Santas go Surfing

Santas go Surfing on Coronado Beach

Santas go Surfing on Coronado Beach

Part of why this is so strange is that it’s my first Christmas in paradise and seeing people surf on Christmas Eve day is still novel. Trained beach lifeguards gather at 9:00 AM and hit the water in waves. That it’s not so notable to the locals goes to show you how new we are to the area because the surfing crowd easily outnumbered the spectators.

However, you too can gawk with us here.  Continue reading

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Move West?

Cups of yum on Coronado as we work our way down the coast.

Moving East was never in the cards but now we’ve lived in the D.C. metro area for over 20 years. Not planned but it happened. Not since Courtney was six weeks old have we lived in the West. Not since 1990 have we called California home. Not throughout our daughters’ entire childhoods did we call any place other than Maryland or Virginia “home”. Now that the nest is empty Beth and I are considering a move to better living out west.
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Virgin Islands National Park

It was a day for wearing white and orange it seems. And why not? We were on vacation!

My wife is smart. After years of planning vacations she’s become really good at finding the right vacation destinations. In this case it was a Caribbean island which was conveniently a part of the U.S., had all the beach resort amenities that my ladies enjoy and lots of outdoor activities which I prefer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is two thirds National Park! It has dramatically beautiful beaches, tremendous hiking trails, great undersea coral gardens, historic ruins and all on a compact  island. Seriously, there was plenty to keep me busy while they baked in the sun. Of the 20 official hiking trails within the park I hiked almost two thirds of them. One took Kelsey and me to the sea where we swam to cool off before returning to our mountain starting point.

We had a great time and may be where we head with grandkids … some day.

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Ladies in San Francisco

Ladies in San Francisco

A cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf is on every tourist’s to do list for San Francisco and why not?! It’s history, it’s charming, it’s a tour and you see a lot of the city. I’ll never tire of the cable car!

This trip was special. On this trip I was joined not only by my daughters Courtney and Kelsey but also by my wife Beth! When the lure is San Francisco and it’s snowy cold back home then I guess they can be coaxed.

They came in two waves toward the end of my time at TechShop. Continue reading

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Camping with Pirates at Two Harbors

Pirate Pier

I did not expect to find hundreds of pirates when I arrived in Two Harbors. Sure, it was the end of Buccaneer Days but I had no idea the zeal to which people got into costume. There was “Argh” aplenty!

Camp sites had been unavailable prior to my arrival. This harbors town in the north of Catalina Island was flooded with 3,000 visitors from the mainland. With no more than a hand full of hotel rooms in the area, everyone had to camp. Not till they left could I reserve a space. Today I caught the exodus.

Flirtatious Pirate

Two Harbors was my base of operations at the start of my hike along the length of Catalina Island on a trail called the Trans-Catalina Trail (or TCT). I started my day in Palm Springs, drove to Long Beach for to the ferry to Avalon where I left my festival clothing, and then boarded a bus for the ride north to my campground. The air was thick with tired reverie, hoarse voices and residual inebriation. Buccaneers had come to have a good time with apparent success. I’d come for an entirely different type of good time and hoped to have similar success. The first stop: set up camp.

While dry and dusty, this desert campground was a stone’s throw from the harbor. What a joy to be in such a beautiful setting. As I assembled my tent I could hear sails luffing, metal clanging against masts, and happy boaters winding down their visit. The place would be quiet by night as everyone went back home and I would have the place to myself.  Continue reading

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A Lighthouse Hostel: Point Montara

Point Montara

How cool is it to spend the night at a lighthouse? If I have to tell you then you lack romance in your heart! It’s awesome!!! Happily I’ve done it several times and twice along the California coast.

The appeal lighthouses hold for me is complicated. Do I understand it?!

First, they’re usually at land’s end overlooking the sea and typically in a tortured locale. The waters are rough or weather tends to be wild and/or the waters nearby are riddles with obstructions. Second, it was often a remote, isolated and hard working life that accompanied the choice of managing a lighthouse. Neighbors were few, towns were distant, and life was lonely. Still, there is a sense of romance in being alone on land and fighting the elements with light to keep safe those men at sea. 

