Getty Center

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The Getty Center in the Brentwood section of Los Angles is an amazing feat of architecture. Designed to allow maximum viewing along with introspection from all areas; it is a place to go just to enmesh yourself in the soul of a building. Screw the art!

The Getty was built in 1997 and designed by Robert Meier. Bountiful gardens and vistas open up throughout the facility giving visitors a chance to be one with the glory of nature. With outdoor sculptures and numerous lavish fountains dotting the 24 acre complex it makes for a full-scale outdoor art experience.

Of course, the Getty, viewing one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world  by artists such as van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Delacroix; is an amazing experience.

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For those with an interest in illuminated manuscripts and old photographs; the Getty Center doesn’t disappoint.   But for the kids, the best part of the trip to the Getty will be riding the tram up the mountain from the subterranean parking garage.

The Getty Center is closed Mondays and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and January 1. Parking is $15. Admission is free. There is also a lovely restaurant that offers expensive food served up with incredible views.

 

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Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

If you are like me lighthouses hold a deep fascination. It’s not just the buildings themselves that pull at my heart but its also the people who dedicated their lives to ensuring that passing ships were not swallowed up by the sea.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse on the Mendocino Coast is nothing short of breathtaking. The lighthouse hugs this wild and windy shoreline like a blanket, warming and protecting the boats which pass by headed to distant ports around the world.  Wildlife is abundant. Walk quietly and you will see the deer grazing, some eagles soaring, and most likely you will be able to hear the seals bark; as the Fresnel lends patrols the outer coast for a distance of 13-15 miles, 24/7.

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This lighthouse was constructed in 1908 and was lit for the first time at midnight on June 10, 1909. The point was chosen to increase and protect maritime travel as boats picked up loads of timber that were harvested from the Redwood forests which stretched from mountain tops straight down to the sea. When you visit today you will be able to view the lighthouse as well as the three keepers residences, the Oil House, the Blacksmith and Carpentry shop along with various outbuildings.

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Personally, I think that the best time to visit this beautiful piece of the world is in late November – February or Mid-February to early May. This is when the Gray Whales migrate from Alaska down to Baja, Mexico to birth their young and then make the trip back with their calf in tow. Watching them spout and breach from the lighthouse sends a “HAPPY” chill straight down your spine and a sense of awe exploding throughout your brain.

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One of the many things I like about lighthouses and their grounds is that they are often available to rent for short stays and Point Cabrillo’s accommodations are amongst the best. The Head Lightkeeper’s House, The 2nd Assistant’s House and two cabins, all of which have been historically restored, are ideal for family vacations. Best of all they are reasonably priced, not cheap, but in-line for this type of experience.

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The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is open, like most state parks from sunrise to sunset, but many of the exhibits are only available from the hours of 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.  To rent the houses contact:DSC03920

 

 

Yurts Amongst The Sequoias

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About five hours from my home lies the Giant Sequoia National Monument. It is located in a relatively unknown part of the Sequoia National Forest and it is magnificent. Here at the Trail of 100 Giants you will find over 125 giant sequoias with bases in excess of 10 ft in diameter along with hundreds of lesser bodied trees. The tallest tree rises 220 ft into the air and many of these beauties are over 1,000 years old. They are truly a site to behold as their leaves dance in the soft breezes that flow through the grove.

If you venture up along the Western Divide Highway you will arrive at  The Trail of 100 Giants which is approximately 45 miles from Kernville or 15 miles from California Hot Springs. It has an easily accessible paved walking trail that is almost 1.5 miles in length. Quaint bridges and interpretive signs dot the trail and wildlife can be found feasting on the leaves of the plants growing alongside the trees.

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This is a place our family likes to come. The walk is lovely and when the summer sun is scorching the valley you can count on it being 10-15 degrees cooler. There are also camping and toilet facilities across the road at the Redwood Meadow Campground that have been there for years unchanged. So this past week we were in for a surprise when we entered the campground to find yurt camping available. The yurts had been brought in the previous week and they sat in amongst the trees with glorious views of the nearby meadow.

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According to the manager the yurts were renting for $75 per night and sleep 4. I have to say they are a wonderful addition to the park and they provide another interesting way to experience the beauty of this glorious area.

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To reserve a spot call:

IMG_8519FYI: The Trail of 100 Giants is only accessible during the summer and sometimes early fall before the snow falls.

