Friday, May 31, 2013

Cell Phone Photography (3): How To Have A Fun and Inexpensive Staycation

Note: the pictures below look so pixelated. I noticed that the same pictures uploaded directly from my cell phone to Facebook have better quality than pictures uploaded directly from cell phone to Mobile Blogger. I hope Mobile Blogger will not continue reducing the resolution and quality of pictures if they want us to continue using their apps. So frustrated looking at the distorted resolution here, which is not the same if the pictures are viewed in laptop's wide screen through Photo Stream.

Cousin Doing a Resting Pose :)
What can be more fun than a staycation? :) A most fun- filled vacation does not always have to be far from home. Fun starts when family and loved ones get together. My cousin from Los Angeles joined me and hubby for a 3-day Memorial Weekend Staycation. There were no plans, no itineraries, because the most important thing for us was time spent together enjoying the activities we love to share. Here is how we spent our 3-day weekend adventure staycation in a very inexpensive way but having the most fun.

Day 1:

1. Hiking at Iron Mountain. 
@Iron Mountain Peak
I purposely chose a medium hike, 7 miles round trip, 1300 ft change in elevation. I chose this so that we would have more time and also energy to have fun rock scrambling and boulder hopping.
Cousin in a Stretching Pose
Cousin and I
My Resting Pose :)
Where is Iron Mountain? Please visit my post on my top 5 San Diego hike to learn more about Iron Mountain hike.
2. Vietnamese Lunch at Pho Ca Dao in Rancho Bernardo Road. It was all about shrimp for me. :)
Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp with rice and veggies
Shrimp Paste in Fried Tofu Skin
3. Relaxing and Chilling at home for our next activity. I and cousin met up common friend from Los Angeles who was also visiting her family in San Diego. Since our friend was at Fashion Valley, one of the upscale shopping malls in San Diego, for some shopping, we decided to meet up there. After Fashion Valley Mall, we went to have dinner at East Buffet in Miramar Road. I was craving for sea foods, and Asian sea food buffet is always the tastiest and cheapest way to go.
Oysters and Clams ( and there were more sea foods )
After dinner, we went to my ftiend's cousin's house for a dessert. We had Red Ribbon's Rocky Road Chocolate Cake. It was very yummy! Went home late, as hubby predicted. :) He understands however, that we three get together only once or twice a year, despite San Diego and LA are only 2 hours away from each other.

Day 2:

1. Hiking and Bird watching at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve- my most favorite San Diego hike. We were entertained and awed by juvenile peregrine falcons as they celebrate their first few days of flight. This time, cell phone camera could not capture easily the fastest animals on Earth. However, I already published a post on Juvenile Peregrine Falcons from the pictures I took with my camera in my previous post. 

2. Lunch at Gliderport Cafe and then, hike to the canyon and slot South of Gluderport afterwards. We had fun watching soaring paragliders and hangliders during our hike. 
@ the top of cliffs, South of Gliderport 

Going Down The Canyon
Down The Canyon to the Beach
Hubby Dancing, Getting Bored While Waiting For me Slowly Maneuvering Down the Canyon
in between the cliffs @ the canyon
The Way Down To the Beach
Finally Down
Looking Up Where We Came From, What Went Down Must Go Back Up

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Number 1 San Diego Hike: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Rare Torrey Pine Tree
The torrey pine is the rarest pine species in United States, growing naturally only in San Diego and Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands. These trees are probably remnants of an ancient coastal forest which has been reduced during the drying period of the last ten thousand years. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has been established for the preservation of these rare trees, and the more than 330 species of plants and the wildlife that find refuge in this coastal wilderness that is actually within the limits of the city of San Diego. Very few Southern California coastline would look as quiet as it was centuries ago, thanks for the preservation of this place that people could experience nature at its best within the city. 
Me, Celebrating Happiness @ Torrey Pines :)
I know I have said it before, but let me say it again, Torrey Pines is my little piece of paradise and slice of heaven here in my adopted hometown, San Diego. I come here almost every weekend, and almost everyday (in the summer), but never get tired of. I may travel far to enjoy the wonders of nature in other places, but each time we go back home, I always long to go to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. You will find me both on land and in water. This post is about hiking, so I will skip the water part. Instead, I will share how we hike Torrey Pines most of the time, if not all the time. Torrey Pines has a lot of little trails, about 0.5-1.0 mile loop, but we do not limit ourselves to these little trails, instead, we take almost all the trails, so this hike could be as long as 8 miles, with maximum change in elevation about 450 ft (but you climb up and down several times when combining the trails).

