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?

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? 

let kids run wild...but with respect

Emma Marris recently posted an article on Slate, speaking with a former park ranger Matthew Browning and others, and arguing in favor of letting kids explore nature however they want, whether it's climbing trees or collecting rocks or building forts or digging holes, wherever they find nature...even in a national park. At first I was like, "Yeah!" Then I was like "Wait a second..."  

Kids AND adults do need to explore and investigate nature. It's good for the soul and creates a tangible connection between ourselves and the world. BUT national parks are set aside for a reason. And the large numbers of visitors to these popular destinations means the "nature" within a national park is automatically more highly impacted than other natural areas. No one can selfishly treat these places as belonging to just themselves. Public lands must be shared, and they must be left how we would wish to find them.

But after millions of kid-hours of use by children gleefully doing their worst, these play zones remain functioning natural areas. The damage wrought by kids was comparable to that from hiking or camping. 

Letting kids "do their worst" is not teaching them to respect and admire nature.  Nature CAN be a playground...but it is so much more. The article implies that national parks are stuffy with a policy of Leave-No-Fun.  The counter-offer is the creation of designated free-play areas within national parks where kids could do whatever they want to the plants, animals, and earth found in the zone. It's an interesting idea, but perhaps one that should be applied in cities, residential areas, and in place of structured playgrounds...the places kids explore everyday.

Kids do need unstructured playtime, and they do need to experiment and explore...but we humans spend so much time bending nature to our own desires, it's valuable to teach children to stop and quietly observe what's going on around them. Watch, listen, smell. Be IN nature, not ABOVE nature. National parks in particular provide this opportunity, and were in fact created for it. Stewardship, preservation, sustainability, and conservation are the words and actions children need to learn, but first they need to understand why. To understand why they need to see it and experience it as it is, not as an amusement park. Furthermore, they need to see the adults in their world respect and SHARE nature. There's plenty of wild on-trail and within the rules.

Outside Wins Again

A week ago I took the little one to Breakfast With Enzo (a fun music session for kids) at Sports Basement. Rather than race home for nap time, I put Abigail in the stroller, crossed my fingers, and took off down Crissy Field for an urban hike. I never get tired of the views and the non-city feeling there. We're lucky that Abigail has always been good at napping on the go...and this day she surprised me by sleeping for two hours. That meant that I ended up walking Crissy Field to the end of the Marina Green, back down to the Warming Hut, back again to the Wave Organ, and then back to Crissy Field...I think it was six or seven miles. My legs were achy and my ears were cold, but it was so worth it. Yes, I stopped for coffee and a Dynamo Donut, but what really made the morning was just being outside, getting air, and observing. I saw 19 different species of birds. I watched the fog break up. I listened to the crunch of gravel underfoot and the sploosh of waves on the bay. When Abigail woke up we walked and explored together a little before taking off for lunch. It was joyous and refreshing and I'm wondering where we should get outside this weekend. Where will you get out?


Bay Nature


Scott has a little cameo in the newest issue of

Bay Nature Magazine

.  It's a great issue focusing on Pt. Reyes in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its designation as a National Seashore. Pt. Reyes is a great day trip from the Bay Area and a favorite destination for us when we need to get out of the city. We saw whales spouting offshore on our last outing there! If you want to know more about the history and ecology of Pt. Reyes, read

Crowning Glories: 50 Years of Pt. Reyes

...and look for 'Hiker on Sky Trail' (that's my Mr. ♥). Bay Nature is a great local organization focused on exploring and protecting natural places around the San Francisco Bay, and their magazine is always lovely.

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.



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!

mission blue butterfly

Last week Scott and I did a quick hunt in the Marin Headlands for the rare (endangered!) Mission Blue Butterfly. He had gotten the scoop on this little insect a few days earlier on a ranger led walk and I wanted to see one, too! 

The Mission Blue Butterfly only lives in a few places in the Bay Area, and was one of the first insects included on the Endangered Species List, largely due to loss of habitat.  While the adult butterflies munch on nectar from many flowers, this butterfly species relies on lupine plants & flowers as food for the caterpillars and a place to lay eggs...no lupine, no Mission Blue Butterfly.

It was pretty windy the day we went out.  We saw a few other species of butterflies, lots of wildflowers, and even some bluebirds, but had just about given up on the Mission Blue when we had a possible sighting on the side of the trail...You must be careful though, because the Mission Blue Butterfly has a few look-a-likes.  To be sure you've spotted a Mission Blue Butterfly you must check the underside of the wings...if you see TWO rows of black spots, and the black spots have a white ring around them, THAT is a Mission Blue Butterfly.


To learn more about the Mission Blue Butterfly start HERE!


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 ∆∆∆

where wednesday [corinne]

Where Wednesdays are  a regular feature where I and a series of guest bloggers talk  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!]

[This week's Where Wednesday is from Corinne, my mama...I'm happy to have grown up exploring the desert with her.  This is more or less her first blog post, so please give her a warm welcome ♥ Enjoy!]

Where Wednesday.  Desert.  No thought required.  It’s long been a healing place.  A place where I am my most true self; let the layers peel away.  It’s also the place I have the most fun.  It’s the first place I want to go when school lets out in June.  It’s the place I go when I meditate and it’s the imagery I see during a shavasana.

Where this Wednesday?  All American Man?  Chaco Canyon?  Capitol Reef?  Bryce Canyon?  Moab?  The Wave?  Yes, The Wave. This magical place is in the Coyote Buttes area of the Paria Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah/Arizona border. 

Scott has already written beautifully about this spot where I was lucky to spend a day with him and Sara.  Walk-in permits are issued by lottery…just ten per day.  We won three permits ON MY BIRTHDAY!  Oops, we were a party of four.  Freddie, being Freddie, gave us the thumbs up to go ahead. 

The trailless hike means looking for landmarks to find our way. The Wave is hidden and remote and feels like an adventure.  A bare rock entrance takes us to another planet; with sandstone walls, swirling striations of yellow, orange, pink and white.  It’s like no other place.  Even here, there is life in small pools.  Just look. 


[sara here...this is an upside down tadpole shrimp my mom and i found in a desert pool...bizarre! tadpole shrimp are little crustaceans with prehistoric origins...they often live in temporary pools, and even after the pool dries up, their eggs can survive up 25 years and will hatch when conditions are right again]

I’m not sure why I feel such a strong affinity for desert environments. After all, I spent my early years in Canada.  Maybe it’s because life there is fragile, yet strong enough to survive.  Life is a gift in the desert.  Sharing time in the desert with Freddie, Sara and Scott is the best gift I’ve ever received.  (I love you guys.)


"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself."

Edward Abbey

(Desert Solitaire)

where wednesday [scott mansfield]

[The first 'Where Wednesday' post comes from an artist...my husband, the incomparable Scott Mansfield.  I've been to his place and it's pretty great. ♥sara]

I am honored to be the first ‘Where Wednesday’ guest blogger on Sagebrush Coast, a project that has been in the creative vault for quite some time.  It looks amazing, don’t you think!  This recurring Wednesday post is interesting because everyone has personal spaces they hold dear.  Following the suggestions given on her opening post, “work spaces, outdoor spaces, sleeping spaces, places we visit, places we live, places we drink coffee, etc” I’m going to talk about a place that fits all these for me.

Deep in the heart of the Colorado Plateau lies a crimson valley stripped with ancient geologic striations that ribbon across it in banded hues of red and blonde, marking the ancient epochs with geologic tidal bands.  It is in this hidden place I find myself one crisp early morning in Spring.  There are no trails here, no man markings, no signs only rock and wind, scattered hearty flora and animals adapted to the seemingly inhospitable environment.  I come as an observer, a recorder.  On this morning the slightest breath of wind dances about, lost in empty tranquility.  I feel the same.  With a compass in one hand and my tripod in the other I continue my walk South over broken Navajo Sandstone, toward a distant point on the horizon.  The East is awash with indigo  light.  The air is still again and a morning thrush sings its awakening call to all those who will listen.  Animals here hunt in the cool of night, but my quarry exists in the light; it is composition, trees and rock that I’m after.  I am a landscape artist, and this is my place.  It gets lighter in the East and my brain starts focusing on the play of shadow and low angled light.  There is no past or future while I’m here.  Timeless interaction is what I’m seeking.  To show the motif that exists between the nature before me and myself.  The weight of the tripod in my hand is comforting, an old trusted amigo, unflinching in its desire to accompany me anywhere.  The camera strapped to my back is loaded with rolls of film, and my eye searches on.  This is why I am alive, to feel nature flow through me.  Peaceful, content, happy I continue on as the light in the East grows.