Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ape Cave Lava Tube, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mt. St. Helens Above Ground, viewpoint from the South
Ape Cave is a 2,00 year old lava tube that was formed by a basalt lava flow from a vent on the southern flank of Mt. St. Helens. From Mt. Rainier, we drove South to Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Coming from the North, the visibility was very poor because of fogs and very clouds. We did not have a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens at all even at their view points from the North and West side of Mt. St. Helens.
@ the mouth of Ape Cave Lava Tube, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic National Monument
If above ground was all foggy, we went below ground then at Ape Cave. Ape Cave Lava Tube is in the south side of Mt. St. Helens. It is the longest lava tube (12,810 ft ) in the contiguous US. Last summer 2009, we also hiked in a similar lava tube cave in California, which is Subway Cave near Lassen Volcanic National Park. 
close to the entrance of Ape Cave
Exploring Ape Cave
It was not only dark inside Ape Cave, but it was also chilly and breezy, with a temperature averaging 42 degrees Fahrenheit ( 5.5 degree Celsius). We went down several flight of stairs inside the cave.

For more about Ape Cave Lava Tube Natural History, please visit the site here.
After Ape Cave, we continued our journey South to Columbia River Gorge. Surprisingly, if we did not get a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens at the North and West side, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens when we were further South.
Mt. St. Helens from the South
It was a big treat for us to be able to see a day as clear as this, when the past 2 days where gloomy for us. And if felt so great to be able to see what is underneath Mt. St. Helens as well at Ape Cave Lava Tube.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stonewall Peak

on top of Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, CA
These are some of the pictures from our hike last Sunday at Stonewall Peak. It was a beautiful day, sunny, blue skies, not so cold, not so warm (in the low 60s), just perfect for hiking. The trail meanders through gentle switchbacks, supposedly with old growth black oaks, sycamores and coniferous trees. However, all these were burned in the last 2003 cedar fire, which I mentioned in my Lake Cuyamaca post 2 weekends ago. 
trail meandering through burned forest
Vegetation however is recovering, some new branches are emerging prettily mixing with burned branches.
Life Continues On
The dead trees however for me reveal still a beautiful past, though their limbs barren, but they speak deep character of how life continues leaving us with beautiful images despite it may have passed away.
Completely Barren Trees, however, new life are slowly sprouting around it
The last section of the trail is on an exposed ridge, but it does have steps and a handrail for safety.
Steps To the Peak
For those who may think hiking is boring, climbers may consider rock climbing routes to the summit. At the top, one can take in the rolling topography of San Diego County.
Rolling Topography Seen from the Top of Stonewall Peak
There is no Pacific Ocean view at the top because looking West, the much taller Cuyamaca Peak blocks the line of sight. Below Stonewall Peak is the Lake Cuyamaca.
Lake Cuyamaca
Parking for Stonewall Peak hike is at Paso Piscacho Campround, and had a blast observing the acorn woodpecker making sounds on top of the trees, hiding the acorns on the hole, flying to get more acorns, and flying back to their granary tree.
Acorn Woodpecker with a acorn on his mouth (notice the many acorns on the hole of this
pine )
There were just too many of them, flying back and forth, making sounds as they peck the woods, only that it was so difficult to take them a picture since they were so high up in the tree, the sun was right above, and our lens was not very good for zooming since we don't bring zooming lens when we hike because of the weight. Hopefully when we get a chance to go back there, we will bring the right zoom lens so we can have better picture of these happy birds. Because it was not so easy to take a picture of the woodpeckers, I instead focused on the beautiful sky which seemed to be whipped gently by clouds.
the black dot you can see on the sky is not dirt from lens, it is a flying bird :)
Anyway, we had a beautiful day at the Cuyamaca Mountains, and the day ended beautifully for us as well by the sea.
From the Mountains to the Shining Sea, we had a beautiful day

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happiness in a jar (or tube!)

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Boudreaux's Butt Paste. All opinions are 100% mine.
Photo of MJ, Rog and Teyla at Brushfork falls last October, courtesy of MJ

I fell in love with Brushfork falls the first time I laid eyes on it.

No, it wasn't huge and thundering like the mighty Niagara. Brushfork falls in Mercer County, West Virginia, is way, way tinier than that. But there was something about the falls that caught my fancy the first time I quietly sat beside Rog on a huge water-polished rock a few meters from where the water plummeted over the brink into a frothy pool below. Perhaps it was the sweet silence - aside from the rushing sound of the falls - that hovered over the area like a giant, cotton candy cloud blocking out the sun on a blistering hot summer day. Or maybe it was the fact that the miracle of spring was taking place all about us the day Rog and I first visited Brushfork. Green was slowly, magically taking over the landscape. Robins were chirping in delight from the treetops. I was 7 months pregnant with our precious baby girl, Teyla. And it was just me, Rog and the waterfall that day.

