Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cactus Monday: Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens @ Wild Animal Park

Perhaps, for a lot of people visiting San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, the first thing that comes to mind is either the Lion's Camp
or the Journey into Africa tour aboard tour vehicles that were inspired by the legendary trains of Africa to get a glimpse of the diversity in Africa.
However,Wild Animal Park is more than just a more naturalistic animal exhibits and wildlife refuge, within the park are also several botanical gardens. One of these gardens is the Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens. 
Elephant, Barrel and Saguaro Cactus
The Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens present a wide variety of succulents, more than 200 species of succulents are represented in these two connecting gardens. The Baja Garden focuses on the desert plants found in the desert of Baja California, Mexico. The Baja Garden has more than 200 bojums,
Boojum Bending From Its Weight
which is the largest collection of boojums outside of their natural habitat in Baja, Mexico. Boojums can reach a height of up to 60 ft and can live up to about 250 years old. 
Birds Perched on Spiny Branches of Boojum
Boojum is a tree like succulent with a water-storing trunk with tiny leaves. They can reach heights of 50 to 60 ft and live up to 250 years old. Another towering cactus in this Succulent Garden is the Saguaro Cactus.
Saguaro Cactus
This amazing cactus is the state flower of Arizona. It has a creamy white 3-inch wide flowers with yellow centers that boom May and June. This cactus is a familiar sight in cartoons, movies, and paintings. 
Then, there are some other succulents that I do not know the name :(
( ? ) 
( ? )
Other succulents here are the agaves, aloe and yucca.
Aloe Vera
Aloe has long been used for medicinal purposes, such as purgatives, skin care, sunburn and burns. For skin remedy however, be sure always it is aloe vera and not one of the aloes that is toxic. 
Agave( on the left with tall flower spikes) Amidst Cacti and Yuccas
One of the best known uses of agave is the production of tequila, which is made from the fermented and distilled juices produced by agave just before it flowers. The agave blooms only once in its lifetime, between 7 and 20 years. After it flowers, the main plant then dies, but it produce shoots that will take over to maturity. Perhaps, knowing that it takes 7 to 20 years for agave to bloom and dies thereafter, we can understand why tequila can be expensive.
More Succulents
For more of Cactus Monday, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies

Boothbay Harbor Maine

Boothbay Harbor is a popular picturesque seaside tourist town in Maine. Boothbay Harbor is rich in history, and being the largest boat harbor North of Boston, there is just so much to see and do at Boothbay Harbor.
A visit to Boothbay Harbor Maine can include any of the following activities: boating, sailing, 
photo courtesy of Boothbay Harbor Maine
 fishing, hiking, golfing, playing tennis, exploring the peaceful and scenic coves, tidepooling in its rocky shores, or just simply be immersed with the richness of history and natural beauty of the region. There are numerous hiking trails with ocean views and Botanical Gardens for nature lovers. There are a wealth of sights to be discovered at Boothbay Harbor, the day rises with magnificent sunrise greeting the new day, and the day ends with amazing sunset colors, sunset colors that need to be seen to be believed, capturing hearts and taking away life's stresses. 
Though Boothbay Harbor Dining serves every taste and budget, but for sea food lovers, Boothbay Harbor is a paradise serving the freshest seafoods such as lobsters, mussels, clams, fish, definitely a place to enjoy not only fresh air, nature's beauty and salty seas, but also a place to enjoy succulent tasting seafoods.
photo courtesy of Boothbay Harbor Dining
 Boothbay Harbor has many bed and breakfast, inns, hotels with gorgeous waterfront view. 

spectacular view from Boothbay Harbor Hotel, photo courtesy of Boothbay Harbor Hotel
With Boothbay Harbor's inspiring natural beauty tucked in a scenic harbor that preserves history, it's no surprise for me why many artists are drawn to Boothbay Harbor. Definitely, a place not to be missed when you are visiting Maine and other places in the North East.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cactus Monday: Ocotillo and Beavertail Cactus

Ocotillo, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, CA
Ocotillo ( pronounced as oh-ko-tee-oh) is a unique desert plant of the Southwest and Northern Mexico. It is also known as coachwhip andvine cactus, but though it may often be referred in print as a cactus because of its other common name, it is actually really not a member of cactus family.
Dwarfed By Ocotillo
Ocotillo is a woody shrub which is usually 5 cm at the base and may grow to a height of 10 meters. 
A Woody Shrub
Notice that ocotillo branches heavily at the base, but above that, ocotillo seldom branches out further. The branches are pole like and the bright red flowers appear during spring and summer. 
Ocotillo Bright Red Flower
 The flowers of ocotillo are pollinated by hummingbirds and/or carpenter bees. Ocotillo loses its leaves in dry periods, and actually at other times of the year may simply look brown. However, just within 48 hours after a rain, the leaves re-appear! 
Towering Ocotillos
Ocotillo, Survivors of Heat and Drought
Ocotillos survive extreme heat and drought in the desert by losing its leaves so that it conserves moisture. Its stems are covered with a thick water resistant cuticle.
Ocotillo in Badlands
Ocotillo Surviving the Badlands
( you can click on the image to enlarge and see the ocotillo, which I encircled )
The presence of ocotillo in badlands suggest how much they can survive an area with extreme drought that other plants, even cactus, are not even seen in the badlands. 
Barrel Cactus, Brittlebush and Ocotillo
However, since this post is my entry for Cactus Monday, and ocotillo is not really a cactus despite being commonly referred to as a cactus, perhaps being seen only in the desert, I am adding here pictures of beavertail cactus blooms.
Beavertail Cactus in Bloom
Beavertail cactus has blooms of varying colors, the two most common I saw are yellow and magenta. 
The blooms usually are observed from March to June. Beveartail cactus is a smaller prickly pear cactus, you can find out more about prickly cactus and the busy bees in my June 17 post here. 
I will be leaving you with an interesting rock formation at Joshua Tree National Park, 
Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Just as interesting as the plants in the desert, so are the rocks which are weathered into various shapes in the forms.
For more of cactus Monday, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why We Love Beach

Why is beach so much fun that for a lot of people when they think of vacation, they think of beach? Sometimes, just walking at the beach and seeing the joyful faces of little kids having fun with the waves and the sand already fills me with happiness.
Seeing a family having the time of their lives celebrating some of the simple joys of life also fills me with joy and inspiration. And am sure, there are more to the beach that people long for it. Some on seeing the ocean for the first time could not help but be filled with awe and wonder as to the experiencing the power of the sea. Listening to the music of the waves as they splash the land is like listening to the beat of nature.
Riding the waves just like the little boy above gives e feeling being one with the wave! You feel the cool splash of water on you as it carries you to the shore. You feel the motion of the wave as your heart beats and join the wave's rhythm. Rhythm that brings fun, fun that is soothing, and fun that is relaxing.
Because of the tremendous magical feeling of being with the ocean and listening to how the forces of nature flow, it inspires many to have family celebration at the beach, such as weddings and anniversaries. Water is life. The ocean is almost synonymous to the celebration of life. There is so much to explore at the ocean. 
The joy of seeing dolphins passing by as you swim, of being with the fishes, of seeing crabs, starfish, sea weeds, corals, shells, among others is such an experience to behold. My niece for one would always jump with joy with each passing tide revealing bubbles on the sand, she would scoop the sand, and viola, little crabs on her hand! She would jump into the water right away whenever she sees fishes swimming, not really to catch the fish, but to experience how it is like swimming with them. It is like being in an aquarium, a giant aquarium without walls! The ocean teaches us so many things, it is no wonder why a lot of people would dream of a beach vacation.
One of the top family beach destination is US is Myrtle Beach. Myrtle beach is part of The Grand Strand, a 60 mile long strand of sandy white beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Myrtle Beach Resorts are known the world over not only for their friendly beach atmosphere but also for their golf courses. In an Oceanfront Myrtle Beach Resort, one can wake up to the inspiring beauty of sunrise. Though Myrtle Beach is a popular vacation destination during the summer, but Myrtle Beach Resort is busy all year, since the golf season at Myrtle Beach is year round. Myrtle Beach has gained the reputation of being one of America's most favored family destination. When you come to Myrtle Beach, you will know why! It is not just the beach, not just the golf, but the total recreation a family can experience.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Life's A Beach......At Myrtle Beach!!!!!

