Sunday, April 28, 2013

California's National Parks

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

National Parks…..preserving nature’s beauty….testifying God’s greatest artistry that can never be equaled. The greatest art piece is not man-made, but is living in extreme fragility in the great outdoors, our NATURAL MUSEUMS. 

A National Park is a park that is established for conservation purposes. It reserves and preserves natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Though different nations may designate their national parks differently, but they all have one common idea: the conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride. The United States established the first known National Park designated for conservation purposes: Yellowstone National Park, in 1872. There are only 58 National Parks in the US, but there are about 400 parks maintained by the National Park Service either as National Monument, National Historic Site, National Natural Landmarks, etc.

The 58 National Parks in the US are mostly concentrated in the West, with California ( 9 National Parks) and Alaska ( 8 National Parks) holding the most number. In this post, I will share California's National Parks, linking them to my previous posts that shares how we experienced the park. 

Here are California's National Parks:

1. Channel Islands National Park, off Oxnard and Ventura Harbor

Friday, April 26, 2013

My Top 4 San Diego Hike: Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls, San Diego River Canyon
San Diego River Canyon is one of San Diego County's hidden treasures. There are several waterfalls along the river gorge, one of them is Cedar Creek Falls, which is a spectacular waterfall plunging 80 feet into a large pool of water surrounded by rock walls.
Cedar Creek Waterfall
Why I like this hike: It is like a nearby escape from civilization, where the trails are tucked back in the backcountry hills of eastern San Diego. Aside of course from the waterfall, I can't get enough of the views of the surrounding mountains hugged by low lying clouds.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Izu, The King?

Another imagined connversation by Betchai. This time, the conversation is between Oceana (female ) and Izu (male), two of the African lions at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park. This is a continuation from my previous post, "What Happened Next?" All pictures were taken in the same day by my hubby, and they are presented here in the order they were taken.
~start of story~
After a very long time of rest, sleeping, relaxing and enjoying nothing, like what African lions would always do 21 out of 24 hours of the time in the wild ( to know why, please click here ), Izu got up from his slumber on top of the abandoned truck, stretched, reached out to Oceana, and then whispered......

Izu: "Oceana....Oceana, can you get up? Can we play?"
Oceana: " Not now Izu, I still feel sleepy."
 Izu: "Please, Oceana?", in a sweet begging tone.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In The Desert….My Deepest Dreams and You are One!!

I close my eyes
What do I see?
I see your intricate curves
Carved intelligently by the forces of the Earth
Through God’s majestic hands

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oceana and Izu @ San Diego Safari Park

Oceana and Izu @ San Diego Safari Park
Oceana (female, lying down) and Izu ( male, stretching and with mane ) are two of the African lions at San Diego Safari Park. In about 24-hour period, they are mostly resting, napping, and sleeping! Just like in the wild! They needed that long rest to use their energy for hunting. However, if you are lucky enough, you will also experience these lions in playful moods and intense activity at the park. In this particular situation, I imagine Izu asking Oceana to play. 

What happened next? Did Oceana play with Izu? :)

Please click here for the continuation...... 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sea Anemone

Green Sea Anemone
Hmmm, can you imagine this soft flower looking sea creature, oftentimes mistaken as a sea plant as a predatory animal?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Have Camera.... Will Travel

Jumping For Joy ( with a camera dangling on my neck ) @ Harding icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, AK
"Have camera, will travel."- when fellow blogger Rainfield left me that comment in one of my posts, HUGE SMILE came to my lips. For it has been quite several years now that I have been enjoying the priceless happiness of having a camera toy. :) I still could remember very well the words my hubby said, " since you love taking picture so much, of flowers, of landscapes and seascapes, of nature around you....why not raise your happiness by getting a DSLR?" That was April of 2006. At that time, I thought that buying a DSLR was way too luxurious. It took me 2 months later to finally decide to get myself one. That was because I learned from Travel Channel when it featured "THE TOP TEN WONDERS OF THE WEST" that San Diego is not that far from Channel Islands National Park, the very first US National Park I've experienced.
Anacapa Island 2006, Channel Islands National Park, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

North Torrey Pines State Beach to Del Mar Beach

Pink Blooms @ North Torrey Pines State Beach' Marsh Lagoon Area
Spring time, when smiles from heaven pour on Earth, sending field of wildflowers in some places, a sight to behold. A time where our more serious hiking is put on hold in favor of more relaxing walk enjoying the blooms. Thus, pardon me if for a while, I am taking a break from my series of posts about my  Top Ten San Diego Hikes. Maybe, after this post, I will alternate posts from our "Desert Solitaire Spring Break Vacation", "Top Ten San Diego Hikes" and more wildflower updates in and around San Diego. Ahhh, too many to share, to little time. :( I am not complaining since I love that " I am changing the world one day at a time- I TEACH!"- phrase borrowed from

Anyway, let me take you now to this very relaxing walk from North Torrey Pines State Beach to Del Mar Beach.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Visiting the Past at Petrified Forest National Park

Imagine you are in a giant Science Museum outdoors. A natural science museum that will make you visit the past, of the late Triassic era, some 200- 250 million years ago. What clues from the past will you find? Let me share with you some......

1. Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood is a fossilized tree that has turned into a rock. 

