Tag Archives: Southern California

[Traveling Tales] Take it to the Top: Conquering Gray’s Peak Trail

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“You might not find any wifi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection”

For the better part of the last decade,  any weekend with time to spare and sun to catch magically evolved into a festival fueled adventure somewhere along the West Coast.  Over the last few years, our festival family reunion and pre-Summer kickoff was Lightning in a Bottle – delightfully and delectably getting us ready for the rest of festival season.  When the time came this year to figure out where we wanted to lounge lavishly and enjoy each others company, we took a long hard look at the growth we’ve elicited from ourselves at Lighting in a Bottle – which comes easily when you’re surrounded by the prismatic love, light and laughter of the event.  Each year, though challenging for individually unique reasons, provided the perfect platform to acknowledge myself in the moment and grow from it.  Paired with sweeping landscapes and myriads of magical music, I almost dare you not to be moved – because I have been, over and over and over again.

Even as I describe what we didn’t experience this year, I feel blessed and gifted with my past experiences.  As I marinate in my own newfound maturity, I amuse myself in what I’ve become – knowing full well that growth is synonymous with growing pains, and I effectively feel like I’ve graduated from a phase of my life, and of myself.   All together, these thoughts synthesized themselves in a way that made me opt for a new journey for Memorial day this time around the sun. So, instead of feverishly packing our apartment to fit inside a tent, we packed an overnight bag and it was off, off and away to Big Bear for a weekend of sun and fun with a few friends that have become a hell of a lot more like family over the last few years.

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Just a hop, skip and a few hour drive into San Bernadino, Big Bear already sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000′ – even before you head out on your hike or snow inspired romp through the woods, and has a little bit of something for everyone – granted that everyone’s a bit of a nature nut.   We might have cut our lodging options short by not planning our trip until literally three days before the weekend, but thanks to AirBnB finding an a beautiful place to stay  – fully equipped with patios and a hot tub on a budget – was super easy.

After to getting into town late Friday night, on Saturday morning the group made a bomb little breakfast and got to packing for our hike.  Several sandwiches, a few mixed drinks and some salacious snackables later and we were off, off and away for what turned out to be an intense but well worth it hike up Gray’s Peak Trail.   All together, the hike up Gray’s Peak is about Seven Miles each way with 1300′ to climb in elevation.  One thing we didn’t know beforehand, but damn well are sure of now: at about 8000′ in elevation is when people start toying with altitude sickness and at approximately 8300′ – at times, you could really tell that we weren’t in Kansas at sea level anymore.

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Even though the few websites we found on the hike claimed that it was great for kids, my friends and I can attest that those kids must be jacked up on Mountain Dew because we all had our collective asses handed to us.  There were a lot of fun ‘turnouts’ – if that’s what they’re even called if you’re not in a car – that got us to jump off the beaten path and forge our own trail, but in a respectful way – of course.  There were a few places with tiny streams, stemming from the base of the mountain and loads of little lizards running amuck every which way.  Near 8k’, you could tell that the trees were starting to be weathered under the altitude but that all changed when you got near the pinnacle, it literally felt like you’d walked through a portal and into Fern Gully.   There’s a couple things that make this a Summer hike in my book – like the incline and the potential weather, but it also turns out that the trailhead is closed for public use between December and April because it’s in the middle of a bald eagle wintering habitat area – how effing neat!

Packing Pro Tips

Make sure everyone has enough water, and a backpack between two people is perfect.  Layers, extra socks, hiking shoes cause you want your ankles.

