Thursday, December 30, 2010

Point Mugu SP

On Saturday after Thanksgiving, Manja, Bartek, Kubus, Anil and I went for a short hike in Point Mugu SP, located in the Santa Monica Mountains 30 miles north of Malibu. The park is very pretty and diverse. It features several miles of ocean shoreline, sandy beaches, two major river canyons, rugged hills and uplands, and even a sand dune.

In the park we decided to go for a hike in Big Sycamore Canyon as we were hoping to see monarch butterflies, which migrate here every fall. Unfortunately, we just saw a few isolated butterflies here and there, no bigger colonies.

Still, hiking on the Sycamore Canyon Trail was very pleasant. It was definitely a perfect "family" hike as it was level and wide, and it led through a pretty canyon with big sycamores. Kubus probably enjoyed it the most of all of us, and he showed great interest in both stones and sycamore leaves.

Our fearless leader, Kubus:


Anil and I:

The Sycamore Canyon Trail:

Manja, Bartek and Kubus:

Hwy 1 leading through Point Mugu SP:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cavern Point Hike - Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands NP

On Santa Cruz Island we went for a hike to Cavern Point. It was a short (2 mile round-trip), but extremely beautiful hike. It started with a steep climb up the cliff, but it was level afterward. Kubus insisted of walking it himself and he did a very good job at that. I enjoyed watching him as much as I enjoyed the magnificent views offered by the hike.

Scorpion Harbor:

Views from the trail to the Scorpion Beach:

Husband and I:

Beautiful Cavern Point Trail:


Kubus walking and falling:

Cavern Point:

I'm taking photos of sea lions swimming 300ft below, and Bartek is taking photos of me:

Manja and Bartek:

Rocks in Scorpion Harbor:

Santa Cruz Island as seen from the boat:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boat Trip to Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands NP

The main reason why we decided to meet with Manja, Bartek and Kubus in Santa Barbara, was to visit Channel Islands NP. During the winter season only two islands that are closest to the coast (Anacapa and Santa Cruz) can be visited. We decided to go to Santa Cruz, which is the bigger of the two (and also the largest of all Channel Islands).

Boats for Santa Cruz island leave from Ventura Harbor and take around one hour to get to Scorpion Anchorage, located in the eastern part of the island. (It takes another twenty minutes to get to Prisoners Harbor, located in the middle of the island. Notice that boats for Anacapa leave from Oxnard Harbor.)

The Channel Islands and their encircling waters are home to over 2'000 plants and animals, 145 of which are endemic. We did not see too many of them on Santa Cruz island, but both on the way to the island and back to the shore, we saw numerous marine animals. Some of them are on the photos below.

On the way back to the shore we got lucky to encounter a bigger group of dolphins that was following our boat for a few minutes:

American boat, American flag:

On the boat:

If you are a sealion, any place is good to rest:

Both the Channel Islands and the coast near Santa Barbara are popular with pelicans:

Ventura Harbor:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Dear Friends!

I might be far away, but I am thinking about you and sending you the warmest Christmas wishes.

May joy and happiness snow on you,
may the bells jingle for you
and may Santa be extra good to you! 

Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness Area

After a short hike to Nojoqui Falls, we decided to go for another hike. We wanted to hike to the Inspiration Point located in the Santa Barbara foothills, but there was not a single free parking spot within a mile of its trailhead! So instead we went to Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness Area, which is also located in the Santa Barbara foothills.

In Rattlesnake Canyon we went for a 6-mile (9.7 km) hike to the upper end of the canyon, all the way up onto Gibraltar Road. It took us 2h 40min to hike there and back, during which we gained, and then lost, 1550ft (473 m) in elevation. The first part of the trail was relatively level and it followed a creek through a forest, whereas the second part of the trail was steep and exposed.

Anil was so not impressed with the hike that he several times suggested turning back, but I insisted on going to the very end of it, as my hiking book promised spectacular views of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands from the top of the canyon. The views were indeed nice, but I am not sure if they were worth the hike, especially that one can get to the same place where the hike ends by car... I guess one can not expect every hike to be spectacular.

A creek flowing through Rattlesnake Canyon:

The views from the trail:

The views from Gibraltar Road:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nojoqui Falls

On the way to Santa Barbara Anil and I stopped for a short hike in Nojoqui Falls County Park near Gaviota, 40 miles north of Santa Barbara.

According to my guidebook the falls were supposed to be "impressive", even if there was not too much water flowing in them. However, both Anil and I found them disappointing. Not only because they were hardly flowing, but also the hike leading to them was nothing special. Luckily it was a short hike (0.5 miles/0.8 km round trip), so afterward we still had time for another hike.

On the plus side, the park is good for families with kids as there are many picnic tables, sports and play fields. There is no fee to visit it.

Nojoqui Falls:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hwy 101 & Thanksgiving 2010

This year's Thanksgiving we spent with our friends Manja, Bartek and their 16-month-old son Jakub (Kubus). Together, we went on a trip to Santa Cruz Island, which is one of the five islands forming Channel Islands NP, and we also went hiking in Point Mugu SP, located 15 miles south of Oxnard. It was fun to experience those two things with a little curious boy :)

Anil and I also went for two short hikes by ourselves, both in Santa Barbara area. The first one was to Nojoqui Falls, and the second one was to a viewpoint located in Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness. These hikes, even though they were supposed to be the area's prettiest, were just okay by the Bay Area hikes standard. Yet again we got reminded how lucky we are to live in San Francisco. Over the course of several next posts, I am going to describe all those hikes in a bit more detail.

The main point of this posts is to say that not only the world-famous Highway 1, but also its younger and less famous sister, Highway 101, is very beautiful. In Southern and Central California it is known as El Camino Real (The Royal Road), as its route approximates the old trail which linked the Spanish missions, pueblos, and presidios. Moreover, for almost 60 miles between Ventura and Gaviota it runs directly next to the ocean:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nameless Lane

In Fort Bragg there is an interesting street that goes by the name "Nameless":

Monday, December 13, 2010

San Francisco by Night

Last Saturday my brother and sister in law were visiting San Francisco, and we met them on top of Twin Peaks. The views from there are always fantastic, but this last Saturday they were simply unsurpassed. The lighting was perfect, there were no clouds above the downtown, the air was crisp, and the western part of the city was covered by a beautiful fog blanket.

I like to think that San Francisco looked so beautiful especially for us that night, to remind us, that no matter where our travels take us, this is our home and we are lucky to live here, in the most beautiful city in the world.

San Francisco basking in the sunset light:

The top of Twin Peaks:

Golden Gate Bridge:

Church in a fog:

Bay Bridge:

San Francisco, my love:

Foggy city:

My family:

We are off to Peru and offline for the next 3 weeks. But even when we are gone, there will be new posts appearing here. Enjoy, be good and well, and hope to see you all in the New Year!

Grand Canyon Backpacking: All Posts

Oh boy, it does feel good to finish things. Hereby I declare that I have finally completed and published all posts from my Grand Canyon Backpacking Adventure! Here they are:
  1. Grand Canyon - South Kaibab Trail
  2. Grand Canyon - Bright Angel Campground
  3. Grand Canyon - Clear Creek Trail
  4. Grand Canyon - Plateau Point Trail
  5. Grand Canyon - Bright Angel Trail

I still have around 80 unfinished posts. More or less half of them are from my 2006 trip to Africa (yes, 2006...) and the other half are from the 2009 trip to India. (Update: I've recently started working on the posts from India, and I'm planning to be posting them here throughout January till the middle of February.)

I have no idea when I will get around to working on posts from Africa - I think I would need at least a month off from work to finish them. Or at least not travel at all during the next year. The latter one is definitely not going to happen.

We are about to leave for Peru, and then also next year we plan to visit my family in Poland, Anil's family in India and hopefully also go for at least a week of holidays by ourselves (e.g. maybe on a road trip to Yellowstone NP, or along the coast all the way to Seattle). Taking a month off also does not seem likely right now, unless we will win a lottery :) (We really should start playing...)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grand Canyon - Plateau Point Trail

From Indian Garden we went for a short (3.2 miles/5.2 km round-trip) hike to Plateau Point, which provides absolutely fantastic views of Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. As we were staying at Indian Garden for a night, we were able to hike to Plateau Point late during the day and catch a sunset there. That made our experience even better, though I think views from Plateau Point are spectacular at any time of a day (and maybe even night, if there is a full moon).

The Plateau Point Trail is very easy and almost completely flat, so it can be hiked without any problems even during a night. We spent a good hour at Plateau Point enjoying the view of the late evening sun kissing Grand Canyon goodnight, and only started hiking back to our camp when it started to get dark. By the time we reached Indian Garden, it was pitch-dark and most other hikers were getting ready to sleep. We, however, gathered for the last meal together, which was a special treat prepared by our friend Carsten. Imagine that he made a cheesecake and carried it all the way down the canyon (and a half way up) to share with us!

Grand Canyon and the Colorado River at sunset:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grand Canyon - Bright Angel Trail

We decided to hike out of Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail as it is the canyon's easiest trail connecting its bottom and rim. It is well maintained, at regular intervals it has taps with drinking water, and there is even a ranger station located at the trail’s halfway point.

It takes 9.6 miles (15.5 km) and 4'320 feet (1'137 m) to get from Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon to the canyon's rim. It is a distance that certainly could be covered during one day, but we decided to split it into two. We figured that it would be more enjoyable and less exhausting that way.

During the first day we hiked 4.7 miles (7.6 km) and, in a result, got 1320 feet (404 m) closer to the rim of the canyon. It took us only around 3-3.5h to cover this distance, so after setting up the camp and resting for a bit, we decided to catch a sunset at Plateau Point.

On the second day we needed to hike remaining 4.9 miles (7.9 km) and more than twice as much in the elevation change (3060 feet/933 m) as on the previous day. That was definitely the most physically exhausting day of our trip. Still, all of us did very well and we kept a good speed. (It took us 4h to cover this distance, which I think is pretty decent taking into account the elevation change and that we carried heavy backpacks.)

The hike starts with a river crossing:

The view of Grand Canyon from the trail:

Near Indian Garden we got lucky and saw several Californian Condors:

Indian Garden is located in a beautiful green valley:

On the second day the trail was much steeper:

The hikers share the trail with the mules:

The last glimpse of Grand Canyon: