Sequoia? I barely know her! Pt. 1

Please excuse my awful title–I thought of it on the drive home from the park and convinced myself that it HAD to be used.

My last post, from the Short and Feisty Finances Series, brought you the budget for this trip, so now it’s time to get down to the Nature Nitty Gritty.

I was a Girl Scout for most of my formative years and grew up running through the trees, singing the hits of the Spice Girls, and preparing the silliest possible skits to share at the campfire. I can’t remember a time in the last 5 years where I spent a significant time exploring the flora and fauna of our untapped lands, so I figured it was about time.

While watching the nature documentary series Planet Earth (now streaming on Netflix), I learned that largest known living single stem tree on EARTH was 3.5 hours north of me.

https://i1.wp.com/media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m8vvjz0QA11qzqdem.gif

So I packed up my car (read: I got into it with my phone, keys, wallet, and iPad mini–remember I neglected to plan) and mapped the route using the Google Maps app.

Through my AUX plug, I streamed the Overdrive app on my iPad and listened to some audiobooks that I’d checked out of the LA Public Library system–all over the internet.

WHAT IS THIS TECHNOLOGY!?

The fairly tedious drive is accented with giant oil rig farms, rows and rows of orange orchards (including the orchards for the clementine brand Lil’ Cuties!), and a good deal of run-down architecture–as if time forget this pocket of the state and left the buildings untouched.

I got through a good chunk of the beginning of “Dracula” when I started seeing signs for the park. Near to the entrance, a lake popped up to my left. This was especially puzzling to see for a SoCal transplant that moved one year into an on-going 4 year drought.

“What is that wet stuff down there,” I asked no one in particular, for there was no one in the car.

More puzzling were the lines in the mountains that looked like they’d been carved there:

IMG_3419

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Obviously the drought has taken it’s toll on this lake as that mark is where the water USED to be.

Further along and I encountered this cute little Happy Valley that gave me warm fuzzy feelings–for many years, I would daydream about California (most of my knowledge based off of 1960’s Disney live action movies) and this setting just brought back all of that TV nostalgia:

IMG_3417

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Up some more sloping hills, I came to the entrance of the park where I was given a map, a quarterly newspaper of park information, and where I bought my pass.

IMG_3333

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

“Will there be signs pointing me to the General Sherman Tree?” I asked the booth attendant.

“Oh yeah, there’s tons of signs.”

WRONG. The signs for the General Sherman Tree didn’t start until you got close to it–before that, you have almost an hour’s worth of a drive to get up there. And it’s all through winding mountains, on a two lane road, some of which has absolutely NO barrier between your car and the gaping crevasse in the mountains.

As someone who has both an anxiety disorder AND a giant fear of heights, the 7,000+ foot ascent was no easy task–my hands were clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought they may bleed and my foot remained so light on the gas pedal that I felt badly for anyone traveling behind me.

Lucky for me, since it was the middle of the week, there weren’t so many people traveling into the park, so I could go as slowly as I wanted.

When I entered The Giant Forest, my jaw dropped to my chest. HOLY MOLY I had never seen trees so tall or THICK. Some were so big that I guestimated you’d need at least 20 people linking arms to hug these giant plants.

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

The Big Daddy of them all, The General Sherman Tree, sits at the top of my must-see list. But first, I had to hike a half mile to get there.

IMG_3342For someone in moderately good shape, the hike down is a cinch. There were plenty of old people moseying down the trail and a long-legged Norse family that was walking slower than them and taking up the WHOLE FREAKING PATHWAY HOW ARE YOU SO SLOW YOU BLONDE HAIRED AMAZONIANS?!

At the base of these mountains, it was about 90 degrees that day but when I reached The General Sherman Tree, it was only a cool 67! NATURE! WONDERS! NATURE!

I got to the foot of the trail and was ready to meet the big daddy tree of all big daddy trees–

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Advertisements

Traveling Solo (Locally) and on a Budget

I promised in my original post for the Short and Feisty Finance Series to give you some tids and bits on traveling solo on a budget. So when I had the inspiration to pick up my act and head out to the Sequoia National Forest two days ago, I rejoiced at the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Not only would I have the chance to get some fresh mountain air flowing through my bloodstream, but I would be able to make good on a blog promise.

SO. PRODUCTIVE. Y’ALL.

This’ll end up being a multi-part post to get to every Big Moment Detail on this trip–Sequoia National Park is huge and I only saw a tiny bit, but that’s actually a lot!

For this first post, we’ll stick to the financial aspects so I can redeem the radio silence I’ve permitted to pervade this blog:

Now the number one rule you need to know when starting this single travel endeavor is: planning is everything.

I kind of spontaneously decided last Friday that I’d be making this trek the following Tuesday. That is so unlike me (actually, it’s really like me). So, I did, indeed, break the cardinal rule. I work Saturday-Monday evening, with tiny little people that suck out my energy and focus like whiny, sadistic, mosquitos–so intense planning went by the wayside.

I did map out my route on the Google Maps app on my phone and determined that the mileage would equate to about a tank of gas in my Prius (7 hours round trip!). I enjoy driving, so the length of time didn’t deter me. I did NOT consider the fact that mountain driving, climbing to more than 7,000 feet, would probably take a harder toll on that gasoline estimate. It ended up being a little over a tank–$35.

Remember when I said that I didn’t put a lot of forethought into this trip? Well, this translated to neglecting a stratagem for obtaining victuals. There was a Starbucks not far from the entrance to the park that served as my “brunch” spot, and I was so put off by all the bear warnings (you can’t even leave it in your car because bears are smart and know what food looks like!) that I didn’t even bother to search for food in or near the park. I did drink plenty of the free water from the park re-fill stations. On the way back onto the highway, I revisited my friendly Starbucks and came to $16 total for all food and beverages. If you eat cheaply, you save so so much money. Skip the sit down restaurants and keep it moving.

Most of the National Parks have a “per car” entry fee–Sequoia’s fee is $20 per non-commercial vehicle. I plan to make a habit out of visiting as many National Parks as I can within the next year, so I sprung for the “America the Beautiful” Annual Pass which allows me to visit more than 2,000 federal recreation sites (that’s not even counting the many sites that don’t have an entry fee). That totals $80 for the pass. This is expensive up front but will end up saving a lot in entry fees if I use it like I’m planning to!

So for a full day of discovery and exploration, I cost my bank account: $131 (would’ve been $71 total without the pass).

That’s well worth the money for an awesome staycation visiting one of America’s most well-known and loved landmarks.

So:

  • Don’t follow my example and make sure to PLAN
  • Drive if the distance is reasonable and save on travel–
  • Skip the sit down meals and go for either grocery store gatherings or safely consumable fast food–
  • Find a place with little or NO entry fee OR find a pass that’ll allow for savings in the long run–

Over the next few days (more realistically, weeks) I’ll divulge all of the awesome-tastic-Sequoian details. There may or may not have been bears.

Feed the Birds—Tuppence a Bag.

*This blog post was written Saturday November 15, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the 2nd post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat. Here is the first.*

I knew that furiously writing for 12 hours every day, holed up in a cabin, wasn’t likely going to happen. It was my goal, when booking this trip, to insert a little more optimism into my process than I am used to while simultaneously “keepin’ it real”.

The owners of the cabin we stayed in went above and beyond on the hospitality front: we had instructions laid out on how to open up and close down the property, plenty of firewood and matches, complimentary luxury bath products and, best of all: a plethora of birdseed stashed in the fridge.

photo 3-2I haven’t fed birds in nature, like, ever. I’ve given bread to pond ducks (apparently a no-no) but never made the effort to lure unsuspecting birds into my enthusiastic orb of energy through legitimate bird food.

You will understand, then, why I had a hard time figuring out just what to do.

There’s no real yard to the cabin, per se, at least not in front. There’s just a shared driveway and a front porch. I saw some birds hanging on the telephone wire across the street and decided they looked a little peckish (get it?!) and wanted to focus my avian culinary attentions on them.

Naturally, I walked out onto the driveway, took a pinch of the bird seed, and scattered it on the asphalt.

SURPRISE! Didn’t work.

Then, I took a fistful and tossed it in their general direction.

Also not effective—the birds sat perched on the wire staring at me.

“Is she some kind of amateur?” they must’ve chirped to one another.

I walked away from the driveway and back onto the front porch. A light bulb flickered dimly in my brain and I decided to line the porch railing with a couple of handfuls of seeds. Then, I hightailed it back through the front door.

My gnome buddy and I laid in wait, wondering if any of the birds would land in my (harmless) food snare.photo 4-1

BINGO.

photo 1-5

They’d come down, snag a seed or two, and then fly off. I can only assume they have deep emotional issues with bird seed voyeurism from humans and need privacy to eat.

Feeling incredibly proud of myself, I returned to the kitchen and placed the bag of seed back on the shelf. I looked down to see detailed instructions (hooray for my hosts) on how to load the seeds into the designated feeders. You know…that tiny little house NEXT to all of my birdseed?

If I had just slowed down and read the signs (literally), my task would have been much easier. Someone had already told me what I needed to do to attract my desired goal. I just wasn’t really great at paying attention.

Lots of people will give you advice, and not all of it will be the direction that you need to take. But couple it together with your intuition, and make something happen. Choose the right way for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my birds.

To stay up-do-date on all of Short and Feisty’s posts, click the Follow this blog button at the top right of this page.

“Retreating into Nature” -OR- “Cabin Writing? Hell yeeeez”

*This blog post was written last Friday November 14, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the first post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat.*

For the past couple of months, until really recently, Id been suffering from some intense writer’s block. My blog lay dormant and unloved. My screenwriting projects sat solemnly piled on my coffee table, silently begging me to edit them. I ignored them and watched more Netflix than I care to admit to on so public a forum as this.

(Are we noticing a theme in my life, yet? Netflix may be one of the greatest Technological Wonders of the World, but addiction to it can honestly be crippling.)

I tried to get down to the heart of the matter and find out why my creative machine stopped clanking. In the end, I determined that it was equal parts exhaustion, distraction, and lack of willpower—all three also equal parts depressing. Hoping to cure all three by honing in on one, I focused my attention on escaping from distraction.

Fast forward to this weekend and a cabin in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead. I needed cheap, yet safe and comfortable, and two of my friends were willing to accompany me on my journey. Using the website AirBnB, we were able to locate a one bedroom cabin with a sleeper sofa and two inflatable mattresses (which we don’t intend to use) for just over $100/person TOTAL: 3 extended days (we are allowed to check in early and leave later because no one booked before or after us). All we needed to do was bring food (or plan to eat out at one of the many local places). Best of all, there’s no wifi in the cabin so there will be minimal surfing of the internet while trying to type.

We made the two hour trek outside of Los Angeles and found ourselves at the foot of a gigantic mountain. Silly geography-ignorant me had no idea that Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead was at the top of a horrendously tall peak (over 5,000 feet above sea level). This does not bode well for a driver who doesn’t “really do heights”.

This is courtesy of the internets–no snow is currently on the peaks.

5,000 miles above sea level later, I found myself trying to navigate curly winding roads at the edge of a cliff while also trying to catch my breath in the thinning air. I was second guessing my decision until we encountered our sweet new digs.

10376299_10100506706088807_3819803374949501986_n

Holy moly. Talk about quaint, and welcoming, and picturesque.

Check out these sweet pics!

10411342_10100506706328327_4148829065004740585_n

(CLEAN!) Bathroom!

10689932_10100506706138707_6193377091681400906_n

Sweet California King Bed!

10646970_10100506706363257_2899640450707037241_n

Well-stocked kitchen!

After unpacking a bit, we made a trip into “town” for some groceries, moscato wine, and blueberry beer (Lord, please never let me become diabetic because then I’d have to quit alcohol altogether).

The people in the store were more than friendly and incredibly helpful—especially Rob in the wine section and a handsome young gentleman that helped us with the beer.

Back at the cabin, we decided to tackle the fireplace. We wanted a roaring fire in which to toast our marshmallows for s’mores and because I needed ambiance to write. Two out of three of us were Girl Scouts with only one of us actually learning any camping skills (me) so I set about starting everything up.

