Friday, July 20, 2012

...and now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

I'm back!

And I must say, I was a bit embarrassed to realize it has been nearly 10 months since the last post! Excuses could be made until I'm blue in the face (after all, I WAS completing a Masters degree), but let's not digress and continue forging forward!

Although the summer is partly behind us already, here in beautiful Southern California there is still plenty of sunshine left this season, and I plan to make the most of it!

For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the California State Parks dilemma, I bring you an update! (That is, if you haven't been conscientious to have already looked into this)

As of this moment, only ONE park is slated to close (and has actually been closed most of this year).

Sadly, it is the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area which are home to Mitchell Caverns.

Mitchell Caverns

Looks like everybody's hard work paid off!

There has been some controversy surrounding the California Natural Resources Agency; there are reports that unbeknownst  to the California State Parks Foundation, there was a "secret stash" of up to $54 million in unreported revenue....revenue being held by the same department intended to save the parks operations!
The folks at California State Parks Foundations were not privy to this information, and spearheaded a terrific fundraising effort in the community. Emotions are mixed when it comes to public reaction to this oversight (intended or otherwise...). Personally, I'm just glad there is at least some cash flow available to help the parks remain open temporarily....what is important to keep in mind is that fundraising and donations are still needed to keep parks operational on a long term basis!

Now, I'm off to plan my next adventure!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Save California State Parks!

Send the Governor a letter!
 Listen up, people! California's state parks are in serious trouble!

As many of you know, California has been hard-hit by the recession. Cuts have been made everywhere, and unfortunately California's Department of Parks and Recreation has not been spared.

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Preserve One of 70 CLOSING State Parks
In June, Governor Jerry Brown approved a $22 MILLION cut in funds for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

What does this mean for California State Parks? It means that without your help, 70 State Parks will CLOSE by July 2012.

The 70 proposed park closures 
California has a varied natural history, that can be followed throughout our parks. Closing the parks prevents future generations from benefiting from all that our state has to offer (and there's more to us than just Disneyland!)

Russian Gulch State Park

Hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and countless campgrounds, would no longer be accessible.

Remember the limestone caves at Mitchell Caverns mentioned in an earlier post? Yep...those are part of the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in the Mojave Preserve...yet another historic State Park slated for closure.

Mitchell Caverns @ Providence Mountains State Recreation Area

The California Department of Parks and Recreation has created a terrific website
The Magnificent 70
to showcase these special parts of California. I encourage you to check it out and get inspired to help!

The California State Parks Foundation-sponsored bill AB42 has passed through the California legislature...
it is now up to Governor Brown to approve this bill, which in effects allows for non-profit organizations to assist with operating state parks...essentially allowing for them to stay open.

Take a few short moments to check out the bill and sign a pre-formed letter to the governor HERE and help persuade him to SAVE OUR PARKS!

Portola Redwoods State Park
Too many beautiful pieces of nature and history are hanging by a thread, and it is up to us to help out. Closing the parks leaves these lands open to vandalism and a lack of maintenance...and that is no way to treat our wilderness.

Spread the word, and lets save our parks!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dunn's River Falls- Ocho Rios, (St. Ann Parish) Jamaica

After last week's waterfall excursion, I began reminiscing about travels past...and thought about another waterfall we have visited! This one was a bit more out of the way, seeing as it is located in Jamaica :)

Dunn's River Falls~Ocho Rios, (St Ann Parish) Jamaica

A few years ago, we escaped to Jamaica for a week of relaxation...and although there was plenty of sitting around sipping fruity cocktails involved, did you honestly think I wouldn't try to get out and hike or off-road (more on that some other time)?!

Fun fact: Dunn's River Falls is one of very few waterfalls in the world that empties directly into the ocean.

Stairs leading to the base of the falls at the beach

Another fun fact? Dunn's River Falls was one of the locations used in James Bond "Dr. No".

'James Bond' & 'Honey Ryder' at Dunn's River Falls in "Dr No" (1962)

The actually drop in the waterfall is about 600ft. However, it is not a steep fall, so it is easy to climb "up" the falls over the rocks. When we went, we were in a large group of people led by guides. They had us start on the beach at the bottom of the falls, and we were instructed to go single file and hold hands with the person in front and behind you. Jamaica is a very Catholic, conservative country, and the guides were insistent that we line up man/woman/man/woman, so that there would not be a situation of men holding hands. They were very strict about this, and constantly reminded us that we were meant to line up like "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam!"

They eventually let us all "play"

So refreshing!
It was a super fun little journey, and I didn't mind the "tourist trap" feel one bit :) I definitely recommend this to anyone that visits Jamaica. The guides were all really friendly, and more than willing to share stories about the island.

Can't wait to go back someday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Big Falls

Today's adventure was....a waterfall!

Watch out! Accidents do happen :(
Once again, we journeyed into the San Bernardino National Forest. This time, we explored the San Gorgonio mountain side, near the town of Forest Falls.