Things I’ve learned as a novice hiker, but expert adventurer:

  • Cameras are always a must, sure your phone has one – but point and shoots are fun, too! Make sure you take at least one group photo before you head up the trail and into the sweat zone – yeah, now you get it.  Extra points if you remember to bring a collapsible tripod – you’ll really be your groups MVP, most valuable photographer.
  • Your phone has a compass on it, don’t be afraid to use it – but also, put that thing away and enjoy the hike!
  • Hydration is key, super key. Drinking and hiking is fun, but in the Summer it’s not the smartest – make sure you’ve got enough water for the walk up, and the walk back; plus, being more hydrated makes the drunk more fun – if you’re into that type of thing 😉
  • A bag per every two people is appropriate, that way you can also switch off with carrying duty – make sure you toss in some sammies and full bars for meals, and for snackables both nuts and dried fruit have a lot of protein.  Last, but not least if you’re weird like me and don’t really enjoy chewing – throw in a few ensures to top it off.
  • Everybody loves layers – especially for hikes.  Bring an change of socks in case you encounter water, shorts / pants depending on what you start off in and a hoodie.
  • Do a gut check with everyone before the hike starts and make sure everyone’s comfortable with the adventure ahead, you never know who’s in super great shape, or who might have some hesitations about an all day excursion.
  • Leaves of three, let them be. Poison Oak is no joke and usually it’s kept off the trail – if you’re like me and like to forge your own path, know what it looks like…or better yet, just wear pants.

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For more on Big Bear, head to their website or social channels:

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[LA Life] Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway

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Mother’s Day Weekend is a special weekend, a fruitful time for family and a fitting occasion to embrace the divine feminine, and within that – our true Mother – Earth, Nature, Gaia – if you will.  As Danny and I gallivanted away this past weekend to go spend some quality time with his mom in Lancaster, we had (what we considered) a brilliant idea: instead of taking the 14, let’s take a leisurely drive through the Angeles Crest Highway.  And what a magical adventure that became.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is often referred to as the ‘Highway to the Heavens‘, and in my opinion – rightfully so: just one cruise through it’s winding trails, your car eagerly hugging the curves and you’ll be confused if you’re still in Los Angeles, let alone California – or the United States.  At times, the drive reminded me of Zion, my fiance kept thinking of the Grand Canyon and it’s easy to think that you’ve instantly been transported to the Swiss Alps or somewhere picturesque in the South of France.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Considered one of the most beautiful non-coastal drives in the United States, the Angeles Crest Highway spans the northern most portion of California State Route 2, reaching from the the tip of Los Angeles County in La Cañada-Flintridge to Wrightwood in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Wander along the winding roads and you’ll find picturesque views of every angle of Los Angeles from the ridge-line of the Angeles National Forest.

The area is befit with a rich history that dates back to the turn of the 19th Century, and boasts plenty of turnouts with epic views, and hiking trails for those willing to adventure. And with nature just off of a stunning Superbloom season – or as I’d like to think of it, still marinating in the tail end of it, the hills are currently lush with bright yellow, violet and pink blooms.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest HighwayStopping literally at every turn out we could – because, why not?! – we quite accidentally took a hearty nature break where Mill Creek intersects with the scenic byway.  As Danny found himself enamored by the tunnel born out of the mountain slabs, we were stopped in our literal tracks by the serene sounds of a bubbling brook. Danny eagerly clamored down the hill, reveling in the diamond in the rough that we just discovered – I was busy freezing in my flip flops, overthinking my way down to the water’s edge. After negotiating, and then poorly navigating my way down – spoiler alert: I slipped several times anyways – it was absolutely worth it.

Because we live in the wonderful Mediterranean climate of Southern California, it’s pretty much always a good time to go for a drive on the Angeles Crest Highway, but during the winter months (and some awkward days of June gloom), the snow can shut down parts of the mountain pass and the fog induced poor visibility is actually terrifying – just trust me on that one.  So, before you hop in your car and ride away into the sunset – make sure you check the road conditions to ensure a smooth, beautiful drive.

There’s something absolutely sacred about the way a car hugs a tight turn along a scenic cruise, whipping the soul around to enjoy a palpable, panoramic landscape in a heartbeat; albeit I think the windows should be down and music up to take full advantage of the moment – but who am I to tell another soul how to enjoy a leisurely, weekend drive.