I stacked the wood, found the matches, and went outside for kindling. That’s when I realized that it’s a lot damper 5,000 miles above sea level and most of the detritus I intended to use wouldn’t light, catch, and hold the fire. We tried, anyway, to very little success. And we were out of luck in finding something like a fire starter or lighter fluid, etc. People don’t really store that sort of thing in an area known for forest fires.

Then we noticed a small gas handle sticking out of the side of the fireplace. This was confusing for all of us as we had only previously seen a wood fireplace or a gas one (both of which I know how to operate). I quickly Googled this phenomenon with the limited cell reception I had on my phone and found out that some fireplaces have a gas pipe to help get a fire started. And then this happened.

1779130_10100506747221377_2306414573423657349_n

Glorious accomplishment.

And now, I’m sitting by the fire typing this, and other work, wondering why I didn’t make a reservation for the rest of my life.

To stay up-do-date on all of Short and Feisty’s posts, click the Follow this blog button at the top right of this page.

Don’t Come a Knockin’ When…the Apartment’s A-Rockin?

Apparently there is some kind of winter vortex making it’s way through the central and eastern parts of the country this winter.

I swear, every time I log in to social media, I see nothing but posts of pictures of mountains of blackening snow, people complaining about the frigid temperatures freezing off their faces, and that one psychotic friend that’s basking in the weather and praying for more flurries.

No one likes that guy.

This winter has been harsh for most, but not so in sunny Southern California. Granted, we had three days of some pretty heavy rain which translates into a blizzard for us so close to the border. Lots of car accidents, people fretting about the precipitation, and even more dressed inappropriately. Basically them same thing as a blizzard, you guys.

We also have a little somthin’ somethin’ that many other states aren’t privileged to experience: EARTHQUAKES.

I’m not a huge fan of natural disasters. You won’t find me chasing tornadoes or going surfing during a Hurricane. The difference between those events and an earthquake is that you can sometimes receive a warning with the former, and you can prepare or evacuate with the latter.

Earthquakes, however, are the original honey badger of mother nature’s children. They just don’t give a shit.

No warning, no heads up, no nothing.

I’ve been in several Earthquakes since moving to LA almost two years ago (wow, time flies) but I’ve actually not been completely conscious for most of them. The previous three I’ve been in have all happened during the night. Twice, I thought I was dreaming. Another time I remember drowsily wondering why the boat I was on was rocking so much. Then I woke up and realized I wasn’t on a boat. Those earthquakes were mild and over relatively quickly.

Different story with St. Patrick’s Day 2014.

I was up at the crack of dawn getting ready to depart for work. I was showered and dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed debating if stopping for doughnuts at Krispy Kreme 4 days in a row was socially acceptable.

All of a sudden, my bed starts to move and a deep rumbling sounds.

“My! That’s a loud and heavy garbage truck,” I mused to myself.

“Oh. Wait. It’s not trash day.”

Then I realize that it’s not just my bed but my entire apartment that’s rocking. Then the banging sounds begin. My stomach jumps up into my throat as I spring out of bed. I stand stock still for a moment before remembering that my elementary school teacher mentioned that West Coast kids have to stand in doorways when an Earthquake happens. I run to the nearest doorway and clutch the sides until my fingers pale with the force of my grip.

I fervently pray that the shaking ends soon. It’s situations like this that my Catholic heritage subconsciously reappears and the Hail Mary’s burst forth through my mouth like water through a broken dam.

In reality, it’s less than a minute in total, but when you’re wondering if the ceiling will drop on your head, it feels like an eternity. When it finally stops, my body is tingling with the adrenaline rushing through it. I begin pacing my apartment, expecting aftershocks, and eventually decide to grab my things and go.

I check social media and all of my usually late-sleeping Angeleno friends were rocked out of their beds, as well. That’s human kind’s new response to things. Check in on Facebook to make sure you’re not insane.

I haven’t felt fear like that many times in my life and being on the 4th floor doesn’t give me much security when the thought of the building collapsing is on the forefront of my mind.

The quake was originally designated a 4.7 but was downgraded to a 4.4 which I think is the worst possible outcome. Demoting an Earthquake is just going to provoke it into coming back harder and stronger next time.

Good job, U.S. Geological Survey.