"We have gotta come back here someday," I told Rog as we sat on that rock by the falls, the cool mist dampening our faces. "I want our baby girl to see this place." Rog squeezed my hand and nodded in the stillness, "We will, hon," he said softly. "I promise we will."

Fast-forward to fall of 2010. We decided to keep our promise and show our bouncy, bubbly 16-month-old Teyla the magical Brushfork falls one fine Saturday afternoon.

We left our vehicle at a parking area about a thousand feet from the falls, loaded Teyla into her Jeep stroller, then set out pushing her down an old road to the falls. Alas, maneuvering a baby stroller down a rugged path abundant with huge rocks and ruts, loose stones and roots sticking out of the ground proved to be a bigger challenge than Rog and I had anticipated. And what a bumpy ride for poor Teyla! Instead of reaching the falls in just a few minutes - the time it took us to reach it in the spring of 2007- it took us over half an hour! And that was just to get to the top of the hill overlooking the falls. The next challenge was to carry Teyla safely down the hill via a narrow dirt path that the rain had washed out in several places.  

Thankfully, the 3 of us made it to the base of the hill in one piece and breathed a sigh of relief as we took a seat on the old, flat rock Rog and I had sat on in front of the falls the first time we were there. "Look at the falls, Teyla!" we said to her, amused at the way her eyes widened with wonder as the white wall of water roared and crashed from 25 feet to the dark pool in front of us. "Woo! Woo! Woo!," went little Teyla, waving her little arms in delight as a little breeze blew some mist from the falls in our direction. I remember sitting on that rock that fine sunny day with Rog by my side, Teyla in his arms, Brushfork falls doing its thing, the whole place to ourselves, and thinking, "This must be what Heaven's like!"

Some good things never last though. Teyla started to get cranky after only about half an hour by the falls. We tried to cheer her back up by showing her rocks tossed and turned in the river's waters until they were round and smooth, some even flat. Rog took a few and skipped them across the water. Normally, Teyla would have clapped her little hands and laughed out loud. But the spark had disappeared from her eyes and, instead, she fidgeted and pulled at the back part of her pants. After a while, she started to cry. We said goodbye to the falls then, set her in her stroller and pushed her down the bumpy path back to the car, which is where I made an alarming discovery while changing her diaper.

Her bottom was an angry shade of red. No blisters yet, but it looked like some were on the verge of breaking out. I realized, with a sinking heart, that in our haste to get out of the house that day and make it to the falls before it got chilly, I had failed to apply the diaper rash cream we depend on, Boudreaux's Butt Paste. Extended contact with a soaked diaper during the bumpy trip to and from the falls was what I suspect caused Teyla's rash. I immediately cleaned her up, applied a generous amount of Butt Paste to the inflamed skin, and put a fresh diaper on her. Then I sent a silent prayer up to Heaven for the cream to work wonders on Teyla's discomfort.

Thank God and thank you, Butt Paste! The next morning, I got up to the blessed sounds of Teyla hollering happily from her crib. She was all smiles and bouncing up and down - a tremendous improvement from the fussy, crying baby by the falls the day before. A quick check showed the diaper rash was almost completely gone! Thank you indeed, Butt Paste!

Photo of a diaper-rash free Teyla riding her trike few days later, courtesy of MJ ****
Now, anytime we go out with Teyla (which is pretty much 99 percent of the time), I always make sure and stick a tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste in my pink diaper bag.

I love Butt Paste for the following reasons: I can buy it in two convenient sizes - a jar, for leaving at Teyla's changing station at home; and a tube, for taking with us when we go out. I like that Butt Paste is easy to apply and easy to clean off, unlike other leading diaper cream brands that almost take an act of Congress to remove. I also love Butt Paste's pleasant scent.

Most importantly, I love Butt Paste and have been a big fan of it for more than a year now because it provides effective diaper rash care for Teyla. At the end of the day, that spells HAPPY BABY! And we all know that a HAPPY BABY equals a HAPPY MOMMY!
Photo of a happy Teyla playing outdoors, courtesy of MJ **** 
Visit their site to receive free samples of Boudreaux's Butt Paste, and know why I always say, "Thank you, Butt Paste." - by MJ


Sandpiper In Flight
Sandpiper and its Mirror Image
another "kissing its image" shot
Separate Ways
More Sandpipers
These are shots I took Sunday at San Diego River Estuary near the Dog Beach at Ocean Beach, San Diego. A lot of birds can be seen in this "where the river meets the sea" stretch, most common are the sea gulls, sandpipers, egrets and herons. I however will talk only about sand pipers in this post and save all the other bird pictures later.