Take a peek at my recent adventures on Flickr!

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway, peruse their website and social media channels – or just take yourself out for a spin; trust me, it’s worth it – and you can thank me later.

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Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Over the last year, my life has uncovered a bevvy of nuanced ways that it has to re-prioritize what’s important. Call it a quarter life crisis, or simply just growing up – but the things that used to sit on top of my pyramid of needs have reorganized themselves into a quieter, calmer lifestyle.  An avid audiophile through and through, when I pulled away from going to music festivals and concerts it was like I spearheaded an investigation into who I was at my core.  A daughter, a dreamer, a lover, a cat lady, a nature nymph, a very silly girl who cares very deeply about the world she cultivates around her. Two years ago, four years ago, ten years ago – I couldn’t escape the monotony of my home life enough:  living in Los Angeles, there is literally something to do at every second of every day, and I dove in head first, exploring new eats in new cities and musing around music festivals like it was my job, which eventually – it was.  At 23, it was the perfect lifestyle – at 28, still amazing; but as I cruise into the meat of my thirties, that’s just not what I want out of life at this current moment.

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What do I want? I want to be nurtured by nature, I want to analyze my psyche through the scope of the arts and I want to take things just a little more slowly, a little more sweetly.  Over the almost nine years that I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve watched as this self professed ‘City Kitty’ has evolved into more of a ‘Country Cat’.  I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Big Sur and Sequoia, breathing in the the crisp, clean air while I revel in the romanticism of the great outdoors. Though we’ve been in a major drought these last few years, major rains during this past Winter have done their part to change the lay of the land and bring some much needed water to the area – and the Springtime Southern California desert has responded in kind with the Super Bloom.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Just a hop, skip and a jump up the 14 Freeway from Los Angeles lies the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  Sitting right on the outskirts of Lancaster, and potentially one of the only valid reasons to go to Lancaster at all, the AV Poppy Reserve is surrounded by rolling hills and a sweeping skyline.  Part of the California National Park system, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve spans 1,781 acres acres and boasts a wide variety of trails to take you from corner to corner of the park. The state natural reserve is located on the states best natural poppy bearing land. But, beyond the orange beauty of the California state flower, the Poppy Reserve and outlying areas are covered with luscious blue lupines, and yellow goldfields and cream cups.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Though the Poppy Reserve is stunning, and boasts plenty of walkable trails – I found that the best Poppies were right on the side of the road.  With ample turnouts available from Castaic Lake all the way up to the Reserve, you could literally spend the entire afternoon staring into the soul of flowers.  And boy, do those flowers sing back.If you couldn’t get enough of the sprawling desert landscapes of Lancaster, the Arthur B Ripley Desert State Park is only about 8 miles West of the Poppy Reserve, and has plenty of wildflowers and juniper woodland, in addition to the area’s native Joshua trees.

For more of my photos from the Poppy Fields, check out my album here 🙂

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Southern California and plan your trip to the Poppy Reserve now! For more on the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, head to their website and social media channels –

Website | Facebook | Yelp

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

[LA Life] Getting Artsy at ARTIC

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“Time goes faster the more hollow it is.
Lives with no meaning go straight past you,
like trains that don’t stop at your station.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

One of my favorite things about photography is the belief that each and every one of us views the world through their own technicolor lens. We all see different shades of beauty in the world, and photography gives a keen insight into the way that each person’s visual interpretations can differ.

To say that I have an obsession with beautifully unique architecture and lavish locations is a bit of an understatement.  My wanderlust propels me to constantly explore, adventure and discover each and every corner of the world, but mostly – my own backyard of Southern California. Boasting a beautiful menagerie of natural settings, from the diamond blue oceans of the Pacific to the snow-capped mountains, fields of flowers and the deserts between, California’s got a little bit of everything for every type of nature lover. So, when I tell you that for the past year I’ve been itching to go take pictures of a Transit station, you might not get it – until you see for yourself. Ever since Instagram introduced their geotagging feature a few years ago, I’ve been building, developing and adding to an epically long list of places I want to frolick around like a little fairy, or at the very least photographically capture them to my heart’s desire. And one of the very first places on that list was ARTIC, otherwise known as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.

