California Parks #4 – Mount Tam

This week we explored the serpentine soils of Mt. Tam located north of the bay in Marin County. We hiked up to the serpentine area from one of the higher parking lots and learned a bunch of new plants. IMG_9091

The serpentine soil had a shiny blue-green color due to the extra heavy metals that were inside of it. It limits what plants can grow and causes these patches of shrubs amongst the douglas firs.

The native manzanita
The native manzanita

This beautiful manzanita is native to only this area of serpentine soil and found nowhere else! It pretty much dominated most of the serpentine areas.

View of the Golden Gate (sort of)
View of the Golden Gate (sort of)

Near the parking lot was this awesome view of the hills behind the Golden Gate Bridge that is kind of hidden in this picture. Highway 1 is to the right, the city is straight forward, and the bay is to the left of this area. So pretty!

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California Parks #3 – Sequoia National Park

My hiking and camping saga continues with a visit to Sequoia National Park. We spent the weekend there learning about trees and the different plant communities that make up this enormous park.

The lake at Potwisha
The lake at Potwisha

We set up camp at Potwisha which is one of the first campsites near the park entrance. It was surprisingly warm for being near the Sierra Mountains. We took a quick hike and went swimming in the river. The water was absolutely lovely except for the weird bugs that lived on the waterfall.

GIANT Sequoia
GIANT Sequoia

The next morning we headed up to visit the Giant Forest which contained so many giant sequoia trees. These things were huge and they looked like they were out of some cartoon or something. Later on we stopped by General Sherman, which is considered the largest single living organism on Earth!

Panther Gap
Panther Gap

After leaving the forest, we hiked up to Panther Gap and checked out the different trees along the way. At the top of the ridge there were boulders of granite that overlooked the valley below.

Bear!
Bear!

The last surprise on this trip was a black bear that happened to be rummaging around for food near the trail. It didn’t seem bothered by us at all and kind of just went along its business poking at the ground for something to eat. It got around 30 ft from us at times but didn’t get scared or anything at all. There were some people stopped by the side of the road on the way down looking at bears climbing trees. However, we were too late when we pulled over, and only saw them running away.

California Parks #2: Sunol Regional Wilderness

This week we went to a park that was part of the East Bay Regional Parks District located about 40 minutes from Berkeley. It was a drastically different landscape than what i was used to and most of the area looked like it hadn’t seen any moisture in years. There was no running water anywhere at the parking lot since all the pipes had been shut down because of the drought. There were a few giant water jugs for drinking water thankfully.

A bird!
A bird!

We saw a bunch of really neat birds including a golden eagle, turkey vultures, and a few woodpeckers hard at work. This one was chilling out on an oak tree covered in mistletoe.

A long way down
A long way down

Everywhere that was away from the creek was pretty parched. There was a green band running throughout a sea full of yellow grass.

Fire Hazard
Fire Hazard

The hiking trail was very different from what the website pictures showed because it’s the end of the dry season. The landscape was primarily covered in yellow grass and dotted with a few oak trees. Hopefully the rain comes back soon

California Parks #1: Van Damme State Park

I’m currently taking a class that takes me on a bunch of cool field trips around the state to some amazing natural areas. Last weekend we went up to Van Damme State Park on the Mendocino Coast.

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We learned a bunch of trees while hiking around the woods. Here’s an Abies grandis… I think…

The beach!
The beach!

I went swimming in the ocean for the first time in my four years here. It was so cold I basically went numb after a minute. I only lasted about 5 min in the water but some people swam all the way out to sea. The water was pretty sketchy as well and there was a dead seal washed up on the beach about 100 meters away. At least I can say that I got to go to the beach!

Banana slug moustache
Banana slug moustache

I saw these guys coming down from our hike up to the pygmy forest. Aren’t they so cute!

Last Days in Oxford

Quickly my five weeks have come to an end and it’s time to move on to more adventures. I used the past few days to see and do all the things I’ve been putting off for the past few weeks (sadly we never got to go punting).

