Beautiful White Pelicans

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on  Bill

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on Bill

White Pelican Flying

White Pelican Flying

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

White pelicans are one of North America’s largest birds.  Their 9 foot wingspan is second only to the American Condor.  They are true snow birds – they spend winter along our southern coasts and head inland and north in summer.  During nesting season, they grow temporary knobs on their bills and have bright yellow around their eyes.  They feed by dipping their pouches into the water, and sometimes work together to corral and scoop up fish.  It is always a treat to see these magnificent birds!

California: Beautiful Yosemite National Park

Yosemite's Granite Mountains

Yosemite’s Granite Mountains

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Yosemite Fall Color

Yosemite Fall Color

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Yosemite National Park is one of our country’s oldest and most beautiful parks.  Its 1,200 square mile wilderness is famous for soaring granite mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and giant sequoias.  Glaciers shaped and polished the granite rocks long ago.  This park is a real treasure – it is one of our nation’s best! 

Summer visitors at Yosemite between 1872-1968 watched the dramatic Firefall Show at Camp Curry every evening.  A fiery “waterfall” was created by slowly and continuously pushing glowing wood embers off Glacier Point to the valley below.  The experience of watching that flowing river of fire while listening to the Indian Love Call song was unforgettable!  Even President Kennedy came by to watch.  Visitor remembrances of the Firefall are at:  http://firefall.info/readers.html.   A fun show about the Firefall by Huell Howser on “California’s Gold” is at:  http://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1996/01/08/firewall-californias-gold-706/  Info about visiting Yosemite is at:   http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Amazing Hummingbirds

Female Allen's Hummingbird

Female Allen’s Hummingbird

Male Allen's Hummingbird

Male Allen’s Hummingbird

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Female Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

Wings of Anna's Hummingbird

Wings of Anna’s Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are known as “flying jewels” because of their beautiful iridescent feathers.  They are the only birds that can rotate their wings in a circle.  They can hover and fly forward, backward, and even briefly upside down.  They are among the smallest of birds, and only live in the Americas.  Their tiny nests are 1.5 inches in diameter – just big enough for two jellybean-size eggs.  Spider silk is used to stick lichens onto the nest for camouflage.  Hummingbirds eat small insects and drink nectar from up to 1,000 flowers per day.  They are a favorite of mine – what sweet little birds!  More fun info is at:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/humm/funfacts.html

Nature at Alcatraz Island National Park

Unusual Low Fog Covering Alcatraz

Unusual Low Fog Covering Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island  - "The Rock"

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock”

Western Gull

Western Gull

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Pigeon Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemot

Beautiful Peach Rose

Beautiful Peach Rose

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Succulent Garden

Succulent Garden

Alcatraz Island National Park is San Francisco’s number one tourist attraction.  Most people visit “The Rock” to learn about its role as a Federal Penitentiary housing criminals such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly (1934-1963).  But some visitors come for a different reason – they come to see its historic gardens and nesting sea bird colonies in spring. 

The gardens were important to everyone living on the island.  Park rangers say the gardens demonstrate the importance of plants to the human spirit.  More info is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/index.php   A self-guiding brochure of the gardens is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/pdf/AZ%20Garden_05_12.pdf

Sea birds nest on the island from February – September.  Birds that breed on the island include California and Western Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s Cormorants, Black-Crowned Night Herons, and Snowy Egrets.  A brochure on the “Waterbirds of Alcatraz” is at:  http://www.nps.gov/alca/naturescience/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=388749

Sea Lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lion Hello

Sea Lion Hello

Sea lions are quite a tourist attraction at San Francisco’s Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The animals first showed up in 1989, and have made their home there ever since.  Sea lion numbers rise and fall with the seasons and food supply.  Activity is lowest in summer, when most of the sea lions migrate south for breeding season.  The animals are endlessly entertaining.  Visitors always laugh when they watch them!  Imagine yourself there with the cool fog on your face,  the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, and these raucous sea lions in front of you.  Adding to the ambiance are the deep booms of a fog horn and sea gulls calling overhead – what fun!  A live cam is at:  http://www.pier39.com/home/the-sea-lion-story/sea-lion-webcam/   

