Archive for September, 2007

Big Sur: The Greatest Meeting of the Land and the Sea

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Big Sur Coast, CA

A road trip to Big Sur is very ideal for those who plans to visit both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The National Geographic featured this drive as one of the 20 drives of a lifetime in the world. Pease click here to continue reading and learn more about Big Sur.

September 30, 2007 at 6:12 am Leave a comment

Cabrillo National Monument: both a Historical and Natural Resources Park

Cabrillo National Monument, located at the tip of Point Loma Peninsula and west of downtown San Diego, was established in 1913. This National Monument is not only a historical park but is also a scenic place to enjoy the diversity of wildlife found on its slopes and shores.

This park commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on Sep 28, 1542.

 

The landing of Cabrillo marked the first time that a European expedition had set foot on what later become the west coast of the United States. (source: Wikipedia) The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Activities in this park are as varied as the cultural and natural resources.

This is another park that I frequently visit year-round for different outdoor and indoor activities here in San Diego. There is a 2-mile bayside trail (for hiking and biking) that affords spectacular views of the San Diego Bay and the city.

 

The hike provides you comapany from the entertaining flying California brown pelicans,  

 

sea gulls,

 

red tail hawks, among others.

The pelicans can often be seen skimming low over the water by the tidepools, or simply resting on top of the rocks.

 

Even the tidepool area is a good place to have a relaxing walk too, the trail goes up and down to pass through marvelously landscaped coastal bluffs that resulted from erosion.

 

Our visit to Cabrillo usually starts in this rocky intertidal zone,

 

not only that I find the hiking up and down the coastal bluff fun and interesting, but I also love to check the weird cliffs of sedimentary rocks which have very distinct layers that provides them colorful display contrasted by the endless horizon of the ocean.

 

 Aside from hiking the cliffs, another fun thing to do is walking through the algae-coated rocks

 

on a bed of hard-packed red sand to explore tidepool life. This is a perfect place for educational family excursion, children can view real living eco-system up close.

The walk here requires a lot of balancing. Shoes with very good gripping soles are the best because the rocks are very slippery. Seaweeds provide interesting color displays, from dark green, to yellow green, to yellow, to red, to purple.

 

These weeds are valuable to the food chain. As you walk through these tidepool rocks, you will notice goose-neck barnacle and mussels clinging tightly to some of the rocks.

 

 In the crevices of the rocks by the shallow water pool, you will find a lot of chitons, small crabs,

 and big flowery anemones.

 

Next to the shallow water pool is the deeper pool where the kelp forest can be observed. If walking through the algae coated rocks are already a challenge, wait for this one as these sea grasses (or trees without stems and branches) are even more slippery and very hard to navigate.  The kelp provides foods and shelter for the sea creatures that live there such as: urchins, sea stars, limpets, sea cucumbers, octopus, and many more others. In this deeper part of the inter-tidal zone, there’s a greater chance for getting wet because of the periodic pounding of the strong surf that could beat you without warning. Makes you wonder how these delicate looking creatures survive the seemingly merciless pounding surf. Unless you have a waterproof camera, here is a place where capturing images is best done in the mind. However, just simply watching the big red octupi, fishes, the rich diversity of a living eco-system up close will make you forget about the passing time and the incoming high tide.  

The best time to visit Point Loma tidepools is winter. It is in this time of the year that a lot of negative low tides occur during daylight hours. This is one of the seasonal changes that can be observed in California’s coast. Even though summer has also daily lowtides, but the water at summer during lowtides is still too high to see anything.

 

But summer does not necessrily mean the tidepool would be boring. I still love to see the strong big waves splashing on the musells-filled rock,

 

or the pounding surf beating hardly the red sandstone cliffs,

and seeing the swimming seals from afar.

 

 Different seasons just bring different sceneries to experience and enjoy. Spring blankets the hills with more green grasses and flowers.

The variability of rainfall (this year we only have less than 5 inches!) causes certain types of plants to thrive one year and barely survive another. But nature takes care of these plants despite the lack of rain, the cold air from the ocean meets the warmer air from the land producing thick fogs. The fogs provide the much needed moisture for plants that require more water to co-exist with desert plants. Yes, always stay on trail when hiking here as you could end up being pricked by the native desert plants if you go off-trail. This is another fun thing to do, taking pictures of the wildflowers.

 

Different flowers bloom in this peninsula tip all year round. Despite the extreme dryness of summer, the coastal fogs still blanket the moisture loving plants with some moisture. Most of the time, the wind here is chilly, even at summer. It is not unusual to see people wearing warm sweaters in  the summer in this part of the peninsula. This is because of the wind that comes from the cooler water of the Pacific Ocean. There are a few days of the year though that Santa Ana conditions come in, the direction of the wind reverses, that is the wind comes from the warmer land.

