[Oh, Snap] Celebrating Mother Nature on Earth Day

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”

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Angeles Crest Highway, California

As the saying goes, ‘The Earth Without ART is just EH’; and mother nature is the most wonderful of artists. I feel blessed by the treasures I’ve discovered, places I’ve uncovered and experiences I’ve been able to share. I hope on this Earth Day, you get to go and enjoy the wonders that this world has to offer. Though many of us spend the entire year in reverie of what Mother Nature has to offer, Earth Day gives us a moment to pause and take stock of the wonder, seductive beauty and technicolor menagerie this planet offers us on the daily. Now living in my third state in less than five years, I’ve had a unique opportunity to roam and road trip through the entire Pacific Coast and Western part of the United States. In honor of Earth Day and National Park Week, I’m excited to share some photos of this beautiful planet we get to call home.

Originally from the south Bay Area, I went to college in Santa Barbara then moved down to Los Angeles for a good decade. Between the memories of music festivals and downtown, West Hollywood and beach days in Santa Monica – there are equally fond memories of getting out into the great wilderness that the area had to offer. From the Southern tip of California to the North, bouncing from the dry desert to the coast, from rugged highways to ridge tops and frequenting parks throughout the Sequoias and Big Sur, San Francisco and the Angeles Crest Highway.

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Big Bear, California

I spent a good part of my 20’s as a music journalist, it was awesome – and involved a lot of traveling. Even while gallivanting from state to state to cover the next festival, we made it a point to stop and smell the roses – no matter how far off the beaten path they were. On the way to Global Dance Festival in Colorado, we were lucky enough to travel through Zion and Bryce Canyons; take the backroads through Colorado and breathe in the fresh air of the Rockies.

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Roaming through Utah
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Zion National Park
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Red Dragon Canyon
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Dixie National Forest, Utah

And on the way to Shambhala in Canada, we made sure to take the most scenic of the routes and hiked Multnomah Falls in Oregon, and were taken back by the beauty of Osoyoos, the Wine Country of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

Moving to Oregon a few years back changed my life for the better, and the slowness in their pace of life now seems more normal where the one I was living in California finally felt frenzied and anxiety induced. Not knowing a soul besides my family, we took trips to different corners of the state almost every weekend -tip toeing around the tidepools, hiking to the top of Cape Perpetua, and making Yachats, and the Oregon Coast, a home away from home. An unexpected perk was how the daily scenery of Corvallis poured on the charm, ushering in a warm Autumn that truly felt and looked more like Spring.

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Oyster Bay, Oregon
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Darlingtonia Botanical Garden, Oregon

Going on my third year in Washington, I find myself in awe more times than not – the variety of nature, flora and fauna, of daily weather; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. One day, we’re in a snow storm – the next, sun dances through the flower blossoms and the sweet floral aroma of Spring effuses itself into each moment. With Mount Tahoma, we have the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States – with the Cascades and their waterfalls descending into the East as desert land; meanwhile in Olympic National Park, Washington is home the only rainforest in the greater 48 and we can’t not talk about the most adorable islands I’ve ever visited in the San Juan Islands.

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San Juan Sculpture Park, Washington
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Richmond Beach Trails, Washington
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Though I’ve only been out of the United States a handful of times – Costa Rica and Mexico – I feel lucky to have seen much of the western part of our country by car. Admittedly, some times I can get a bit sad when I visit some parks – there’s trash everywhere, and a view that was once magnificent is overrun by the mistakes of man: plastics, forgetfulness, and arrogance. However, I’m grateful for my family andthe conscious festival community for instilling good practices; like ‘leave it better, leave it beautiful’ (thank you, Do LaB) while picking up after yourself and others. To combat the trash pileup, my husband and I invested in some trash pickers and have been taking garbage bags with us while we’re out and about; and let me tell you: it feels good to be good to our planet.