It was pretty easy to get to (just a short drive down Valley of the Falls, past Hwy 38), and the hike itself was very easy (Trail 1E13). As such, there were a ton of people there! So if you're looking for a solitary nature hike...this is not the place. However, it is a great place to relax or picnic by the water. Even in the peak of summer, the water flow was very strong; Big Falls are some of the tallest year-round waterfalls in Southern California.

Big Falls
Unfortunately, our pictures really do not do these waterfalls justice. There are several cascades (these types of falls are known as overfalls), with multiple pools. About halfway up the falls, there is a guard rail meant to serve as a warning to not continue you can see, many people ignore the warning.

Not me! I stayed behind the railing.
There is a really easy, well-worn foot path up the side of the falls leading to this lookout point. Again, many people strayed from the path and climbed the rocks up the middle of the falls. We checked out some of the smaller cascades and pools ourselves, and the water felt great!

The water is actually cascading over a flattened tree root!
A neat little pool and natural dam
 On the way out of town, we stopped at El Mexicano, an awesome family-owned Mexican restaurant. Killer spicy salsa! An absolute must stop for a cold beer after the trail.

Tacos & Cervezas!!

We had a great time, and I am definitely going back...for the hiking AND the tacos!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rocky Pine Ridge Trail & The Secret Buddha Cave

When thinking about Santa Barbara, most people will immediately think of the obvious: beautiful beaches, swanky resorts, and a fun nightlife on State Street. Too often, the natural beauty of Santa Barbara's wilderness is overlooked.

One of my favorite hikes to date has been the Rocky Pine Ridge, overlooking the entire Santa Barbara coastline.

As the name of the trail implies, it is full guessed it. Rocks and pine trees!

Rocky Pine Ridge

The trailhead is somewhat obscure, and can be found on the side of the road near Gibralter & East Camino Cielo. There is quite a bit of brush (chaparral!) in spots, so definitely wear long pants.

It is a short hike, but somewhat difficult if you are a go prepared, and bring a hand-held nav system if possible. This will help keep you from getting lost, because partway through the trail it turns to boulder-hopping, and is not clearly marked.

One of the coolest features was actually the weather! Santa Barbara gets funky weather patterns, and while we were on the hike, misty clouds rolled in from the ocean, over us and the rocks, then back down again. Super cool!

Mist rolling over the rocks
Rocky Pine Ridge is known for its sandstone boulders and rock formations.

Sort of looks like a face... 

Now, I won't tell you exactly how to get to this next spot. It is a locally known spot referred to as the Buddha Cave. Part way through this hike, you can find this cave tucked away. People treat it like a "shrine", and leave trinkets behind. There was also a journal there, for people who passed through to log their journey.

From the outside... 
The Shrine...can you spot Buddha?!
View from on top of the hidden caves

It was a great day trip, and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes to boulder hop a bit, and eventually relax with a great view. The trails in this area are not necessarily maintained, so do your part and help pack out any trash you find.

Keep it beautiful :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Knapp's Castle

Courtesy of AJ Skiles
Knapp's Castle is a popular spot for hikers and photographers in the Santa Ynez Mountains, located in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara.

 Knapp's Castle was a mansion originally built by George Owen Knapp in 1916.
Courtesy of

In 1940, Frances Holden and opera singer Lotte Lehmann took ownership of the property...only to have it mostly destroyed by a forest fire a mere 5 weeks later.

The original driveway to the mansion

What is left of the original fireplace
Presently, some of the walls and the fireplace still stand and overlook Lake Cachuma and the Santa Ynez Valley.
The living room, perhaps?

View of the Santa Ynez Valley

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mitchell Caverns

Last September, a large group of us off-roaded across the Mojave National Preserve, following the Old Mojave Road and camping at night along the way.

One of the places we explored was Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve.

Original visitor lodge built by Jack & Ida Mitchell in the 1930' the park's visitor center

Imagine traveling through the Mojave desert on a hot summer day...temperatures are soaring above 100 degrees...and suddenly you find yourself in a limestone cave where the average temperature is 65 degrees year-round!

Looking out of the cavern mouth across the Mojave Desert

Limestone Stalactites
Jack Mitchell originally built his homestead here in the desert with the hopes of striking it rich with silver. He soon realized that the real money is in tourism, and began guided tours through the limestone caves.

The caverns are made up of stalactites, which are the columns hanging from the "roof" of the cave, and stalagmites, which protrude from the ground.
Sodium Bicarbonate has dripped for thousands of years to form these caverns
Another cool formation we saw were cave ribbons, where the limestone appears to have flowed down like "ribbons".
Cave Ribbons

 The tour itself took a bit over an hour, and was a great respite from the heat. It was very interactive, with the ranger inviting each of us to get involved, be it shining lights onto various formations, or educating one another about the formations we learned about.
The Ranger christened me "Walrus Girl" and tasked me with explaining to other tourists the "Yawning Walrus" formation

 In all, it was a neat little place to stop, and rather than ruin any more surprises, I encourage you to take an adventure and check it out for yourself!