Killdeer Nest at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Gardens

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Lavender Flowers

Lavender Flowers

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

Killdeer nests are a simple depression scraped out of the ground with added bits of sticks, grass, rocks, or shells.  If a predator gets too close, killdeer perform a distraction display.  We knew we were near a nest when this mother killdeer pretended to have a broken-wing – the performance was quite convincing!  We didn’t want to upset her, so we quickly walked away in the other direction.  Just like that she “recovered” and ran back to the 4 eggs safely tucked in her nest.  She couldn’t have picked a more scenic place to raise her family – right in the middle of the lavender gardens at the Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma County, California.  Info on visiting is at:  http://www.matanzascreek.com/

Noisy Fish

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito Marina

Sausalito (north of San Francisco) is famous for its humming toadfish.  In July and August the fish create quite a din under houseboats in the marina.  Each mating call is droned in perfect A flat for at least an hour at a time.  Toadfish hum, growl, and grunt by vibrating the muscles above their swim bladders at 6,000 times per minute – twice the speed of a hummingbird’s wings!  A funny article about a Humming Toadfish Festival there in 1989 is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/26/us/sausalito-journal-voice-of-the-turtle-no-toadfish-love-song.html

Fish have disturbed residents in other places too, such as black drum in Cape Coral, Florida, and cusk eel in Block Island, Rhode Island.  Each time it happens, residents express disbelief that fish could possibly make that much noise!  A delightful article with sound links of various fish is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/science/08fish.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1

Point Lobos: Harbor Seals at China Cove

View of Seals at China Cove from Bird Island Trail

View of Seals at China Cove from Bird Island Trail

Mother and Baby Harbor Seals on Beach

Mother and Baby Harbor Seals on Beach

Harbor Seals Swimming

Harbor Seals Swimming

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (near Monterey, California) is an excellent place to view wildlife.  Hikers on Bird Island Trail can see mother and baby harbor seals on the beach at China Cove every spring.  The patterns of spots on each seal are unique and do not change over time.  A fun fact is that harbor seals can sleep underwater.  More info (especially for kids) is at:  http://www.sealsitters.org/learning/kid_stuff.html

California: Santa Ines Mission

Santa Ines Mission Bell Tower

Santa Ines Mission Bell Tower

Courtyard

Courtyard

Rose Arbor

Rose Arbor

Santa Ines Altar

Santa Ines Altar

Embroidered Lamb

Embroidered Lamb

Chumash Family Statue

Chumash Family Statue

Statue of Santa Ynes

Statue of Santa Ynes

St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

The Santa Ines Mission was founded in 1804 in Solvang, California (near Santa Barbara).  It is nicknamed the “Hidden Gem of the Missions” because of its beautiful location overlooking the Santa Ynez River.  It is one of California’s most well-restored missions, and currently serves about 1,300 families.

Point Lobos: Sea Lion Point and Cypress Grove Trails

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Solid Rock "Beach" at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Solid Rock “Beach” at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Sea Lion Point Trail is one of the most popular places to walk at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey, California.  The trail follows a natural stone staircase down to the Pacific Ocean.  Sea lions can often be heard barking on the rocks offshore.  And if it’s not too foggy, you might even see them too!  Sedimentary rocks along the trail are part of the Carmelo Formation and are over 60 million years old.  Details about the rocks are at:  http://www.pointlobos.org/sites/default/files/The_Rocks.pdf 

Cypress Grove Trail heads north from the Sea Lion Point parking area.  This trail is famous for its extremely rare Monterey cypress trees.  Their striking appearance is the result of constant buffeting by the wind and salt spray.  These trees grow naturally along Monterey Bay at Point Lobos and 17-Mile Drive’s Cypress Point.  A beautiful and interesting quarterly magazine about Point Lobos is at:  http://www.pointlobos.org/general-info/magazine

California: Scenic Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Pacific Sea Star

Pacific Sea Star

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Recently we visited Jalama Beach (north of Santa Barbara, California).  The geology of the area is very interesting.  Walking along the beach it is possible to see sandstone, travertine onyx, and agates.  On a super lucky day you might even see petrified whale bone or fossilized fish.  Naturally-occurring black tar coats a few of the rocks on the beach.  It seeps from oil–bearing rocks along fault lines of the Miocene Monterey Formation.  The seeps can be both onshore (La Brea Tar Pits) and offshore, and are a source for oil and gas production in Southern California.  In the past, native Chumash people used the tar to waterproof their boats.  We saw lots of sea life on the beach, including dozens of starfish, a clump of orange club sea squirts, and several kinds of seaweed.  The road to Jalama Beach (west of Solvang) winds through rolling hills past several wineries.  The landscape is so beautiful that we were momentarily delayed while a Mercedes-Benz C250 car commercial was being filmed in the area!

