Friday, October 14, 2016

Life Is Always Wonderful

What I love about taking a walk outside is to see we live in such a wonderful world 

Friday, August 05, 2016

Alaska 2016

Some collage I made for a quick share of pictures during our 9 days vacation in Alaska last month.
Bears at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

some sights from our stay in Valdez, AK
Glaciers and Wildlife in Valdez, AK
Hiking at Lion's Head, Matanuska Valley
Root Glacier Hike, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK ( unguided )

Last 2011, on our first time to Alaska, we did the guided glacier hike on Matanuska Glacier. Our guide did very well in teaching us how to hike safely on ice, that we felt confident that we could do it on our own applying all the safety procedures she shared, and perhaps, be even more conservative. After our first guided hike last 2011, we decided to get some gears for icy hiking, which we also used for winter hiking in the mountains. Our very first unguided glacier hike was in Canada 2014. Then, on this trip, we did several glacier hikes on our own.

What I like most about unguided glacier hiking is that I'm free to go where I want to, I can spend more time for photography, and I'm free to look for features I wanted to see. It may take us more time to look for interesting features, but I believe it adds more to the fun of being able to explore on our own, SAFELY, of course. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Surprised By a Grizzly Bear

When we were in Valdez, we usually started our day with a light breakfast, then, we would go to Solomon Gulch for some bird ( mostly bald eagles ) photography.
Bald Eagle, Valdez, Alaska
By 8:30 am, we would leave the area to have our heavier breakfast to fuel our major activities of the day, such as hiking and kayaking.
One of those mornings, we were surprised by a grizzly bear. We saw some kids running on the road following the bear as the bear crossed the road to go down to the water. We were at the other side of the stream. The sight of kids running followed by adults was scary since that is one of the biggest no-no when you see a bear, "DON'T RUN", or you'll scare/surprise the bear. That's when bears may attack humans, for offense is their defense.
However, the bear didn't mind the running kids and some adults at all. The bear just continued to go down to the water. 
Grizzly Bear, Valdez, Alaska
The bear was made very busy by flocking sea gulls blocking her way to the water. She would shoo the sea gulls to clear her way to the water to get salmon. She'd finish one salmon very quickly then go back to the water to get another one.

Why do the bears in Valdez and other coastal areas do not mind humans at all, unlike the bears in inland mountains? Because of so many salmons. In between us and the bear, was a stream overcrowded by salmons, where it seemed very easy for the bears and sea lions to get their food.

The sea gulls? They most of the time flock around sea lions and bears to feast on their left overs. Perhaps, another reason why bears do not mind humans at all at the other side of the shore is because the sea gulls are too much for them already to shoo away so they can enjoy their fish.

Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park

Exit Glacier is one of the 38 glaciers that flow out from Harding Icefield. The name Exit Glacier was derived from the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in 1968 which exited in this glacier.If the hike to the end of trail of Harding Icefield is strenuous, the hike to Exit Glacier is easy to moderate. After hiking Harding Icefield, we took the much easier trail to Exit Glacier terminus.
Surface of Exit Glacier
The trail to Exit Glacier is only a 1 mile loop, though it has uphill/downhill slope, but not as steep nor as rocky as Harding Icefield trail making the walk a lot smoother and easier. In just a matter of minutes from the trailhead, you will be face to face with a glacier.
A Stream of Water Falling From the Melting of Glacier
Like many of the low altitude glaciers, Exit Glacier is steadily melting.You will hear the sound of the many waterfalls falling from the melting of ice when you come close to a glacier. The Exit Glacier has shrank 2 miles for the past 200 years.
Glacier Waterfalls 
If you are planning for a trip to Alaska, I really highly recommend putting Seward where Kenai Fjords National Park is in your list to visit. If you are physically fit and won't give up on physical and mental challenge, the hike to Harding Icefield is really out of this world and very mentally, emotionally and spiritually rewarding. However, if you think you cannot make it to Harding Icefield, the easy to moderate 1 mile loop hike to Exit Glacier is still very much worth it. 
Unlike the trail to Harding Icefield, the trail to Exit Glacier is almost free of rocks and snow during summer, and can be accessed even by some with disabilities. I am always happy to see this kind of trail since it allows and opens up our natural world to others who may not be able to take strenuous hikes because of physical reasons or because of having little babies in the family. 
One of the Many Tubes at Exit Glacier
The Exit Glacier shows many hollow tubes, and for me, these are the natural warning signs that we take extra pre-caution when we are in front or hiking in a glacier. The glacier is unsteady and parts of it can crumble anytime. Some may get tempted to have a picture inside the tube, but what if the ice above crash and you get buried? I have seen and heard a glacier crumbled, it is a phenomena that I will never forget. It is both inspiring and sad. Inspiring to see how nature carved the Earth and sad to observe how everything on Earth is temporary. 
In my next posts, I will show the other side of Harding Icefield.
Exit Glacier from Harding Icefield Trail
At the other side of this 4000 ft thick of ice and 700 square miles of icefield is the ocean. It is kind of hard to imagine that this vast mountain of ice sits right next to the sea, and everyday is changing.  

