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Bet You Can’t Have Just One

2 Oct

I’ve wanted to hike Potato Chip Rock for years and a few weeks ago I finally conquered it.  My brother was coming to visit and we wanted to do a simple one night camping trip.  By the time we booked, most of the more popular camping spots were taken, so we chose one of the few spots left Southern California at William Heise Regional Park.  From the reviews I assumed it was going to be more crowded and full of families.  After all, it boasts a playground and year round cabins.   I was pleasantly surprised with the isolated, wooded sites and miles of hiking trails overlooking the Anza Borrego Dessert.  Sure, we could see a couple of fancy houses on the hills surrounding the park, but overall it was a great spot for summer camping.

After a night of camping, we headed over to our destination.  My brother had Googled photos of Potato Chip Rock for ideas on how we should stage our picture.  If you look it up, you’ll see all kinds of creative ideas, from rock climbers hanging off the edge, to yoga poses, to groups that have set up a fancy tea party on the rock.  We weren’t prepared for the long line of photo takers and by the time we got up there (and I overcame my fear of the short jump to the rock), we didn’t have a lot of time for creativity.

By all rights, this should be a Photo Adventure, but it’s not.  Mostly because i was too caught up in the actual hiking to stop and snap pictures.  Partly because I didn’t bring a camera and my phone was dying.  Because of that, you only get one.  Just one picture, achieved after an hour wait in line and a four-mile hike straight up in the heat.  But boy was it worth it.


~ April


Photo Adventure: Ten Lakes Redemption

20 Jul

On completely separate occasions, both my friend Daniella and I, had kinda lousy experiences at Ten Lakes. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Camping in Yosemite is still preferable to many things, even if it does involve blood loss, sickness, missing persons, and monumental amounts of whining.


But looking back on the experience several years later, I still remember amid all the complaining, the jaw dropping view from Ten Lakes Pass, and the view of the lakes. It was time for us to give Ten Lakes another try.



Glacial Polish


In the early evening we heard rockfall off of this wall.


The moon, Jupiter, and Venus reflecting on glacial polish


The wildflowers were so fluorescent they could have been painted by Lisa Frank.



I was apparently obsessed with glacial polish on this trip.


Blue Conness




Photo Adventure: The Best Camera

25 Jun

Tenaya Lake Encased in Fog

These pictures are from all the way back in May when I took a weekend trip to the Eastern Sierra.

Tuolumne River, sadly bare of snow

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my camera battery, or rather, forgot to pack the battery I had charged….and forgot to bring the car charger I bought specifically so I could recharge my camera batteries during road trips. Awesome.

Sunset at South Tufa

(Also, a jar of Nutella was pretty much the only provisions I brought for the entire trip. Either I wasn’t at my smartest when I packed my food, or I was a freaking genius. I can’t decide which.)

Storm Clouds over Mono LakeIMG_1195_2
Snowy June Lake Loop

Besides I couldn’t skip posting these, look who showed up!




Aprilly and Greg!


They brought better food than I did, and even managed to make baked brie in a dutch oven in a downpour. Left to my own devices, I probably would have just eaten spoonfuls of Nutella in my van. I’m glad they endeavored because it was soooo good. (I offered to spread some of my half-eaten jar of Nutella on it, but for some reason they declined.)


The next day the weather cleared enough for us to hike into Lundy Canyon.

It turns out Greg and I have differing opinions on photo orientation. He hates anything that isn’t landscape. This immediately made me want to champion portrait orientation as the superior choice in photo layouts. But then I realized that I’ve been shooting more and more in a square format since I started goofing off on Instagram, and I kinda like that too. So here it is, I’m stating it for the record: I’m pro photo layout diversity.





P.S. I miss you!

Kitchen Adventure and a Recipe

13 May

Somewhere in the middle of April my friend Grecia invited a bunch of us over to show us how to cook.


Grecia makes amazing dishes that she learned from her grandmother who grew up in Michoacan Mexico, and we happily eat her food at potlucks while moaning in gastronomic ecstasy. But Grecia is heading to the Marin Headlands soon (lucky gal) and she was gracious enough to teach us how to make a few of these dishes before departing.


It was a delightful afternoon of friends, laughter, and amazing food.


This is Marya’s excited face!


I don’t remember what was happening here, but it was apparently really funny.


We spent forever trying several different ways to get that stupid lid off. Then Grecia swooped in and rescued us. Yep, she used her teeth.


Marya is still excited!

She seriously could not contain herself.


Flautas con Salsa Verde de Aguacate or Salsa de Papa, y Queso Fresco


Mole con Sopa de Arroz


It was an amazing feast.

