Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mom's visit to CA - part 2

Pinnacles!  I had no idea until recently that there's a national park so close to the Bay Area.  With Mom visiting from Vermont, it seemed like the perfect time to go explore.

And what a lovely gem of a park it is.  We started with a short hike up to Bear Gulch Cave, which is a different sort of a cave than anything we had seen before.  It was created from large boulders covering a narrow gulch.  I wasn't sure that even qualifies as being a cave, but the posters in the nature center claim that yes, that counts.

An intriguing little trail up through giant rocks:

Checking out a climbing wall - with all the little rocks jutting out, it's almost like a manmade wall in a climbing gym:

Up through the various twists and turns of the cave, popping out to this sight near the top:

Thank you for the stairs!  The CCC built much of the infrastructure here, including the little dam at the top:

The pretty reservoir above the cave gulch:

The park is named after the pinnacle and spire rock formations like these:

An interesting mix of gray and red through the trunk of this (manzanita?) tree - we guessed that it is partially dead:

Frog rock on the ridge as we headed up the High Peaks trail:

More wonderful rock formations - and here's where we saw three condors come to land!  We had seen some large birds soaring high overhead when we first arrived but didn't get a good look at them to be sure they were condors.

We stood for a while with binoculars, watching the birds hang out, getting a close enough look to see the red heads.  Not close enough for a good picture.  But now we were sure they were condors.  One by one, they spread their wings and flew off, very cool!  I'm so glad Mom got a good view of the condors.

I continued up and around the High Peaks trail while Mom and John backtracked to the truck.

More scenery on the other side of the ridge:

The very-cool trail winding around the high pinnacles:

Little steps built into the rocks:

As I was taking the picture of the steps, I heard the whoosh or saw the shadow of a large bird.  Whipping around, I managed to catch a photo of a condor soaring right overhead - awesome!

Even better - it landed on a nearby rock!  I was thrilled to get a closer look.  And my camera was finally in range:

I stood for a while, watching it preen itself as I slowly zoomed in and snapped pictures:

Hello, condor #2!  Thank you so much for hanging out with me.  You may be quite ugly, but you're an amazing bird.

Finally I had to get moving again.

Ravens circling overhead:

More fun on the "steep and narrow" section of the trail:

More great views of pinnacles:

Not so much a "trail running" trail, more of an adventure:

Coming down the other end of the ridge:

Lots of stopping and admiring the rocky views:

Thank you, Pinnacles, we will certainly be back.

One more bit of excitement, an excellent lunch with Kip at Google - thank you Kip!

Mom was here  :)  and we were happy:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mom's visit to CA - part 1

Welcome back to California, Mom!  We were happy to have a week with her, starting with a "day after Thanksgiving" lunch and a tour of Kip's Google workplace.

The next day we drove up to San Francisco - I just happened to find a whale watching tour that went out to the Farallon Islands as well.  That sounded great to all of us, something new and interesting.  Loading up and getting set in the harbor:

The Salty Lady makes her way to the bay:

Nice view of Angel Island and Alcatraz (both are also really nice places to visit):

Heading out to sea:

Mom says it looks like she's ducking under the bridge  :)

We paused to watch a couple humpback whales on the way out to the islands, very cool.

A couple hours later, approaching the Farallon Islands.  We aren't allowed onto the islands but we did get a nice tour around it and a look at the wildlife.

Looking into the sun, it's hard to see but there's an arch in the near rocks:

Sea lions sprawled all across the rocks - apparently they can climb quite high up, giving them a bunch of options for sunning locations:

More sea lions, in and out of the water:

Lots of murres, gulls, guillemots, a couple pelicans, and we heard there was an albatross fly-by but didn't catch it.  The highlight was definitely the whales - many humpbacks plus 2 giant blue whales!  That was awesome.  We spent quite a bit of time along the drop-off of the Continental Shelf, watching whales spout water and surface briefly, with brief glimpses of flukes and fins.  They were quick for such large animals and I didn't even attempt to get a photo.  What a joy to watch!

Our next outing was to the south, continuing with the marine theme.  We drove down to Monterey to explore the aquarium.  We've heard great things about it for many years, and it didn't disappoint.

But first - a photo of the John Steinbeck statue, featuring Santa hats:

The back porch of the aquarium where we hung out for a while checking out the goings-on in the ocean.  There were naturalists helping people see what was there, and we could borrow good binoculars to get better looks.  That was great!  Otters playing, dolphins leaping, I think there were sea lions as well.  What a nice way to start the day.

The best I could do with the camera, this might have been a sea lion?  It's worth going to see all this for yourself!

A better look at marine life, inside the large tanks:

Love the otters!  They were super playful, and really fast.  And super cute:

Photogenic jellyfish:

Yeah, that's one tank I won't be jumping into anytime soon:

These swirling fish (possibly anchovies) were quite amazing to watch.  We saw the "deep sea feeding" where sharks and fish were fed with different methods, and this mob slowly worked its way up the giant tank toward the surface and gradually changed shape.  I should have taken some videos at the aquarium, now that I think about it.

Another feeding, this time in the large kelp tank - with help from a scuba diver.  She was great!  The fish seemed to like her too:

More otter shenanigans, playing with a green toy:

A special guest, Makana the albatross (from Hawaii!):


Tufted puffins!  They just don't have tufts right now, huh.  I was very happy to get to see them.  I'd still like to go puffin watching in Alaska.

A sea turtle, yay!  Always love watching them swim:

OK, so this was a bit of a madhouse - the penguin feeding.  They're so fast, darting back and forth, quite impossible for me (and my little camera) to capture on film.  But great fun to watch!

That's better - hi guys!

What a fun weekend!  We really enjoy exploring nature-related places with Mom, and these were excellent ways to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Pacific Ocean.  Thanks Mom!