Sandpipers are one of the commonly seen birds in San Diego coastlines. It is a joy watching them playing with the water's edge, they tend to play and chase the waves at the beaches. These are migratory birds, however, I see them year round in beaches here, bays, and estuaries. They are very social birds since they tend to really flock together and oftentimes with coordinated movement. Unlike the gulls, they do not attempt to steal your foods :) instead they are so focused on finding their meal underneath the sand and water.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Prize of Hiking

I love hiking, it is my most favorite form of exercise to stay fit. I am glad to be living here in San Diego where I can hike after work. They are so near, yet they look far. It is within the city but it does not look like part of the city.

Who would think that this sight is part of this city pictured below?
One of the joys of hiking is knowing I am fit to hike. I exercise my heart, my legs, my body, and above all, my mind and spirit. Seeing the beauty of nature reminds me of the wonderful presence and brilliance of our loving God. It is a time for listening to myself, to my breathing, and a very precious time for feeling God's love. Hiking brings us out of the doors to take in fresh air, to breathe in the healing gifts of nature, and breathe out whatever stress we get from our daily work. It is my hope to continue hiking even when I get very old, and hopefully not to rely on simvastatin to keep my health on top of the Healthline.
Hiking releases stress, no material competitiveness, no pretensions, just pure joy in admiring the serenity around you. Hiking is a nice escape after a day's work, or a stress buster during weekends, and a perfect time to feel God's loving presence.


Faces....what do you see? Do you see the same expressions as I do when I first viewed these pictures? The pictures below were taken last Sunday by my husband who decided to focus on faces during our relaxing stroll at the Wild Animal Park.
Sad ?
Lemur are nocturnal primates native to Madagascar. Lemurs are named after the lemures (ghosts or spirits) due to their reflective eyes, ghostly vocalization and nocturnal habits.
Black-crowned night heron is a local San Diego bird that is found throughout a large part of the world. These birds often frequent the Wild Animal Park maybe because they see the place as a rich place for them to hunt and hang out.
Shoebill stork is such a huge bird - they are quite tall, with such a penetrating stare that can really look straight at you in the eye without batting their eye lash. These birds are solitary and native to the marshy banks of the East African White Nile. They feed on frogs, small crocodiles, and other mud puddle fish. 
Actually, since this is the Wild Animal Park, I am not very sure what type of pelican is this. Is this the pink backed pelican that is native to Africa, or is this a local white pelican that is found all over the world and like the herons also make this park their favorite stop? 
Hummingbirds are so easy to find everywhere in San Diego but are not so easy to photograph because they move so quick, in fact the humming is from the quick flapping of their wings. 
The African Crowned Crane looks very majestic with their crown that is made of tall stiff golden feathers that looks like a real crown. These birds seem to love to walk in pairs.
Who doesn't love the meerkats? They are just so cute and adorable little creatures. They love to be in groups, and always show off their cute and admirable poses. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

San Diego Whale Watching: Celebrating the Diversity of Life at Sea

In my dreams, I invited them, and then, they came to give me some of life's simple gifts, such as BIG SMILES and PURE JOY :)
2 Gray Whales, One Diving, One Breathing
haha! Dream on Betchai! Last Saturday, hubby and I took the Bright and Morning Star boat from Shelter Island.
North Harbor @ Shelter Island, San Diego
And the transcript that follows here are a result of my "wishful" thinking, riding high the simple gift of pure joy from our natural world.
Dolphin: "Hey, there is a b- party on that boat! I am coming!"
Dolphins: "whoa! a party? We're definitely joining!"
Whales: "wiggle wiggle, let us dive and wag our tails, let us show them who the crowd drawer of the party is!"
Dolphin (smiling): " I do not need to prove anything, I give them a smile and their hearts melt, whoa!"
Whale: " And I just wag my tail again, and oh, they jump for joy!" 
Pelicans and Sea Gulls: "huh, there is a party? hurry!!!! We have to get the best meal, the best fish!"
Whale: "Ahhhh, there they are, waiting for me to breath again, they are excited to see my blowhole as much as my wagging tail!"
Sea Lions: " there's a party, shall we all jump in?"
Sea Lions: "were in! but where are the foods?"
Elephant Seals: " wish it's easy to leave the shore and join them there!"
Boobie to other Boobies: " I am Joining! Come, fly with me"
Mom Boobie: "I can't leave my baby, but you all have fun!"
Baby Elephant Seal : "Mom, I love you! If you want to join, I'll be okay here, I know you'll come back for me!"
Cormorants:"let's join them"
Cormorants, Sea Lions, Dolphin and Pelicans: "what a wonderful party it is!"
dolphins dancing: "joys, pure joy!"
Betchai: "oh oh, I can see the San Diego Skyline already,soon party is over :( "
Betchai: " and over :( , but then, again, what a wonderful joy the day went!!  "
Anyway, always thankful to God for all the blessings He had given me all these years. Life is beautiful, always is, and hoping and praying that it stays beautiful.