Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Big Cats, Little Kitties: African Style November 25, 2014

Cheetah

Cheetah, Idube

Cheetah

Baby animals

Leopard in a tree with a  kill

African Painted Dogs

Cheetah, Idube

Cheetah, Idube

That was my safari wishlist.

When I was in South Africa 2 years ago, there weren’t any cheetahs in the Sabi Sands area, but this time…we saw cheetahs several times!  Lucky us!

Lioness and cub, Mala Mala

Lioness and cub, Mala Mala

These remarkable cats are fast, lean and breathtakingly beautiful.  Their facial markings are mesmerizing.  And to see them casually stroll down a trail, well you can only imagine how they would look sprinting after prey.  We were fortunate enough to witness a cheetah stalking a steenbok at dusk.  Depending on which team you were rooting for it was either a disappointment or a win!  The steenbok survived!

We saw 2 sets of “kitties”!  We found some adorable lion cubs in Mala Mala where we stayed for our first day on safari!  Check out the cub sleeping with his foot on his mom’s head!

Lion cub, Mala Mala

Lion cub, Mala Mala

The remainder of our safari was spent at wonderful Idube.  As you may recall, this is the camp we enjoyed on my first African trip.  It was the perfect spot, so naturally we returned here for trip 2!  As expected, Idube delivered another epic safari experience!

Leopard cubs, Idube

Leopard cubs, Idube

Rob the Ranger and Ronald the Tracker and their uncanny sixth sense about the animals and the land provided one amazing sighting after another…with so much interesting information and background.  And this is how we came to find these darling leopard cubs!  You can see they are very well camouflaged.  I don’t have my video loaded up yet, but their behavior was 100%  “domestic kitten”!  Tasha (certifiable cat lady) was entranced!  Even I (certifiable dog lady) was charmed!

Thanks to Rob and Ronald’s brilliance we encountered a pride of 6 lionesses, meandering through the bush.  Rob pulled up at a random trail head and the next thing we knew, a parade of these beautiful cats walked up to our jeep, and continued on their way, as they circumnavigated our vehicle.  Without a doubt, it was one of the most thrilling and authentic moments of my life.

Lioness Parade, Idube

Lioness Parade, Idube

Lioness Parade, Idube

Lioness Parade, Idube

Cue “Circle of Life” song from The Lion King for the next bit…

We came across a small pride of lionesses enjoying a late night snack.  As we approached the site, the unmistakable scent of freshly killed impala pervaded the air–there really isn’t a comparable smell.  I’m not sure if there was a feeding frenzy before we arrived, but the group now seemed to be sharing the meal amicably…each getting their fill.  I didn’t take any photos of this because a) it was too dark to get a decent pic and b) it seemed so graphic.  You’ll just have to use your imagination…or not!

IMG_1233

Leopard, Idube

Our last night at Idube, Ronald spotted a hyena during our sundowners (sunset drinks).  Suddenly the hyena took off and the next thing we knew we hurriedly packed up our refreshments and ventured in the vehicle.  A leopard had made a kill and was storing it in a tree.  Leopards are the only cats that haul their food into trees for safe keeping.  Other creatures who might steal the leopard’s prey cannot climb trees–so it’s a good strategy.  Anyhoo, we arrived at the tree.  And who should be circling the trunk but the hyena we saw at drinks!  Evidently news travels fast in the wild world of the safari!  It should be pointed out that while it is a violent and “dog eat dog” world in the bush, there is no waste.  Killing is not for sport–it is for survival.  As the leopard ate the impala, the hyena waited below for any scraps that might fall.  Eventually, the remains would fall from the tree where hyenas and vultures would finish it up.  Thus the Circle of Life continues…

And so, I was able to scratch most of the items off my wish list!  Still waiting to see the elusive African Painted Dogs!

Next up:  more animals!

 

 

Cape of Good Hope, 2 Oceans and Some Penguins! October 26, 2014

Long Beach, South Africa

Long Beach, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

A full and complete day!

On our recent South Africa holiday, Tasha and I spent an entire day exploring points south of Cape Town.  And it was epic.

