a little spark

Exciting news! I have been chosen as a new Correspondent for The Campsite blog! It's an excellent outdoors blog based in Canada, but gathering stories world-wide. I love the site's thoughtful, fun style...and of course the sense of adventure and love for all things outside. Be sure to add it to your outdoor adventure reading list.

So what does this mean? Well, you'll see more of me here (really!), and I'll also be sending you over to The Campsite to read my stories and reviews about once a month. I'm so excited to add my little spark to their fire! Stay tuned!

Hike: Purisima Creek

We try to do a family hike every Sunday, and we most often find ourselves north of San Francisco. Today...we were too tired. We went out for breakfast sandwiches instead. But last Sunday we mixed it up and had one of our best hikes in a while. We headed south to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve


Purisima Creek is just south of Half Moon Bay, California and can be accessed from off Highway 1 or from Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard). We chose the smaller, western access point up Purisima Creek Road, which allowed us to stop off in Half Moon Bay for trail food and a quick side adventure. The drive up Purisima Creek Road is a lovely roll through horse ranches and farms...and while the parking lot at the end of the road is tiny, there's ample room on the side of the quiet road. 

Purisima Creek seemed like a great area for hiking and getting a dose of nature with kids of all ages, even just by doing short, simple out-and-back walks along the creek. We saw several other families there throughout the day. Many of the trails are wide, and the creek itself is great for picnicking and tossing rocks. Fast mountain bikes and poison oak are the main hazards. 

You can view a trail map HERE. Our route was Harkins Ridge Trail - Craig Britton Trail - Purisima Creek Trail, which came out to about 7 miles. Harkins Ridge Trail is the steeper part of this loop and we decided to tackle it first. 


The views were full of forest, hills, and even a peek of the ocean. We saw lizards & butterflies, and heard many birds. There were flowers blooming here and there, including trillium. We'll definitely be trying some more loops in this area. Perhaps tomorrow.


We are lucky to have a kid who loves to be outside and who can sleep easily in a carrier on the trail. It means we can usually plan our hike to incorporate a nap and get more mileage. After a picnic down by the creek our girl slept in a chest carrier most of the way up Harkins Ridge. She's quite petite still at 2.5 years, but is nearly too big for her carriers now. Our kid is getting pretty good at hiking on her own, though, too...she more or less ran down most of Purisima Creek Trail...once we got past the really oaky bits and let her down.

Have you tried a new trail lately or otherwise mixed up your routine?

Woah, PeeWee!


Nothing like a little girl's first pony ride! On our way to our Sunday hike we passed Lemos Farm outside of Half Moon Bay. Almost anytime we catch a glimpse of a horse, our little one says she wants to ride...so seeing little ponies by the highway, we decided to u-turn and have a some quick fun. She said she was all done after only a few minutes...but talked about it all day and asked to ride PeeWee again later, so I say that was $8 well spent. 

Sweet Monday

Daylight Savings seems to be hitting us a bit hard this spring...we couldn't quite make it out for our usually Sunday hike. But then we stumbled into a Monday without anything on our schedules. We celebrated with a leisurely hike thru Tennessee Valley for a picnic and some beach exploration. Weekday hikes are always just a little bit sweeter, don't you think? 

Austin is for friends.

Texas state capitol dome

Texas state capitol dome

We recently went to Austin, Texas to visit friends we hadn't seen in awhile. It was our first visit to Texas. We consciously decided to do no research and make no to-do lists....well other than eat BBQ. It was refreshing to have no other agenda but spending time with good people. And I think that's exactly what Austin is good for. It's got the quirkiness of Portland mixed with Southern hospitality, so everyone can feel at home...everyone is nice. There are a lot of outdoor spaces at restaurants, a river to play in and walk along right thru downtown. I get the feeling that early summer would be a great time to go...play outside, swim, see a million bats, eat outside, hear good music, and hang out with friends. 

Some highlights from our trip that you may enjoy: 

  • Dahlias Cafe for crazy good breakfast (this is actually 35 miles away in Liberty Hill...I would say it was worth the drive. They also have a playground for the kiddos).
  • Texas State Capitol for history and architecture and a reminder that Texas was a Confederate state
  • South Congress neighborhood to wander around for quirkiness, shopping, and food
  • BBQ, preferably at Matt's house (invitation only)

It does feel like you need a specific reason to go to Austin...a festival, friends, college, a job, or that sort of thing. Will we go again? Probably...we really like the people we know who live there (they all petitioned us to move there, but...no). Next time? There were vague mentions of caverns and "mountains" and lakes that would be fun to explore. I would love to see the bats fly out of the bridge. Maybe take a side trip to NASA in Houston.

opie's bbq, spicewood, tx

opie's bbq, spicewood, tx

On NOT going on an adventure...