Life is a beach!!!! Summer is almost synonymous to beach, and for most vacationers, summer is synonymous to Myrtle Beach!
Myrtle Beach is famous for its 60 miles of beaches, and is one of the top beach destinations in the country. It has earned the reputation of the best family beach in US. With its miles of sandy beaches and the blue chopping waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Myrtle Beach attracts vacationers from all over the country. Many would always dream of having a beach vacation. But just what is in the beach that draws people into it? A lot!  Family fun that can be treasured in a lifetime! Beach is not just about getting the toes buried in the sand. It is not just about getting sun tanned. It is not just about riding the waves by their body boards or surf boards. There is more to it, that's why people dream about beach vacation for various reasons. Some thinks the sunset at the beach brings a different kind of magic.
Some thinks just listening to the power of the waves as they splash the land is more than enough reason to go to the beach. For kids, you can just see their unexplainable joy, so priceless, whenever they play with water and the sand. For some, beach means to see ocean life, it is always so much joy to be swimming with the fishes and see the ocean plants and life under the water.  And no words can explain the joy of taking a fast ride with the waves!
And there is more to beach than just beach! Would it not be cool to play golf close to the ocean? Or to play tennis and feel the ocean breeze whip our skin as we smash? Or to just simply lazily walk at the boardwalk near the shore and feel the ocean breeze in our every step.
My husband's favorite activity at Myrtle Beach Resort aside from enjoying the ocean is playing tennis close to the sea!  Also, families can go fishing just a step away from their hotel rooms. Or they can choose to have fun in beach amusement parks, or go shopping at the beach front stores, or play golf, or play tennis. Just so many things to do for the entire family.
Being one of the top beach destinations in US, Myrtle Beach Resorts offer world class service at an affordable budget. Mytle Beach Hotels are known to provide their guests with the finest experience as much as possible. It is not simply the white sand and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean that made Myrtle Beach stand out, but rather it is the totality of what the area offers and the friendly atmosphere which can be felt as much as you can feel the crisp ocean breeze. For the beach lovers, life's a Myrtle Beach!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Explore Argentina

Patagonia, Argentina
 photo source: Explore
Argentina, so beautiful, isn't it? Argentina is known as the land of the "six continents", and also is one of the biggest countries in the world. It is so geographically diverse, one can spend a month of vacation here and still not be able to grasp all the beauty that it offers. From the inspiring beauty of its rainforest graced by exotic wildlife and plants, to the soul gratifying opera in Buenos Aires, to the inspiring music created by its numerous waterfalls, to the mountainous regions in Patagonia, definitely, Argentina is one of the places on Earth I know I must see while my feet are still strong to hike. I must take a long vacation here since I am afraid a month is not enough for me to see all its wonders. First in my list to see in Argentina is Patagonia, which I hope to trek someday.
To make the most of the trip in Argentina, I saw a comprehensive guide to Argentina travel, which gives thorough descriptions of the many places to see in Argentina. If one day I will visit Argentina, because of the diverse beauty the country offers, I will probably devote a region or two to make the most of my travel. But If I can take a longer vacation, maybe, it would be possible to explore more wonders that Argentina offers. Most probably, to help me out with planning for the trip, to avoid the many hassles of looking for Argentina Hotels, I will most likely search for the best Argentina Tours company, especially that I am not very familiar of the place and I need the best planning so that we can maximize our trip. 
Next to Patagonia, my visit to Argentina will not be complete if I won't be able to stop by the country's capital, Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is not only the capital city of Argentina, but also is one of the important cities in Latin America. The city's classic and European architecture makes the place really inspiring and romantic. Buenos Aires Hotels are not only beautiful in their structure, but also is world famous for quality foods and service. The city combines modern living and deep history.
Another stunning landscape filled with beautiful sceneries in Argentina is Bariloche. Tourists can take delight with the inspiring scenery at Bariloche, have some adventure fun in the skiing resorts and have a relaxing stay at Bariloche Hotel.
Argentina is full of wonders and surprises, definitely, not something to be missed. Argentina.......someday......I'll be there. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hiking No More?

Torrey Pines State Reserve from the shore
I was walking on the beach with my husband's niece towards flat rock, her favorite spot to spend time in San Diego to watch for tiny sea creatures at the tidepool. Usually, after flat rock, we would hike up the bluffs. While she was enjoying the tidepool, I casually asked her, "would you want to hike up the bluffs?" She looked up, then, looked far at the blue ocean, and said, "NO! I feel like I have done enough hiking, I hiked Grand Canyon, hiked Angels Landing, hiked Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic, I feel like, why hike Torrey Pines when there is more to it that Grand Canyon, Angels Landing and Bumpass Hell do not have?"
What did she mean by what does Torrey Pines have that the other parks she hiked do not have? These:
and then, more waves
and more waves
Riding waves seem to be more fun, so, she got the time of her life riding the waves, forgetting about what is above Torrey Pines which according to her can not compare with Grand Canyon, Angels Landing, and Bumpass Hell. My husband agrees, I neither agreed nor disagreed, just told them each place is unique and they have their own unique beauty. Torrey Pines may be nothing compared to the grandness of Grand Canyon, compared to the thrill and excitement in Angels Landing and Bumpass Hell, but to me, it still has its own allure that calls me always to go up the top of the bluffs. What is at the top? Just seeing and hearing the splashing waves from the top of the cliff, it is different from gazing below.
Torrey Pines from the top of the Bluffs
Desert Formation Right Next to the Ocean
Badlands By the Sea
Which one is more fun? Hiking to the top of the bluffs or riding the waves? Are you one of those who on seeing the wave forgets about hiking and just simply say "hiking no more....waves, here I come!"?