First English style breakfast
First English style breakfast

Started off the morning with a flat white at Quarter Horse and learned that espresso drinks in England are comparable to the size of a double shot glass. We paid a final trip to the East Oxford Farmer’s market behind Tesco and headed down to the Magic Cafe on Magdalen Road. I had my first English style breakfast and was absolutely stuffed after. 

Magdalen College Chapel
Magdalen College Chapel

After saying goodbye to my friends, I attempted to gain free access to all the colleges I could after being inspired by our tour at Cambridge. I think the most impressive one was Magdalen with its beautiful chapel that housed not only these super cool statues but several monochrome/sepia stained glass windows, a statue of someone lying in a coffin, and a giant painting of the Last Supper hanging on the wall. 

Insider’s tip to Oxford is that it’s best to visit on a weekday if you come in the summer. A lot of the colleges close their grounds to visitors because of weddings on the weekend. Not even university staff are allowed in. 

Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College
Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College

After many weeks of staring from the outside in at this beautiful lawn of grass, I finally got to enjoy the one lawn that people are allowed to walk on in front of Trinity college. It was as glorious as an experience as I thought it would be. I had to really restrain myself from rolling around on the green carpet because I didn’t want to cause a scene…

The spires at sunset
The spires at sunset

This is the view down High Street in front of Magdalen College at sunset. I’ve really had a nice time in this beautiful city but it’s goodbye for now and on to more adventures!

San Francisco Embarcadero Area Walking Tour

I did this route when some friends came to visit in May and I thought I’d share it. Funny enough I hadn’t been to some of these famous landmarks in the three years I lived in the Bay. Be forewarned that this is about 2.5-3 miles of walking and contains lots of steep ups and downs. 

Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery
Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery

Starting at the Embarcadero BART, walk down towards the water to the ferry building. If you go on a Saturday there’s one of the best farmers’ markets in the Bay. Inside the building are a bunch of shops and vendors. Go to Cowgirl Creamery and get one of these plates of melted, toasted cheese deliciousness from the cart outside the shop and you will not regret it.  

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

After exiting the farmer’s market, take a right and walk down past the Exploratorium (see this post) and cross the street at Pier 23. Walk through the park and towards the hill up Greenwich St. and be prepared for a bit of a climb. This leads you to the majestic Coit Tower and yields awesome views of the Bay! You can’t really see the Golden Gate from here but it’s a nice workout. The tower was closed for maintenance when we went but you can go up it too. 

Lombard Street
Lombard Street

While walking back down the hill on the Bay side from Coit Tower, you’ll come across Lombard Street. Walk straight down the street and you’ll come across the famous crooked road. This place is packed with tourists so I’d really recommend walking instead of driving this thing. There’s stairs on the side where you can observe rental cars slowly inching down the hill in zig zag fashion.  

Boudin at Fisherman's Wharf
Boudin at Fisherman’s Wharf

At the top of the street, take a right and that leads you back to Ghiradelli and Fisherman’s Wharf. This street is a pretty steep downhill and follows the cable car track as well. You can either stop for a sundae or do what we did and get a clam chowder in a bread bowl at the Boudin Factory. There’s also an In n’ Out but due to it always being super crowded with tourists the quality is pretty lacking compared to most other locations. 

You can either walk the two or so miles back or take the F street car (looks like a tin can) from the stop on Beach St. and Jones St. near Walgreens. This will take you all the way back to the BART and Union Square. It tends to get really crowded so catching it from that first stop is your best bet for getting a seat. 

Happy travels!

Out of the City

This past weekend I got out of the city a bit and biked to some other areas around Oxfordshire. Owls are one of my favorite things in the world so I headed down south about 12 miles (more if you count getting lost) to the Millets Falconry Centre and the farm that it was in. The flying show was amazing and now I want to become a falconer. (^v^)

Brasnose Woods
Brasnose Woods
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Kestrel
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Barn owl!!