Little one taking a little break on Angel Island/Photo Credit: Scott Mansfield

Little one taking a little break on Angel Island/Photo Credit: Scott Mansfield

I think that adventure is the right choice 98% of the time. Even small adventures like a walk in the rain win out over (some) responsibilities or laziness. Adventure refreshes the soul and makes you feel like you can tackle the rest of life.

Sometimes your guts cry out to stay home and you have to have a chat with yourself about the benefits of going out. You KNOW the adventure will be fun and good for you, you just have to get out of bed or away from the computer. But sometimes you DO have to listen to your guts. Sometimes your guts know that you are avoiding hard tasks. Sometimes your guts know you are fragile.

I've been dealing with some anxiety issues lately. I won't bore you with details...I just have some work+healing to do. But my brain+body issues mean that I'm hovering closer to my limits and do need to pay attention when my gut says "don't go!" If I push past my mental and physical limits I get cranky and tired and withdrawn...in other words, no fun to be around. Staying home and staying quiet can really help bring me back to a little closer to normal. Sure, I might miss out on a special moment, but I know I'll hear stories about it and see pictures, and I know I'll be ready for the next adventure.


Cycling cyclist?


In September I got a fancy new bike. Well, it's fancy to me, anyway. It's a silvery grey Jamis 2014 Coda Comp bicycle. I test rode several bikes and this is the one that felt best, so I went for it. It feels fast and agile and completely comfortable. I use it to ride a couple miles to work one day a week and I try to go on a longer "fitness" ride one other day. Note the gentle quotation marks. At the moment I want to gain more riding experience and confidence. I do have my secret mind's eye on doing a triathlon one day/someday. 

Do you ride? Any advice? I feel like I have so much to learn...new lingo, new muscle uses, new routes around town... 

A few thoughts on cycling so far:

  • My neck gets crunchy, so I need to remember to use my eyes more than my neck to look forward
  • Still learning bike posture and needing to strengthen my core
  • At what point do you purchase padded pants? 
  • When do I switch from being a bike rider to being a cyclist? 
  • Still perfecting my hand signal technique
  • I've seen cops pull over cyclists for running stop signs. 
  • Now that my bike is kind of broken-in I need to take it to the shop for some adjustments. 
  • I need a bell and some lights...Daylight Savings is over!
  • I want one of those shirts with the pocket in the back. 
  • If you're riding in the street, how the hell are you supposed to get over to turn left?
  • Bike riding (cycling?) is fun!  

Hike: Ring Mountain

Today we did a quick 2 mile hike at Ring Mountain Open Space in Marin County. It was just enough to shake the fog and stretch our legs...perfect after a long and slightly lazy holiday weekend. Ring Mountain (also known as Turtle Rock) is one of my favorite quick escapes out of San Francisco because it's five minutes from the freeway, has beautiful views all around of the bay, the city, and Mt. Tam, and the geology and plant life are really interesting, too. I highly recommend exploring here. It's a great spot to take kids, too. Park on the north side to head up the loop trail and you'll get a good climb up to the summit through wildflowery grasslands and California bay laurel stands. As always in this part of the word, do watch out for poison oak! 

Outdoor Women...and girls!

Last fall I read a post on Not Martha about her participation in the Washington Outdoor Women annual Weekend Workshop and immediately signed up for the WOW mailing list. Awesome outdoorsy classes in a beautiful place with a group of interesting ladies...in my head, I was already planning my trip there for 2014. Last week I got a note in my inbox that registration for this year's weekend workshop was open...with a twist. To attend the WOW workshop this year you must bring along a young girl! If my daughter or any kid I knew was the right age (9-12 years old) we'd be there in a heartbeat, signed up for classes about navigation, rope-making, or using wild plants. Oh well...I think it sounds like a lot of fun so I wanted to pass the word along...check out the Washington Outdoor Women website and the weekend workshop brochure. I'm pretty sure anyone from anywhere can attend...although space is limited. Anyone know of similar programs offered elsewhere? 


