Monday, September 24, 2018

SHADY HIKE in JOAQUIN MILLER PARK in San Francisco’s East Bay

Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland, California, is one of many places in San Francisco’s East Bay where you an go to hike, bike, walk your dog, have a picnic or just enjoy nature. On a recent weekend my husband, son and I took a hike along the Palos Colorados trail, which winds its way along Palo Seco creek in a narrow canyon. (This trail is only for hikers or dogs on leash, but there is a biking trail on the other side of the creek. See map--link below.)
After parking our car at the trail head just off Mountain Boulevard, we set out along the path. After climbing a series of steps, the trail was fairly level, hugging the side of the canyon.  Far below, the creek gurgled as water made its way over the rocks and down the hill, ultimately ending in the ocean.
Gnarled California oaks grew along the side of the path, like creatures from a fairy tale. Along the lower slope, giant redwood trees towered more than a hundred feet into the sky.
As always, the hike was an opportunity for photography.
It was late summer and flowers were going to seed and ferns had developed their decorative spores.
The shady path was a perfect choice for a nice walk on a warm day.
For a map of the trails in Joaquin Miller Park, click HERE.
For some of the other trails in the park, click HERE.

For my post about an earlier visit to Joaquin Miller Park and the eccentric man who inspired the park's name, click HERE.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Coral Reef, the Isles of Fiji
My friend and fellow children’s book writer Sara Kras recently returned from a trip to the Islands of Fiji with her husband Joe. She has graciously agreed to share her impressions and a few of Joe’s fantastic photos. You can find out more about Sara’s books at
One of the resorts we stayed at called Paradise Cove
Once Known as the Cannibal Isles 
In 1867, Reverend Thomas Baker, the only Christian missionary in Fiji, was killed and eaten by local natives. The natives thought his shoes were a part of his body, so they boiled them.  After several attempts of softening his shoes up through boiling, the natives gave up and tossed them aside.  One of his shoes resides today in the Fiji Museum located in the capital city of Suva.

Sara Kras
I wasn’t aware of Fiji’s history so I was fascinated when I heard this story.  While visiting the “Cannibal Isles,” I wanted to see as much of them as possible.  I also wanted to see the vibrant reefs – which are hard to find in other places today.

We started on the main island of Vitu Levu.  Even though it was interesting, I can see why most tourists skip it and go immediately to the outer islands.  We then took the Awesome Fiji ferry to the Yasawa Islands.  We stayed in rustic accommodations called “Barefoot Manta.”  They had a resident biologist who monitored the channel next to Barefoot Manta to determine if the manta rays would come.  We only stayed one night so I was hoping we would see them.

Four manta rays with snorkelers
At 6:45am on our departure day, the staff banged on a wooden log drum.  Then they ran around the camp and yelled, “Manta, manta, manta!”  Because it was so early, very few people formed around the dive/snorkel shop.  The water was like a sheet of glass and crystal clear.  Eight manta rays appeared and swam around us like ballerinas. 
Silvery Mackerel
The water was filled with plankton and other particles.  This not only attracted manta rays, it also attracted hundreds of silvery mackerel.  The hour and a half snorkel was truly magical.
Seaplane pick up at Paradise Cove
A sea plane picked us up in the Yasawa Islands and whisked us off to the Mamanuca archipelago.  We stayed at the most expensive resort in Fiji – Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Our “traditional” room at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
We didn’t opt for the over water bungalows as we’d stayed in those in French Polynesia and the Maldives.  Instead, we got a beach front room with a small private swimming pool.  It was three glorious days filled with incredible food, relaxing massages, white sand beach, and wonderful snorkeling.
Pin cushion sea star
The local ferry called South Sea Cruises deposited us at Nadi where we took a domestic flight to Savu Savu on the island of Vanu Levu.  We were then transferred by car, then by boat to our final destination, The Remote Resort.  I choose this place because I wanted to snorkel near the Rainbow Reef.  There was soft coral, hard coral, and hundreds of brightly colored fish.  This reef in this area was incredibly healthy.  It looked like an underwater garden.  It’s something EVERYONE should see if they can.
Below are several pictures of our snorkeling excursions in Fiji.  You can see hard and soft coral, along with colorful fish, giant clams, bright blue sea stars and more.

