Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cactus Monday: Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens @ Wild Animal Park

Perhaps, for a lot of people visiting San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, the first thing that comes to mind is either the Lion's Camp
or the Journey into Africa tour aboard tour vehicles that were inspired by the legendary trains of Africa to get a glimpse of the diversity in Africa.
However,Wild Animal Park is more than just a more naturalistic animal exhibits and wildlife refuge, within the park are also several botanical gardens. One of these gardens is the Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens. 
Elephant, Barrel and Saguaro Cactus
The Baja and Old World Succulent Gardens present a wide variety of succulents, more than 200 species of succulents are represented in these two connecting gardens. The Baja Garden focuses on the desert plants found in the desert of Baja California, Mexico. The Baja Garden has more than 200 bojums,
Boojum Bending From Its Weight
which is the largest collection of boojums outside of their natural habitat in Baja, Mexico. Boojums can reach a height of up to 60 ft and can live up to about 250 years old. 
Birds Perched on Spiny Branches of Boojum
Boojum is a tree like succulent with a water-storing trunk with tiny leaves. They can reach heights of 50 to 60 ft and live up to 250 years old. Another towering cactus in this Succulent Garden is the Saguaro Cactus.
Saguaro Cactus
This amazing cactus is the state flower of Arizona. It has a creamy white 3-inch wide flowers with yellow centers that boom May and June. This cactus is a familiar sight in cartoons, movies, and paintings. 
Then, there are some other succulents that I do not know the name :(
( ? ) 
( ? )
Other succulents here are the agaves, aloe and yucca.
Aloe Vera
Aloe has long been used for medicinal purposes, such as purgatives, skin care, sunburn and burns. For skin remedy however, be sure always it is aloe vera and not one of the aloes that is toxic. 
Agave( on the left with tall flower spikes) Amidst Cacti and Yuccas
One of the best known uses of agave is the production of tequila, which is made from the fermented and distilled juices produced by agave just before it flowers. The agave blooms only once in its lifetime, between 7 and 20 years. After it flowers, the main plant then dies, but it produce shoots that will take over to maturity. Perhaps, knowing that it takes 7 to 20 years for agave to bloom and dies thereafter, we can understand why tequila can be expensive.
More Succulents
For more of Cactus Monday, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cactus Monday: Ocotillo and Beavertail Cactus

Ocotillo, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, CA
Ocotillo ( pronounced as oh-ko-tee-oh) is a unique desert plant of the Southwest and Northern Mexico. It is also known as coachwhip andvine cactus, but though it may often be referred in print as a cactus because of its other common name, it is actually really not a member of cactus family.
Dwarfed By Ocotillo
Ocotillo is a woody shrub which is usually 5 cm at the base and may grow to a height of 10 meters. 
A Woody Shrub
Notice that ocotillo branches heavily at the base, but above that, ocotillo seldom branches out further. The branches are pole like and the bright red flowers appear during spring and summer. 
Ocotillo Bright Red Flower
 The flowers of ocotillo are pollinated by hummingbirds and/or carpenter bees. Ocotillo loses its leaves in dry periods, and actually at other times of the year may simply look brown. However, just within 48 hours after a rain, the leaves re-appear! 
Towering Ocotillos
Ocotillo, Survivors of Heat and Drought
Ocotillos survive extreme heat and drought in the desert by losing its leaves so that it conserves moisture. Its stems are covered with a thick water resistant cuticle.
Ocotillo in Badlands
Ocotillo Surviving the Badlands
( you can click on the image to enlarge and see the ocotillo, which I encircled )
The presence of ocotillo in badlands suggest how much they can survive an area with extreme drought that other plants, even cactus, are not even seen in the badlands. 
Barrel Cactus, Brittlebush and Ocotillo
However, since this post is my entry for Cactus Monday, and ocotillo is not really a cactus despite being commonly referred to as a cactus, perhaps being seen only in the desert, I am adding here pictures of beavertail cactus blooms.
Beavertail Cactus in Bloom
Beavertail cactus has blooms of varying colors, the two most common I saw are yellow and magenta. 
The blooms usually are observed from March to June. Beveartail cactus is a smaller prickly pear cactus, you can find out more about prickly cactus and the busy bees in my June 17 post here. 
I will be leaving you with an interesting rock formation at Joshua Tree National Park, 
Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Just as interesting as the plants in the desert, so are the rocks which are weathered into various shapes in the forms.
For more of cactus Monday, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hiking No More?