Friday, July 01, 2016

Hoodoos Keep on Haunting Me

Bryce Canyon National Park Amphitheater

Utah rocks rock!!! The hoodoos around Utah will rock you with their spells. Hoodoos, which means to cast a spell, are pillars of rock left by erosion. The fantastic shapes of these rocks are accurately known to cast a spell on every visitor.They cast a spell on me, they kept on haunting me, as much as they haunt other visitors probably. They haunt me to come back, to look often at their pictures, to dream about them, and now, here I am, trying to undo that spell by writing about them. Let me share to you one of my favorite locations in Utah to experience magical hoodos, Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the 7 National Parks of the Southwest's Grand Circle. Its amazing beauty is the result of the destructive forces of water and ice carving away the weak limestone of the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The result of this water, ice and gravity erosion brought about red rock spires and horshoe-shaped amphitheaters of hoodoos, which Bryce Canyon is known for.
Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding The Stretch of Purple Sand at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

Dusk @ Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA
Big Sur is one of our favorite nature escapes in California. We had been to this place for a relaxing vacation for about three times now, however, our last vacation was our first time at Pfeiffer Beach. 
Purple Sand at Pfeiffer Beach
Though located at the heart of Big Sur, yet Pfeiffer Beach is not that easy to find. It is probably the favorite beach of the locals, but oftentimes missed by tourists, just like us before. Thankfully, before coming to Big Sur this 3rd time, I did some local search of Big Sur's interesting places to explore and hike. I found Pfeiffer Beach at the top of the list, described as " every photographers dream".

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Into The San Diego Wild :)

You may wonder why there is a smile :) symbol after the title. It is because it is not uncommon for me to get comments similar to the two below:

"I was in San Diego, but did not see those at all."
- I guess, it depends on which part of San Diego one focused their travel. Of course, if the focus was the "city", despite all the abundance of nature in and around San Diego, one may not be able to see them because they are not in downtown streets. 

"You always take vacation. I do not have much time to get away as much as you do."
-  One of my professors before told us, "San Diego is one of the most expensive places to live, you could get a place for 1/10th of the price and 10times the size somewhere else. However, if you enjoy a balance of great outdoors and the city, this is your city. You don't need to take a vacation, for everyday is like a vacation. Considering vacation expenses, the price you are paying for to live in San Diego is not that expensive after all."  :)

Oftentimes, we are being mistaken to have a lifestyle that always take vacation. To quote a friend while I toured her around San Diego, she said, "Goodness, Betchai, I did not know these are all just within San Diego and minutes from your home. I thought all the while, every weekend, you take a vacation. Haaayst! Please pray I can find a job, HERE!"

