A very talented friend of mine, Alyson Murphy, decided to paint a couple of my photographs from my trip to Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park.  We are part of an artists’ group that gets together to eat, drink wine, and talk about the creative process.  It is wonderful how nature can inspire us.  Through visiting nature and sharing my photographs, she was inspired to paint these scenes with a fresh perspective.  In turn I have been inspired by her creations and I know you will be, too.  And so it continues, expression and inspiration, a wonderful circle.  








It was a beautiful day in November and I was hit again with wanderlust.  The summer heat was over and I knew it would be a good time to go somewhere that would have nice autumn foliage. Sugarloaf Ridge has a lovely creek system, but no rivers or lakes, so I like to save this type of destination for seasons when I don’t need to swim to cool off.


There are lots of activities to do here, even if swimming is not on the list.  There’s hiking, camping, picnic areas, horse trails, mountain biking, seasonal waterfalls, big views to find, an observatory, and an interesting planet walk.


Here’s what the park’s website has to say about the Planet Walk, “This scale model of the solar system, designed to fit within Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, allows you to “hike” through the entire solar system by shrinking it more than 2,360,000,000 times. Our sun is large enough to hold a million Earths, yet it is only a middle-sized star. At the scale used for this model, the nearest neighboring sun is more than 10,000 miles away. Each step you take is equal to nearly one million miles of empty space.


With the short November days I wouldn’t have had enough light to hike the full solar system and make it back by nightfall.  But luckily there are two loops of this trail, so I was able to head out for two hours and make it back to the “Sun” before it was dark.  I tend to stop a lot to take photographs and didn’t want to rush.


The first part of my hike took me through a large open meadow.  Surrounding it were redwoods and oak trees and there were low silvery bushes dotting the landscape.  I could see a lot of areas where deer (probably) had matted down the grass to sleep overnight.  This took me past several of the planet signs all the way through Saturn.


Next the trail took me through a wooded area where I came to a creek.  There was a quiet little area next to it with a really beautiful gnarled up fallen tree so I decided to rest there for a bit, hydrate, and dip my feet in to the water.


After a little break I took the right fork of the path which took me away from the rest of the solar system and up Hillside Trail.  Here the terrain got more hilly – hence the name – and I worked up a good heart rate.


I passed handsome groves of oak trees with changing leaves.


I passed weathered water tanks.


I looked out over vista points.


Then I descended back down towards the meadow floor with more beautiful views of rock formations on the hillsides, brush and fall foliage.  The whole time I was on Hillside Trail I hadn’t seen another person.  Weekday autumn hikes can really give you a lot of space to yourself.


Back at the “Sun” I was feeling very rejuvenated and at peace.  It’s phenomenal how much a walk around a meadow and sticking your feet in a creek can bring you back to feeling centered and alive.  Good ol’ exercise and fresh air!  Not to mention how the planet walk put all my tiny human problems in to perspective.  All and all it turned out to be a very pleasant and introspective afternoon.


As of June 1, 2012 Sugarloaf Ridge SP is open fully and is being operated by the nonprofit organization, Team Sugar Loaf, due to budget cutbacks.  For more information please visit the following websites.  Remember to dress in layers and bring water any time you head out on the trail.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: http://www.sugarloafpark.org

Robert Ferguson Observatory: http://www.rfo.org

The Planet Walk: http://sugarloafpark.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/planet-walk.pdf 


Redwood Lined Cliffs

When the sun shines in Humboldt County it’s time to head outside.  Locals know that vitamin D is a precious commodity between the long overcast seasons and thick marine fog layers that waft in most evenings and break away in the late mornings.  One of the best spots on the coast line to appreciate warmer days is this easily accessed Moonstone Beach.


Sun, Surf, and Sand

North of Mckinleyville off Hwy 101 at the Westhaven exit, visitors will find Moonstone Beach with it’s diverse offerings of activities.  Little River flows in the the ocean here, creating an interesting terrain where fresh water meets the waves.  Be prepared to kick off your shoes to cross the shallow current if you wish to head south for a long and leisurely walk.


Fun for Rock Climbers

If exploring cliffs and caves sounds appealing, head north on foot to the towering rocks.  The large sandstone face to the immediate right is a favorite with rope climbers.  Further down the cliffs turn towards the water and you can peak in to small caves and investigate all of the wonderful mossy turns.


Crags, Caves, and Cliffs

When the tide is low it is safe to continue past the beach proper to the north.  Here even more caves and tide pools await to dazzle visitors.  Ocean front properties post atop the cliffs and seasonal waterfalls trickle down creating a richly layered sight for the eyes.


My Retirement Property

The seaside flora and fauna are multi textured with barnacles and mossy rocks to climb.  Birds skim the waves and you will find many animal prints in the sand.   With a little luck, you might even see some marine mammals such as whales, sea lions, or river seals.  And of course, there are many friendly doggies running back and forth.


Happy Beach Dogs Making Friends

Continue north far enough and you will arrive at the adjacent and more private Luffenholtz Beach.  Here clothing is optional and nude sunbathing is known to happen, yet is rare, because average temperatures are usually in the mid to low 60s.  Be aware of the tide if you venture this way.  You don’t want to be cut off from Moonstone and have to take the long way back to your vehicle on the main road, which would mean lots of up and downhill trekking.