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Seal Rock, Oregon

There are hundreds of ways to respect the planet – but it’s a conscious decision that you have to continually make. Choose eating sustainably to benefit the local ecosystem and biodiversity of plant and animal life while ensuring you’re getting the right type of nutrition. In our culture of overconsumption, it’s tantamount we reduce our dependence on single-use plastics; take reusable bags to the store, ask for paper bags (I use mine for cat litter) and I mean, do you really need that straw?

Look for corporations that are making the switch to alternative and renewable power sources like Solar Energy and Wind Turbines over traditional power sources like Nuclear Power and Electric for a more sustainable future. When it comes to transportation, we’re battling the ‘Cult of the American Car’. Sure, we’re a country where people are fervent collectors – especially when it comes to our vehicles, but we are close to having more cars than people – with only 8% of people without access to one. But there are also trains and planes, in addition to automobiles – with public transportation coming in hot as a $74 Billion a year industry. By converting to renewable energy, even just in the United States, would add jobs and help save the environment.

The Earth was not ours to inherit from our parents, it’s ours to give to generations that haven’t even been born yet. It’s a good time to pick up a new practice, even if you’ve been doing your part. So, what are you doing that’s going to preserve the sanctity of nature and life on this planet?

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Point Dume, California
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[Traveling Tales] A Weekend Jaunt to Santa Barbara

“Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.”

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For as vast and varied as Los Angeles is with its multitude of museums, live music on damn near every corner and a menagerie of personalities, there are just some times that you need the elixir of another town, to be able to drink in the libations and life of a new location. Southern California, with its little bit of everything, is an adventurers wet dream with ample amounts of snow, surf and everything in between.  Travel a few hours south of Los Angeles, and you’ll end up in Mexico – go East and you can jaunt out to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs, West will take you to the Pacific Coast and adventure just a little up the 101 and you’ll hit one of my favorite places ever: Santa Barbara.  I should premise this by saying I’m incredibly biased, I spent five lovely years in Santa Barbara pursuing my college degree and each inch of that town is crawling in marvelous memories – but admittedly, it’s been far longer than that since I’ve been back. So, the other weekend when Danny was itching to get out of town, I knew exactly where we needed to go.  After booking a great hotel through CheapTickets at the last second Friday afternoon, on Saturday we were off, off and away on a whirlwind landmark and culinary tour of my old stomping grounds.

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After a leisurely drive up the coast, our first stop on Saturday was the new(ish) Santa Barbara Public Market.  apparently it’s been around for a few years, but it’s definitely new to me since the last time I visited town! Originally, I had planned to stop by the Big Eye Raw Bar started by my college friends’ husband (ps. it looks delicious), but the tacos from Corazon Cocina looked so heavenly that it would have been a sin to pass them up.  UntitledA few laughs and micheladas from The Garden later, and we were off, off and away to stroll State Street in search of The French Press. From what I’ve been told, its one of the best coffee shops in America – and damn, they were so right; I loved it a latte – pun very intended.   Taking the long way back to the car, we stumbled into the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, something I didn’t even know existed – let alone in Santa Barbara, but very worth getting sidetracked by.   Boasting a wide array of original documents and technological advancements, we took a serene stroll through eye opening artifacts and inventions before checking into our hotel, which truly felt like more of an oasis than I would have ever known from the photos.

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Walking in, we were met with an unexpected blend of blooming flowers, lush ponds, as coy fish, ducks and geese unfolded in front of us.  The scene only got better as the sunset began her magic.  Oh, and it wasn’t just ducks – there were ducklings hanging out on lillypads and it was literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  I may or may not have spent half an hour chasing them around with crumbs to get the perfect photos, and of course make a few furry friends along the way.

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When dinnertime came about, we had only one decision to make: Mexican or Fish-centric.  Santa Barbara is exceptional when it comes to both, boasting some of the best authentic Mexican food at La Super Rica, a small hole in the wall family business that has the best meats, as well as the uni that’s imported the world over.   Stretching from Isla Vista into downtown, hitting the coastline, is Santa Barbara’s main squeeze: State Street.  The closer you get to the ocean, the more populated everything is – and rightfully so when you can take a romantic walk on the beach after a hearty meal and the further you get from the water, the less packed you’ll find your haunts.  Deciding to get fishy with it, we ventured over to Edomasa and chowed down on some exceptional late night sushi.