Elephants have been lurking about lately. It started with the appearance of my childhood stuffed elephant Mr. Nibbs. It's about the same size as Abigail. Then we taught Abigail how to make an elephant noise. She's pretty good at it, and does it whenever she hears the word elephant or sees one in a book. Sometimes a whale warrants an elephant call, too. Here are some other elephants that have been on my brain:   

Infantino's Elephant Teether Kiki

Infantino's Elephant Teether Kiki

Tippi and her "brother" via Bored Panda

Tippi and her "brother" via Bored Panda

Heartbreaking & Sweet Dumbo ♥ Mrs. Jumbo 

bricks & butterflies


In December we took a quick little trip to Santa Barbara. We lived there for a couple of years when Scott was in school at the Brooks Institute of Photography and it was fun to see how things have changed and visit some old favorite places. Our BFF Jenny Kim came up from L.A. too (yay!) and we stayed with another good friend who was working in town. One stop on our nostalgic tour was Samy's Camera, where I looked at everything 3 times and played on my phone while Scott and Jenny shopped and chatted with their old favorite Samy's guy (ask for John, he'll take good care of you!).  They were each gifted an Argus...the first camera that was mass produced in quantities over a million. We nicknamed it The Brick...can't wait to see the pictures come out! We also went out to Ellwood Mesa...a preserve of beautiful bluffs above the ocean where thousands of monarch butterflies overwinter each year. We were there just when the sun was hitting the orangish clumps of cold butterflies and it was cool to see them slowly start fluttering and flying.  If you're near Santa Barbara, you just might see a few still there (this is the time of year they mate and migrate). Besides that we rolled by our old apartment and the old and new school campuses, wandered and had dinner on State Street, and watched The Change-Up (way funnier than the previews suggest). It was a great weekend!   

november flashback

I know it's February, but I still have things to document & remember from the end of last year. Today, just a few snaps from our Thanksgiving adventures in Yosemite.  After our fab dinner at the Ahwahnee we spent the rest of the weekend hiking and exploring.


We walked the 13 mile Valley Floor loop. The trail is in the forest most of the way...where we saw a zillion different mushrooms. The next day wehiked about 13 miles again while trying to get to a place called the Diving Board It has no marked trail and is on the 'shoulder' of Half Dome. This famous photo was taken from there. We didn't have precise directions or a lot of daylight, so we didn't quite make it, but had a pretty little corner of wilderness all to ourselves and are looking forward to going to the Diving Board sometime this year...well, one of us anyway...we'll see if this little mama feels up to it. Because of the weird warm weather, bears were still out and about. We didn't see one, but found evidence. I was looking at some of the pictures of me from this trip and I look a little beat up in every one...a combination of miles of walking, no makeup, and, as we later found out, my body starting to switch to pregnant mode. Our last morning we hiked the Mirror Lake loop...scrambling over a huge rock slide on one side. Have you ever noticed that going on a loop in the opposite direction than the one recommended is often more interesting? Try it next time you're hiking.


Hey guys...how was your Thanksgiving holiday? I know I was already supposed to ask you that LAST Monday...I lost a week somewhere, have you seen it? 

We had the best Thanksgiving! I knew a few weeks ago that we would be tapped out from launching Flora and that we probably wouldn't be traveling to see family...so I semi-surprised Scott and got us Thanksgiving dinner reservations at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park.  We had a lovely fancy prime rib+yorkshire pudding dinner and spent the long weekend camping and hiking in the beautiful late autumn weather. It was definitely a little strange having non-homemade Thanksgiving, but what a good meal!

I still have some pics to download from my camera (mushrooms & bear tracks!) and stories to tell, but thought I'd share these iPhone snaps...the few I got before my battery was drained by the frozen night!




On the last night of our roadtrip we camped at Lava Beds National Monument.  The sunrise over the desert was lovely and Scott and I went for a walk (he did a little photog-ing) and I decided to do an informal survey of the plant life.  Juniper, pine, two kinds of sage, paintbrush, misteltoe...I haven't identified all of them, but I'm fascinated at the diversity casually found in just one little area. The desert is magical.


Hello to new and old blog friends ♥ Welcome officially to summertime...are you enjoying it? I had a ridiculously perfect weekend in Northern California...hiking, eating freshly harvested abalone on the beach, eating eating eating, spending time with friends, horseback riding, sleeping in a meadow...I mostly left my blogging self at home to relax and enjoy myself (in other words, I didn't have my camera with me [sigh, i didn't know all the wonderful things that were going to happen])...but I did want to share some quick iPhone pics from last Friday evening when we helped our friend build his new tipi, ordered from Nomadic Tipi Makers in Bend, Oregon.

now what?

now what?

tripod is up!

tripod is up!

putting on the cover

putting on the cover



Isn't it amazing?? The last pic is of the tipi 95% complete...Saturday it got staked out and fine tuned so it really looked sharp and was so sturdy. After seeing this tipi [an 18-footer] I'm seriously considering getting a plain 8-foot 'kids' tipi.  Although I've always thought making Rachel's simple TeePee would be fun too...


