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Fort Ord Dunes State Beach

16 Jun Images by RJM
Images by RJM

Entrance to the State Park

Carrieanna and I recently visited Fort Ord Dunes State Beach, where we enjoyed the accessible boardwalk and the view across the bay to Monterey.

Images by RJM

View of Monterey (and the steep streets leading to the Presidio) from Fort Ord Dunes State Park

This State Park was created in 2009, and encompasses 4 miles of coastline along the Monterey Bay, including the now-closed Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army post. Continue reading


MSQLP Field Trip to Point Lobos

29 May

The following is  guest post from our friend, Tammy Jennings, a Board Member of the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life Project (MSQLP), a gifted writer and wonderful photographer!

(She’s the pretty blonde on the left in the first photo; all other photos were taken by her.)

My first thought was…WOW!  My second thought was…thank you, thank you, thank you volunteers, Conservation Corps, and Pt. Lobos staff for making the handicap accessible trails!  I thought I’d never be able to experience the wonder and awe of Pt. Lobos again.  But now we all can!  I had an unforgettable time.  Continue reading

Come visit Point Lobos!

4 Apr

During my recent trip to the Monterey / Carmel (California) area, Carrieanna and I visited with the docents, volunteers and other enthusiastic members of the team at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos Docent coordinator, volunteers and enthusiastic supporters

They were excited to show us this newly-created slideshow about Easy Access Point Lobos, set to the tune of “Sail Into the Sun” by Gentlemen Hall.

Check it out:

(And if that doesn’t inspire you to plan a trip to Point Lobos, I don’t know what will!)

And make a note of these upcoming Easy Access events and highlights:

Saturday, April 13 (1:30 – 3:30) & Wednesday, April 17 (11-1) – Granite Point Trail (Highlights: Harbor Seals Pupping and Herons Nesting)

Wednesday, May 1 (11-1) and Saturday, May 11 (1:30 – 3:30) – Spring Flowers and Cormorants Nesting

Wednesday, June 5 (11-1) and Saturday, June 15 (1:30 – 3:30) – Cormorants Fledging, Brown Pelicans Returning

You are welcome to tour at your own pace, whether you are pushing a stroller or walker, using a cane or wheelchair.* Docents with scopes, binoculars, otter pelts, photos, and more will be stationed along the trails to make Point Lobos come alive!

For more information, please contact Melissa Gobell, Docent Program Coordinator at or (831) 625-1470 or

*There are three wheelchairs available for loan. Check at the information center for more details.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Bird Island Trail, wheelchair accessible

California Poppies and Bird Island Accessible Trail

Apple Pie, et cetera

8 Nov

Although autumnal weather has not yet arrived in Sacramento – it’s been in the upper 70s / low 80s this first week of November – it’s a Hess pre-holiday tradition to drive to Apple Hill and purchase a buttermilk apple pie for Thanksgiving. So Carrieanna and I headed for the hills on Monday.

Our first stop was Abel’s Apple Acres, a four generation family ranch which includes a bake shop, candy counter, apple pantry, gift store and picnic areas.

Carrieanna had her heart set on a warmed apple dumpling, with a side of milk, for lunch. Abel’s was crowded, and she waited in line for at least ten minutes before reaching the order window.

Unfortunately, the attendant at the order window was unwilling to heat the dumpling. “We’re too busy,” she said brusquely.

She also claimed they had no milk to sell. Fortunately there’s a little burger shack (Terri’s Country Cuisine and BBQ) on the deck outside, where I was able to purchase a small container of milk.

Carrieanna said the dumpling was good, although she was disappointed that it wasn’t warm.

After lunch, we rolled through the shopping section.

Although most of the craft tents were closed, Carrieanna did find an unusual gift: A wood spirit.

Penelope & Stephen Wescott – Wood Spirits and Art

Wood spirits are said to be lords of the forest and all natural things. Seeing one is quite lucky. A forest will stand strong and healthy as long as the wood spirit keeps order. They bring good luck, happiness and health to those with a pure heart. Put your wood spirit in a place of honor in the home. Give him a name; talk to him. Enjoy! (Penelope & Stephen Wescott – Wood Spirits and Art, 530-721-1453)

Ready to move on, I loaded the foldable wheelchair in the trunk and we drove east a mile or so, stopping at Boa Vista Orchards in search of honey crisp apples. (We were told that type of apple is available in early September, and only for a few weeks. Note to self: Come much earlier next year.)

However, we did notice an unusual wheelchair-accessible picnic table. We had never seen this table configuration before; Carrieanna thought it was a great idea!

Boa Vista Orchards, Placerville, CA

Our next stop was High Hill Ranch, probably one of the more popular spots in Apple Hill with its bake shops, craft tents and fishing pond. (We were told that it was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded over the weekend.  Fortunately for us, there were very few visitors while we were there.)

The “mobility impaired” parking was paved and near a clean and accessible restroom. (One small perk about being in a wheelchair: No need to use the Porta-Potty when there’s a brick-and-mortar building available!)

Parking and restrooms for Mobility Impaired patrons

In the craft alley at High Hill,  Carrieanna found another unusual gift, a Sea Kelp Basket. Although there is a “no sketching or photographing of crafts” policy at High Hill, which we honored, I took these photos after we got home.

