Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hello San Marcos, CA and all of Southern California...show me what you've got!

It's been about 6 weeks since I moved from Sedona, AZ to San Marcos, CA and I'm getting into the Cali groove. I do miss the visual beauty of my healing red rocks and the absence of traffic, but Southern California has alot to offer this avid hiker.

My first order of business was to establish 5 different hiking trails nearby for my daily hikes and mission accomplished with the San Elijo Hills (4 minutes away), Elfin Forest, Daley Ranch (has 3 different trailheads) and Del Dios Highlands (the last 3 are 10-15 minutes away). Elfin Forest & San Elijo Hills give you an ocean view on clear days:
elfin forest

Saturdays or Sundays (depending on weather and family commitments) are reserved for the big, long, 4+ hour hikes and I've enjoyed Palomar Mountain, Crystal Cove Park, Hellhole Canyon and Caspers Wilderness Park. I'm also going to start hiking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, which is not too far from me. Here's Crystal Cove on July 5th:
And Santiago Peak looks like it needs to be climbed, so there's plenty to keep me busy for the next year. I'm happy to start using my favorite hiking resource from when I lived here in 2011, Brian & Ashleys Hiking Blog. They are the SoCal (and beyond) hiking experts.

And so far, after the morning cloud cover from the ocean dissipates, every day has been sunny and 80's, followed by sunny and 80's, with one cloudy and 80's day last Saturday. Can't complain about that!

If you have any Southern California hikes you just love, share them in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Custom Memory Remembrance Stuffed Animal from TheFabricPhoenix on Etsy

My sister was expecting a new baby boy and she asked me if I could create a rememberance stuffed animal from our dads shirt. We lost our dad in 2001 and I had done this for my niece, Grace, when she was a baby from a shirt my mom gave me. It felt important to have this connection for Grace to a Grandpa she will never meet, but is always with her.

I searched Etsy for memory bears (the first one I did was a stuffed bear) and found this shop on Etsy, TheFabricPhoenix. After a few messages with the owner, I bought a monkey on March 13, 2014. The owner sent me a message to mail the shirt to her and it was then I noticed she was in the United Kingdom (I'm in the US). I did not read the entire listing and if I had known that before purchasing, I probably would not have done it. This shirt is too precious to risk sending out of the country, so I thought.

But, I am an online seller with a good reputation and she is too, so I rolled the dice. I mailed it Priority Mail to the UK (you should have seen the struggle in choosing insurance, this was so valuable there is no dollar amount that I could come up with) on 3/17/2014.

Dads shirt:
And then I started biting my nails. She received it on 3/24/2014 and sent me a quick message to let me know. On 4/2/2014 she sent me a picture of the monkey and let me know she is sending him tomorrow. Very nice customer service. I received the monkey on 4/18/2014 and he is perfect:
She used the collar from the shirt as his collar and the buttons too. The attention to detail and the artistry that went into recreating dads shirt into his grandsons new stuffed companion was professional and flawless.

So, thank you Cindy for doing such a great job! My nephew Blake is here and his monkey is in his crib with him. I highly recommend her services to anyone in the world!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bye Sedona, it's been an amazing year!

I'm so happy I took a year to explore Sedona. It's truly a beautiful place that everyone should visit once in their lives.

My favorite part is the over 100 hiking trails. This entire town is composed of interconnected hiking trails. And I hiked every single one. The Sedona Parks District does an exemplary job of maintaining these trails and I very rarely saw neglected, damaged areas or trash. My favorite hikes in order:

1. Bear Mountain
2. Wilson Mountain
3. Hangover Trail
4. HiLine Trail loop with a quick climb up Cathedral Rock
5. AB Young Trail (be careful crossing Oak Creek before and after the trail)
6. Scheurman Mountain
7. All the rest

I pushed my body further than I ever thought I could and became stronger in the process. I've had countless blisters, muscle aches, dehydration, elevation sickness, heat stroke and when I was positive I could not take another step, I did it anyway. I met someone new every day: hikers, bikers, unemployed, millionaires, retired, military, locals and people from all over the world.

And I turned 50 in this beautiful place and celebrated with a helicopter ride over my lovely Sedona.

A couple things surprised me:
1. There is a monsoon season here. It was from July to September when I was here. It poured rain almost every afternoon. You can see the huge dark clouds coming your way and it was really beautiful. So yes, it does rain here.
2. Cost of living was very reasonable. I am used to paying Chicago prices and the expenses here were very low. Rent, electricity, fuel, all about 20% - 30% lower than Chicago.
3. Vortexes: I felt nothing at the Cathedral Rock, Airport and Cow Pies vortexes, but felt peace and calm at the Boynton Canyon and Bell Rock vortexes. Just sayin'.
4. Except for the helicopters during the day, it is very, very quiet here. Not many police or fire sirens, d-bags with loud sub-woofers in their cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, none of that. Peaceful.
5. Hitchhikers. Haven't seen them in many years.
6. Parking is free everywhere. After living in Chicago and LA and paying for looking at a parking space, this was a nice surprise. The only fee I incurred was for a yearly Red Rock Pass for $20 to park at all the trailheads.

If you need to carve out a quiet place in your mind and want to connect with all the beauty that mother nature has to offer, come to Sedona. If you're looking for action, noise, commotion, distractions, go to Vegas :)

Have you ever visited Sedona? Tell me about it in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sedona 4WD Adventure Day: Munds Mtn, Schnebly Hill, Honanki Cliff Dwellings

Ever since I started exploring Sedona last June, I noticed there were a few unpaved roads that I could not access with my Ford Focus. I knew I had to get out there. I rented a jeep from Barlow Jeep Rentals on May 11th for 24 hours, her name is Lelu. They were very helpful and the jeep was safe and rugged.
barlow jeep rentals
Here we go, leaving those paved roads behind!
schnebly hill road
First stop, up Schnebly Road to the Merry Go Round Trailhead. Start hiking up the Schnebly Hill Trail:
schnebly hill trail
Lovely views of Sedona on the way up:
schnebly hill trail
Cows:
sedona cows
After 2 miles, intersect with the Munds Mountain Trail:
munds mountain trail
 Keep climbing (my Sedona mantra) to grab some amazing views:
munds mountain

munds mountain
A little bad weather was heading my way and was surprised by about 5 minutes of snow during my descent:
munds mountain 
Next stop, Schnebly Hill Vista:
schnebly hill vista
Another cow. Pretty much seen all Schnebly Hill Road has to offer:
schnebly hill vista
Time to head west and explore more territory:
west sedona
I came upon the Honanki Cliff Dwellings ruins, but they were closed. A very nice guy from Pink Jeeps tours let me in to take a look at the "living museum":
honanki cliff dwellings
honanki cliff dwellings
And finally more exploration out west of Sedona and a magnificent sunset:
sedona views

sedona views

sedona sunset
Lelu and I explored Sedona for 12 hours and at the end of the trip, we were both covered in red dust and tired, but loved every minute of it. Have you ever taken a back country 4 wheel drive trip in Sedona? Tell me about it in the comments, I'd love to hear about your adventures.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sedona Birthday Helicopter Ride

My 50th (yes five oh) birthday was May 5th and I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. So I booked a helicopter tour with Sedona Air Tours. They had 3 tours to choose from, I picked the Ancients Way Tour because I'm fond of those hiking trails and that area of Sedona.

I showed up bright and early on May 5th ready to fly. After checking in, weighing in and getting our pre-flight instructions, I hopped on board:

sedona air tours
Roger that, ready to launch:
ready to fly
Pilots name was Big John originally from Iowa. Here we go:
sedona helicopter view
Big John kept us informed of what we were seeing, but I was so dazzled I barely could take it all in.
sedona helicopter view
A quick pass over Devils Bridge:
devils bridge sedona
Just one jaw dropping breath taking view after another. And this from someone who's been running all over these rocks for 11 months:
ancients wayancients way
We saw lots of ruins left by the people who used to live in these rocks:
ancients way
A quick pass over Doe Mountain:
doe mountain
And coming in for landing:
sedona airport
It was over way too soon and my first thought was wow, followed by again again, when can I do this again. I'll try to squeeze in one more flight before I head out to California. Have you ever taken a Sedona helicopter ride? Share your story with me in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Make your own liquid laundry detergent

homemade laundry detergent
One of my customers just made a big batch of laundry detergent and scented it with Breezes & Sunshine. I asked for her recipe and she was happy to share it with everyone:

LYNN’S HOMEMADE LIQUID LAUNDRY SOAP

Grate 1 bar Fels Naphtha soap
Gradually heat soap and 2 quarts water-stir until dissolved
In 5 gallon bucket, pour 4.5 gallons (72 cups/18 quarts) of hot tap water
Stir in 1 cup Borax and 1 cup washing soda until dissolved.
Add soap mixture into bucket. Add fragrance oils, stir well. Cover and leave over night.
Shake or stir until smooth, pour into gallon containers (5)
Use ½ - 1 cup per load

Thanks Diane & Lynn!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grand Canyon climb: Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point and back up again

I started this hike at 11:00 am on Saturday, April 19th. There was a 30% chance of rain and partly sunny and since it was a free park admission day and I am moving away soon, this seemed like the perfect time. This is a tough hike, starting elevation is 6724' and the lowest I got (about 1000' above the Colorado River) was 3695' at Plateau Point. Elevation change of 3029', which made for a loooong climb back up. I finished at 5:00 pm, 13 miles round trip in 6 hours. Here we go, doesn't look so bad, does it?
My destination is Plateau Point where the arrow is pointing:
Making my descent, weather is still good:
Made it to Indian Gardens:
Nice cool creek:
Looking back at Indian Gardens, looks pretty and green amid all these cliffs and rocks:
Finally made it to the Plateau Point at 1:10, incredible views of the Colorado River.


Time to start the big climb back up, started drizzling a bit, but nothing major.
The squirrels were very friendly and completely unafraid of all the hikers. They probably knew we are all too tired to bother them.
Climbing. Started forming a support group of hikers ascending, we would all cheer each other on and offer support and encouragement. Met a bunch of really nice people from all over, North & South Dakota, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Guy behind me said this was a female elk? I thought it looked like a mule deer. Still not sure.
They were doing helicopter cargo transports above us all day:
This is me right after the drizzle and right before the sleet and heavy rain hit about 1.5 miles from the rim. It was a tough mile and a half climb, soaking wet being hit by sleet, but I did it. I tested my new photochromic sunglasses all day and they really worked well, darkened when sunny and lightened when cloudy. And they protected my eyes from all the allergens and debris that the winds were kicking around all day. I noticed alot of the (serious) hikers were wearing them that day.
Goodbye Grand Canyon. I take home my first heel blood blister (ouch), a few aching muscles and satisfaction that I did it! Not a hike I'll soon forget.
If you ever have a chance to hike this national treasure, do it!! Have you ever done this hike or one like it? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!