San Diego Life – Tide Pools

November 2018

It’s Black Friday. The husband and B-I-L are out shopping. Time and tide wait for none, so the rest of us head out to the tide pools. Tidepools are shallow pockets where water is trapped during low tides, forming small pools that provide habitat for numerous plants, invertebrates, and fish. They are a great place for children (and adults) to explore, experience, and learn. During the summer months the pools covered by high tides during the day. Late fall through winter are considered the best times to visit. We have time our visit to coincide with the low tide, as have a million others. The is a mile-long line of cars on the road leading up to the parking lot of the Cabrillo National Monument’s tidepools. This is one of the best-protected and most easily accessible rocky inter-tidal zones in southern California. Since access to the pools is time bound, the older ones and I get out and walk. The LO has no choice but to come with her aunt later. I have no clue how we are going to find them or get back home, because there is cell phone signal here.

The kids have been here before. They are excited to scramble over the rocks, wade into the water and point out sea life to me. Akash  shows me a sea anemone “eating” his finger. Lara is thrilled. I, on the other hand, have grown old. A more concerned about keeping my shoes dry than getting my feet wet. I’m afraid someone’s going to cut their feet or fall or hurt themselves badly over the rocks. The National Parks website warns – a child’s enthusiasm and excitement over being in this natural wonderland can quickly translate into a slip or tumble. As a child, I’ve done worse, but as a mother I can’t take my eyes off them, and they are both going in opposite directions.

The kids spot their mother. When we reach her, a Ranger comes to warn everyone that it is almost closing time. Our car is parked at the top, near the lighthouse. The sister volunteers to go get it while the rest of our motley crew waits in the parking lot by the pools. We reach home wet, tired and happy.

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San Diego Love

November 2018

I have everything to give thanks for, but above all I am thankful for the love that I have been blessed with. From family and friends, from people I don’t meet anymore and those whom I’ve barely met. The universe has been kind and I am grateful.

We are in San Diego for Thanksgiving. It’s still November and we’ve already had our first snow storm, and California is coming out of one of their biggest forest fires in recent times so in addition to everything else, I am thankful for the sun on my face, on my back, legs and all over, and for the clear blue skies above. The flights to India and back had lulled us into a false zone of comfort. The flight to San Diego was a nightmare in comparison. The LO was sick and restless. The flight was full. We were bumped up to Economy Plus and it was so bad that I didn’t even know it. Additional security meant we barely made it inside our flight and then the flight was delayed due to technical issues. We had not packed any food for us because we thought we would eat at the airport. That didn’t happen. We took food only for the LO and she wouldn’t eat. We had to wait at the gate till everyone got out because the LO had only one sock on. She had thrown one somewhere in the plane. In short – DISASTER.

Once out we were met with food and love. The LO was still cranky. Big Sis L offered her a bunch of things to calm down, including her own inseparable ‘blanky’. The LO settled in for a nap. She woke up recovered and in time for the party. The sister had put together a mini mostly vegan feast. How much more can you love someone! Have you ever had a cocktail from a can? I met the cocktail answer to beer. It was so good. I am going to find it and stock up.

It’s been four days for love and laughter, tantrums and tears. The LO has been spoilt for attention. We need to teach her how to handle it. It’s odd, since she did so well in India. The newest addition to our family – Flash, slept through it all. I was really looking forward to meeting him, but he’s a tortoise and has gone into hibernation.

The Olympic Adventure

We visited the Olympic Peninsula in our trip to Pacific Northwest this past fall (Fall 2018). The Peninsula is huge, and has lovely lakes, waterfalls, mountains and beaches that can take up to a whole week to explore. We only had four days here, but we made the most of it. We visited the Quinault Area, the coastline (Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach), Hoh Rainforest region, Sol Duc Valley and Lake Crescent Area. The Olympic National Park is definitely one of the prettiest national parks I”ve been to (the other ones being Smokey Mountain National Park and Denali National Park) and would highly recommend making trip to this Peninsula if visiting the Northwest! Here I’m describing the first two stops on our visit there.

We entered the Olympic Peninsula at night from its southern end- from the Quinault Reservation, closer to the Washington-Oregon Border. Lake Quinault is the very first lake we saw the next morning and it was simply mesmerizing. Peaceful and pristine. Since we were in the Peninsula (and the Olympic Park) in the weekday, there were no crowds and we had the lake to ourselves. There are no motorized boating activities allowed in the lake, only kayaks and canoes were allowed in some areas of the lake. Bordering the lake is the Quinault Rainforest trail, a mile-long trail that takes you through the temperate rainforest and gives you a glimpse of how lush green the scenery can be. And of course, since it’s a temperate rainforest, there are waterfalls pretty much everywhere. It was fairly enjoyable hike. Behlul carried Abir in his hiker backpack, and of course Abir enjoyed the trees too, wanting to touch all of them! Near the Quinault Area, there are maybe 3-4 restaurants and cafes to choose from for breakfast/lunch/dinner, so not much of a choice here. We were aware of this and had carried plenty of snacks/quick foods/munchables when we left Portland and started driving northward. Of course, my almost 1- year old son Abir had his food bag at his disposal- his fruit and vegetable purees, cheese sticks, cottage cheese, baby cookies, teething wafers, water, etc. We weren’t sure where all we would find grocery stores, and a hungry baby is the last thing you want on a trip!

Our next destination in the Peninsula was on the Washington Coast-Ruby Beach. Ruby beach is one of the most visited beaches in the Peninsula, due to its rock structures, tidal pools and a lovely hike to get to the beach. Here we saw the mystical Northwest fog that everyone talks about- the entire beach was pretty much covered in fog! We could hardly see more than 5 feet ahead. We had to pull out our jackets, beanies, scarves, and mittens to get down to the beach. Being ex-Californians and now Texans, any temperature below 60F is cold for us and it was about 50F at the beach at the peak of summer! There were quite a few tidal pools that we saw, and due to it being low tide, the rock structures were accessible by foot. We spent about 2 hours on this beach. The first one hour was fun, it mainly consisted of taking pictures, exploring, being amazed at nature’s abundant beauty. The second hour- not so much. We ended up wetting our shoes in one of the streams/pools, Abir also lost his pair of shoes on this beach (he loved wiggling his legs and toes, and letting go of his shoes back then!) so we spent a good chunk of time walking around looking for his lost shoes. Luckily, we found them (soaking wet though), and then hiked back up to the car. By the time we got back, all of us were cold and hungry, so we headed to the town of Forks for a warm meal and our stop for the night.

 

– Amruta Garud

A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

New York has so much to offer, we try to do something new with visitors each time. Sometimes it’s a new bar, sometimes it’s a new experience. This time, I fulfilled my long time wish of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

This bridge has featured films such as Annie HallGangs of New YorkKate & LeopoldIt Happened in BrooklynI Am LegendThe Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers and ….Kal Ho Na Ho – who can forget SRK standing on the bridge and spreading his arms, in his trademark style! This bridge is a very popular location for romantic engagements and photoshoots.

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Of the three bridges (B-M-W) that span New York City’s East River, the Brooklyn Bridge has iconic status. It is probably one of the most popular landmarks and one of the most instantly recognisable features of New York City’s skyline. The bridge was started in 1869 and completed fourteen (14) years later in 1883. It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States and the first constructed using steel wire. Back in the day, it became a symbol of what could be achieved. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

The bridge was designed by an immigrant – German born civil engineer German immigrant John Augustus Roebling. Let’s take a moment here to acknowledge the contribution of immigrants to this country. Besides if all life started in Ethiopia, everybody is an immigrant; some came sooner, others later.

Shortly before construction began John Roebling suffered a serious foot injury from which he contracted tetanus and died. The project was taken over by his son, Washington Roebling. Shortly after construction began, t he too suffered a paralysing injury and was unable to attend site himself. Undeterred, he relayed daily instructions to his engineers through his wife, Emily. At the time of its inauguration, people doubted its strength, so the city hired a circus promoter to lead a herd of 21 elephants across the bridge!

I love Manhattan, but in my heart, I’m a Brooklyn girl. The Brooklyn Bridge was the first bridge to  to provide passage across the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, back when Brooklyn was still an independent city. 125 years later, its granite towers and steel cables still loom majestically over New York City’s East River, linking the two boroughs.

 

Seattle

February 2017

How apt that our first “family” vacation should be to San Diego! We are here to celebrate the niece’s third birthday. She is super excited and so are we!

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From here, we are headed to Seattle. Why? It’s our anniversary break, we are already on the west coast and we’ve never been to Seattle.

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Seattle is a literary city, a grunge city, a culinary city…a city often called the Emerald City; home to hipsters and the PNW life. Not much, yet so much has happened since, that this trip is almost a blur now. The only distinct part is meeting N, my school friend and picking up where we left off like it was just yesterday. Laughing under the Lenin statue and getting late night coffee.

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We wandered across the city, using mostly uber, which is surprisingly cheap in Seattle. Somewhere in the blur is a trip up the Space Needle, going crazy at the museum of pop culture, tasting strawberry-ghost pepper jam at Pike Place market and regretting not being able to get some back ever since, going all the way to the Locks but missing seeing them in action, a cruise around the shoreline, down the Elliott Bay and Seattle Harbor, not going to chewing gum alley, a visit to Uncle Ike’s and the crazy number of Prius around. It’s almost as though you are not allowed to own any other car here.