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Monterey Bay Aquarium occasionally has an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on display in the Open Sea Exhibit.  These fantastic fish have fins at the top and bottom, and a flattened tail at the back.  They can get up to 10 feet long and weigh over 5,000 pounds.  They increase their weight by 60 million times over their lifetime!  Fast growth means that each ocean sunfish at the aquarium is only on display for about a year.  At that point the fish must be airlifted out of the tank by helicopter to its freedom in Monterey Bay. 

Ocean sunfish are related to pufferfish, and feast on jellyfish in the deep ocean.  After diving they like to float sideways at the surface, basking in the warmth of the sun. They are famous for being very curious and approaching divers, and are found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide.  More info is at: http://www.oceansunfish.org/index.php

Monterey Bay Aquarium: An All-Time Favorite!

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance

Open Seas Exhibit

Open Seas Exhibit

Sardines in Kelp Forest

Sardines in Kelp Forest

Grass Rockfish

Grass Rockfish

Pacific Marine Life

Pacific Marine Life

Strawberry Anemone

Strawberry Anemone

Pacific Seahorse

Pacific Seahorse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Leafy Sea Dragon

Blue Spotted Jelly

Blue Spotted Jelly

Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles

Back Deck Overlooking Pacific

Back Deck Overlooking Pacific

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the world!  It is a place that we return to again and again.  It is mesmerizing watching the sea creatures on display.  A wonderful quote at the aquarium says “The sea is as near as we come to another world”.  I highly recommend a visit – it never fails to impress.  More info about the aquarium is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/  More of our posts and pictures on the Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:  http://winegarpics.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/

California Sea Glass – History in Your Hands

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern - perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern – perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

Recently we found amazing sea glass at Seaside Beach, California (near Monterey). We found some of the pieces on the beach, but Richard noticed that the best pieces were out at the surf line. After I saw a piece I just HAD to have, I took off my shoes and socks and went into the 50 degree ocean water – brrrrrrrr! Although I got soaked, it was worth it. Each piece of glass tells a story – it is like holding a piece of history in your hand. All of the sea glass is worn smooth and pitted by ocean weathering, so it is at least 50 years old. If you recognize or know more about any of these pieces of glass, please let me know.

Point Lobos: Nesting Brandt’s Cormorants

Brandt's Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Brandt’s Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Male Brandt's Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Male Brandt’s Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Brandt's Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt’s Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt's Cormorant Mating Display

Brandt’s Cormorant Mating Display

Pair of Brandt's Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Pair of Brandt’s Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Brandt's Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt’s Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt's Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

Brandt’s Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

Brandt’s cormorants are nesting now along the China Cove Trail at Point Lobos State Park near Monterey, California. These sea birds have spectacular blue throat pouches and turquoise eyes during breeding season. The nesting material consists of seaweed and plants collected by the males. This year some of the birds decided to nest right beside the trail, so it is a real treat for photographers!

Monterey: Scenic Lover’s Point

Scenic Lover's Point

Scenic Lover’s Point

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Brewer's Blackbird and Ice Plants

Brewer’s Blackbird and Ice Plants

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover's Point

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover’s Point

We’ve just returned from a trip celebrating our anniversary along the California coast. One of the most scenic places we visited was Lover’s Point at Monterey, California. The pink ice plants are particularly stunning this time of year!

California: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was built in 1875. The top of the tower was sheared off during a fierce storm in 1949. Afterward an automated beacon was placed on top of the shortened tower and it was returned to service. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing restoration. Visitors can only access the lighthouse grounds by guided tour. Especially popular is the “Sunset and Whale Watching Tour” every March.

Elephant Seals are Fun to Watch!

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Female Elephant Seal Face

Female Elephant Seal Face

Elephant Seal Family

Elephant Seal Family

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Very Young "Weaner" Elephant Seals Playing

Very Young “Weaner” Elephant Seals Playing

Elephant Seal's Big Eyes

Elephant Seal’s Big Eyes

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Elephant seals are fun to watch! They are one of our favorite animals. Ano Nuevo and Piedras Blancas in California are the only two places in the world where elephant seals come onto the mainland to have pups (elsewhere they breed on islands). The pupping season runs from December until March. The Piedras Blancas colony began in November 1990 when a dozen northern elephant seals came ashore near San Simeon (at the south end of Big Sur near the Hearst Castle). Now the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony has over 16,000 adults and 2,500 pups!

Elephant seals can grow up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 2 tons each. Males have trunk-like noses that grow up to 2 feet long. Their vocalization sounds like an outboard motor trying to start. Alpha males battle for dominance and gather up harems of females on the beach.

The babies are born with black wrinkled coats of fur. The black fur allows them to absorb warmth from the sun, and the wrinkled coat gives them room to gain weight quickly. Mother elephant seals lose one-third of their body weight while nursing. Their rich milk is as thick as mayonnaise! Babies grow from 80 pounds at birth to 300 pounds in 3 weeks. When the babies are 4 weeks old, mother elephant seals return to the sea to feed. Meanwhile the young “weaners” are left on the beach to play and swim. At 6 weeks of age the babies’ black fur is replaced by a silver coat.

Elephant seals have big round eyes that help them search for prey in the deep ocean. Dives for squid and fish last from 30-60 minutes, with only a 2-3 minute break at the surface. These mile-deep feeding trips go on continuously for months. Elephant seals return to the beach twice a year to either molt or breed. While on land they do not eat, and they often sleep to conserve energy.

Elephant seals maintain a body temperature of 100 degrees, which is quite a feat in the chilly Pacific Ocean. Their blubber keeps them so warm that they quickly overheat in the sun. They flip sand over themselves to cool down.

Elephant seals have one of the longest animal migrations in the world. Tracking devices have revealed that California elephant seals travel in a big loop that extends far west into the Pacific, north to Alaska, and then south back to the beaches they were born on.

The Piedras Blancas and Ano Nuevo elephant seal rookeries are well worth a visit. The animals are entertaining, and the scenery is fantastic! An excellent website by Friends of the Elephant Seal (including a calendar of activity) is at: http://elephantseal.org/
A live cam of the Piedras Blancas rookery is at: http://www.elephantseal.org/livecam.htm

California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point's Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point’s Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Back with Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Back with Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point's Ocean View

Pigeon Point’s Ocean View

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco.  The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead.  Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level).  Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds.  The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons! 

Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast.  Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”.  The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s.  Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period. 

The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration.  The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building.  The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower.  The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured.  Progress updates are available at:  http://www.calparks.org/programs/improving/pigeon-point-lighthouse.html

California: Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach - Long Exposure

Pebble Beach – Long Exposure

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach (south of San Francisco) is famous for its tafoni rock and pebble-covered beach.  The lacework tafoni rock is soft sandstone that has been eroded by the wind and waves.  The colorful pebbles are composed of various rocks including green jade, red chert, white agate, jasper, moonstones, and petrified wood.  The rocks are washed in from an offshore Pleistocene-era gravel bed.  Many geological field trips come to this unique location.  More info is at:  http://science.kqed.org/quest/2011/03/03/geological-outings-around-the-bay-pebble-beach/

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

When we visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I fell in love with one piece of art in particular by Joseph Cornell from 1957. The painting features an owl and is called “For Sale”.  The delightful text reads:
“FOR SALE. Sequestered bower – numerous compartments, look-outs, guest rooms, cozy nooks (feather-lined), pine-scented lounge, ivy-covered observatory for early dawn views and romantic sunsets, cheese cellar, moss-lined alcoves with dripping water and large variety of snails, cool storage, chalet-view of valley, bird’s eye view of old chateau inhabited by storks, aquarium in base of trunk with rare deep forest specimens, salamander’s crannies, violet-banked approaches, musical waterfalls, natural mineral specimens, and easy walking distance to enchanted lake.”

Fun Holiday Pictures Coast to Coast

Merry Christmas Raccoons at our Florida Home

Merry Christmas Raccoons at our Florida Home

Holiday Present Theme Horse at Half Moon Bay, California

Holiday Present Theme Horse at Half Moon Bay, California

Holiday Candy Cane Theme Horse at Half Moon Bay, California

Holiday Candy Cane Theme Horse at Half Moon Bay, California

Our Santa Teddy Bears

Our Santa Teddy Bears

Christmas Tree at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

Christmas Tree at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Christmas Tree at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Christmas Tree at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Holiday Table at McKee Gardens, Florida

Holiday Table at McKee Gardens, Florida

Merry Christmas Fruit Crate Label with Santa

Merry Christmas Fruit Crate Label with Santa

Merry Christmas from Florida

Merry Christmas from Florida

Holiday scenes are all around.  Enjoy these pictures from coast to coast. Merry Christmas!

Sea Glass Christmas Cards

Sea Glass Christmas Tree Card

Sea Glass Christmas Tree Card

Sea Glass and Sea Shell Christmas Tree Card

Sea Glass and Sea Shell Christmas Tree Card

Here are Christmas greeting cards that I designed made with sea glass we collected in California, and sea shells we collected in Florida. Happy Holidays!

Hawk Migration Hotspot near San Francisco

Red-Shouldered Hawk

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

The Marin Headlands (north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) are a hotspot for Pacific coast migration in Fall.  Hawks and other raptors funnel through the Headlands on their way south to wintering grounds in California, or even further destinations in Baja or Argentina.  Even Monarch butterflies funnel through the Headlands on their way south to wintering roosts along the California coast.  Yesterday’s raptor count by the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory was 459, and the 2012 season total so far is over 20,000 birds.  Visitors are welcome to participate at Hawk Hill.  Daily totals and more info are at:   http://www.ggro.org/events/hawkwatchToday.aspx

California: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Farms

Halloween-Theme Painted Horse at Lemos Farm

Arata Pumpkin Farm

Mini Pumpkins

Pumpkin Path at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

Half Moon Bay is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”.  The area produces more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins every year and ships them worldwide. Every October, Half Moon Bay hosts a popular Art and Pumpkin Festival that includes a pumpkin weigh-off contest.  This year’s winning pumpkin topped the scales at 1,775 pounds!  The Halloween-theme painted horse stands in front of the Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay.  It is repainted regularly to reflect the seasons.  Pictures of past designs are at:  http://www.lemosfarm.com/painted-horse.html

Walking Among the Oldest Trees on Earth

Drive to Bristlecone Pine Forest

Scenic Overlook near Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bristlecone Pine Forest on Mountaintop

Photographing a 3,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine and Sky

Bristlecone Pine and Icy Bluff

Bristlecone Pine and Storm

Gnarly Bristlecone Pine

Tall Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine Sapling

Bristlecone Pine Covered with Cones

Purple Pine Cone with Sap

Polished Wood of Bristlecone Pines on Rocky Slope

Magic is the word to describe the feeling you have walking among the oldest trees on Earth!  Bristlecone pines grow in the White Mountains of California on white dolomite (limestone) slopes at 10,000-12,000 feet.  The oldest (unmarked) tree is “Methuselah”, which is 4,844 years old.  Just imagine – this tree was growing when the Pyramids were being built!

The trees are twisted and gnarled by the elements at this high elevation.  Blowing wind and ice sculpts and polishes the wood.  Sometimes almost all of the pine is dead, except for a single strip of bark connecting a root to a living branch.  The trees are named for the bristles or spines on their cones.  The pretty purple cones are often covered in sticky sap. 

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is only open a few months of the year because of snow and ice.  This trip is worth the wait – it is unforgettable.  We felt privileged to visit such an awe-inspiring place.  More info is at:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900

Our Past Earthquake Experiences

Real-Time Earthquake Map of California and Nevada on October 17, 2012

Offset Fence along San Andreas Fault

Cracks in Earth Formed by 1964 Alaska Earthquake

Book on Stories from the 1964 Alaska Earthquake

Since today is the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, it seems like a perfect time to discuss earthquakes and our past experiences with them.  A real-time map of earthquakes is at:  http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/  AND http://earthquaketrack.com/recent

In California, strain builds up on the San Andreas fault because the Pacific Plate is moving faster than the North American Plate.  Eventually stress fractures the crust and an earthquake occurs. In general, earthquakes that are Richter Magnitude 3 and smaller are not felt unless the epicenter is beneath you.  Magnitude 4 is a little shake.  Magnitude 5 is a noticeable shake, and is 10 times stronger than  4.  Magnitude 6 is a significant shake, and is 100 times stronger than 4.  Magnitude 7 is widespread damage, and is 1,000 times stronger than  4.  Magnitude 8 is catastrophic, and is at least 10,000 times stronger than 4.0.  Magnitude 9 is extremely destructive, and can have worldwide reverberations.   

Richard was a young child when the great Alaska earthquake occurred on Good Friday, March 27, 1964, at 5:36 pm local time.  The USGS lists the 1964 earthquake as Magnitude 9.2.  Most earthquakes last less than 30 seconds, but this one lasted 3-5 minutes!  Try counting out 3 minutes – it is a very long time for catastrophic shaking.  Loss of life was minimized since it was a holiday and most schools and businesses were closed.  It was the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, and the 2nd largest in the western hemisphere (after the Magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960). 