Washed Up Drift Wood with Kelp

Back at the main beach, take a moment to relax and soak in the surroundings.  Surfers, kite flyers, photographers, frisbee tossers, picnickers, beach combers, dog owners, and sand castle builders are all a fine part of this laid-back vibe.  Even on a busy day when the small parking lot is full, you won’t find the beach too crowded.  Everyone is always friendly and enjoying themselves.  It’s just enough activity to make one feel appreciative and connected to this wonderful outdoor community.


During a recent trip to Arcata, my friends and I took a day trip north of north to beautiful Fern Canyon.
The drive took 50 minutes and was stunning the whole way.  Mid-morning the fog began to lift as it does on the Humboldt coast in September.  Love it!

The 8 mile dirt road drive through Prairie Creek State Park was the last leg of the trip.  There are a couple of spots where the road goes through a stream.  There’s no bridge, just drive straight through the shallow water.  It passes a beach and then we parked right before this beautiful Alder lined trail.  All of the trees twist and reach for the sun.

And then the trail turned us in to the canyon.  It’s simply magical.

The walls of this steep canyon are covered in ferns.

It’s just breathtaking.  Visitors stroll along this low creek with redwoods and alder up above.  If you go, be prepared to hop over logs and jump over water.  Most crossings have little wood planks over the shallow stream.  I was able to get out with dry feet.

It’s incredible to think that this place has been like this for thousands of years.

After the coming out of the canyon the trail turns up above the cliffs and back out to the parking lot.  It’s about a mile and a half loop.  There’s also longer hikes that you can take throughout the forest f you want more sight-seeing.  It’s one of a kind!

Charming Arcata, CA is near and dear to my heart because it’s where I went to college at Humboldt State and I have family in Humboldt County.  It is tucked away behind the redwood curtain, which is what they call the vast redwood forest separating Humboldt County from the rest of Northern California. On the coast, its 5 hours north of San Francisco, 2 1/2 hours west of Redding, and 1 hour and 45 minutes south from the Oregon border.  It is because of this seclusion that Arcata and the rest of Humboldt County stay so unique and natural.

There is no mistaking that the Arcata Plaza is the center of this close community.  In the middle is the landmark sculpture of President McKinley.  Families, traveling hippies, students, and visitors all congregate at this beautiful open city block.

On Saturdays farmers and shoppers congregate on the plaza, as well, for the Farmers Market.  Not only can you get some tasty local produce, but you can also get some great plants for the garden.

This guy and his cacti have been regulars at the market for over a decade.

When the weather is nice everyone is outside, like this juggling troop that frequents the Farmer’s Market.  Everybody is encouraged to join in.  I call this photograph Hoola Hooping Hippy Hug. 

Side note: People hug more in Arcata.  Even when just meeting for the first time people will sometimes hug instead of shake hands.

Like Los Bagels, many of the buildings are painted brightly and have murals – which also brightens things up during the long rainy season.

Speaking of weather… This report is very typical of a normal Arcata day.  Whether its raining or sunny it’s usually about 55 − 65 degrees.  If you want to catch more sun, go in September when you will probably be able to wear a tank top and flip flops.  But always bring layers.

Arcata has great antique stores, clothing boutiques, interesting import stores, galleries, restaurants, gardens, the Arcata Co-op, and more, all within walking distance from the plaza.

Don’t mis my favorite, Vintage Avenger, for a really fun selection of consignment, vintage, and new clothes.  The owner makes found object garment sculptures.  Check out that bra dress!  Too cool!

Arcata has such a laid back vibe.  Theres a slower pace than in the rest of California.  So much so that it’s common to get waved through at a stop sign even if you pulled up second.  So if you want to get away from the rat race and spend some time slowing down, I definitely recommend beautiful Arcata, CA.

Maybe I’ll end up living back there some day…

I mentioned that it’s by the beach, right?

From Oakland to Sac town

The Bay Are and back down

Cali is where they put the mack down

Give me some love

– 2pac

Welcome again to Tahoe!

Recently I went camping at Meeks Bay Campground with some gal friends.  It was awesome!  For this Cali Travelista post I am going to share with you the PG version of our trip.  Rated suitable for all audiences.

June was a great time to go.  The weather was beautiful.

TIP: Make your reservations well in advance for summer weekends.  We got what seemed to be the last site left in all of Tahoe.  This is a popular California destination.

We took a morning trip to Emerald Bay.  Check out that view!

TIP: On the weekends, parking at Emerald Bay is horrid.  Go early and use the restroom before you arrive.  The facilities here are, shall we say, rather unpleasant.

The hike over Eagle Falls is so picturesque, though.  The mountain air will take all your cares away.

It was a steep hike, but not that long.  After about a mile or two we had to turn around because we didn’t have the proper permits.  If you want to hike further, be prepared!

This hike is a loop trail, so you get some different scenery on the way back down.  Breathtaking!

Back at camp we made sandwiches for lunch and then headed down to the lake.  Meeks Bay is a 2 minute walk from the campsites, which is so convenient.  We just brought a small cooler and a big blanket and laid on the beach.  Wear sunscreen!

Hey, that cloud looks like a spaceship!

Check out the Canadian Goose prints in the sand!  They were hanging by the beach, too.

Camping is a great way to bond with your friends.  We slowed way down from the pace of city life and enjoyed the beautiful outdoors.  We joked, ate, drank, and had a ball!

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