Chihuly Gardens

I absolutely love the Chihuly Garden. Chihuly Garden and Glass showcases the imagination  of Seattle’s famous glass-blowing artist, Dale Chihuly. If there’s time to do just one thing in Seattle, visit the Chihuly glass garden. The glass, breathtaking shapes and gorgeous colors, the scale, variety, lighting…all come together to make the whole experience surreal. Walking from room to room, is like fluidly moving into dream after dream. Make sure you pause at the end, and look up through the glass for the best view ever of the Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.

 

 

 

Zion National Park

November 8, 2016

 

We are headed to Zion. We couldn’t get reservations for the wave, but Zion has a lot more to offer. Ideally, I would love to do the narrows, but we may not have enough time, plus we need to rent out gear. Back in day, I have walked through and up several of streams, and never did I need river sandals and a hiking stick. Tops, a sturdy broken branch was used. Mostly, we just held hands for stability (think human chain).

 

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We lost an hour since we forgot to allow to daylight savings and reached the Visitor’s Centre only around 2 p.m. Wanting to make the most of our limited time, we did as the ranger suggested. We took the park bus all the way to the last stop, and worked our way back based on time and interest. Since we really wanted to do a hike and there was no time for the harder ones, we choose to start with the Riverside Walk – a simple walk on paved paths along the river. We are now down in the canyon. How different it is down here! Just as the landscape at the top is bare and barren, at the bottom it exudes life. The gurgling sound of water, the heavy green of the dense foliage, the dappled light, the gentle moisture in the air – life. The feeling is so palpable, that if you stick your tongue out you could probably taste it. The tall mountains that felt claustrophobic in the vast expanse of Badwater Basin, give a sense of protection in the narrow canyon.

dsc_0933Did you know, that the bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion, and the bottom layer at Zion is the top layer at the Grand Canyon?

dsc_0949As we made our way back, we spotted little families of deer. The other walk we took was to the Emerald Pools. Here we found that Fall had followed us all the way across the continent to make an evening of it. The ranger had warned us that there was not much water in the falls, and there was just a trickle at the Lower Falls. The light was close to fading out completely. We decided to turn around as skip the chance of a moonlit stroll, as we didn’t want to miss the last bus back to the Visitor’s Centre.

Waiting for the bus, we browsed the gift shop and found out all about Kokopelli and more. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Vegas!!! The original plan was to hit the casinos, play some roulette (me) and some black jack (the husband), and end our trip city style. By the time, we got to Vegas we were knackered. After two days of sleeping on the ground all the husband wanted was to rest his back on the comfortable mattress. Also, after our last trip to Vegas, we didn’t feel like we were missing much.

A good night’s sleep and we were so ready for our long flight home.

Sunrise at Death Valley

November 8, 2016

dsc_0728If you wake up sometime a little before dawn, you can hear the coyotes howl. I unzip our window just a little bit a go back to sleep. When we step out of our tent the next morning, there is one constellation looming large over us, piercing bright stars on an electric blue sky – the Big Dipper*. In Hindu mythology, these stars represent seven (7) great sages. There is however, an eight star in this constellation. Hindu mythology calls her Arundhati, she is the wife of the star-sage Vashista. Together these two stars form their own twin star-system. This binary star has long been considered by Hindus, as the symbol of a perfect marriage. Unlike other twin star systems where one star revolves around the other, both these stars move around each other in synchrony. They stand for complete devotion, steadfast loyalty, and a union where two entities shine together as one for all eternity.  As part of the wedding, Hindu couples gaze upon this binary star (interestingly called Arundhati-Vashista and not Vashista-Arundhathi) and pray for a similar union.  The husband and I got married in broad daylight, so our priest asked us to spot it ourselves at night. All these years later, we finally got to it. We do not have the time to gaze and contemplate. We have a sunrise to catch. We hurry on to Zabriskie Point.

dsc_0780I opt to set up on the mound suggested by pamphotography below the view point, much to the annoyance of a few spectators up there. Hey, it’s not a perfect world and nobody stopped them from coming down. Just prior to sunrise, we see a pink glow above the tips of the Panamits. As the sun starts to rise behind us we see the mountains slowly wake up. As the golden light spreads across the valley floor, more rocks shake off the shadows. The red cathedral seems to glow, as though from within. This play of light and shadow is what all the early risers are here for. Once again, we breakfast on bread and cheese in the parking lot and this time head back to the campsite to pack up.

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* This is also the only constellation I can identify without help.