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When we left off last week, Steve and I were coming down off the bluffs after our morning hike on Santa Cruz Island, getting pumped for our afternoon adventure.  And that adventure was – kayaking the sea caves!

The Channel Islands are home to dozens of sea caves across the park.  You can see two of them above (along with a very faraway armada of kayakers) in this shot from our morning boat ride in.  I was wildly excited to get out on the water.  I’ve done lots of calm flatwater kayaking, a tiny bit of eco-touring, and some surf kayaking (as a teenager) but kayaking the sea caves promised to be a new adventure.

 

My adventure buddy and I made our way to the kayak camp and got suited up in our gear – waterproof jackets (the adventure company provided them but we actually had our own), life jackets and helmets in case of sea cave wall crashing incidents.  (Spoiler alert: there were no crashing incidents.  But it’s good to be prepared.  Safety first!)  I was mad at myself for forgetting my paddling gloves – blister city.

We looked so cool in our helmets.

Once we were all suited up, our group made our way to the beach.  Adam, our guide, gave a short safety briefing and asked our small group to introduce ourselves and share where we were from, what kayaking experience we had, and what we were hoping to see on the trip.

And then it was time to hit the caves!

Steve and I launched our double kayak last, after an unsuccessful attempt to mount our GoPro to the bow.  (Apparently the GoPro surf and kayak mount doesn’t work on sea kayaks’ rough surfaces?  That would have been relevant information…  Anyway, I tucked it into my life jacket pocket for snapping old-school style.)

And then we were off!  We quickly caught up to the rest of the group and listened to Adam discuss the plan of attack for our first sea cave.

And then it was time to run the cave!

IT.  WAS.  SO.  COOL.

We floated around for a few minutes while Adam added more information – more safety chat and cave-running tips, plus some geology facts for more context about the caves we were checking out.

It was dark and spooky!  Okay, not really spooky.  But definitely dark – and insanely cool.  We ended up running about seven caves, and taking multiple passes at a few of them, for a very full and adventurous ninety minutes.  Not enough time!  We made every second count, and it was an afternoon that I think Steve and I will both remember forever.  I’ll let the pictures and videos speak for themselves.

Each of the caves had cool (and slightly intimidating) names.  This one, if I recall correctly, was Boatwrecker:

You don’t say…

Once Steve and I had a chance to get comfortable with the kayak – neither one of us had used a double kayak before; we’d always taken singles – I pulled out the GoPro and snapped a few pictures:

We worked our way up the craggy coastline of the island as Adam guided us to – and through – each cave.

After a wonderful and humbling adventure on the water, we reluctantly paddled back to shore and boarded the Island Explorer for our trip back to the mainland.  I think we were both sad to leave Santa Cruz Island – I know that I personally felt we’d barely scratched the surface of all the adventure the island had to offer, and it’s not even the only island in the park!  But fortunately, the Santa Barbara Channel had a few more treats in store for us to sweeten the trip back.

First of all, the sun finally came out!  We didn’t mind the grey skies and seas, but it was a treat to see all that beautiful blue.

Then – as if they knew we needed a little more adventure – we got some visitors.

Dolphins!  These guys were so fun and playful as they rode the wake and swam alongside our boat.

Hello down there!

Exhausted and happy, we chugged into Ventura Harbor and past the Channel Islands National Park Visitors’ Center.

I can’t say enough good things about the Channel Islands Adventure Company, who ran the tour, or Adam, our guide.  The entire day was well planned and perfectly executed – speaking to the Adventure Company’s expertise at handling these kinds of excursions.  As for Adam, he really knew the island and was glad to point out the wildlife we encountered and to answer questions about tides, geography, and anything else we threw at him.  Most importantly, he knew the caves like the back of his hand, and he kept the whole group safe throughout the trip.  I’d absolutely book another adventure with Channel Islands Adventure Company, and I would recommend them to anyone.  (And no, they’re not paying me to say that – they have no idea who I am!)

