Mom and son on a hike

26 01 2017

It’s one of my perpetual challenges to get my son out of the house and into the midst of nature. To make him spend and enjoy time away from all the gadgets. In the past, I’ve tried to motivate him and even tricked him into hiking a few times. I can’t say I had much success. He claims he’s not an “outdoorsy guy”. He is a little short of 10. Nevertheless, with all the enthusiasm that new year brings along, I cajoled him into doing a hike during the first long weekend of the year. Just the two of us. Yay!

I chose the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. I admit it’s not a random choice but inspiration from a meetup planned for a hike there that day to Borel Hill. That was about 6 miles of hiking, but I wanted something shorter. So, I picked one from, which is about 3.6 miles. All set.


I was totally surprised when my GPS led me onto the very narrow Old La Honda Rd in Woodside. It was super scary. Stupid GPS. I could have just taken 92W and Hwy35 instead.

We reached the preserve’s parking lot (on Alpine road) by around 10:30 am and started on the trail with gusto. We didn’t come across many hikers despite great weather, at least until noon. It was a beautiful sunny day.


Mom and Son

I had wisely taken the pictures of the entire page on bahiker so that I can peruse it to stay on the suggested trail and not get lost. I’m not being dramatic here. I’ve had experiences before where we missed the trail and went dangerously off planned route even with good maps and non-novices. I must say I managed well sticking to the plan. I greatly appreciate bahiker for providing such a detailed and clear instruction that I, with barely any other preparation, could make my hike a success. We marched along happily discussing party plans for my son’s upcoming birthday.  We took the Ancient Oaks Trail at the first junction.


And then turned onto Charquin Trail.


We had impressive views of the bay all along the way.


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We also took a little detour along Ridge Trail for about 0.5 miles, climbing up the hill for better views, and there we spotted a couple of coyotes.


Can you spot them?

This is my son exhausted before the last leg of the hike, a 1.2 mile trek back to the parking lot.


The fact that it’s largely uphill, didn’t help him. On the contrary, he started regretting his decision to do the hike in the first place. Sigh! It’s just perseverance.  Sadly, there was no other way out than to continue walking. It was also very windy on the way up the Ridge Trail, making him even more miserable. The splendid views offered him only meager solace, if anything.

The last mile doesn’t seem to end. 🙂

But things got way better as we climbed down, past the  to the parking lot and he’s happy again, though a little tired. At last, the sight of the destination:


On the way back to the car, I noticed that there’s a nature’s center on the other side of the road just 0.1 miles away. The fact that it displayed touchable wildlife skulls excited my son. Despite his fatigue. Off we went, only to find that it’s closed. Too bad my conscious mind didn’t register the open hours written across the board at the start of the trail. It clearly said, open only on Saturdays and Sundays. 🙂 But we got to see the beautiful Alpine Pond in all its glory. So, the short trip was still worth it.


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In all, we did a little more than 4 miles. I couldn’t be more proud. This is definitely a good start for the year.



Death Valley – A brief encounter

10 01 2017

What would you do if you could spend only a few hours in the vast Death Valley? Nothing much beyond just getting a glimpse of its beauty here and there, I would guess. Here is our experience when we drove through Death Valley on the last day of the year (Dec 31st, 2016) on our way to the amazing Zion Canyon in Utah.

We absolutely had no idea about what to expect. Other than the meager planning I did in terms of jotting down the names of a few points of attraction, we didn’t actually look at any pictures. That definitely provided an element of surprise for us. I was completely spellbound.

Death valley is about 9 hour drive from Bay Area.  We started the evening before, and spent the night in Ridgecrest. It’s just over 2 hours from there to the national park. We stayed at Clarion Inn on North China Lake. Had fresh wonderful free breakfast at the associated restaurant – Scrambled eggs, hash browns and all. It was a splendid stay, albeit a very short one. Ridgecrest seemed a nice, quiet town with a few attractions to its credit – fossil falls (sculpted lava flow), Naval Weapons Center (one can visit the museum) etc. Wish we could have spent some time in the town.

It’s little over 2 hours to Death Valley from there. Our plan was to reach Springdale, UT that night. We had only about 5 hours to spend in the Death Valley. Left early after the breakfast for Death Valley. The drive was beautiful and we were enthralled by the expanse of wide space and range of mountains and canyons. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, but not too cold. Short winter day was our only problem. 😛


Driving on the very straight road amidst the flat land, with mountains on the horizon, was quite an experience.


And then it’s pretty scenery at every turn!


It was around 11 am by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells ranger station, and started with our first official Death Valley attraction – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We spent an hour there hiking the dunes and it was loads of fun, especially coming down the peaks!




After the dunes, we headed down to Furnace Creek, where we had sumptuous lunch of fresh garden burger at Forty Niner Cafe. Food is always important! 😛


Next stop was the Golden Canyon. With only hours before dusk, we didn’t risk hiking the trail at Golden Canyon.  But the gorgeous golden crests are such a sight to behold!


Artist Drive, with picturesquely colored hills, is a true feast for one’s eyes. The 9 mile drive provides stunning views of mountains laden with colorful minerals – blue, red, yellow, and more.


The day being cloudy, darkness seemed to approach fast. By the time we covered Artist Drive, it got a little chilly too. We moved on to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.


We drove along a dirt road opposite to Badwater Basin for a couple of miles to behold the natural bridge. It was a tough ride for our Nissan Sentra. An SUV might have served the purpose better.


The bridge is a short hike from the parking lot. It’s magnificent, to say the least.


On our return to the car, we were greeted by a spectacular scene: the evening sun rays streaming through a gap in the clouds on to the basin in front of us.


At this juncture, it was 4 pm and  we called it a day to continue on our journey towards our ultimate destination – Zion! But the day gave us one more glorious sight before it retired – a beautiful rainbow.


Pardon the sloppiness of the captures. I actually quickly snapped these while driving. I know, I shouldn’t have. But there weren’t any cars on the road and I slowed down for the pictures.

Thus ends our little affair with Death Valley. We parted, though, with a promise to come back and spend ample time hiking /biking/camping. 😐

Flowers, gardens, and colors

20 09 2015

I have an inexplicable fondness towards gardens – botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, Chinese gardens, arboretums. I think I find solace not only in the greenery but also in the way they are well-groomed and maintained. And I love the flowers. I first mentioned about this special liking and the almost enchanting effect of them on me more than 5 years ago here. As I revisited that blogpost, I was bemused by how alike the beginnings of the both – the old post and the current post – are.  😛 Since then, I’ve visited several more gardens and fell in love with each one of them.

While I was strolling in Morton Arboretum with my high-school friend last month and marveling at the beauty of it at each and every turn, she wondered how and when did I acquire this taste. Of course it is neither unnatural nor particularly effortful for anyone to have an appreciation for nature. Her question actually caught me off my guard. However, it struck me that her curiosity is justified given that I’m not exactly known for my perceptiveness or sensibility :P, and that our cultural and family backgrounds never afforded or allowed the luxury of having a penchant for superficial aka non-survival-based  things like art or nature.  Well, I never realized myself when or how it happened to me.  Most probably when I visited Ooty in 2002 and Bloedel Reserve in 2008. But I’m glad it did.

Recently, I had been to Mendocino Botanical Gardens and was mesmerized by the colorful flowers, winding paths, and above all the peace and tranquility the place offered. I know I’m repeating myself and pityingly falling short of describing either the place or my experience in more than a handful of adjectives. The problem is obviously my limited vocabulary and expression abilities, and I believe that only great poets like Wordsworth can do proper justice. 😉 The Dahlia garden was an absolute visual treat.

Here is a collection of photographs from the visit:

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Thereafter, I had been to the Glass Beach. Despite knowing that it’s the dump/trash that’s basically washed out by the sea in the form of colorful glass stones/pebbles, the prospect of looking at the shiny, reflecting, vivid, vibrant beach still lured me.

I was expecting this; (Image source: Google Images)

Glass beach

And I found this:


Close enough?? 😛  I felt duped and disappointed. 😛 Looks like the glass has been diminishing over the years both due to heavy tourism (people collecting glass) and natural causes (waves grinding down the glass). 😐

Beautiful waterfalls

29 06 2010

Washington is insatiable. Whatever other people might think about this perpetual rainy state, I feel so lucky to have lived here for so long. There is lots of stuff to do and see here, one doesn’t get tired of it. It seems like it would take at least a decade to see and experience everything that this beautiful evergreen state offers – beautiful lakes, amazing mountain ranges, snow-capped peaks, countless trails, fascinating waterfalls, magnificient national parks, tranquil and other-worldly gardens, beckoning state parks and lots more.

I guess, I must really extend this description to the other North-Western state Oregon too. Of course, Montana has a different terrain altogether but is even more gorgeous. Every Summer seems really too short to cover anything and just flies by packed with travel and activity. Over the years, I have been to a number of scenic waterfalls and here are some pictures for your eyes to feast on:

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Sand dunes and Sea lions

23 06 2010

Well, the weather is really unusual in Seattle this year: June still feels like March. Consequently, my summer sight-seeing plans have suffered a lot. Considering all things including weather, our trips so far have all been far from perfect. In Los Angeles, we broke our camera. In Canada, it rained on two days and we couldn’t go to Whistler at all. Another weekend while Saturday was a scorcher, it rained heavily and consistently on Sunday, thereby adversely affecting our perusal of Historic Columbia Byway. (We still got to see a few beautiful waterfalls though.) Finally, on our visit to the sand dunes on Oregon coast we were met by an unexpectedly strong wind that we couldn’t really spend a lot of time.

But may be I’m just being pessimistic. To view the brighter side of it all, I must say we had pretty good time and enjoyed our little get aways a lot.

In this post, I want to share with you some pictures of the amazing sand dunes and sea lions on the Oregon coast. We took a ride on the dunes in a buggy and it had been a great experience. We had loads of fun at Family Fun Center of  Sandland Adventures.

On our way back, we stopped at the Sea Lions Caves, which offered pretty good views of the animals both in the caves and in the ocean. The caves were gorgeous.

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Beautiful gardens

21 04 2010

I seem to have a special affinity towards gardens, especially botanical gardens. I assure you that this has nothing to do with my interest in botany or plant life, but rather to the tranquility those gardens seem to invoke in me.

The first ever Botanical Garden I’ve visited is the one in the famous hill stationUdhagamandalam (Ooty) of Tamil Nadu state (India). I’ve visited it thrice so far, but it’s the second time that I fell in love with it. It was drizzling lightly on that fine December day and I felt that those gardens were the most beautiful sight I ever saw. The lush green grass, the mighty trees, flowers and plants looked amazing. I took solitary walks and let myself lost in its beauty. That was an experience I could never forget. Those were the days before the advent of digital cameras and am not sure I have any pictures back at home that I can scan and share with you and let you feel the magic too. Sadly, the images are only in my mind now.

Years later, I had a similar, if only more intense, encounter with BloedelReserve at Bainbridge Island, Washington State. This time too there was a very slight drizzling for a short time. The garden seemed like magic – i felt as if I entered a fairyland. Bloedel Reserve still remains the most enchanting garden of all the ones I had the opportunity to visit.

Other impressive gardens, which I loved include:
– Bellevue Botanical Garden (Bellevue, WA)
– Ohme Gardens (Wenatchee, WA))
– Japanese Garden (Seattle, WA)

Last but not least is the Washington Arboretum, which I visited just last Sunday. It felt so good to stroll along the lovely pathways taking in the beauty of the lilacs, rhododendrons, Japanese maples and many others.

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Picture Lake

29 07 2009

I, along with my husband and kid, set out on last Saturday towards Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest near Bellingham, WA . Our intention was to drive through the forest and experience spectacular views of Mount Baker. We had no information whatsoever about what else to expect.

The drive was much longer than we expected and by the time we acquired details from the visitor Center about various scenic spots and short trails to consider, the weather turned against us.  Until then we have conveniently ignored the clouds in the sky blocking the hot sun once in a while. We didn’t take it seriously because we never expected a rainy day in the middle of very hot summer days. But as it is said, one has to carry an umbrella in WA all through the year. Only after a short while inside the national forest, it became very dark and the first rain drops fell down. As it was already 4pm, we immediately aborted our sightseeing mission and returned home. 🙂

Nevertheless, we got to enjoy some of the beautiful landscape during our brief encounter with the forest.  And Picture Lake surpassed everything we have come across. You can have a very good view of Mount Susksan from the lake and the name is very apt because on a cloudless day, the mountain reflects in its still water and looks like a picture.

Picture Lake

Picture Lake

Closeup of Mount Sukhsan:

Mount Baker

Mount Sukhsan

Other amazing scenery on the way to the lake:

Nooksack River

Nooksack River