Sandra from Africa Dynamics set us up with a wonderful tour guide–Albert Pote.  Albert picked us up at our apartment and the day started with a stop at Hout Bay–a little fishing village with a lovely marina.  Lots of sea life makes this a popular spot to view seals.

From there we wandered down the coast and over some hills with incredible vistas including beautiful Long Beach.

 

 

 

Tasha and the ostrich!

Tasha and the ostrich!

IMG_1267

Cdnpearly and the ostriches

Albert stopped at an ostrich ranch.  He taught the finer points of feeding these HUGE birds!

 

Pincushion

Pincushion

From there we entered the Table Mountain National Park.  The pincushion flowers were spectacular.

IMG_3439

Two Oceans Restaurant

IMG_3441

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Lunch was at the incredible Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point.  Albert had arranged an amazing table overlooking False Bay.  The restaurant is open air and the views are as good as the food!  Birds and baboons also enjoy the Two Oceans, so squirt bottles are placed strategically along the railing–guests and staff “encourage” the creatures to move along with a well placed squirt of water!

 

 

 

 

Cape Point

Cape Point

Following our lunch, we took the Funicular (cable car) to the top of Cape Point.  It was bustling with tourists, but Albert expertly guided us to the best vantage points where we took photos and simply soaked in the location–the southern-most tip of Africa.  Also, we could see the delineation of the two oceans–Indian and Atlantic.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Well, actually, that’s not quite true–the oceans don’t seem to mind where they co-mingle!  However, tradition suggests that Cape Point is the meeting place of these 2 bodies of water.

Albert recommended hiking between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  Since the weather was glorious (again!) and the views promised to be spectacular, we strolled along the well maintained board walk/path hugging the coast line high above the beach.  Tasha and I loved every moment of this hike.

 

 

IMG_1366

African Penguin

IMG_1368

African Penguins, Boulders Beach

From here we traveled north and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simonstown where the ever popular African Penguins hang out. These adorable creatures were formally known as Jack Ass Penguins due to their distinctive mating calls!  Everyone loves penguins!  So it was pretty busy here, however, once again, Albert knew the best place to view and take pictures.  A lovely boardwalk lead us through a wooded area where we saw the penguins’ burrows (nests).  As we approached the beach we were delighted by these sweet birds–waddling on the beach, swimming in the surf, falling/jumping off boulders in the water…mesmerizing!  Definitely worth stopping here for awhile!

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

And just like that, our very full day of sightseeing drew to a close!

If you have the chance to explore this remarkable area, I recommend a tour with Albert.  He immediately understood the type of activity we enjoyed and tailored the day to suit us.  Albert’s knowledge of the area, history, culture, sights etc. was impressive.  He also suggested some other activities to take in during the rest of our holiday–and offered to help us book reservations.  We took him up on his generous offer and in my next post, you’ll see how much we really enjoyed them!

 

 

Feet on the Table! October 16, 2014

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Lucky me!  I returned to Africa for 2 weeks recently with my good friend Tasha, including 6 days in beautiful Cape Town!

Having never been to Cape Town before (technically I have been to Cape Town before–so my mom says, when I was an infant…but that’s a story for another time) I wanted to make sure we hit all the well known spots…and Table Mountain towered above all the options–literally!

My research on Trip Advisor lead us to Hike Table Mountain and Riaan.  His hikes are currently ranked as the Number One activity to do in Cape Town.  After completing Riaan’s survey and some email back-and-forth, a route was selected:  Porcupine Ravine to Maclear’s Beacon, and across the top of Table Mountain where hopefully we would ride the Funicular (cable car) down to the parking lot.

Our path up the mountain...

Our path up the mountain…

Riaan picked us up at 6am and we were joined by a Canadian couple.  Within a few minutes we were ready to begin.

It is daunting to look up…waaaaaay up…to the top of Table Mountain and realize that we were going there!

I suspected that I might have been a little deluded over enthusiastic about my fitness level on Riaan’s survey when I was sweating like a pig winded on the approach to the trail head!  Riaan however, chatted easily as we walked along the path–pointing out beautiful and rare orchids, as well as many other plants.  He provided a thorough and riveting history of Table Mountain (it’s older than the Himalayas and it was 3 miles higher than its current elevation at its creation).

