Monday, May 25, 2015

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Delicate Arch is approximately 52 ft free standing natural arch, and is the most recognized landmark of Arches National Park, in Moab, Utah. You would see this beautiful arch in Utah's license plates and also in some postage stamps. In 2002 Winter Olympics, the Olympic Torch relay passed through this arch.
The hike to the Delicate Arch is approximately 3 miles round trip and with 500 ft change in elevation. The start of the hike is on a well defined trail, however, about 3/4 of the hike ascends on slickrock.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Weekend Wanderings: here and now

Here and now....savoring every happiness from the simplest things. Here and my happiest place, the outdoors. 

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."- John Muir

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Not Your Typical Las Vegas Vacation

Las Vegas Blvd

The picture above is the Las Vegas most people know, filled with colorful lights at night. Thousands of people walk on its streets everyday (or shall I say every night ) to experience this vibrant city. But behind these colors, is another part of Las Vegas most vacationers to this city do not see. If the Las Vegas Blvd is filled with all sort of crowds, Las Vegas backroads on the other hand is silent, yet teeming with natural colors. 
The Fire Wave, Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Between the two colors above, if you ask me which one do I prefer, it will not come as a surprise to those who had been following me here that my enthusiastic choice would be the natural colors in the 2nd picture. One of the many reasons why I have learned to love the desert as much as I do the mountains, forests and ocean, is because of the many hidden beautiful geological features in the desert that a casual passersby may fail to see. The desert is always judged as something barren, uninteresting, but to me, Earth is as beautiful when it is clothed ( with green vegetation and trees) as when it is naked ( devoid of vegetation, our Mother Earth shows us its beauty within). 
Multi-colored sandstone monoliths @ White Domes Trail, Valley of Fire State Park

Though the desert may look barren from afar, but you take a closer look and you will be surprised with the diversity of life within it. 
Beavertail Cactus and Colored Sandstone formation

The Valley of Fire State Park, which is about an hour away from Las Vegas, is one of the many outdoor destinations that tourists can explore around Las Vegas.
 Valley of Fire Wave
 Petroglyphs @ Valley of Fire State Park

Unlike what most people think, that a Las Vegas vacations means a "casino" vacation, fyi, we don't play in casinos. Las Vegas get-away for us usually means to explore the outdoors during the day, and then, to watch theater shows or concerts at night, 

of course, watching also the play of lights at the strip. 

"Out is In"- I know, this is an REI campaign, but got to love the store that prepares me to endure the outdoors regardless of the weather conditions.
Elephant Rock ( can you see the road below? no hiking to go to this rock, it is very close to the East entrance of Valley of Fire State Park )

In Las Vegas? Enjoy uncovering Las Vegas' best kept secrets too, such as The Valley of Fire State Park.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Angels Landing and Potato Chip Rock

Angels Landing....
View from Angels Lading, Zion National Park, Utah
Potato Chip Rock.....
View from Potato Chip Rock, Poway/Ramona, San Diego County
click here if you are looking for directions to Potato Chip Rock
Both of them have vertical drop off more than a thousand feet. But which one is scarier to get to the top and stay there? Can you take a guess?

Badlands: Our Reminder of Life's Fragility?

Surfers Stepping on Shore Set the Birds to Fly
It is not easy getting sick. Being a migraine, allergy rhinitis and asthma sufferer, I do have my bouts of health challenges from time to time. The attacks come often by surprise, like a thief entering the household whether it be day or night. Usually, when asthma and allergies hit me, I would be at an emotional low, wishing for good health. When I feel better, I would usually seek  the outdoors for being out is just soooooo goooood, really good!!!! God is so kind, so gracious. He just knows how to shower us with priceless gifts outside that will last us a lifetime if only we take time and open our eyes and heart to His majestic gifts!!
Gulls @ Sunset
It is already a known fact to those who follow this site enough that my favorite place in San Diego to seek peacefulness and healing is Torrey Pines.
Reflection of Torrey Pine Cliffs on Sand @ Low Tide
I could not count the many ways why I love Torrey Pines and why being here gives me such rejuvenating energy. It must be the scent of the ocean, the power of the waves, the sculpting in the eroded cliffs,

Badlands at Torrey Pines

the magical twisting of Torrey Pine trees,

A Torrey Pine Tree in Fog
and topping them all, Torrey Pines combines two of my favorite outdoor activities,
Reflection of Torrey Pine Cliffs on Sand @ Low Tide
hiking and the ocean. Torrey Pines does not only offer me a beach to play in and chase the waves, but also gives me miles of leisurely trails on top of the bluffs.
KTL @ Guy Fleming Trail
Though the change in elevation here is only 350 ft, but if I combine several trails, that is go up, then, go down, and up,and down, then, it would be equivalent also to having hiked up several thousands feet :)
I call the badlands at Torrey Pines as "desert by the sea". Being directly exposed to the elements, these cliffs are easily eroded by the unforgiving forces of nature resulting to Earth's sculpting like no other.
Badlands at Torrey Pines
I love badlands. For me, their presence reminds us of how fragile our Earth and our life is. God blessed us with intelligence to study these natural forces that had shaped our land so that, hopefully, our world will not end up with all badlands! Hopefully, we get to keep our deeply forested resources too and the diversity of life around. Nature opens our eyes to what we can and need to do. As much as we contribute our little ways to help preserve our natural resources, we also do our best to keep ourselves fit and healthy. I guess, one of the reasons why I continue to seek hiking and the ocean is because I dread getting another migraine, asthma or allergy rhinitis. Knowing my medical and health fragility, I always see to it we get good Medicare supplement plans from our health and other plans, since we do not want all that we earned be eroded so quickly by humongous hospital bills and everything be swept off just like the eroded soil in badlands. Whenever I feel healthy, I feel like celebrating life, and the quickest celebration I can go to is Torrey Pines, whether it be day or night. At night, when more surfers start to get out of water, as they step on shore, they create a shock to the birds, which would case a huge flock of birds to fly away.
During the day, I get to see the bandlands reflected on the sand that is washed by the sea.
Or I can soar up high these badlands overlooking the sea, well, in my dreams :)
The badlands are to me the symbol of how temporary our life here on Earth is, and how fragile are our resources. And though we are blessed with intelligence, but it is not enough to fathom God's marvelous creation. I remember Albert Einstein once said, "the more we understand the forces of the universe, the more we realize there is so much we do not know and we acknowledge the presence of a God."
Everything on Earth is temporary. We just have to enjoy every moment given to us, for tomorrow may be another story. Maybe, another beautiful story. For the beauty in life, is up to the person who breathes it!!
Ahhh, The Joys of Simple Life, you can not find them at the mall but they are everywhere around you, they do not come with a price, but their memories last a lifetime.

