New places to play

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I don’t get out much these days with study and a ton of other tasks to do at home so I had a mission to go into San Francisco for the day to renew my daughter’s passport at the Australian Consulate. I hopped onto the train to allow myself a time of chilling and knitting which was excellent as I have many projects going on at the moment. Arriving in San Francisco and walking through SOMA I have never seen so many dudes in my life – hey if you are a single woman get out there! There were packs of them and as my hubby says its ‘cos of all the tech companies in South of Market. Funny they all look the same and dress the same in their little uniforms of trainers, jeans, t-shirt or checked shirt and some facial hair and glasses. Walking through the city there were many homeless people even camped outside the building on Market Street right in the middle of the Financial District. Crazy how there is so much money in this city and there is no real solution to the problem of housing for the homeless. Hopefully, with the upcoming election, some wise nut will be able to do something about it and begin to care for the community. As I was walking down 3rd Street there was a hotel worker strike demanding better conditions and pay – go for it and I wish you all the best of luck, it is a tough and demanding job often disregarded by the many folks who travel and expect more.

Thank goodness the Australian Consulate has such an easy process with the paperwork and it all went smoothly! With 30 minutes to spare I wandered down the road to Bluestone Lane, an Aussie inspired cafe. The story goes that the guy who started the chain began his coffee shop franchise in New York by the need to get a decent coffee and enjoy an Aussie style coffee shop. I went to the cafe in the hope of having a CUP of tea but this is the cafe and only do “to go” so I had a paper cup and had to recycle it! They had a couple of tables outside and there I sat and ate my $8 avocado toast out of a box and read my book on Swedish Death Cleaning. I really needed to go to the coffee shop in Union Square if I wanted to have a latte with a cup and saucer, this is all explained on their website, American style to go or Aussie style sit down, relax and enjoy a cuppa.  Anyway, it was not as exciting as I thought it would be and as I have been living in America for ages I always set my expectations low, so I do not suffer disappointment.

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Our baby girl Bella chilling out – which is where I should be but between subjects for Uni but alas, I have a bunch of stuff to catch up on, mainly sewing!

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To end the week I helped out at my work for a couple of hours on Friday and volunteered at the school walkathon for another 3 hours and I was done and dusted for the week, time to chill. Missy had just come back from her trip away on science camp for 4 days and was determined to get herself a t-shirt by walking 75 laps which equals around 18 miles (28 km) that is quite a walk! She did it and was quite pleased that she scored a shirt but by the time she got to the end they had run out of t-shirts so she will get it this week! Still, I am quite amazed that these 5th-grade girls mustered up the energy to complete the walkathon after their epic 5-hour hike on science camp, though they did say that was training for the walkathon 😀

The weekend was pretty packed with stuff to do with the kids going to the harvest festival with their chickens for 4H and sharing their chickens at a petting zoo and pet parade. Unfortunately one of the white king pigeons flew away, hopefully, he finds his way back to the coop – it was quite distressing for the kids to see him fly away!

On Sunday we met our friends up in San Francisco at a hidden gem called Glen Canyon Park where we hiked around the natural habitats to the main drag of Portola and found some food before we walked uphill to Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower. Glen Canyon Park has such a fascinating history which was saved from development by the “Gum Tree Ladies” in the 1970s. The park provides habitats for Red Tailed Hawks, coyote, racoon and many other critters of the city. There is a fenced off super cool park for the kids to climb and play but be warned – Adults must be accompanied by children! 

We enjoyed burgers at Tower Burgers which was a 10-minute walk away from the top of the hill and with some energy we continued our walk uphill towards Twin Peaks.

The views on Twin Peaks were breathtaking, as was the wind that was blowing us sideways! The crows were having a grand old time flying in and out of the wind currents up there. Here is San Francisco in all its glory. The kids had a blast pretending to be crows using their jackets as wings.

We headed back to the car by walking along the Gum Tree Girls trail and encountered many obstacles such as tree roots, low hanging branches, tunnels of scrub which makes it such a wonderful walk you have to be aware of your surroundings. This was another fun time in San Francisco with our friends being tourists for the day and discovering new places to play!

 

Comfort in the redwoods

A big week last week with celebrations for our newly minted 13-year-old – he had no idea about his present which we have purchased for his school in Melbourne as the kids bring their own device (BYOD). It certainly was a huge surprise to him – when asked what he got for his birthday he mentions it last in his list of gifts as it is something just for a special day! I love that about my kids they really are not that focused on consumer items and appreciate what they receive, thank goodness after living in this area where consumerism is everywhere and everyone has to have the latest tech gadget. Our house has one TV but everyone has a computer, mmmm maybe we have been sucked in too, so much for my anti-consumerist rant!! One of his fave things now are YuGiOh cards and has spent most of his birthday money on them – at least it is something that is creative and has a math component to it, so win win!