It was an amazing adventure.  I’ll leave you with a couple of the GoPro videos I shot (and please don’t mind my shaky footage; I was using the GoPro, as mentioned above, as a handheld camera since my surf and kayak mount failed me).  Really, really epic day…

 

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Reading Round-Up Header

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for September, 2017

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1), by Kevin Kwan – I really enjoyed this fun romp through the highest of high Singaporean society.  Rachel Chu, all-but “ABC” (American-Born Chinese) little knows what she is getting into when she accepts her boyfriend’s invitation to spend the summer with his “traditional” Singaporean family and be his date to his best friend’s wedding.  It turns out that the wedding is the biggest society event in the country and that Nick is heir to a massive fortune and the most eligible bachelor in Asia.  As Rachel navigates the treacherous waters of Nick’s disapproving family and the legions of women who will do anything to snatch Nick away from her, Nick’s cousin Astrid is dealing with her own private heartache – oh, and Nick’s mother Eleanor and her Bible study group are determined to get rid of Rachel once and for all.  Great literature this is not – but good fun it is, and I am anxiously awaiting the movie.

It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis – I had been waiting and waiting – months, in fact – to cycle to the top of the library wait list and take home Sinclair Lewis’s eerily prescient classic.  In It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis illustrates, with terrifying specificity, how Fascism could take hold in America and what the consequences could be.  The book was written in 1935, when Fascism was on the rise in Europe but most Americans were blissfully ignorant of the fact, and was Lewis’s wake-up call to a sleeping public.  But after the 2016 election and everything that has happened since, it seems all too frighteningly real.  Lewis paints in shuddering strokes the picture of an American politician who rides into power on a tide of Populist resentment and then proceeds to grab power from left to right until he has created a dictatorship and Fascist kleptocracy with himself as the center and primary beneficiary.  Sound familiar?

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel – This was another one that had been on my list for awhile.  Fun Home is Bechdel’s memoir of growing up in a funeral home, her relationship with her father, and her coming out as a lesbian.  It’s really engagingly written and drawn, and a fascinating glimpse into another life.  (I also know that Bechdel’s work has helped a lot of people on their coming-out journeys, and I think that is really something to celebrate and admire.  She has lent her voice and her cartooning skills, and used her platform, in such an admirable way.)  I found Bechdel herself to be an engaging and lovable figure in the memoir, and was completely fascinated by her relationships with her parents, and her father in particular.  (I also loved the little glimpses into the library of her dad, who was an English teacher and avid reader, and the connection that Bechdel’s own enjoyment of reading gave them – complex and tenuous as that connection may have been.)

The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, Chickadee, Makoons (Birchbark House #1-5), by Louise Erdrich – Somehow, I only just learned of the Birchbark House books, thanks to a social media post.  Someone in my Twitter (or Facebook?) feed wished for a Native American series akin to the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another user piped up, “There is one – the Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich.”  I immediately dashed (well, cyber-dashed) to my library’s website and reserved the entire series, and I spent about a week and a half tearing through them, laughing and crying and making mental notes about how to make pemmican and preserve seeds (useful information, I think).  I laughed a lot, and cried a lot, too.  The books follow the life of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe woman, from girlhood through adulthood and motherhood.  Omakayas means “Little Frog,” and she was so named because “her first step was a hop.”  Adopted as a baby, Omakayas grows up as a treasured daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend.  Her life is not without hardship – her family is torn apart by smallpox in the first book (a scene in which I cried floods while reading and floods more while telling a work friend – our firm librarian; hi, Susan! – about the book) but is not without its joys, either.  Had these books been published when I was a young reader, I know I would have devoured them.  As it is – I devoured them.

So – eight books this month, and seven of the eight were from diverse or underrepresented groups (Asian, Native American, and LGBT+) – and all fantastic.  It’s hard to pick a highlight, since I pretty much loved everything I read this month.  But It Can’t Happen Here is an incredibly important classic that I’d been wanting to read for a very long time, and the Birchbark House books were absolutely marvelous.  Another great month of reading!  I’m so glad I am a reader.  Books bring joy to me every single day.