Another thing to do here at Cabrillo is revisit history. There are 2 films shown at the “Age Exploration Exhibit” near the visitor center. The films present interesting insights into the history of Cabrillo and the life in the sea.  For first timers, a visit to the Old Point Loma lighthouse,

 

one of the original eight lighthouses on the West Coast, can be added to the trip. This lighthouse however only had a short life because the seemingly good location had a serious flaw: thick fogs and low clouds often hide the beam. On March 23, 1891, the keeper moved into a new lighthouse, at the bottom of the hill.

 

This new lighthouse is 100 yards south of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the Whale Overlook, another experience you can get from this natural park. “Grey whale migration pass this side of the west coast every winter. After spending the summer feeding in the food-rich waters of the Arctic, the Gray whales swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, Mexico, where they mate and nurse their young. Along the way, they pass Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument, where you can witness the annual winter journey. Middle of January is the peak of migration, but whales can be spotted from mid-December through March.”- source: http://www.nps.gov/cabr/naturescience/whales.htm

Aside from hiking, biking, birding, tidepooling (in winter), whale watching (winter), enjoying native plants, my other favorite activity to do here at Cabrillo is taking pictures of the beauty surrounding it.

 

The sunset over the top of the cliffs are great.

 

The swinging wildflowers add a whisper of romance to this natural setting.

 

 Going home from Cabrillo National Monument, we usually stop by the Shelter Island,

 

to probably enjoy the other part of San Diego, that is the urban life. And also, to explore civilization photography :).

 

How can I not like the great outdoors when I live in San Digeo which has a lot of natural beauties in its backyard? I am just glad for the great gift that everytime I take vacation far from home to enjoy the beauty of nature and the feel of the outdoors, I go back home in SD not missing the nature and the outdoors but getting more of it. This is a place, that is very hard to leave.  

September 23, 2007 at 4:55 pm 3 comments

Torrey Pines State Reserve: A coastal wilderness within the city hike

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Beach Trail, Torrey Pines State Reserve

For more information on Torrey Pines State Reserve and Beach, please click here

September 17, 2007 at 4:45 am 3 comments

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage site,

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is one of the world’s seven natural wonders, which also includes the following:

– Great Barrier Reef in Australia,

– Mount Everest in Nepal,

– Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe,

– the Northern Lights,

– Paricutin Volcano in Mexico and

– Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I do not know if I will be able to see all these 7 natural wonders of the world, but I am glad for the chance of hiking and experiencing one of the world’s natural wonders, the Grand Canyon.

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Grand Canyon is often described as the greatest geological showcase of the earth. It is said that nowhere else is a place like Grand Canyon, nowhere else features such a dazzling variety of of colorful and artistically sculpted rock layers. The Colorado River has cut deeply through the rocks, forming numerous steep-walled canyons.

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Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.

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” Well known for its geologic significance, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world. It offers an excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological and biological resources. It is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. ” – source: http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/index.htm

The best time to probably visit the Grand Canyon is early fall or late spring, the temperatures are not as scorching hot like when it is summer and the North Rim is still open. On the cooler times of the year (late fall to early spring), the North Rim is closed due to unsafe driving conditions on icy roads on almost 6000 ft deep canyon hills. We visited the Grand Canyon late fall last year (November 19- November 22), and unfortunately for us, the North Rim was already closed. Nevertheless, experiencing the South Rim was already so much joy we are most thankful for. For non-hikers, probably just a day visit to the Grand Canyon would be enough, seeing the grandness from the different viewpoints at the rim.

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After Grand Canyon, you can proceed to visit the other magnificient beauty you can find in the Colorado Plateau. The Red Rocks of Sedona is great, the Antelope Canyon in Paige Arizona is something to dream about for avid photographers, and the magnificiently sculpted rocky deserts of Utah. Or you can mix Grand Canyon and Las Vegas like what most tourists do. However, for the great outdoors enthusiasts, a day or two would not be enough since one can spend several days hiking the Grand Canyon, or experience the raging current in the Colorado River by doing white river rafting. Or for those who hesitate to hike but would want to experience the Grand Canyon below the rim, horses can be rented for riding.

For those who plan to hike, one must take into consideration the deceiving nature of the Grand Canyon hike. Going down is easy, but going up is different matter. Unlike most other hikes, hiking the Grand Canyon starts at a high elevation (7000- 8000 ft) and at a cooler temperature. When we started hiking, at the rim, the temperature was 19F (-7 C)

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 then it gets really warm as you go down the canyon under direct heat of the sun,

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and one will face the toughest work which is the long climb when one is already dehydrated and physically tired.