Thanks for visiting...have a lovely day!

where wednesday [caboose]


In early 2003 I was an intern in the education office at Joshua Tree National Park.  I was able to choose between either really nice barrack/dorm housing with the park fire crew, or a caboose. Easy choice! An awesome older couple built their dream house just outside the park entrance near the education office, and on the property they had a refurbished caboose (great for the grandkids!) they rented to me.  


my caboose, the owners' amazing house, and my oldsmobile ♥

I can't find any pics of the interior...but I'll describe it to you. When you walked in the front door (closest to house), there was a bunk bed on the right and a single bed on the left. There was a little table and a nice place to sit, a tv (I got DVD's of The Sopranos at Blockbuster), a space heater, a tiny closet, and a little hot plate.

I was in Joshua Tree February to May, and the caboose wasn't insulated, so at night it was COLD.  Scott came to visit (he was living in Santa Barbara) and we rigged up a blanket curtain to hold the heat in the sleeping area. By the end of April during the day it would be HOT (still cold at night). What do you expect from a big metal box? I could climb into either side of the cupola (the 'second floor') and sit and read and watch the desert for coyotes and tortoises...


In the back of the caboose was a full fridge and a shower stall.  I washed my dishes in the shower!  There was a door at each end so I could open them up and get a little desert breeze moving through.

I would wake up to the sounds of mourning doves and the sight of clear colorful sunrise skies. I would crunch down the driveway to walk up to the office, pausing to let big gopher snakes cross the path. I loved my time in Joshua Tree and I think about it all the time...not only because of the landscape and the cool job I had, but because I lived in an amazing little home. It was so cozy and perfect for me...I loved my little caboose! Thanks for letting me share my memories!

Where Wednesday is    a series       about     places that are  important to us, be they   work  spaces,    outdoor      spaces,    sleeping spaces,  places we   visit,  places we    live,  places   we   drink    coffee, etc. etc.

[do you want to talk  about a  place or space that's important  to you? let me know and I'll  set you  up with a Wednesday!]



Summer is coming, and I don't know about you, but I always get an extra strong wanderlust when the weather heats up. To kick off your daydreams this year, check out my friends' website Cavalo at Sea.  Matt and Lindsay are preparing to do what so many only imagine...sail around the world, in true explorer style. They have a lot of work to do before they set sail, but it's all slowly coming together.  


The beautiful boat is a 43 foot Westsail and she came to her new family last year. Last weekend we gathered on the boat to officially give her her new name...a BIG deal for a boat that must be done carefully, and only for good reason so you don't get on Poseidon's bad side...especially if you plan to go around the world. After some major work at the boatyard, it was time!


You can follow Cavalo's preparation and progress now (it's like a crazy home remodel project) and follow the journey when the time comes on the Cavalo blog or at the Cavalo at Sea on Facebook. Thanks to Matt & Lindsay for sharing their adventure and living their dream!



We rarely venture across the Bay, but we felt like an outing on Saturday so we headed for the hills above Oakland to explore a hidden gem for the curious...the Chabot Space & Science Center


Space is fascinating, don't you think? Chabot has two planetariums, three telescopes, and lots of space & science exhibits. We were worried it was going to be geared too much toward kids, but we really enojoyed our afternoon there. We were able to look at Venus through 'Leah,' Chabot's oldest and first telescope:


We also saw the sun through a special telescope whose filters allowed you to see the 'processes'...the shooting jets of plasma visible at the edge of the sun.  AWESOME! Plus Scott, who is enamored of the early space programs got to play in a replica of a Mercury capsule...


...and dress up as an Apollo astronaut...


After visiting the Chabot center we munched on astronaut ice cream and took a stroll in the redwoods surrounding the building. We had an awesome Saturday...if you want something fun and different to do in the Bay Area I highly recommend it! We want to go back sometime to see the telescopes in action at night.  Wouldn't that be a fun date?


Did you have a lovely weekend? We spontaneously decided LATE Friday afternoon to hit the slopes for the weekend...leaving all other cares behind (blog posts included). What a wonderful time we had swooshing down white hillsides...

This was the first time I've skied outside of the magical powder-land that is Utah.  The term 'Sierra Cement' is no joke...as my legs will testify, but it doesn't take away from the fun.  The conditions were great and a good time was had by all...hopefully it won't be another 5 years before we hit the slopes ∆∆∆