Ahwhanee Hotel in Yosemite

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One of the great United States Park Service hotels is undoubtedly the Ahwahanee located in Yosemite National Park. Opened in 1927 it is considered to be a masterpiece of U.S. Park Service Rustic architecture and hospitality but it has also served its troops well too. Back during WWII the Ahwahanee served as a rehabilitation hospital for Naval troops with a skiing program put into place to help the soldiers regain their strength. But its greatest honor occurred in 1987 when it became one of the premier destinations on the National Historic Registry.

It really doesn’t matter what season you visit you will always find the service impeccable and the views breathtaking. Yet, if I were planning a vacation here I would avoid the summer when the place is packed and the weather is often uncomfortably hot.  Personally, my favorite time to venture here is in the winter when the Ahwhanee is all decked out for Christmas. Using ornaments and decorations from a bygone era it is step back into history.  And perhaps the most coveted ticket in this neck of the woods is the one to the annual Bracebridge dinner held during the holiday season.  Here fortunate guests travel back to Christmas past, feasting all evening on delicacies and local wines while enjoying entertainment that might have been served up in a manor in the 1600’s. So alluring is the show that people sign up years in advance for a part in the production and famed photographer Ansel Adams was once one of the performers.

One thing I love to do while here is to sign up for the Ahwahnee Tour and History walk. Here hotel experts will fill you in on how the hotel was constructed and you’ll learn interesting Hotel tidbits like the fact that the chairs in the drawing room were made to purposely tip you up towards the windows so you always have an amazing view.

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As you can plainly see the  Ahwahnee Hotel is an amazing place of natural beauty and even if you cannot get reservations you can certainly stop in for a stroll and a cool glass of ice tea. But more importantly, take the time to wander outdoors. Cross over a bridge or two and watch the mist from the waterfalls soar into the sky. And if you are lucky, you might just see some of these beautiful creatures…but don’t get too close… because Momma bear is near and she would be happy to have you for breakfast.

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Finally, one of the biggest disappoints regarding the Ahwahnee is the despicable behavior of the Delaware North corporation which operated this park until it lost its lease bid to a rival company. Unfortunately, this greedy corporation is claiming rights of ownership to the names of all of the buildings in the park and today the Ahwahnee is being renamed after almost 100 years. It is a disgrace and I refuse to refer to this hotel by anything but its original name. In fact, I urge you to join me in a boycott of Delaware North properties and airport concessions. You can also let this malicious corporation know about your displeasure of their name grab of our historic buildings by contacting Victoria Hong Director of Corporate Communications at the corporate headquarters at this email address:vhong@delawarenorth.com

Railtown 1897-Jamestown, CA

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Okay, all you railroad buffs, today we are going on an adventure extraordinaire. It’s time to climb aboard the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California. This 26 acre site offers a freight depot with an incredible roundhouse which you can explore until your hearts content.The original turntable still works and there are many passenger cars along with other interesting and rare railroad equipment. But best of all there are several powerful steam engines, including the famous Engine #3, which has appeared in many movies and TV shows including Little House On The Prairie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Lassie.

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Railtown 1897 is a place to venture back to days gone by. It’s a place to bring young and old a like. Here you can climb onto steam locomotives, stroll vintage passenger cars, and walk the floors of the waiting room at the depot.  And if you are really lucky “Grandma Jean” will give you a personal tour of everything you need to know about this unique and exciting State Park including these tidbits:

  1. The drier the steam the more powerful the engine
  2. The taller the wheels the faster it goes

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But perhaps one of the most interesting things about this State Park is the fact that it has a fully functioning engine repair and restoration facility and you can actually watch as they fix the old engines that arrive for an overhaul. That is worth the price of admission alone!

If you want to ride the trains the best time to visit is in the summer for summer time brings wildflower train rides and steam train excursions. From April to October, trains operate every Saturday and Sunday, departing from the Railtown Depot at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Excursion tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth 6-17 and children 5 and under ride for free.

For further information go to:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/railtown

You are going to love this place!

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Borax Visitors Center-Boron, CA

For the past 10 years driving along desolate Hwy 58 running between California and Las Vegas out in the Mojave Desert; I have seen the sign for the Boron Museum and promised myself that I would stop “next time.” Well, that “next time” always came and went waiting for the “next time” to appear. This weekend I stopped. I’m glad I did.

