Thursday, March 27, 2014

Coast Live Oak

Trees for Fun Friday. This week, I am featuring the coast live oak, which is native to the coast ranges of California.
Coast Live Oak Woodland, Trail to Mt. Woodson, San Diego County
Coast live oak is the only native California oak that thrives in the coastal environment. It is somewhat tolerant of sea salt present in the coastal winds. Though live oaks are rarely found in the immediate shore, they usually are found in well drained soils of coastal hills and plains. It may be found in several coast live oak woodland communities such as in Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, in Poway, San Diego County. 
Coast Live Oak Woodland, Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
Coast live oak are normally found within 62 miles from the ocean and at an elevation below 2300 ft, however, in Southern California, the coast live oaks are occasionally seen up to 5000 ft elevation.
Coast Live Oaks Lining Potato Chip Rock at Mt Woodson, @ 2800 ft elevation
On top of Potato Chip Rock with Coast Live Oak Behind the Rock
Coast live oak is an outstanding bird plant and is a food plant for the California Sister butterfly and mournful duskywing. 
Red Tail Hawk Resting at a Branch of Coast Live Oak
Aside from the coastal live oak which is native to the coastal region of California, there are many other live oaks, which is a general term used for unrelated oaks, but share the same characteristic of evergreen foliage. The name "live oak" comes from the fact that the evergreen leaves remain green throughout the winter, when other oaks are leafless and dormant. 
Wildflowers and Coastal Live Oak @ Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, Poway, San Diego County

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Exploring Glacier-Yellowstone-Grand Teton National Parks (Part 2 of 4)

This is the continuation of the summary of our Yellowstone-Grand Teton-Glacier National Parks trip. If you missed the first part (which is more on planning for Glacier-Yellowstone-Grand Teton exploring), you can go to Part 1 by clicking this link.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone ( view from the brink of the Lower Falls)
Exploring Yellowstone is much easier because there are 3 road loops in the park that bring visitors to its majestic places of attractions. Let me call these loops: north loop, south loop and east loop ( refer to image below).
Yellowstone Map, courtesy of NPS
 you may click the image above to enlarge
Because of limited time, we only had explored parts of north, south and east loops. In part 1 of the series, we drove from North to Grand Teton via the eastern portion of the north and south loops (or western portion of east loop), and then explored the Old Faithful area on our way to West Yellowstone. In this post, from West Yellowstone, we explored the south loop by going clockwise from Madison Junction. However, we observed later it probably would have been easier had we done the counterclockwise direction (going south of Madison Junction), because most of our stops were in the opposite side. In this post, I will be summarizing what we have covered in the southwestern loop in one day until sun down, and what we had missed in the loop that we needed to go back the next day.
Going clockwise of the southwestern loop....
1. Our first short stop was along the meadows on Highway 89 just a mile or two north of Madison Junction to observe Yellowstone wildlife.
Herd of Bison on a Meadow Along Highway 89 ( about 2- 5 miles North of Madison Junction)
2. Our second short stop was at Gibbon Falls, still on Highway 89. The overlook to Gibbon Falls is only a very short walk from the parking lot.
Gibbon Falls from the Overlook
( this is a handheld shot since we did not bring our tripod so we could avoid checking in our luggage
 3. Our third stop was at Artist Paint Pots, about 3 miles South of Norris Junction or 11 miles North of Madison Junction. This is a short easy hike, about 1.5 miles total. I will write a post solely about Artist Paint Pots in my later posts because this has a lot of interesting geothermal features.
Milky Blue Pools at Artist Paint Pot

The Joys of Simple Life Shirt

While reading about customized t-shirt printing in  web2print, what I had been thinking before of customizing t-shirt that would carry the banner of this blog, "The Joys of Simple Life", has been awakened. However, the plan has never been materialized. I kind of think however it would be a lot of fun to wear my shirt, I mean, "The Joys of Simple Life" shirt when hiking. There would be pros and cons to that though. :) 

It will promote this site. :) Hmmm, as if I wanted a lot of traffic here, haha! I am not so sure about that, though the business aspect is kind of exciting to think about.