Torrey Pines State Reserve from the shore
I was walking on the beach with my husband's niece towards flat rock, her favorite spot to spend time in San Diego to watch for tiny sea creatures at the tidepool. Usually, after flat rock, we would hike up the bluffs. While she was enjoying the tidepool, I casually asked her, "would you want to hike up the bluffs?" She looked up, then, looked far at the blue ocean, and said, "NO! I feel like I have done enough hiking, I hiked Grand Canyon, hiked Angels Landing, hiked Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic, I feel like, why hike Torrey Pines when there is more to it that Grand Canyon, Angels Landing and Bumpass Hell do not have?"
What did she mean by what does Torrey Pines have that the other parks she hiked do not have? These:
and then, more waves
and more waves
Riding waves seem to be more fun, so, she got the time of her life riding the waves, forgetting about what is above Torrey Pines which according to her can not compare with Grand Canyon, Angels Landing, and Bumpass Hell. My husband agrees, I neither agreed nor disagreed, just told them each place is unique and they have their own unique beauty. Torrey Pines may be nothing compared to the grandness of Grand Canyon, compared to the thrill and excitement in Angels Landing and Bumpass Hell, but to me, it still has its own allure that calls me always to go up the top of the bluffs. What is at the top? Just seeing and hearing the splashing waves from the top of the cliff, it is different from gazing below.
Torrey Pines from the top of the Bluffs
Desert Formation Right Next to the Ocean
Badlands By the Sea
Which one is more fun? Hiking to the top of the bluffs or riding the waves? Are you one of those who on seeing the wave forgets about hiking and just simply say "hiking no more....waves, here I come!"?

I love both, I can't say "hiking no more", even if it is at Torrey Pines!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cactus Monday- Cactus Loop Trail, Anza Borrego

Cactus Loop Trail, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Last Cactus Monday, I shared Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail at Anza Borrego Desert State Park. For this Cactus Monday, I am sharing another trail from Anza Borrego, the Cactus Loop Trail. This is an easy 1 mile trail with only 200 ft elevation gain. The tallest in the background is ocotillo, and you can see some agave, barrel cactus and the majority in this trail are the cholla cactus. 
Very Tall Ocotillo
In The Midst of the Cholla Cactus
The cholla cactus in this trail are teddy bear cholla, similar to the cholla cactus at Joshua Tree National Park that I featured 2 Cactus Monday ago. The trail can be combined with adjacent Yaqui Well Trail and Bill Kenyon Trail for a total of 3.5 miles. 
Barrel and Cholla Cactus
More Cholla, Barrel Cactus and Ocotillo 
( with my younger brother in the picture )
Notice the pictures are so brown? I accidentally have not changed the white balance of my camera, i was shooting with a shade mode when it was sunny, as a result making the images look more suntanned when the desert is already tanned by itself.
The changes in the desert? If it was as brown as above images in the month of May, look at how they were in the month of March, just two months earlier!
Anza Borrego Wildflowers
And below, may be the driest part of Anza Borrego, The Badlands at Font's Point. 
Happy Cactus Monday, everyone!

For more of Cactus Monday posts, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Back Exercises

I was looking for really good back exercise to provide me really good back strength and support, so that when we hike, I do not have to complain about back pain with the weight we are carrying. Then, I came across this wonderful exercises for back pain.

The video and exercise instructions are very easy to follow, I am sure you will be glad to do these exercises. You can check the step by step instructions for the back exercise by checking the link, exercises for back pain.

Hope you will find the exercise useful as much as I did.

This post is sponsored by Back to Yourself, supporting self-treatment for back pain. There is a free access to exercises page, and they offer free trial for those who wanted to do the actual program which includes daily routine with video playlist, more than just a list of exercises.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Picture of the Wild Wild West?

Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley was one of the places we visited in our Grand Circle Spring 2009 trip. We did not really stay here, instead, we just explored the area for maybe about 4 hours. From Page, AZ, ( where we had a grand time exploring the slot canyon in Antelope Canyon ) we drove North to Moab for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Between Page and Moab, is Monument Valley. How amazing it is to be able to see different landscape sceneries, all beautiful in their own right in just short distances. I really recommend taking the Grand Circle tour for those who have not tried it yet. The Grand Circle includes Grand Canyon National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National ParkCanyonlands National Park, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument, Lake Powell, and many more attractions! Just many more! We did the Grand Circle twice already, yet we still have not visited all its amazing parks and attractions. I have featured some of them already in my earlier posts ( you can check the links that will bring you to my earlier posts if you want to take a glimpse of the places). When we came back from our spring vacation trip, I did not really get the chance to feature all the places since I got distracted with all the amazing wildflower blooms in San Diego, which sadly, spring ended, I also was not able to feature all the wildflower fields even :( Then, summer vacation came, and I had too many pictures to share from our 9 days summer trip to Klamath Circle of Parks. I have not also shared all the places yet that we visited from that trip. Too many places, too many pictures, that a lot of the times, like Ratty, of The Everyday Adventurer, Icy, of Reach Beyond Limits, and Ayie, of JIF Photo Journal, what takes me long to make a post is to select which pictures to share first :( So, now, I thought of going a little back from our last spring vacation. 
Three Mittens, Monument Valley
Perhaps, the place may look familiar to most because Monument Valley has been a popular location for a Wild Wild West and science fiction theme. Movies such as Back to the Future III and TV appearances such as McGyver had used this place for location.
There are parts of Monument Valley (the beautiful ones you often see in pictures such as National Geographic) that are accessible only by guided tour, but we did not take the guided tour since we find it expensive, and there are other places we still have to explore which are free. Instead, we just pay the entrance fee and did our own tour which is a total 17 miles loop drive, passing through different formations.
Three Sisters, Monument Valley
Monument Valley