Grecia even gave me permission to share her recipe for Tamarind Water.


I wish I had gotten a picture of the tamarinds. I had never seen one, and the bowl of them caught my attention the second I walked into the kitchen. Within a few minutes Grecia had us peeling them and turning them into a delicious sweet and refreshing beverage.


Agua Fresca de Tamarindo
2-3lbs of tamarind
Intructions: Peel tamarinds and set to soak in water (overnight
preferably). Add more water and squuuuuuezee the juice out with
your hands. Keep adding water until you have squeezed all the juice
out and the seeds are left behind. Strain the juice into a container
and add sugar to your taste. Enjoy!!


Katie works the tamarind magic.


Food time. Out of our way!


Many Good Noms.


Clean up? No problem. Mila is on it.


Such a great afternoon.


Earth Day: Quote Saturday

25 Apr



Earth Day: Twenty Thought Provoking Facts and Quotes from “The World is Blue”

10 Apr


This book grew out of a TED wish presented by the legendary Sylvia A. Earl. It’s one of my favorite books, and full of mind blowing facts about the ocean, and many reasons why everyone on earth should care about it. This is just a sample of the quotes and facts that blew my mind:

1. “Even if you have never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.”

2. Less than five percent of the ocean has been explored, and only one percent has been protected.


3. 20% of the oxygen in earth’s atmosphere, or one in five breaths, has been produced by one type of water dwelling blue green bacteria with the unfortunate name prochlorococcus.

4. Aside from seafood, we regularly use a variety of ocean products in our everyday lives. A thickener derived from a single species of Kelp can be found in sauces, cheese, ice cream, pudding, chocolate milk, candy, toothpaste, those weird tooth impressions they make at the dentist’s office, lotion, tape, and hundreds of other products.

5. Fish populations are plummeting on a planet where one of seven people rely on ocean caught fish as their primary source of protein.

6. “We can shift our trash, move it, cover it up, toss it into the sea, and turn our back, but everything connects. There is no “away” to throw to.”


7. The top ten categories of marine trash are: cigarette butts, plastic bags, food containers, caps and lids, plastic botles, paper bags, straws and stirrers, cups plates and eating utensils, glass bottles, and beverage cans. These account for 83 percent of the trash found in the ocean.

8. A 1999 expedition to the Pacific Gyre found that trash outweighed plankton six to one.

9. “That same year, on a reef in the Coral Sea, I swam in a milling circle of more than a hundred gray reef sharks, feeling much safer than I do while driving on a freeway with cars heading in my direction at high speed, separated only by a line of yellow paint and a mutual desire to live.”

10. Before human impacts started affecting them, oysters managed to filter and clean all the water contained in New York Harbor every few days. The Chesapeake Bay was filtered every 24 hours.


11. “Their present precarious state makes eating bluefin tuna comparable to dining on snow leopard or panda.”

12. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that millions of tons of fish and invertebrates are caught and then discarded as bycatch every year.

13. Most United State Marine Sanctuaries still allow for commercial and sport fishing. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii was the first and largest Marine Protected Areas in the world to ban fishing, and was created with a great deal of political support from (get this) George W. Bush.

14. Given how much of the ocean has yet to be explored or even seen by human eyes, we have no idea how many ocean species there are. Conservative estimates put the number at around ten million.


15. Loss of biodiversity in the ocean impacts its ability to provide food, and maintain water quality. One study found that restoring biodiversity increased it’s productivity by 400 percent.

16. Half of the worlds coral reefs have disappeared or are in sharp decline.

17. “Our near and distant predecessors might be forgiven for exterminating the last wooly mammoth, the ultimate dodo, the final sea cow, and the last living monk seal for lack of understanding the consequences of their actions. But who will forgive us if we fail to learn from past and present expriences, to forge new values, new relationships, a new level of respect for the natural systems that keep us alive?”

18. The ocean absorbs more than 22 million tons of CO2 daily. Unfortunately a large portion of the absorbed carbon turns into carbonic acid, which increases the acidity of the ocean, and has a huge impact on coral reefs.

19. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Even if green house gas emissions are halted at their present levels we can expect an ice-free summer in the arctic by 2040.

20. “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.”



