Sea Turtle Conservation Near Todos Santos, Mexico

One year ago, we jetted down to the western tip of Baja California, Mexico so tugboat man could surf a giant winter swell.

This is where I was presented with the gift that kept on giving: XOXO From Mexico and went batshit crazy when a stupid girl put the moves on my hub. HERE: Bitch, Stay Away From My Husband Part One and HERE: Part Two: Bitch, Stay Away From My Husband

(Because I was so traumatized, I have yet to write about our encounter with Machete Man…THAT was one of the scariest episodes of our my lives.)

Before I became too sick to move more than a foot from the toilet (TMI?) we took a day off from surfing (him, not me) and drove to Todos Santos, home of the famous Eagles’ album cover featuring Hotel California.Hotel California

As we drove out of Todos Santos, we got lost, which was something we had been doing on a regular basis. Street signs that make sense must be a precious commodity south of the border, because we had a tough time navigating. If you venture off the paved road for just one second, you enter potholed dirt paths that have no end and twist and wind their way to what I was certain would be our deaths.

This time, however, it was fortuitous, because we saw a sign leading us to the Sea Turtle Sanctuary. 

Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C.
Environmental Conservation with Sea Turtle Focus

From their website:
“Our mission is to protect, conserve and replenish the fragile marine eco-systems of Baja California Sur, Mexico. In addition to our Sea Turtle population recovery program we place special interest on Habitat Protection, Environmental Education and Community Outreach in Todos Santos, Las Playitas and Agua Blanca.  

One of our goals is help restore the Critically Endangered Pacific Leatherback population which is on the verge of extinction. Our Incubation Greenhouse stabilizes sand temperatures creating an ideal nest habitat, where hatch rates are maximized and gender ratios are balanced. We invite you to join us as a volunteer, event participant or sponsor and help balance the fragile marine eco systems of Baja.”

tortuga1 And then we found it! There was a graduate student from Kansas collecting data with another scientist. They were very gracious and invited us inside for a private tour.

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All the darling little turtle eggs were covered in palm fronds. It was as hot as a Bikram yoga class in the plastic covered hut.tortuga5 Babies!tortuga6Squeeeeee! More babies!tortuga7 We weren’t able to stay until sundown to observe their release and watch them march toward their destiny.tortuga8 Hopefully, they all made it safely down to the sea and out in the world for long and happy lives.tortuga9 And then back we walked. Not one single seashell. NOT ONE.tortuga10

How to get there:

turtlesmapThe Eagles’ Hotel California:

Living in the Shadows in Sunny Shiny Southern California

There’s another side of California that you might not know about.

Sandwiched between the manicured lawns of upper middle-class residential subdivisions in SoCal, there’s a microcosm of humanity living in the shadows — migrant laborers from Mexico in makeshift camps.

In my own neighborhood, just minutes from the beach and overlooking chaparral-studded canyons, hidden behind purple sage and giant coyote bushes, we recently went for a hike and found evidence that suggests there are still active encampments.

Mostly these men are invisible, ignored by us as we speed up and down our streets, shopping, caring for our families, and only sometimes do we notice these shadow people standing on the roadside waiting to be picked up for day work or at the local liquor store buying twelve packs of beer and money orders.

Like the crows that fly in and out of our trees in a raucous cacophony, there’s an exodus out of the canyons at dawn and back at sunset.

Whatever side of the undocumented worker discussion you’re on, it’s a  blight on our supposedly civilized society that in 2015, in this country of overabundance and excess, men and women live in the bushes without benefit of safe shelter or even running water.

When you scratch off the thin veneer of Pilates classes, weekly mani-pedis and facials, that fifty dollar bottle of pinot noir, and glance beyond Anthropologie and Sur la Table, in the hills behind The Forum, and probably most of the other open spaces that are clinging to life —  that’s where you’ll find them.

It doesn’t seem quite fair for us to have so much while others are living in squalid conditions.

It’s sad, don’t you agree?

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We especially liked the misspelling. There’s a certain poignancy.

There were several white rags hanging from trees along a certain path; we assumed it was to mark the way when it was dark.kellytrail2I think this is a creek, or it could be runoff from all of the developments.
Kellytrail Hard to see the turkey vulture among the clouds.
kellytrail4Do you know who and what lives beneath the surface in your neighborhood?

 

 

Snow…Snow…SNOW! In Southern California!

Reflective
like the nacre of a million
perfectly pristine pearls
A confection of frosted pines
                                                           (by Princess Rosebud)


SNOW

It might not be a big deal to a lot of you who experience snow every winter, but snow falling to around one thousand feet in the foothills of our valleys and mountains is a big deal for this Southern California girl!

