Touring Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hubby and I enjoy hiking in the great outdoors, provided there are bathrooms and snacks, and as you are aware of my self-discipline methods, you know it’s not about my physique so much as it’s about fun.

Last weekend, the Hubbs and I thought it would be fun to do an early morning beach hike, so off we went to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Grab your sunglasses and enjoy the gorgeous views with us.

When you walk up to it, you can see that the Torrey Pines loop goes up one side and down the other side of a large sandstone bluff. The loop is technically more of a tipped oval with some squiggles at the bottom and a couple of ampersands curling off the top, so you can decide up front what kind of hike you want.

Whether you go clockwise or not depends entirely on whether you brought small whiny children.

If you did, begin by walking up the paved road on your left. Get the uphill out of the way immediately, while you still have your strength. Bribe them up the hill with a trail of gummy bears. Once you make the top they will be too tired to run off cliffs but not too tired to make it downstairs to the beach on the other side.

The rest of us begin with a long, luxurious walk on the beach, sauntering south along the cliff base and dodging waves and romantically holding hands until it dawns on you that you forgot your snacks in the car and wait, is the tide is coming in? And how far down there is the staircase anyway and whoops you just got a shoe soaked and maybe you’d better hustle up because what if there’s an earthquake right here under this crumbling catacomb and then a tidal wave hits?

Already, your hike is exhilarating.

You know you’ve reached the stairway to heaven when you face Bird Rock, which is occasionally covered in birds. Unless the tide is incoming and they sense danger.

Go 300 feet briskly uphill, attempting to join the birds.

The view gets very distracting after ten minutes.

You can walk out onto different loops over the bluffs and take in La Jolla to the south, Del Mar to the north, and surfers directly below.

Against the sapphire backdrop, rose, gold, cinnamon and ginger sandstone ribbons host yucca, cactus, beach grasses. California coastal sage scrub tries to hold the sand together, but it feels like only a matter of time before the Pacific will rub it down. Everything is polished by the salty kisses of wind and sea, even the famous Torrey pine trees that crown the bluff with twisting trunks and fanning fingers.

Traveling up and over the ridge, you pass tourists speaking in Japanese, families whose kids are hopping one. slow. step. at. a. time. along the twisting pathway, collegiate first dates discussing Disney cruises and church youth planning trips to Tanzania. Three girls in flowing hair and yoga pants pose for selfies on the summit.

You stand in the middle, Kara, you’re so cut!”

My eyes roll hard to leeward as I stride past muttering, “Good luck in therapy, Barbie.”

Coming down the backside of the Reserve on the paved road, I get the feeling we’ve done the loop backwards. Everyone is coming towards us and they all have gummy bears.

But we are not here to play casual Sunday driver, no. We are here for buns of brass. Stairmasters of steel. Quads of…um…quality. Yeah!

Are we there yet?

After hiking the Torrey Pines loop, we still had another mile or so to walk to our parking spot: back along N. Torrey Pines Rd, between the Pacific and Los Penasquitos Lagoon, under the bridge, through the North Beach parking lot, and back down Carmel Valley Rd, where we paused in front of Roberto’s and looking deeply into each others’ eyes, had the same thought.

Burritos for breakfast. Now.

Let’s all take a knee for a moment and recognize the authentic burrito for what it is: revival. I had a massive bean and cheese wrapped in a freshly made tortilla, warm and slightly crisped, salty queso melting into plump juicy pintos. How you can make beans into art is beyond me.

I ate it much too fast to show you a picture of it.

Kara and Barbie need to get their priorities straight.

Loonies and Tunies

The dust is starting to settle from our road trip to Victoria, British Colombia and in one fell swoop, I would like to tell everyone all about it and how much fun we had and how I almost died.

If you followed my new Instagram during those two weeks, you already know what I’m talking about, but running that little social media experiment taught me a few things:

  1. If you’re on Instagram, you are under the age of 20 or (ahem) you are just trying to monitor your child under 20’s selfies. So you don’t care if I almost died, because your selfies are of you, yourself, trying to do it deliberately.
  2. If you’re on Facebook, you are over 20, heavily caffeinated and keeping up with the Kardashians. They seem like a nice family. According to what they choose to post. So you also don’t care if I almost died unless there’s a video of it happening, and maybe an interactive game that tells you your personality afterwards.
  3. If you’re still reading email, you’re getting older. But at least you can still read something longer than five words strung together, covered in hashtags and destroyed by third-grade spelling skills. You are fairly interested in my death if it involves plot twists and a fascinating setting, such as India.
  4. If you just started in on the new Pokemon craze, it was nice knowing you. I’m sorry you stepped in front of the bus while searching for a Pokemon gym, *sad face emoji* but face it, your death will be pretty boring because it did not involve the following real life stuff:

The first week was spent toodling through Oregon and Washington. We visited redwoods and Paul Bunyon and beaches and lighthouses and dunes and ended up along the Columbia River Gorge. We went jet-boating down the Rogue River and saw bald eagles everywhere. We drove past Mt. St. Helens and several other volcanoes in disguise.

Crater Lake lived up to it’s reputation: fascinating and gorgeous.

We loved the Tillamook cheese factory (because we are nerds) and spent half a day at the Bonneville dam waiting for something to go through the locks (because we are engineering nerds) and I found out this abomination exists:

Lamprays: long as your arm, living in rivers, and trying to give you the kiss of death.

However, the beauty of the pacific northwest will knock your socks off. I highly recommend the trip. Just stay out of the water.

Waterfalls everywhere.

Bridges everywhere. This one is six miles long, connecting Oregon and Washington. We drove it just for the shrieking fun of it.

Chuhily Glass Museum. A Seattle “must see”. I have so many photos from this!

Seattle from the Space Needle. That “cloud” on the right is Mt. Ranier. Honest.

Once we were in Canada, we packed even more into our days. We went tubing down the Cowichan and built driftwood forts on beaches and enjoyed bellinis on the bay and wandered farmers markets and rode ferries and camped on a deserted sand spit like Robinson Caruso.

Because a tent is inadequate…

We stared at First Nations totem poles and inhaled Butchart Gardens and hiked past radioactive green slugs. We listened to marimba bands.

But the place I almost died was called WildPlay. My boys got wind of this adventure and demanded we all do it. When it was over, they said it was the best part of our trip. Hmm.


My fam was pretty much in paradise. Each obstacle got higher and harder as you worked your way up between treetops. Zip-lines delivered you to the next terror. Er, challenge.

I understood that, as long as I was clipping my carabiner correctly, the mechanism would catch me if I slipped, a thousand feet up.

I was afraid of the first ten inches of free-falling until it caught. Maybe.

I was afraid of being “that guy”. The guy who slipped and had to hang in space like a pinata until the ten-year-old gymnast employee rescued me in front of everybody.

WildPlay Victoria: where the crazy people play.

The steps wobbled, the trees swayed, I focussed on breathing. I did not once look down.

I was most of the way through and proud of myself for neither throwing up nor freezing with my arms around a tree crying, “Hold me!”

But the bicycle handles were my Alamo.

I had to grip them and swing across the abyss to another tree but I couldn’t. My palms were too sweaty and my arms were so tired and I. Looked. Down.

It was the longest ten minutes of my life as my mind fought my body over certain death. Aloud, I insisted I would rather have a root canal. I would rather give birth unmedicated. I would rather do anything than trust my grip on those handlebars. Where’s the elevator? I’m DONE!

I did it.

There was kicking and screaming and denial and possibly tears, and when I finally got back to terra firma I was ready to kiss the sweet ground.

I’d like to see THAT featured in a Pokemon game.

I’m leaving you with one last photo. I like to photograph heights, not be in them.


Mt. Shasta on the drive home left us breathless in the best possible way.

I know this was long, thank you for sharing our trip. Ask me anything else in the comment box, and I will try to fill in the gaps. *happy face emoji*

Welcome to Victoria, BC

We crossed the border on Canada Day, which just sings with appropriateness, however unplanned it was. Already we felt Canuck. Slightly french, but with beer undertones.

Victoria is on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada, and unlike Hawaii, you can take a ferry to get there. On a map, the whole area looks like a crushed potato chip floating in a water glass.

With trees.

We took the longest ferry ride they offered and scanned islands in every direction, waiting in vain for explosions.

I can watch a dozen fireworks shows from the hill in my backyard on the Fourth of July.

Come on Canada, blow something up. It’s a party, eh?


Our hostess with the mostest baked this lush beauty for the occasion, so we had some party after all.


Our week was packed with shenanigans, and the very next morning we planned to get onto a(nother) ferry and head to Salt Spring Island for the day.

The girls took the van early, to get a good spot on the boat. The boys decided to take bikes for some manly fresh air. Somehow I missed the memo.

I woke to an empty house and a lone teenager who was assigned one job: getting me to the ferry on time.

Now there’s a good first impression.

By the time I was dropped off at the bustling docks, it was ten minutes to launch.

Striding down to the wharf in a manner that showed I clearly knew what the heck I was doing, it occurred to me that there were multiple ferries going to multiple islands, and none of them were labeled.

Vehicles began to snake their way along the asphalt. Where was ours?

I turned to the nearest orange-vested custodian of the seas, and asked which ferry went to Salt Spring. He pointed to all of them and I didn’t hear his reply because suddenly I realized:

  1. All of my people were on a boat somewhere right now and I was not.
  2. All of my people had a ticket. I did not, because I had been dropped at the curb.
  3. What if my people had my ticket but now they – and my ticket – are on a boat?
  4. My cell phone was internationally useless. I was on my own.

What is this nonsense? Who has to hop on a boat anytime they want to go somewhere? Where are the bridges? Why do we all need tickets? Where do you buy tickets?

It was five minutes to launch.

I must have babbled some of that out loud in a properly befuddled American tourist accent, because the orange vest then pointed in the opposite direction. I retraced my steps at a trot now, fondling the one thing that could save my bacon: a credit card.