P.S. With the exception of the cover image the photos are my own and are of tide pools and mussels at Pillar Point Harbor, a sea star at County Line Beach, Malibu Point Reyes National Seashore, and the Indra’s Net exhibit at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Read Green 5

Earth Day: Quotes from “Sand County Almanac”

4 Apr

For an environmentalist I am shamefully lax in the “classics” of environmental literature. I haven’t read Walden or Silent Spring, I’ve never even seen a Farley Mowat book, and I’ve only *mumble mumble* Last Child in the Woods. Yet Sand County Almanac is the one classic that I have read and re-read and will probably read again. It’s Leopold’s writing and his keen observations that keep bringing me back to it.

Sand County Almanac

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. On is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferable where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week in town astride a radiator.”


“One hundred and twenty acres, according to the County Clerk, is the extent of my worldly domain. But the County Clerk is a sleepy fellow, who never looks at his record books before nine o’clock. What they would show at daybreak is the question here at issue.

Books or no books, it is a fact, patent both to my dog and myself, that at daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over. It is not only boundaries that disappear, but also the thought of being bounded. Expanses unknown to deed or map are known to every dawn, and solitude, supposed no longer to exist in my county, extends on every hand as far as the dew can reach.”


“That whimsical fellow called Evolution, having enlarged the dinosaur until he tripped over his own toes, tried shrinking the chickadee until he was just too big to be snapped up by flycatchers as an insect, and just too little to be pursued by hawks and owls as meat. Then he regarded his handiwork and laughed. Everyone laughs at so small a bundle of large enthusiasms.”



P.S. Pictures are of Herald (that was our stove’s name) in Bear Brook State Park, Sunrise in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Chickadees at the Brecksville Reservation.

Photo Adventure: Spring Close-Up

15 Mar

Spring has sprung here in El Portal. We’re still praying for snow, but the nice weather was a perfect excuse for me to play with my new macro lens in El Portal and Hite Cove.


Thousands of poppies


Baby Blue Eyes


Poppy Cluster


California Goldfields




Red Bud Branches


Pollinators are important.


Photo Adventure: New Toys!

1 Mar

My brother (the great enabler of all things involving photography) gave me new toys for the holidays.


I was excited to play with them, but I was hopelessly lost at first. (After several minutes of struggle, I finally realized why I couldn’t get any of my new filters to attach to the lens; there was already a UV filter on it. Yes, I’ve had this camera for two years. No, I never noticed it before.) I’m going to be the first to admit that I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I am having fun.


Half Dome through a fisheye lens


El Capitan and the Three Brothers with a wide-angle lens


Yosemite Falls and the Merced River with a ND8 Filter (I think.)


El Capitan, with orange and blue filters


El Capitan and the Three Brothers, with fisheye? wide-angle? I don’t know.


Tenaya Creek. I’m not even going to try and guess what I used here.

I still have a bunch of macro lenses to play with!


Photo Adventure: Death Valley

24 Jan


Hey, remember when I came back from vacation three months ago and I was all excited to blog about it, but instead of posting I dropped off the face of the earth instead?

Yeah. Sorry about that.

However, I did have a wild time in Death Valley (those are the salt flats at Bad Water above) and I still want to share my pictures. There are lots.

Scotty’s Castle


In retrospect Scotty’s Castle was a weird place to start my Death Valley trip because I came to the park expecting rugged desert scenery and instead found myself wandering through a pristine dessert mansion. However, the story of Death Valley Scotty and Albert Johnson is wonderfully entertaining, and the house tour was one of the best National Park Service tours I’ve been on.


Ubehebe Crater


I had only a little time at Ubehebe before the sun went down, but the hike around the crater is easy and the scenery is amazing.





Fall Canyon


I took a short hike in Fall Canyon on the recommendation of a park ranger. It piqued my interest because I’d never seen a box canyon before. It was cool, but slightly creepy. Every time my feet shifted a rock the sound would echo back from the canyon walls. This was particularly alarming, since I’m used to being on constant alert for rockfall. I was acutely aware that I was alone in a fairly remote spot. It also didn’t help that, for some weird reason, I kept imagining the Sand People hiding around every bend. (Thanks a lot,  George Lucas.) I didn’t make it all the way to the dry falls, but I would love to go back and explore the canyon again with a friend.


The alluvial fan at the bottom of the canyon.



Because Fall Canyon cuts through several rock layers, the occasional flash flood has deposited a rainbow of rocks on the canyon floor.

Mesquite Flat Dunes


I spent way more time at the sand dunes than I intended, and looking back at my pictures and paintings, apparently became temporarily obsessed with line and texture.






(The sunset colors weren’t too shabby either.)


Wildrose was easily my favorite part of the park. Although I saw more people there than I did at Fall Canyon, this section of the park seemed more remote, and very wild. It also had the best night sky viewing I have ever seen.