An arctic storm brought a lot of snow down to almost record breaking levels; of course my tugboat man and I needed to end 2014 with a snowball fight. The snow was amazingly light and fluffy.

jeffsnowball copy

A winter wonderland  and only about twenty minutes away!

snow8LOOK!! A REAL BISON! Blurry ‘cos we were driving…snowbisonPhoto gallery of all my pics. Very nice special effects from WordPress with the snow over snow but then I’m easily amused.

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Nature versus Destruction

But really a post about the desert.

“We pretended that we were the only humans on earth, trekking across an eerie but strangely exciting landscape. It was silent except for an occasional far off bird or the buzzing of a fly. We ate quietly, not speaking, not needing chatter to fill up the silence, until the lack of sound completely settled in around us and we could feel the warm earth beneath our legs anchoring us to this special place.” December 7, 2014

17 Palms Oasis: Hiking with Princess Rosebud and Her Tugboat Man in the Anza-Borrego State Park.

We’ve learned so much from my son.

I may have taught him to discover the world through books, but he returned the lesson by opening our world through boots.

As in hiking, walking, exploring the beauty of land and nature.

About ten years ago, he gave us the best gift ever, Jerry Schad’s Afoot & Afield in San Diego County. We’ve been avid hikers and campers ever since. Sadly, Jerry died in 2011, but his spirit lives on in his every step that we follow and in his love for the backcountry.

A favorite destination for solitude is Anza-Borrego State Park.

Right now as i’m home, typing in the family room with the patio doors wide open, I don’t hear a single bird, not like we did not so long ago. My bird houses lay fallow; unused, no chirping of hungry babies.

Empty nests.

What I do hear, however, is disquietude — the relentless sound of heavy earth movers raping more land in my town, leveling a previously beautiful little hillside, killing all the native plants and displacing the rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats. Do we really need 1200 more homes? Can we really afford more water and energy consumption, more negative impact on our already overpopulated coastal town?

Here’s our view from the deck, taken with my long lens, beyond Santa and his reindeer.SANTABACKHOE

We fought for years against this egregious overbuilding; this time we lost.

There’s not enough open space; our sojourns to the mountains or the desert are even more precious and as necessary to our personal survival as water and air.

This time we chose to explore 17 Palms Oasis.

Tip #1: It would be a good idea to have a four-wheel drive to get there.

We don’t, but tugboat man’s truck is pretty sturdy so we did OK, but keep in mind there are some really sandy spots.

Tip #2: Carry a shovel just in case, and of course lots of water, even in winter.

17 Palms Oasis, 5 Palms Oasis and Una Palma. 

These areas are well-known watering holes for the regional wildlife of the Borrego Badlands. The palms at both Oases are often green and brilliant compared to the stark and barren desert that surrounds them.

They’ve attracted humans for thousands of years.

Nomadic aborigines, wayfaring emigrants, and determined prospectors have all taken shade and water from these islands in the badlands.

Remnants of a time when grasslands, streams, and herds of camels and mammoths covered an ancient landscape, the native palms exist today only because water surfaces here.

As the spring here was unreliable, early travelers with extra water would leave it in large glass jars. Thirsty visitors came to rely on the jars hidden in the shade of the palms. The desert wanderers would leave notes attached to the jars. Today the custom of leaving messages in the prospector’s post office is carried on by visitors. In the post office barrel hidden in the 17 Palms, among the palm tree bases, lies a visitor’s log book, notes and of course, bottles of water!

The 17 Palms area is located off of the S-22. Take the Arroyo Salado Primitive Campground turnoff, travel approx. 3.6 miles on Arroyo Salado Wash to the Seventeen Palms Turnoff which puts you on Tule Wash (you will see a small sign with arrow heading West (right) and travel another 0.2 miles to the 17 Palms parking area. To visit the 5 Palms Oasis continue past Seventeen Palms on Tule Wash to arrived at the Parking area for 5 Palms. Una Palma can be reached by walking over the ridges of the 17 and 5 Palms locations. Or you can go right on Cut Across Trail to arrive at the Una Palma Location.

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I think I counted all seventeen palms, but couldn’t locate the oasis ‘cos of our drought.

17palmspalms2 It’s pretty spectacular to see palm trees in the middle of the desert badlands.17palmspalms

Lots of mud as this was once a seafloor. Weird rocks, randomly placed.