The tiny office held a lone officer who was talking a tourist through something that was obviously not as important as my imminent hysterics.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to communicate my plight telepathically.

Manners are so overrated.

Just then, another officer walked through the door and I leapt into her personal space crying, “Ineedtogetonthesaltspringferrythatleavesrightnowandidonthaveaticket!”

“Oh, honey, I think it’s too late to sell you one, but I’ll just call up there and ask.”

Maybe they just like to watch the tourists writhe a little.

She sold me a ticket, one eye on the clock, and I flat out ran the entire length of the landing, past startled shoppers and through queues of moving cars and lounging coffee sippers and disapproving orange vests.

Dignity is so overrated.

The last vest pointed to a boat and breathless, I reached the gate.

There was the Hubbs.

He was standing on my side of the ferry.

An orange vest escorted us on board and closed the gate. The engines started up.

“What were you going to do” I asked, “if I missed the boat?”

“Stay here and have Tim’s with you,” he said.

I reckon that guy can pack the luggage in the car any way he wants, eh?


Otherwise Known As The WAP

The small child looked directly at my girlfriend’s butt.

“Is that a spider on you?” he innocently asked.

It was a situation that, on the surface, called for an immediate break dance maneuver and the “Get it off me!” song sung a cappella.

Except we were standing with ten people and a stroller, in an elevator meant for six.

These are the kinds of memories that come to me when you suggest a visit out to our family’s “go to” tourist spot: The Wild Animal Park, aka: The San Diego Zoological Society that Changed it’s Name to Confuse Us.

By calling it a “Safari”.

Now, you can buy a safari that drives out among the rhinos, one for zip lining over antelope herds, one for hot air ballooning over the lions, or that mazes through treetops over *gasp* tourists.

My kids grew up on the monorail out there. You could entertain school kids, let the toddler nap, and nurse the baby all at once. You got a nice breeze, no one escaped, and if you were lucky, the giraffes would play tetherball with each others’ heads.

The ancient monorail finally bit the dust one night, leaving tourists to wend their way back to civilization on foot (I would pay serious money for that safari), and now you can see Africa and Asia on the safari tram, same perks.

So…ask my family for a private safari tour, and you will be shown things that were never marked on the map.

Sure, you can see the lions mate and the tigers stand eye to eye with your snack-sized toddler.

You can watch the gorilla troop wrestle and climb and pee off the cliff.

Yes, you can pay to feed the lorikeets while they land on your head and poo in your purse.

But did you know you could feed the giant catfish down by the flamingos?

You spend a quarter on a fistful of duck kibble and walk to the shady edge of the wooden bridge. As you toss it, the ducks come swarming. Within a minute you notice that the water is beginning to boil, and from under the ducks bob the massive heads of four-foot catfish, all fighting over the food.

We waited years for a catfish to swallow a duck by mistake.

Recently, the duck food dispensers were removed.

I guess it’s BYO for the catfish safari.

Stand with your back to the fruit bat exhibit *shudder* and look at the boat structure they added for restaurant seating.

Notice how it sits in a dirt area?

If you remove the boat and the dirt, you will have the original concrete swamp that used to hold their white alligator.

Before that, it was the elephant wash.

There was a time when you could watch keepers lead elephants to the empty pool and hose them off on a summer day.

Obviously, this prime real estate was needed for you to eat your french fry safari on.

You could walk over to the low rock walls that now surround the butterfly exhibit, and that was the line for the elephant rides. And camel rides. There was a burro in there somewhere.

Somehow, the carousel safari isn’t quite the same thing…

Also on our list of “things you must see” is Max.

Not Max the Emu, he was one of my favorites at the old bird show.

He would run between two keepers, taking a bite of kibble, over and over again.

“This bird’s eyes are larger than his brain. He doesn’t even remember where his bedroom is. In his own mind, Max is very popular. He makes two new friends every time he comes on stage. This is Max the Emu…and this is all he does!”

That poor bird was determinedly optimistic, and just like him, I always have the feeling that I am meeting new friends. Friends who love me and want to share their kibble.

Okay, maybe there’s something familiar about their face…and they seem to know me already.

But that’s never stopped me from being just so happy to be a part of whatever the heck is going on.

Blink blink.

The Max I refer to is a salmon crested cockatoo that sits, today, at the back of the Plant Trader. Max is an old man, even in bird years, but anyone who has ever been greeted by Max in the past goes looking for him first and last.

He talks and whistles and can carry on like a flamenco dancer; he throws kisses to the ladies.

Which reminds me.

Never go into the petting kraal. The animals pet you back.

That includes lorikeet landing, lemur walk, cactus gardens, and the geese in the lagoon loop.

Always check the nursery for possible animal baby cuteness overload.

An okapi is a velvet giraffe who met a zebra in a bar once.

Smuggling a meerkat home: yes.

Smuggling a spider home: no.

Not on your butt, anyway.

Hi Max! Give us a kiss!