Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Abalone Cove, Rancho Palo Verdes

Before we started our hike this week, we took a brief tour of this gorgeous glass chapel. You can read about the Wayfarers Chapel here.  Visitors are welcome. There is a small visitor center that is more of a gift shop, with restrooms. You can walk around the gardens of the chapel and into the glass chapel itself and also admire the coastal views.

The cliff side we took down to the beach.
Abalone Cove Park is the trail head for this hike. It is very close to the Terranea Discovery trail we have taken before. It's an easy to moderate short trail but not stroller friendly. Full sun-no shade, wear sun protective clothing and bring water, like any day at the beach. The park only has free parking the first 30 minutes. It's $6 for 2 hours then $12 beyond that. There is no way to get down to the beach, explore and return within 30 minutes. 

We drove down to the lot for the Terranea Discovery Trail. It is free parking and there are also clean restrooms. We took the trail along Palos Verde Dr. from the parking lot to Abalone Cove Park. It's about a 30 minute walk.

We discovered this lovely little waterfall flowing to the sea shore.

From Abalone Cove Park, walk down to the beach. There are a few trails to follow. We cut one trail short but heading down the cliff side. It wasn't very treacherous or challenging but definitely requires caution. The trails have gravel and the beach is rocky, so I do not recommend the use of a stroller but a child carrier is fine.

We headed left, toward tide search of sea stars. Recent pix found online via social media showed others finding the treasures of the sea. Last year, we learned about the coastal disease and warmers waters caused by El Nino like weather conditions, that had killed off much of the tide pool sea life along the west coast. Sea Stars seemed to be the primary victims.

We arrived in time for low tide but there is a crossing where the rocks are low and the water is high. I suppose we could have risked it but with an unpredictable 7 year old in tow...wisdom screamed caution! We stayed to our side. The water was low but we would have had to still get our shoes and feet wet to venture further out and away from shore to explore deeper.

We stayed close to shore where there was still plenty of life to see. We viewed many sea anemones, sea slugs, various crabs, tiny fish and colorful sea plants. It was beautiful and colorful. Of course the repetition of crashing waves is always relaxing too.

We didn't see any of the usual chubby, orange sea stars we are used to, but as we were leaving, I caught sight of this teeny tiny one in the sand, along the shore! I don't know how I even recognized what it was...maybe I didn't even know but I bent down to see what it was and thought it was dead. It was still alive and moving. It had a very short spindle of an arm that was growing back. The boys were up ahead of us so Bird and I were the only ones who got to get a close-up and personal look at this tiny wonder. 

The day was gorgeous and slightly breezy. You never know what you will find or see at the beach or the woods. Getting outside though, is always nice. I would recommend this hike for a casual, fairly easy day. It wasn't very challenging for us but on a hot day, the sun could be an issue as there is no shade.

See you next week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

If I Don't Reach the Promised Land, Beyond the Curse of the Desert Wilderness

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We've all been there in the midst of a trial-that moment when we look back and long for the past. Just as the Israelites, in the middle of their own wandering, began to view their past of slavery and bondage, through the filter of rose colored lenses.

Maybe it wasn't so bad? At least it was familiar,

We can read their story with the privilege of it's entirety. We know how it's going to end.

In our own lives though, we don't know the ending. And that scares us! We get uncomfortable. We do not like change. We want what WE want, how we want and when we want it. Of course.

We know how that ended with the Israelites--the generation of Moses never entered the Promised Land. What a punishment and what they are forever known for.

God is never that cruel though.  Perhaps, there was solace and even a redemptive quality to their lives that has been over looked?

The Israelites that didn't reach the Promised Land, are also the generation that led their families OUT of slavery! Into FREEDOM!

After generations of bondage, they were finally free. Their children were free, no longer subject to the whims of a master or genocidal pharaoh. Their grandchildren would grow up free.   This is significant.

Many of us face and endure the wilderness journey at times. The heat and barrenness of the desert, where refreshment and reprieve are only a mirage. Admittedly, I have been in that place for more than a few years now. I have been guilty of looking back at times, longing for the comfort of my own slavery and bondage.

Until God reminded me of what is ahead AND the importance of the present. Not only for me, but for generations to come. I have done this. I have led my children out of slavery. They will step into the Promise Land. They will have the strength to knock down walls and take back what is theirs.

They could not move into their own promise if we had not walked into the freedom of the desert. There is no going back. Regardless of the environment, our freedom can not be taken from us. Freedom from negative patterns of behavior that were being practiced and taught by example.

The Israelites stood in the gap between slavery and freedom. Someone had to. Someone had to take the first step and cross over. Someone had to make the choice and be brave, venturing out into the unknown, without a map! Their wilderness journey served a purpose whether they ever entered the Promise Land or not. 

Someone has to stand in the gap. I made that choice. If I never step into the Promise...It will have all been worth it to watch my children walk in the truth of freedom.

Be Brave.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Walnut Creek Park, San Dimas

This trail is also known as Walnut Creek Park

No restroom facility
Free parking
Kid/family friendly
Semi-stroller friendly
Dusty trail

This is an interesting trail. We parked at the equestrienne staging area, before the school of Buddhism. From the parking lot, we took the left trail entrance. It makes a quick stream cross then returns up to the road. The trail continues on the other side of the road.

There is another trail to the right and picnic tables. The tables were very dirty and dusty when we arrived, bring a towel or something to dust them off but they are under a nice shade canopy of trees.

Trail is dusty but features shady breaks from the sun. Even now, end of summer, there was water in the creek. Parts of the trail are uphill, feeling harder than it probably really is due to the sun exposure. We caught sight of a rabbit hopping across a dry brush area very quickly. That is always fun.

Yelp reviews stated there is a hidden rope swing somewhere along the trail...we didn't find it. Maybe you will?

This is a multi-use trail...used by horses and their riders. From the equestrienne staging area parking lot, it leads up to a main road. There you will find another very small parking lot, nice view and a couple picnic tables. However, it is full sun, be prepared. Across the road from that parking lot the trail continues but it appeared to be a horse trail. It was already hot and that trail has no shade so we did not explore any further.

We turned around and headed back down the way we came. 

This trail is semi-stroller friendly due to the uphill incline, stream crossings and some rocky points along the trail. But a rugged, jogging stroller might work for the more ambitious parents. Otherwise a back-pack child carrier would be fine.

See you next week!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Thurman Flats; Secret Swimming Hole

I wasn't interested in returning to the area we were just at last week but I am sure glad we did! I was afraid the pool we enjoyed last week wouldn't be as full and I was right. When we arrived at the 'pool' the water level was disappointingly low but still splashable. While the kids dropped their packs and began to cool off in the refreshing water, my daughter, another momma and I, headed up the creek to explore a little.

Our own personal jacuzzi in the woods! 
The creek had little man-made pools all along it's winding path. One was the perfect jacuzzi size with fresh, running water streaming down a large boulder, creating a lovely waterfall. The type luxury home-owners pay big bucks for in their back yards! Haha.

We hiked farther up and came across a log wall...with a tent behind it. Obviously, a homeless person had sent up a semi-permanent camp there. We were hesitant but kept going and came upon this...

Chopped down trees and logs created a larger dam then the pool we left behind. It was deep, had a rope swing and other constructions.

We were a bit creeped out, and even more so when we saw the potential builders or at least inhabitants, approach us. The two men played it cool though and so did we. They admitted they lived there. We asked if they wouldn't mind if we brought our kids back up there to swim. They were happy to oblige, stating lots of people enjoy the space.

It's not a strenuous hike, by any least not for us. The guy who lives behind the log wall told us there was access beyond Thurman Flats, along the highway, if you are looking for a shorter route. Otherwise, from Thurman Flats, take the stairs down to the creek and head left. Keep going. 

There is shade and on this day, the water was about waist deep. It can change at any time if the rangers or the Department of Fish and Wildlife (game?) come and tear it all down. For now though, it's a nicely hidden spot...It obviously gets well used though, as proven by the amount of trash, unfortunately. The guy that lives there collects recyclables so at least that helps keep the area cleaned up and he benefits by collecting the recycling fees.

Remember to pack out what you pack in. There are vault toilet restrooms at the Thurman Flats picnic area and a $5 Adventure (parking) Pass is required in the lot and along the highway. Lots of sun so remember to wear appropriate sun protective gear. Don't forget to bring water. The water levels may vary according to weather and season. The trail along the creek is rocky. I don't recommend a stroller but a back-pack/child carrier is fine. 


See you next week.

Example of the rocky terrain and cool, refreshing water. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

I'm grateful I was disowned.

SO! That's quite a title isn't it? Here we go...

There once was a girl, of only 16 years. Maybe she thought she was in love, maybe she was simply hoping someone really loved her. Whatever she was thinking or feeling, cost her childhood. Without knowing, she grew up in one night, as her future was conceived in her womb. Along with a baby, grew a burden of shame and guilt that she would carry for the rest of her life. Added to that was a nagging doubt she had made the wrong decision. Oh, not to have the baby and accept motherhood.

She made a life altering decision that she would never know for sure was the right one. She chose the father of her baby. She didn't leave it up to biology or chance. She took back her power and made the best decision she could, with the knowledge and skills she had at the time. She didn't live long enough to know it was the right one all along.

I have though.

I connected with my biological father a few years ago via facebook. He was never part of my life. He would say it was my mother's choice, shirking any personal responsibility. I know enough of the legal system, if he truly wanted to be in my life, nothing and no one could stop him. I was over that though. Willing to accept him as is and allow him into a small part, at least digitally through social media. My personal life was falling apart at the same time so it was all I could handle.

Fast forward to the past month. I discover that I have another brother. A biological half brother, who shares a father with me. Strange. He is quickly accepted by the extended paternal side of our family and by our father...for about three minutes. Then he was denied. I question bio-daddy about this and, oh about three minutes later, I was virtually disowned via social media. Since that was the only way I had to connect with him, I no longer can. Just.Like.That.

Here's the thing though. The real point of this post.

In that moment, when it all went down--though I felt shocked, I mostly felt immense gratitude. Confirmation that almost 45 years ago, my mom made the BEST choice ever. For me, for her, for the man I REALLY call dad. He was the best thing that happened to us. He is an amazing father. He also, did the best he could with the skills and knowledge he had. He stayed. He loved. He chose fatherhood, even as a teenager. He chose me.

One brief, shocking moment brought a lifetime of clarity...and healing. Resentments I didn't even know I had toward my parents, nothing major, self-centered, residual, teenage angst I didn't even perceive I had been carrying around-was healed in the realization that I was so blessed with the father who raised me.

All the work I've been doing on myself, working through heart ache to self-care, healing and being emotionally and mentally healthy and whole, was also demonstrated when I didn't react brokenly by bio-daddy's unwarranted shunning. I clearly saw his brokenness and let him carry it.

How could I have seen my own growth? Is there another way to practice gratitude but when you experience loss? Or are unjustly mistreated? How can you not be grateful for the distance from madness? Once again, I have been reminded...the separation is the rescue.

Thank you mom. You made the right choice.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Lewis Falls, Azuza

Tickle torture.
The trail to Lewis Falls is still well hidden and little known enough that you can have it to yourself. It is way up the mountain toward Crystal Lake and there are no trail markers. The road was closed for years, opened then closed again due to fire damage. It only re-opened a few months ago. 

Trying to get a shot of one brother, captured two...Can you see him?
The only marker is a NO FIRES sign that faces in the opposite direction. GPS via google maps will take you right to it, though you can't tell when you pull up. Park on the side of the road, there is a shoulder and use your Adventure Parking Pass. There are NO restrooms! You can use the restrooms at the Soldier Creek picnic area before you arrive at the trail head. This is NOT a stroller friendly hike and I do not recommend baby in a back pack style carrier because, as you will see in the following pix, the trail requires ducking, squatting and climbing up, over, and under tree branches, logs and rocks.

Ducking under! This branch got me right on the back of my shoulder as I tried to go under and thru. Ouch!
It is only about 1 mile to the falls but can feel intense at moments due to the ducking and climbing, which keeps it interesting. It's definitely not a flat trail. Trail is mostly shady which contributes to a bit of creep factor. The old cabin ruins don't help. There are also a couple cabins that are still in use, so be respectful of private property.

Climbing up rocky 'steps'.
Since the trail still doesn't get much use, it can be confusing to follow in a few spots. Five minutes in, you will come to a large boulder. Do not be fooled in thinking the trail leads along the left of the boulder toward the creek! It actually leads right to a switch back. You will head behind a private cabin, upwards and into full sun for a little while before returning to the creek for a few crossings.

This is not Lewis Falls.
The creek and falls were still flowing but the pool at the base of the falls certainly had a lower water level than the first time I did this hike with a friend. It's only ankle deep but still refreshing and beautiful to look at. Flies were more of a nuisance then I remember then the last time. Depending on the season, and drought conditions, the creek water flow could be very low.

Lewis Falls!
The falls are located in a small, narrow canyon. Boulders provide a few spots to sit. Beware of mosquitoes, large black ants, spiders and red ants, depending on the season. This trail is not boring. The climbing and the lush environment keeps it interesting.

Wild flowers, other flora and fauna are in bloom right now, at the end of spring. I don't think I saw any poison oak but be careful anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some growing along the trail. Parts of the trail are nearly over grown and very narrow. The blooming foliage also attracts plenty of bees. 

This trail is so enchanting. If there was ever a forest populated with would be this one! I can imagine them watching us stomp through their mossy neighborhoods. Be sure not to leave anything that could disturb them or their eco system, like trash.

I am sure these solar glares are fairies flying too close to my camera phone. Aren't they beautiful?
This is a very kid-friendly hike due to it's short distance and the visual and physical interest factor. The views from within the enchanted forest and along the side of the road, can not be beat. We give this a mid-to high rating on the adventure scale. You may see various birds and is snake season and though we didn't see any along the trail, we saw one attempting to cross the road on the drive up. Stay aware and toward the middle of the trail as much as possible.

See you next week.
Start the day outside! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Hike Day: La Tour, Victoria Beach-Laguna

This is more of a walk then a hike. If it's open, there is parking on the opposite side of PCH for free. No restrooms at this Beach point of entry. Not necessarily stroller friendly once you hit the sand. Child in a body carrier is fine. 

The main attraction of this hike is the little castle, known as La Tour (the tower) on the sand between the cliffs and shore. 

Make sure you go during low tide to be sure you can access the tower and so you can check out the tide pools. When you enter Victoria Beach, you won't see the tower. You will go to the right, from facing the ocean. Pass the corner of the first tide pools and the tower comes into view. 

Enjoy the view, the crashing waves and check out the sea treasures at the tide pools. This is a low intensity walk, though you will have to walk uphill on the beach access road and thru the residential neighborhood on the return.

There is a Ruby's Diner right up the street if you want to grab a burger. You can also head back down PCH, into the hub of Laguna Beach atmosphere.

Of course, you can actually swim in the water as well. Always be sure to use sun protection, stay hydrated and bring snacks if you don't plan on eating out. There is NO shade! 

Over all, it's a unique spot. How often do you get to take pix of a mini-castle on the beach? You can peer into the door and tiny windows to view a wooden staircase that leads all the way to the top. 

Or dream of being Rapunzel while you soak up some rays. Haha.

Start the Day Outside! 
See you next week. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Knotts Berry Farm Summer Fun: Ghost Town Alive

Ghost Town has a new interactive atmosphere for the summer. We had SO much fun yesterday. We were only there for a few hours (we're season pass holders) and ended up staying in Ghost Town the entire time. I know it's against the teen code to even admit, but my two teens loved being involved in all the town business and the 7 year old loved feeling included, looking for characters to deliver messages and letters to.

If you or your children are shy or non-joiners you can still enjoy the hands on aspect.  At the end of the block where the blacksmith is, the toy barn is now a livery. There's a couple horses and a donkey you can pet.

Across from the General Store is the Assay Office and the laundry, where you can pretend to wash and hang clothes on the clothes line. Next to that is the barber, get a custom mustache or a set of mutton chops finely groomed (drawn/painted) on your face. While you're there you might over hear some news about the Mayfield's threatening to take over Calico.

Right past Calico Grill is the new dress shop. Try on a fancy dress or skirt and snap a pic. Don't be startled if you hear a ruckus outside, probably a card game gone bad next door at the sheriff's...or a couple bandits getting locked up.

While we were there, a gold miner shared news of a robbery in progress at the bank...the sheriff hollered for all of us to follow him and check it out. Oh my! A gun fight broke out between two bandits on the balconies above the bank and the saloon! If you're a witness, you will be asked to file a report at the sheriff's station or draw a wanted poster at the bank.

If you'd rather stay away from the fray, mosey on into the Post Office. The postal clerk is unable to leave his post and may have a letter for you to deliver to the Mayor at Town Hall.

When we arrived two younguns' were getting hitched! They received a certificate of matrimony from the town of Calico and everything. We delivered the letter to the Mayor but...he wasn't too happy about what it said. He told us not to tell anyone.

We may have accidentally let it slip as we were playing match-maker, giving the paper boy some love advice. He's got the googly eyes for the perty daughter of a town official...but you didn't hear it from us!