Hmmm, I still have to think about it. :) Haha! Right now, all I see is the fun of having "The Joys of Simple Life" shirt, like the one below.
The Joys of Simple Life Shirt, go or no go? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Wanderings (5): La Jolla and Torrey Pines- Del Mar Trail

Time flies so fast, I can't believe it has been about a month since I last shared our weekend wanderings here, which was at the San Diego Zoo on the weekend of February 8th. Thankfully, I saved all our weekend wanderings in one folder, with each weekend in sub-folders, so that it is easy for me to reminisce the simple joys we had from our weekend wanderings.
La Jolla, Torrey Pines-Del Mar Trail

For this weekend wanderings, let me go back to March 15, Saturday. It's time to check for spring wildflowers around San Diego.

We wandered at La Jolla first, before proceeding to Torrey Pines for Torrey Pines-Del Mar hike.

We started our Satur-date from La Jolla Coast Walk. There were minimal spring wildflowers at the Coast Walk on that day, but there were signs they will bloom in maybe a few weeks. But the bloom won't be as great as the previous years, because of the extreme drought we had last year, the worst drought in over 100 years.
From La Jolla Coast Walk trail, we continued South to La Jolla Cove.
ON TOP OF LA JOLLA CAVES ( can you find me? )
At La Jolla Cove, we spent some time enjoying watching the breeding cormorants plumage and sea lions from above the bluffs.

 From above the bluffs, the squirrel were getting some attention too. :) Just too many wildlife to enjoy at La Jolla Cove, from pelicans, to cormorants, to harbor seals, to sea lions to squirrels. It is also very enjoyable to watch people, especially little kids, having so much fun.
 From La Jolla Cove, we turned around and went back to La Jolla Coast Walk. From Coast walk, we drove to Torrey Pines State Beach North Parking lot. it was time to check out the spring wildflowers at Torrey Pines-Del Mar trail by the rail tracks.

At the North Torrey Pines parking lot, we were greeted by the blooming pink manzanitas.
Manzanitas and Los Penasquitos Marsh Lagoon @ Torrey Pines State Beach- North Parking lot
From there, we walked to Del Mar Beach but along the beach first ( we saved the wildflower above the bluffs for last, since we wanted to check out the cute tiny birds, or sanderlings too ). 
Marbled Murelets and Sanderlings @ North Torrey Pines State Beach

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sea Star and Anemone

Ochre Sea Star and Anemone

When I first saw this maroon ochre starfish circling its legs around two sea anemones, the first question that came into my mind was, "does the starfish eat anemone?" Since I did not know the answer, I tried to look deeper at the sea star and anemones. The anemone in the right side looked like to be devoured by the sea star, but the anemone on top looked like the dominating specie. I reversed my question, "does anemone eat starfish?" Is there a symbiotic relationship between star fish and anemone? Or is there a predator-prey relationship between them? If so, who is the prey? Who is the predator?  These questions drove me to search for information in google, which lead me to so many sites. There are some sites which say that some species of starfish prey on anemone, then, there are other sites which say anemone prey on star fish. Anyway, here are some tidbits of information I have learned from my readings on both sea star and anemone.

A. Sea Star Feeding Behavior ( sea stars are more popularly known as starfish, but marine scientists prefer to call them sea star since star fish are not really fish

The ochre sea stars are the keystone species in CA rocky intertidal zone. Without them, the mussels would dominate and anemones would be crowded out. Without sea stars (or starfish), everything in the rocky intertidal zone would be mussels.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Of Golds and Gemstones, Julian, CA

Where was California's most productive gold mine? It was in Julian, California at Stonewall Mine. In 1893, $2,000,000 of gold was mined in this site only with a 30 ft shaft - and that $2M was 117 years ago. Could you imagine how much the worth of that would be now?

Lake Cuyamaca @ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County

Julian, California was actually San Diego County's biggest city before, not San Diego. However, after the gold mining era, people slowly moved closer to the coast, making San Diego now the 8th largest city in US.

San Diego

Julian however became San Diego's quiet mountain escape and winter wonderland. 

 Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Julian, San Diego County

The biggest attractions in Julian for San Diegans are: 

1. A Quiet Mountain Escape Less Than an Hour Away from the City.

2. Julian's Apple Pies. Hmmm, I forgot to take a picture of those famous apple pies, but here are some apples from the trail instead. :)

Fallen Apples in the Trail 
( this was not in a farm, but in one of the hiking trails, I wondered if these apples were wild )

3. Hiking Wonderland. 

Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Julian, CA

4. Fishing

5. And perhaps, the biggest drawer of them all, gold panning and gemstone hunting.

If visitors are not into gold panning and gemstone hunting, they could still take a glimpse of what the gold and gemstone mining from more than 100 years ago is like.  Visitors could either take a tour at Eagle And High Peak Mine, one of Julian's original gold mines. Guides lead visitors through the intricate path of tunnels in the hard rock mine and share tales of the life of early residents of Julian.