Monday, September 10, 2018

CANADA’S BAY OF FUNDY: Where Whitewater Rapids Rush UP a River, Guest Post by Caroline Hatton

Rapids rushing up the Saint John River, New Brunswick, Canada

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, in October 2014. She took the photos and the video in this post.

Whitewater rapids caused by rising tides reversing the flow of a river? I had to see this. I had long known, from nature documentaries, about the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. But all I had seen was time-lapse videos of the corresponding, extreme ebbing tides lowering fishing boats the height of a five-story building, so that the boats had to be on extra long tethers to avoid dangling vertically like dead fish on a hook.

Weeks before traveling to the Bay of Fundy, I listed the “Reversing Rapids”  (in Saint John, New Brunswick) on my itinerary and googled Saint John Tide Times. Once in Saint John, I arrived at Fallsview Park on Fallsview Avenue in time for the high tide.
Red dot: location of Saint John in the Bay of Fundy
Tourists weren’t the only ones lining up to attend nature’s show. Cormorants also gathered on a small, rocky island in the river.
Here's my video of rapids rushing up the Saint John River:

The video shows the Saint John River, a church steeple on the opposite river bank, and the tips of two small islands. Left is down the river toward the Bay of Fundy. Right is up the river. In the few hours before I recorded the video, the tide had risen higher than the river level, gradually reversing the direction in which the water flowed. The narrow rocky gorge at this spot on the river squeezed this enormous volume of sea water, the same way a nozzle would. This created whitewater rapids, which peaked at high tide, the time of the video. Twice a day, the effects of the high tide can be felt more than 80 miles (~ 127 km) inland!
The cormorants, uninhibited by the violent whirlpools and churning foam, repeatedly flew up the water flow, plopped down, and dove out of sight to catch what must have been fish swept inland by the high tide. The birds resurfaced too far for me to tell whether they were visibly fatter.

After I left, the reverse flow would have slowed down as the sea water level began to go down. The sea and river water levels would have become equal, making the river look like a motionless pool for about 20 minutes between the high and low tide (slack tide). As the sea level dropped below the river level, the flow down the river would have grown stronger, until rapids rushed down the river at low tide. The flow down the river would have slowed until the next slack tide half-way to the next high tide. And this cycle of “Reversing Rapids” repeats itself twice a day.
Fern Fossil, New Brunswick Museum, Saint John
Instead of watching the complete cycle, I enjoyed learning more at the Saint John InformationVisitor Centre, seeing fossils and art at the New Brunswick Museum, and shopping indoor at St John’s City Market.
Saint John’s City Market
For more info:

Caroline Hatton's post about the tidal bore at Truro near the Bay of Fundy.

Caroline Hatton's post about the collapse of The Hole on Long Island in the Bay of Fundy.

Caroline Hatton's post about the Bay of Fundy’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A WEEK ON THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII, Guest Post by Paige Arnold, en Français

At the Tropical Botanical Garden, Hilo
My granddaughter Paige, age 12, attends a French/English bilingual school in California and her summer vacation assignment was to write a journal in French of her activities. In August, our extended family spent a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, staying in a rented house on the Kohala Coast. Here is Paige's report of our trip from her journal:
Green Sea Turtle at Kiholo Beach
Nous sommes resté la pour 6 jours et 5 nuits.  Le premier jour, nous sommes allé pour une promenade sur la plage.  Nous sommes allé la car il supposait avoir des tortues.  Nous avons vu 3 tortues, un sur la plage, et deux dans une petit étang qui était juste derrière la plage.  On a aussi vu beaucoup de chèvres, car il y à beaucoup de chèvres sauvages en Hawaii. 

Biking to the beach
On à retourné au maison, puis on à parti pour une diffèrent plage, celui la était une plage pour nager.  On a nagé pour à peu près 2 heures et demi, puis on est allé au maison encore.  Après ça, mon père et moi ont allé sur un balade à vélo pour voir un autre plage.  Il y avait des chats, et j’ai juste joué avec les chats pendant que mon père parlait avec des autres adultes qui était la.