It’s a little creepy taking a road to “nowhere.”  While you see the Boran Operations ahead, the road to the museum goes straight past and up a high gravel road to the top where the Borax Visitor Center sits. It’s a strange and lonely drive.

Once there we explored the outside first where a life sized replica of a Twenty Mule Team is hitched up to carts of Borax ready to make the dangerous ride down the mountain and through the high desert. You will also find a 100 ton truck tire, picnic shelter, and the headframe from the original underground mine. Climb the small hill at the back of the center for stunning view of the open pit mine which descends an amazing 850 ft down. Hard to believe this was an underground mine until the 1950’s!

The Borax Visitor’s Center is small but educational. Retired miners act as guides through the mining process and do they ever know their stuff. Ask them any question and they have the answer. From huge rocks of Borate, to displays of all the products that contain borate, and models of the different parts of the plant below; this is the place you want to go to learn all about borate mining.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the short film that was shown in the theatre. While very educational it felt more like a company promotional piece than a sincere desire to teach visitors more about the mining process. But the highlight of it all was the opening of the back curtain to see the vast 2 mile long mine which mines over three million tons of ore every year. It truly is an amazing site.

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This is one of those short off-road breaks. Give yourself about an hours time to look around, visit the gift shop, view the films and the displays.

Just a few of the products that use borates:

Space Shuttle tiles

Cleaners

Cosmetics

Teflon Cooking Utensils

Sparklers

Fertilizers

Cosmetics

Shower Curtains

Fiberglass

Motor Oils

 

The Visitors Center is located in Boron, CA and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m.- 4:45 p.m. excluding major holidays. This is a FREE museum and they even give you your own sample of Borax to take home with you!

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Sometimes Pictures Say It All-Sierra Mountains of California

California has been hit with a massive drought for many years. Dry reservoirs, dry creek beds and my dry dead lawn are just a few of the things that were immediately apparent last year. Less so were the towns whose wells had run dry so people were having to truck in water for basic needs. Huge sinkholes began appearing due to the disappearing underground aquifers. Entire lakes almost vanished.

Where I live we depend on the snow pack of the Sierra Mountains to supply us with water year round. Water for trees, fruits and vegetables, human beings and swimming pools. We live in the high desert but grow food to feed the world. It is insane.

Last year the snowpack  was 5% of normal. About 20% the year before.  Nothing grew except the massive fire danger from the dead and dying trees. This year the snowpack was 90% of normal…a huge improvement and everyone is smiling again. For now. Because usually after an El Nino we are followed by years of further drought. We can only hope it doesn’t play out this way next winter.

Today I thought I would share pictures we took while up hiking in the mountains today where wild flowers are growing in huge swaths of bouquets over entire mountainsides. It’s a place where the sound of water is once again pounding down the ravines… LOUD, crisp, and clear. And its where the bears are disappearing (hopefully) up into the back country where they belong. Because in these parts, where bears break into cabins and destroy everything in site including the entire building; bears are referred to as giant rats and some folk shoot them for doing what they do best…getting in to everything and everywhere.

So today I hope you enjoy these pictures of my part of the country.

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Henderson’s Shooting Stars

Red flowers-unsure of name     California Poppies and Lupine

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A Brain Mushroom

Ancient Native American site

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Tree visited by too many woodpeckers

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Yep, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. Thank goodness for the snows of the winter!

 

 

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Conquering The Fear

 

Okay, I am not a big spender. I prefer things that are FREE and I plan my vacations to take in as many of these as humanly possible. But today I splurged. After an eight hour doctor visit I decided my son had earned a big reward so we went to iFLY- the place that gives you a taste of skydiving courtesy of HUGE indoor wind tunnel.

I had not planned on going. It was against everything thrifty in my nature but after arriving I decided “Damn, I am going!”

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There was a reason for my reluctance. I am deathly afraid of heights.  Relinquishing control in any way, shape or form to someone else is also a big NO-NO in my book. But I decided that this would be a way to kill two birds with one stone….or just me anyway. So I shelled out $139 for two people (which includes your two videos) and watched the group before us take to the sky. Frankly, watching them scared the living **** out of me and several times I almost went back up to the cashier to get my money back. But my mind was changed for me when K said, “I am so glad we are doing this together. It will be a great memory.” GULP. There was no way I was going to back out now!