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Exactly how this rock was stuck in the mud!
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Ocotillo.

17palmsocotilo 17palmsocotillo2 Mud.17palmsmud1 Una Palma.

17palmsunapalma

Narrow wash.

17palmsmudThe beautiful but stark and naked badlands. Our view as we stopped for lunch.17palmsbadlands2We set off cross country as there’s no real trail. We pretended that we were the only humans on earth, trekking across an eerie but strangely exciting landscape.

It was silent except for an occasional far off bird or the buzzing of a fly. We ate quietly, not speaking, not needing chatter to fill up the silence, until the lack of sound completely settled in around us and we could feel the warm earth beneath our legs anchoring us to this special place.17palmsbadlandsIt was warm, almost too hot at eighty degrees. Being out here in the summer at more than a hundred degrees with no shade would be an extreme hardship.17palmsbadlands3Ahhh…a refreshing cup of ginger tea at the end of a dusty hike. Good times! Angel Boy got tugboat man a JetBoil, an absolutely amazing gift– boiling water in about a minute.17palmsjetboil

Driving home as the sun sets. 17palms

Back to reality.

And back to being alone, as my tugboat man left again, but only for two short weeks, hopefully home on the 22nd, fingers crossed.

Take time to actively experience nature. Walk, hike, breathe in all of the beauty of the wild. It’s healing and restorative.

Hike to Glen Canyon Park in San Francisco

A few weeks ago I visited Professor Angel Boy and DIL in SF. While DIL was at work, my son and I walked to Glen Canyon Park (or Glen Park Canyon) from their home.

Who knew this deep pocket of wilderness is steps away from high density living in the middle of the city?

Everything is either UP or DOWN. It was quite a strenuous workout, especially since I had to keep up with my six-foot-plus son.

We were looking for the coyotes that live in the canyon. My son saw one recently on a previous visit and we hoped to see him or her again, but we had no luck.

glencanyon18Lots of raspberries.glencanyon1 glencanyon2 glencanyon3 Twin Peaks.glencanyon4Angel Boy is always lightyears ahead of me.
glencanyon5 glencanyon6 glencanyon7 glencanyon8 glencanyon9 glencanyon19glencanyon10glencanyon17

glencanyon11 glencanyon12 glencanyon13The free flowing Islais Creek.glencanyon20Islais Creekglencanyon14 It was a little hazy in the afternoon. I hadn’t traveled with my good Canon — pics were taken with Canon point and shoot. glencanyon15 Finally, he turned around. You can tell he’s saying, “Hurry up, Mom, and stop taking so many pictures!”glencanyon16According to Wiki: The park and hollow offer an experience of San Francisco’s diverse terrains as they appeared before the intense development of the region in the late 19th and the 20th centuries. The park incorporates free-flowing Islais Creek and the associated riparian habitat, an extensive grassland with adjoining trees that supports breeding pairs of red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, striking rock outcrops, and arid patches covered by “coastal scrub” plant communities. In all, about 63 acres (25 ha) of the park and hollow are designated as undeveloped Natural Area. Elevations in Glen Canyon Park range from approximately 225 feet (69 m) above sea level at the south end of the park to 575 feet (175 m) above sea level at the north end and along the east rim of the canyon; the walls of the canyon are extremely steep, with many slopes approaching a length-to-height ratio of 1:1

A Secret Cathedral at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We had one last detour before our final destination of the magnificent Zion National Park.

Our goal was to pack in as many sights as we could on our ten-day trip.

We were up early for a short hike to a lookout at Lake Powell.

Glen Canyon Dam.lakepowell

Lake Powell, with hardly any water in the middle of this drought.lakepowell3 Beautiful cliffs.lakepowell1

Back on the road, we turned off the main highway and set out on a dusty, bumpy, red-dirt path barely wide enough for one vehicle — more like a wagon train trail — several miles off the main road to a trailhead that would lead to an amazing slot canyon hike.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, at 1.7 million acres, dominates southern Utah.

It’s unique in that it is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the National Park Service.

The Grand Staircase is a geological formation spanning eons of time and is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, slot canyons, and world-class paleontological sites..

After hiking for about and hour or so, clambering up and out of narrow and shady slot canyons that seemed to go on forever, passing a random cow or two, the “cathedral” emerged in a open space bathed in sunlight.

