California: Leo Carillo Beach

We used to go to Leo Carillo beach a lot when I was growing up. After my high school prom, a bunch of us camped out in the campground across the highway from the beach (I think it was Leo, although it's possible we camped at Sycamore.) Then, when I was a botany naturalist for the Conejo Valley Unified School District Outdoor School I'd walk down to Leo once a week to check out the tide pools with a slew of sixth graders, while hoping they didn't get swept away in the ocean.

It was time to show the kids this beach that was so much a part of my growing up.

Walking to the beach with all the things a boy needs for fun in the sun.


A little rough for swimming, but perfect for chasing (and being chased by) waves.

A little tired from out whirlwind vacation.

Playing in the surf.

Permalink 06/04/11 07:15:23 pm, by Mel Email , 154 words, Categories: Announcements [A] ,

California: Wildwood

On our first full day at my mom's, we went for a hike in Wildwood Park. My brother and I have memories of an epic water balloon battle in a fort that used to be at the trailhead. I told the boys all about the fort, only to find it was torn down. It was kind of rickety, but it sure was fun.

(Reminds me of this article about how playgrounds are too safe these days and that might not be good for kids...)

But, we were there to hike, so hike we did. The yuccas were in full bloom, the prickly pear cactus blossoms were wide, sticky monkey flower and mustard lined the trail--it was springtime in the California chaparral. What a treat after a long, brown Montana "spring."

We didn't get too far, but made three creek crossings and LOVED all the blooms.



purple sage

Mom hits the trail.

Creek crossing...yay, there was a bridge.

Mom in her natural habitat.

monkey flower

prickly pear

Permalink 06/03/11 12:28:33 am, by Mel Email , 169 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Hikes, Anders, Family, Finn ,

California: South Coast Botanic Gardens

After leaving Escondido we drove up to the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I had been hoping to catch up with some fellow bloggers and when they invited me to meet them here, I couldn't resist.

I've made a few friends online, but this is the first time I've met any of them in person. Debi (Go Explore Nature) and I both commented on how odd it is to meet someone when you've seen so many photos of them. It almost seems like you've met them already. We were also joined by Michele from Fun Orange County Parks.

The garden is on 87 acres and made up of several gardens. We didn't make it around the whole thing, but did enjoy the 3 Bears' House: Children's Garden, Cactus Garden, Fushia Garden, Koi Pond and Japanese Garden, Redwoods, Rose Garden and probably a few that I missed.

There is a wonderful children's garden that all the kids loved.

The alphabet garden.

A is for aloe (and Anders)

F is for fennel (and Finn)

Debi's Big Explorer camouflaged as a butterfly.

Finn earns his keep by watering some plants.


prickly pear

cactus viewing

passion fruit

Me, Debi and Michele

The boys are thrilled to have their photo taken.

You can read Debi's account of the day here.

Permalink 06/02/11 12:18:42 pm, by Mel Email , 218 words, Categories: Announcements [A], Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Things to Do, Anders, gardening, Finn ,

California: grandparents

One of the main reasons I wanted to get out to California this spring was to see my grandparents. Like the rest of us, they are getting older, and I wanted to be sure they got to see the boys as boys, not babies. I also wanted Anders and Finn to spend some time with their only great-grandparents, even though the boys are unlikely to remember it.

As a kid, we would go to my grandparents' place in Escondido once or twice a year. They retired there from Illinois when I was young. My grandpa would make us pick up sticks in the yard and grandma would take me for walks around the neighborhood and instruct me on the proper walking technique she had read about in a health magazine.

The also took us to the Safari Park, then called the Wild Animal Park, the zoo, shopping, to friends' houses and other outings. Mostly we hung around the house, played in the yard and got schooled at Rummikub and Uno by grandma. At Christmas, grandpa would hide in the yard and shake sleigh bells so we'd think Santa was out there, even though we didn't believe in Santa anymore.

Grandpa isn't doing very well these days and seems like a totally different person. Grandma's back had her in a lot of pain. But, they are still the grandparents I love, and it was great to see them.

Grandpa Coble with his greatgrandsons.

Grandma Coble with two monkeys.
Permalink 06/02/11 12:37:14 am, by Mel Email , 247 words, Categories: Family ,

California: Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden

On day four of our California odyssey, the boys and I explored Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden. I first read about this place in Sunset a couple years ago and knew the next time I was in Escondido I had to visit. And since it had the word "magical" in the name, I knew Anders would love it.

Califia was a black Amazon queen for whom the state was named. I always thought California was a Spanish word. Califia ruled the terrestrial island paradise of gold and riches "on the right hand of the Indies." The legend was first popularized in the 16th century romance novel, Las Sergas de Esplandian, which received wide circulation in Spain.

Geologist John McPhee recalled the tale in his book, Assembling California, which the garden's artist, Niki Saint Phalle, read and drew upon when planning the garden. As a huge McPhee fan, I've read this book, but seemed to have forgotten this legend.

This is the only California project by Saint Phalle, and her last international project. There are nine large-scale sculptures, a snake that wraps around the garden wall, a maze entryway and native plants along the edges. And it's all mosaic.

We had a blast running around in here and playing games. Plus, it's located in Kit Carson Park, so there are trails, playgrounds and other recreational amenities to take advantage of.

I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of photos in this post. Probably more than you want to see, but this place was so cool, and so hard to capture in pictures.

Entering the sculpture garden.

You get to go through this cool maze to get into the inner garden.

At the Queen's feet.

He can hardly stand still for a photo.

Chillin' with the Queen.

Finn is yummy.

Anders, too.

That's Queen Califia's throne.

We played hide-and-seek. Due to my clever hiding, I hung out in this little spot for quite awhile. This game is a parent's best friend when they need a little alone time on a two week solo-parenting trip.

He found me.

Now we are all hiding.

No post would be complete without a few photos of the flowers we spotted along the trail on the short hike in and out.

California native
Permalink 06/01/11 12:04:41 pm, by Mel Email , 378 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Roadside Attractions, Things to Do, Anders, Flora, Finn ,

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