Happy Monday, y’all – yup, it’s here again.  We had an up and down sort of weekend.  It was actually a long weekend – we left at the end of last week for a short but sweet trip to Florida to see my best friend, Rebecca, marry her longtime love.  Rebecca and Eric planned a fun and casual beach wedding and every detail was so them – from the sandy setting to the signature drink (hurricanes) in mason jars and the lights twinkling in the trees.  Peanut and I were in the wedding, and she made the most of her moment in the spotlight, taking an inordinately long amount of time to get down the aisle and stopping frequently to strike poses and blow kisses.  Pretty hilarious!  And of course, the ceremony and reception were such a wonderful celebration of Rebecca and Eric’s love and their blended family.  As for the rest of the weekend – there was great stuff, like kayaking in a beautiful park near Tampa and swimming and collecting shells with Rebecca and her friends and family.  And there was stressful stuff, like oversleeping on Sunday morning and having to make a mad dash for the airport so as not to miss our flight (we made it, but it was close), flying with a kiddo with a double ear infection (poor Peanut) and an urgent work email that ate up naptime on Sunday (it happens).  But we got through it all, and the good memories from the weekend far outweigh the little stressors.  And now we’re looking ahead to another busy week.  Life is very full, and very good.

Reading.  Lots of bouncing around this past weekend.  During the workweek, I finished up Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series – at least, those that are out so far (there are five; I think nine total are planned?) and loved them.  So complex, yet so joyful – these are really excellent middle grade books, and I can’t wait to introduce Peanut and Nugget to them in a few years (when they have the patience for chapter books).  After I finished Makoons, the latest in the series, I picked up Salman Rushdie’s newest, The Golden House.  I’m only three chapters in; I didn’t want to take a big hardcover with me to Florida, so I left it on my nightstand and picked it back up on Sunday.  While traveling, I bounced between Coronation Summer, which I had started reading on my kindle in California, and Something True (for the Book Riot Challenge) on the kindle app.  My Goodreads currently-reading shelf is completely out of control and I will be spending my free time this week getting a handle on it.

Watching.  The best thing I watched this week was not on TV – it was my best friend, Rebecca, exchanging wedding vows with her soulmate, Eric, on the beach in Florida.  All the feels!  As for TV, I didn’t watch anything – unless you count little snippets of the kids’ shows, which I don’t.  We’re entering the busy season of the year and what little free time I have is just not going to TV.

Listening.  I am almost three hours into the audiobook version of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (read by Lin-Manuel Miranda!!!), which I am reading for the Book Riot Challenge.  (Can you tell that we’re in the home stretch of the year? I am frantically trying to cram in all of the challenge tasks I haven’t done all year.)  I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with the book yet, but so many people did that I feel there must be something to it, and in any event I’m on board with anything Lin-Manuel does.

Moving.  It has been sort of a quiet week on that front.  I made it to 5:30 a.m. power yoga on Tuesday – my two early morning power yoga classes are some of my favorite hours of the week – and it was a particularly tough class.  I was actually sore!  Didn’t make it to the Friday morning class, because we were off on our long weekend Florida adventure.  But I did squeeze in kayaking over the weekend – I will always kayak if I can – and there was the usual circus of chasing two kids around.  Not to mention the lung workout I get whenever I have to yell at them for running off.

Loving.  Loving LOVE this week!  What else?  There is nothing in the world as heartwarming as standing with toes buried in the warm sand watching your best friend marry the love of her life while your little flower girl holds your hand.  Best ever.

Blogging.  September books coming to you on Wednesday – it was a great month of diverse reading! – and Part II of my Channel Islands National Park recap on Friday.  I’m going to try to share with you one of the videos I took, but no promises – I’m a Luddite, as you know.

Asking.  What are you reading?  And how was your weekend?

In between all of the family time and beach relaxation, Steve and I really wanted to sneak away for an adventure, just the two of us – like old times!  So we asked my parents to take the kids off our hands for an entire day; they were happy to oblige, and bright and early on Wednesday morning, we found ourselves at Ventura Harbor getting ready to board the Island Explorer for the ride out to Channel Islands National Park.

Look at us!  I feel like we’ve been together forever, but I also can’t believe that we recently celebrated twelve years of married adventuring.  He’s still my favorite person to hit the trails (or the high seas) with.

I am Moana of Motonui.  You WILL board my boat…

Heh.

As we chugged out of Ventura Harbor, the captain came on the loudspeaker and pointed out a bouy off the starboard side.  “Do you see the seals?” he asked.  “Yeah!” cried half the boat excitedly.  “No you don’t!” he chortled in reply.

Because they’re SEA LIONS.  Steve and I did not make that mistake.  We know our pinnipeds, thankyouverymuch.

It was a bit of a hazy and choppy day, but we got up a good clip and it wasn’t long before we had company – Pacific common dolphins, riding the wake!

And then, up ahead – Santa Cruz Island.

It was so exciting to approach the island.  I put a lot of thought and planning into this adventure, and Steve and I had both been looking forward to it with great anticipation for months.  I couldn’t believe we were finally there!

The island was gorgeous.

Steve was excited, too.

We pulled into the cove, docked, and headed off for a briefing by one of the Channel Islands National Park Rangers, who gave us the lay of the land and some instructions for the day.  About half of the folks on our boat were there to explore or camp on their own, and the other half – including us – had other plans in mind.  But more about that next week.

Our morning was free – our big, exciting, planned adventure didn’t start until after lunch – so we trotted off on a hike, keeping an eye open for the island foxes the Ranger promised we’d see everywhere.  He wasn’t kidding – one of our first wildlife sightings of the hike was a couple of island foxes trotting along the main road.  They’re the biggest mammal predator on the island, so they have some swagger.

I say it every time I hike far from home – one of my favorite things to do while traveling is to hike in places with a completely different landscape from what I’m used to.  Joshua Tree delivered, and so did Channel Islands.

We headed past the campsite and into the hills, and started climbing almost immediately.

The trail and the scenery were so beautiful – I couldn’t stop smiling.

Our plan was to hike a five-mile loop – from the boat dock to Potato Harbor and then Cavern Point, then back in time for lunch and our p.m. adventure.  We felt lighter than air without our usual (adorable) encumbrances, and we practically bounced the entire five miles.

The usual loop hits Cavern Point first, but we had it on good authority that we should hike the loop backwards, in light of the weather.  The hope was that if we got the inland walking out of the way and hit Potato Harbor first, the mist would have lifted slightly for our walk back along the bluffs, giving us better views.  So we headed for Potato Harbor first.

I loved seeing the diversity of plant life on the island.  From the water, and especially on a grey day, the islands looked like a lot of forbidding rock, and a little bit of brown grass.  Once we got up onto the bluffs, we were amazed by how much there was to see.

And then, before we knew it, we’d made it to beautiful Potato Harbor!

Don’t ask me to explain why it’s called Potato Harbor.  We asked everyone who looked like they might know anything about the park, and no one knew.  (If you know, please leave a comment and tell me.  This mystery is killing me.)

So gorgeous!  There was another couple hanging out and watching some sea lions through their very heavy-duty binoculars.  They offered the binoculars to us, and I took a turn but couldn’t see the sea lions – bummer!  You bet I could hear them, though.

After a little while spent drinking in the view at Potato Harbor, we hopped back on the trail and headed for Cavern Point.

The views were stunning as we walked the bluffs.

Happy hikers!

Before long, we came across a sign and we knew we were headed in the right direction.

And then we were there!

Cavern Point was a beautiful vista.  Mainland or island – there’s nothing like a California coastline.  We found a comfortable rock, sat down together and just enjoyed the view.

It was hard to leave, but eventually we had to move on.  Our stomachs were rumbling, and we had to eat lunch and get ready for our afternoon activity (about which, more next week).  But lucky for us, the walk back to the cove delivered plenty of beautiful views.

Including the Island Explorer, moored and waiting for us to take it back to Ventura at the end of our fabulous day – but not just yet!  We waved to the boat from our perch high up on the bluff and thanked our lucky stars that we had more adventure to come.

And then we were descending – too soon.  I was a little sad to say goodbye to such a beautiful hike, but I couldn’t be too sad, knowing what was in store for the rest of the afternoon.  But that is a story that will have to wait – until next week.

Do you like to go on adventure dates?

 

 

 

The Fall List 2017

Fall is here, and it’s time to start thinking about all things pumpkin.  Who’s with me?  It’s time for fall squash and circle scarves, puffy vests and apple pies, making holiday plans and sipping hot cinnamon spice tea.  Although I’m never ready to say goodbye to summer, I’m always happy to greet my favorite season of all (although, realistically, we probably have a few more weeks of warm weather before the chill settles in here, which is also fine with me).  Anyway, with that, it’s also time to start dreaming up plans for the season ahead.  This fall, I’d like to…

  • The big one: give a heartfelt Maid of Honor toast at Rebecca’s wedding (while wrangling my little flower girl) in Florida and then dance the night away.
  • The other big one: spend a weekend in New York City and see Hamilton on Broadway!
  • Take the kids apple and pumpkin-picking.
  • Read lots of books from diverse voices.
  • Walk to the farmers’ market and do some seasonal baking with Peanut.
  • Run the Dulles Day on the Runway 5K and the Marine Corps Marathon 10K.
  • Spend some time in Fairacre.
  • Help my bestie  MOVE TO D.C.
  • Take the kids to a children’s Halloween party.
  • Finally start cleaning out and organizing the basement.
  • Take a weekend trip to Shenandoah National Park and help the kids earn Junior Ranger badges.
  • Get an early start on my 2017 family yearbook (instead of waiting until January this year!).
  • Play at Badlands on a bad-weather day.

I can never seem to hold it to ten, can I?  Lucky thirteen things to do this season – but I think all are doable, especially since we are planning to stick closer to home most weekends (with the exception of NYC, Florida, and maybe a quick escape to the mountains) and we plan to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas at home this year.  It’s going to be a pretty simple season – lots of baking, reading, and family fun – but of course I’ll find a way to keep us all running around no matter what.

What’s on your fall agenda?

 

Whew – what a weekend.  I’m actually kind of glad to be headed back to my desk – I need a break from running around!  On Saturday morning we were up at the crack of dawn to drive out to Dulles for a 5K race on the runway.  I ran with Nugget in the stroller, a decision which I almost regretted (pushing 45+ combined pounds of stroller plus toddler is no joke) but he had so much fun seeing the planes from a different angle and being part of a race that I couldn’t be sorry I decided to bring him along for the ride.  Peanut was breaking it down at the finish line dance party with Steve and my BFF, Rebecca, who came into town on a flying visit (a week before her wedding, no less!) to help me put Peanut’s fifth birthday party together.  (She actually turned five in August, but we waited until September to throw her party, so that she could have her friends from her new class at school join in the fun.)  As soon as the race was over, Rebecca and I snapped into party-mode, and the rest of Saturday, and Sunday morning, was devoted to trips to Michaels, Party Depot and Wegmans, and cooking, crafting and planning for the party.  I spent almost two hours on chalkboard decorations for the party, and am now the official chalkboard lettering artiste for the wedding next weekend.  (Saw that coming.)  It was totally worth it, because Peanut and her friends had a blast, and everyone loved the mermaid theme.  Once the party was over, I really wanted to collapse on the couch, but instead I had to fire up the old computer and get some work-work done.  And now I’m looking at another busy week ahead – but good stuff, all around.

Reading.  I have spent my entire week with Omakayas and her family in Louise Erdrich’s beautiful Birchbark House books, and I regret nothing.  Early in the week, I finished up the first in the series, The Birchbark House, and then sped through the second and third, The Game of Silence and The Porcupine Year, respectively.  Reading speed slowed down a little bit when Rebecca came into town, because we spent Friday and Saturday evenings chatting over cups of herbal tea instead of reading.  But I ended Sunday curled up on the couch with Chickadee, and I am loving every moment I spend with these books – yes, even the heartbreaking ones (and there are heartbreaking moments aplenty).

Listening.  I am sooooooo close to finishing up The Great Courses’ Classics of British Literature on Audible!  Twenty-four hours total; I’m seventeen minutes from the end of the last lecture (which is about contemporary British theatre).  I’ve really enjoyed it, although I’m quite put out that Anthony Trollope didn’t merit more than a brief mention during the Jane Austen lecture.  Excuse me, but if Dickens gets two lectures, Trollope deserves at least one.  Anyway – Trollope snub aside, I’ve loved spending time with this course and my reading list has grown exponentially.  Next week, I think, I’m going to listen to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  It’ll fulfill one of my Book Riot Challenge categories (YA or middle grade by an author who identifies as LGBTQIA+), and Lin-Manuel Miranda reads the audiobook.  What’s not to like?

Watching.  Nothing – oops!  Our usual Saturday movie night was replaced by Rebecca time (while Steve watched a show on his tablet, upstairs).  But I’m really excited that Season 4 of Rock the Park is due to start airing soon!  I’ve missed Jack and Colton, and while I love following them on social media, it’s just not quite the same.  From what I have seen on Instagram, they’ve been having some epic adventures, so I expect Season 4 will be lots of fun.

Moving.  Good week!  In addition to running around after children and setting up a mermaid themed birthday party, I got in my regular two power yoga classes and ran a 5K with the stroller.  I’m pretty pleased with that, and now that it’s getting easier and easier to get up early as I am more in the habit, I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more runs so I can work up to the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in October – ooooo-rah!

Blogging.  Fall list coming to you on Wednesday (and it’s too ambitious, as usual) and the first of two posts about Channel Islands National Park on Friday.  Yes, you read that right!  Our adventure there was so epic that it demands a two-part recap; look for pictures of a gorgeous hike this week, and a truly awesome adventure on the water next week.

Loving.  My friends!  Old and new friends came together and helped me throw Peanut a fabulous party.  My BFF drove up from Virginia Beach and devoted the weekend before her wedding to important tasks like filling baggies with blue jelly beans and Swedish Fish; and every. single. mom. at the party – moms of kids from Peanut’s old class and moms from her new class, some of whom I’d barely even spoken to before today, jumped right in to help me set out food, distribute favors, haul extra boxes, wrangle kids, and do anything else that needed to be done to make the party a success.  You know you’ve happened upon a truly special bunch when women you’ve only just met take one look at your stressed out face and start rolling up their sleeves.  Warm fuzzies all around.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

As we sat down to plan our California trip, there were a few must-do items on our list – and one of those was “hike with Dan and Danielle.”  My brother and sis-in-law are avid hikers, just like us!  In fact, they’re generally more adventurous than we are (I give us a pass for now, since we’re toting little hikers with us).  We compared schedules and decided to hike Joshua Tree together as our big sibling activity for the week.  Well – you might have noticed – our family made it to Joshua Tree, but Dan and Danielle didn’t, due to a snafu with their rental car.  Bummer!  We rolled with it and decided to hike in the Santa Barbara area instead – and luckily, there were plenty of highly regarded hikes to choose from there.  After some hemming and hawing, we decided on the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Seal Sanctuary.

We had the parking lot almost to ourselves, so Peanut took advantage of the wide open space and got some spins out of easy mark Aunt Danielle.

As we headed into the park, we saw water views almost immediately.  Yes, please!

Look at that joy!  Aren’t piggyback rides the best?

A word about our child carrying arrangements.  As you’ve seen in previous posts, I had my child carrier with me, which is currently calibrated for Nugget, so he caught a ride.  With limited space in our bags, we made the tough decision to leave Peanut’s carrier at home and to rely on her to walk along with us.  I didn’t know quite how that would go, but it was great.  She hiked more than two miles at Joshua Tree – a long distance for such little legs!  And she walked most of the time at Carpinteria as well, although when she was tired, there were willing shoulders.  I was really proud of how well she did walking throughout the trip, and it’s nice to know that we can start transitioning her away from expecting to ride all the time.