It was really, really, really, REALLY special. Words can’t describe it and my pics don’t do justice to its beauty.vermillioncliffscathedral

I don’t know why it’s “secret” except that a couple of experienced hikers we chatted with at the trailhead shared a few of the highlights of the area and cautioned us not to be TOO specific when we talked about where we were to avoid it becoming overcrowded. vermillioncliffs vermillioncliffs1 vermillioncliffs2 Spectacular. WOW.vermillioncliffs4 This is supposed to be one of the longest slot canyon hikes in the country, if not THE longest. We hiked for about three hours in, a six-mile round trip.vermillioncliffs5 vermillioncliffs6 ME! vermillioncliffsme Vermillioncliffs10 Vermillioncliffs11 vermillioncliffs12

Next stop, ZION!

P.S. And don’t ask, there’s no way I’m telling the exact coordinates. Only tugboat man knows exactly where we were :)

 

10 Reasons To Get Out And Walk Right NOW!

We love to walk!

When my son was in elementary school, we’d walk before school started. We took our Border Collie, Victor, with us and walked for about thirty minutes or so after breakfast. During that time, my son would practice his spelling words or math, and we’d talk as we walked — a special time for me and my Angel Boy. We rarely missed a day, even when it rained (which it does in SoCal). I sure miss those days…

World Walks is on a mission to educate people on the many benefits of walking (and they’re a travel agency that specializes in walking tours).

As you probably know, walking carries a multitude of benefits that stretch above and beyond fitness.

From reducing stress levels to being an effective intervention for depression, walking is a fantastic and free activity for many to enjoy.

Best of all, it’s FREE!

Wherever you are, grab a pair of comfortable shoes and start walking!

World Walks infographic 10 reasons to get out and walk

When my tugboat man and I visited my son/DIL in San Francisco, we walked and walked and walked. And walked!

Here’s a view of downtown SF from the top of Twin Peaks. We walked there…

View of SF from Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks Towers in San Francisco

Even if the sidewalk is STEPS, just put one foot in front of the other.JasonwlakingSFsteps

P.S. This is not a sponsored post; I just liked their graphic and love to walk.

 

Yellowstone Treasures

Our trip to Yellowstone was life changing.

I often dreamed of seeing the wolves of  Lamar Valley.

My wonderful tugboat man surprised me totally out of the blue one day while we were watching a documentary about wolves…

“How would you like to pack up right now and drive to Yellowstone?”

“Right NOW?”

“Yup, we’re not gonna talk about it any more. We’re just going to DO it. What do you say?”

I wasn’t even in the room anymore; I had already started packing before he looked at the local surf report and changed his mind.

I’ve never written about our magical journey to Yellowstone because it’s more than a few posts; it’s book-worthy, and that’s what it’s going to be.

I kept a journal of those enchanted 3000 miles —  we were lucky enough to see wolves and foxes and bears and moose and all the animals I love so much and want to help protect and defend against senseless killing.

I will never forget the first moment I spotted a wolf.

I can honestly say that it was a seminal event in my life.

It was so special words cannot do it justice –to glimpse a brief moment in the life of this majestic, breathtakingly beautiful and wrongly vilified animal.

If I close my eyes, I can still see the beauty of another wolf, a black wolf, nonchalantly chewing on the end of a huge log—an AMAZING sight.

It was an overwhelming experience of transcendent joy.

We will return to Yellowstone and I will hopefully fulfill another one of my life’s dreams, to hear the song of the wolf.

Unfortunately,  the camera I had at that time didn’t have a powerful enough lens to capture a photo of the wolves we saw, but we came away with a couple of other treasures, an osprey feather and a backbone, possibly of a bison, washed up from Slough Creek to our campsite.

Wonderful memories of a dream come true.

Osprey feather

ospreyBison vertebrae (at least I think it’s bison) 

bisonboneUPDATE: Just found this on Facebook, just HAD to edit post to share:

bisonjoke

 

Angel’s Landing @ Zion National Park: Photos

A few of my favorite pics from our road trip last week:

Pretty pink flowers growing out of the mountain wall at Angel’s Landing

zionflower

Beautiful bright red bird!

zionredbird

Looking down from the top of Angel’s Landing. Don’t climb this if you have vertigo!!

angellandingSurrounded by beauty.

angellanding2

The view from the top while we ate a snack of nuts and apples.

angellanding3#ZionNationalPark #AngelsLanding #photography #travel #nature #hiking #camping #Utah

 

Wandering to Zion, Part Three

Our road trip adventure continues…only two more installments and then I’ll be back to writing sparkly + snarky commentary.
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Confession: I’m a great co-pilot traveling companion. You would LOVE to have me in the passenger seat with you, I promise.