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After all the fun celebrations of the week, we took it easy and went camping with our school for one night under the redwoods. This was my first time visiting Portola Redwoods State Park and it was just beautiful. We were in two group sites called the Circle and the Point and it was surrounded by massive trees and right by the creek.

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My daughter took me on a walk through the obstacle course to get to the creek and we found one of the heroes of the redwood forest the banana slug doing his morning duty.

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Looking up high so many tall trees and the energy in amongst the green in the morning was so relaxing. I felt a bit stiff in my body as my mattress had sunk to the ground and it was freezing so in the middle of the night I got up and blew up my mattress and found myself in the same situation come the morning, blah!

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We had a couple of friends take us on the 1-mile return hike to the Old Tree, it was a very special hike leading to a very old redwood that 23 kids circled around on the docent-led hike the day before.

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Massive fallen trees provided many spaces to jump up and walk upon – these are 10-year-olds hopping upon this giant log.

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The sun was peeking through the trees in the morning and we really enjoyed the energy of these tall trees.

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Finally, we made it to the tree and my son is trying to climb it, I gave it a huge hug and said farewell to the redwoods. This is something I will really miss when we go back to Australia but there are other old trees that I can enjoy in the forests around Australia.

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This sign has the info on the age of the old tree at over 1,200 years old protected and living in a State Park. As ambassadors of the environment, our job is to take care of our earth so we can all enjoy the air that we breathe thanks to the trees.

This week before my CSA delivery came the fridge was empty and as my daughter is out on science camp it was a prime time to get into some beets! I made an amazing coconut milk (from coconut milk powder) beet latte for lunch and for dinner I found the Beet Balls recipe in my Samurai Salads book – I think I will have to look at it for more inspiration for autumn dinners. The beet balls were made with lentils and are the perfect addition for a wrap or crumbled into a salad.

Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 3

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Our stay at the Joshua Tree was wonderful as we were at the Atomic Tiki Ranch in Yucca Valley with its incredible collection of mid-century furniture and collectables with a tiki twist. We loved playing the record player with plenty of classic Hawaiian records to transport us to Hawaii and dance the hula around this super cool party house. Space was huge in the house with a dressing room in the master room with wall to wall mirrors and a huge closet. I imagine back in the day you could get dressed in there for your cocktail party and check your outfit, do your makeup and look fancy! We enjoyed the details in the kitchen with their collection of vintage cups and plates and its original oven in primo condition. I could see that a lot of love was put into this house to create this space and as I am a big fan of the mid-century furnishings and decor this was the perfect place to stay!

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Our last hike in the park was a small low key hike or two, and the weather was Blowing Sand and 4˚C during the day in the sunshine. We thought it should be alright in the sun?!? But no, the weather was windy, the wind was cold, so we had to put on our hoods our jackets were zipped up, and I also had a beanie on! Which is what is happening in this pic with my hood over my head to keep warm. The kids were active and jumping all over the rocks, so they managed to increase their body temperature, and even though we were in the Hidden Valley trail we still had the wind blowing in, brrr!

 

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Examining a prickly pear

 

Ash had bought the California flora and fauna book from the Visitor Centre with his Christmas money and was busy identifying the plants around the place. This was good to see as even though the desert is sparse, the fauna is so fascinating.

 

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Barker Dam with foliage in winter

 

Our other hike was the Barker Dam hike which was an easy loop just over a mile, but I somehow managed to lose the rest of the family in the hike as Missy was not too keen to hike in the wind. My problem is I usually hang back and take pictures and eventually catch up, but these guys were going so fast I kept on missing them at the vista stops. So I continued on following the path as it was a loop it was easy. The dam was very cool to see, and from there the trip back was through many Joshua Trees and distant desert landscape before I found the sign for the carpark.

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Close up of Joshua Tree leaves
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A majestic Joshua Tree with its many branches

The desert landscape was an inspiring place to relax and recharge with its magic and wonder over the land. I feel that winter or spring would be beautiful times to visit as the summer would be so hot!

The 741 km (461 miles) was so worth it as the kids like to break up the drive in the car and on our way back we were in another RV entirely off the highway for a bit but it was so good to discover a new town close to another favourite National Park of our Sequoia. This RV was very cosy with a gas fireplace all ready for us when we arrived in Exeter – we made it just in time for a sunset over the RV in amongst the citrus trees, this town is in the Central Valley – known best for agriculture production.

Missy found the cat, and we gave it some love while Ash enjoyed reading in front of the gas fireplace for the evening reading Warriors. For breakfast on the last leg of our trip home, we went into the town or Exeter and went to the Exeter Whistle Stop a diner that lives up to what American diners are about with endless cups of coffee and big breakfasts. My hubby enjoyed 3 plates of food that morning, and my breakfast was just right with 2 eggs, a muffin and a cup of tea and half a buckwheat pancake! The service was the best, and the staff were just wonderful with their hospitality, as soon as you walked I was asked: “What would you like to drink?” I responded with a cup of tea. It was delivered quick sticks in a teapot with a slice of lemon, our order was promptly taken by the sweetest lady, and we soon had a table full of tasty breakfast goods ready for the drive home. I highly recommend this place if ever you are staying in the Central Valley and going to Sequoia NP or Kings Canyon.

This trip was delightful with the adventuring into new territory and spaces and it really felt like a break even with all the time in the car, I had better get prepared as Australia has some even longer roads to travel with famous deserts of their own to explore!

 

Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 2

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Checking out the map to the Joshua Tree NP for our next adventure we saw the 49 Palms Oasis trail which was a 3 mile out and back moderately strenuous hike with an elevation of 300 foot each way. We decided to do it based out our fitness level, BTW which is not very high! We saw signs at the beginning of the hike that said Don’t Die Today which was kind of scary but we were prepared with 3 bottles of water, and it was a nice 16˚ C (61˚ F), so it was not too hot. I would never attempt this hike in the heat, it would be dangerous!

 

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Barrel Cactus

 

The hike up was up many rock stairs, and up and up we went and saw some majestic views of the desert from up on high. The walk passed many barrel cactus with their red colour breaking up the red, brown and tan of the landscape.

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The 49 palms oasis

Wandering up and then down into a valley we saw this – a palm oasis in the middle of the desert. The funny thing is that came to mind was that I can see how mirages came to be with seeing something as unusual as this in amongst the rocks. The oasis is formed where uplifted layers of hard impermeable rock forces underground water to the surface. Within these oases, you can see the collection of water, and the sheer size of the palms is incomprehensible as they are gigantic. The palms are a welcome place to shelter and stay cool.

 

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Palms by the desert rocks

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We packed our lunch and water to have under the palms and enjoyed our time in this surreal land where you could feel the coolness of the trees and the water nearby. It was an absolute treat to experience this and learn about it from the ranger at the visitor centre. Such a fragile environment in a small canyon that provides habitat and diversity for the animals in the desert.

After lunch we wanted to see if we could see birds coming to this area due to the water, so we got out the binoculars to see what we could find. There was nothing very exciting just a couple of crows, still, it was a special place to take pictures with the sunlight streaming across the sky.

On our way back I wanted to capture the sheer grandness and scale of these trees, in the pictures you can see the trunks of the palms compared to my family walking by.

 

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Roadrunner!

 

After visiting the hike oases we ventured down to the other visitor centre to wander through the Oasis of Mara which was a home to the indigenous people. I highly recommend reading the story along the path as it is an artwork inspired by the native people – the link has an audio of the story which is a fascinating perspective.

Oh, and at the visitor centre, I finally saw a road runner in real life! It was very exciting as I had only seen this guy in a cartoon with Wylie Coyote and I never imagined a real roadrunner would look like this, they are absolutely stunning with their feathers and tail. We even saw it run in front of a car which was quite scary but he was speedy and made it to the other side – whew!!

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At the visitor centre, they had an amazing display of the desert plants with their names, this barrel cactus had such vibrant light shining on it that I could not resist taking a picture of its spiky details.

On our way back to the ranch we visited the Joshua Tree outdoor museum by Noah (recommended by our Air BnB hosts). This piece is called Carousel and in the centre are computers surrounded by many musical instruments and fabric that had been tattered and worn down by years in the outdoors.

There were so many opportunities to photograph the many pieces that were repurposed into assemblage where you could decipher a meaning or maybe not? Still, it was interesting to explore, take photographs and ponder the inspirations. I highly recommend this as an art experience if you enjoy repurposing and reusing, I really appreciate this approach as I do this myself in my textile creations so this was a place of true inspiration for me.