Anyway, let me share with you first a picture collage which somehow summarizes what is around San Diego.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Bumpass Hell Basin, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Bumpass Hell contains the largest concentration of geothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The hike is 3 miles round trip to the start of the boardwalk with 300 ft change in elevation, but add another 0.5 mile if you plan to explore the whole Bumpass Hell basin. Usually, the trail opens July 1st, so I did not expect we could take this trail because we were there on the first and second day of summer, June 21st and June 22nd. However, at the time we were there, the trail just opened, we're lucky!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Random thoughts, Random Pics

my place of refuge, the Pacific Ocean @ La Jolla
Peregrine Falcon- the fastest living animal on Earth ( La Jolla)
this amazing bird, and the other wildlife around La Jolla makes the time go by so quickly.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Sea Otters

Watching sea otters is always one of our highlights whenever we take vacation in the Monterey area. I would always make it a point to spend some time at Moss Landing State Beach where you can watch them up close in their natural habitat. They are fun to watch for sure. Like the three above seem to have a play fight, while the one below seem to be cheering for them, or saying, "go ahead, play, I'll just be here sunbathing and that makes my day!" :)

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Colors of Spring

California hills, valleys and mountains are ablaze in colors right now. It seems I just can't have enough of the colors of spring. Here are some pictures of spring colors from recently.

 Whenever I see trail lined with flowers, my heart is filled with glee.
If only I can bring these wildflowers home. :)
Colors near and far.
Multi colored hills from a mix of wildflowers: California poppies, lupines, and purple phacelias.
A carpet of purple phacelia.

Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park, CA

Sierra Nevada Mountains on Top of Moro Rock
If you are visiting Sequoia National Park, home of the largest trees on Earth, one of the interesting places to experience is Moro Rock. 
The Great Western Divide From The Top of Moro Rock

San Diego Whale Watching

San Diego Skyline
( the first scenery you will see as you leave San Diego Bay to the middle of the ocean )
It has been an annual event for us to explore the Pacific Ocean from San Diego via Hornblower Cruise or H&M Landing. Last Christmas Holidays, we took a three-hour whale watching cruise, the earliest we had so far of the season. We took advantage of the promo we saw that gave 50% discount to San Diego Zoological Society's members. From $35, we only paid $17.50 for a 3-hour whale watching cruise. Since the past four or five years that we had been whale watching every winter, we had never paid full price. Sometimes, we get discounted tickets from Gold Star. There were times we were able to save with a coupon from travelocity, which allowed us to save more than 50%. Aside from booking flights and hotels, travelocity also has connections in booking cruises and trains. Knowing that there are many deals we can find online, we never purchased tickets directly from the ticket booth but always purchased them online at much discounted prices.
Gray Whale
Whale watching in San Diego usually starts from December to April. Over 15,000 gray whales migrate thousands of miles from the chilly Alaskan seas to the warm breeding lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Aside from gray whales, other whales we would sometimes see are humpback whales, blue whales, and in rare occasions, orcas.

So that I will not overload you with pictures, for a change, here is a slideshow I made of our 3-hr whale watching cruise sometime last Christmas holidays.

The dolphins are always an added bonus to the whale watching tour and it seems they are always the first ones you will see in the cruise. In fact, the whale watching cruises are guaranteed whale watching trips, if no whales or insignificant showmanship from whales are sighted, everyone in the cruise gets another free ticket for another whale watching cruise that will expire in a year. If whales are more solitary, and the boat could not get near them following federal law on whale watching, the dolphins on the hand always have a whale of a good time following the boat. They seem to rejoice always whenever there is a boat, and they love to ride the bow wave.
Dolphins Enjoying the Bow Wave
There are several companies that offer whale watching tours and excursions for up-close viewing of the whales. Because of these competition from various whale watching tour companies, coupons are not hard to find. We do not subscribe to any newspaper company because we can access newspaper online for free, therefore, we scout for coupons not on newspaper anymore but using sites that shares their coupon finds online. I oftentimes would go to Frugal Dad to check out coupons which are not limited to cruises only but to almost all other needs. We however are not really crazy about coupons, we only use it if we really have to use it. Otherwise, if there is no need, despite it is a steal, we hold off from spending unnecessary things and collect junk at home. But whale watching, is one of those priceless memories, that we use the coupon every year! For every year, is different, and special!
Sunset Back To Shore

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Grey Whales and California Condors sightings from Big Sur cliffs

What can I not love about Big Sur? It's no theme park, but a great natural museum showcasing God's supreme artistry in mingling wilderness with natural beauty.

I c
an't express enough the joy of seeing the natural beauty of mountains and ocean, sitting on top of the cliffs, watching whales passing down below, and the majestic California condor who are rescued from the brink of extinction hovering above the sky. Big Sur is one of those places that I would never get tired visiting, again, and again.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Valley of Fire Wave

The Fire Wave At Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, Nevada
The Valley of Fire State Park is about an hour away from Las Vegas and is Nevada's first State Park. I must admit that the first time I saw Valley of Fire, I was not very impressed. I guess, we were tired then from several days of exploring Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, all of Utah. When we were in Zion, I saw a picture of a cave which was glowing like a charcoal, I wanted to see it, and I was overjoyed when I learned that it is in Nevada, which is really on our way back to San Diego. However, when we reached Valley of Fire, all those red rocks looked like some alien's dump-land to me. Plus, it was summer, when the temperature at the Valley of Fire was in the hundreds! We could hardly even get out of the car because the heat was so intense. Thus, we ended up viewing the park from our car, which at any rate did not give us a beautiful impression. Then, for several times we went to explore some parks in the Grand Circle, we always skip this park, thinking that it is but an alien's dump-land. But this impression did not last....
Wavelike Patterns @ The Fire Wave
A couple weeks ago, I was still not very sure whether I should spend my spring break outside of San Diego due to many assignments I had to finish. However, I felt like I badly needed a break. Thus I decided to spend some days away from San Diego, at Big Sur, one of my favorite hiking and nature escapes in California. Now, what an extreme it is you may think that from Big Sur, we ended up in Las Vegas. Big Sur is where the mountains are kissed by the clouds and the pounding waves of the sea, the redwood forest is lovely and the waterfalls next to the ocean is really a unique sight. Big Sur is a heaven of peacefulness and serenity and where the night lights would be the sparkling stars from the sky, whereas Las Vegas is totally a different world. Las Vegas at night is far from quiet, the sparkling stars are diluted by the city night lights. There may be mountains around Las Vegas, but no redwood forest and pounding waves from the sea. But then, Highway 1 at Big Sur was closed last week due to several landslides. Instead of sulking because we could not access Big Sur from the South, I then looked in another direction. From the ocean, I looked into the desert, with high hopes of seeing a desert bighorn sheep and desert tortoise since it is at spring that one will most likely see them. Well, we were not lucky to see the endangered desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep :(, instead, we saw beautiful desert lizards and lots of squirrels and rabbits :)
Desert Lizard
But then, despite not seeing desert tortoise nor desert bighorn sheep in our exploration, we were still awed by the amazing geological features we saw in the desert.
Riding the Wavelines ( I just named this place, this is actually the trail or no trail we took to get to the Valley of Fire Wave)
Before I came to US, I had very little idea what a desert is like, all the images that were in my mind were that of the desert as the last place I wanted to be probably on Earth. A wasteland and a heat reservoir were the two popular descriptions I would always hear. However, coming to US exposed me to the different sceneries in a desert, and I learned that the desert is happily no wasteland, in fact, it is teeming with life, maybe, not just the kind of life most  of us see and experience. 
Beavertail Cactus Blooms, from the trail we took to Fire Wave, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
From afar, the desert may look barren, may look brown, but deep within, when you take a closer look at it, the desert is full of surprises and beauty. 
Evening Primrose as seen from the trail, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
What I have learned about the desert is that it is not a place of what is obvious, but a place of what is hidden. One must really get to their feet and keep going to capture a stunning memory. Just like the Valley of Fire Wave, this geological formation in Valley of Fire can not be seen from the park main roads. 
Can You Spot Me? This is one of the most colorful geological formations I have seen.
Valley of Fire Wave, Overton, Nevada
But that's where the joy is, when we move our feet and discover the simple pleasures of life. 
Tourists Celebrating the Joy of Finding This Place After A Hike

Saturday, March 05, 2016


It's been a while since I last posted here. Anyway, let me share my very simple joy today. Imagine my happiness when I saw lovely pink trees blooming all around. And the cherry blossoms in Japanese Garden at Balboa Park were just so lovely. My cell phone almost ran out of battery and memory from snapping photos. Here are some of them. 
Thanks to hubby for my pictures with the lovely pinks. :) Simple joy, but am overjoyed. Hope you don't mind I'm saturating this post with pink. :)