Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lake Hodges Birds Christmas Eve 2013

Christmas Eve 2012
Joyful Fluttering of Wings @ Lake Hodges- San Diego, Christmas Eve 2013
Birds came rejoicing, spreading magic! May all your life be blessed with wonderful colors of joyfulness, happiness, peacefulness and more. Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Arc'teryx in the Summer?

With Arc'teryx  Full Weather Protection Jacket in the Summer for Alpine Mountaineering

Would you entertain the idea of wearing the Outside Magazine's Gear of the Year Award, Arc'teryx, in the summer? Or would you prefer to wear skimpy two piece suits and lie on the beach for summer vacation? When most people probably picture their summer to be wandering in city streets or lazying on the beach wearing their skimpy swim suits, my picture of summer vacation somehow is different. Living in one of the major cities in US with miles of beaches, I do not plan our vacation in another city or in another beach, rather, vacation for us always means exploring the great outdoors. 

Our summer vacation usually meant wearing a superior lightweight, breathable, fully waterproof and full weather protection jacket for comfort and climbing performance. So, where we were this time of the year for our summer get-away? Anyone wants to take a guess? Here are some clues:
Clue 1:
It's Far Enough from San Diego We Had to Fly
Clue 2:
Its Mountains Are Full of Glaciers

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Potato Chip Rock At Mt Woodson...... Then and Now

Then (2007): Cousin and I @ Potato Chip Rock, Mt Woodson, San Diego County, CA

Hiking Mt Woodson was one of our "little best kept secrets" before in San Diego.  Not that we are one of the early hikers there, since we only learned of the trail from Jerry Schad's "A Foot and A Field in San Diego". It was a very quiet hike then, and on a cooler day, the number of hikers probably equals the number of rock climbers. Our favorite spot then to have lunch was at Potato Chip Rock. We won't have lunch necessarily right on the chip, but on top of the boulder in front of the chip. We used to just look at the Potato Chip Rock then from the boulder where we would have lunch. Until one day, my cousin from Los Angeles joined hubby and I hiking at Mt Woodson. As usual, we would have our lunch break on the boulder in front of the Chip. However, my more adventurous cousin was feeling so motivated to pose at the chip, that she and hubby tried to problem solve how to go to the Chip Rock. 
Cousin @ The Chip Rock, 2007 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monterey Bay Walk

This is the second part of our day 2 Big Sur-Monterey Bay vacation. In the morning, we took a 4-hour whale watching tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, and in the afternoon, we took a very relaxing walk at Monterey Bay.
Sea Lions are Probably the Most Visible Wildlife in Monterey Harbor

As soon as our whale watching boat docked at Monterey Bay's Fisherman's Wharf, everyone sprinted away. However, as I got out of the boat, I saw a beautiful jelly fish swaying gracefully under the water. I took some time photographing until I was reminded by someone who was obviously hungry as you could hear from the 5-seconds video below. :) 

Harbor Seals or Sea Lions? And Swimming With them In San Diego

La Jolla, San Diego, CA

Some of the common sights you will see in San Diego waters, most especially in La Jolla, are the harbor seals and sea lions. 
 Sea Lions or Harbor Seals? @ La Jolla, San Diego, CA
 Sea Lions or Harbor Seals? @ La Jolla, San Diego, CA

Could you tell from the pictures above which are the sea lions, and which are the harbor seals? How about finding what are different between the two groups?

1. Differing flippers: The sea lions have longer hindflippers that they could rotate allowing them to assume a sit-like position and walk on land. The harbor seals have shorter hindflippers that are angled backwards and not capable of rotation. They could not use their hindflippers for sitting or walking, thus they rest by lying flat on the ground, most of the time on their belly.

The foreflippers of sea lions are longer and skinnier. The seals' foreflippers are stubby and hairy.

2. Differing ears: Sea lions have smal earflaps that you could see, true seals look earless because they only have earholes.

Could you now tell which of the two pictures above are the sea lions and which are the harbor seals from the differences I mentioned? If not, read on, as I will add more differences in this post. Meanwhile, let me share with you a common sea lion and harbor seal behavior that I shared with a visiting tourist who was planning to snorkel in La Jolla Cove. A lot of tourists (and locals too), usually find delight in seeing the harbor seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. They are sure cute and fun to look at. However, they can be intimidating for those who are swimming near them for the very first time. 
Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove

A few months back, while I and hubby were rinsing our goggles, prepping them against fogging, a guy who was all geared up to swim and snorkel came near us and asked: "will you get into the water with those seals?" He was actually referring to the sea lions. The one swimming back and forth makes a lot of noise, characteristic of sea lions. Sea lions make a lot of noise, whereas seals are adorably silent! :)

Hubby told him, "yes, we'll do. Those noisy ones swimming are sea lions."