Porcupine Ravine Summit--view of Camp's Bay

Porcupine Ravine Summit–view of Camp’s Bay

Riaan immediately assessed the strengths and weaknesses of our group and offered the perfect combination of challenge and support for us all.  The Canadian couple were experienced hikers (the Rockies are their backyard) and I was at the other end of the spectrum–a “bag of hammers” struggling with a nagging shoulder injury and weak quads!

Despite my fitness deficit, Riaan patiently and expertly got us all up the Porcupine Ravine where we enjoyed an early lunch and a breathtaking view.

While we basked in the warm sun, gentle breeze and a 360 degree panorama, Riaan explained that we were very lucky to have the perfect day to climb Table Mountain.  It’s not uncommon for visitors to climb into full cloud, heavy wind–miserable conditions with no view!  And to add insult to injury:  the cable car shuts down in high winds, so the poor souls who have struggled to the top now have to hike down as well!  Fortunately for us, this was not the case!

Everlasting

Everlasting

Table Mountain Lakelet

Table Mountain Lakelet

Riaan lead us across the top of the Table to the highest point on the mountain–it’s a remarkable mesa (hence the “Table” moniker).  Beautiful spring flowers, lush green vegetation set against the ancient rock formations were stunning.  We didn’t encounter another soul on our trek–it felt like our own private mountain.  It was worth all the effort of climbing to experience this natural wonder.

A peaceful lakelet suddenly appeared and I took advantage of a small puddle to rest my weary feet on the “Table”.

Hiking towards the cable car structure we noted a couple of phenomena:

Table Cloth starting to descend

Table Cloth starting to descend

1.  The Table Cloth descending.  Table Mountain is known for changeable weather patterns.  One of these is a thick blanket of cloud that sweeps up the backside of the mountain and spills over the top and front.  It looks like a lovely white table cloth from a distance…not so lovely if you’re climbing in it!

Feet on the "Table"

Feet on the “Table”

2.  Crowds of tourists swarming the cable car/gift shop area.  After the quiet solitude of the 7 hour hike, the onslaught of people was jarring.

Our group braved the mob and took the quick and easy trip down to the parking lot where we met a taxi to return us to the car, and home.

Hike Table Mountain is, without a doubt, the only way I would recommend to experience this icon.  Riaan is the perfect guide and host–he knows these mountains like the back of his hand.

Next up:  The Tip of Africa and The Cape Of Good Hope

 

 

 

Olympic National Park August 2, 2014

IMG_0702

Marymere Falls

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake

Recently I travelled to Olympic National Park in Washington State.  I’ve never explored Washington beyond working at a conference in Seattle years ago.

It is a beautiful spot in the world for sure.

cdnpearly on the ferry

cdnpearly on the ferry

We flew into Seattle and rented a vehicle to reach our destination.  The drive to the park included a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and then across several large bridges.

The weather was perfect–sunny and warm.IMG_2796

Arriving at the NatureBridge campus I was amazed at the lush greenery and the peaceful vibe.  Located on the shore of Crescent Lake, the historic property showcases many charming cottages and a dining hall that takes you back to bygone times.  I heard rumors that this location was a favorite of IMG_2840President Roosevelt!

Lake Crescent is unbelievably clear, with a teal blue color that reminded me of the Caribbean.  I actually looked forward to waking up early to enjoy tranquil mornings on the dock!

Our guide provided many opportunities to explore the area.

We canoed across the lake to hike The Spruce Railroad trail that was repurposed from an old train track. Wood from these forests was used in World War 1 for creating airplanes…to make it easier to get the lumber to the plane manufacturer, a rustic train track was constructed.

Tunnel on the Spruce Railroad trail

Tunnel on the Spruce Railroad trail

One of the most thrilling parts of the trail was through a tunnel.  Abandoned rail road ties littered the ground and made for challenging navigation.  I have some claustrophobic tendencies, so I was somewhat terrified reluctant to go through the gaping chasm that ended in the center of the earth tunnel.  Emerging on the other side was a relief!  It was a growth opportunity for me for sure!