One half-hour before our 6 p.m. fly time we were called back to watch the instructional video where hand signals were discussed as well as the way to enter and exit the tunnel. It appeared to be easy peasy! I just prayed I didn’t knock the guy unconscious with my big feet and float to the top slamming my body against the walls all the way up. After all, there must be a reason they make you sign a release stating you have never dislocated your shoulder!

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Next we suited up and were provided with goggles and helmets. A few quick selfies and it was into the chamber we went looking like lambs being lead to slaughter.  I was the last to go and by then I had watched who flew well and who didn’t so I had the position engraved into my mind. WHOOSH! I was in. Chin up. Check. Arms bent and out in front of face. Check. Legs split. Check. And off I flew…kind of. At first I would say I vibrated and rocked like a baby on a rocking horse. After a few seconds though I got the hang of it…all except that drooling thing. I think spit must have been flying everywhere!

All in all it was a lot of  short time indoor fun for a lot of hard earned money but I am not complaining. Nor am I looking to go skydiving from a plane anytime soon. I am just happy to have had the experience and to have let go of a few of those fears. In that vein, iFLY is cheaper than a session with a shrink!

iFLY has multiple locations throughout the United States and the world. HINT: Coupons are available to make your first fly cheaper. Costco has discounts available.

 

 

 

 

Exploratorium-Embarcadero at San Francisco

Billing itself as a public learning laboratory the Exploratorium encourages kids and adults alike to use science, art, and their senses to explore the world around them. Located on the Embarcadero this stunning location on the wharf is worth the cost of admission in and of itself.

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The kids will easily want to spend the entire day visiting the hands-on exhibits. During one hour they may spend their time learning how neurons react while actually working with them and perhaps learning about Mars while investigating its many up close and personal images. Many times throughout the day children can take classes in subjects such as model plane building and flying. Rotating exhibits often include astonishing art which encourages visitors to use machines that allow sculptures to change shape and purpose. And using a vocal visualizer will delight your kids as they use their voices to transform laser lights into incredible shapes and patterns. With both inside and outside venues it allows the little ones to burn off some energy easily.

This place is science as it is meant to be explored but mostly it is just a place where your kid can engage in FUN!

When everyone gets in need of their own fuel you can head down to the eatery. The food is good but be prepared to shell out some dough for fresh salads and homemade mac and cheese. After noshing down head out to one of the decks where you can glimpse the bridge and watch the boats ply the waters.

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The Exploratorium also sponsors “After Dark Nights” programs for adults only. Here you can have a lesierly dinner and sip a few cocktails too. Pairings are also offered featuring some of the best organic foods in the area. Obviously, this is a great place to meet like minded folk and I suspect it is probably a better pick up place than the local grocery store!

HINT: Yes, I agree completely that ticket prices of  $29 for adults is a bit pricey but if you invest in a CITY PASS in which discounts are provided to some of the areas favorite tourist sites then you can save 44%. Prices are a little less for youth and FREE to kids 3 and under. But smart San Franciscans wait until the six annual FREE days to visit and California Public School Teachers can receive free entry by filling out a form online. Check the website for dates.

Sonora Celtic Festival-Sonora, CA

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The Sonora Celtic Festival is undoubtedly one of the biggest Celtic festivals in the nation and with thirty years experience of throwing a HUGE shindig these people know how to put on a show.

This years bands were once again totally amazing. With Celtica, Wicked Tinkers, Tempest and Golden Bough fronting the stage you couldn’t help but rock and reel. Of course there are many amazing pipe bands who drone you out including the Stag and Thistle Pipe Band out of Fresno, California.

One of the largest living history villages celebrating over 2000 years of Celtic history is set up for the weekend. Here you will find dedicated folk cooking, eating, dressing, and celebrating as they did so long ago. Jousting by the Imperial Knights and The Highland Throwers also give you a thrilling taste of the sport back in the day. And whatever you do stay out of the way of the armored fighters or you might just feel the slick metallic edge of the sword against your neck.

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While there you must stop into the clan booths and find out about “your people” and the history of the clans in Scotland. There are also over 100 Celtic craftsmen, artisans and vendors displaying their wares.

And of course there is the food. Roasted turkey legs, meat pies and haggis are a few of the family favorites which we eat while watching the Irish step and Scottish highland dancers. But the best offering  bar none is the whiskies and ales. You must do a taste test to discover your favorite belly warming drink.

The Sonora Celtic Festival is held every March in Sonora, California. To learn more visit:

http://www.sonoracelticfaire.com/