Located part way between Angel’s Stadium and the Honda Center, ARTIC was unveiled to the public in December of 2014. Depending on who you ask it’s, the venue itself is either $188 Million Dollar drain, or a photographer’s wet dream with great lighting, lots of color, loads of reflections and a whole lot of symmetry. Since I don’t live in Anaheim, I’ll go with the later – but after visiting, I definitely understand the former as well.

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Even though I’d permanent markered ARTIC into a list of epic, must-shoot places, it was purely a beautiful coincidence that I happened across it.  Just the other weekend, I was down in Anaheim with Danny to handle some family business.  We were getting a bit famished and my craving for happy hour oysters had set our hungry kitty sights on Oyster Bar SKC.  As we pulled into our parking spot, the technicolor haze of lights inside ARTIC danced across the sky and I felt like a little kid that just got to the amusement park.  Words spilled out of my mouth as I bubbled over with excitement as we walked between the Palm Trees, underneath ARTIC’s rainbow ceiling, and into a technicolor daydream.

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Come for the pictures, stay for the oysters. Currently, there are plans to build a Pinkberry on the first floor of ARTIC – but until then, the one tried and true food favorite is the Oyster Bar SKC which boasts $1 oysters during happy hour, half-off appetizers and beer as well as some of the most delicious drinks I’ve had in recent months.If you’re a fan of the venue but don’t live nearby, you’re in luck because Oyster Bar SKC is opening a second location down in sunny San Diego, with a third in the works just around the corner from Los Angeles in Pasadena. Though there aren’t very many reasons to visit ARTIC, there are definitely a few – catch a baseball game at Angels’ Stadium or catch a concert at the Honda Center, Chapman University and Disneyland are also just a little jaunt away.

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For more on ARTIC, head to their socials, browse through my favorite photos – or just jump on the local transit lie and take a little trip – I promise you, it’s so worth it.

ARTIC on Instagram

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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First and Last Photos by Daniel Leist Photography

[LA Life] Say Yay to Snow Days!

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Halfway between a creature of habit and victim of circumstance are a multitude of reasons that I’ve barely ever visited the snow.  Growing up as a swimmer in the Bay Area, I loved the sun and water more ways than I could count; while on family vacations we constantly favored beautiful beaches with their sandy waves over the glistening snow-capped mountains.  I barely ever made it to the snow as a child and can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen it in person.  Not to mention, I can be quoted as saying “I’m a Image may contain: tree, snow and outdoor‘Hawaii’ kind of girl” more times than I can count, because bless my parents – they still like to remind me of all those years before I turned into such a nature nymph. To them, it’s any wonder that I’ve turned from a self-professed city kitty into a rough(er) and tumble(r) snow bunny, but here I am – ready for business, and by business I mean nature-inspired personal pleasure.

One of the many, many fantastic things about living in Los Angeles (Southern California…and just California in general),  is that on any given day you can make a trip to the sand or a trip to the snow; if you’re feeling frisky, you can even get a delightful dose of both! Beach days, though beautiful, are proverbially a dime a dozen in the land of palm trees, blue skies and power lines and let’s get real – everyone flocks to the sandy shores: your housemates, your neighbor, your landlord, celebrities and vacationers all come for the beach – which makes hitting those pearly slopes significantly sweeter.  There are near trips and far trips, day trips and trips you should probably make a whole weekend out of. Don’t quote me on exact travel times because, HELLO Los Angeles traffic, but if you’re in the mood for a fantastic day trip – Mt Baldy and the defunct Mt Waterman Ski Lifts make for excellent treks and are just an hour outside of LA proper in the San Gabriel Mountains, while Big Bear in the San Bernadino National Forest is a little over two hours away.  If you’re feeling like an adventure is in the works, Sequoia National Forest is a few hours away and makes for an epic Winter weekend journey.

