Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Nathan Turns 2

Our beautiful boy Nathan turns 2 today. We celebrated on Sunday with a Choo Choo Thomas cake and friends and family. Pictures of his party, and his new John Deere are here
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Airplane Shots Gallery

Click the link HERE to see the shots taken on the return flight-- including some shots of the awe-inspiring snow-covered Rockies
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Saturday, May 17, 2008


Home Again

It was nearly 2am local time when I got home, and there is one last gallery of photos from the trip--- some killer aerial views of the snow-capped Rockies taken from my plane. I'll get those posted after I get caught up on my mail and my laundry. Here's one as a teaser.
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Friday, May 16, 2008


Thursday:Mission San Juan Bautista

I needed to leave the Carmel/Monterey area before the mission at Carmel was going to be open to visitors for the day... but, as I was driving from Monterey to San Francisco, I saw the sign for Mission San Juan Bautista (John the Baptist).
See the pictures HERE.
If I lived in California, I think I'd have to make a project out of visiting and photographing all 21 missions along the Camino Real. While the adobes and the churches are interesting, the added surprise is that they all apparently have amazing walled gardens.
Unfortunately, yesterday was not the best day to be photographing a garden... or doing anything outside. A freak heat wave had temperatures over 100 F-- the first really awful weather of the trip. (10 days- one less than perfect? I can handle that!)
By noon, spending any real time out of doors was unpleasant and exhausting, so after I finished shooting the mission, I finished my drive up to the SF area and did a little shopping for gifts for folks back home and called it a day.
Well, it's Friday, and in a few hours I need to get on that plane and head back to Ohio. I hope to be able to shoot the Rockies and a few other things from the plane, but by and large this gallery is probably the last major installment of the Mental Health Tour.
The trip did what I needed it to do-- it re-aligned my vision, gave me new insights and things to think about, and was just plain fun. I saw so many things that amazed and delighted me. From newborn fauns and calves to breaching humpback whales. From tiny wildflowers to mighty redwoods. Chaotic and noisy San Francisco to the silence and majesty of Big Sur. Rough adobe missions to wedding-cake cathedrals. Urban sophistication and timeless miracles of nature.
There were things on my original itinerary I never got around to doing. I never walked up Telegraph Hill or spent time in Japantown. I went sailing in the bay instead. I never spent time in the Aquarium in Monterey. I went whale watching and spent time photographing a wild seal pup at play instead. But at some point I had to decide if I was here to relax and enjoy myself, or if I was determined to check off all the "must sees" on some list.
I have enough things I'd still love to do to justify another trip someday. But this has been a wonderful journey, and one I'll remember for a very long time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Wednesday: More Monterey Sunset

A small gallery of shots from Sunset Rd. (which is actually in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula.) Pacific Grove is a lovely quaint little town, and, oh, what a pretty waterside park! I'd love to come back here in the fall-- it's a stop on the Monach Butterfly migration. Click HERE to see the shots.


Wednesday- Big Sur - Carmel - Monterey

A glorious end to a glorious day ... Went to Big Sur and Carmel today, then looped back to Montery to witness one of the most glorious sunsets ever. That photo is largely unedited. The color was actually more intense than that.

The PCH drive from Monterey to Big Sur was so beautiful-- but you have to experience it North to South, because the return trip, while pretty, doesn't begin to compare to the series of jaw-dropping vistas that you see as the road twists and turns between the coast and the mountian ridge... but be warned, your cell phone service will probably drop out shortly after you leave Carmel, and won't return between there and Big Sur. Not a day trip to take if you're waiting for an important call.

On the other hand, what you should make time for is a meal or a drink at Nepenthe-- a cliffside jewel that melts into the landscape as though it was formed by wind and rain--- but was actually designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's proteges, Rowan Maiden. Redwood, glass and adobe, the top level restaurant boasts a killer wine list (alas, since I am my own designated driver and the road demands your full attention, I stuck to iced tea) a small but respectable menu (you're not really here for the food) and an "oh, my, lord!" view from the terraced galleries. It's relatively pricey, but don't be scared off by the price tag. There is a more-affordable deli/bakery on the second level called Kevah, and the view is the same. On the first level is a gift shop named Phoenix, which has everythig from elegant to fun and funky things.

If you're planning on exploring Big Sur State Park, dress for serious hiking. This is a very rugged park with limited auto access, and trails are not for those who are looking for a casual nature stroll. Also (and this is the first time I've written this, even after hikes in Muir Woods and Sugarloaf in Sonoma County) make sure you have some insect repellent on hand. I've always carried it in my camera case, but on this trip needed to surrender it at the airpoint checkpoint, and I was forced back to the trailhead because I was being eaten alive.

Stopped in Carmel to see the mission on the way back-- the gates were closed, but the gardens are lush and diverse.

Wanted to be back in the Monterey area by sundown, because I'd read online that Sunset Rd. and Oceanside Dr. were the best places to watch the sunset. So, there I was, Nikon in hand--- and Mother Nature delivered up a sunset that locals said was extraordinary even for the Monterey Peninsula.

Checking out of my Monterey hotel this morning and drifting back north so that I'll be closer to the airport on Friday. Saw some things on the drive down from San Francisco that I want to explore on the return trip.

Click the title link or click HERE to see the pictures.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Tuesday: Monterey Bay, Pebble Beach

Monterey/Carmel/Pebble Beach is a great destination. What Jamestown or Plymouth is to the East Coast, Monterey is to the West Coast. So there's miles and miles of beach, tons of history, cool animals, great things to do....(there's even nightlife). Even the city parks and cute little mom-and-pop shops and restaurants are interesting.

Went out on a whale watch boat this morning, Saw several humpbacks. Gave me chills, they were so huge and so amazing. (and so close-- a baby humpback passed about 15 feet from the boat-- imagine seeing a wild whale the size of a schoolbus on the other side of your family room.) My pictures don't do them justice. I was so in awe of them I was often too slow in pressing the shutter.

Not a trip for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, though. Monterey Bay sure isn't Tampa Bay-- the first hour of the trip out to the feeding grounds was one continual roller coaster ride. Should have listened and taken Dramamine beforehand. Didn't get sick, but it was touch and go for about 20 minutes. And I don't **get** motion sick. Left at 10 AM, got back just before 1PM. The marine biologist on the boat was a complete hoot. Not only did she have the skinny on all the animals we saw (whales, seals, otters, murres, cormorants, turtles, etc.) but she was really funny. Told her she needs a new title- "Whale Diva"

Then I drove the 17-mile Drive through Pebble Beach along the coast to Carmel-- Passed the pupping grounds for the seals and sea lions--- Spring is definitely the right time to be here. The whales are migrating, the seals are out in force, the sea otters are reappearing, the deer and their fauns are out in the parks, the Monarch butterflies are passing through, the wildflowers everywhere are gorgeous....

This place is just too cool. Even without San Francisco itself, this would be a powerful and full itinerary. Add in the city to Muir Woods, Point Reyes, PCH, Sonoma, Napa, and now Monterey and Carmel.....I could spend a month here and just barely scratch the surface of stuff to do. And, I'm madly in love with the seals and the otters. They are too cute.

This trip was a gift from me to me---a little self-indulgent, probably, but I have loved every single moment of it, and I'm finding it hard to regret anything about it. I haven't really followed my original itinerary, but the spur of the moment changes (even the occaisional wrong turn) have all been great fun.

Tuesday's pictures are HERE

Monday, May 12, 2008


Monday: Monterey

Checked out of my Sonoma hotel and drove back across the Golden Gate Bridge to Monterey and Carmel.

Spent some time at the Old Custom House and the Old Fisherman's Wharf, but most of the photos were taken at a pretty little park that runs along the coastline.

The photos from Monday are HERE

That's where I saw this little guy who completely stole my heart. Clearly a juvenile, and "playing" all by himself, in an area about a football field away from the rest of the sea lions. Climbing on and off the rocks, floating on his back, "waving" his flippers in the air.... He was kind of a klutz-- but seemed to be having a great time.

Californians probably take this stuff for granted, but the whole concept of sea lions and seals just being there, like seagulls or pelicans, just blows me away. THEY'RE FREAKING SEALS, (or, in this case, sea lions) right there! How can you not be jazzed by that?

It's not that I'm unused to the beach--- I've probably spent at least part of every year of my life close to salt water of some sort. Growing up, my grandparents lived a couple of blocks from the Atlantic coast. And then my parents moved to th Florida Gulf Coast, and I eventually moved there to take care of my Mom when she became ill. Working and living in the Tampa/Clearwater area put the beach minutes from my home and office doors. When I lived in landlocked Atlanta, trips to Savannah and elswehere recharged my batteries, and when I was living in Tallahassee, I escaped to salt water whenever I could-- whether that was St. Marks, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, or Sandestin and the Emerald Coast......trips to Boston, Miami, the Carolina beaches, Delaware beaches, the Chesapeake Bay.... from Maine to New Orleans, I've eventually made my way to all of them......so I've seen my share of marine life---- dolphins and manatees, sharks and billfish, rays and shorebirds.......but the Pacific is so very different from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Dramatic shorelines-- sheer cliffs that spill down to beaches strewn with boulders the size of houses, outrageous swaths of wildflowers in red and pink and yellow and lavender....

Still trying to decide on an itinerary for Tuesday. But it's a safe bet, there will be some salt water in there someplace.
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Sunday: Valley of the Moon

They call this part of Sonoma and Napa Counties "the Valley of the Moon"-- which I find outrageously romantic-sounding. In truth, it is miles and miles of vineyards, the odd ranch with horses or cattle, an astronomical number of rose hedges, all surrounded by mountains that are deceptively "soft and friendly" looking- (Having decided to drive/hike to the top of one of them, they're a great deal steeper and less human-friendly than they look.)

Also took a trip to Glen Ellen (home of both wine and Jack London) ... Um, nice, but not someplace I'd rush right back to. First of all, I hesitate to admit that I never really liked Call of the Wild and White Fang, or any of the rest of London's stuff. Uber-macho like Hemingway, but without Hemingway's understated intellect. But, because my younger son has this thing about wolves, I thought I'd go see if I could find some cool wolf thing.

Ummm..no. Though my visit to the local historial society did introduce me to a topic I might want to explore more fully: early women vintners in Califiornia.

Fewer pictures than I'd like-- great scenery, but finding someplace to take the photos FROM was a challenge. It was, after all, Mother's Day, and there was more traffic on California 12 than I'd have liked. But there are a dozen or so images HERE

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Saturday: Sonoma County Beaches

I drove the PCH again, this time from Bodega Bay to Jenner. Incredible views! And those strange-looking lumps are sunning harbor seals that inhabit the beaches where the Russian River empties into the Pacific.

Even my biggest lens wasn't quite enough, but I was so jazzed at seeing them-- there were at least 50 of them-- I had to take the shots. Sometimes photography isn't about making art-- it's about documenting a moment in time.
See the rest of the pictures-- including some breathtaking Pacific scenery, and more shots of my seal buddies-- HERE


Friday: Point Reyes

After I left Muir W0ods, I drove along the PCH to Point Reyes.

There were 1000 OH MY GOD moments between the 2, but, unfortunately, no place to pull over to get out the camera. I never wished more for a driver!

But when I drove all the way out to the lighthouse (which was closed) I certainly wasn't disappointed. Not only was the scenery incredible, but Mother Nature delivered up some special treats: A newborn calf being watched over by his Mama at one of the Point's 8 working dairies, a long line of cows creating a traffic jam on the Point's one and only road, and a group of at least a dozen deer cresting the hill and heading for the tall grass.
But the wind was picking up and it was getting brutally cold, so I reluctantly headed back inland toward Sonoma.

See the pictures HERE

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Friday: "The (Muir) woods are lovely, dark and deep..."

Robert Frost's words were echoing through my mind as I wandered through Muir Woods on Friday. Two older women on the path were trying(in vain) to remember the words of Kilmer's "Trees" but, despite the lack of snow, it was Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" that kept my company on my hike.

"The only other sound's the sweep,
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

I've always loved that poem, and it seems appropriate for the restless traveler in me.

The redwoods here are magnificent, but it is impossible to truly convey the sense of scale in photos. I stopped in the bookshop when my hike was over, and even the grand masters of the craft don't know what to do to express the size and wonder of these ancient trees, so I don't feel too embarrassed by my own efforts.

Click the link HERE to see my photos of the hike, including a deer so unafraid of me that she let me get within about 5 feet of her, (though her faun stayed hidden in the brush) redwoods towering into the sky, an egret fishing for dinner, and Queen Anne's Lace with blooms the size of dinner plates.

Later, I'll post the photos from the second half of my day, my travel up the PCH to the Point Reyes headlands.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Saints and Sinners-- and Sanity Checks

Interesting view from my hotel room-- the cathedral, Alcatraz, the Coit Tower, and a few "adult" entertainment venues--- here they are, shot at twilight---- all in all, not a bad metaphor for a city that embraces, if not celebrates its less-than-mainstream and colorful history, from the Barbary Coast Trail, to the "earthy" lives of the Gold Rush Era, to the Haight and the Castro in modern times.

This is a city of glorious churches and pristinely-restored architecture... and backstreets that give even-urban-landscape-loving me more than a few moments of hesitation.

I admit to walking several blocks out of my way last night to avoid using what my street map said was the shortest route-- because the shortest route didn't feel safe to me, and a very wise man one counseled me to trust my instincts in situations like that, even when I can't pinpoint what is making me uneasy. That sometimes your subconscious picks up on things that you can't quite identify.

I'm not a chicken, but when you're a woman walking around in a strange city visibly carrying a high-end camera and lenses, walking five or 6 blocks out of the way (or taking a cab after dark) isn't cowardice, it's common sense. I won't let fear keep me from doing things, but I do take reasonable precautions.

Ironically, I've never really had a dangerous moment on the road-- but I've been robbed at knife point outside my branch bank and had my home broken into while I was inside-- both when I was "safe" at home. I've never been physically hurt by a stranger, but there have been people I thought were "friends"..... but that's a story for another day. Maybe another lifetime...

Well, it's time to pack up my bags and move on to the next leg of JP's Mental Health Tour. I need to go pick up my rental car and head North, then East. then South, then West, then North again.


Thursday: Golden Gate Park

More Images from Thursday

OK, I finally got some FTP software on this laptop, so I can upload galleries directly.

Golden Gate Park- tea garden and misc.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


A day with a Japanese flavor- Conservatory pics

My day began and ended on a Japanese note.

My first stop was the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, and my last was a tea tasting at the Imperial Tea Court, and in between there were flowers, butterflies, music, art, and an homage to my hippy-dippy past with a walk through the Haight-Ashbury.

There is an album of some of my photos from Thursday hosted on Picasaweb-- see link below.

Conservatory- mostly orchids


Wednesday: Fisherman's Wharf and SF Bay.

There are 2 galleries of images from May 7 Here and Here -- mostly Sea Lions, Fisherman's Wharf, and views from the water of the bay.


San Francisco, the Mental Health Tour

Yesterday was my first full day in the city. And I do mean full.

While I cruised Chinatown on Tuesday afternoon and evening, my day had started at 3:30 AM East coast time, and by 8PM West coast time, I was exhausted. Too tired to even think about a serious dinner, so I picked up a snack at a Chinatown shop and went to bed. (Besides, I had to get up at 4:30AM Wed. to make a call to be received in Florida at 8AM-- a piece of business that had to be taken care of immediately)

But in true JP fashion, I not only hit the streets of SF with a camera Wednesday, but I found a boat with sails to take me out into blue water.

After walking from the Financial District, through Little Italy in North Beach, down to the piers and Fisherman's Wharf, I had an early (8AM local time) breakfast at the Boudin bakery (hard to screw up toast, fruit and coffee) and shot some pictures of the California Sea Lions that live in the bay, then boarded a 55 foot catamaran for a trip around Alcatraz, then under the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond. Absolute heaven. (well, except for the slight fog that made some of the images less contrasty than I would have liked.)

Arriving back at the Marina, I hiked up the hill to Ghirardelli Square, (and ironically, the ony chocolate I bought was a gift to be shipped to my Aunt for Mother's Day. I hear they have great ice cream there, but ice cream and I do not always get along very well, and the last thing I want is to get sick on this trip) then took a slightly different route back through North Beach, stopping at an adorably tacky tiny Italian restaurant called Franchino's on Columbus Ave.

The place had about 8 tables, (well, 13, if you counted the ones on the sidewalk) and Pop was the MaƮtre D, Mom ran the cash register, and some other family member was in the kitchen cooking. It was like going to a relative's house for dinner-- without the family feuds. :-) The place was decorated in early fleamarket kitsch, but the food was amazing (or maybe I was just starved, since there had been no time for lunch) I had a killer salad topped with thinly sliced eggplant chips and fresh asparagus and a veal and chicken and whole wheat pasta dish that defies description. Decidely yummy.

After dinner, I walked a few blocks over to the City Lights bookstore (once home to the Beat Poets like Ginsburg and Keroac and Ferlinghetti) to prowl the stacks there for a while. It was a surreal experience.

There is the sense of history you feel when you step inside a place like Independence Hall in Philadelphia-- a sense that something important happened here-- but it happened to other people in another time. And then there is the sense of history you feel when you touch the sculpture outside Taylor Hall in Kent-- a sense that something important happened to **you** here.

This was closer to the second experience than to the first. My thoughts and opinions and ideas were changed by the people who made this place important. I clearly remember the first times I defied teachers and parents to read the books on which this place was built. I remember the sense of validation I felt when I realized that others were as conflicted and passionate about ideas as I was. (The fact that Bruce, Keroac, Ferlinghetti and Ginsburg were my parents' contemporaries, rather than my own, was even more delicious. These were not crazy kids, they were grown-up intellectuals)

Then back to the hotel for the evening "concierge floor" get together which was a California wine and cheese tasting. (Good prep for my trip to wine country later this week) Talk about a culture shift. Geniuses of the counter-culture to yuppies in full-blown pretentious mode. The people were uninteresting, but the wine and cheese was good and that event wrapped up at 9, and by then I was ready to crash, because my body still thinks it is on East Coast time, and it felt like midnight.

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