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On Sunday afternoon, we gallivanted down the length of State Street and onto Sterns Wharf for some views and a kickass meal of the freshest of sea food before we hit the road back to Los Angeles. The oldest working pier in California, Sterns Wharf boasts plenty of shops and sightseeing right over the ocean; it’s magnificent.  Formerly a buying station for local fish in the 80s, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Corporation sits at the very end of the pier and has been cooking up a storm for the last two decades with literally the best seafood you could catch – and they do!  We chowed down on fresh oysters, dungeness crab cocktail, rock crab, uni shooters and this kitten had her first cioppino.  Full of crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels – it was a dish I wouldn’t have ordered for myself, and I’m so glad Danny insisted we try it – delicious!  I would have taken photos of the food, but I confess I was too busy eating it all.

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Coming back down the coast, we stopped in Summerland to take in the fresh sea air just one last time before heading back into Los Angeles and reflect on a weekend well spent.  If you ever have a weekend to spend in Santa Barbara, here’s some of my must visit places in no particular order:

Sushi, Upper State St: Edamasa
Sushi, Lower State St: Arigato
Mexican Food: La Super Rica
Seafood: Santa Barbara Shellfish Co, Enterprise Fish Co
Views: Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
Coffee: The French Press
Smoothies: Blenders
Beach: Butterfly Beach
Dancing: Eos

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[LA Life] Meandering through LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art

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Dotted around the city like technicolor sprinkles on an urban cupcake, the museums of Los Angeles offer a unique artists perspective on time, culture and society.  The Getty Villa gives a wonderful retrospective of Greco Roman art and architecture while the Getty proper itself is almost as well known for their immaculately groomed gardens as they are their vast collections of classical, modern and post-modern art. Venture into the Fairfax District and the La Brea Tarpit extension of the Natural History Museum thrusts you backwards through time as the LACMA descends into global contemporary and modern art, and Peterson’s Automotive Museum drives you through the history of the modern car.  Then there’s downtown, with The Broad, a menagerie of museums at Exposition Park and last but certainly not least, the Museum of Contemporary Art.  First, that’s not even all – and that doesn’t cover the incredible amount of art galleries and spaces like Gabba Gallery, The Container Yard and Hauser and Wirth, providing hundreds of avenues, indoors and out, to peruse a vast array of art and creativity.

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One thing about art, one of the great things, like Alex Grey says in ‘The Mission of Art’,

“The artist’s mission is to make the soul perceptible. Our scientific, materialist culture trains us to develop the eyes of outer perception. Visionary art encourages the development of our inner sight. To find the visionary realm, we use the intuitive inner eye: the eye of contemplation, the eye of the soul. All the inspiring ideas we have as artists originate here.”

Each and every one of us is a visionary of sorts, with our own unique lens to observe the world with; within that, we’re all artists just waiting to find our catalyst for creativity.  The art at the MOCA is wonderful, inspired, controversial and pensive – it makes you stop, think and smell the artistic roses – so to speak.

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The MOCA is in close proximity to art galleries, wonderful graffiti and a lot of yummy restaurants – including a branch of the famed Lemonade right outside their lobby.For more on LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, head to their socials – or just take a journey downtown!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp| Twitter

For more photos, head to my Flickr album!

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[LA Life] A Tranquil Trip to the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens

The happiness of one’s own heart alone cannot satisfy the soul; one must try to include, as necessary to one’s own happiness, the happiness of others.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda

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The bumper sticker is faded, a bit roughed up and dirty – but the words “Never Stop Exploring” boldly expresses our want, or rather need, of constant discovery and wanderlust. Affectionately called the ‘Adventure Wagon‘,  what was formerly my family’s car and what I learned how to drive on back in the day has become a staple of our current lives.  Turning 20 years old this year, it’s taken us throughout the better part of the West Coast, roaming between Oregon, Southern California and Canada, and experienced it’s share of music festivals; truth be told, my favorite adventures are the ones that it takes us close to home.Untitled

Truth be told, this past year was a monster unlike any other for me – and as it seems, for most of us.  Between some of the highest highs and the lowest lows, we traveled a lot less than ever this past year, especially as we slowly dissolved ourselves from the festival scene. Recently, these little country cats have turned into city kitties and we’ve fallen in love with the Museum of Modern Art in Downtown Los Angeles, the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room‘s at The Broad and simply roaming the streets of downtown in search of amazing architecture and technicolor street art. Instead of gallivanting to new states, we found ourselves in a slow state of finally appreciating our surroundings within Los Angeles proper, and it was absolutely wonderful. Between the beaches in Malibu and Venice, hiking trails in Hollywood, desert landscapes of the Antelope Valley and Salton Sea, the Griffith Park Observatory, and the Angeles National Forest, it’s been nice to finally marinate in the beauty of what’s in our backyard. With the year drawing to a close and no holiday vacation on tap, the last few weeks of light work turned into the perfect reason to get one last round of exploration in for the year, and I couldn’t think of a better way to look ahead into 2018 than a tranquil trip through the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens in Mount Washington, featuring sprawling lawns perfect for stretching, yoga, and ample seating while you take in the salacious views of Downtown Los Angeles and marinate in the wonderful pockets of nature..

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The Self Realization Foundation itself was founded back in 1920 by yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda as he first came to America. Considered far and wide the father of Yoga in the West, Paramahansa Yogananda is attributed with introducing his practices of Kriya Yoga and meditation to both Indians as well as Westerners.   After coming to the United States, he lectured and traveled along the East Coast, gaining notable followers from Mark Twain‘s daughter Clara Gabrilowitsch to soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, leading him to establishing the Self Realization Center in Los Angeles.  As the first Hindu teacher to truly live in the West, over time and even surpassing his death, Paramahansa continued to influence key movers and shakers across the board with his essentially self titled autobiography “Autobiography of a Yogi“, from Steve Jobs to George Harrison and Elvis Presley.   Since then, the Self Realization Fellowship has been dedicated to carrying on the ethos and humanitarian work of their founder.  The foundation themselves reaches worldwide, with a goal of fostering “a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples and religions of our global family, and to help those of all cultures and nationalities to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit.”

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Enjoy a panoramic view of the city by the sundial, or relax in the luscious lawn with lovely little flowers and well groomed trees in vibrant shades of green. Following the paths through the gardens, dip into the ferns and marinate in the calmness of the small waterfall and pond in the center.  When you continue, you’ll find various benches hidden between bushes and off the beaten paths, and a set of stone chairs and table perfect for an afternoon picnic.

The paths at the SRF are open to visitors from 9am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and from 1-5pm on Sundays. For more photos from the gardens, head to my Flickr – and keep in mind, I’m really just learning the Canon 6D – so more to come from that in a bit! For more on the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens, head to their socials or pay them a leisurely visit.

Website | Instagram | Yelp | Facebook

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[LA Life] In That Moment, I Was Infinite: A Trip Through Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad

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My last few years in Los Angeles have elicited a mountain of personal growth and emotional change.  In a grand sense, I’ve finally discovered myself and understand my innate needs and wants – and in the most basic, I’ve fully enjoyed being myself within each and every moment.  Forever a city kitty by nurture, it turns out that I’m actually a little mountain lion by nature but the trick has been learning what keeps my soul level and balanced – a little bit of sunshine and landscapes here, some graffiti, city lights, music and art there.  The most amazing thing about living in Southern California, and especially Los Angeles, is the immediate access to both – sometimes even in the same day.  Just the other weekend, Danny and I took a cruise through the Angeles Crest Forest and grounded ourselves in the scenic beauty and amazing views, and this weekend we balanced it with now my favorite art exhibit I’ve ever been to – Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad.

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Art does a lot of things for me, but above all it provides me a new, askew and different lens to observe the world through.  Whether it’s sculpture, watercolors, immersive art or sculptures – the best art forces me outside of myself to view the world from a birds eye view while diving further inside of myself in personal discovery; and I would absolutely include the Infinity Mirrors in that category.  A playful experience with color and perspective, Yayoi Kusama’s excellent creative eye has created a handful of unique environments that meld your minds and opens your eyes to a vibrant, multidimensional universe.

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Hailing from Nagano, Japan, Yayoi began playing with color and shapes when she was ten and it’s obvious that her love and creativity have only grown exponentially since.  Considered a forerunner to the Pop Art movement that cultivated  Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Yayoi calls her unique process “Self Obliteration”.  An artist that’s as multidimensional as her work, Yayoi has foraryed from painting and watercolors to writing novels and poems, dabbling in fashion design and film direction.  Since 1963, she’s been recognized for her hypnotic and mesmerizing Mirror / Infinity Room environments.  Featured at international museums as both a traveling and permanent exhibit,  fans will be excited to know that the Yayoi Kusama has officially opened in Tokyo, Japan – if you’re up for the adventure.

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For now, Yayoi’s current works are being featured in a 50 year retrospective that’s on rotation between several museums across the United States.  Originally at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum + Sculpture Garden, the exhibit then traveled to the Seattle Art Museum over the Summer before landing at Los Angeles’s Broad Museum.  In March, Yayoi’s works will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario and then finally land at the Cleveland Museum of Art in July of 2018.

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For me, this was an experience I absolutely had to document – from room to room, I was moved phenomenally and entranced by my surroundings.  But, I also put my phone down and just was wowed by it all – and I highly suggest both for you, too. Due to a high volume of interest there are no more reserved spots for the Infinity Mirrors – but the Broad Museum does offer standby tickets for those willing to wait.

For more about Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors, the Broad Museum and their contemporary collection of art, head to their site and socials –

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[Traveling Tales] The Surreal Scenery of Salvation Mountain + East Jesus

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Tucked away in a small sleepy corner of California just East of the Salton Sea sits not just one but two of the most beautifully bizarre man-made areas I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  The stores and fables of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus have intrigued me ever since I moved to Los Angeles almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally witnessed the oozing creativity for myself.  One second, you’re taking a dusty road off the beaten path, in what feels like the proverbial middle of nowhere: you’re off the grid and surrounded by a sweeping desert landscape of BLM land with scattered mountain ranges.  All of a sudden, you see it – and once found you absolutely can’t miss it: a brightly painted surreal scene that felt born of Dali and Dr Seuss.

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First created back in 1984, Salvation Mountain is an otherworldly artistic expression from area local Leonard Knight.  Recognized by the Folk Society of America as a “folk art site worth protection” back in 2000, the mountain itself is ever evolving – with volunteers flocking to the mountain the first Saturday of every month with their buckets of paint, ready to pour themselves into Leonard’s vision.  My personal favorite part?  There’s cats – eight of them, to be exact, and they’re so freaking adorable roaming the yellow brick road. Let your wanderlust carry you to the top of the mountain, and don’t forget to take in the vibrant colors that are dancing around you.  Saunter off to the right of the main hill, and you’ll find multiple nooks and chaotic crannies littered with bible verses, prayers, religious sentiment and offerings. All around the outskirts of the mountain are refurbished cars, embellished with impeccable detail and design.If you couldn’t get enough of Salvation Mountain, just you wait until you get into Slab City and East Jesus.