Pink Blossoms @ North Torrey Pines State Beach

Pink Blossoms @ North Torrey Pines State Beach/ Los Penaquitos Lagoon
I am actually not very sure what the names of these blossoms are, but it sure is a delight to see lots of pink blossoming by the lagoon, where lots of birds usually find a refuge. I wonder if this may be lemonade berry. Anyone can help?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alaska Trip Planning and Air Fare Comparisons

A Whale's Blow with Mountain and Glacier @ Blackstone Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska
Prior to our summer trip to Alaska in 2011, it took me several weeks ( maybe months ) to plan our itinerary. I started with comparing prices and itineraries of different cruise and water+land+air tour companies. I was tempted at first to take the 7-14 day cruise because it was the cheapest I found. Plus I would have no headache of finding rental car and reserving hotel accommodations. However, two of my friends who took the cruise previously, shared to me their AK cruise experiences which guided me in my decision making.

1. They were most of the time inside the cruise ship in the middle of a very frigid ocean. They said it is more for a relaxing than an exploring trip.

2. They never were able to see whales and tidewater glaciers up close because the size of cruise ship was too huge to get close to any wildlife or to any tidewater glaciers to really appreciate them.

3. Their most enjoyable time was each time they docked, where they had to choose only one from the two options below because of time constraint:
option a. Take another smaller glacier cruise boats to have better appreciation of tidewater glaciers and wildlife.
option b. Explore Alaska on land by bus or train. However, there was not enough time to do longer hikes or make their own stops if they see something very scenic.

Learning from them, I crossed out AK Cruise as one of the options, because relaxation for us meant seeing more outside. Plus, I wanted to do all of the following:
1. Experience tidewater glaciers and ocean wildlife up close.
2. Experience and see the features inside a glacier, not just look at it from afar.
3. Hike the Harding Icefield trail and explore a lot more of Kenai Fjords National Park. 
Me, Flying High Above Exit Glacier in Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

I then emailed several land+water+air AK tour companies, asked for their itineraries and price for a customized private tour since what they usually only offer in their websites were the group tours where the itinerary was not meeting at least 70% of my Alaska fantasies. The customized private tours were overly expensive. That was then I decided to do the trip planning.

Knowing the best weather dates ( with some flexibility) to explore Alaska, I started to compare lodging accommodations and airfare prices. I am not loyal to any airlines, thus, I compared prices of almost air companies including inquiries for private Jet Charter Rates. The reason why I also looked into private jet was because I was afraid we would not get the dates we wanted, knowing that it would be hard for us to change our hotel reservations since hotel accommodations in Alaska run out so quickly. Private jet would give us more freedom to choose the dates of our travel. Aside from dates of travel, I understand most professionals such as professional artists and athletes, whose time is very valuable, chose flying private jets because of flexibility with time, convenience and safety. Also, they are not constrained to spend 2 hours in the airport for check-in and check-out. Two hours wasted in the airport for others would mean thousands of money lost, thus private jets were not luxury for them but necessity. Thankfully, for us, that was not the case. We were just into whatever cheapest air fare we could find that would bring us to Alaska in the dates we wanted.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Fiesta Island In Mission Bay Blooms

Coreopsis @ Fiesta Island, Mission Bay, San Diego
In my previous post, Where the San Diego Wildflowers Are for 2013, I shared about places to spot wildflower fields in San Diego, but mentioned that I had not been to Mission Bay yet. Last Saturday, April 6, 2013, was the first time I checked if the carpeting wildflowers in Mission Bay were still around. When I got to South Shores Park ( where I had been photographing Mission Bay wildflowers for years), I was disappointed. The field was very green, there were more green grasses than coreopsis.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Into The Desert Wild

Last Saturday, March 30, we left San Diego early morning for an adventure road trip into the desert wild. Let me share with you some happy experiences day by day from that road trip.

Day 1 of Road Trip: San Diego to Tucson

San Diego was foggy and drizzling when we left. Passing through the mountains, the fog even thickened rendering the visibility very poor. However, as we descended the mountain, the magic began! In just like a split of a second, the thick fog disappeared to give way to blue sky. Reaching the desert floor, the green bushes and thick trees disappeared to give way to rocks and thorny vegetation.
Cholla and Barrel Cactus, with Ocotillo, at Anza Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California
Then, more magic unfolded before us as we passed by a desert in bloom over dried and cracked mud.  A living testament to a miracle of a drop of water. I can't describe the happiness of seeing a sea of white as far as my eyes could see.
 Prickly Poppies @ Crucifixion Thorn Natural Area, Ocotillo, California
(notice on the bottom left picture how dried up is the soil, yet, desert wildflower blooms )

After taking in the beauty of these vast field of prickly poppies, we continued our drive East, destination: Arizona. After a while of driving, we stopped at a gas station for much needed stretching break, and also for gas refill.

As I got out of our car to stretch, I saw two cars parked next to each other. I thought they were a big group traveling together. As it turned out, there were only four of them. Mom and daughter in one car. Dad and son in the other car. As soon as they got out of the cars, the two kids ran towards the trunk of the car, opened the trunk and took their boogie boards. The kids' happiness was so contagious I could not help but smile. Maybe the little boy saw me smiling, that he waved his hand, returned my smile and said, "hi!"

I said "hi" to him as well. Then asked him, "Going for a vacation to San Diego?"

The little boy replied: "Yes and No! We are going to San Diego, not for a vacation, but moving in! Our parents are driving our two cars. Our major appliances and other heavier things will be delivered by a trusted moving company. Are you you going to San Diego too?"

Saturday, April 06, 2013

My Top Ten San Diego Hikes, #5- IRON MOUNTAIN

Me @ Iron Mountain Summit
Why I Love This Hike:
1. It is very accessible, an easy drive anywhere San Diego.
2. It is a moderate hike to the peak ( 6 miles round trip, 1000 ft elevation gain/loss from Highway 67 trailhead; or 9 miles roundtrip, 1600 ft elevation gain/lose from Ellie Lane trailhead). Not too long, not too short, not too steep, not too flat, just right! Therefore, when we woke up with fogs,