Sunday, June 28, 2009

Torrey Pines State Reserve

As many of you know, California's State Parks are currently being threatened with closures due to California's fiscal crisis. In an attempt to bring attention to all the wonderful state parks California has to offer, my blogging friend Bridget at Family Adventure Guidebooks and I are participating in  State Park Saturdays. We will be featuring a different CA State Park every Saturday (or Sunday like today)  and we encourage you to do the same. If you don't live in CA then feature a state park in your home state. Let's bring attention to these treasures to increase awareness of what the state park system has to offer and encourage others to stand up and help protect these important places Last Sunday was Father's Day. It was also Save Our State Parks weekend. I felt it was important to participate in both so we combined the two and celebrated Father's Day in a place we had never been before, Torrey Pines State Reserve.

There are native pine trees along the coast of San Diego. For anyone who has visited the area, the concept is a bit bizarre. San Diego has a Mediterranean climate. Pine forests aren't exactly what typically come to mind. But there it is, perched on the bluffs of La Jolla. A pine forest. Torrey Pines are some of the most rare pines in the entire world. They only grow in and around the reserve  in San Diego and on Santa Rosa Island which is part of the Channel Islands off the coast of California.  Given the rarity and the beauty of these forests, protecting them is a no brainer. Especially since so many trees had been killed by an non-native beetle infestation in the 1960s. The remnants of the infestation remain along the trails and add a stark contrast to all the life that surrounds them. 


The Guy Fleming Trail is the perfect introduction to what Torrey Pines has to offer. Its a one mile loop trail that takes allows you to walk amongst the pines and enjoy amazing views of the great blue yonder from bluffside viewpoints.



Its a place where you can watch birds having a blast surfing the updrafts while parasailers make their best attempts at being birds themselves.


Its a place to enjoy wildflowers and the tiny forms of wildlife that come along with them.


But most of all its a place to enjoy the trees.



Ansel pine cones

Ansel pines    


Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Monkey!

Thank you for being an amazing father, a wonderful husband, and my best friend. You still look pretty hot for 35! Love ya!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

National Geographic Traveler Family Vacation Planner

Okay you are no longer allowed to leave comments saying you wish had cool stuff to do near you. Why? Because the fantastic people at National Geographic Traveler have put together an amazing collection of places to go with your family. Its broken down by state and then into the following categories: Adventure, Animals, Culture, Entertainment, History, Nature, and Science. How cool is that? I am like a kid in a candy store as I click through each section, plotting enough adventures for the next decade. Check it out here, plan a trip and then do a guest post for me. I would love to have you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Miss you honey

I took a walk on Sunday up to the visitor's center at Torrey Pines. On the way back down I let Tuesday know how much we all missed her. I told her how I always felt her with me when I was enjoying nature. I felt her smile. It was warm. It brought peace. I miss you sweetie.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Gilroy Gardens


(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)


Circus trees. They were the brain child of Axel Erlandson and have mystified tourists in the Santa Cruz area since the late 1940's. At their peak, over 70 circus trees existed. Now only 25 survive in Gilroy Gardens, which proclaims itself to be the only horticulture theme park in the country. Mr. Erlandson never divulged his trade secrets, only claiming that he "talked to the trees" . His legacy now lives on amongst the Garlic Twirl and Budgy the Goldfish rides. This is not a Six Flags heart pumping thrill ride type of theme park by any means. The rides are more geared to the younger set and the gardens make hours of watching your children go in a slow circle while sitting inside of a variety of whimsical creatures much more enjoyable for the adults.


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There is a water area open in the summer which is quite nice since it can get pretty hot in Gilroy come June, July, and August. Luckily there is also plenty of shade from all the gardens and plenty of water to enjoy.


If you have little ones and are looking for a nice place to spend the day in between hours of sampling garlic ice cream, garlic jelly beans, and garlic fries at the Garlic Festival this summer, I highly encourage you to check out the circus trees at Gilroy Gardens. Who knows, maybe you will inspire your little one to one day set up her very own horticultural circus.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pt Mugu State Park

As many of you know, California's State Parks are currently being threatened with closures due to California's fiscal crisis. In an attempt to bring attention to all the wonderful state parks California has to offer, my blogging friend Bridget at Family Adventure Guidebooks and I are participating in  State Park Saturdays. We will be featuring a different CA State Park every Saturday and we encourage you to do the same. If you don't live in CA then feature a state park in your home state. Let's bring attention to these treasures to increase awareness of what the state park system has to offer and encourage others to stand up and help protect these important places.