View of Waipio Valley beach from overlook
La deuxieme jour, nous sommes allés à Hilo pour marcher dans les jardins botaniques, et on à arrête quand on était mi-chemin pour regarder le “Waipio Valley”.  Il pleuvait, donc on pouvait que voir le falaise à l’autre côté du vallée.  Il y avait aussi des petits chats, et une avait des yeux bleus perçants qui était très jolie. 
Il y a aussi beaucoup de chats sauvages sur l'ile Hawaii.  
Quand nous sommes arrivés au jardins botaniques, il ne pleuvait pas, ce qui était très bien.  On à passé à peu près une heure et demi dans les jardins botaniques, ce qui était très beau, et puis nous sommes allés manger le lunch au “Hilo Bay Café” en Hilo.  Il servait beaucoup de sushi et poisson, et c'était tous très bien. 

Mon cousin et moi ont exploré un peu, et nous avons arrive à prendre une noix de coco d’un palmier.  Pendant notre temps en Hawaï, nous avons attrapé pleins de noix de coco, mais on devait les laisser là.  
Après qu’on à mis le noix de coco dans le tronc du voiture, on est allé jouer dans un parc avec un étang et beaucoup de banians.

Banyan tree in Lilioukalani Gardens, Hilo
Après ça, on à retourné au maison et allé à la plage.   
Paddle boarding at Mauna Lani Beach Club
Le troisième jour, nous sommes juste allé à la plage à Mauna Lani Beach Club.  On a loué des planches à pagaie, et comme j’ai un peur de poissons, j’ai juste mis des lunettes de plongée et regarde les poissons du surface avec juste mon tête dans l’eau.  Ça c'était très amusant.  Le jour suivant, nous avons joué au poker dans le matin, et un de mes cousins, mon père, ma grand mère, ma tante, et moi ont allé au piscine pendant l'après midi. 

With my parents at Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant
Pour le dîner, nous sommes allé au Lava Lava Beach Club.  On à mangé sur la plage, et on pouvait regarder le coucher du soleil pendant qu’on mangeait, ce qui était très beau.  Le dernier jour, moi et quelques autres personnes ont alle au plage très très tôt, car personne était là et c'était très beau et silencieux.  Ça c'était aussi le jour qu’on à parti pour Oakland.  Mes parents et moi ont manger le lunch à “Rebel Café”, puis on a parti pour l'aéroport.  J’ai fait plein de choses pendant l'été, et en tout c'était très amusant.

