Oscar’s Kodak Moment

I was supposed to be learning how to take GREAT sunset and nighttime photos (at one of the premier locations to capture the San Francisco skyline – Treasure Island)… BUT, while waiting for the sun to set and while watching the fog rapidly roll in covering up the sun and most of the skyline, this little rascal, who I aptly named Oscar (after one of my FAV Sesame Street characters), captured my attention. He quickly scampered from some large rocks on the shore to the rubbish bins lining the parking lot. He was scavenging the trash cans for dinner and was NOT HAPPY that I was capturing his binge… I got to see his not-so-pearly whites and hear his not-so-pleasant growl… Not just once… Not just twice… but on three separate occasions 😁… Have no fear, Oscar, dumpster diving is SOOOO not my thing!! However, capturing moments is…😘😘 This must have been his “cheat” day as he opted for junk food (what looked to be fried chicken bones, French fries, and a plastic container of Ranch dressing) instead of the fresh fish, crabs, and whatever else is in the San Francisco Bay. I wonder if I should have tossed some Pepto Bismol, Tums, or some other antacid in the bin????

12-Jun-2015: “Oscar’s Kodak Moment,” Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA, US

 

#iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #california #treasureisland #sanfrancisco #photography #sunset #travel #sanfranciscoskyline #oscar #sesamestreet #dumpsterdiving

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Sahara’s Rainbows

I was so excited to embark on our ~500km/300mi journey through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains and the Ziz Valley to the Sahara Desert. The Dude (aka dad), not so much… Over the years, I have learned that he is much more into the destination rather than the journey, but will easily go along with the flow 😊. Moha, on the other hand, was eager to show us Erfoud and the Sahara, where he grew up and where his parents and most of his siblings still reside with their families.

Our first stop was in Ifrane, “Morocco’s Switzerland.” It is a VERY expensive ski-resort town. It is a very clean and quiet city, but I found it somewhat pretentious and rather soulless. Maybe because it is not hustling and bustling with skiers at this time of year… In any event, Ifrane became a rather quick stop – just long enough to walk around for a bit and stretch our legs. We spent a bit more time in Azrou, a tiny little town just outside of Ifrane, known for great trout fishing and the Barbary Macaque, an endangered species of ape that lives in the Middle Atlas Mountains. There was a group of ~15-20 of them playing in and around the forest of cedar trees along the side of the road. From there, I can’t recall the cities but will forever have the landscape etched in my memory. The diversity of scenery was UNREAL!! I still can’t believe my eyes and glad that I have photos as proof 😉. Out of the left car window were forested mountains and lakes in cool color shades of greens, blues, and greys, while out of the right car window were barren rock mountains and an occasional oasis in warm color shades of oranges, yellows, and browns. Both scenes had snow-capped mountains in the background. Unbelievably BEAUTIFUL! I so wish I had a different camera lens with me and more time…

Drive through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains in Morocco

sights… NATURAL Beauty… A drive through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

Nothing prepared me for what I was going to see and experience in the Sahara Desert. Although having lived in the Arizona desert for almost 15 years, and having spent time this past year in the deserts of Arizona, California, and Utah, I am very familiar w/ desert colors – or so I thought… I had not anticipated a full rainbow of colors in such bright hues. It was like a combination of Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Zion on steroids!

It was so INCREDIBLY peaceful watching the sunset from atop a very large sand dune. I can honestly say I have seen better sunsets… (3-January-2015 in Sequoia National Park was the best I have ever seen while 2-May-2012 in Negril, Jamaica and 5-May-2012 in Negril, Jamaica  were a close 2nd). I think it was the overall experience that made it such an AMAZING moment… Being in Morocco – a place that I had spoken about infrequently since my youth but never really had a plan to go… With my father – the only parent I have left… Celebrating his birthday – a big one, although he claims to be 39 and has since I was born 😁… In the Sahara Desert – a place that I imagined to be VERY tranquil but a place my sister really did not want me to visit because of its proximity to the dangers in Algeria – a mere 35km/20mi away – and the continued struggles in the Western Sahara Desert. Surprisingly, there was a stillness in the air. Even the camels ceased their moans, squeaks, groans, and roars and sat silently as the sun crept out of sight.

The Sahara Desert in Morocco.

sights… NATURAL Beauty… The Sahara Desert in Morocco.

I so wish I could have spent many more days just exploring the Sahara Desert but I think the novelty of the desert with the Dude was quickly wearing off 😁. He loved the surprise birthday party that Moha planned but was ready to explore something different. Had I been with some of my more outdoorsy friends and had more time in Morocco, I would have asked Moha to arrange for us to stay deeper in the desert and for much longer. He has promised to arrange that when I return.

Much to my surprise, even the Dude, who is a city boy and not really into nature, said the Sahara Desert was WONDERFUL!! His favorite experience thus far. And that means a lot coming from him…

#iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty

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

Jamaican Bliss

Bliss… Sitting on our hotel deck, watching the sunset, listening to live reggae, drinking frozen mango/strawberry/papaya juice, and eating freshly caught fish and fried plantains made by Ms. Norma with the Dude (aka dad), sis, bro-in-law, and baby niece and nephew. Life is good!!

#iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty #jamaica #negril #sunset #travel

sights... NATURAL Beauty… Seven Mile Beach

sights… NATURAL Beauty… a BEAUTIFUL sunset at Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica

I Heart Beautiful Sunsets

I had heard that Jamaica has pretty sunsets… Pretty is an understatement! This sunset was ASTONISHINGLY BEAUTIFUL!! The spectacular display of hues… the oranges, the yellows, the pinks… and the dark clouds from the mid-afternoon rain storm made for a rather REMARKABLE sunset. Even my almost 2 year-old nephew took notice – albeit for a short moment – which was quite surprising since the only thing that seems to grab his attention is 4-wheeled vehicles (especially trucks) and anytime I leave the room. (I must admit, it’s kind of cute to be followed EVERYWHERE – even when I return to my room to brush my teeth. Hopefully, this love for his Auntie will last 😘).

Thus far, Negril has lived up to its reputation of providing a family-friendly environment, a laid back lifestyle, extremely warm people, white sand beaches, and BEAUTIFUL sunsets. It’s everything we desired for our brief family get-a-way to celebrate my sister’s graduation from nursing school (with honors) and my nephew’s 2nd birthday (his last free plane ride). Montego Bay (aka Mo Bay), you may have the glitz and glam, but you do not have the INCREDIBLE sunsets from Seven Mile Beach 😜.

Thank you, Negril and Mother Nature!

#iluv2xplore #dreamexplorediscover #naturalbeauty #jamaica #negril #sunset #travel

sights... NATURAL Beauty… An ASTONISHINGLY BEAUTIFUL sunset at Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica

sights… NATURAL Beauty… An ASTONISHINGLY BEAUTIFUL sunset at Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica