Journey to a new destination

Last week it was time to say farewell to my life as a teacher assistant and get back to my life as mama and student. I made little gifts for the 14 1st graders I worked with by getting them a ball of yarn each to do finger knitting over the summer. And for the kinder kids I made them a kumihimo loom with some extra thread to practice counting and to get crafty.

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The staff at Ventana sent me off with this lovely book as a farewell gift, it was sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people who work there. This dinner is a beyond meat sausage with porcini mushrooms and fennel over a bed of brown rice noodles.

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This amigurumi koala was made for our sitter and friend L who looked after the kids while I was working. I was so lucky to find her to take the kids to their after-school classes and the like and take care of my kids as if they were her own, they will really miss her too!

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Saturday I was ready for some me time so I got on my bike and rode the trail on a cloudy morning. I found this little guy moving fast as ever on the trail.

Saturday we headed on over to Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa for a group camping with our school. It was a great weekend away and perfect timing to get away. We stopped off at Petaluma for some delicious pie for lunch both savory and sweet. For dinner it was a potluck and I made a mexican inspired black bean salad which disappeared quickly.

As the group site was booked up when we decided to go we stayed at this beautiful cabin for $98 a night (including reservation fees) – in the pics you can see the interior with a bunk bed and a double bed so it fit the 4 or us perfectly. Friends of ours joined in the fun and camped next door, so a total of 8 people can stay at this spot. There were super cool details, with solar lights on the balcony, a little broom cupboard, a table for your goods plus a seat for your bags so it was super spacious inside. We sat out on the balcony in the morning and enjoyed a mug of oatmeal with mixed nuts and maple syrup watching the hawk hanging out in the tree.

Before we left we went on down to the lake for a swim as it was a hot day and met an evil swan guarding the canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. The kids enjoyed the cool water and if you were there all day you can hang out at the water park for $10.

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We are now back in our regular routine of feeding the chickens and doing the chores each week, it was so good to see the little ladies out and about dust bathing in the sunshine.

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Back to mama time and time in the kitchen I made this delicious crumble with coconut whipped cream and nuts. It feels so good to be free with my time and I am thankful for the time I had with my work but I really appreciated to be a master of my own time now.

 

Thankful for the relaxing times

What a lovely Thanksgiving break we had with a day out with friends in Oakland for a beautiful vegetarian feast of Quorn and all the trimmings with a yummy salad and vegan mango cheesecake I made for dessert. The cat stood in the pumpkin pie our friends made and they had mini pecan pies as well – we were well and truly stuffed by the time we left their house that evening.

The break began on Wednesday which made a total of 5 days of just chilling! I had to complete a paper for University on the Humanist perspective on behaviour in the classroom – whew! So that took up a lot of my time as I was exhausted from work. The bonus of Wednesday was that I chatted to our architect in Melbourne and viewed concepts of our house for the future – I was thrilled to see how beautiful it will be! Patience and we will get there, one step at a time…

Anyway back to relaxing! We booked a campsite from Friday through to Sunday for our time away at Samuel Taylor State Park. We arrived late on Friday with just enough light to find our little tent spot and heat up out leftover dinner of the Thanksgiving feast, so that was super easy. It did not take long to get into relaxing mode and realise this is it under the trees for a couple of days. The campsite was perfect for entertaining, and our friends were on the site right next door to us. The bonus was that the bathrooms were a quick walk down the hill, I would definitely book that site again in the future!

Saturday came, and we wondered what to do – the vote was to do something low key and relaxing. So we opted for a trip to the beach for the day. Our beach of choice was Limantour beach just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. We had been to Point Reyes before, and we really loved our adventure there, but that was about 8 years ago when Missy was a baby, now look at her in the water enjoying the freezing cold Pacific Ocean. I wanted to feel the ocean on my toes, but I did not last long as it was ice cold! The waves were beautiful to see, and the kids enjoyed getting their pants all wet and playing hide and seek in the spiky grass.

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We packed up a picnic lunch of egg mayo sandwiches for me with some fruit and beers for the gang, and we just enjoyed listening to the sound of the waves and reading our books. Currently, I am reading Pie by Sarah Weeks, as my daughter recommended I read it! I have been really enjoying kids Graphic Novels and Young Adult books when I have the opportunity to read.

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My friend was reading this book called The Seed Collectors now if you look at the text of that book above I would say that is my family written in the book. When I looked at the family tree at the back of the book, my name would be Bryony in their family. This was really strange to see most of my family written about in a book, I will have to read it one day! Apparently, the kids have those names in the book as the names of the people in the family are named after trees and plants.

A highlight of the beach day out was seeing this guy with his rescue horses and riding them along the beach. One of the horses was just wandering around without a rope looking wild and beautiful! We patted the horses and chatted to the rider, and he said both of his horses were rescue horses. He told us briefly of the stories of the horse he was riding was super skinny when she was rescued. The red stallion was a rescue too, and he mentioned a tragic story about the horse’s parents (I would rather not hear if it is a sad story about animals). He gave me hope and faith in humanity that he rescues these amazing creatures and lets them run free to greet people with their incredible presence and energy.

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Here we are ready to leave the beach, it was such a relaxing day that we did not want to go but all good things come to an end, and we slept so well that night. The next morning we woke up to hear rain on the tent and feel a puddle forming beneath the tarp! We hightailed it out of there.

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The gang getting ready to leave the beach – boo hoo!

 

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Monkeys in a gingko tree
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Kids entertainment at the amphitheatre

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So Sunday morning we woke up to rain and plenty of it, so we packed up our gear and put all the wet stuff in the car and off we drove to the closest coffee shop before we headed home! It was such a beautiful time under the redwoods, and Samuel Taylor State Park is a super special park with hikes and beaches close by.

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Driving home on the I-280 seeing The Dish speaking to the Aliens

 

 

The Pinnacles on Earth Day 2017

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Another weekend away this time with the Camping Crew from our elementary school. We have a super team of Camping organisers at our school and they found this great camp location the Pinnacles National Park on the weekend of Earth day. We were warned that it would be busy this weekend but I did not predict the crowds we experienced on Saturday. Earth Day coincided with National Park week which meant that it was free to visit the park so it was packed, lucky for us we had a group camping reservation for 80 of us adding to the crowd!

We had visited the park in March 2013 with our camping buddies and the only thing I really remember from the trip was that our 2000 Honda Civic broke down on the way home. I tracked down video footage of what it was like exploring the caves back in 2013 with the kids so small! And home from the Pinnacles is close to a 1.5-hour drive and 90 miles (144 km) away we had to tow our car back home – thank goodness for AAA. Looking at a map of Australia – it is a similar drive amount from Melbourne to Lorne, and from what I remember we camped there too (B.K. Before Kids) in the rain.

It was just three of us exploring the caves this weekend as the older one stayed with his friend at the campground with the other families. Missy was very excited to see the inside of the caves and explore with her headlamp and of course, it needed batteries! Anyway, we powered on in the dark for moments in time until we came out of the tunnels and back out into the daylight after being in the caves, we all enjoyed exploring the caves with moss covered rocks and hearing a water fall, that I could not see.

Pinnacles National Park unique rock formations were created from a volcano which eruped 23 million years ago. The movement of the earth created talus – broken rock fragments that have collected over the years to make the caves. It was crazy to look up and see a massive boulder held up by an arrangement of rocks below it.

It was the perfect hiking day but there were so many people on the trails as well so we went back. We wandered a bit more and we ended up taking a loop turn back to the entrance. On the way back to camp, we did wander by this mini cave that Missy worked out that birds lived in by the amount of poop residue on the ground.

The rock formations are like pieces of nature art with their colours and textures. I especially loved this rock with the coloured lichen of yellow, orange and green. This rock looks like a dinosaur mouth next to Missy who was excited to have found another small cave.

The photo opportunities were endless at the park and unfortunately, the sky was a bit overcast which was a shame as the rocks would be amazing with a blue sky behind them. The colours and formations of the rocks were amazing. As we were camping we hung out at the pool afterwards where a few kids were brave enough to go for a swim in a cold pool. It was hot enough for a t-shirt and skirt but not hot enough for a dip in a cold pool for me!

 

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Scooting around the campground
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The potluck area and the other group camp where we saw California quails

 

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Our group campground hangout

 

Such a beautiful spring weekend to be away and enjoying a National Park on Earth Day 2017 and hanging out with friends from school. It is always a perfect way to relax as the kids entertain each other and the adults are free to chill out and do whatever.

 

 

Secret Yurt Camping in the SF Bay Area

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Spring Break last week and we managed to literally get away from the crowds and be the only people camping in a Yurt in a location just over 1 hour away from our house! Now as I write this it seems impossible to get away from ALL the people in the Bay Area because where ever you go within an hour or so from your home there is usually many more Bay Area folks camping or doing whatever within your vicinity.  Never in our camping experiences, have we gone away especially during a break from school and been by ourselves! Just to have that experience was incredible so before I spill the location be sure that you don’t mind setting up camp next to a graveyard on an abandoned Naval Base!

This beautiful part of the Bay area was in Vallejo on a peninsula called Mare Island named after the white mare who swam to shore after her ship was sunk. It is a place of beauty and solitude with the added bonus of yurt camping with all the gear supplied including a gas grill and a super clean porta potty close by.  The view from the top of the island is of 7 counties surrounding the island and right by the lookout is an art installation called the Spirit Ship in honour of the Naval families who once lived here. Spring brings the beautiful poppies, and the smell of wild fennel was in the air.

Surrounding the Mare Island Preserve are barbed wire fences – man I thought I was in a detention centre in Australia when I saw these familiar eucalyptus trees. But no, looking through the fence I found abandoned houses and buildings still needed to be cleared up by the US Federal Government due to munitions being left behind – I imagine that is a huge task and they have better things to focus on at the moment!

Wandering through the preserve right by the graveyard are some beautiful roses right in bloom for spring and for the two days I loved taking pictures of them in the different light. The graveyard was so peaceful and so old – graves dating back to 1856, this is the oldest Naval cemetery on the West Coast.

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My hubby and I wandered to the top of the hill of the afternoon we arrived – the kids get a bit mad about walking up hills, but we know better. The bonus when you climb a hill is always the view, and this panorama is what I saw when I was up there, surrounded by water most of the way with land on the horizon.

 

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Yurt party with Pusheen
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Old Tennis Court Yurt

 

Then we came back down to set up the Yurt for the evening. This yurt is made by a local Vallejo yurt maker Yurtastic, and he used billboard fabric for the exterior, roof and floor. What an excellent idea, the light is bright inside, and we had Dory on the floor from Finding Nemo.

Oh, and did I mention the views from the top of the hill, the Spirit Ship in panorama with the detail of the floor beneath the Spirit Ship with nature growing up around it.

Dinner was homemade lentil rolls we heated up on the gas grill – it acted just like an oven! On the side, we had watermelon radish and ate by the candle light of a citronella candle as there were quite a few mozzies though they did not bother us that much.

 

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Messy Missy in the truck
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The Spirit Ship at Sunset
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Inside the Yurt at night – complete with fairy lights

 

In the evening our lovely host Myrna took us for a spin with her dog Nitro down to the bunkers. We sat in the back of the truck and saw this island in the light of dusk with the beautiful colours all around. Myrna was the best and so thoughtful with her organisation for the yurt supplies in the outdoor kitchen including an outdoor screened tent, so we were mozzie free. Nitro was the sweetest dog who loved pats and was ever so friendly with all of us, we had such a fun time together.

The next day was Thursday, and we were on our own on after a night of rain over the yurt we thought our riding plans were busted but no, the sun came out, and we borrowed bikes – yes bikes were included in the trip! So we went riding to look for the entrance to the San Pablo Bay Trail entrance and back again. The visitor centre was a place full of Mare Island history including treasures from one of the original residents who grew up on the base and donated her doll and Kanga and Roo from her collection. The other bonus of the visitor centre apart from its massive size is the resident cat Linus, who reminded me so much of my little buddy Macaroni. This guy loved pats and would come up and purr near us, and we happily patted him and gave him love.

The island is full of eucalyptus trees, and after the rain, it smelled of Australia – like I was home. Wild is where nature is at here in this part of the bay with the poppies growing in between the railway tracks. And the kids enjoyed having stick fights with the wild fennel, and that kept them occupied as I wandered the graveyard to see what history this place held. As we were interested in seeing the birds, Myrna loaned us her binoculars so we could watch the baby osprey and the osprey who nests there. This is the view I had through the binoculars to observe the baby birds way up high. We also saw snowy egrets, blue jays, wild turkeys and turkey vultures who call this place home. In the evening we heard the sound of the coyote talking and yipping to each other, lucky we were tucked away in our beds in the Yurt.

 

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The outdoor kitchen setup
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The lovely Linus the cat
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At the visitor centre
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By the campfire

 

We had one last visit to the visitor centre and an evening by the campfire (there are no other places on the island where a campfire is allowed as it dangerous) with Myrna and Eric (another volunteer who shared so much interesting information on photography and nature). We washed the dishes and lay cleaned them and packed them away neatly and off we went to see Linus and the ephemera at the visitor centre. The collection of teacups was beautiful and the evening before Myrna and I shared a pot of rooibos tea in a cup and saucer – very fancy! The fire was perfect for our marshmallows, and we enjoyed learning about the history of Mare Island and its inhabitants.

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Soon it was time to leave, and the preserve was open to the public, we wandered down to check out the bunkers the view and got this great picture of all of us in the massive bunker (built during the mid-1920s to store munition). The bunker we checked out had astroturf on the ground and digital print of the first cave painting from Lascaux, France. A bunch of folks had a caveman dinner in the bunkers which explains the paleo inspiration.

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And there is Dory on the floor – we were so happy to enjoy our couple of nights getaway from it all. If you are keen to check it out and visit Myrna and Nitro the dog, go to Hipcamp where you can find this yurt and the other romantic yurt for two further up the hill. If your camping party is big just camp in the bunker and watch the sun rise, so many options to camp and support the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.

On our way back the sun was shining I took some pictures of the beautiful chapel with its Tiffany windows – you can visit the church with a guided tour which is $5, the kids were done, but I would have loved to have seen them. On the way home, we opted for a walk just below Mt Diablo in a place called Shell Ridge Open Space Preserve where we found a ranch complete with chickens and a sleepy rooster. It felt we were away from civilisation for longer than two days, now that is what I call a break from it all!

Back to study for me as I have an essay tomorrow and Assessment 2 is just around the corner!

Something borrowed, something new

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I found this interesting info about camping in a book from my daughter’s classroom when I was waiting to go home from school. This is what we enjoyed for my husband’s birthday over the weekend. Friends from our school organized this trip to Memorial Park near Pescadero, in the summer and we thought what a lovely way to spend a birthday weekend under the redwoods! Yes, I can say camping is quite relaxing though the preparation and organizing for a night out in the woods can be quite demanding especially after a big week!

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A banana slug found by the creek where we were hanging out and relaxing after a big week. Hopefully, this guy found some tasty foliage and was kept out of harm’s way!

The week started out with my monthly program at the Mountain View Public Library with Sew Sew with FabMo. I am the FabMo representative who creates little take home projects working with FabMo fabric from interior designers and smaller textile design companies that would otherwise end up in the landfill. I had a class of 8 people who enjoyed making embroidered cuffs – a cuff is a bracelet with a snap to hold it together and we go through the process of sewing a front and back, sewing a snap and embellishing the fabric and then sewing the whole cuff together. I have a link to the tutorial on this blog if you want to try your hand at sewing one. Everyone is so happy when they leave with something that they made themselves and very thankful for the class, so it is a joy to volunteer to teach something that I really love.

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Another side project I am enjoying with my Italian friend Cristiana from Pebble and Fire is an Art Play every 2 weeks sharing our skills. We visit each other and work together, have lunch and finish a project. Our first project was a ceramic pinch pot that Cristiana helped me create – it is a geometric salt cellar. It was so fun to create and learn new skills in ceramics that I may have missed when I went to the adult education classes. Cristiana is super skilled at hand building I love her style, so it is such a treat.

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And this week we worked upstairs in my sewing room and Cristiana wanted to make a pillow case so I made her the pattern and we did some applique and made an envelope backed pillow cover. It looks just lovely on her couch and the little whale is made from denim and we embellished the heart from the red fabric we used on the back. It was so much fun to see my friend enjoy sewing as last time we went sewing together it was at an Etsy event in San Jose making lunch bags which was easy for me but not so for Cristiana. At least, this time when we worked together it was a bit more relaxing. I am looking forward to our next project together and it is such a great thing to do to learn something new and spend some time out of the usual.

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In between, I have also been preparing work for the FabMo Textile Art Boutique that I am working towards. Here is another denim tote I have made using some beautiful linen I found at FabMo. I also made completed the sunglass pouches I worked on last week and made 3 skirts from stretch fabric – whew that inventory is coming along nicely!

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Today I worked with the kids at school helping them choose colours for their cubby project where they are making an art installation using fabric I found at FabMo. They are staining the wood with a 1 part acrylic paint and 2 parts water where the wood absorbs the colour and creates a translucent effect with the wood grain. I love it and cannot wait to see the finished installation in the classroom.

A piece a Week – A super Easy Skirt for my Little Moo and Labor Day Camping!

What a week it was last week with two minimum days in a row and Back to School night plus on top of all that Ash sprained his foot and had crutches. I thought there is no way we would make it to our camp trip Friday night for the long weekend! Though really it was motivation to make it happen and leave all that stuff behind and go and hang out in the woods for the long weekend and relax. 
My friend and I booked our accommodation early this year at Saddle Mountain Ranch for a couple of campsites around $50 each for a premium site (your car is accessible and you don’t have to lug your stuff down hill). The site was fine and up on a hill though unfortunately the sound carries up the hill and the first night we were there was party night down the stairs! Actually the whole weekend was filled with noisy, obnoxious folks with bad music taste that they wanted to share with us, boo! In the end we spent the days away from the site and just made our own noise once our friends arrived after we had enjoyed some wine together. The whole idea of camping in Carmel and booking it for the long weekend was to go to the beach and visit Point Lobos anyhow – the bonus is that the campsite is only 20 minutes away from the beach! So really putting up with the noisy neighbours was worth it! 
Here is the campsite with charcoal – no wood fires allowed here,
which is fine as it could be dangerous with all the dry brush and trees!
I had hardly any time to do any work last week due to the minimum days and getting the kids down the park to play. The only project I could muster was a skirt that has been in my pile of ‘to dos’ since the summer. I had the materials, it was just working out how to put it together. You will see in the picture that the skirt is puffy as it has a tulle underskirt sewn into it. Super cute on especially with crocs! 
The skirt and missy climbing up a tree
After our first night at the campground we had to get out early as we were not prepared for breakfast so we went down the road to Earthbound Farms and had breakfast in their farm stand / cafe. They had freshly squeezed green juice (my favorite!), tasty panini with a lot of veges, grilled cheese for the kiddos and tonnes of produce for sale. These guys do all the organic packaged salad leaves you see at Whole Foods. It was a wonderful place to visit as the cafe had a seating area to relax and read the local paper. There were redwoods for the kids to play and after breakfast you we wandered around the farm and visited the herb garden, kitchen garden, kids area complete with herbs to touch and smell, the berry vines and a garden with a scarecrow. The farm also had a stunning view of the mountains and the valley – definitely worth a visit with it’s emphasis on organic farming, support Organic!!
Wonderful signage around the farm
Making friends with the scarecrow!

My friend Kale in close up – now I am inspired to grow this at home!
It grows like a small bush with tonnes of leaves, how perfect Kale from your own garden – love it!!
Can you find the hummingbird – we found a couple as we were about to leave having their morning nectar

After our trip to the farm stand we wanted to check out downtown Carmel… All I can say it was not for me. The art is boring and the strip has a bunch of shops selling pretty average nick nacks from China. I found a cute store called ‘Adam Fox since 1964’ selling some local designer jewelry which I bought for gifts but that was about it, she also had some beautiful masks from Italy too. The lady who was at the shop had been there for 39 years and she seemed to be enjoying herself! Another shop caught my eye, it was the Artemis boot shop with their boots from Istanbul, Turkey. We were waiting for our lunch at Carmel Belle in the Doud Craft Studios and the boot shop was nearby so I wandered in to chat to the guys about how they are made – they are embroidered on velvet and made into classic style boots with the prices starting around $250 that was not too bad for the amount of work involved. I really liked these but they are a bit boho for my wardrobe, though if I had the spare $ I could make room 😉 Oh and about lunch, the Carmel Belle had delicious food and the truffle egg toast with fontina was yummy with bits of asparagus on the side – some truffle oil would have really added to the flavor! Again a cafe that supports the local farmers of the area and why not Carmel is surrounded by farms.

Artemis Boots – embroidered onto leather

 After lunch we HAD to check out the beach! The weather was warm and the beach was calling… We found Carmel River State Beach and managed to park up top in a residential area which was a short walk down the stairs to the beach. We had our picnic rug and snacks and were ready to play. A beach umbrella would be an added bonus as there was no shade to be had. We found the sunscreen and enjoyed this beautiful beach for a couple of hours, enjoying the rays. I would compare this beach to a beach in Australia with the crystal clear water and the white sand, it was a very happy place to be. There is a huge drop in the sand which creates an undertow, so no swimming for us – with the undertow it is hard to stand up and the water was still very cold. There was not stopping the kiddos enjoying themselves chasing the waves on the shore and catching seaweed floating in the water.

Yay I caught some seaweed!
Having a good time on the beach!!

Our friends arrived very late Saturday afternoon after spending 4 hours in traffic – long weekend + beautiful sunshine = a migration to the beach for everyone!! Still we caught up back at the campground and discussed our travels the next day and we went back to the beach of course and visited Point Lobos Natural Reserve. Heads up for this place – go early! We got there after 10am and had to wait in the traffic for a while before we even got to the ranger gates (the fee is $10 for parking). If you want day trips at State Parks become a member at the California State Parks Foundation and one of the benefits are day pass vouchers, we use ours all the time! It is a wonderful way to see many State Parks some within an hour of our house.

Point Lobos sandstone rock formations

 I met these guys taking pictures with a 5 x 7 camera. In all my days of studying photography I have only read about these and have never had the opportunity to see one in real life so it was very exciting to talk to these guys about their camera. It is fully mechanical with no digital aspect at all and takes pictures on the film holder at the back of the camera. The guys let me look through the camera and the picture was upside down and back to front so you have to really look at your image and focus completely before you take the shot. As you see the guy is under a hood to look at the image – this way you can see the image clearly with no glare and hopefully get a crystal clear shot. The guys were laughing as I was asking them questions and said they are complete luddites here with no digital technology whatsoever – doing this type of photography you really want to look at your subject for a long time. We all agreed it was yoga and meditation for photographers!

Photographic yoga with a large format camer

After our chat to the photographers we did some rock hopping by the ocean and enjoyed the formation in the sandstone. This one is just like a bear claw.

It looks like a giant bear stepped here 
We played around on the rocks some more – check out this ball rock in the centre of a perfect place to jump! After the rock hopping we wanted to hike and we found a path to the Whalers Cove to learn about the history of whaling back in the day and see the bones of these amazing creatures. I am so happy that it is all over and whales are protected, well mostly around the world! Sometimes here you can see the whales out at sea, this day we just saw harbor seals 😀
We had a ‘ball’ – rock hopping!

The kids enjoyed the wizards beard – I think Gandalf was the inspiration here!


Entrance to the Whalers Cabin Museum – a shack built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850s

No hike is complete without climbing every tree
Whale rock – well not really! A huge rock formation jutting into the ocean. 

Look closely on this rock and you will see harbor seals sunning themselves
– we had binoculars and enjoyed a close up view of these guys!  

After our hike some beach time playing our fave summer activity Frisbee 

The waves lapping the shore – an amazing blue!

Love the light in this picture – some random sunshine glowing, ahhh the joy of the beach & sunshine!