Second Beach

Second Beach

Storm King Summit

Storm King Summit

One day we climbed Storm King.  This mountain overlooks Crescent Lake and provides a good burn for the quads as you ascend.  The views at the top were worth the effort, even on a misty day!

This region is also known for the Twilight movie(s).

Evidently Second Beach was the setting for some of the well known scenes (full disclosure:  I have never read the Twilight series or seen the movies).  We hiked along a beautiful trail that opened up onto the beach.  Interesting rock formations and the marine layer rolling in and out like the tides…well, I could definitely picture vampires, werewolves and whatnot cavorting here!

banana slug

banana slug

barred owl

barred owl

In addition to these “imaginary” creatures–we saw a number of other wildlife.  IMG_2871The ubiquitous banana slugs…a barred owl…a snake…ducks…crawfish…a deer…And the flowers were spectacular.

 

What an amazing experience.

Scottish Broom

Scottish Broom

 

Rachel the pig

Rachel the pig

We made a quick stop at the Pike Place Market in Seattle–saw  Rachel the pig and grabbed a tasty fresh salmon sandwich.  And then it was time to go home…IMG_0658

If you haven’t had the chance to explore Olympic National Park, I definitely recommend adding it to your list!

 

 

Outdoor Art? Yes please! June 25, 2014

Yarnbomb at Lizard's Mouth

Yarnbomb at Lizard’s Mouth

Living in the paradise that is Santa Barbara, I sometimes wonder, “How could this nirvana possibly be any better?”  And, then something like The Yarnbomb appears and magically, my beautiful adopted hometown exceeds even my own expectations!IMG_2747

Wait!  What?  Yarnbomb?IMG_0529

IMG_2744Yes!  Yarnbomb:  a permanent or temporary art installation created with fibre/yarn.  There are many wonderful examples all over the world–one of my favorites is a pink yarnbombed tank!  Recently however, Santa Barbara was graced with a fantastic yarnbomb at Lizard’s Mouth--a hiking destination in the mountains above Santa Barbara.  A local artist known as The Yarnbomber collaborated with international and American fibre artists and everyday folk who like to knit, crochet or “brochet” (aka: men who crochet) to create a spectacular collage of 19 boulder cozies.  We trekked up the mountains and were able to view it early in the morning.  Definitely worth getting up for!  My friend George snapped a couple close up shots so you can see the variety of work and patterns that contributed to the breathtaking mosaic.  If you have a hankering to go and check it out for yourself, you’ll be disappointed…the installation was fleeting and is now being repurposed into future projects or donated to charity.  Follow The Yarnbomber to learn about his interesting past and planned projects.10445594_10152404525544361_1317191361_o

I might even be inspired to attempt yarnbombing sometime!  Stand by…

 

 

IMG_0543

Chumash style chalk art

IMG_0547At the same time, the annual i Madonnari festival was underway at the Santa Barbara Mission.  This event features chalk artists creating images on the pavement surrounding the church.  IMG_0545It’s a popular event with lots of locals and tourists swarming wandering the grounds, so I waited a few days and browsed at my leisure.

IMG_2958

Do you know where this one is located?

While I was planning this blog post, I happened to notice a few other outdoor art installations in our beautiful city.

How about this one?

How about this one?

6256_1125534377193_1192140988_30385588_7148313_n

Guesses where this one is?

 

 

Locals–can you identify where these pics were taken?

All in all, Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to experience art in the great outdoors!  Any alfresco art in your ‘hood?

 

 

 

Yosemite! May 23, 2014

Half Dome

Half Dome

Giant Sequoias

Giant Sequoia

Have you ever seen Half Dome?  Been astounded by El Capitan?  Breathed in the mist from Yosemite Falls?

Up until last month these names and places were just pictures in a book or dots on the map for me.

I had the opportunity to chaperone a 5 day expedition to Yosemite and it was, in a word, epic!