Pt Mugu State Park is what the Southern California coast is all about. With 5 miles of beaches, canyons sprinkled with oaks and sycamores, rocky bluffs, and grassy fields, its impossible not to fall in love.  There is camping right across the street from the beach and over 70 miles of hiking trails at your disposal. The kids and I checked out the beginning of La Jolla Canyon Trail on a trip up the coast this spring and I was in absolute awe over the wildflower display.


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Pt Mugu is located north of Malibu and south of Oxnard. Its a place I hope to take my kids to hike, camp, and enjoy for many years to come. I hope the politicians hear our voices and keep our parks open. Places as special as this need to be cared for so they can be shared with future generations.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sunset at Salt Creek


Salt Creek Beach is one of those beaches you might not know is there unless you are a local or staying nearby. You know it has to be a nice beach when the Ritz Carlton corporation decides to plop a hotel on the bluffs above it (and a gorgeous hotel at that). My first visit to Salt Creek was a couple years back when my brother took Paul and I there to play volleyball. I was amazed by how gorgeous the beach was and loved that there was a grassy hill above the beach with incredible views. Plus I love imagining I am staying in one of the exclusive homes up on the bluff. Sipping on a cocktail. Watching the sunset from my balcony. Wondering what I am gonna do next.... Its not hard for me to slip on over to my happy place when I am at the beach.  Anyhow, we took Paul's sister to Salt Creek to watch the sun set her first night (and only kid-free night) of her visit with us last week. It had been cloudy all week but the beach gods smiled down upon us and gave us a spectacular sunset. Here are some of the many pictures we took that evening.



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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Its Just An Old Fig Tree

Its just an old fig tree. Leaning heavily on one side after generations of service. Comfortably but precariously using the fence as its crutch. Struggling to produce what few figs its tired body has the energy left in it to nurture. Its the same fig tree that my grandfather plucked figs from to sell for spending money as a young boy. The same fig tree my mom played under with her sisters and their dolls. The same fig tree my uncles used as first base while playing baseball in the yard.  The same fig tree that had the perfect hole for hiding  countless Easter eggs. The same fig tree my cousins and I used as safe when play hide and seek. 

My grandmother guesses its near 87 years old now. Its seen alot in its life. Grown countless figs for countless cookies. Today was its day to see another generation. To let them pose for yet another picture in front of its no longer stately trunk. Soon its life will end and the workmen won't  think twice about its removal. After all, its just an old fig tree.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Big Orange Balloon


If you are ever in Orange County and looking for something free and fun to do than check out the Great Park Balloon. It is located in the future location of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Great Park is currently being built on the land of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and when it is finished it will be 1300 acres of gardens, sports complexes, natural areas, a lake, a performing arts venue, and aircraft museum, and much, much more. Just to give an idea of how big this park will be, Central Park in New York is 850 acres which means the Great Park will be almost 500 acres larger! We are very excited to have the park so close to home and thrilled that the sports complex is scheduled for completion within the next 3-5 years. For now visitors can enjoy a free flight in the tethered helium balloon that will serve as the park's icon and soar over 400 feet above the park while taking in views of the surrounding area. If you go on a day that isn't filled with June Gloom than you have a great chance of catching a view of the ocean. Since we had family in town from Texas and the men were playing golf, I thought I would take the ladies (and Ben) on over for a flight. We all had a great time and even though I have a fear of heights I felt very secure in the balloon and enjoyed the views as long as I didn't look straight down.

Here are some of shots from the trip:



Waiting for liftoff


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Way up high!



We live somewhere out there. Look for our house by the big cloud shrouded mountain.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Road Trip 09

A few months back I got this crazy idea in my head that we should  drive to Calgary for Stampede. One of my best friends moved up there over a year ago and I figured why not? I got on Google Maps and started planning out my route. One thing was certain, we couldn't go home the same way we came. That would be nonsense! And since I was already driving that far north I definitely had to make it to my Aunt Dianne's annual 4th of July hot dog and wiffle ball golf tournament in Washington. Hours later I had created my masterpiece. A 24 day tour of the west. I was going to do things I had wanted to do for years. I was going to drive through the Canadian Rockies and see Banff. I was going to finally get to Yellowstone. And I was going to do it with my two  year old toddlers! Insane? Maybe. Insanely fun? Definitely.

And now as months turn into weeks and weeks will quickly turn into days before our big trip begins, I have become a planning machine. Finalizing hotel stays (cuz sorry, I am not car camping for 3 weeks with these children. We can try that in a couple years) and working on our itinerary. This is not how I used to travel before kids. I was more the find a destination and figure it out when we get there type. All it took was one night sleeping in a hotel parking lot in Crescent City with my infants to realize flying by the seat of my pants is not as fun with little ones.