Pack + Play

For as fun as a snow day is, being fully prepared for your snow day will make things go a hell of a lot smoother (and, warmer!). First things first, make sure you have enough hydration and nutrition to last the day – and then some.  Make some sandwiches, grab some snacks get a good combination of both salty and sugary foods; in case anyone’s body starts going into a bit of shock – it’ll bring them right back! When it comes to water, even though the weather might be a big frightful and frigid, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t working overtime – especially if you head out on a hike.  Make sure you have twice as much as you think you need, and enough for any pups (or, brave cats!) that are along for the ride. Just like in the movie Shrek, when it comes to clothes in the cold – it’s all about layers, so snag a scarf, get a beanie, and a hoodie – or two; if you’ve got fur, this is the perfect time to rock it.  Because of the nature of snow, if you’ve got waterproof pants, socks and or shoes, bring ’em out. Basically, waterproof everything is a plus – GoPro, iPhone 7, you name it – it’s perfect for the snow.  Also, booze…responsible boozing also makes the snow a whole lot more fun.


[LA Life] Get Lit at the Descanso Gardens This Holiday Season

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I’ve been known to gush about the plethora of wonderful parks, gardens and green areas in Los Angeles – so when I found out that the Descanso Gardens was hosting an illuminated evening befit with lights from every direction – I was all ears and eyes.  In tandem with the LA Zoo Lights event, the fabled Descanso Gardens in Altadena is joining in the fun – creating their own Enchanted Forest for the holiday season.  During the day, the sprawling landscape of Descanso consists of a Lilac Garden, a Japanese Garden, California Natives and a sprawling 5 acre rose garden – and at night  for the next four weeks, it’s transformed into a whimsical wonderland with expertly curated and interactive exhibits.

 

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Daytime at Descanso

Technically, hypothetically – it’s helpful if you and your crew acquire your tickets ahead of time but I’ve discovered that anything is possible the day of, especially if you put your mind to it.  If you’re into planning, tickets for the Enchante Forest can be purchased either online or in person at the Descanso Gardens during normal operating hours. Tickets for the Enchanted Forest event run about$30 for weekends through their official website, but I found a discount link through a company called Goldstar for only $21 for as long as tickets last.  Each ticket is timed to a specific entry time, and you’re allowed to enter at any point after and stay until close at 10pm.

Purchase Tickets to Enchanted Forest

As a warning, it gets packed – not to the brim, but you should know that to get in, there’s only one line; it moves fast, but it gets pretty lengthy by the end of the night. There are several bars inside that give generous pours, and some snacks and winteresque drinks like apple cider and hot chocolate.  Perfect for a date night, family night or just a night out on the town with friends getting a dose of something a little different in their lives.

For more on the Enchanted Forest + Descanso Gardens, head to their social media channels:

Facebook | Website | Instagram | Yelp

1418 Descanso Dr

 La Canada Flintridge, CA

 

 

 

[LA Life] Get Your Culture On With Summer Happenings at The Broad

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As someone who admittedly understands most other forms of art – the written word, music, architecture, plays, musicals, theater, opera, film and dance – over the sculpted, drawn or painted variety, some of their mystique, culture and history had always escaped me.  But, the good news – I’m definitely not beyond reproach and have maintained both an open mind and heart to see what truly moves me.   Growing up in the Bay Area, we visited Science Museums, Botanical Gardens and open spaces from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, and all areas in between – but visiting a museum and looking at art was never in the cards.

