February 22, 2013 Leave a comment
Bok Tower Gardens has been voted Florida’s “Favorite Garden”. The peak bloom is now! The trails are filled with flowering azaleas, camellias, and bromeliads.
Nature Photography by Pam & Richard
February 4, 2013 5 Comments
Myakka River State Park has the only canopy walk/observation tower in the state of Florida. It was the first public treetop trail in North America, and the only one in the world in a subtropical forest! The park is located inland from Sarasota on the west coast of Florida. The 76-foot tower provides a 360-degree view of the wild and scenic Myakka River basin. Scientists have already made important discoveries about life in the oak and palm canopy. The bird’s eye view from the top of the tower is terrific! More info is at: http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php/activities-a-attractions/canopy-walkway
January 9, 2013 13 Comments
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/
December 10, 2012 11 Comments
Big Talbot Island State Park has the only beach in Florida that is covered in driftwood! The wood comes from trees that have fallen from the eroded bluffs above the beach. Over time the wood is polished by the sand and surf. The bleached-out trunks have given rise to its popular name “Boneyard Beach”. More info on this unique beach north of Jacksonville is at: http://www.floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland/
October 23, 2012 Leave a comment
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
September 30, 2012 2 Comments
Mono Lake is located on the dry eastern side of California’s Sierra Mountains. It is one of America’s oldest lakes – over 1,000,000 years old! The lake covers 60 square miles in volcanic Mono Basin, and is almost 3 times saltier than the ocean. Although no fish live in the lake, there are trillions of brine shrimp in its salty waters. Millions of migratory and nesting birds come to feast on the shrimp. Mono Lake is the most important migration stop for eared grebes in North America –at times over 2 million birds rest on the lake’s surface. Eighty-five percent of the state’s California Gulls nest at Mono Lake (second largest breeding colony in the world after the Great Salt Lake). Gulls frequently run along the shore with their mouths open scooping up brine flies! One banded seagull returned to the lake every summer for 27 years. Mono Lake is most famous for its striking tufa towers. The limestone spires were created when springs bubbled up through the alkaline water. More info about this special place is at: http://www.monolake.org/
August 17, 2012 6 Comments
Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach (south of Monterey) is famous for its pink and purple sand. The sand’s gorgeous color comes from manganese garnet particles that wash down the hillside. The further north you walk, the more colorful the sand. The photography opportunities are endless and ever-changing. This unique beach is absolutely stunning!
August 16, 2012 2 Comments
McClure’s Beach is a wild and remote beach at the northern tip of Point Reyes National Seashore (north of San Francisco). In spring and early summer the hills are covered with yellow bush lupine flowers. Tule Elk graze on the bluffs at Tomales Point. The San Andreas Fault runs through the center of the park. At the Visitor Center you can see an offset fence that was ripped 20 feet apart by the 1906 earthquake!
McClure’s Beach is an excellent place for tidepooling. A narrow trail leads through the rocks at low tide to an isolated pocket beach on the other side. This pocket beach has a special secret – at times it is swarmed by ladybugs! In summer ladybugs migrate from California’s hot Central Valley to cooler areas along the coast. Sometimes they swarm a beach in search of salt and minerals, but there is no predicting where or when. Many people think that ladybugs bring good luck. We think it’s true – it was our lucky day at the beach!
August 10, 2012 3 Comments
This picture shows Black Creek at Three Lakes Conservation Area in Central Florida. Even though the creek looks “black”, the water is actually pure and clear. The dark color comes from tannins in the water. The oak tree in the background is covered with Resurrection ferns and Spanish moss. This subtropical jungle is very scenic!
July 7, 2012 Leave a comment
The Sundial Bridge is a pedestrian suspension bridge that crosses the Sacramento River at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California (near Mount Lassen). The spire of the bridge is one of the largest working sundials in the world! The steel, glass, and granite span opened on July 4, 2004, and was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Sundial Bridge is particularly spectacular at night!
July 2, 2012 Leave a comment
A prominent rock feature on Mount Lassen is the “Eye of Vulcan”. In Roman mythology, Vulcan was the God of Volcanoes and Fire. Mount Lassen Volcano last erupted in 1915. Mount Lassen and Mount St. Helens are the only two volcanoes on the West Coast to erupt in the 20th century. Wildflowers thrive in the volcanic soil.
July 1, 2012 4 Comments
Visitors at Mount Lassen sometimes see pink “watermelon” snow in early summer. The pink color comes from algae that grows on the snow’s surface as it melts in July. There are over 350 species of snow algae around the world, ranging in color from red, orange, yellow, to green. The algae supports an entire miniature world of worms and insects. Scientists study life on the snow’s surface to see how life might survive on other planets. More info on snow crystals is at: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/
June 30, 2012 8 Comments
Mount Lassen Volcano National Park is a 4 hour drive north of San Francisco. This beautiful park is perfect for hiking. Even when temperatures top 100 degrees in the valley below, it is often a pleasant 70 degrees at the top of Mount Lassen. Lake Helen is often still frozen in early July! Trails lead past mountain streams and meadows of wildflowers at the lower elevations in early summer.
June 20, 2012 9 Comments
There are over 20,000 petroglyphs at Petroglyph National Monument! This incredible site near Albuquerque has an amazing variety of images carved on its black volcanic rock. The most surprising petroglyphs on view are macaws. Ancient trade routes brought live parrots up from Mexico to the American Southwest. The birds were often traded for turquoise, buffalo hides, and turkeys.
