Sequoia National Park, California

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I grew up at the base of enormous mountains, but my mountains make up the most western outcrop of the Rockies, and the eastern wall of the Great Basin Desert that stretches across Utah and Nevada to the Sierra’s in California. My mountains get a lot of snow, but not a lot of rain. We don’t have lush forests, we have plenty of pine trees, and groves of aspen trees, and a few stands of cedars, and a lot of scrub oak (which has zero resemblance to an actual oak tree). But thickets of giant trees and miles of lush greenery? Not so much. My mountains still constitute the high desert which is not known for it’s lushness.

Visiting Sequoia National Park in eastern California was almost overwhelming in how much Tree-ness was surrounding me. Not just little saplings, either, but the soaring monoliths as impressive in their height as their girth. Yes, I most definitely am in-love with the sequoia trees. In. Love.

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This was not the biggest tree in the park, but look at those tiny people at the left of the trunk! (Also, this pic not-at-all-professionally-stitched together because my camera lens is not wide enough to actually capture the enormity of these trees!) I just…even looking at these pics again, I can hardly fathom how gigantic these living, growing organisms are. They are the blue whale or brontosaurus of the forest: giant and overpowering and awesome in every way. Not inherently dangerous, but you know, would smash you to pieces without even noticing your existence under the right (wrong?) circumstances.

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That pine tree at the bottom? A good sized Christmas tree.

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I wandered through the only-sort-of-marked trails in the park for hours, wishing my camera lens could somehow capture what my eyes could see, and also glad that part of the majesty and awe would only leave traces in my memory.


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General Sherman, largest living organism in the world. Calling it an “organism” somehow makes me think it’s more like algae or plankton instead of this towering giant. Sherman is the largest by volume (52,000 cubic feet), while it is no longer growing taller, maxing out at 275 feet tall, it does continue to gain girth. At the moment it’s already 100 feet around at the base, and still growing.

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Point Reyes National Seashore, California

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A few weeks ago I spent a lovely Saturday at Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco with my sweetheart and my oldest, dearest friend and her family. It was heaven in every possible way and I want to go back.

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Meandering “hiking” down to the old lighthouse with ocean views for daaaays.

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Laughing at her kiddos as they clambered around, taking in the old history and the newer exhibits.

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Sneaking kisses with my sweetheart as the cool wind blew my hair all sorts of crazy. Listening to the waves crash against the shore.

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Stopping to explore anything that looked remotely interesting, and ending with a few hours on a quickly deserting beach watching the waves and chatting with my BFF (seriously, we met in Kindergarten and she set me up with Blue Eyes on our first date). California, why you gotta be so far away?

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Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park in the desert/deserted part of Southern California is a completely other-worldy place. I mean, I’ve seen Joshua Trees many times as I criss-cross the dry and seemingly barren spaces of the Wild West, but I’ve never wandered around dozens and dozens of them, and I’ve never seen them glow with that low afternoon golden light.

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My late afternoon hike in Joshua Tree consisted mostly of my trying to get plenty of photos that I liked, while trying NOT to get stuck by cholla cactus spines. I was moderately successful on both fronts.

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These trees really do feel like a cross between some kind of alien life-form and something Dr. Seuss/Tim Burton would dream up. And the hills are COVERED in them. They weren’t super close together, there’s definitely not enough natural water for that kind of density, but I felt like the Joshua Tree soldiers just went on for miles and miles, never thinning out, never clumping up, just well-ordered spike-balls on sticks, marching away into the distance.

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So weird, so alien, so gorgeous.

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My visit to Joshua Tree included spending a night solo camping; I have never been afraid of road tripping by myself, but it was a new experience to go camping by myself, and one that at times made me a wee bit uneasy. I mean, I was staying in a well established campground at a national park, it’s not like I was camped on the side of the road near a high security prison, or anything. But still, there were nerves.

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I’m glad I didn’t chicken out and go stay in one of the motels in town, honestly, they looked quite sketchy. Besides, the sunrise over the trees was just gorgeous. For the record, I stayed in Black Rock Campground on the north side/Yucca Valley side, mostly because they accepted reservations and I didn’t want to be solo camping AND short one camp spot, and then end up on the side of the road. Ahem.

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One of my life goals is to visit 50 National Parks, after last weekend I am sitting at a pretty reasonable 19, I’ve got a lot more adventuring to do! That being said, I would definitely visit JTNP again to do a little more exploring.

Until next time, Joshua Tree!

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You can view my whole photo album here.

Have you been to Joshua Tree!? What kind of hiking or exploring did you do?

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Point Bonita, California

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Point Bonita is famous for it’s lighthouse, however due to some construction issues and early closing times we missed being able to actually visit the final outcrop of land where the lighthouse lives. (Sad panda!) We hiked out as far as we could go and just admired the wonderfully warm and fog-free weather and all the gorgeous views.

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You can see the actual lighthouse on the very end of this rocky outcropping, however we only made it to the door to the tunnel in the middle before our way was barred and locked.

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Waves crashing on the west, sealions barking on the right, the setting sun turning everything to gold.

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This bright reddish-orange lichen is all over the place and I just wanted to scoop it up and paint with it! This is the end of our trip, stupid locked/chained/barred door.

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These succulent-ish plants were everywhere with bright pink or lemon yellow flowers. We wandered around, watched the sun set lighting up the rocks and the Bridge as the fog rolled in (and it got chilly and too dark for picture-taking) then packed it in and headed back home.

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In another lifetime (and another blog) I spent almost half of my weekends in San Francisco falling in love with love, with the City, and with a very kind man. Seeing places with such wonderfully fond memories brought back so many happy moments and images of this city where I learned how to be a person again, how to love again, and how to be loved again. The boyfriend is long gone, although with only the best kinds of feelings for his future happiness. However, I will forever have part of my heart reserved for the City that brought me back to life. I’ll be back, San Francisco!

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Muir Woods, California

Muir Woods

Years ago I spent about 20 minutes wandering around Muir Woods National Monument, and it was approximately 37 hours not long enough. A whirlwind weekend in Northern California full of adventuring with my bff Bella and her family put us back inside this glorious grove of redwoods just north of San Francisco for the afternoon.

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We hiked the entire loop stopping every three feet to swoon at the enormous trees, the late afternoon light filtering through the leaves, and the lushness of this seemingly enchanted forest. Honestly, I would not have been one bit surprised if a wizard or a pack of fairies had emerged from behind one of those massive trunks.

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Forests like these simply do not exist in my part of the world. We have a few big pines, but nothing like this. The redwoods were so incredibly impressive; it is easy to see how people worship them. EASY! Some of my favorite trees had twisty, spiraling shapes in their bark, like the tree just kept twisting upwards and the stretch marks became permanent. Up, and up, and up!

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I wish I’d had my tripod or monopod with me, the low slanting light begged for long exposures to capture the golden glow throughout the trees, but many of my photos turned out blurry. Not to self: always bring your monopod!

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If you are in San Francisco Bay area I highly recommend getting yourself to Muir Woods. We waited for ages for a shuttle to take us there and again on the way back, and fought crowds the entire time. But even with all the teeming masses of humans I cannot imagine a better way to spend the afternoon. Unless, of course, you happen to have access to your own private grove of redwood trees…then do that.

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