Monday, August 27, 2018


Mission San Juan Capistrano, California
Two weeks ago, when my family was visiting in Los Angeles, we wanted to get together with my brother, who lives in San Diego. We decided to meet half-way, at the beach in San Clemente, followed by lunch nearby in San Juan Capistrano and a visit to the Mission.
San Clemente Beach and Pier
We arrived at San Clemente at mid-morning and after parking our car in the lot just above the pier, followed the path along the beach and picked out a spot to spread our towels. It was a weekday, and the beach was not crowded despite the warm weather. The tide was out and the waves just the right size for boogie boarding. I got my feet wet as I walked along the sand, but the ocean in California is always too cold for me. I never swim–I leave that to younger family members. By the time we left for lunch, the morning fog had lifted and it was a bright, sunny day.
The Amtrak station at San Clemente is right at the beach.
After a tasty lunch at Ciao Pasta restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, we crossed the street to visit the Mission, taking the self-guided audio tour with the audio wands.
Lily pond in the mission courtyard
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded twice, once in 1775, then abandoned and refounded in 1776. Mission San Juan Capistrano became the seventh of twenty-one missions to be founded in Alta California. Like the previous six missions, San Juan Capistrano was established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain, and to spread Christianity to the Native peoples of California. For more about the history of this mission, click HERE.
Swallow nests, built of mud on the mission walls
For many people, the first thing they think of in connection with Mission San Juan Capistrano, is the swallows, which, according to tradition arrive on the first day of spring, or St. Josephs Day, and build their nests under the eaves of the mission buildings. On our visit, in August, we saw the empty nests but no swallows.
Statue of Father Junipero Serra outside the mission chapel. Saint Junípero Serra y Ferrer, O.F.M., was a Roman Catholic Spanish priest and friar of the Franciscan Order who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, in what was then Alta California in the Province of Las Californias, New Spain. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988, in Vatican City.
View into the chapel
The mission grounds are a historical site, providing a glimpse into what life was like in the early days of California. The mission grew most rapidly during the years between its founding and 1812, when many of the buildings were destroyed by an earthquake. After that it gradually declined and then in 1834 the Mexican government disbanded the mission system and the property was sold. The restoration of the mission and its grounds and its development as a museum were spearheaded by Charles Lummis who, along with other notable Californians, founded the Landmarks Club in the early 1900s to save the California Missions.
Covered walkway provided shelter from sun and rain
Today, as one tours the grounds of the mission one can see the rooms where the padres lived and ate, the soldiers barracks, Junipero Serra’s chapel, gardens, a cemetery, workshops and more. There is even a small library. I was interested to see that even in the early days, books played an important role in the life of the Mission. (See my recent post at my Art and Books blog.) 
Central courtyard
Beautiful gardens filled with flowers, fountains, and butterflies decorate the central courtyards. Surrounding the courtyards are mission rooms which are bordered by colonnades that provide welcome shade on a hot day.
Tallow cooking stoves melted animal fat for use in making soaps, for leather work and cooking.
The Mission continues efforts in preservation, with the help of donations each year. Although the Mission is owned by the Catholic Church, it is run by a non-profit organization. This means Mission San Juan Capistrano does not receive any funding from the Catholic Church, State, or Federal Government for operation or preservation. It depends entirely on the generous contributions of visitors and benefactors. With the help of the public, the Mission can continue to be a an inspirational historic, cultural, and religious site.

Getting there: We drove to San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano (about one and a half hours or so on the 405 and 5 freeways from West Los Angeles) but one can also take Amtrak from downtown Los Angeles. The stop in San Juan Capistrano is just a short distance from the Mission; the stop in San Clemente it is right at the pier.
More info: For hours, ticket prices and more information go to the Mission website:

Monday, August 20, 2018

MADRID, SPAIN: Arts and Food, Guest Post by Humberto Gutierrez-Rivas

Plaza Mayor

My son in law Humberto recently went to Madrid for business and in his spare time enjoyed many of the sights and tastes of the city. As he learned, "When in Madrid, do as Madrileños do..." Here is his report:

Enjoy the Arts 

I got to Madrid in the early morning of July 15.  Having just 12 hours on my own, I decided that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the works of Dali and Picasso, which are housed in the Museo de la Reina Sofia.
Museo Reina Sofia

3 examples of Dali works: Early and Surrealist

Another great museum I did not have the chance to visit is El Museo del Prado, the Spanish national museum. 
Museo del Prado

Enjoy "La Marcha"

The Madrid metro was an excellent way to get around the whole city with its 12 lines. Having a pair of comfortable shoes was also a plus. I found myself exploring the city going from one narrow street the next, and from one plaza to the next.
Madrid Metro - Line 2

During the week, after my meetings, I decided to go out and explore.  It was not just me, everybody seems to be out and about.  Street "Tavernas" and many of the smaller plazas around the center of the city were an opportunity to take a break from the walk and enjoy a sangria with tapas.  Every night at 10:30 PM, I was just getting started with my dinner and would not go to bed until midnight.  This was the pattern of my life for 4 days.  Just perfect for someone who likes to walk, eat, and go to bed late. 

Looking forward to going back to Madrid!

Narrow streets lead to Plaza Mayor. 

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Santa Ana
Taverna "La Plateria"

Sangria and Gazpacho

My new discovery, Eggplants with honey

Tapas: Salmon and Tuna

Tapas: Bacalao (Cod)