June 19, 2012 4 Comments
La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site is an excellent place to view petroglyphs near Santa Fe. Hundreds of petroglyphs, or rock art images, were carved onto the black basalt boulders at the top of the mesa between the 13th and 17th centuries by the Pueblo Indians. The images are thought to symbolize events of deep cultural meaning or spiritual significance. The meaning of many images is unknown, and the site may have been a place of worship for a vanished tribe. The location of petroglyphs is important, as well as what the images are “looking” at. For example, this coyote petroglyph was placed in the shade, because coyotes hunt in the shadows. La Cieneguilla is especially famous for its images of birds and Kokopelli (the hump-backed flute-player). This place is really special. If you use your imagination, you can almost hear the notes of Kokopelli’s flute on the wind.
June 18, 2012 2 Comments
The Slot Canyon at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is outstanding! It has been called one of the best day hikes in New Mexico. The trail passes through a single-file slot canyon, past curvy rock layers, and opens out onto a hoodoo panorama. Brilliant cholla cactus blooms added even more color to the spectacular view. This trail is one of our all-time favorites!
June 16, 2012 2 Comments
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is very colorful! The beautiful cliffs have rock layers composed of volcanic and sedimentary deposits. Volcanic layers are composed of white and grey pumice, along with pink and red rhyolite. Sedimentary layers are composed of dark brown gravel, along with light orange soil. It is a beautiful place for a hike near Santa Fe!
June 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is a little known gem of a park near Santa Fe, New Mexico. It became a National Monument in 2001, and is famous for its dramatic rock formations. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional pueblo language. Conical tent rocks are the result of volcanic activity in the area 7 million years ago. Hard cap rocks top the softer spires of pumice and tuff.
May 27, 2012 Leave a comment
Since today is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, here is our best video of the Golden Gate Bridge and fog. The original 6 1/2 minute video has been speeded up to play in 39 seconds. Enjoy!
May 25, 2012 2 Comments
Solvang (which means “sunny fields”) is located north of Santa Barbara. The town is a replica of a Danish village, and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2011. The main crops in the area are wine grapes and strawberries. Several windmills are found throughout town, and replica stork nests decorate the roof tops for good luck. We especially enjoyed the authentic Danish bakeries in the village. The pastries were the best we’ve ever had!
May 21, 2012 2 Comments
The first time I saw a picture of the pink carpet trailing ice plants blooming in Monterey, I simply could not believe it was true. But the stunning flower bloom is real, and it usually peaks in May. These pictures of the pink carpet trailing ice plants were taken at Lover’s Point. This oceanside walk near the Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly spectacular!
May 8, 2012 2 Comments
San Francisco is one of two places in the United States where salt is harvested naturally from ocean water. It takes 5 years for the sun and wind to evaporate the water and crystallize the salt. The color of the evaporating ponds varies from bright green to brilliant red, depending upon algae and salinity of the water. The view of the salt ponds is spectacular!
May 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Ring Mountain is located north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Geologists and botanists travel there from around the world to study its blue/green serpentine rock and unique plant life. We hiked to the top of Ring Mountain (elevation 602 feet) to see the extremely rare Tiburon Mariposa Lily. It is found nowhere else in the world, and only blooms in May and June. At the summit is a 360 degree panoramic view of San Francisco Bay, Marin County, and Napa Valley.
April 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Sebastian Inlet is a beautiful place to visit in Florida. By April many species of fish (including sea trout, snook, and redfish) have left the inner grass beds of the Indian River Lagoon to feast at the mouth of the inlet. At the same time king mackerel pass by the inlet on their way north for the summer. Sea birds come to feast on the fish and nest in the mangroves. It’s a wonderful place for fishing, birdwatching, and beachcombing.
April 8, 2012 2 Comments
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is located north of Santa Barbara. The refuge has the largest and most extensive coastal sand dunes in California. Cecil B. DeMille filmed his original The Ten Commandments at this location in 1923. Before filming began, an entire Egyptian “City of the Pharaoh” was constructed on the dunes. The scale of the production was amazing! The elaborate movie set contained 300 chariots, 21 sphinxes weighing 5 tons each, and 4 statues of Ramses that were each 35 feet tall! When filming ended, the set was secretly buried in the sand. Now historians are using ground-penetrating radar to recover pieces of the set for display in the Dunes Center Museum. A documentary on the film history of the area by Peter Brosnan is currently in production. Past “Sahara” movies filmed on the dunes starred Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Gary Cooper, and Marlene Dietrich. A more recent movie filmed on the dunes was Pirates of the Caribbean starring Johnny Depp.
March 21, 2012 2 Comments
Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California is a World Biosphere Reserve, and National Natural Landmark. Borrego is Spanish for bighorn sheep. It is the largest desert park in the United States! More than 650,000 acres have been set aside for future generations. More information for visitors is at: http://www.abdsp.org/ and http://theabf.org/
March 20, 2012 Leave a comment
You must walk very carefully on the Cholla Gardens Trail at Joshua Tree National Park. Teddy bear cholla cacti are far from cuddly! The cacti are so spiny and sticky that small animals use them for defense around their burrows.