I love both, I can't say "hiking no more", even if it is at Torrey Pines!

Explore Clean, Green Switzerland

Fuldera, Switzerland
(photocredit: )
When I think of a vacation to Switzerland, I am thinking of hiking in the world famous Swiss Alps, shopping for world class fine watches, and experiencing a very clean and green environment. Notice from the picture above, how the climate in Switzerland can vary from glacial conditions in the mountaintops, to a more temperate and pleasant temperatures at lower elevation. It is a vacation where I can combine mountaineering, snowskiing and probably playing tennis and brushing elbows with my favorite tennis player, Roger Federer! Switzerland is so georgraphically diverse, I am sure I will enjoy hiking to their amazing waterfalls, climbing the rocky mountains, and taking a dip in their sandy beaches. It is a place I know I would still be very much with nature, and would love to experience nature's amazing beauty. Probably to enjoy most of what Switzerland offers, I would most likely plan my visit during spring.
Spring in Thurgau, Switzerland
(photocredit: )
I would love to enjoy and photograph a colorful landscape, wildflowers on the ground, blooming trees, lush green scenery against a snow capped mountain top. 
But Switzerland is not only known for its scenic beauty, the country also leads the world in terms of environmental performance. It is their clean and green measures that I really want to experience and learn from. Many of Switzerland's buildings and structures make use of energy-savings designs, and they put greater emphasis on climate change.  Here are some green ways a traveler and vacationer can experience sustainable Switzerland and why this country is known to be a green wonderland:
1. Accessible Train Travel
The most convenient form of transporation in Switzerland is by train. Minus thousands of gas guzzlers and smog spewing on the road, we can just imagine how cleaner the air would be. 
2. Bike friendly nation 
Just imagine how much we can take care of our health if instead of burning fuel and releasing obnoxious gases into the atmosphere, we burn our own energy instead by biking or walking? If we use bike and our feet to get to to some of our destination instead of driving gas guzzler cars sometimes even less than a mile, by all means, we are not only helping the environment, but also our physical health.
3. Green friendly hotel and resorts.
I am excited to be staying in a mountain resort in Switzerland where heating unit is not so much dependent on burning gases but on energy saving curtains that allows natural heating. Hotels and resorts in Switzerland make use of energy efficient devices and energy saving facilities. Switzerland  supports prosperity yet sustainable, a society that uses only 2000 watts of energy per person. Much of their waste is recycled.
4. Abundance of organic products
There are so many clean and green living that we can learn from Switzerland, and maybe practice what we would learn and experience from our trip to their country when we get back home. It must be a joy exploring the scenic beauty and the clean and green living of Switzerland.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cactus Monday- Cactus Loop Trail, Anza Borrego

Cactus Loop Trail, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Last Cactus Monday, I shared Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail at Anza Borrego Desert State Park. For this Cactus Monday, I am sharing another trail from Anza Borrego, the Cactus Loop Trail. This is an easy 1 mile trail with only 200 ft elevation gain. The tallest in the background is ocotillo, and you can see some agave, barrel cactus and the majority in this trail are the cholla cactus. 
Very Tall Ocotillo
In The Midst of the Cholla Cactus
The cholla cactus in this trail are teddy bear cholla, similar to the cholla cactus at Joshua Tree National Park that I featured 2 Cactus Monday ago. The trail can be combined with adjacent Yaqui Well Trail and Bill Kenyon Trail for a total of 3.5 miles. 
Barrel and Cholla Cactus
More Cholla, Barrel Cactus and Ocotillo 
( with my younger brother in the picture )
Notice the pictures are so brown? I accidentally have not changed the white balance of my camera, i was shooting with a shade mode when it was sunny, as a result making the images look more suntanned when the desert is already tanned by itself.
The changes in the desert? If it was as brown as above images in the month of May, look at how they were in the month of March, just two months earlier!
Anza Borrego Wildflowers
And below, may be the driest part of Anza Borrego, The Badlands at Font's Point. 
Happy Cactus Monday, everyone!

For more of Cactus Monday posts, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies.