Happiness Is…

Happiness is…

*Hiking in my FAV Bay Area locale – Marin Headlands/Mount Tam – with friends

*Anemones, anemones, and even MORE anemones lurking in the South Beach tide pools

*Purple and orange starfish hiding amongst the thousands upon thousands of crabs and millions upon million of mussels

*Puerto Rican dining at San Rafael’s finest, the VERY TASTY Sol Food

*Inspirational, educational and just downright HYSTERICAL conversations with friends

*Natural beauty… of which the Bay Area has more than its fair share

*Eleven and 1/4 miles of BEAUTIFUL Mount Tam trails – Coastal, Heather Cutoff, Owl, Redwood Creek,…

*South Beach and Slide Ranch – with its ECLECTIC assortment of animals including white Silkie chickens, Ancona ducks, bee hives, and lots of tide pools

*Spiritual retreat center – the PEACEFUL Zen Center Gardens – the perfect spot to catch hundreds of Monarch butterflies enjoying flower nectar while en route to Mexico
*Introducing older and newer FRIENDS from various facets of my life – and even meeting a few new faces

*Sunday afternoon and evening BLISS!

Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

Thanks Wayland, Kim, Emma, Andrei, Roxana, Hector, Carolina, Jesus, Jean, Yan, Vik, Manuel, Zach, Ann, Radu, Lara, Ron, Sajjad, and Catherine for helping make the day spectacular!! 😘

#iluv2xplore #BayArea #GoldenGateNationalRecreationArea #GGNRA #Mount Tam #MarinHeadlands #MuirBeach #MuirBeachOverlook #SlideRanch #SouthBeach #NCAL #California #dreamexplorediscover #hikingbackpacking #naturalbeauty #nature #whyILOVEtheBayArea

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

2015-Sept-27: One of many happy moments spending the day with friends wandering the countless Mount Tam trails

 

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Jesus Asked, Mother Nature Answered

Jesus (Nuñez) asked (cool weather, no sun), and Mother Nature answered… Our escape from the almost month long San Francisco heat wave to the Marin Headlands & Green Gulch Zen Center was filled with fog, cool weather, BEAUTIFUL coastal views, and hundreds upon hundreds of VIBRANT flowers. I couldn’t have asked for a better day… Or better peeps to spend it with 😋. Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

2015-Sep-12 Our escape to the SF coastline

2015-Sep-12 Our escape to the SF coastline

#whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #BayArea #GoldenGateNationalRecreationArea #GGNRA #MarinHeadlands

UNDENIABLE!

Exploring a few of my favorite trails with a few long-time friends and some newbies… En route to a few of my favorite Marin Headlands spots… Each visit is just as exhilarating as the 1st time and leaves me with a HUGE smile… UNDENIABLE BEAUTY!! Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

Ron, Desmond, Tina, Ann, & Jordan, thanks for contributing to such an INCREDIBLE day!! 

2015-Jun-21 Views of the San Francisco coastline, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands trails.

2015-Jun-21 Views of the San Francisco coastline, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands trails.

2015-Jun-21 Views of the San Francisco coastline, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands trails.

2015-Jun-21 Views of the San Francisco coastline, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands trails.

To Lure… lo͝or… To Tempt… tem(p)t…

I really think the Sierras and Mother Nature were in cahoots this weekend… The Sierras teased me – MERCILESSLY – with their undeniable BEAUTY while Mother Nature tested my love of the Sierras by showcasing a wide range of elements – from sunny/partly cloudy to rain, sleet, snow, and hail. Yep… Almost marble sized… Thankfully, Mother Nature played nice most of Sunday, only tossing rain and hail at us a few times for ~5 minutes each time, and then immediately returning to relatively warm temperatures (for the mountain region) and sunny/partly cloudy skies. The Sierras did what they do best – lure you deeper into the wilderness with more and more SPECTACULAR scenery. And I am a sucker for a really good landscape – even sans DSLR camera as it decided to throw a silent tantrum after experiencing rain and snow the day before. We ended up hiking the entire 12.5 mile Rush Creek Trail loop from Silver Lake to Gem Lake, over Agnew Pass (~9,900 ft), and through Spooky Meadow. Sadly, my iPhone photos don’t do the Ansel Adams Wilderness justice 😥. My heart still skips a beat or two as I recall some of the MAGNIFICENT views…  

2015-May-24: Ansel Adams Wilderness, CA. 12.5 mile Rush Creek Trail loop from Silver Lake to Gem Lake, over Agnew Pass (~9,900 ft), and through Spooky Meadow.

Although I am deeply in LOVE with the Marin Headlands/Mount Tam, I must admit that my LOVE for the Sierras is growing… Yosemite, Inyo National Forest, and Ansel Adams Wilderness, I am greatly anticipating our next play date 😘.

2015-May-24: Ansel Adams Wilderness, CA. 12.5 mile Rush Creek Trail loop from Silver Lake to Gem Lake, over Agnew Pass (~9,900 ft), and through Spooky Meadow.


2015-May-24: Ansel Adams Wilderness, CA. 12.5 mile Rush Creek Trail loop from Silver Lake to Gem Lake, over Agnew Pass (~9,900 ft), and through Spooky Meadow.

 

Expect the Unexpected

Not quite the Memorial Weekend I expected… A little sun, a little clouds, a LOT of rain, a little sleet, and a little snow – AND a VERY wet camera 😩😖😥. Unfortunately, my DSLR decided to protest the afternoon outing and ultimately stopped working once we had completed our 7+ mile hike to Cathedral Lakes from Tuolumne Meadows. I can’t really blame it… It was partly cloudy and cool when our hike commenced, and within 1/2 hour it had begun to drizzle. I was quite proud that I had brought my newly purchased plastic camera cover to protect my baby. The next 1/2 hour produced snow flurries, which were followed by sleet. By the time we arrived at the Upper Cathedral Lake, the wind had picked up, it was snowing and sleeting rather hard, and it was very, VERY cold. Our planned leisurely picnic at the lake turned into a relatively quick scarf down of lunch in the snow and sleet 😬. I know that weather in the Sierra Mountains in May can still be quite unpredictable, but I really did not anticipate to experience a full range of the elements on a 3-4 hour hike in LATE May. And, this was the first time my relatively new camera had experienced rain, sleet, or snow, so unfortunately, I DO understand the tantrum.

12PM PST: Highways 385 and 120 (Tioga) from June Lake, CA to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

12PM PST: Highways 385 and 120 (Tioga) from June Lake, CA to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

I think Mother Nature is testing my love for the Sierras 😘…

2:30PM PST: Upper Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.

2:30PM PST: Upper Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.

Fingers crossed that the weather forecast of partly cloudy and 40% chance for 1 hour of rain holds true for today/tomorrow – unlike the past 2 days where 3 weather sites FAILED MISERABLY with their predictions… AND fingers doubly crossed that once my camera dries, it is fully functional. Canon, please do not fail me now!

5PM PST: Highway120 (Tioga) just past Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

5PM PST: Highway120 (Tioga) just past Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

 

On Top of Marin

The day started on a high… with a steep, 1600+ foot ascent above the fog to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais (aka Mount Tam), the highest point in Marin (at ~2,570 feet) with a few of my FAV nature loving, hiking peeps 😘.

sights... NATURAL Beauty… 13.5 mile hike to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais. The day started on a high and ended on a high - with lots of LOVELY things in between… I couldn’t ask for a better day! Good trails… Good views… Good friends… Good fun… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

sights… NATURAL Beauty… 13.5 mile hike to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais. The day started on a high and ended on a high – with lots of LOVELY things in between… I couldn’t ask for a better day! Good trails… Good views… Good friends… Good fun… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

The day ended on a high… with a steep, 600+ foot ascent back to our starting point through groves of redwood and oak trees with a few of my FAV nature loving, hiking peeps 😘.  (And those that know me, know there are two things I try my best to avoid: (1) out and back hikes, and (2) ending with a climb – especially after a VERY long day of hiking 😬).

sights... NATURAL Beauty… 13.5 mile hike to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais. The day started on a high and ended on a high - with lots of LOVELY things in between… I couldn’t ask for a better day! Good trails… Good views… Good friends… Good fun… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

sights… NATURAL Beauty… 13.5 mile hike to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais. The day started on a high and ended on a high – with lots of LOVELY things in between… I couldn’t ask for a better day! Good trails… Good views… Good friends… Good fun… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

There were lots of LOVELY things in between… the PHENOMENAL 360° views of the entire Bay Area from the peak… the BEAUTIFUL trails that I had never explored (especially Troop 80, Sierra, and Lost)… the PEACEFUL rippling of the rushing Fern Creek and Redwood Creek waters… the UNEXPECTED sighting of several hummingbirds as they zipped between the trees…

And the icing on the cake… replenishment at my FAV SF sushi joint with a few of my FAV nature loving, hiking peeps 😘.

I couldn’t ask for a better day! Good trails… Good views… Good friends (the nature loving, hiking kind)… Good sushi… Good  saké… Good fun… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

#whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty  #mounttam #mounttamalpais #marin #eastpeakview

Wild Berries w/ a Side of Poison Oak

Muir Beach weather forecast, sunny and warm; actual weather cloudy, foggy, windy, and chilly. Not quite sure why I expected the weatherman to be right this time… Wishful thinking??? I did want a good view of the coastline from the Muir Beach Overlook as it is fogged in more often than not. Despite the weather, the UNDENIABLE beauty of the northern California coastline (as well as the hilarious entertainment provided by several of my friends) outshined the dark clouds and thick fog. (I am still chuckling over Greta’s imitation of a skunk crossing the road. Even funnier were the comments “lost in translation” as all 7 of us were born and raised in different countries – Spain, Turkey, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, and USA). Over the course of the day, the sun did make a VERY brief appearance or two… Wildflowers were center stage! Both the coastline and inland were covered in white, yellow, pink, purple, orange, and red wildflowers. So BEAUTIFUL!! The trails were also littered with wild strawberries – most of which were wrapped in poison oak. Temptation got the best of some of us… So, if over the next several days, you happen to see a few people with a poison oak rash around their mouths and on their hands, feel free to smirk 😜. All in all, a GLORIOUS afternoon! My LOVE affair continues… 

 

Special Moments… SF Bay Area… Always

FANTASTIC Saturday exploring the SF coastline w/ friends! There were quite a few special moments we stumbled upon throughout the day – pre-proposal preparations by a young man just above Mike Rock Beach, 4-5 whales frolicking in the waters at Land’s End, and a wedding ceremony at Baker Beach – while we also created a few of our own… The WhatsApp guy… The hordes of men salivating over Cedric’s man toy – his drone – that hopefully caught some great video close ups of the whales… The disappointment of having not packed mojitos in our bags… The glutinous amounts of food we inhaled at Mandalay… Everyone’s laughter is still ringing in my ears 😋. Thank you all for such a great day! 😋 #whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty

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Stunning!

Why I LOVE the Bay Area… Marin Headlands… Rodeo Beach… Tennessee Cove… Black Sand Beach… Hawk Hill… And, the infamous bright red bridge (that will be adorned with $76M of suicide nets in the near future)… Such STUNNING scenery! Prashanth… Greta… Frederick… Maria… Cédric… Bruno… Hector… Carolina… Jesus… Such cool peeps who enjoy playing in nature’s playground as much as me 😋. And I can’t forget our favorite fuel – Mandalay . Thanks for such a fun day!! #whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty

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Spoiled!

Spoiled by the BEAUTY of Mother Nature, the trails on Mount Tam, and the company of good friends… Why I LOVE the Bay Area… #whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover

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Deer in the Headlights Day

Deer in the headlights day… And Tule Elk… LITERALLY! The day started and finished with thick fog and the reflection of many sets of eyes all around. The UNDENIABLE beauty always manages to take my breath away… Why I LOVE the Bay Area… #whyiLOVEthebayarea #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty

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The BEST Sunset… EVER

My first visit to Sequoia National Park and I had such high hopes to explore the groves of sequoias, and of course to see General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. These hopes were quickly squashed when I became chilled to the bone not even 1 hour into our hike and wanted to be finished…

Maybe it had something to do with my complete mental and physical exhaustion???  I had been working CRAZY hours for almost 8 weeks, and was riding on a high because my team and I had FINALLY resolved a huge issue the Friday before Christmas. On this same day, my high sunk to an all-time low when I realized that someone’s ego unnecessarily got the best of them, and was going to have significant negative impacts on me. (All I can say is I am a firm believer in KARMA… 😇) Plus, I had spent the previous week traveling to Atlanta for the holidays to visit my family – the Dude (aka dad), my older sister, bro-in-law, and their two young children. I ADORE my 6 year old niece and 4 year old nephew – except in the wee morning hours… The morning after my arrival, at 6 AM EST (3AM PST), I hear my 6 year old niece chastising my 4 year old nephew right outside my bedroom door, screaming at the top of her lungs “Be quiet, Julian, Auntie is sleeping!!!!” The next morning, Christmas, I had a certain young lady plop right on my bed at 4AM EST asking if it was time to open gifts… Needless to say, on top of being a bit jet-lagged, I was also a bit sleep deprived in Atlanta.

All was good and well until my return flight was delayed 8+ hours, putting me into the Bay Area around 9 PM. Upon arrival, I found out that there were issues with the baggage carousels and that there was only 1 servicing the entire terminal. Yep, Murphy’s Law in effect AGAIN! By the time I got home, I had a little less than 7 hours to unpack, do some laundry, take care of a few work emails, and repack. My thought was that I would power through the night and catch a nap in the car en route to Death Valley (the first stop of our National Park holiday journey). Unfortunately, my two gal pals had the same idea 😥. They had also pulled an all-nighter getting ready for our adventure. So, my sleep deprivation continued…

OR, maybe the fact that the trails were VERY icy, and I did not have proper footwear??? It WAS wintertime… I don’t know what I was thinking 😋… I guess living in an area with year-round mild weather and having just spent the previous few days in Death Valley made me forget that I would probably encounter snow and ice. I had already slipped a few times, and the last thing I needed was to re-injure my back after finally surpassing MANY years of being in chronic pain. Note to self, the soles on my Salomon shoes become like skates when they encounter winter elements 😁. Next time, I will definitely make sure I bring crampons.

OR MAYBE it was simply because I realized that I think am kind of over tall trees! No offense, Sequoias, I AM impressed by you! You are the largest trees in the world. BUT… too much of a good thing… I see you (or your cousins) almost every weekend when hiking in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of my favorite weekend haunts, houses Muir Woods, the Marin Headlands, and Phelger Estate, which all contain groves of redwoods. I thought I would be more excited to see General Sherman up close…

Whatever the reason, this was possibly the 2nd time in my life I was more than ready to quit shortly after starting something. My gal pals and I did manage to walk a few short miles in the Giant Forest, on the Big Trees Trail, and to visit the General Sherman Tree… and I did snap a picture or two 😁.

After having a relaxing lunch at the Wuksachi Lodge, we decided to go on a car ride to see what we had missed the evening before as we entered Sequoia National Park long after dark. The road back to the Ash Entrance of the park is only ~25 miles but took more than an hour primarily due to the sharp hairpin turns but also to a few drivers who were busier enjoying the views than driving 😁. It seems as though these peeps failed to notice the NUMEROUS turnouts along Highway 198. In any event, our timing was just about perfect… We arrived at the Eleven Ranges Viewpoint in the late afternoon – just in time to snap some photos of the late afternoon sun.