Let me take you to our hike. I must warn you there would be a lot of pictures that follow here, since we combine almost all trails in Torrey Pines whenever we hike. From Los Penasquitos lagoon- Flat Rock- Brokel Hill- Red Butte- Razor Point- Yucca Point- Guy Fleming Trail-Lagoon.

We usually start our hike from North Torrey Pines Beach Parking area, adjacent to Los Penasquitos Lagoon.
Los Penasquitos Lagoon and Natural Reserve @ North Torrey Pines State Beach Parking
( vital to migrating sea birds )
 Terns and Sea Gulls In flight @ Los Penasquitos Lagoon
The start of our hike here is very similar to my Top 3 San Diego Hike, Torrey Pines State Beach to La Jolla Shores. From the lagoon, we walk west towards the beach.
Once we reach the beach, we start walking south towards the reserve. Walking on the beach, you will see so much happiness, from the kids.....
Kid Boogie Boarding at Torrey Pines State Beach
to the birds.
Sanderlings running Away from the Wave
You may wonder why I do not jump into the water instead and enjoy the waves, actually, I do most of the time after hiking, when it is summer. Thus explains why summer is my most favorite season, because I could combine hiking and the ocean without suffering from too frigid water. Anyway, I'll go back to the hike. In maybe half a mile from North Torrey Pines State Beach, you will now reach the bottom of cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Bottom of Cliffs, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
The walls of the cliff show colored layers, which reveal their geologic past. The layers are divided into formations, from the oldest to the newest. The oldest formations is Del Mar Formation and Torrey Sandstone, of Eocene era about 48,000,000 years ago as revealed from the fossils these foundations reserve. As you walk past these cliffs, if you look up, on the crevices of the walls, you may find some white droppings, they may be of the fastest animal on Earth, the peregrine falcon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Wildflowers and Great Horned Owl At McDowell Mountain Regional Park

McDowell Mountain Regional Park was one of the places we visited during our spring road trip this year. However, unlike other places we visited, this park was one of the few which was not part of our itinerary. Instead, this was the result of wildflower apps I used for spring. When we were driving to Sedona, google maps showed the wildflowers in this area, so, we decided to take a detour. I am so glad we did. Our hike had more than just the wildflowers, we had the giant cactus, Saguaro, withe the great horned owl as well. Photos from the trip below.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cell Phone Photography (2): at Torrey Pines State Reserve

The joy of photography? We take pictures no matter what our camera is? My cell phone I believe is my most used camera these days. It is just very handy. The pictures here were all taken from our hike in Torrey Pines last weekend. I only had zoom lens that time for wildlife photography, and for landscapes needing wider angle, I use my cell phone.  Thanks to cell phone, I no longer have to carry multiple lenses in local hikes. I still do though when we travel, for I know we may not be back anytime soon, so carrying extra weight is all worth it. But for local hikes, my camera partner for landscapes most of the time is cell phone. Maybe if I change to Samsung Note 2, I do not have even to carry a real cam with fast lens and zoom for wildlife? I heard of the BURST feature in NOTE 2, which may be good for wildlife and action photography.
Torrey Pines Tree
Golden Yarrow and Torrey Pines in Fog
Looking South from Guy Fleming South Viewpoint