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Giant Sea Stacks and Myself, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is not your typical beach. This is a wild stretch of coast more popular for backcountry hiking and camping.
Coastal Forest and Ocean Beach @ Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is just a few miles West from where we stayed at the town of Forks. Our drive from Forks to Rialto Beach was very beautiful. The road winds between a thick canopy of pine and maple forest and ends at the beach. Rialto Beach beach starts at the mouth of the Quillayute River.
Mouth of Quillayute River and Forest Capped James Island, Rialto Beach
From the mouth of Quillayute River, the beach extends about 4 miles, bounded by sea stacks, tidepools and the Pacific Ocean on the West, and by piles of driftwood, ghost forest and the pine and maple forest wall to the East.
Driftwood (above) and Ghost Forest ( Below)
While walking on this coastal strip, we saw several white eagles perched on top of the tree, or flying above us,
or perched on top of the rocks in the middle of the sea ready to fish. 
How Many Bald Eagles do you see here?
Among the sea stacks, Hole-in-the-Wall is one of the most interesting, which is about 1.5- 2 miles from Rialto's Beach Parking lot, and within an earshot to the camp sites. Camping right next to the ocean in the midst of pine and maple forest and the sea stacks in front of you is definitely a one of a kind experience.
Hikers at Hole-in-the-Wall
Even in the middle of summer however, it can be very windy, cold and chilly camping and exploring here at Rialto Beach. It is good to bring the best of your camping equipment to protect yourself from the elements and enjoy fully the wonderful gift of nature in this area. Vacation becomes more fun for me if it is about actively exploring the great outdoors, without sacrificing comfort to really optimize the fun. Camping Gear Outlet is one of the wonderful places you can look for supplies for your outdoor needs online.
Hole- in- the- Wall
Hole-in-the-Wall is a natural arch that was pierced through a cobble-stoned rock by centuries of surf and wind. At high tide, hikers can not cross this arch, instead they must climb the rock to continue up North. We did our homework the day before coming here, we checked the time of low tide which was 10:00 am. The day prior to this we reached Olympic Peninsula at past low tide, therefore, we spent our time doing more land hiking at Moments In Time and Sol Duc Falls, before retiring to Forks. We woke up early enough and had early breakfast to reach Hole in the Wall at low tide. Dining at Forks was fun, most restaurants says something about "Twilight" :), but surely, all those "Twilight" meals helped us in giving energy for our physical activities.
While walking, we saw a lot of starfish sticking to the rocks pounded by the waves, however, as we got closer to Hole in the Wall, there were no more pounding waves and the tide pool was exposed. We saw hundreds of starfish, anemone, and other shells cleaving to kelp-laden tide pools. 
Orange and Purple Starfish (top 2 pictures, by KTL),
Anemone and underside of Starfish ( bottom 2 pictures, by Betchai )
Starfish feeds on clams, oysters and mussels, through their mouth which is the middle opening on their underside ( bottom right picture above). Starfish don't eat shellfish with their shells on, but rather, they use their powerful suction cups on their legs to open the shell of their prey. When the shell is wide open and meat is exposed, star fish push their stomach out through their mouth and digest it. Star fish are scavengers and hunters that clean up the bottom of the ocean floor, eating some fish-killing algae. Most of the starfish we saw are not by themselves, but they are cleaving to each other and on the rocks.
Group of Starfish
Grouping together is one of the starfish defense mechanisms to protect themselves from the pounding waves as they can easily be washed off shore by the very strong waves. As the star fish cleave together, their strength multiplies exponentially that they will be able to hold on together defying the pounding waves that crash on them. The star fish exemplifies best the quote, "Together we stand, divided we fall." 
Someone from my Facebook friends left me a comment if the picture above is real, I think we had presumed before that this question may be asked, that's why probably we have different attempts to take this picture with the ocean scenery to say, yes, they are real.
the same group of starfish in the last starfish group picture above
Since I have been awakened to the magnificent beauty and power of nature preserved in National Parks during my first National Park hike at the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab trail last thanksgiving 2006, I had made a list of our big trips exploring the 58 US National Parks. Olympic National Park was one of those that were high in my priority. Olympic National Park is not just about these ancient sea stacks and the abundance of ocean wildlife, is not just about the glacier-capped mountain peaks, not just about the amazing and out-of-this-world rain forest, not just about its roaring waterfalls, but Olympic National Park is the embodiment of a stunning variety of landscapes, plants and animal life. I am glad I came, I won't be surprised if one day I will find myself here again even without completing all the 58 US National Parks yet. 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Trees for Fun Friday: The Giant Sequoia

Giant Sequoias, Parker Grove, Sequoia National Park, CA
We are now on our 7th week of Trees for Fun Friday, hosted by Melissa, of Blogging For Fun. We are featuring trees for 8 weeks, and in the last 3 weeks, I am featuring California trees where a National Park has been named for them, and has been established for their preservation. Last Friday, I featured the Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park, and this week, I am featuring the giant sequoias.
Me and General Sherman Tree, Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, CA
In terms of total volume, the sequoia stands alone as the largest living tree on Earth. The General Sherman tree is the largest tree in the world by volume. General Sherman tree is between 2,300 and 2,700 years old and continues to add enough wood growth each year. The largest of the sequoias are as tall as a 26-storey building. In all the world, giant sequoias grow naturally only on the west slope of California's Sierra Nevada ( sierra nevada is spanish for snowy range) , at elevations of 5,000 - 7,000 ft.
Us and the Sequoias
Although these trees are giants, but they actually sprout from seeds that are so small and light, that look like oat flakes. Mature trees may produce each year 2,000 egg-sized cones that collectively bear 500,000 seeds. The seeds however are only dispersed as cones are opened, but the cones hang on the tree green and closed for up to 20 years. Douglas squirrel, or a tiny cone-boring beetle may cause these cones to open, but fire is the main agent in the dispersal of seeds. The fire ashes also enhance sequoia seedling survival.
Sequoia National Park, California's first National park and America's second oldest, was established in 1890 to protect these giant trees.
@ Sequoia National Park South Entrance
Sequoia National Park does not contain only these giant trees but also contains Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the US outside of Alaska. Sequoia National Park offers a diverse and unspoiled beauty, from the towering giant sequoias to huge mountains and rugged foothills, to deep canyons and vast caverns.
Divided Highway 180, Sequoia National Park, CA
The sequoias have seen civilization come and go, testifying to nature's admirable perseverance surviving countless fires and drought.

Cliff swallow in flight

I always find cliff swallows hard to photograph if in flight, but thankful for those moments they just appear in your frame and camera / lens is fast enough to focus.