Jul 242014
 

Looking north along the Lost Coast

Hikers on the Loast Coast Trail

Sandy dunes

Anna walking through wildflowers

Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Giant redwood

We have driven through Northern California on road trips before, but have never made the trek to what is known as the Lost Coast. The Lost Coast is a remote area of Northern California which has stayed very remote and undeveloped due to the considerable expense to bring infrastructure into the area as well as the low population (and depopulation during the 30’s, see wikipedia for more). We had the opportunity to spend a few days in the Petrolia area due to the invitation by a friend to stay at their familly cabin.

I can understand why there is a certain romance about the Lost Coast – it is gorgeous, and a glimpse into the past of what California was like many years ago. It attracts a certain type of person to live there year round, and is one of the few places in California where you will find a lot of road signs which have been used as target practice or the smell of skunky weed gardens wafting over high fences.

We hiked the beach route to the remote (and long since decommissioned) Punta Gorda Lighthouse. We had gorgeous weather and enjoyed some beautiful scenery on our hike, which was one of the more picturesque hikes I’ve ever done. A word of warning, however, the distance listed for the hike is deceiving. This is because a good portion of the hike takes place on sandy ground or dunes, which takes a significant amount of energy to walk on compared to a regular path. Rest assured, the effort is worth it.

Photos from The Lost Coast, Humboldt, California Gallery link
Photos from The Lost Coast, Humboldt, California Flickr link

Jun 122014
 

We hadn’t planned the timing of our visit to Monument Valley, but it turned out to be a perfect day. As the sun went down the valley turned a gentle pink and the full moon rose between the two mittens. The moon rise perfectly matched the sunset colors and we were treated to one of the best evening views imaginable.

Long shadows on the mittens Monument Valley sunset and moon rise between the West and East mittens

We relaxed, watched the stars, and then got up early to watch the sunrise. The sunrise was beautiful as well, and cast a different light on everything. After a quick breakfast we ventured out with a Navajo guide around the valley floor. Along the way we heard stories about the different areas, heard our guide play the flute, and saw unique sights like the Eye of the Sun petroglyph wall. I was worried it would all be a bit clichéd given the number of visitors, but it was genuine and memorable.

Sunrise over Monument Valley Cowboy photo op and Monument Valley's Three Sisters Monument Valley arch - Ear of the Wind

After exploring the valley some more we headed back to Page, AZ and signed up for one of the Antelope Canyon tours. The canyon is one of the most famous examples of a slot canyon and has been photographed countless times. The canyon is on Navajo land and as such we had a Navajo guide for our tour. The tour started with a back breaking ride through a dry creek bed to reach the entrance of the canyon, thankfully only a 15 minute drive or so. We were lucky to be the only group at that time in the canyon (it can be packed full of photographers) and were able to take our time to explore the beautiful bends and shapes.

Looking up through Antelope Canyon Antelope Canyon Horseshoe Bend

After exploring Antelope Canyon, we visited Horseshoe Bend and continued our way home via Sedona, AZ. The full photo albums for Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon can be found here:

Photos of Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon – chrisnelson.ca
Photos of Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon – flickr.com

As part of our road trip around the southwest we visited Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

Jan 202014
 

Tijuana, Ensenada, Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, Guadalupe Valley. Just a few of the Baja, Mexico destinations which used to be easy and popular day trips from San Diego. In the space of a few years major changes completely changed tourism near the border.  The first was increased security at the border by the Department of Homeland Security.  The pool of available tourists was dramatically lowered by requiring passports to cross into the USA from Mexico as roughly 1/3rd of Americans hold a passport (though growing).  This increased security also lead to an increase in border wait times.  Instead of spending an hour or perhaps two at the worst waiting at the border, there began to be an increase in three and four hour waits.  The second major impact to cross border tourism was an outburst of drug war related violence.  Though mostly targeted towards narcos and those working with them, this bloody war spilled over in several cases and fed fear and general distrust of Tijuana and other border cities.

Though the narco violence subsided in this area years ago, memories take much longer to dissipate.  Given time things are starting to turn around. Without the corruption of short term (and usually debauched) cash along Revolución, Tijuana and others have looked inward to reinvent themselves.  This change over the last few years has lead to them becoming a bit of a destination for foodies and culture lovers – attracting the like of Bourdain and others to explore the new Baja.

We used to visit the coast of Baja (Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, and occasionally Guadalupe or even further south like Bahia de los Angeles) on a regular basis, going down for lunch and shopping before returning for the day.  With the border waits we had fallen out of the habit some time ago and had yet to pick it back up again – We finally got around to visiting one of our old standards with family on Sunday, lunch in Puerto Nuevo. The toll road was washed out so we spent time on the free road driving down. I was pleasantly surprised to see that much of the route was four lanes wide and in excellent shape. The shops along the road were in mixed shape – some still seeming to be going strong, others didn’t seem to have made it through the drought.  We spoke with a few shopkeepers who said business had been slowly picking up and they were hopeful for the future.  I think we will be picking our habit back up – Baja offers some excellent opportunities for day trips.

Link to the full gallery of photos
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Dec 262013
 

Princess Juliana International Airport SXM (aka Sint Maarten International Airport) has a runway which approaches over the ocean. The end of the runway is several feet from a short and steep beach, Maho. This combination leads to a lot of plane watching as the lumbering giants pass very close to the beach before touching down. We spent a few hours here at Sunset, where in between caribbean music sets from a local band they play air traffic controller traffic. The above photos and video are from my phone, I’ll update later with ones taken from my SLR.

Dec 262013
 

20131226-074021.jpg

We have been here for less than a day but I thought I would write some first impressions to look back and likely see how wrong I was. Like most nations in the area, development has been a it ramshackle – beautiful in some spots and seeming lacking proper sewer lines in others. The weather has been lovely thus far, a nice temperature and humidity.

We were eaten up by mosquitoes at dinner last night, which makes one worry about chickungunya – apparently making the rounds. Time will tell how large a threat it is, for now we will stay vigilant with insect repellent.