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Grand Canyon has a desert climate, which makes the hike difficult especially for those not exposed to desert climate hiking. Water and protection from the elements make the difference between life and death. The hike must be carefully planned. Most people rescued from the Grand Canyon or had faced death was because they were deceived of the easier process of going down early of the day, not knowing their struggles climbing back up at a later day when the sun is already strong and they already have been dehydrated and physically stressed, and may not also be prepared for the sudden change in temperature. In the desert,  when the sun sets, the temperature becomes very brutally cold, even in the summer. The moment the sun disappears, the surrounding air goes very cold from the rapid moisture evaporation. But when one goes to the desert canyon prepared and knowing his physical limit, hiking can be the ultimate fun of the trip.

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How is Grand Canyon below the rim? The feeling of hiking down the canyon is undescribable.  Hiking at the rocks, so close to the magnificient color display and sculpting nature made filled me with lots of “oh-ah-ah”. If I could only jump without the threat of falling from the thousands foot hills of the canyon. On our hike down the canyon, we stopped from time to time to marvel at the magical rock sculpture that was formed by the cutting of the Colorado River and the erosion caused by the side streams, wind, and rain.

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The Colorado river has magnificiently illustrated its mindless but artistic ability to sculp stone that has become the Grand Canyon. Without the Colorado River, Grand Canyon would have not existed. Much of what is now southeastern California and southwestern Arizona is covered with material eroded from Grand Canyon.

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Even though Grand Canyon rocks are ancient (the oldest rock within the inner gorge at the bottom of the canyon is 1.84 billion years old), but Grand Canyon carving occured only over the last 5- 6 million years. There are different hiking trails to go down the canyon. We did not go all the way down to the Grand Canyon canyon floor to the Coloroado River because of two reasons: 1. We are not very confident and serious desert backpackers. 2. We wanted to experience the different hiking trails so that we would know which one to take the next time we go back there to hike, hopefully, all the way  down. On our first day, we took the Hermit’s trail,

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and on the second day, we took the South Kaibab’s trail,

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and the third day our feet were tired we just went sightseeing along the rim joining the majority of the tourists.

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Only a very small portion of the tourists at the Grand Canyon go down to hike, since the grandness of the canyon can already be seen from the numerous viewpoints at the rim,

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only that the rim is crowded and people take turns to take a picture.

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Among the hiking trail, the Hermit’s trail lives up to its name. It is the most silent and peaceful trail, less popular than the other trails. Probably, one of the reason was the Hermit’s trail is not fully developed and is more challenging compared to South Kaibab’s and Bright Angel’s trail. What is good with Hermit’s trail, you don’t share the trail with the horses, you won’t experience the smell of the horse’s wastes unlike in the South Kaibab’s trail or the Bright Angel’s trail.  The Bright Angel’s trail is paved, while South Kaibab is dirt trail.  The South Kaibab’s trail is my favorite trail since it is less crowded than Bright Angel’s trail, less challenging than Hermit’s trail, and also, I find it more scenic.

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The feeling of being down the Grand Canyon, under the dark sky with a few glittering stars yet feeling secure is indescribable. I think it is because wherever we hike, whether in the ocean’s bluff or the barren mountains of the desert or the lush tropical forest with great waterfalls, each place has their unique beauty, that each time, the feeling is different, the feeling is undescribable, the experience is unique. If you have not tried hiking or exploring the beauty of our world behind the main roads, I encourage you to, you will love it for sure, and maybe will be hooked and go for more :).

September 16, 2007 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

Hoodoos Cast Their Spells: Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah rocks rock!! This time the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park will rock you with their spells. The hoodoos are pillars of rock left by erosion. Hoodoo means to cast a spell. The fantastic shapes of these rocks are accurately known to cast a spell on every visitor, drawing them to come back, to hunger for more discovery of hoodoos. Staying here for a day is not enough, unless you don’t plan to join the hoodoos by hiking down the canyon. From the rim, Bryce Canyon looks marvelous,

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but nothing can compare to being close to these hoodoos down the canyon. For more of the hoodoos, please click here.

September 4, 2007 at 4:25 am 2 comments

Utah Rocks: Arches National Park

Please click Utah Rocks @ Arches National Park for the post and photos.

September 3, 2007 at 6:26 am 1 comment

Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park

To Learn more about Anacapa, and for more pictures, please click here

September 3, 2007 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

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