Saturday, May 30, 2009

Healthy Beaches, Desal Plant and Closing State Parks

Living on the coast makes one more fully aware and appreciative of the cycles of nature and the interconnectedness of life. So, here, I would like to share with you some of the recent news topics about life on the coast and beyond.

1. State of the beaches: a report that grades the health of coastal beaches. There is some good news (SC beaches are clean) and some irksome news; run-off from various business endeavors continues to contaminate ocean water along the coast.

2. San Diego Desalination Plant: the largest such project in the world. In my mind a necessary evil. My biggest concern: Pipes will suck in 100 million gallons (!!!) of sea water a day. What kind of filtering system do they have? Can it filter out even half of the microscopic life forms it will suck in? In a previous post I show a photo of the Pacific Seahorse. It lives in the San Diego area. The babies are tiny. Can the life cycle of local inhabitants maintain a healthy community if they are losing x% of their offspring?

3. Marine Science Institute: one of the coolest things I have ever done. I was offered the opportunity to tag along on the boat with a college-level marine biology class. We pulled water samples, put them under a microscope and viewed contents on a large screen. A drop of water held an abundance of life. We used nets to gently catch critters such as leopard sharks and released them and we learned about temperature stratification and the effect on life in the bay. It was fascinating and I highly recommend taking the trip.

4. Potential State Park Closings: The Gov was on about this a few months, with fewer parks listed and no conclusion. With the results of the special election indicating that voters don't want to shoulder any more of the budget shortfall responsibility, it's been mentioned again. The list of parks due to close is unfathomable. I don't believe it will really happen as currently reported but some action will likely occur. Here is a list of the parks listed for closing. I'm going to have to protest this somehow. Will post news as it arises. Photo: Lookout on Wilder Ridge Loop Trail at Wilder Ranch, about 3 miles round trip.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Should be Like a Vacation

I am a student of Kriya Yoga and used to go to the temple and listen to the weekly inspirationals on Sundays. At one of these talks, the speaker spoke about being happy where you are. He said that if you couldn't find happiness where you are now, you wouldn't find it anywhere. He continued to say that you shouldn't wait until you go on vacation to have fun; find fun, make fun, everyday. It affected me strongly because I was tired of the snow and the cold and I was miserable. I thought the grass was greener in California (as it turns out, in December, it is!) and was certain I would be happy there.

About a year later, my life long vacation began in November 1999, when I moved to Half Moon Bay. Riding my bike on the coastal trail or walking the beach before heading to work was a great way to start the day. On the weekends I hiked at Burleigh Murray Ranch ( I saw more bobcats there then any place else on the coast thus far), Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, Montara Mountain, Pillar Point (I actually saw an octopus, picked it up and put it in the water while tide pooling), Sweeney Ridge (accessing the trail from the Shell Dance orchid greenhouse parking lot in Pacifica) or hung out at Poplar Beach. Camping at Butano and Sanborn County Park with friends and family w/little ones was loads of fun.

After a couple of years, the summer fog weighed on my spirit. I don't mind some fog; hiking or walking on the beach can be just as nice and the cool respite much appreciated, but come mid-July, it was tough. When I needed a dose of sun, I
would drive to Santa Cruz. Driving down Hwy 1 is a joy in and of itself; stopping at the farm stands, buying strawberries in Pescadero, getting a treat from Whale City Bakery in Davenport or hiking at Wilder made a trip to Santa Cruz a mini-vacation and helped recharge my batteries.

Circumstances prompted a move back to Chicago for a year (maybe I had lost the "vacation" mentality). After the karma was burned, I returned to CA and lived in Monterey for a year and then Carmel for a year and a half. Boy, that was fun! Garland Ranch, Del Monte Beach and Pt. Lobos (If you're a hiker, park on the road outside the entrance and walk'll save a few bucks
, you're more likely to see deer and maybe a bobcat on foot and the scenery is outstanding. There's a map posted just past the entrance near the restrooms to plot your walk.) became my workout venues.

When I wanted a more rigorous worked out, I went to Garrapata State Park (the spring flowers are *stunning* as are the views) and did the Rocky Ridge Trail.

I usually did it early Saturday morning but on one occasion I did it after work at about 6:00pm and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a slightly scary descent into dusk. Another rugged trail with a great payoff is Snively's Ridge at Garland Ranch. Both are real glute-busters. So, yeah, vacation includes exercise, and in a beautiful location, how can you lose?

Since I'm short on pics,
you'll have to check out the links. In lieu of photos of the places mentioned, here is a pic of a dolphin at the Seymour Marine Lab (topic for upcoming post). Also, I add to the phone wallpaper collection a pic of Ganesha taken at Ambrosia in Monterey mid-May when we chowed at the buffet. Pure bliss:)

I'll end with my hiking tips and a wish that you enjoy your California Dreamin':

1. Check weather in advance and dress appropriately. Most of these places have trails that are well maintained so you can safely wear shorts. Cloud cover, tree shade and traversing through canyons can cause dramatic shifts in temperature. Wear light layers to peel off or put on as needed.
Bring sunscreen, water, snacks and wear appropriate shoes. Vaseline on toes/heels before socks prevents blisters.
3. I like to go early; it's not as hot. I don't like to carry anything, don't like camel backs or back packs.
I prefer to leave water and food in car if hike is two hours or less. I have a small fanny pack for phone, lip balm, a small bottle of water and a snack for slightly longer hikes. Hikes over three hours require a back pack, pbj sandwich, apple, and at least a liter of water.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


As I mentioned, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few weeks ago to see the new seahorse exhibit. I've been to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the National Aquarium in Baltimore (really cool!), several aquatic parks in Florida and I'm confident in saying, there has been nothing like this, anywhere, before.

I trailed far behind our group and did not make it half way through the exhibit, it was so mesmerizing (we purchased a family membership, so I'll be back). I took many photos but lighting conditions and glass made it difficult to get great shots. I managed to salvage a few decent pics to post, to provide a glimpse of the unique and mysterious collection on display until 2012!

The above photo is of the Pacific Seahorse which is found south of Los Angeles all the way down to Peru. It's a fairly large specimen, measuring in at 12" unfurled. Who knew we had seahorses on the west coast, even if for just a meager stretch?

The other photos are of much more exotic species; weedy and leafy sea dragons. I saw them in a nature program on television years ago, but watching them move in a tank was hypnotizing. Unlike many other beautiful fish, they don't zip around. Instead, they float about, propelling themselves with tiny fins.
In fact, I left the exhibit feeling so relaxed, I was certain that the purpose of seahorses and sea dragons on Earth was to bring us momentary relief or respite; to calm us.

And a funny thing happened while I was viewing a dome-shaped enclosure of seahorses. A tot pushed me to the side, not only to view the seahorses, but she had decided she had to share her Sponge Bob candy pellets with me which prompted her brother to also share his. My horoscope said I would receive a non-life altering windfall, I guess that was it:)

While I've not been posting, I've been at my niece's b-day party, running the Big Sur 5k (and a couple of others), enjoying the blooming honeysuckle that has replaced the wisteria in our yard and marveling in the crazy weather. Today, the weather is warm and humid. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Whatever it is, bring it, I say!