Monday, January 30, 2012

Surfing Dolphins

 Torrey Pines Cliffs and Mist
It's pretty windy today (1/28/12) for a hike in the mountains and valleys. The sound of the howling wind made us decide to take a more relaxing walk/hike along the coastal bluffs, from Torrey Pines to Del Mar. 
 Del Mar Beach
The Santa Ana wind brought some warmth again to us this winter, the warmth is very welcome, but not so much the very strong wind. Nevertheless, we chose a path where we would be hidden from the Easterly winds, that is a walk from Torrey Pines to Del Mar.
 Dolphin Riding the Wave (1/28/12)
The tide was high when we were out on top of the bluffs, and it is during high tide that we usually see dolphins. It is not very unusual for us to see dolphins from on top of the bluffs,
 Dolphin sightings from on top of the bluffs from one of our walks before 
Dolphins Swimming South to North
but what was different today was that we saw dolphins playfully jumping very high with the wave and surfing with the wave. Here are some more pictures we took today. :) My pictures were the first three pictures above in this post, and the rest of these pictures were taken by my hubby who is more patient in holding his camera to wait for the surfing dolphins. 
 Surfing Dolphins (1/28/12)
 Smiling dolphin While Surfing (1/28/12)
 Flipping Dolphin (1/28/12)
 dolphins were now swimming back out like the surfer to catch more waves (1/28/12)
And back riding waves again :) (1/28/12)
I love dolphins, each time I see them whether I am walking along the bluffs or swimming I always get a high of happiness. Dolphins are very happy, friendly and intelligent creatures. I hope they bring happiness your way too. Happy weekend, everyone. Hope you have a great weekend enjoying the priceless gifts of nature around you. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak Reflection on Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
The picture above is my favorite among the hundreds of pictures I took at Lassen Volcanic National Park. In fact, it is my laptop's wall paper right now. This is the first picture I posted here in my blog which I did not reduce the size all the way to a 550 pixels width for faster uploading. I still reduced it though from an original size of 7 MB to 1.2 MB to give my site more uploading space. But the 1.2 MB is good enough for screen saver if in case anyone is interested to have the above piece in their screen.
If Bumpass Hell was filled with steaming and geothermal action, the 1.8 mile loop walk around the lake was simply quiet and very relaxing. The water was surprisingly not that cold, however, we did not bring any swim wear with us, so, we passed the opportunity to swim in this lake. There were a few people kayaking in the lake, and I took the liberty of taking some shots with them in the picture. 
Kayaking at Manzanita Lake
However, as they get nearer, they created more ripples in the lake that the reflection of Lassen Peak was lost, thus I settled for the above picture with them, with a little bit of reflection still. Also, they actually shifted their direction away from where we were later.
Large Old Growth Jeffrey Pine Forest, Manzanita Lake
Around the lake, the trail winds between tall and big trees.  
Some of the the trees have light green lichens hanging from the trunk or the branches.
Light Green Lichens
Lichens on the Branch, Lassen Peak, and Manzanita Lake
The forest actually have a lot of different kind of lichens hanging on the tree, some grey, some bright green, some orange, which is actually a happy news for the environment here. In places where the air is very dirty, no lichens survive usually.
Another  interesting observation we had is seeing how a mother bird feeds her baby. The mother bird dives for food, and then, give it to the baby bird. So sweet to look at. Would have been nice if I had videocam, or if my lens can zoom enough to capture the moment. The pictures below were cropped just to enlarge the action.
Mom Dives for Food
Mom Gives Baby Food
The mom was a very active mom, always diving and always giving something to her babies. The babies took turns in being fed. The one who was fed tried to follow mom as close as possible. The South East side of the lake has some mother and baby geese as well.
Geese Family
The scenery above reminded me of Ratty's wonderful experience with the geese family.
Hikers Enjoying the View at Manzanita Lake
We had a simple lunch ( picnic style) at Manzanita Lake, and afterwards, we took a last glimpse of its calm beauty before moving to our next destination.

Do I have Mail?


Time of the year....... where I would very carefully check what is in my mailbox, and I would not want those mails get to anyone instead. It is this time of the year where we get our W2's, the time of the year where these dreaded income reporting are mailed to us. So, this is the time of the year we watch carefully our mailboxes.

Aside from W2's, this is also the time of the year where I am waiting for my annual Cash Back from Costco. I call that shopping happine$$ :) However, at other times checking my mailbox gives me pain as well. Oftentimes, junk mails overcrowds my regular mail. However, these junk mails I could just not throw directly into the recycle because they may contain some of my very important information that people can use for their fraudulent transactions. I carefully check each mail, regardless whether they are junk or not that they do not contain our important information.

Also, with the mails just simply dumped in the mail boxes create some fear that some mails may be lost or stolen. Thankfully, our community has residential mailboxes system that are well secured, operating almost like those of commercial mailboxes. Mailboxes are locked and if we go out of town for a long time, we just leave a note inside our mailbox for the post man that we will just pick up our mails in the post office when we get back. This practice has helped us having some peace of mind that all our mails will always be secured even when we are not around to get them. Checking our mail brings me both joy and headache, headache for all those junks that I still need to sort out and carefully shred, and joy, for those happy ones like a rebate (my annual cash back happiness from Costco). The joy, is the one that makes me always wonder, if "do I have mail?" And yes! I have :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hiking In The Rain

 Lake Poway in the Rain
I am singing in the rain :) ....... can you hear my heart sing for joy with the pouring rain? It has been a long time since I hiked in the rain. In fact, my last rainy hike was at Savage River, in Denali National Park. That was July, 2011. I have missed hiking in the rain, I miss hearing the rain drops falling on my rain coat. I miss jumping over puddles. I miss the cold rain hitting my face, no, they are not memories of tears and sadness, but memories of refreshing joy. I miss walking on more slippery ground where I had to walk more slowly and cautiously so I won't slide down the slopes. I love rain, rain teaches me to slow down, to just listen to the magical music the sound of its falling brings.  
Was it only a few days ago when I wished for rain to come? Ahhh, the joys of simple life, when nature gives the happiness of your heart and it start pouring rain! I wish for more rain to come though, so that hopefully, it is still not too late for a beautiful spring season. Here are some pictures I took today from our rainy day hike at Lake Poway. Because of rain, all pictures in this post were taken by my cell phone.
 Layers of Hills and Mountains on Rain @ Lake Poway
Coast Live Oak
 Cormorants Lost in Lake Poway?
I always see cormorants along the coast, but Lake Poway is 10 miles inland from the ocean, so I wondered if these two cormorants were waiting for the sky to clear so they would know which direction to take to go back to the ocean. This is my first time to see cormorants at Lake Poway, for the common birds I see here are hawks, osprey, vultures, peregrine falcon, water fowls, white pelicans, among others. I really hope that these two cormorants would be able to find their way back to the ocean.

Friday, January 20, 2012

San Diego Whale Watching

San Diego Skyline
( the first scenery you will see as you leave San Diego Bay to the middle of the ocean )
It has been an annual event for us to explore the Pacific Ocean from San Diego via Hornblower Cruise or H&M Landing. Last Christmas Holidays, we took a three-hour whale watching cruise, the earliest we had so far of the season. We took advantage of the promo we saw that gave 50% discount to San Diego Zoological Society's members. From $35, we only paid $17.50 for a 3-hour whale watching cruise. Since the past four or five years that we had been whale watching every winter, we had never paid full price. Sometimes, we get discounted tickets from Gold Star. There were times we were able to save with a coupon from travelocity, which allowed us to save more than 50%. Aside from booking flights and hotels, travelocity also has connections in booking cruises and trains. Knowing that there are many deals we can find online, we never purchased tickets directly from the ticket booth but always purchased them online at much discounted prices.
Gray Whale
Whale watching in San Diego usually starts from December to April. Over 15,000 gray whales migrate thousands of miles from the chilly Alaskan seas to the warm breeding lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Aside from gray whales, other whales we would sometimes see are humpback whales, blue whales, and in rare occasions, orcas.

So that I will not overload you with pictures, for a change, here is a slideshow I made of our 3-hr whale watching cruise sometime last Christmas holidays.




The dolphins are always an added bonus to the whale watching tour and it seems they are always the first ones you will see in the cruise. In fact, the whale watching cruises are guaranteed whale watching trips, if no whales or insignificant showmanship from whales are sighted, everyone in the cruise gets another free ticket for another whale watching cruise that will expire in a year. If whales are more solitary, and the boat could not get near them following federal law on whale watching, the dolphins on the hand always have a whale of a good time following the boat. They seem to rejoice always whenever there is a boat, and they love to ride the bow wave.
Dolphins Enjoying the Bow Wave
There are several companies that offer whale watching tours and excursions for up-close viewing of the whales. Because of these competition from various whale watching tour companies, coupons are not hard to find. We do not subscribe to any newspaper company because we can access newspaper online for free, therefore, we scout for coupons not on newspaper anymore but using sites that shares their coupon finds online. I oftentimes would go to Frugal Dad to check out coupons which are not limited to cruises only but to almost all other needs. We however are not really crazy about coupons, we only use it if we really have to use it. Otherwise, if there is no need, despite it is a steal, we hold off from spending unnecessary things and collect junk at home. But whale watching, is one of those priceless memories, that we use the coupon every year! For every year, is different, and special!
Sunset Back To Shore


El Capitan Open Space Reserve

 at the El Cajon Mountain Summit, El Capitan Open Space Reserve, San Diego County

Trailhead: 13775 Blue Sky Ranch Road, Lakeside, CA 92040 (parking lot closes at 5 pm)
Mileage: 11.2 miles round trip (to El Cajon Summit )
Elevation gain/loss: 4100 ft
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous Day Hike

The El Capitan Open Space Reserve is one of the difficult day hikes in San Diego. Just a few minutes drive from the city, this trail is considered a good training ground for major day hikes such as Grand Canyon. There are three destinations in this trail at about 5.2 miles, El Cajon Summit to the left of the trail, the secondary summit to the right of the trail, and El Capitan drop off if you go straight of the trail. Our hike has so far brought us to El Cajon summit (3675 ft), so we have several reasons to go back this trail to get to the other two destinations. 
 Uneven trail at El Capitan Open Space Reserve

At about mile 3.8, there is a junction with burnt sign. If you take the trail to the left instead of proceeding straight, you will see a cool three mine shaft, which has a geocache in the middle shaft. This would be a good quick detour and snack. 
Me and Hubby At Three Mine Shaft
 At About Halfway of the Hike

Boulders at El Capitan Open Space Reserve
These boulders give me another reason to go back to El Capitan Open Space Reserve, it would be fun scrambling up some of them when legs are not so tired from hiking. 
 View from El Cajon Summit

 The Joy of Reaching the Summit ( I was pointing to the geodetic survey's mark by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey -  )
there is a $250 fine or imprisonment if this mark is disturbed

Planking at the Summit

After 5.6 miles and 4000 ft up and down climb, I needed the rest before tackling another 5.6 miles and tackle up and down climb back to the trailhead. 

Mt. Rainier National Park's Waterfalls

Last July 2010, we were at Mt. Rainier National Park. We were greeted by blizzard, very poor visibility and snow during the time we were there. However, we did not let the winter-like conditions in summer stopped us from exploring the beauty of Mt. Rainier.
Us Hiking @ Paradise Glacier Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park, July 4, 2010
Because of very poor visibility, snow deep and icy trail conditions, we gave up some of our planned hikes and focused instead on waterfalls that we can still photograph.
Here are some of the waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park that we were able to experience during our visit there last year. I will start from the Longmire entrance going to Sunrise.
1. Comet Falls
The trailhead to Comet Falls is 4 miles East of Longmire Entrance towards Paradise. There is a small turnout for parking on the left side of the road (coming from Longmire) which is just steps away for the parking for the next waterfall, which is Christine Falls. In fact, Christine Falls can be seen from the Comet Falls Trail. The hike to Comet Falls according to our GPS was 1.5 miles one way that climbs steadily 1500 ft. There were several waterfalls that we saw on this trail, one of them is this one below which we do not know the name.
one of several waterfalls we saw from the trail on our hike to Comet Falls
Comet Falls is 320 ft tall and is one of the highest waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park. This is one of the very few huge waterfalls that we can view very close to and not just from afar.
Me, In Front of Comet Falls (the white block that looks like icing is snow)
The Trail to Comet Falls
2. Christine Falls

The pullout or parking for viewing of Christine Falls is next to Comet Falls, on the right side of the road coming from Longmire towards Paradise. There is no need to hike to see this waterfall. Where I shot this picture is just a short walk from where we parked on the road.
3. Narada Falls
After Christine Falls, continuing on the road from Longmire to Paradise is Narada Falls. Like Christine Falls, it is hard to miss this waterfall since there are many people stopping by here. The parking here is larger compared to the small turn outs in Christine Falls and Comet Falls trailhead. Narada Falls can be viewed in just a short walk on a steep trail.
4. Sunbeam Creek

This is another roadside waterfall near Sunbeam Creek on our way to Sunrise. There is also very little parking here, like Christine Falls, it is just actually a small pull out for a very quick stop over to photograph this roadside waterfall. It was very foggy when we were here, but thankfully, we still could see the waterfall through the mists.

Rentals at Scotland



Guest Post by JRJ 

 Our two college age children wanted to spend a year in Scotland. Part of the time would be attending classes at the University and the majority of the time would be spending time touring Scotland and England. My wife and I were excited about their trip and secretly wished we had taken time while still young to have similar experiences. The first step was to find housing. We started looking for flats to rent. A travel agent friend suggested looking Lettingweb.com to find flats to rent. We found this company to be very straightforward in meeting any and all of our needs.

The first place our kids would stay was in Glasgow. We looked at flats for rent in Glasgow and found a very nice review of the Glasgow area. The site showed us various flats to rent with prices in our budget. One of the nice features of Lettingweb.com are the easy to find links and tabs for the services and locations each one providing accurate and concise information sufficient to make the best decisions. In a very short period of time we were able to secure housing in Glasgow.

 Their second location was in Edinburgh. We looked at flats for rent in Edinburgh at Lettingweb.com. The link provided us with all of the information we needed to learn about the areas in Edinburgh and displayed a large inventory of flats to rent. Within a few hours we were able to locate and secure an affordable flat. The Edinburgh Festival – which runs for four weeks in August is going to be a highlight for the kids. My wife and I may join them during this time and visit the festival too. This is a great resource and should be used by anyone looking for flats to rent.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let It Snow...Let it Snow...Let It Snow...Or

Let It Snow...Let it Snow...Let It Snow...or let's have Whistler ski holidays.
Snowshoeing at Mt. San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs, CA
I miss rain, and yes, I miss snow! It has been so far a dry winter here after thanksgiving where our mountains had their share of heaviest snow.
 Thanksgiving Snow at the Eastern Sierra, CA
Last winter, Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra was the world's snowiest place having 600 inches of snow accumulation. But this winter, the Eastern Sierra had been dry :( Perhaps, we were lucky last thanksgiving to enjoy some snowshoeing in the Sierra. After thanksgiving, the next snowfall our mountains had was Christmas, but not like dropping 12 ft of snow in one pouring like last winter. 
Though I love our warmer weather here closer to the coast, but I do love our day trips also to the mountains to enjoy some winter outdoor activities. Last year, at about this time, Southern California mountains were already boasting with close to hundred inches of snow in the mountains, a paradise for skiers and snowboarders. 
 Snowboarding and Skiing at Bear Mountain, CA
Since Thanksgiving, we did not get heavy rain here anymore :( which meant no heavy snow on the mountains.  We had a little rain last Christmas, and then, some showers this past weekend, that really they were so little. I wish for rain to pour, because it would mean beautiful spring wildflowers as far as my eyes can see. I wish for the rain to pour because it would mean going up the mountains for some winter fun. I wish for the rain to pour because it would mean really heavy waterfalls. I wish for rain to pour because rain adds so much beauty to life. 
But what if Southern California will continue to be dry? What if there will be no major rainfall? Ahhh, it would mean also no major snowfall with hundreds of inches of snow on mountain slopes. This winter, I have not used our snowshoes yet :( since thanksgiving was not yet officially winter. And I am sure, a lot other Californians who love going to the mountains are thinking the same thing too: "where to ski?", with fresh soft powder of snow!!  Currently, the answer that comes to my mind is the super sized ski resort Whistler, among the planet's biggest and snowiest ski resorts. Whistler has more than 8,000 acres of ski-able terrain and trails that wind for a vertical mile from its high peaks to the forested valley below. Because of its size, finding Whistler ski accommodation  is not difficult either because there are numerous selection of hotels and lodging in Whistler. The ski lift is usually expensive, but because the ski resort has so much space to accommodate a lot of winter lovers, they offer very good discount whistler lift tickets. Right now, Whistler Blackcomb has 549 cm of snow in its slopes, anyone who loves the thrill of downhill skiing and snowboarding, would love this one of the snowiest ski resorts in the Planet Earth.