Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Accidental Road Trip Detour to Colorado National Monument

Hwy 70, Colorado
Exactly 2 years ago, we were on this road on our way to Utah from Colorado. However, when we were at Grand Junction, the bridge at Hwy 70 that connects Utah and Colorado was suspected to collapse. As a result, we were asked to take a detour. Instead of continuing on Hwy 70, we were asked to take Hwy 340 until it meets Hwy 70 again past the problematic bridge. Somewhere on Hwy 340, the sun glittered on rocks, and instead on continuing on Hwy 340, we followed the call of the sun. We thought, after a detour, it won't hurt us if we will take another detour. At that point, we did not know anymore where we were going, all we know was, we will try to find out what is in there, for maybe, there was an accidental reason why we were asked to take detour. Serendipity!
Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA
Fern Canyon, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, still within the boundaries of Redwoods National and State Parks is one of the beautiful natural wonders in the area. If you noticed in most of my redwood pictures, there are a lot of ferns lining up the trail and also covering the ground. What is special about Fern Canyon is that some of the ferns clinging to the steep cliffs are ancient species whose ancestry can be tracked 325 million years ago. 
Experiencing the canyon felt like going back in time. I was not surprised to learn later that this canyon was used as location for The Lost World: Jurassic Park and BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs because of the pre-historic feel when we were traversing its trail.
The hike to Fern Canyon is on an easy almost flat trail, with very little change in elevation. It passes through a moss filled forest, though devoid of redwoods trees, but pretty on its own.
Hiker @ Fern Canyon Trail

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Los Angeles to San Diego

This is Day 4 of the 6-days Las Vegas- Los Angeles- San Diego road trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs.  I have not personally done this road trip but just using my experience of these 3 cities on what natural wonders can be more realistically explored with these 3 cities in 6 days. This series of posts is in response to several queries for a nature + cities sightseeing tour of Las Vegas-Los Angeles-San Diego for 6 days.

A little bit of summary:
Day 1- getting to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is the closest international or major airport for Death Valley National Park and also the Grand Circle (Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, ++ more ).  Probably this is the reason why most queries usually are for nature exploring that starts and ends at Las Vegas, because it is the busiest international airport (which means more airfare deals) closest to most NATIONAL PARKS. Not all who go to Vegas stays in Vegas, they explore nature's wonders.

Day 2- Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park

Day 3- Death Valley National Park to Los Angeles
            first half of the dayDeath Valley to Alabama Hills
            2nd half of the day: Alabama Hills to Los Angeles

Now, on to day 4, which is from Los Angeles to San Diego, my home sweet home.....
Los Angeles (top), San Diego (bottom)
Though there may be a lot of places to explore in these two cities, both cultural and natural, however, I will be sharing only places here which I believe could be realistically explored in such a short time. 

The challenge is the drive from Los Angeles to San Diego. If it falls on a weekday, though these two cities are only 120 miles apart ( 2 hours drive ), but the drive could be 3 to 4 hours or more for an unknowing traveler because of the heavy work commute traffic in Los Angeles. To avoid the work commute or peak traffic, one must drive from Los Angeles to San Diego between 10:00 am- 1:00 pm. One can leave early in the morning, say at 5:00 am too, but it sounds tough considering you may have spent night wandering in LA!

This post, assumes you leave Los Angeles at 10:00 am, and what could be realistically explored.

First, if you happen to get up and already up and about at 8:00 am, what should you do if driving to San Diego at this time is not yet recommended because of crazy LA traffic? First, you could have an early morning brunch at LA, actually, whenever at LA, I always have early morning dimsum at Chinatown because their dimsum there is really like no other! After dimsum, you could goof around downtown LA again, one of the places I love goofing off at LA for some fun photography is at Disney Hall. It may still be closed, but you could wander around the vicinity.
Me, Goofing Around @ Disney Hall, Los Angeles, CA
( this was taken early morning, the Hall was still closed, went here actually, before going home to San Diego )

After brunch, climbing up and down Disney Hall, am sure it is about time to leave for San Diego. Take Interstate 5 South To San Diego, if without traffic, you should be in San Diego about noontime, if you did not stop anywhere else. However, if you are not in a hurry to reach San Diego, and would want to drive along the coast to experience what Southern California beach cities are like, you can take the connecting freeway to Huntington Beach or Newport Beach, then, drive along Pacific Coast. This drive may be long, but oftentimes, I am asked "can I drive along the coast most of the time from Los Angeles to San Diego?" The answer is yes, . If you do love the ocean so much and want to experience the character of every Southern Californian beach city, you can follow this driving itinerary: Los Angeles to Huntington Beach-Newport Beach-Balboa Island-Corona Beach- Crystal Cove State Park- Laguna Beach-Dana Point- San Clemente, then, back to Highway 5 for San Diego. 
Huntington Beach-Crystal Cove State Park-Dana Point- San Clemente, Orange County, CA

If you'll take the coastal route ( Pacific Hwy 1 instead of I-5), you'll probably reach San Diego in the afternoon. If you so happen to take this road trip in spring ( best to do this road trip is from late fall- early spring, November to April, because Death Valley and Palm Springs would be very hot May-October being in the middle of the desert ), your first stop once in San Diego is Carlsbad Flower Fields.
Carlsbad Flower Fields, San Diego County
( spring time only )

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Deal with Stress more intelligently and efficiently

How Do You Tackle Stress?

Nowadays a lot of people face a very common problem, which is tackling stress. Stress seems to have occupied about fifty percent of our lives. Hectic work schedules, family issues, personal problems etc has made us absolutely miserable. Most people do not know how to relieve stress and become completely lost when unwanted situations show up. The basics of stress management begin with the identification of the areas in one’s life which is leading to stress.

Many of us cannot identify the real source of stress. Sometimes situations are not too obvious and many people face difficulty in identifying the true cause for stress. In order to identify the stress causing elements in one’s life, it is very essential to follow carefully one’s habits and lifestyle. Some people adopt wrong measures to deal with stress. Here are certain instances of described below.
  1. In order to relieve stress many people resort to smoking. This is a very unhealthy measure to relieve stress. In the long run if developed into a habit, it can be very damaging.
  2. Using of pills is another bad habit that many people have. Certain drugs have long lasting negative impacts on the body.
  3. Emotional outbursts are also found in some people. Many vent their frustration through anger or dissatisfaction over something which is not quite related to their cause. The aspect of dissatisfaction only proves to be a means of relieving their stress.
Instead of adopting such negative measures to deal with stress, one can stick to something that would help them to deal with stress in a much better way. Instead of avoiding the problems that is causing stress, learning to tackle them in a diplomatic way is a much better approach. If a person is calm and focused, they get the ability to deal with a particular issue more efficiently. Anger or emotional outburst is not a solution to any problem. Nowadays the problem of ‘stress’ has become quite persisting. It is a very common issue now. A lot of newspapers and websites such as the www.bboescape.com and a few others are also doing excellent work in making people aware of the problems related to stress and the ways to manage them.

Here are certain tips and techniques that can help in stress management:
  1. Never overdo things: It is extremely important to say ‘no’. Many people cannot use this word, as they get worried of what the other person might think. Whether it is personal or professional life if things start going beyond limit then it is very important to draw the line.  When a person starts taking more responsibilities than his/her capacity it is sure to become a stress causing element later.
  2. Avoid people who cause stress. Certain relationships can be very stressful. If a person becomes stressed out in a relationship, it is better to move out of it. In certain unavoidable circumstances it is better to spend less time with the respective person.
  3. When in stress, do or read something that is motivational. For example, reading a story that is inspiring or song or an inspirational movie too can help in handling stress. Also meditating regularly and staying focused during stressful times can help immensely in keeping the situation under control.

About the Author

Catherine loves to write on health care, technology and stress management. She is a constant blogger on this subject.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alabama Hills to Los Angeles

This is part 2 of Day 3 of the 6-days Las Vegas- Los Angeles- San Diego road trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs. An answer to several queries for a nature + cities sightseeing tour of Las Vegas-Los Angeles-San Diego for 6 days. I have not personally done this road trip, I am just using my experience of these 3 cities on what natural wonders can be more realistically explored with these 3 cities in 6 days.

A little bit of summary:
Day 1- getting to Las Vegas ( which I presume, for most, would be flying to Las Vegas)
 
Day 2- Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park

Day 3- Death Valley National Park to Los Angeles
            first half of the day: Death Valley to Alabama Hills

            2nd half of the day ( this post): Alabama Hills to Los Angeles

From Alabama Hills, you will continue driving southwest on Hwy 395, and then, Hwy 14 to Los Angeles. In about 1.5 hour, you will pass by another out of this world desert landscape that am sure the formations would also catch your attention. Kind of different from Death Valley National Park and Alabama Hills. This place is the Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hwy 14.
Red Rock Canyon State Park