We started the 9 hour drive on a Monday morning.  It was my pleasure to have the company of 4 of the best children ever in my car.  I’m not going to lie to you, I was apprehensive about spending so many hours in a small space with 4 kids…however, my anxieties proved unfounded.  Believe it or not, we actually had a lot of fun!  Stimulating conversation, thought-provoking word games, cats in the cradle competitions (I didn’t participate in that activity since I was the driver!), many singalongs with Pharrell’s “Happy”…We also set some goals for our trip.  Amongst the list of things we wanted to see:  Caribou, Bald Eagles, Bears, Waterfalls.  Something I didn’t want to see:  Snakes.

And suddenly we arrived in the park!  As we rounded yet another curve in the windy, tree-canopied road, there was Half Dome!  “Impressive” “Awe-some” “Amazing”…none of these adequately does that first sight justice.  I felt like I could stare at it for hours…challenging since I was driving in a 4 car caravan!  We turned the next curve and Half Dome disappeared BUT a huge waterfall was revealed!  And then another!  Next a lovely meadow, followed

Dead Fred

Dead Fred

by a burned out area from recent wild fires.  The views were varied and non-stop.

Our first full day in Yosemite featured a hike through the Rim Fire burn area.  It was our guide’s first time back in the area since the fire.  It was sobering to see the devastation, and conversely inspiring to see nature’s regeneration underway.  Our destination was the Tuolumne Grove.  This area is home to many redwood giants.  I used a fish eye lens in an attempt to capture the grandeur of these ancient trees…

Tunnel Tree

Tunnel Tree

We had the opportunity to actually walk through 2 of the deceased redwoods.  Dead Fred was [somewhat] hollowed out through years of decomposition, and our guide invited us to walk  bear crawl through it.  For the most part, the children relished the chance to tunnel through the tree…I decided to rise above my claustrophobic tendencies and venture in.  It was dark, damp, cool, narrow, cramped, echo-y, and slightly unnerving, but I did it and I’m glad I did!

The famous Tunnel Tree is in this area as well.  In times past, it was part of a road running through the park–cars actually drove through it!  Examining the tunnel we saw carvings (graffiti)  that dated way way back.  Fascinating!

Spider Cave

Spider Cave

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Spider Cave near Yosemite Falls provided another opportunity for me to confront my aversion to small spaces.  With the help of our guides and 3 flashlights, we crawled through a scary labyrinth  small cave.  It is believed to have been used by Native Americans for food storage–the inner reaches of the cave are quite cool, like a natural refrigerator.

El Capitan

El Capitan

As you can see, Yosemite Falls was spectacular.  Recent snow fall followed by warm sunny days meant that the waterfalls were all flowing well.

One memorable lunch was enjoyed in El Capitan Meadows.  Imagine my surprise  when I finally sat down after serving the children their food and looked around–there was  El Capitan directly behind me!  I hadn’t even noticed it!  It’s no lie when I say it took my breath away…

El Cap is considered the largest granite monolith in the world, being formed from a single chunk of granite (per climbing.about.com).  I felt like I could stare at it for a week and never really fully understand its scope.

Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall

Following a relaxing lunch we drove a short distance to another trail where we viewed Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome AND El Cap at the same time.  This hike definitely had a good return on investment!  Again, the few moments we lingered there really didn’t do the view justice.

Greatest Van Ever!

Greatest Van Ever!

Bear Paw Print

Bear Paw Print

Before we knew it the week had slipped away and it was time for the LONG drive back.  Despite a few character-building mishaps along the way, we arrived home safe and sound…maybe a titch stir crazy from the many hours in the car…

Circling back to our goals for the week, here’s where we stand:  No caribou, no bald eagles, no bears (we did see a bear paw print)…personally I felt challenged and restored–confronted some fears and consumed the beauty of this part of the world.  AND we saw many fantastic waterfalls!  All in all it was an epic adventure I highly recommend!

Have you been to Yosemite?  What’s your favorite spot?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paralyzed by Failure…or, Why I Haven’t Made My New Year’s Resolutions Yet April 3, 2014

I failed.

The half marathon I vowed to complete never happened.