The prequel to the most AMAZING sunset…

Eleven Ranges Viewpoint, Sequoia National Park, CA. Late afternoon sun. The prequel to the most AMAZING sunset...

Eleven Ranges Viewpoint, Sequoia National Park, CA. Late afternoon sun. The prequel to the most AMAZING sunset…

And for the first time in weeks, I was able to return to the present moment…  To stop the millions of thoughts and images dashing through my brain… To focus on the INCREDIBLE beauty before my eyes… And most importantly, to feel a TREMENDOUS sense of peace.

John Muir said it best, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

And the best was yet to come…

Eleven Ranges Viewpoint, Sequoia National Park, CA. "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." - John Muir. The best sunset I have seen in ages...

Eleven Ranges Viewpoint, Sequoia National Park, CA. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. The best sunset I have seen in ages…

I can honestly say, THIS IS the best sunset I have seen in ages…

 

#iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty #nature #SequoiaNationalPark #sunset #ElevenRanges #Highway198 #JohnMuir #Big TreesTrail #GeneralSherman #GiantForest #WukasachiLodge #GGNRA #GoldenGateNationalRecreationArea #MuirWoods #MarinHeadlands

Perfect New Year

🌟😊 a·maz·ing·ly beau·ti·ful!! Perfect start to 2015 😊🌟 #iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty

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DEFINITELY still Smitten!

Marin Headlands, you ROCK! After all of the years spent hanging out you still know how to surprise me with hidden nooks and crannies that showcase MESMERIZING views. I have walked many of your trails countless times and thought I had seen it all… and you proved me wrong 😉 You managed to impress despite having so many things working against you today – the least of which included a very tired me, who had an INCREDIBLY late, but VERY FUN, night with only 4 hours of sleep. (Thanks Yan & Remy!) I am even more amazed at your IMPECCABLE timing! Somehow you upstaged the forecasted weather of mostly cloudy and fog just in time for my descent down to the bluffs behind Tennessee Cove. Your beauty was so energizing that I was not only able to complete my course in record time, but also spent an hour enjoying the beach, and was back at my car long before sunset. DEFINITELY still smitten! My love affair continues…

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My Beloved

In my beloved Marin Headlands… With friends… Watching a greatly anticipated, PHENOMENAL aerial show from atop Slacker Hill (Thanks US Navy Blue Angels et al!)… Followed by a steep descent to Black Sand Beach for a quick dip in the water… And ending with a BEAUTIFUL sunset peeking out from the hills in the Headlands. My love affair continues…

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That BEAUTIFUL Red Bridge

Another perfect day… Exploring the SF coastline w/ friends… No matter how often I see the coastline, skyline, landscape, etc, I am still awestruck by its undeniable BEAUTY… Why I LOVE the Bay Area…

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One… Several… HAPPINESS

One afternoon… One city trail… One red bridge… Several beaches… Several good friends… HAPPINESS… My love affair continues..

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It Is ALL About the View

10 avid adventurers planning on a hike… 1 overslept, a few needed sleep, 1 sprained an ankle, and a few played nursemaid… SO……… then there were 3, who decided to spend the day visiting a few hot spots along the NCAL coastline… Muir Beach & Overlook, Pirate’s Cove, Tennessee Cove… And a few well-known trails … Fox Trail, Green Gulch Trail, Coastal Trail… And 1 lesser known, and newly re-named “Forbidden Trail” – thanks to Roxana.

**Who knew that “Area Closed. Stay ON Trail” meant NOT this trail???** That’s MY defense and I am sticking to it b/c IT IS ALL ABOUT THE VIEW. And there were quite FABULOUS views 🙂

My “selective” understanding of signs sometimes comes in handy… Although I don’t think I will get away with it much longer as Roxana is on to me 🙂

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More BREATHTAKINGLY beautiful scenery and INCREDIBLY kind people!