I keep the snacks flowing, conversation is stimulating, and I even throw a few dance moves in with jazz handskitty-jazz-hands at appropriate moments. Jazz hands are the BEST.

Kitty jazz hands are even better, don’t you agree?

We compiled a bunch of music for the road; stuff we both like; Frank, Ella, Nat King Cole, stuff I like; Adele and Christina Perri, and music hub enjoys; Coldplay, U2, Nine Inch Nail, Com Truise.

The next morning we hit the road to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. We walked pretty much throughout the whole park at every stop and trailhead. The sky wasn’t as blue as the day before so the colors weren’t as vibrant as they might have been.

Of course I compelled my tugboat man to accompany me to a gift shop for local wares, and we chose geodes, petrified wood, and a petrified sand dollar!aquageode hotpinkgeode petrifiedsanddollar petrifiedwood

It’s hard to believe this was all under the ocean a zillion years ago. Evidence of early human occupation (13,000 years ago) is readily visible with petroglyphs and potsherds.

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Our plan was to journey on the Highway 40 — old Route 66 — to Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah, between Hanksville and Blanding. It’s rather remote and not close to other parks so is not so heavily visited. Unlike Arches National Park with over 2,000 classified arches, there are only three bridges here though the monument also contains Anasazi cliff dwellings, pictographs and white sandstone canyons.

But…when we got back on the road, my tugboat man noticed that one of the dashboard gauges indicated that we were losing power.

Things didn’t look good.

We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Although he packed a lot of tools, the one thing we needed most, something called a volt meter, was still at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Lucky for us (unlucky for lots of other cars that must break down on that road) we saw a hand painted sign for Mike’s Auto Repair and took the next exit.

Mike was like a lot of people we came in contact with in Arizona — sorta friendly, sorta not — and all business. He had a volt meter, and he and hub figured that our problem was either a bad battery or a bad alternator — or both.

We gave Mike a “donation” for the use of his diagnostic tool which ensured that our tires remained unslashed, and drove forty miles back to Holbrook, where there was an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store, just like there was in Payson where we had a less urgent car repair issue.

I was nervous the whole way — being stranded didn’t sound like it was any sort of adventure that I wanted to experience.

In Holbrook, we bought a battery which hub installed in a few minutes.

Everyone at O’Reilly (and hub)  thought that would/should solve the problem…and brushed aside my BRILLIANT and soon-to-be prophetic suggestion that we also purchase an alternator “just in case”.

We’ve gone on a lot of road trips and we’ve never had any problems, and so far this was our second mechanical failure in three days. For someone who has absolutely NO idea about what makes cars tick, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on parts that MIGHT break, right?

Can you guess where this is going?

We hadn’t gone more than one mile when the battery gauge indicated a problem in the electrical system  —  again.

Obviously not the battery this time, but hub said that somehow the battery wasn’t charging.

Yup.

The alternator or the voltage regulator was probably at fault. Apparently, everything decided to fail at the same time. We immediately turned around back to O’Reilly and lucked out that they even had the right part in stock or we might still be there.

carholbrook1

There’s a Dollar General on pretty much every corner throughout Arizona and I picked my way between broken glass and plastic bags across a trash strewn empty lot for a little retail therapy while hub was doing his best MacGyver impression. I went up and down every aisle but came away empty-handed; nothing caught my discerning eye. Oh well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.carholbrook

Once again we settled in for a long ride. Because we had lost most of the day, we decided to change direction, skip National Bridges National Park and forge ahead to the Vermillion Cliffs at the The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah  – wandering ever closer to Zion.

Driving down Highway 40 — Old Route 66 — we both sang along with Nat to “Get Your Kicks on Route 66″ I mean, how can you NOT, right?

route661 route662 route663 route664

Along the way, on the side of the road, were a couple of Navajo women selling jewelry. I screeched, “Pull over!!” to hub, and jumped out of the car. The tables were packed with handmade jewelry — turquoise, hematite, juniper beads, and baskets. I asked before I snapped, and got a big smile for the camera.jewelryNavajo

A pretty good haul, don’t you agree? I got a basket too, but forgot to take a pic.navajojewelryArriving in Page too late to locate a campground, we had our worst night EVER at Motel Sucks Six in Page, Utah at fake Lake Powell. Apparently, this was a busy time for Page, as all the hotels were booked. The fact that Motel Six had any room available was NOT a good sign.

My travel tip to everyone is to avoid this Motel Six if at all possible. Especially Room 239. 

You’re welcome.

Next stop: Vermillion Cliffs!