One couple said that the 1964 Alaska earthquake shook for so long that they sat on the couch to ride it out.  Sandy soil liquefied and rolled like 3-foot-high ocean waves.  Richard’s Dad saw his neighbor working beneath a car.  As the Earth rolled in waves, the car bounced up on a crest.  His friend rolled away before the car crashed back down.  Many people had just finished eating their evening meal.  Pots fell off the stoves and refrigerators toppled over.  Richard’s brother was yanked away from a falling television set.  Cracks split the ground open and then closed back up again.  Trees whipped back and forth.  Boats hit mud bottom as the ocean drained out, and then were pushed inland when the water came back.  A tsunami roared across the Pacific and hit Hawaii and California.  Ocean levels changed around the world, and led to minor flooding in Texas and Louisiana.  Interesting Alaska earthquake stories and pictures are at:  http://www.vibrationdata.com/earthquakes/alaska.htm   A vintage 4 1/2 minute earthquake video from a television show Richard watched as a child is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGhYMM2xeEo

In comparison, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was Magnitude 7.0.  It struck at 5:04 pm on October 17th during the middle of the World Series in San Francisco.  The shaking lasted 10-15 seconds.   Loss of life was greater than Alaska because of the dense population and collapse of the Bay Bridge.  We were just getting ready to leave work at the University of California, San Francisco, when it hit.  We felt the building pitch up and down, and grabbed the railing for support.  Security alarms went off all around the city.  Smoke billowed in the distance and meant the damage was significant.  Everything at home had fallen down in the same direction (east).  Vigorous shaking had spilled all of our toilet’s water onto the floor.  Our balcony was deemed unsafe.   It took many weeks before normalcy returned.  For a long time afterward, people were always thinking about where they would run if the shaking returned.  Now millions of people participate in mock earthquake drills every year:  http://www.shakeout.org/

Ghost Town Bodie: Touching Cemetery

Bodie’s Fenced-In Cemetery at the Edge of Town

Granite Tombstone of Waterman Bodey (town is named after him)

Blue Tombstone of Irishman James Perry

Angel Tombstone of Evelyn Myers

Plain Wooden Tombstone

Obelisk Tombstone of Anthony Thumann

Tombstone of Bodie’s Beloved Prostitute Rosa May

Life in the 1800s in Bodie, California, was tough.  Winters were long with frequent blizzards, 20-foot snowdrifts, and 100 mph winds.  Fierce epidemics claimed many lives.  Gold mining was dangerous, and crime was rampant.  Many residents perished, and they were buried at the edge of town in Bodie’s fenced-in cemetery.  Visitors are welcome to walk through the cemetery and pay their respects to these pioneers of long ago.

Bodie – America’s Best Ghost Town!

Methodist Church

Building with Saw Blade

Fire Station with Bell

False Front Building

Wagon Wheel

Bodie’s Gold Mine

Gold Pan at Town’s Entrance

Bodie’s Historical Marker

Bodie is America’s best and most authentic ghost town!  It is located on a high desert plateau north of Mono Lake, California.  Walking down the dusty streets is like taking a step back through time.  Buildings and their contents are preserved exactly as they were when the gold rush ended.  Bodie is now a California State Park.  Because of the tough climate, it is best to visit in summer or early Fall.

During its peak in the late 1800s, Bodie’s mines produced $100 million in gold.  Lawlessness was rampant – gunfights and stagecoach holdups were frequent events.  Saloons outnumbered churches 65 to 2.  All supplies had to be transported to the town’s remote location.  Despite the hardships, people stayed until the gold ran out.  Now people come from around the world to see what life was like in the old Wild West.

California: Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Mammoth Statue at Mammoth Lakes

Monument’s High Sierra Stream with Fall Color

View of Devil’s Postpile from Bottom

Twisted Columns of Devil’s Postpile

Fallen Columns of Devil’s Postpile

“Floor Tile” Pattern at Top of Devil’s Postpile

View from Top of Devil’s Postpile

Wildlife Sightings at Devil’s Postpile

Devil’s Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes, California, has some of the best rock columns in the world!  Over 10,000 years ago, the area was roamed by mammoths, ground sloths, saber-toothed tigers, and camels.  Even further back in time – 100,000 years ago – the area was filled with erupting volcanoes and a fiery lava lake.  Over time as the lake cooled, cracks formed in the lava and merged into vertical columns.  Later on, glaciers scraped over and around the lake and exposed the columns.  The symmetrical columns are equally impressive from both the bottom and top of the postpile.  Wildlife sightings by hikers at the monument include bear, marmot, and porcupine.