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Life At The Beach

For the past two weeks, somehow, my hiking shoes has been neglected. In fact, even my camera. It was only yesterday and today that somehow I brought my camera with me to take pictures before jumping into the water. Life these days has been mostly a beach somehow.
North Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego
Beach is not just simply lying out on the sand to get sun tanned, or it is simply not about drinking salty water when playing with the water. There's more to beach than simply those actually. In fact, I wrote a post before about "Life is More Than Just A Beach At Torrey Pines". However, unlike that post where I combined both hiking and beach at Torrey Pines, this time, it will just simply be beach.....beach...beach....

Sometimes, beach goers have so much fun that they don't pay attention to the passersby. These passersby are not people, but rather, friendly marine animals.
Dolphins Passing By, North Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego
See those dolphins swimming so close to the the beachgoers? This is one of the moments where being with the ocean makes it truly joyful, it is just like encountering a wild animal in the trail. 
Dolphins Swimming Along
( you can click on the image to enlarge)
However, having no formal trail, in exchange of hiking shoes, boogie board come into play. I could not count anymore how many exciting rides there have been, all I know, it is fun to be one with the wave. I don't surf, I simply boogie board. What is boogie boarding?
Boy Riding the Wave with his Boogie Board

Boogie boarding is a form of riding the waves using a body board which is shorter but wider than a surfboard. Boogie boarders lie belly down on their boards or in drop knee position as they ride the waves to bring them to shore. There is no easier way to ride the crest of the waves than a boogie board. 
Boogie Boarder Pushed by the Wave
The very step in boogie boarding is lying belly down on body board and positioning oneself beyond the breaking waves. As the wave approaches, boogie boarders kick their feet trying to harness the forces of nature so that the waves propel them rather than breaking behind them. This is to give them a very fast ride to the shore. The very fast ride brought by the wave is so much fun, and for someone like me who is afraid of the roller coaster, this is my acceptable ride. 
Boogie Boarders Going Back Out To The Deep To Catch More Waves
After reaching the shore, boogie boarders have to go back out to the water by walking and swimming to be able to catch more waves to ride that will bring them back to shore again. There is a lot of exercise involved in boogie boarding as well, it actually exercises the feet ( walking and kicking ), the arms (swimming) and the body (twisting to navigate the ride to avoid colliding with others).
Wave Crashing on the Boarder
Boogie boarding sometimes mean to tumble in water when the timing to catch the wave is not right, and the wave break on the boarder or behind the boarder.
Another joyful moment in being with the ocean is to swim with the fishes (sorry, no picture since I do not have underwater camera). It is like being inside an aquarium where you really literally swim with the fishes, their skin sparkle in the water. I guess these are some of the free things in life that we enjoy here in San Diego, we do not really have to leave the city to experience clear water where we can see fishes and experience kelp bed when we swim. A lot of times, we do not even have to go to the deep to see fishes. If one would just take a close look at the water on the shore, they would actually see some fishes swimming.
Fishes Close to Shore
( you can click on the image to enlarge)
That is why a lot of the kids sometimes are just happy staying closer to the shore because of this treat. Aside from building sand castle, they get to see fishes. Sometimes, they get surprise when a big fish is carried close to the shore by a wave, and they would jump with joy. This joy is shared by sea birds on shore, waiting for their food to be brought by the waves.
Marbled Goodwit
Marching Marbled Goodwit
Marbled goodwit are some of the birds that are frequently seen at Torrey Pines. Together with the sea gulls, the pelicans, snowy egret, blue heron, etc, they are easily spotted on the shore, sometimes swimming and diving to catch fish. When the tides are low, we go to some rocky spots in the beach to look for some tidepool creatures. 
Green Crab and Anemone
Anemone and Snail
This has so far been my life at the beach.....