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The best way I can describe East Jesus: think of it as a retirement center for Burning Man art, and maybe even burners as well.  The area itself is so off the grid that one truly could create a year round community built on the ethos of Burning Man – and indeed, some have: Slab City itself is considered a sparse ‘snowbird’ community –  no running water, no food, no amenities – meaning residents are forced to be radically self reliant within it.  If it’s chaos, then it’s the most controlled version of chaos I’ve ever seen – there are blocks, addresses and streets, basic societal infrastructure…just without the rest of society. It really makes you think about the bare minimum you would need to be content, and how magically creative you could be as you create your own world.  Built on top of a Camp Dunlap, a de facto military base that was dismantled at the end of World War II, Slab City was named for the literal ‘slabs’ that were left over – using them to create their city.

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite part: East Jesus.  I’m pretty sure I could get lost inside their art garden and I’m 1000% alright with that.  The art inside is made completely from repurposed and upcycled materials.  Ever evolving and interactive, there’s treehouses to climb, outdoor bowling, the craziest sculptures built out of seriously who knows what, and so very much more.

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There’s not only something to look at around every corner, but something to make your head spin just a little bit, maybe even enough to spark a conversation with a stranger. Hands down, Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are roadtrip destination worthy of being on everyone’s bucket list.

For more photos, head to my album here.

For more, head to their socials – or just plan your next visit!

East Jesus: WebsiteFacebook  | Instagram | Twitter  

Salvation Mountain: Website | Facebook

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[Worthy Work] Tune Into Your Natural Frequency With Treepeople

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In the middle of the go-go-go vibes of Los Angeles and in the midst of this go-go-go world, it warms my  soul to know that in the heart of this town lie untapped and sparsely touched green spaces, sprawling as wide as the eyes can see – from the rolling hills to the Pacific Ocean. Starting in the San Gabriel Mountains in the East with the the Angeles Crest Highway down to Griffith Park, the Mulholland Scenic Route and into Malibu – there are plenty of places that you can go get lost in the trees for a few hours and find your center.  Lush landscapes and valleys are scattered among the hustle and bustle, fully equipped with wanderlust worthy views and even hidden waterfalls –  if you know where to look.

In an attempt to live in a ‘take less, give more’ state of mind, I’m eager to jump at volunteer opportunities – and double so when it involves either nature, animals – or preferably, both. For all that I feel nature gives to me, the other week I had a unique opportunity to give back to Mother Earth with the fantastic NonProfit, Treepeople. Located in the midst of Mulholland, Treepeople proudly sits on over 45 acres of beautiful mountainside.  Though Beverly Hills isn’t exactly the area of Los Angeles one thinks of when “community service” pops into your head, or the logical vicinity for volunteer work, just one trip up to Coldwater Canyon Park will change your tune.   Between blazing trails and clearing paths through the neighboring canyon, community education and Summertime music and fun in the park, Treepeople have been giving back to the neighborhood for over 40 years.  Between planting over 3 million trees around the community and engaging over 3 million Angelinos to give back, Treepeople have grown into a vital part of the Los Angeles ecosystem.

The vision of Treepeople is simple: they believe in healthy soil, plenty of tree canopy to provide shade and last but certainly not least – clean, local drinking water through inspiring the community to take action and raise their voice to be heard by movers and shakers like district policymakers.  They host plenty of volunteer events throughout the week, and well into the weekends – with their Springtime tree planting by far being the most popular. Pro tip: it’s easier to participate in tree planting if you go through your place of employment versus flying solo.  For the few hours I was there, our job varied from wrestling with tree branches and prepping them to become mulch, scattering the mulch along the trail-side and making the venue event appropriate, but if you choose this adventure there’s a good chance you’ll be up to something different.  Make sure you go with comfortable, hiking shoes, clothes that you don’t mind going a little dirty in and a healthy attitude – you’re about to get it in, give back, and feel damn good about it.

 

Open from dawn to dusk year round, you don’t have to be volunteering to visit the grounds.  There are plenty of paths to prance around, a sustainable stream running through the middle and the view – oh, man, the view.

For more on Treepeople, head to their social media channels.

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