I will be kidding myself if I expect everything to go according to plan. Actually, I hope it doesn't. Usually the unexpected is what ends up being the most fun. I will try to update as much as I can while on the road and throw in some pictures and video (I got an incredible deal on a flip video camera!). So wish us luck and pray I don't forget to pack something crucial, like the camera!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve


This week the kids and I were out in Newport,  chillin' in the Back Bay. Almost sounds glamorous doesn't it? No this is not the Newport Bay most people know. Its not the marina filled with the posh yachts of the wealthy. This is Upper Newport Bay. The place where freshwater and saltwater meet. An estuary where endangered birds make their nests and nature works hard at filtering out all the junk that comes from the watershed upstream so we aren't swimming in filthy oceans. This is a very important place. Sadly, this is also a very rare place in California. 90% of California's wetlands are gone. Most of them have been destroyed  in the past 50 years. Knowing this made our visit to Upper Newport Bay all the more special.

At first glance an estuary doesn't look like much. Its a bunch a of grass and mud waiting to fill and empty with the tides. But upon closer inspection we found it was a beautiful habitat teeming with life. As soon we started walking down the trail to the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center (which is so cleverly hidden into the landscape that I didn't even know it was there until we were right on top of it) we were greeting with gray squirrels and cottontail bunnies scurrying back and forth amongst the bushes. The air was filled with birds chirping happy tunes and the refreshing scent of that salty sea air. Ahhhh....

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As much as I wanted to just start exploring the bay I knew we would be best served by hitting up the Interpretive Center first. I was incredibly impressed. What a great center!  There were exhibits about wetlands, uplands, and estuaries that were designed to captivate every age. The kids got excited about the fish swimming in the aquariums and and the birds "flying" overhead. We weren't lucky enough to see a Great Blue Heron out in the wild that day but the kids still were able to get up close and personal with a stuffed version inside.


And then there was the classroom. Wow. I could have stayed in their all day and the kids never would have been bored. There are live animals in terrariums, fish, stuffed animals, animal puzzles, kid friendly microscopes, craft areas, books, books, and more books; the list goes on and on. And it was free! It made me so happy to see the kids so excited to learn about everything. (Okay so maybe Ben was mostly interested in kicking around the inflatable solar system planets but Mari was enthralled by everything). I am certainly keeping this place in my back pocket when I am looking for things to do on a rainy day. Best of all, they have classes for kids all summer long for only $5.00. These include stories, crafts, and outdoor nature walks. For more info click here.

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From the Interpretive Center we meandered on down the trail to the estuary. It didn't take long before we spotted a mother and her adolescent ducklings our for a cruise.


We joined the main jogging/biking trail and enjoyed the views while spotting a variety of different birds and more lizards than I could count. We crossed a bridge with wooden sides but that didn't stop Mari from sneaking a peak at what was below.

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We enjoyed our own little version of Wild Kingdom while watching lizards brawl and colorful birds perch. (do you see the lizard in the bottom right picture?)

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Most of all, we just enjoyed the view.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

National Get Outdoors Day


Get Outside


You know I will take any excuse to get outside and do something fun. How about an actual day dedicated to getting outside? Well June 13th is National Get Outdoors Day and there are activities planned all across the country. Check out the link and see if there is anything near you. If there isn't anything official nearby, it doesn't mean you can't participate. Grab the kids and get out. Go the park. Meander down a trail. Go to the beach. Camp in the backyard. Just get outside!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Airport Diversion Guide

Lets face it. Flying with little ones can be a big pain in the butt. You have to bring half your house, hope the portable dvd player has enough battery life to entertain you squirmy little toddler and hope and pray that a bout of explosive diarrhea doesn't suddenly appear mid flight. Getting through the terminal is a juggling act of strollers, car seats, and luggage. You wind your way through security with an impatient man with a briefcase and an attitude grumbling behind you because you are not as time efficient as he would like since your daughter does not feel that she should have to be security compliant and take off her light up Dora the Explorer shoes. Finally  you reach the gate only to see your flight has been delayed. You contemplate throwing yourself on the ground, kicking and screaming but then remember the Airport Diversion Guide! You head to the toddler play area and breath a sigh of relief. Crisis averted.

Cheap Flights has put together a great guide for parents with family friendly security lines, play areas, and fun diversions and some of the most popular airports in the US and the rest of the world. So if you have a layover in Vegas or a delay in Boston, they have you covered. Bless you Cheap Flights. Bless you for saving us some sanity for when we get on the actual plane!