The guy replied, "Don't the sea lions attack people?"

Hubby replied, "They don't, if you leave them be. They most especially won't if they are in the water!"

The guy looked like wanting an explanation why sea lions won't attack in the water, so I told him, "Sea lions and seals do not attack people in the water. The water is their world, they feel very safe there and are very confident with their survival skills there. Sometimes, they would swim past you, somersault in front of you, kind of probably showing off their superior swimming and acrobatic skills in water, or it may be their way of making fun of us in the water, because for them, we are VERY POOR SWIMMERS! :) "

The guy smiled, feeling more confident now getting into the water, but before he went to the water, hubby added, "oh before we forget, don't make a mistake to come near them on rock or on shore or  anywhere out of water, they could attack you!"

The guy looked at me with confused stare, so I told him, "Yes, on land, on rock, anywhere out of water, the sea lions don't feel as strong as they are in the water! Just like some humans, when they are weak, they act out strong to hide the inner weakness! Sea lions somehow could be like that. When they feel weak, they feel less safe, so they are more prone to defend themselves when they feel like you are invading their space and they misinterpret your proximity as harm. When they defend, it could be mistaken as attacking. That behavior could be seen on land where they feel less confident of their skills. Be careful not to come near them on rocks, like what those other people are trying to do. When they haul out on rocks it means they need rest and space."

The guy said, "very interesting! I did not know sea lions behave like men too, gracious and playful when they are confident, yet, could be A BULLY WHEN THEY ARE WEAK!"

The guy thanked both of us, and looked very happy with what he learned, and then, happily and confidently jumped into the water and swam away. :) 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Whale Watching At Monterey Bay

Whale Watching Monterey Bay

In the morning of the second day of our "Into the Pacific Wild Big Sur and Monterey Bay Vacation", we took a whale watching tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Before the tour, I only had one wish, to see a whale breach in front of me. Well, as you can see from the pictures above ( some of my favorite pictures from the trip), sadly, my wish was not granted! :( There is just no way we could control nature. But nevertheless, it was still a very awesome experience for us. We were that very close to humpback whales, and we saw not just one, not just one dozen, but several dozens. We saw whale sprouts almost every where, that it could be overwhelming where to point the camera. 
Though I took several whale watching tours from San Diego and Alaska, but I never had experienced to be that up close with whales that we could hear their sprouts! Even if my wish of seeing a breaching whale up close was not granted, but I still could say this experience is one of the most fascinating I had with nature. Call me crazy, but for some reason, I am thinking of another Big Sur and Monterey Bay vacation again, haha! I guess, I am not giving up on capturing a breaching whale. But who knows, I may experience them in San Diego.

Going back to Big Sur and Monterey Bay, there are just so much wildlife to experience. Up to now, I still am dreaming of the extremely graceful jelly fish dancing in the waters of Monterey Bay, of sea otters, of sea lions, of mola mola, and many more. I really had a wonderful time seeing wonderful aquatic life not from aquarium, but from the wild waters of the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I will share the other wildlife in my later post that we encountered during our afternoon walk at Monterey Bay. Meantime, here are more pictures from our whale watching.

Friday, December 06, 2013


fall colors at school
I know, it seems like each year, I publish here a "forever fall" post. :) Anyway, it was incredibly sunny today ( but chilly ) that I was inspired to take some snaps of fall colors outside my classroom. As I took it, this wish was silently brewing in my heart.....

Blue Sky, can you please stay?
Till tomorrow when it is time to play?

Ahhh, there is actually a forecast of rain and low elevation snow in San Diego County tomorrow. Coastal areas don't get snow because of the moderation of temperature by the Pacific Ocean, but usually the higher elevation would still get snow. I really do not mind rain and snow, but I kind of wish for rain and snow on weekdays when most are at work and blue sky on weekends when it's time to play! :) Hahha!! Anyway, we are at low elevation and closer to the sea, so I do not worry about snow, and I love hiking in rain still. So, rain or shine, just got to play tomorrow. 

Oh, the picture above is a forever fall, because the colors usually stay until February. :) San Diego is like a "forever fall and forever spring" county!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Day 1 of our Big Sur Thanksgiving Week 2013 Trip

Day 1 of our Big Sur Thanksgiving Week 2013 Trip.

The drive to Big Sur from San Diego is a long 7 hours. In that amount of driving, we could reach Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, or Zion National Park in Utah, but we chose to stay in California. Though I love both Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, but we just spent some days at Zion during the summer hiking. Last spring, we hiked Grand Canyon from rim down to the river. I felt it is about time to listen to Big Sur calling. :) We actually also spent our 2012 thanksgiving vacation in Big Sur. Our memories from 2012 kept on inspiring me to go back to enjoy the wild scenery, and the wildlife.
from our Big Sur 2012 Thanksgiving Week Vacation
Big Sur 2013 Thanksgiving Week Vacation

We left San Diego about 7:00 am Saturday so that we could still catch some light when we reach Big Sur. Despite having been to the place several times, we still left with high excitement to see the wintering butterflies, whales, sea otters, critically endangered California condors and more wildlife in the wild Pacific Coast. For us, it was not much about seeing the place, which is described by National Geographic as one of world's Top Ten Drives of a Lifetime. It was more about experiencing the wildlife, the wild but beautiful scenery, and extreme peacefulness.

Why do I love Big Sur? Ahhhh, so many reasons, I will slowly share our experiences, perhaps, they would explain why I love to go back in this paradise again and again.

Anyway, here was our day 1 experience, whales will come later on day 2:
Wintering Butterflies at North Pismo State Beach

Pismo Beach is about 5 hours from San Diego. It is a very strategic stop for us, for two reasons: 1. lunch time and 2. experience again the flight of the monarch butterflies as they winter in North Pismo Beach. Below is a short 15-seconds video of the wintering butterflies, currently estimated to be about 30,000 monarch butterflies wintering in the eucalyptus and cypress trees by North Pismo State Beach.

It's very amazing  for me to learn of the flight of the butterflies, how they migrate, and how they winter together. I can't help but be filled with awe seeing them. I added background music in the video above. I actually love adding background music in my personal videos, somehow, I just find nature and music go very well together. I however try to be careful enough to add music that is not copyrighted,and are free to share. Music copyrights is very strict as youtube or facebook could block you if you got three copyright violations. It would be nice if I have my own music studio, maybe I could make my own music. I would probably get a novation impulse at musicians friend so I could make very good soothing music to go with my nature videos. Ahhhh, so nice to dream! Haha!

Going back to our drive, after the butterflies and lunch at Pismo Beach, we continued driving North on Highway 1. Before entering Big Sur, we stopped at San Simeon to check the elephant seals.
 Seagulls and Elephant Seals: Sights at San Simeon

Monday, December 02, 2013


 Some wild snapshots of the wildlife in Big Sur and Monterey Bay, CA
 ( wildlife except the lady in pink jacket above )

So thankful to have a short 5 day vacation into the Pacific wild coast, in Big Sur and Monterey Bay. We left San Diego early morning Saturday, and came back very late in the evening of Wednesday, just in time for Thanksgiving. As usual, a Big Sur vacation does not disappoint. I have been here many times ( this actually is my favorite vacation destination in California), but I feel like I don't have enough, and could always go back for another vacation. Ahhhh, anyway, I will let the video below and the two picture collages speak about our Pacific Wild memories for now.  
( every pictures and video were taken in the wild coast of Big Sur and Monterey Bay, not in any indoor facilities such as aquarium or zoos )

I chose the music "How Great Is Our God" by Kimberly and Alberto Rivera because that is one of the songs that best represents my gratefulness to our Great GOD, feeling HIS GREAT LOVE for all life in this Earth. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

What Happens When You Visit San Diego?

Fun with Visiting Friends

Visiting San Diego? Come physically prepared. Though San Diego is one of the biggest cities in US, but it is very laid back and outdoorsy in style. Though of course, there are the usual big city amenities, but the best part for me of visiting San Diego is enjoying the balance of nature in the city. Come physically prepared, so you can run, chase the waves, jump, hike up in the mountains, to be on top of the world, to touch the sky, to see the colors of life and be inspired.

After our 5 day thanksgiving trip into the Pacific Wild in Big Sur, CA, hardly had no time to rest to have fun with visiting friends, enjoying the great outdoors and building priceless memories. Time spent with friends and our loved ones in the great outdoors, IS PRICELESS! 

Now, am tuning myself back to reality. :) Back to work, I had a mind relaxing and heart inspiring thanksgiving break though very physically demanding ( 8 straight days of wandering )!