THE JULIAN ALPS

The Dude (aka dad) and I encountered quite SPLENDID views throughout our journey over the Vršič Pass and thru the Julian Alps visiting the areas of Kranjska Gora, Bovec, and Bohinj Bistreca/Mount Vogel. Even the Dude has snapped a photo or two  Unfortunately, most of the REMARKABLE scenery throughout our visit to the Alps will only be etched in our memories (vs captured on film) as the Slovene highway in the Julian Alps consists merely of a single, incredibly narrow road that is to accommodate traffic in both directions, despite only being 2 Smart cars wide (most drive full-size cars) – and has certainly NO space to pull over.

I must comment that the Dude and I are quite impressed by the driving talents of the Slovenes, who it seems have mastered the switchbacks and hairpin turns at INCREDIBLY high rates of speed, while avoiding accidents with oncoming traffic and the countless motorcyclists, cyclists, and hikers who also occupy the road. Although Slovenia is best experienced traveling by car, if you plan a visit (primarily in the Alps) you might want to practice your skills at your local speedway first – and make certain that neither you nor your passengers are prone to motion sickness…

I want to extend a special thank you to the older gentleman living in the TEENY TINY town of Kal-Koritnica (population ~125) whose yard we walked by en route to our car after the completion of a hike up in the hills to see some WWI artifacts. He INSISTED we take at least a dozen of his freshly picked plums to replenish our energy… Such unexpected kindness but greatly appreciated!!

Next stop – wine tasting in the Goriška Brda region…

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Oh, Slovenia, YOU are so BEAUTIFUL to me…

If this was just the scenery en route from Bled to Kranjska Gora, I can’t wait to see what the Gorenjska Region and the Vršič Pass look like… Although I am betting The Dude (aka dad) is hoping that I won’t be too enamored  I give him a TON of kudos for being such a trooper as he has probably seen more nature in the past few days than he has seen in the past several years, experienced me attempting to drive w/ the crazy Slovene drivers through the Julian Alps, eaten & drank things he has never heard of or wouldn’t try on his own (he loved the Miklic’s home brewed blueberry schnapps that I ordered for him), and walked many more miles than he would like. Thank goodness he hasn’t quite figured out his fitbit and has it set to only measure steps and not miles 🙂

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I Have Fallen in DEEP LIKE…

I have fallen in DEEP LIKE with Slovenia… Ljubljana and Bled are such green cities – both physically and environmentally – with FANTASTIC wines, PHENOMENAL food, and INCREDIBLY friendly people. One minor exception: the police at the border crossing who were quite intimidating especially when several of them surrounded me and the dude (aka dad) on our train car and spent 10+ minutes inspecting every page of our passports asking countless questions. (One even pulled out a loupe to examine my passport photo in detail). Thankfully, the natural beauty of all of the cities we have passed thru has overshadowed the slight negative experience… Even on an INCREDIBLY overcast day, Bled is still INCREDIBLY beautiful!

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Multitasking at its Best!

Taking in a few of my FAVORITE Marin County hot spots… Stinson Beach, Rocky Point Beach, Muir Woods… While doing some of my FAVORITE activities… Catching up w/ friends, playing w/ my camera, enjoying the BEAUTIFUL scenery, ascending/descending Mount Tam… Along 16.5 miles of a few of my FAVORITE trails… Steep Ravine, Dipsea, Main, Ocean View… With some of my Bay Area peeps… Followed by refueling with gluttonous amounts of my FAVORITE Burmese cuisine from Mandalay… Mango Salad, Tea Leaf Salad, Basil Spicy Eggplant, Mango Chicken, etc. I couldn’t ask for a better send off!!

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I Never Should Have Doubted…

The Marin Headlands did not disappoint!! Despite the chilly, overcast weather that forced us to break out merino wool layers, the thick fog that only allowed us to see the bottom half of the BEAUTIFUL iconic red bridge, and the strong gusts of wind that almost swept us off our feet, the Headlands supplied a playground of trails and numerous beaches to explore while showing us it’s REMARKABLE natural beauty. The perfect backdrop for catching up w/ friends

I never should have doubted… My love affair continues…

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Bay Area Perfection!

Escaped the chaos of the city I LOVE to the beauty of the coastline I ADOREPERFECTION!!

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Oh, Yosemite, how do I LOVE thee???

Oh, Yosemite, how do I LOVE thee? Let me count the ways…

(1) Four Mile Trail – a very steep 3,200 ft ascent, which took my breath away – literally and figuratively. FABULOUS views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.

(2) Glacier Point – where I lost Stephanie, Ehsan and I made friends w/ a squirrel, I found Stephanie, and I managed to talk Roxana, and Naren into hiking an additional 9+ miles – all for the LOVE of natural beauty.

(3) The Panorama Trail – which provided FANTASTIC scenery every step of the way, including quite a bit of wildlife, some bright red plants that we couldn’t name, and LOTS of water – Illilouette and Nevada Falls, to name a few.

Last but not least,

(4) The Mist Trail – which caused my heart to skip a beat or two (or three) as we descended ~1,000 ft over large, algae-covered boulders while getting sprayed by Vernal Falls – ALL by moonlight. It was scary yet exciting! Hiking the Mist Trail after dark is definitely NOT recommended but did make for an exhilarating end to a full day of exploring Thank you Luda, Javier, Roxana, Alex, Stephanie, Naren, Richard, and Ehsan for a TREMENDOUS weekend of laughs, fun, food, wine, and adventure!

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Why I LOVE the Bay Area! Need I say more…

My love affair continues…

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Beyond My Comfort Zone

The past 24 hours in Beijing have been chaotic, exhausting, humorous, surprising, adventurous, and just downright EXHILARATING… My bestie and I found that trying to cross the road was like being in a live game of Frogger 😁. I am still not sure how, but SOMEHOW, we managed to make it to the other side… We also had our first introduction to Chinese-style squat toilets 😁😁. Imagine trying to balance a backpack and an overnight bag on your body (the stalls have no hooks/shelves), while trying to squat over a hole in the ground, while trying not to touch anything, while trying not to smell anything, while trying not to notice anything, all while trying to pull your stash of toilet paper from your bags (as the stalls have none). I managed fairly well despite the residual effects from a 1999 car accident which makes it near impossible to do a “3rd World Squat.” My bestie, however, was always in search of a Western toilet and rejoiced heavily the few times she was actually able to find one… We also got our first introduction to internet censorship 😁😁😁. I knew that there were issues with Google (and related products) and Facebook but had no idea that I would also incur issues when attempting to view the NY Times and Bloomberg websites. Most surprising was to find that I would have NO access to WordPress (my blog host) during my China travels. Really??? WordPress??? Interestingly enough, my bestie initially had access to google chat thru VPN on her work computer – that is until she decided to complain to her boyfriend via google chat about the Chinese-style squat toilets. Almost INSTANTANEOUSLY, it quit working. Eerie, huh??? Welcome to China!

The most SPECTACULAR moment since landing in Beijing last night, was hiking a somewhat remote portion of the Great Wall of China at Huanghuacheng (Huang Hua Cheng – aka “Yellow Flower Fortress”) today with my bestie and a local adventure guide named James. Huanghuacheng is located in the Huairou District, about 60 kilometers from Beijing, China and was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is ~6.8 miles (11km) long and joins with Juyongguan Pass and Badaling in the southwest and Jiankou and Mutianyu in the northeast. Huanghuacheng is quite rugged as it has deteriorated over time and has yet to be restored like Mutianyu, Badaling, and other, more popular sections of the Great Wall.

Although I am an avid hiker, hiking this section of the Great Wall was CHALLENGING – to say the least – AND a bit SCARY at points, but ultimately, I LOVED it. Some portions were almost vertical and resembled climbing a very, VERY tall wall at a rock gym; other portions were just REALLY STEEP and SLICK (and going downhill was no better than going uphill). After the first 30-45 minutes of hiking, James and I were the only two people venturing forward on the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall as most turn back once they begin to experience the difficult terrain. Although I am afraid of heights, somehow James managed to gain my trust enough that I continued to follow him to points that WELL EXCEEDED my comfort zone. The bait… the promise of great scenery. (And for me, it’s all about the view!!) Just as James had promised, the BRILLIANT views became even more MAGNIFICENT the higher we ascended.

2012-May-19 Huairou, Beijing, China: Hiking “Yellow Flower Fortress,” a somewhat remote section of the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng, which is located in the Huairou District, about 60 kilometers from Beijing, China and was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is ~6.8 miles (11km) long and joins with Juyongguan Pass and Badaling in the southwest and Jiankou and Mutianyu in the northeast. Some portions were almost vertical and resembled climbing a very, VERY tall wall at a rock gym; other portions were just REALLY STEEP and SLICK (and going downhill was no better than going uphill).

2012-May-19 Huairou, Beijing, China: Hiking “Yellow Flower Fortress,” a somewhat remote section of the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng, which is located in the Huairou District, about 60 kilometers from Beijing, China and was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is ~6.8 miles (11km) long and joins with Juyongguan Pass and Badaling in the southwest and Jiankou and Mutianyu in the northeast. Some portions were almost vertical and resembled climbing a very, VERY tall wall at a rock gym; other portions were just REALLY STEEP and SLICK (and going downhill was no better than going uphill).

The scenery was so MESMERIZING that I forgot about my fear of heights until it was time to climb down. James managed to scurry down just like a mountain goat. (Granted, he has probably hiked this section of the Great Wall hundreds of times…) For the life of me, I could not figure out the best way to descend the almost vertical section I had managed to climb up an hour before. What goes up MUST come down… RIGHT???? My heart began pumping out of my chest as I thought of how easy it would be to slip and fall right off the Great Wall… For a split moment, I told myself that if this was my last day on this earth, at least I had a very full life and was leaving a BEAUTIFUL locale doing something that I LOVE exploring. James must have sensed my fear because the next thing I knew, he had returned to where I was and began instructing me on my hand and foot placement. I will be forever thankful 😘!!

Unfortunately, pictures don’t do the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall justice… I will, however, always have etched in my memory the EXHILARATING feeling standing atop a tower, by myself, surrounded by mountains, smog, lakes, more smog, miles upon miles of the Great Wall sprawled throughout… THE SMOG… taking in what many would consider one of the great wonders of the world. I felt so alive!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch

2012-May-19 Huairou, Beijing, China: Hiking “Yellow Flower Fortress,” a somewhat remote section of the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng, which is located in the Huairou District, about 60 kilometers from Beijing, China and was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is ~6.8 miles (11km) long and joins with Juyongguan Pass and Badaling in the southwest and Jiankou and Mutianyu in the northeast. Some portions were almost vertical and resembled climbing a very, VERY tall wall at a rock gym; other portions were just REALLY STEEP and SLICK (and going downhill was no better than going uphill). Locals “guard” the wall and charge access fees (price posted on the wall) for whatever sections they prefer.

2012-May-19 Huairou, Beijing, China: Hiking “Yellow Flower Fortress,” a somewhat remote section of the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng, which is located in the Huairou District, about 60 kilometers from Beijing, China and was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is ~6.8 miles (11km) long and joins with Juyongguan Pass and Badaling in the southwest and Jiankou and Mutianyu in the northeast. Some portions were almost vertical and resembled climbing a very, VERY tall wall at a rock gym; other portions were just REALLY STEEP and SLICK (and going downhill was no better than going uphill). Locals “guard” the wall and charge access fees (price posted on the wall) for whatever sections they prefer.

Thank you for the experience, Huanghuacheng!!

Also, a special thanks goes to James Zhang, adventure guide extraordinaire, for everything, including taking photos of me! Note: all landscape photos were taken by yours truly, and with just a point-and-shoot 🙂

 

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