Once I moved to Los Angeles and fully grasped how much culture was oozing out of the concrete jungle of our city, I started to get the itch for new and different types of art.  The LACMA, the Getty and the Getty Villa are all so unique in what they offer.  I’m a little biased because I was at the LACMA for the Tim Burton exhibit, but that was ghoulishly fantastic.  I find myself constantly drooling over the Grecian Architecture and landscaping of the Getty Villa, while the Gardens of the Getty are something entirely special to behold.  But the irony, was that I didn’t fall in love with art in Los Angeles.  I fell in love while I was in the South, in the depths of Arkansas on a work trip.  I’d done some remedial research before the flight and discovered the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art – a beautiful museum tucked deep into the town of Bentonville.  Beyond the stunning architectural design, this was the first time I was truly moved by Norman Rockwell’s canvases and Andy Warhol’s paintings.  Once I planted myself back in Los Angeles, I had a new outlook on the artistic endeavors around the city and as well as a new willingness to explore every niche genre of it.

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Ever since word got out last year that a new modern and contemporary art museum would be placed smack dab in the center of Downtown Los Angeles, I was intrigued at what they would have to offer Then, when the architectural design for the venue finally went up – I was absolutely enthralled.  So when I finally had the chance to visit The Broad with Danny this past weekend for their Nonobject(ive) Summer Happenings, I was over the moon excited and absolutely jumped at the chance.

The Broad, Los Angeles’ newest museum, opened just last September to fill some contemporary art chasm that vast amounts of local and street art couldn’t. Founded and funded by the esteemed Eli and Edythe Broad, the 120,000 square foot venue was immaculately designed by the combined brainpower of Renfro, Diller Scofidio and Gensler, and boasts over 2,000 prominent paintings and pieces of art distributed between it’s two floors of gallery space.   But when their Summer Happenings swing into bloom, the outdoor courtyard becomes transfixed into an open air concert venue with stunning acoustics against the textured exterior of the building while the insides are engaged in spoken word and performance art while attendees ebb and flow through the first special exhibition at The Broad, Cindy Sherman’s Imitation of LifeThough some of the performances this past weekend were a tad lacking – Sky Ferria’s DJ Set, I’m looking at you – it was a wonderful reason for my first visit.

Though I did enjoy bits and pieces of the museum, there was a large portion that felt like a multimedia smorgasborg and sensory overload. Swimming through troves of hipsters sipping on the latest fads and latest drinks, it was hard to actually get some breathing room regardless of if you were in the middle of the crowd during one of the many performance pieces or simply observing a piece of art.   As expected, the pop art from Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol colored me moved; but more than that, I also discovered new art and artists that I appreciated.

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I  found the emotive work of Jean-Michel Basquiat to be pulling at my heart strings, and I fell in love with the work of Takashi Murakami – both Of Chinese Lions, Peonies, Skulls, And Fountains as well as the detailed, grand and inspiring In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow (above). Standing 82′ in length, I could’ve spent an entire day analyzing the vibrant colors and intricacies within it. And who doesn’t adore neon, or vibrant, shiny, gigantically fake balloon animals – so, those were cool too, I guess.

The great thing about art, is it’s all subjective – the real question is: are you moved enough to feel – something, anything?  Maybe, just maybe, certain forms of art just aren’t my thing, maybe I need to go back on a day where I can move like molasses between rooms, taking ten, fifteen minutes to digest the art…or maybe I just wasn’t high enough; either, or. Whichever. The good news is that I’ll keep digesting the world around my like I’m at a buffet, and eventually – I’ll have my just desserts.

If you’re interested in getting attending the Nonobject(ive) Summer Happenings, you have two chances left! Tickets for the penultimate event on 8/20 with Rostam and Sparkle Vision are available here.  The final showing lands on September 24th with Sophie and Vessel, tickets go on sale August 15th. Or, if you’d like a more laidback and relaxed visit, visit online and reserve your spot. Admission is free to the general public unless there’s a special event, but that wait list is legendary.

For more about The Broad Museum and their contemporary collection of art, head to their site and socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram



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