mother would just squeeze the leaves of bittermelon for our first remedy whenever we had cough and cold. I also love bittermelon salad.
3. For something Filipino (my all time favorite cuisine is Filipino as this is the food I grew up with), I modified tokwa't baboy (or tofu and pork). I instead made tokwa na walang baboy ( tofu without pork).
Tokwa na Walang Baboy by Betchai
This dish is made of tofu ( either pan fried or baked ), and then, simply put in the sauce made by mixing soy sauce, vinegar, lime, finely chopped garlic, onion and ginger, and tomato cubes. Usually I add roasted sesame seeds, but this time, we ran out of roasted sesame seeds, so I just put a few drops of sesame oil.
4. And for a combination of dishes, tomato semolina (Indian), tofu a la king ( I am not sure if where did this originate) - which is originally chicken a la king, but I changed the chicken to tofu.
Tomato Semolina ( Indian) , Tofu A La King, Steamed Green Beans and Baked Tofu by Betchai
The dish above that got a transformation is Tofu A La King since the original recipe is Chicken A La King, however, I just made the dish all vegetables.
So, these are the foods that supply me energy when I go hiking or boogie boarding :)
Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CLOSURE?

Torrey Pines State Reserve
As gray as our skies these days, is the fate of our State Parks. I do not want to be political in this post, but I just want to share my sadness at the posssibility of not enjoying our nature parks anymore, the way it was. California is in deep financial meltdown right now, as to how that could have happened is still beyond my simple wired mind. Our state does not depend on one industry alone, we have agriculture, high-tech, bio-tech, aero-tech, all kinds of tech, hollywood, etc. Our state's economy collapsed as if its sole industry is real estate alone. Because our state could not balance their checkbooks, they cut down education budget tremendously, something which does not seem like a solution to the problem at all. Aside from education, one of the budget cuts proposed by our governor is the closure of almost 80-90% of CA State Parks.
Wildflowers @ Torrey Pines State Reserve
As I walked along the Torrey Pines trails with the gray sky above me, I can't help but feel sadness as to the possibility of the closure of this park, among almost all State Parks in San Diego County and across the state.
Sea of Badlands, Anza Borrego State Park
I just look forward as far as my eyes can see into the endless horizon at the possibility of keeping and continuing to preserve these nature parks.
Desert Wildflowers, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Would we still see as much sea birds in our state park shores, would we still enoy the peacefulness and serenity in the shore if there is a toll road that passes right through San Onofre State Beach, as our governor had supported before? And maybe, with the toll road, what comes next are more development and natural resources unpreservation.
San Onofre State Beach
The closure of the State Parks is perhaps the worst crisis the state park system has faced. I continue to hope that our governor will come into common senses and consider how much loss the State would have with the closure of these nature parks in the long term.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Change?


Downtown San Diego from Cabrillo National Monument
The picture above perhaps seem to be the odd picture out if you search all of the pictures in my posts. This shows civilization, unlike most of my photos which focus mostly on the richness and diversity of nature. This picture was taken at east side of Point Loma Peninsula in Cabrillo National Monument. In the same park, but just at the west side of the peninsula, the scenery is totally different.
Tidepool Area at Cabrillo National Monument
It is now the world of rocks and the ocean, with civilization totally hidden by the coastal hill.
Small Sea Cave Overlooking the Ocean at Cabrillo National Monument
Walking here is just as fun as hiking in the trails. I love checking the weird cliffs of sedimentary rocks which have very distinct layers.
Carved Sedimentary Rocks
The distinct layers and the intricate carving of the rocks provides a glimpse to the power of the ocean.
Sculpted Rocky Cliff
Wildlife here is different than when I walk in the trail. Here, at low tide, I can view an ocean intertidal zone ecosystem up close. Walking through the algae coated rocks which really are very slippery that extra precaution is needed, I would see small fishes trapped in the rocky pools.
Small Fishes and Anemone
And these poor creatures are feasted by the birds. Do you wonder sometimes why at low tide there are just so many birds on shore? They don't really have to dive down anymore to fish.
Egret Looking For Something To Feed On
Aside from small fishes trapped in the rocky pool, there are also a lot of mussels, barnacles, small crabs, anemone, shells, snails, starfish, and many other small invertebrates.
Resting on the North end of this rocky zone are usually the cormorants and the California Brown Pelicans.
California Brown Pelican
Climbing up the cliff and going up the hill, one faces San Diego's civilization again.
Downtown San Diego from Cabrillo National Monument
North of the park, is the Shelter Island, which is not really an island :) . Shelter Island is still part of the Point Loma Peninsula.
Downtown San Diego from Shelter Island
Now, this is really a totally different scenery from the rocky intertidal zone in Cabrillo National Monument. Yet, they are just close to each other in the same peninsula. Uphill on Shelter Island is some spot to take a picture of San Diego with the yachts parked in the Shelter Island Harbor.
Downtown San Diego from Shelter Island ( Lucinda St)
Now, this is what you call the glare of the city. But thankfully, we have many hide-aways from this civilization, we just have to go down a cliff, or hike a canyon, or round a hill or climb a mountain, and it feels like being transported to a different world. So a change it may be from my usual posts, but this is the city where I live.