Last year, as always, I created a set of resolutions to guide me through the year…pushing myself to be better.  One of the biggies was “run a half marathon”, this despite the fact that I dislike running, AND I had never tried a race!  With determination I set out preparing for said race.  It must be noted that I truly wanted to achieve it.  I downloaded apps, trained with some great running partners, got the shoes and the outfits, followed elaborate schedules, endured ongoing shin splints and other ailments…however by the end of the summer I had to tap out.  Simply put, my body does not want to run distances, despite what my mind is insisting on.  I knew it was the right decision when I announced it to my family.  They all heaved a huge sigh of relief.  I didn’t realize how my running had [negatively] impacted them.

So, while it was the correct decision, I struggled with the conflict of setting a goal and not meeting the goal (or failing?)…the balance of setting a hard goal vs the cost of achieving it (or not).

Denise the trainer

Denise, The Trainer

I reached out to a respected friend who knows a thing or 2 about setting and reaching goals:  my trainer Denise.  Just in case you’ve ever not followed through with a goal and felt bad about it, here are some wise words from Denise on the subject:

In order to reconcile a goal you didn’t complete, you first need to change your perspective and appreciate all of the positive aspects associated with taking a risk, regardless of the outcome.  Instead of putting your focus on the end result, give yourself credit for even setting a goal in the first place.  So many people are afraid to set goals for fear that they might fail.  It takes a great deal of courage to set a goal and try everything in your power to achieve it.

Realize that everyone struggles with goals at one point in time or another.  If you look throughout history you will find that everyone from Albert Einstein to Oprah has failed at times during their lives.  The difference with these successful people is that they have gotten right back up and fought courageously with iron will to improve themselves & come back better and stronger.
No one is perfect and all you can do is try your best and learn from each experience.  With every goal that you fail to succeed at, you begin understanding your strengths and weaknesses and experience invaluable  lessons that you would never have received had you not taken a chance.  These lessons will prepare you for future goals and toughen you up in regards to different outcomes.
So what if one goal doesn’t work out?  Are you going to allow that to defeat you forever?  Failing to complete a goal does not have to be the be-all and end-all of your life.  Start looking at the situation as a new beginning filled with numerous opportunities and you will already be headed down the path to success.  Remember that in the end, it’s the chances that you didn’t take that you will end up regretting the most.
So with that in mind, I dusted myself off and worked out a new goal…creating a pro/con list of running and training, it became apparent that things I really enjoyed were:  spending time outside, getting in shape, the social opportunities, flexible training schedule and tshirts from the races.  It dawned on me that running a 5k race every 6 weeks or so is the perfect way to accomplish ALL the “pros” without any of the “cons”!  With this new plan in place I was able to finally move on from the half marathon disappointment.  What remained was owning up to it on my blog…and when Ellen asked me about the blog this week, I realized that I was still stewing on the apparent failure…in fact my blog was paralyzed by failure!  Solution:  confront and move on!  Done!
2013 Chardonnay 5k

2013 Chardonnay 5k

Now my 2014 resolutions!

Leopard!

Leopard!

  • Regular 5k races–and training to finish in acceptable times.  So far this has worked out great!  In my most recent race–The Girl On Fire–I finished 39 out of 161 in my age category!  Next one up is the Santa Barbara Chardonnay 5k which I’ll participate in with Prepared Girl.
  • Take up yoga.  I have already started this, but I’m on hiatus due to a lingering shoulder injury.  Once I’m fixed up, I’ll resume yoga.
  • Africa!  Tickets purchased, safari secured, tentative Cape Town plans made…Can. Not. Wait.
  • Body cleanse/detox.  Wrapped that bad boy up in the first week of January!
  • Attend the annual Foundation Fighting Blindness conference in Denver (tickets & hotel booked!)
  • Participate in the 2014 Santa Barbara Vision Walk event on April 26 (Meghan’s Posse is geared up and ready to go!)
  • Learn iMovie.  Does anyone have any tips on figuring this out?  Maybe iMovie for Dummies?  An easy youtube tutorial?  Private lessons?
  • Eliminate sugar from my Earl Grey (done!)

    Meghan's Posse 2013

    Meghan’s Posse 2013

So, there it is–a full confession of failure, words of wisdom to overcome the paralysis, a challenging but workable set of resolutions for the year…

Have you experienced the disappointment of a failed goal?  How did you manage it?  Any resolutions for the year you’d like to share?

Next up:  Yosemite!