Falling in Love with California

I recently came back from a trip to Iowa. Normally I tend to visit the states closes to California such as Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. I am going to visit you Utah soon! This trip was to drop off my nephew in Iowa to start his collage career and explore what Iowa had to offer.

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Some type of shed in Iowa
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Farm in Iowa
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Corn Field in Iowa

 

Iowa is very beautiful. Everywhere I looked I saw corn fields. There were beautiful blue skies and an occasionally sudden shower, like if the sky just dumped water on us. The people there are very friendly and never pushy. Even when there was traffic I don’t believe I heard anyone honk their horn to get someone else move. It was then that I realize how unfriendly city people can be. We are always in a rush to get to places and very impatient in the streets.
I enjoyed the beautiful barns and small towns in Iowa. Everything seem more relaxed. The nights are very quiet in Ames even for a college town. There is so many interesting things to do but I didn’t get a chance to visiting all of them.
The only thing I didn’t like in Iowa was the food. Maybe I have been spoiled with all the variety of food in California. I am a big foodie and good food is an essential for any trip I make. While eating a microwaved cooked tortilla served with chunks of meat and labeled as a taco I realized how much I missed California. Especially the food.

I fell in love with California all over again. Its not until you leave home that you miss it. I missed the mountains, desserts, beaches and forest California has. My dream to explore California became stronger. My love for California was reinforced. I want to see my backyard and enjoy all the hidden treasures California has to offer. Each state has its own beauty and it is up to the residents of that state to show off their states beauty. I will show off my state, California.  Come back for more blogs on California and thank you for visiting.

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Sequoia National Park, California
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (34)
Big Sur, California
Anza-Borrego Desart State Park March 2005 (40) edit
Anza-Borrego Desert, California
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Devil’s Punchbowl, California 

Point Reyes National Seashore

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View from Woodward Valley Trail

I am very happy to remove “Backpacking” off my Bucket List.  It is such an amazing feeling to prepare for an epic life experience and be able to share it with others.
The backpacking trip to Point Reyes National Seashore was supposed to be about 18 miles. It turned out to be about 23.3 miles. I left all the planning to my mountain man expert who has many years of experience in backpacking. He taught me how to shop for backpacking gear and what to expect. I would have been lost without him.

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Hiking Map
Our Backpacking route

The plan was to do an easy backpack trip since it was my first time. We would start at Bear Valley Visitor Center and hike up to Mt. Wittenberg on the Mt. Wittenberg Trail which has an elevation gain of 1,407ft. Mt. Wittenberg would lead us to Sky trail which would bring us to our first campground, Sky Camp. This was suppose to be the hardest part of our backpacking trip because we would climb on the first day. 1,407 ft may not seem like much to may people but to an out of shape woman who gets paid to sits on her butt all day this was hard. Next day we would hike out of Sky Camp toward Woodward Valley trail which would connect to Coast Camp and to our second campground, Coast Camp. On the third day we would hike out of Coast camp and walk along Coast trail to Bear Valley Trail and then to Glen Loop to our last campground, Glen Camp. On the last day we would hike out and return to Bear Valley Visitor Center.

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The first day was short, hard and sweet. The climb was hard but not as hard as I though it would be. We did stop frequently mostly because I was trying to catch my breath. The trail was mostly in the shade which made it easy for us.

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When we arrived to Sky Camp we were happily surprised that we had a great camp site. It was surrounded by overgrown shrub and a tilted tree. It was private compared to other sites and it had shade. Once we settled down we realized that the camp site was not so private because our neighbor’s could see into our camp site. I really didn’t care because I just wanted to eat and rest.

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Sky Campground, Site # 4

Day two was a beautiful hike down the mountain along the Woodward Valley Trail. This was one of my favorite trails. Part of it was mostly in the shade of huge thin trees while the other part was overlooking the ocean. I could not stop taking photos.

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Woodward Valley Trail

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First view of the ocean along the Woodward Valley Trail

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Coast Trail
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Coast Campground

We arrived at Coast Camp late morning but it gave us enough time to explore. This was an extremely windy area both in the campground and the beach. At times it felt like we were being sand blasted to a halt. This did not stop us from exploring the area. There was a huge eucalyptus tree at the entrance of the beach. What a magnificent site that was. The water was very cold and nobody seem to want to get in the water, maybe because the current was also strong. It did get cold so we retired early.

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While I was setting up for a time lapse video of the sunset at the beach I came to the horrible realization that my extra batteries were discharged.  What happen was that I packed my extra batteries on the side mesh pocket of my backpack, a very accessible area in case I needed to change batteries.  The problem was that when we stuffed the backpacks inside the car trunk we placed two big water containers next to the packs.  The water leaked and our packs got wet.  My camera batteries were soaked even before starting my journey.  I thought I would be able to photograph the while trip with just one battery but turns out that I take a lot of photos.  When my only battery was low I had to relay on my cellphone which also had low battery.  I was so upset that day because the photo quality would be lower then my good Nikon camera.

Day three was the hardest for me, mostly because I did not pack correctly.  It make matters worse the Coast trail did not have much shade and the sun beat down on us. We had to take a long break at Kelham Beach trailhead because I needed to fuel up for the climb to Glen Camp.

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Coast Trail
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Coast Trail

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The mile or so distance from Bear Valley trail to Glen Camp was by far the hardest hike of the whole trip. It felt like a never-ending trail to the highest mountain in the US. I had to stop to catch my breath every few minutes. Every single curve along the trail I would force myself to think the campground was on the other side. Every time I came around the corner I was disappointed to see even more trail going uphill. I drank water, eat snacks and just hoped that it would end but nothing helped. By the time I reach the campground I was not sure if I could make it to the camp site on a small hill. All I could think about is taking off the pack, eating and showering. Mostly shower because I felt like I had not showered in a year.

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Bear Valley Trail

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Glen Campground

The final day was so easy and we did it in no time. I packed my pack the correct way. What a difference a well packed backpack makes. The mile hike from Glen Camp to Bear Valley trail was so easy I couldn’t believe I was struggling a day before. Since our trip ended on a weekend we saw many hikers along the Bear Valley trail. It was sad that the trip had ended but I was on top of the world because I had checked off backpacking off my Bucket List.

Although most people do their first backpacking trip in their early teens or 20s I have to encourage the older generation to go out there and backpack. It really refreshes your mind and relaxes your body although you get a good beating out of it. This trip challenged me in a way that I never thought possible. I am stronger than what I think I am. Most importantly I realized that in life you don’t need much to enjoy life. So travel, take pictures and live life. Thank you for reading my blog.

Never to Late to Backpack

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Backpacking was been on my Bucket List for many years. As time passed by I wondered when I would have the time to learn about backpacking and most importantly find an expert to take me to the outdoors.  Most people do their first backpacking experience in their teens or younger, others in their early adulthood.  Here I am an adventurer at heart but I am no spring chicken.

I considered going on a REI backpacking group tour but didn’t feel comfortable going with a bunch of strangers. Especially since I would most likely hold the group back due to lack of conditioning. I also didn’t have the gear and I knew it would be a lot of money. So the years went by and I just kept my dream of backpacking that one day I would backpack.  My dream came true a few days ago.  I was guided by a special person who has been backpacking for most of his life.

I bought my gear which took a good chunk out of my tax refund. I went to REI and bought everything needed. Thanks to my mountain man the trip was planned and all I needed to do is condition and pack my backpack.

The problem is that I love the outdoors but I am too lazy to exercise.  In preparation for the backpacking trip I only walked 30 minutes per day for 4 days. When it came to packing I wanted to pack everything just on case I needed it. In normal city trips I pack everything including the kitchen sink, this time I was restricted.

I had many concerns about the trip but once I was outdoors all those concerns went away.  I carrying my heavy pack for 23.3 miles in the Point Reyes National Seashore.  I had good days and bad days but overall the hard work and sweat gave me new appreciation and a sense of calmness that I had no felt before.  Stay tune for a more detail blog of my backpacking trip.

TBT=Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

I woke up on a Saturday (10/15/2015) with a sudden urge to explore.  I didn’t know where I wanted to go but I knew I had to visit some place new.  I checked by Bucket Travel List and found Leo Carrillo Ranch.  This place was recommended by AnaKaren. Thank you AnaKaren for recommending this place I should have visited it sooner.

I got my cameras ready and headed to the ranch. I had no idea who Leo Carrillo was but apparently he was very famous in his time.  After some quick research online and a short video at the visitor center, I begin to admire this man. Not for his movies or his television series but for what he did for California and preserving its beauty.  He worked for California Beaches and Parks Commission at some point in his life. During that time he was a key factor in the acquisition of Hearst Castle, he helped developed Los Angeles Olvera Street complex and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After visiting all three attractions I am truly thankful that men like Leo Cabrillo were able to set aside these beautiful locations for everyone to see.

When I arrived to the Ranch it seemed empty due to the size.  I entered the visitor center and I was greeted by a friendly staff who gave me information about the ranch and allowed me to see a 10-minute video.  After the short film, I walked alone and just took my time.  I did go on the free tour guide because I know I wanted to sit down and admire the ranch.  Since this place is used for wedding receptions, the pool area of the ranch as well as the cabana were being occupied by the wedding planner and set up crew.  I was not able to access that area however I did take photos from far away.  I did enjoy my time there, it was truly relaxing and did not have the feel of a tourist attraction, it was more like an invitation to someone’s ranch. I saw several people take food to enjoy a picnic on the ranch grounds. I highly recommend this since it is a quiet place to enjoy a nice meal.

 

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California’s Neighbor is in Trouble

California shares a border with Tijuana (city), Baja California (state), Mexico (country), like any border in the world there are always issues that affect both countries sharing that border. 20170108_175921 Today I felt like I was living in a bubble oblivious to what is happening right next door and the world.  Without getting too political there are issues that can’t be ignored when you live in a border state. There may be a border between Mexico and the US however when there is a crisis in Mexico the border state like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are the first to notice it.  Today my eyes were open and I had a reality check.

Living in Southern California has its benefits.  Since we share the border with Mexico it is easy to drive to Mexico and enjoy a day of Mexican culture.  There is great food, great Mexican made products and cheap medication among other things.

 

I got an invitation on Saturday 1/7/2017 from my family to spend the afternoon in Tijuana (Californians call Tijuana, TJ).  We drove to San Ysidro (US city) official border crossing. We immediately notice the difference.  You see several years ago there was a parking lot in which US citizens could park their cars on the US side and walk to Mexico.  That parking lot has been ripped out and it is currently under constructions.  Next to this construction site is a huge Outlet of stores with a view of the border fence and the Border Patrol guarding it.  After asking around we finally were directed to the correct path to enter TJ.  It was a long walk, I mean compared to what it used to be.  We had to walk on a bridge and go around buildings to get to the entrance.

We entered Mexico with no issue. It’s not like many people were entering today, that should have been my first clue that something was not right.  As we walked along the long walkway I notice a few men and woman asking for money.  What was strange was that there was only a small number asking for money, unlike before when you were followed by a group made up of women and children asking for money from the tourist.  Once we passed the beggars we were surrounded by taxi drivers dressed in yellow shirts who drove a yellow cab.  All I heard was “Taxi? Taxi? Taxi? It reminded of the movie Finding Nemo in which Marlin and Dory are flopping on the wooden pier as the seagulls fought between each other saying, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”  We hopped into a yellow taxi and our journey began.  The taxi driver offered to take us to Ensenada another tourist city further down south in Baja California, Mexico.  We declined and requested for him to drop us near the shopping center in the downtown area.

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Gas Shortage

As our driver drove us to the downtown district of TJ he started to inform us about the price of the fair and how the gasoline shortage has affected everyone in TJ. I started to notice the gasoline station that was closed to the public due to the gasoline shortage.  The more we drove the more I saw closed gasoline stations. The driver informed us that the pipes are being blocked and people don’t know what to do since they can’t find gasoline anywhere.  We recently had a couple visit us from Guanajuato, Mexico. They informed us that it is getting difficult to find gasoline. They have to drive really far just to fill up their car tanks.  The driver who drove us back to the border line to cross back to the US informed us that it is even harder for his taxi company (white taxi cabs) to survive since the yellow shirt taxi owner has political ties.  He uses his political ties to fill up his taxis with gasoline during the gasoline shortage which means that other taxi drivers are losing business. Yellow taxi drivers are monopolizing and profiting during this gasoline shortage. Apparently, there were several protests happening during our time in TJ.  So why is there a gasoline shortage?  I read that Mexico increase gasoline prices and all of Mexico are protesting the rate hike.  Many protesters are blocking the distribution centers and blocking the supply lines to the nation.  People are becoming desperate. I heard the desperation on the white taxi driver.  It almost seemed like he was trying to find the quickest way to the borderline to minimize gasoline usage.

Closed for Business

We walked along the downtown area in TJ, oblivious to what was in front of us.  Although there are shops everywhere, not all shops open for business.  Years prior, every shop would be open and it would be difficult to walk due to the amount of people on the street.  Today it was easy to walk through the uncrowded streets of TJ.

We enjoyed the day looking at the Mexican art and products being sold.  What was interesting was that we didn’t have to haggle as much as we use to because the vendors had low prices from the beginning.  They just wanted to sell something. The gasoline shortage is affecting business. People don’t have enough gasoline to reach their work.  There have been deaths and looting in various part of Mexico, business owners are protecting their business by simply not opening for business.

Where are the Tourists?

TJ is a party town for young Americans to spend the weekend drinking and partying. Back in the days, you would see Whites, African-American, Mexican-Americans from the states walking the streets looking for the next bar or club to continue partying.  Today I only saw Mexican and Mexican-Americans walking the streets.  Having family members who are half white, it was a bit unnerving walking in TJ.  We figured that it was not safe anymore.  I later read the travel advisory in regards to traveling to Mexico.  If there is no gasoline and business are closed add the danger of looting during a demonstration, this is a recipe for the lack of tourist in TJ.

Haitian Population Growing

While we were enjoying some street performers impersonate some famous Mexican singers, one of the performers started giving shout outs to the various Mexican states that visitors came from.20170107_154054  At one point the performer gave a shout out to Haiti. When I turned I saw a group of Haitians enjoying the performance.  You have to understand normally you see people from different nations visiting TJ.  Today there were only Mexican, Mexican-Americans and Haitian.  When we started walking again I started to notice more and more Haitians.  On our way back to the border crossing we asked the cab driver about the Haitians.  He informed us that they had arrived 3 months ago. As we drove several blocks he said “look, this all belongs to them,” meaning the Haitians.  The driver told us that every day two trucks come and deliver food to the Haitian growing population.  He informed us that the shelters are full and more Haitians are coming.  The driver was not familiar as to why they are in Mexico but all he knew was that Haiti is a poor country and this is why the Haitians are coming to Mexico waiting to cross to the US.

When I arrived home I started reading newspaper articles in regards to the growing population of Haitians in Mexico.  After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many Haitians moved to Brazil.  Brazil fell into recession for reasons I am not familiar with and the Haitians had to make the decision to make the hard and dangerous journey to TJ in hopes that the US will allow them asylum.  Many took buses, taxis even walked thousands of miles to get to the US border.  From what I read there are thousands of Haitian making the journey to the US right now.   The US detention cells are filled to capacity and many Haitians are being released in California and Arizona with a mandatory court date appearances to relieve the detention cells on the US side.  Meanwhile, the Haitians in TJ  are waiting for their opportunity to be granted asylum to the US.  It is a desperate situation for the Haitians stuck in a country that is not their own, waiting to enter the US with the hope of having a better future.

This blog is just a record of my observation while visiting TJ.  I am positive there are many factors I have not mention that are the cause of the shortage of gasoline in Mexico, closed business, lack of tourist in a tourist border city and the influx of Haitians in TJ.  I admit that I am not aware of my surroundings and I am ignorant of the events outside of my protective bubble.  I know I am not the only one that has been living in a bubble.  I personally get distracted with everyday events that affect me and my immediate surroundings.  Of course, this does not mean I should not care about what is happening in the world.  This trip was an eye opener to the bitter reality around me.  I do plan on becoming more informed of what is happening in the world and if possible become more involved.  I urge you to do your own research in regards to my observations while visiting TJ.  I know that some of you have visited TJ and had different experiences from the one I had today.  Please share your experience with me.  I would like to hear from you.  Most importantly don’t make the same mistake I did of just going to a place without research or at least know what is going on in your surroundings.  The truth is that we could have been caught in a dangerous situation if we didn’t leave at the time we did.  The border patrol officer who let us in informed us that there was going to be a demonstration at the entry port that afternoon.  Beware of your surroundings.  Once again thank you for reading.