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finding A New Trail

 Sunset near Torrey Pines Gliderport
 About a week ago, while watching sunset at Torrey Pines Gliderport, we saw several people walking on the trail below and East of the cliffs. Not familiar with the trail, and it was already dark, we decided to go back some other time to explore the trail where it seemed a lot of students and surfers take. Today, we got a chance to explore this non-formal trail near Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Our hike started at Gliderport, but instead of going down the formal trail, we first walked directly south on the trail which parallels the ocean. After a while, it was up and down, quite steep in some sections, but not yet intimidating.
 the very long quiet shoreline from La Jolla Shores Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach
( quiet because there is no car access below the beach, except at La Jolla Shores Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach )
 looking south towards La Jolla Shores
The top bluffs area here are actually some of our favorite spots in San Diego for sunset watching, and also for cliffs and ocean photography. Each time we are here, we are reminded how beautiful but fragile our world is. It also feels like we are transported to some other place, like Patagonia, haha, and not San Diego. For a while, our traveling minds wander somewhere as we see the scenery. 
 looking north towards Torrey Pines
( this may look scary, but hubby was pretty safe, he was on the trail actually which was not really that close to the edge, but it looked like he was at the edge )
We always feel thankful that the scenery in San Diego is so geologically diverse. It feels like we are on vacation whenever we explore its outdoors, from the ocean, to the ocean cliffs, to the mesas and canyons, mountains and valleys and desert. We need not go far to explore various scenery.  Anyway, we continued on the trail that goes down eastwards, and then, turns southwest towards the ocean. Though this hike is short, but probably one of my most challenging hikes, haha. I had to walk on five a lot of the times here. 2 legs, 2 arms, and a butt. My hiking pants and backpack were too dirty after the hike from all my buttwalk. :(
 a tiny bridge to cross, haha!
 he was walking straight, but I was hugging the walls in this section
 one of the easier parts of the trail
 and then, we could no longer go down
From here, though we saw sole marks below, but we stopped because there was a sudden drop from the edge of the rock where hubby was standing. We wonder how those hikers were able to go past here. But anyway, despite we were not able to go down to the ocean from here, we still think the hike was so worth it since this is something we have not seen before in San Diego. 
 can you see the drop?
As we look down actually between these rocks, it was like a slot canyon, we wish we could explore the bottom slot, but we just have no idea how to go down, as the rocks were vertical and smooth, we could not find any foothold. So, we just took some time to enjoy the scenery from there.
 Looking at the ocean below, so near, yet so far ( we had to take another trail down )
If the hike down was very challenging for me, the hike up was a lot easier. I no longer have to do the butt-walk, I still needed to walk on four sometimes, but definitely I did not need to walk on five.
 the trail going back up

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cell Phone Photography: One Early Morning At Lake Poway

The photos of Lake Poway here were taken last Saturday when we hiked Mt. Woodson from Lake Poway. I was so excited to see fogs right above the water in the lake from afar. I knew the fog will soon be lifted because the sun broke in strongly. I ran to the shore of the lake as fast as I could, but I was LATE. When we reached the lake, the fogs above the water were already low lying clouds hugging the surrounding mountains. The photos here were taken at about 9:30 am. I know, we were not that really early :) . Hiking Mt. Woodson from Lake Poway is one of the local hikes we do most often, so, we were hiking light. Thanks to the evolution of cell phone, allowing us to hike light but still be able to take pictures.
Lake Poway

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Great Horned Owl in a 180 Degree Head Turn

Great Horned Owl in a 180 Degree Turn
When it rains, it pours. It was only two days ago when I wrote about our overflowing joy on seeing nesting owl for the very first time during our hike in McDowell Regional Park. Perhaps the owl learned how elated and happy we were in seeing them, that soon with the help of visiting family we learned how to spot owls from the back of our house by way of their hooting sound. You can find my post on my observed behavior of the great horned owl as I got a chance to observe them more from home in my previous post two days ago. Today, we saw owls from home again.

I guess, our eyes had been trained now to spot them. Definitely, it was not easy spotting them since it seems they camouflaged with the surrounding.  At first, hubby saw from our bedroom window the owl below that looked like a ball since he was not facing us.
The Owl We Saw from Our Bedroom Window
I went out of the house to take a picture of the owl we saw. I was not so happy that the owl was not facing us, and obstructed by a lot of pine leaves. As I was about to go back inside the house, hubby pointed out to me another owl in another tree.
The Other Owl ( this is the same owl in the very first picture above )