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lake Helen, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Frozen Lake Helen with Turquoise Melting Snow and Lassen Peak, early summer
After the steaming beauty of Bumpass Hell, and the beautiful and peaceful Manzanita Lake, another feature in Lassen Volcanic National Park is Lake Helen. Lake Helen is a glacial lake which is located to the South of the Lassen Peak and west of Bumpass Mountain in the Shasta Cascades region of Northern California. Because Lake Helen is at high elevation, at over 8000 ft, it is covered with snow for most of the year. Ice in this lake usually stays until July- August, and forms again October. The lake would probably look prettier when most of the water has melted, showing a deep blue color and reflections of the mountains. The deep blue color is due to the minerals present in it and its depth which reaches 110 ft.
Face of Lassen Peak, early summer
The Lassen Peak in the background is the most dominant feature of the park and it is also the largest plug dome volcano in the world, which erupted in 1914. Lassen Volcanic is one of the few areas in the world where all four types of volcanoes ( cinder cone, plug dome, shield, and strato) can be found.  But Lassen Volcanic National Park is not just about volcanoes, mudpots, hot spring, hissing fumaroles and other volcanic geology, the park also boasts a rich diversity of plant and animal life. The great biodiversity here is due to 2 factors: its geographic location and the abundance of its habitats. Lassen Volcanic lies at the crossroads of three great biological provinces: the Cascade range to the North, the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the South and the Great Basin Desert to the East. 
Here are two more pictures of Lake Helen with the other mountains surrounding it. 
Lake Helen and Broke Off Mountain, early summer
Turquoise Melted Snow @ Lake Helen, early summer

Fun in The Great Outdoors

US Having Fun Hiking and Photographing @ Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Outdoor activities always become more fun with family and friends. Make this year one of your bests ever by taking some outdoor adventures with your family and friends. There are various activities you can do with a group that are fun, enjoyable, and most of all, good for people of all skill levels.

Me with Family and Friends, and The Milky Way @ Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve, California

One of the most interesting and versatile outdoor activities is hiking. If you have little kids and older people in the company, you can always find easier hikes with minimal slopes. Hiking does not always have to be as strenuous as climbing Mt. Everest.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
( probably the easiest hike we ever did, and who says easy hikes do not give beautiful rewards? )
 Hiking Lady with a baby stroller 
( who says that nature exploring stops when you have a baby?)

If the little child in your company will learn to love hiking, they become more caring of their environment, more motivated to keep a healthier lifestyle, become more physically active so that they are in better shape always to explore the world. It also is fun and very inspiring to see little kids think out loud like scientists because the nature they experience around them stirs their curiosity seeking for a better understanding of their world. 
Father and Son Exploring Nature Together

Hiking enables you to spend time with your family and friends in a relaxing, stress-free environment. The activity also offers great opportunity to learn about outdoor safety and wilderness survival.

Got some sands? Aside from hiking, another fun activity you can do with your family and friends is to have fun in the sand.
 Leaving My Shoes Behind for More Fun in the Sand

One way to enjoy the sand is by riding a UTV. Check out UTV news at SideBySideAccessories.com for the most up to date and important UTV riding information.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Swimming With The Fishes

Picture Collage Using Fotor.com,  
pictures from yesterday's snorkeling @ La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove

We had another wonderful time swimming in cold with the fishes yesterday, despite the visibility may not be as great as the other times we went snorkeling. Nevertheless, it always is fun to be swimming with the fishes. Below are the individual pictures I used for the collage through fotor.com, an online picture collage app, using the pictures I took yesterday with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS 35, an underwater point and shoot camera.
 Hubby Diving Down
 Harmless and Friendly Leopard Sharks

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Season?

Can you tell what season were these pictures taken? From top left, going clockwise, the places are:
Top left: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Top Right: North Cascades National Park, Washington
Bottom Right: Mt. Adams, Oregon/Washington
Bottom Left: Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Death Valley National Park to Los Angeles (part 1 of 2)

This is day 3 of the 6-days Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Diego - Las Vegas Road Trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs. You can see day 1, which is flying to Las Vegas, and then, day 2- leaving Las Vegas for Death Valley National Park in my introductory post of the 6-days Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Diego road trip.
Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park

Brief summary of itinerary:
Day 1- arrival at Las Vegas ( arrival airport)
Day 3- Death Valley National Park to Los Angeles
Day 4- Los Angeles to San Diego
Day 5- San Diego to Palm Springs
Day 6- Palm Springs to Las Vegas ( depart later of the day, or extend one night and depart Las Vegas next day)

Here's first part of Day 3: 

From the heart of Death Valley, you will start driving West towards Los Angeles on road that is surrounded by stark mountains of different colors due to the varying composition of minerals in it. Death Valley strongly sends the message that Earth does not always have to be fully clothed with lush green vegetation to be beautiful. In its starkness and nakedness, one will see the contours of the Earth that though may be shaped by harshest conditions, but ended up so masterfully carved and uniquely painted. The awe and wonder, serenity and peacefulness that sets in me in seeing the out of this world beauty of Death Valley National Park, is beyond words for me to describe.  Death Valley is such a huge National Park, that after one hour of driving from Furnace Creek Inn, you still are in Death Valley National Park, at Panamint Springs. West of Hwy 190, there is one beautiful view point you should not miss, Father Crowley  Point.
 view from Father Crowley Point, Death Valley National Park
Father Crowley Point is one of the must see non-hiking stops in Death Valley. It is named in memory of Father Crowley, a Catholic priest who ministered in the area in the 1930s, and who was said to make frequent stops at this overlook. It encompasses views of the Panamint Valley, Rainbow Canyon, the Panamint Mountain Range, and Telescope Peak. This view, aside from inspiring reverence in an important religious leader, also demonstrates the beautiful complexity and rugged balance of this surreal desert landscape.
views from Father Crowley Point
( what the plaque at top left of the photo says: "Father Crowley Point, in Memory of the Priest of the Desert, 1891-1940. From the snowy heights of the Sierras to the deep shadows of Death Valley, beloved and trusted by people of all faiths. He led them towards life's wider horizons. ")

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Diego - Las Vegas Road Trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs (part 1)

Las Vegas-Death Valley-Los Angeles-San Diego-Palm Springs

I had several queries lately about a trip flying to and out of Las Vegas, then, taking a road trip to Los Angeles and San Diego via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs, for about 6 days or less, without the hikes. This post assumes that the airport destination is Las Vegas. The challenge is 6 days or less, let us see what I can come up with, since I have not done this road trip at all. Although I've been to all these places, but not in one road trip. I understand however, that most tourists, make Las Vegas their airport destination, then, they take the Grand Circle road trip, where the start and end of the trip is Las Vegas. Maybe after a few days of rest at Las Vegas, they would do another Circle, the Southern California road trip such as in this post, and then Pacific Northwest Circle. Some tourists spend a month or more to explore the West which really explodes with National Parks and nature's wonders. I don't know if I could find another place on Earth having as diverse landscape and geology as the West, where mind boggling desert landscapes, glacially curved mountain peaks, and ocean waves beating the mountains could all be experienced. Maybe, for 90% of tourists to Las Vegas, it's all about the strip, but for other tourists, there is so much to see after Las Vegas. And they wanted to make the most of their expensive airfare by taking road trips and seeing more wonders of nature.

Anyway, let me go back to the Southern California Circle from Las Vegas by starting with the map of this road trip.
( you can click to enlarge the itinerary )
Notice that this road trip forms a loop, so any of the three cities, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or San Diego can be the airport of choice, depending on where the air fare would give the best deal. The itinerary here serves to provide information only for those who are planning for this kind of road trip. Though I will start here from Las Vegas then going in the counterclockwise direction, anyone can start from any of the three cities, going in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. 
BEST TIME TO DO THIS ROAD TRIP: late fall- early spring, because Death Valley and Palm Springs may get too hot at other times of the year.
Death Valley ( top 2 pictures ) and Palm Springs area ( bottom 2 pictures )

Friday, September 06, 2013

Mono Lake Picstitched

I am still having a fun time enjoying picstich, one of the photo apps I learned lately, which entertains me while riding the bus. In the frame above, I chose all 5 pictures from Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve. They are a collection of old and recent pictures of Mono Lake, one of my favorite places to wonder and wander in nature. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Koalafornia Dreaming

Koala Dreaming @ The San Diego Zoo
The koalas in San Diego Zoo have moved to a bigger home, called the Australian Outback Exhibit. The San Diego Zoo’s koala colony is the largest outside of Australia. The new Australian Outback three-acre exhibit features koalas and a variety of other Aussie animals including wombats, wallabies, and 23 species of Australian birds. 

If you come to San Diego Zoo middle of the day, most probably, you will catch koalas enjoying their dreamland for they sleep about 16-18 hours a day. Of their awake hours, they are most of the time eating eucalyptus.
Koala Munching Eucalyptus
The koala exhibit is one of my favorite exhibits in San Diego Zoo, whether awake or sleeping, I find them so adorably cute. Since I have written before a post about koala's behavior, in this post, I will simply share the joy of observing them when they are awake. :)

This week, I went to the zoo, not expecting any koalas to be awake since I got to the zoo late, about 10:00 am. However, to my surprise, a baby koala was awake and playful, while probably all the other more than 20 koalas in the exhibit were Koalafornia Dreaming. 
Baby Boy Koala Awake

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Swimming With The Fishes in San Diego

Swimming With The Fishes
This labor day weekend has been more about exploring the sea for us. Unlike most places that probably is cooling down already from the heat of summer, we just started to heat up. Most of the summer prior to last week, we were only in the 60s-70sF (15-21 C). It was only this week when we warmed up to the 80s-90sF (26-32 C). However, despite the air temperature is warmer this time, the water temperature for us always remain to be in the cooler side. With air temperature rising, more people are going to the beach to cool down. 

Shivering when the air temperatue got warmer? That was us after more than 2 hours straight in the water swimming with the fishes at 62F water (16.7C). Unlike air temperature, water temperature in the Pacific West Coast does not vary much and stays in the cold side. 
Cousin With Her Captured Fishes 
( girabaldi- orange fish, sea lion, friendly leopard shark that has no capability to bite, and more )