Monday, April 25, 2011

Ballona Wetlands and Earth Day 2011

I've never particpated in Earth Day before but this year I came up with a challenge idea for our wellness program at work that was to do clean up at the Ballona Wetlands. For those of you who don't know the Ballona Wetlands are the last 100 acres of wetlands in the greater Los Angeles area. They are located here. Click on any picture to make it larger.

They are currently in a legal battle to save it from the Playa Vista 2 development project which includes a shopping center and 2,600 homes. More concrete, less greenspace, more traffic, just what Los Angeles needs.

We started with a brief talk on conservation, recycling, history of the wetlands and the importance of it continuing to exist. It was quite interesting and we were reminded of the Katrina disaster and how preserving the wetlands in Louisiana could have saved them. Wetlands absorbs incoming sea water from tides and out going flood waters. They act like a sponge and clean the water passing through them. Wetlands are also an important bird and animal habitat.

After our chat we continued to our work site, for us this involved removing Acacia trees, an invasive non-native plant species from Africa. Very hard work pushing a wheelbarrow through sand and lopping off and hand sawing branches. But well worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A few Grand Canyon Pictures

The elk were so close I had to use a wide angle lens and they just walked down the path like we weren't there, so we moved or else. These are all mom's pictures. Yes, we are literally sitting on the edge. It took a lot to get mom out there. It was a big rock...lots of room. Click each picture to make them bigger.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Road Trip Day 3 - Eastern side of the park

Today we drove east on desert view road with our first stop at the Watchtower - a 70' tower built out of stone under the watchful eye of Mary Colter. The tower is pretty cool and mimics towers found throughout the southwest thought to be used for defense and food storage. This one was just a convenient stop for Grand Canyon visitors in 1932. After our climb to the top (7,522 feet above sea level) and some serious gift shop shopping we drove back west.

As we made our way the 25 miles back to the village center we stopped along the way visiting an Indian museum, some ruins, and numerous viewpoints. You certainly would never get tired of looking at the Grand Canyon in my opinion whatever the view.

We hurried up, ate lunch and ran off to our 2:00 pm ranger nature hike. We walked with the ranger for about 3/4 of a mile and then went off for another mile or two with the canyon in view all the time. What a way to hike.

Dinner? Off to the El Tovar lodge for a swanky meal. Mom and were fortunate enough by luck I suppose to get a table overlooking the rim. WOW!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The canyon

View from the restaurant

Note the canyon in the background

Road Trip Day 2 - continued

After checking in to our room we had 15 minutes of downtime before it was off to catch the shuttle bus for Hopi Point. This is the most popular place to view the sunset. I figured, why not go to the most popular spot even though I hate crowds. on the way west we were compelled to jump off before our stop to view a herd of elk. They were just off the road, about nine of them, all females. As we moved toward this viewpoint we discovered two right in the trees beside us, so close that I had to use a wide angle to get one in. Beautiful animals.

Back on the shuttle and on to Hopi point. Mom and I supped on a rock 2' from the rim with the expanse of the canyon and the cathedrals of the mountains as a view. After supper we staked out our camera spots and waited for an hour and a half. Those of you that know me know that I am not a patient person but with scenery like this the time flew.

We were not disappointed, ten minutes before sunset the colors changed all through the canyon to pinks, oranges and shadows. It was awesome and frankly words cannot describe it. Shortly it became too dark to shoot the canyon without a tripod so we turned to the actual sunset. With the poofy clouds in front of the sun and the rays shining through it was magnificent.

Sunset over we took our frozen bodies (it was sooooo cold!) and headed into the village for a ranger talk on ravens. There are a lot of ravens here and the ranger told stories of how intelligent they are and how well they adapt, unlike the condor which is having trouble adapting and will probably always need protection.

Another incredible day!

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Road Trip - Day 2 - THE Grand Canyon

Mom and I left Kingman this morning and drove a short three hours to the south rim grand canyon national park. We promptly got a little lost in the park and ended up at Mather Point at the rim. WOW! It makes the west canyon look puny. The vastness of it is mind boggling. We still haven't seen the Colorado river from here yet because we haven't gone to the right view point.

We are currently in the Yavapai cafeteria waiting for our room to be ready. 20 minutes. We have an ambitious evening planned with grabbing a to go sandwich and taking a shuttle then hiking to the furthest vista point for the sunset. We're both a little tired already of the hoards of asian tourists, so a little solitude would be welcome.

Someone told me last week that one day in the park is plenty. I cannot fathom that. There is so much to do and so many things to see. I suppose if you are of the mind that if you've seen one canyon you've seen it all....I am not. More later.

Location:South rim

Day 1 on our road trip

Today was an amazing day. Starting early we drove across the great state of California through the high desert and the lava fields crossing into Arizona. Then we headed north to the western rim of the grand canyon. The skywalk is not an easy place to get to - one lane highways and then 21 miles of dirt, washboard roads. As we hit the dirt the landscape really changed with forests of Joshua trees and free range cattle accompanying us through the dust.

As we turned each corner huge mesas and large snow covered mountains greeted us. Finally that final turn and mom and I both gasped. There it was - words cannot describe the vastness of the expanse of canyons before us. We were still too far away to see the edge and bottom but our excitement was palpable.

After the formalities we boarded our bus for the skywalk. There are no rails or ropes at the edge so you can get as close as you dare. Mom kept freaking out that I was too close. We took lots of pictures and oohed and awed at the vastness and the 4000' sheer drop. I could sit on the edge and gaze forever.

Our time came for the skywalk - we donned our protective booties and ventured out onto the glass. We loved it. We just couldn't look down and walk at the same time, it made both of us queezy but we could stand still and look down. At one point we walked from the end back out as the cliff dropped away and you feel a whoosh as your subconscious freaks out that you are falling. What a great time.

Then it was off to Eagle point for a little hike, some rock climbing and more pictures. What a day!

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Location:Western Arizona