There are a couple perty, new teachers at the school house. They are looking for dates for the Hoe Down that evening. There's a certain barber and snake-oil salesmen, I mean medicine-man, that has his wagon parked near by. I wonder why he's always hangin' around, he's too old to be in school? 

Do your civic duty and be sure to vote in the local election, for town Mayor of Calico, rumor has it, the race might be a close one. Don't forget to become a bona fide citizen as well and sign the guest book at Town Hall before you leave.

Keep your eyes and ears open, there are shady and shifty characters everywhere. You never know what you may see and hear in Calico, where you become part of the adventure!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Etiwanda Falls, Rancho Cucamonga

You would never believe this trail leads to a shady oasis consisting of a refreshing creek and waterfall. This hike was almost overwhelming for all of us. It's dry, rocky, full sun and up hill the entire way! 

We arrived at 10am and temps were already high. Please hydrate the day before and bring more water than you think you would need. The hike isn't that long at all but under the blazing sun-yikes! 

Parking is free in a small gravel lot, adjacent to a residential community.  Due to the slippery, rocky path, this is NOT a stroller friendly hike but would be great for a child carrier-make sure the child is well protected from the sun. 

There are two gated trails, take the one straight ahead from the parking lot. There will be a couple trails that lead to the sharp left and to the sharp right, these head to shaded picnic areas. 

When you reach a triple fork in the road and a faded sign on a stone marker, with an arrow pointing left, take the trail in the middle, with a gate. If it's hot, you may feel like giving up-DON'T! The trail really isn't that long, maybe 30 minutes to the creek.

You will eventually reach a grate with water flowing through it. Splash some on your neck to cool down, you are very close! Follow the trail up one more time, you will see the trees and probably hear other visitors. 

You will finally come upon a shady grove, the creek in front of you and the falls to the right, below. You will be at the top of the falls. The base is accessible with caution, at least when we went and the water was flowing but low. 

The base of the falls was filled with beautiful butterflies; tiny blue ones and larger yellow ones. There were too many to count! 

After such a warm hike the water is refreshing and cool. The hike is not that exciting in and of itself. At the top, you can catch some awesome views of the canyon and the city below. 

It gets a mid-level score on the adventure scale. Children will enjoy the water and may see lizards. Older kids may enjoy exploring further up the creek. Be aware of bees among the wild flowers and congregating near the water. Be sure to save some of your water for the way back down...and watch your step. The rocky trail can be slippery. Hiking shoes recommended.

See you next week! 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Abuse Drills

We teach our young children safety in every aspect, like staged fire drills, earthquake drills, stranger danger, what parts of their body should be considered private etc. But often over look emotional health and well being, especially as they get older.

As vigilant parents, we have to over-come our own awkwardness and have the hard conversations. Tell your daughters and sons what domestic violence and abuse looks like. Prepare them so they never doubt themselves or perpetrate it on another.
Teach them an escape plan for abuse. What to do if they find themselves the victim of a situation you never want to imagine will happen.

For my daughter, our plan goes like this: 

1. Do whatever you need to do to stay safe in the immediate moment.
2. Remove yourself from the situation/person ASAP.
3. If unable to remove self,  get to a phone soon as it is safe and you can.
4. Call your brother or me and we will come get you immediately-no questions asked.

It's simple and not too much to think about in an emergency.

Encourage them to listen to their inner voice that tells them something is just off about a person. To pay attention when they get a bad vibe. Most of all, empower them with healthy boundaries. 

Explain to your sons and daughters, their individual value and how a relationship will never meet all their needs or make them whole-because they aren't half a person! And their deepest needs can only be met by Christ.

This way they won't over ride red flags, signs and checks in their spirit out of desperation, the idea that they lack the worthiness to be treated with respect and honor or worse; that no one else will ever love or want them.

Speak God's identy truths into them-yes! This is not a guarantee...just as earthquakes, fires, and accidents happen. Situations can happen that we may never expect, but they must be prepared for them. This isn't fearful parenting any more than having a fire escape route in your home or explaining gun safety. This is empowered parenting! 

Build up your children spiritually and emotionally, as well as equipping them practically. I didn't grow up witnessing any form of domestic violence between my parents but it was never explained or talked about either. It wasn't clear to me what it was exactly...I thought it only looked like someone getting beat up and visibly bruised regularly.

Now I've learned, it doesn't always look that way and can be even more unrecognizable if you are unfamiliar with abusive behaviors. 

You are your children's advocate. The most equipped teacher of life experience IS YOU! You can do this!