Visitors could also enjoy a 1-mile train ride, exploring the Authentic Smith Ranch 1870 "gold rush" mine and they could pan for gold!

I may not be lucky enough to strike a gold and precious gemstone in Julian, but I consider these my "gold" find. :)
Golden Leaves Instead, haha!
My Gem Finds :) haha, Herons @ Lake Cuyamaca

If in case you visit Julian to try experiencing gold panning and gemstone hunting and end up with none, don't worry, I am sure you can always find precious gemstones in jewelry stores such as finding gemstone jewelry at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Photographing White Pelicans at Lake Hodges

White Pelicans, Lake Hodges, San Diego, CA

I am enjoying the longer daylight because of Daylight Savings Time right now. After a day's work, we now could enjoy the great outdoors longer, for the sun sets at around 7 pm now. Last Friday, we were greeted by a lot of white pelicans at Lake Hodges. Of course, there are other birds as well, as Lake Hodges has been designated as Globally Important Bird Area.

During weekdays, we usually do not take a long hike because we start hiking late in the afternoon already, after work. We usually take the 3.8 mile hike at Piedras Pintadas Trail of Lake Hodges, which is along the South Shore. Lake Hodges is our favorite hiking trail for bird photography. The lake is teeming of wild birds, where the South Shore is home to numerous marsh, shore and riparian bird species.

Here are some pictures of white pelicans captured by hubby.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sea Lions At La Jolla Cove

 Sea Lions enjoying a swim? Or trying to escape the wrath of pounding waves?
Are these sea lions wanting to jump down into the water or happy enough that they are well rested on top of the rocks away from the pounding waves?

Whether on land or on water, they are such a joy to watch.

** Pictures above were taken March 2nd, 2014.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Random Pictures....Random Thoughts

Sometimes, life can be confusing......isn't it?
But then, after the passing tides,
 We see the beauty of it all, the beauty in challenges, the beauty in tears, the beauty in success, the beauty in everything....
that we couldn't help but celebrate life with one another......
Ahhhh, life is joyful....says these two harbor seals.

Take a moment to stop and enjoy the beauty around you, and if you could, freeze those beauty in your photos. All images above are old photos that I took from La Jolla Ellen Browning Scripps Park- San Diego. Meanwhile, let me leave you with a photo I took today at Lake Hodges.
White Pelicans, Lake Hodges, San Diego, CA

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I love Daylight Savings Time

Torrey Pines State Reserve and Beach, San Diego, CA

Okay, don't hate me now, but I am one of those who secretly rejoices whenever time changes to Daylight Savings Time. Even though the idea at first sounded very strange to me being a transplant to this country. Maybe, during the very first week of experiencing it, I too was whining about 1 hour of sleep lost. But after that very first week of experiencing Daylight Savings Time, I found it actually was an "adjustment of time" for me to enjoy most of the things I love. 

Here are some reasons why I love Daylight Savings time:

1. Longer Daylight time to enjoy outdoors after work. 
Overlooking Torrey Pines from Torrey Pines- Del Mar Trail
This reason alone is enough for me to love daylight savings time. :) Moving the time one hour forward means sun setting late, and the longer daylight after work means more hiking time and more time to enjoy the great outdoors. The more time I spend outside physically, the less time I sit in front of the computer, the better it is for my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cactus Monday- Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail

Anza Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, CA
The hike:
     from the visitor center: 5.5 miles round trip, 600 ft elevation gain (no fee to park at visitor center)
     from Borrego Palm Campgrond: 3 miles round trip, 600 ft elevation gain ( there is $8.00 day use fee to enter campground )
This is the most popular trail probably in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and is also good for beginners because the ascent is very gradual, and the trail is well maintained. Though some parts of the trail would require some boulder hopping, because of the big rocks that litter the ground. Most parts of the trails are rocky, but very manageable. 
Desert Nature Trail, Visitor Center
The peak visitation to this park is during winter and spring when the temperature is cooler. In the summer, because of the intense desert heat, the trail is more isolated. Though at other times of the year, the hike here can be drab for some, because there is nothing but sun-blasted vegetation. But during spring, March and April, this park can turn into a rainbow of colors.
Blooming Beavertail and Brittlebush