The water views on our left were stunning, but there were some beautiful views on our right, too.

Mountains!  The California mountains are so different from the Adirondacks and Blue Ridge Mountains – my playground in the East – and from the Colorado mountains where Dan and Danielle do most of their adventuring.  I just loved the setting of Santa Barbara, nestled between the mountains and the ocean.  What a place to live, right?

Don’t be fooled by this picture; Peanut is not walking – she’s swinging.  Dan and Danielle, not being parents, thought it was so sweet that she wanted to hold both their hands!  She revealed her ulterior motive very quickly.

Most of the hike went along the railroad tracks, much to Nugget’s delight.  He was even more excited when a train went by!

Look at these people.  I just love them all so much.  Warm fuzzies!

After a short walk, we reached a viewpoint, and it was pretty astonishing.

Way too gorgeous.  There’s nothing quite like the California coastline.  It reminded me of hiking Point Reyes with Steve back in 2009, and of a family trip to Big Sur when I was little.

This was Danielle’s first trip to California.  I think she had a grand adventure.

We wanted to stay and gawk at the view forever, but we had to get on our way.  That’s a thing about hiking with kids – they keep you moving.

Back on the trail!

Fortunately, we had gorgeous views to enjoy while we walked.

Our next stop was the seal sanctuary portion of the nature preserve.  During the seal pup season (December through May) there are hundreds of seals on the beach below the Carpinteria Bluffs.  We were, of course, there in August – so we didn’t expect seal pups.  But we were hoping that if the beach was that popular with the pinniped set, there’d still be a few lounging around.

Strikeout.  Lots of seagulls, though.  The good news?  I’d forgotten my zoom lens back at our aunt and uncle’s house, so I wouldn’t have been able to paparazzi the pinnipeds even if they had been there.  Since they weren’t, I stopped kicking myself for forgetting it.

The seal overlook (that wasn’t) was the end goal of our hike, so we turned around and headed back to the cars.  We were all a little bummed that there were no pinnipeds, but happy to have had time together in a beautiful place – no regrets!

Dan felt sorry that we hadn’t seen any seals, so he did his best imitation.

It’s really a shame that he is always serious and hates fun.

We had some extra time, and we were having fun hanging out together, so we decided to keep the party going (and hopefully see some pinnipeds after all) in Ventura.  Dan and Danielle had been staying on our Uncle Peter’s boat, which is docked in Ventura Harbor, and they said there was a gaggle of sea lions that could be spotted pretty reliably around the Channel Islands National Park visitors’ center.  So we decided that lunch in Ventura Harbor was clearly in order.

Uncle Peter got his boat fairly recently, so I never had a chance to visit Ventura Harbor when we would stay in Santa Barbara on childhood trips.  It was bustling and beautiful.

With just the right amount of kitsch.

It’s too bad that Aunt Danielle is also always serious and hates fun.

Piggyback love was spread around.  Peanut had her turn in Carpinteria, and now Nugget got a chance to ride on Uncle Dan.

It was such a treat to be together in California and get to spend some quality time with Dan and Danielle.  Sorry for the gushing, but I just love this gang so much!

We walked around almost the entire harbor, checking out all of the boats.

And finally, a pinniped sighting!  There were a small group of California sea lions sunning themselves on the docks near the national park visitors’ center, just as Dan and Danielle had promised there would be.

Ahhhhhhh they are so funny and adorable!!!!

After our walk, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at one of the seafood restaurants right on the harbor, and spent some time exploring the Channel Islands National Park visitors’ center.  Peanut and Nugget rode on dolphin and sea lion statues, because why not, and we all soaked up the family time that we don’t get nearly enough.  The hike may not have gone quite to plan, but any day on the trail with Dan and Danielle is a red letter day.

What is your favorite place to spot wildlife?