I’m sure it wasn’t romantic in life but from a distance it seems special. Work was physical and hard, the hours and conditions were terrible, and the never ending boredom  must have been mind numbing. Perhaps I’d have found it a romantic life it I’d had automated equipment, a broadband connection and FedEx delivery. Then again, if I had those things they wouldn’t need a lighthouse tender. Darn!

This lighthouse is at Point Montara just south of San Francisco on the coast. It is the second I’ve stayed at in the area. Pigeon Point Lighthouse is the other. Within the Hosteling International network there are many lighthouse hostels but along California’s coast I’ve now stayed in both.

Perhaps I should set as a goal to stay in all of HI’s lighthouse hostels? 

Hmmm … that’s food for thought!  Continue reading

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Views from Mt. Tamalpias

Mt Tam

How can San Francisco be made to look small? Take a picture from far away, from way up high, and use a long lens. From atop Mount Tamalpias in Marin County, the City can become just a feature.

Beth talks fondly about Mt. Tamalpias from the days before we married. She lived and worked for a time in Marin County just north of San Francisco. While climbing Mt Tam has been (and remains) on my list of things to do, I did drive up today and took the short hike around the peak.

The reason I didn’t hike it today was for lack of a trail. For a short few years there existed a tourist train which made the steep ascent via many switch backs up to the peak. It railway started service in 1896 but by 1930 was closed due to a tragic fire that burned down the facility, competition from the new fangled automotive, and the onset of the Great Depression. However, the path of the original tracks exists to be hiked and next time I’ll find them!  Continue reading

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North Peninsula Seashore: Point Reyes

Point Reyes

My hunt for lighthouses will never end. Why? Because invariably I’ll find another gem like Point Reyes Lighthouse. It’s perched high on a cliff, is stunningly beautiful and is in the engagingly wild.

One reason I am passionately in love with the Bay Area peninsulas is the natural beauty preserved in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. This may be the single largest set of parks in one geography managed by the National Park Service. The variety, the extreme beauty, and the wonderful accessibility of it all is very appealing. Recently I finished visiting all these parks so it was time to branch outward … or should I say upward.

Today’s outing was to the next park north of the GGNRA cluster. My destination was Point Reyes National Seashore. When it comes to national and state parks it’s remarkable how quickly you can leave civilization; how soon you can lose cell coverage, be among farms, drive on slow remote roads. When you enter Point Reyes you want to have a full tank of gas!

This park has a distinct geography which is heavily influenced by the San Andreas Fault. Rarely can you see the fault as vividly as along Point Reyes. To the west of the fault are rolling hills and amazing seashore. I made a point of visiting every corner of the park and believe me, it took time. The area is vast and progress can be quite slow but after you arrive you have no doubt but that it was worth every minute of effort. (Recheck gas gauge.)  Continue reading

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Hangin’ Again in San Francisco

Aerospace Museum of California

While visiting my friend Sonny, he expressed an desire to visiting all the air museums across the U.S. Now, when ever I visit or pass by one I send him pictures which I hope will inspire him forward.

I will look for ANY excuse to spend time in San Francisco and this trip I had plenty but primarily Macworld 2011 and visiting incubators. In addition, I’d committed to doing more urban hiking while in good weather and there’s no place like the Bay Area to find good weather. From here I’d head north for my original primary goal, to attend my cousin’s wedding in Portland.  Continue reading

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California’s Glorious Middle Coast

Monarch Butterflies

For a long time I’ve known about the Monarch migration to Guadalajara in Mexico. However, it turns out that Monarchs west of the Rockies head to Pismo Beach where I went and saw thousands!

Normally I drop into a rut when I drive up the California coast: relax, enjoy becomes hurry up, running late. To reset where my rhythm kicks in I reached the coast via a new route. Now I had the luxury of suffering the same pattern but starting at a different spot on the coast.

Back when we lived in Los Angeles, Beth and I talked about living in San Luis Obispo some day. Why? It’s not too complicated an answer. SLO lies along the glorious stretch of California coast, has a large enough population to have all necessary services and benefits from having a local university: Cal Poly Continue reading

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