Sea Kelp Basket

Sea Kelp Baskets, created by Tami Cookson, Creations from the Sea, 530-558-0433.  (All basket materials – Bull or Ribbon Kelp, seaweed and shells – have been gathered along the beaches of Northern California’s Coast)

Finished with our shopping, we stopped at the Cider Shake Shop [<~~~ try saying that three times quickly!].

They were out of Apple Beer, so we had tiny tastes of apple wines (desert and spiced) before heading back down the hill toward Sacramento.

A visit to Apple Hill is a fun day trip, especially during the week when the shops (and the roads) are not crowded. Next year, we’ll probably go earlier (for the honey crisp apples) and also later (for the cooler temperatures).

For this year, however, we are well-stocked with two holiday pies in the freezer and lots of unique gifts ready for Christmas. We are satisfied!

Calaveras Big Trees

25 Sep

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 9-23-12

After spending a weekend at nearby Murphys, California, some friends and I decided to visit the Calaveras Big Trees before heading home to the Sacramento area.

It was a beautiful day; the first full day of autumn. Although the temperature suggested summer was lingering, some of the leaves were changing color and the light had the muted glow of early fall.

It was the perfect afternoon for a walk in the trees.

(Most of the following information was gleaned from Calaveras Big Trees State Park Activity Guide, brochure, and “A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail.”)

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4, the colossal trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park stand in quiet testimony to prehistoric times. These massive relics, which can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet, care descended from trees that were standing when dinosaurs roamed Earth, and birds, mammals and flowering plants began to appear. Some of today’s trees are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.

Giant Sequoias – the world’s largest trees – are native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Two groves of these magnificent trees are protected within the park. The easily accessible North Grove is historically significant as the Giant Sequoia discovery site. The more remote and pristine South Grove contains the largest trees in the park.

Accessible path, North Grove Trail

Accessible path, North Grove Trail


Opportunities for wildlife observation are abundant in the park. Bird species include pileated woodpeckers, northern flickers, Steller’s jays and dark-eyed juncos. Raccoons, foxes, porcupines, chipmunks, chickarees and flying squirrels are among the native animals. Black bears, bobcats and coyotes are sometimes seen.

Calaveras Bit Trees State Park

North Grove Trail

This gentle 1.7 mile loop will take you through the historic grove of Giant Sequoias discovered in 1852. The Big Stump, Mother and Father of the Forest, and the Pioneer Cabin Tree (at one time a “drive-through” tree) are all located along this trail, as well as about 100 very large Giant Sequoias. The trail begins and ends at the far end of the North Grove parking lot. This trail is “stroller-friendly” when dry. Allow 1 – 2 hours.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Numbered trail markers correspond to numbers in the booklet: A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail

#13  The Father of the Forest – “This tree has always been a favorite setting for photographers.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“Mother of the Forest” – so named for its beauty and size – was stripped of its bark in 1845 for the purpose of exhibition in New York City and in London.

“… A crew of men worked at the tree’s systematic destruction for ninety days. While some were eager to see evidence of the Sierra Nevada big tree, the act of the tree’s ruin also sparked outrage. Though nineteenth-century views defined nature as vast, unending, and forever renewable, people condemned the event as a botanical tragedy and an act of sheer vandalism. It was through the Mother of the Forest’s great sacrifice that a heightened awareness about the needs to protect these trees was born.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#21 “… when the Wawona Tunnel Tree in Yosemite was carved out in the 1880s, the owners of the North Grove responded by doing the same to this tree.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“The Pioneer Cabin Tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. Because of the huge cut, this tree can no longer support the growth of a top… The opening also has reduced the ability of this tree to resist fire.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#26 – Platform built near this group of sequoias so that people could have a close-up view of the trees.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

The thick protective bark often grows to be two feet thick, lacks flammable pitch, and contains high amounts of the chemical tannin, which makes it fireproof and also protects against diseases.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

 Accessible Features

The North Grove and Beaver Creek trails and the River Picnic Area are all accessible.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Campsites and restrooms with showers at the North Grove Campground – some visitors may need help with sloped terrain;

Wheelchair seating spaces, parking, assistive listening system at the Campfire Center;

Restroom and adjacent parking near warming hut off North Grove parking lot.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Accessibility is continually improving. For current accessibility details, call the park (209-795-2334) or visit

Fun Facts

Located 3 miles east of Arnold (California) on Highway 4

Open daily from sunrise to sunset

No cell phone service in the park

Latitude / Longitude: 38.2719 / 120.2867

Elevation at North Grove: 4,750 feet

Calaveras Big Trees Association:

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

I Have Never, Ever Seen This View Before ….

12 Sep

Point Lobos State Reserve, Bird Island Trail

Those were Carrieanna’s words, as we reached the first bend of the Bird Island Trail at Point Lobos.

September 8th is a day of personal remembrance for Carrieanna and me, and we chose to spend the day at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, California. She had learned that there was a newly-opened accessible trail, and we wanted to check it out.

We were delightfully surprised to find a few docents – including a friend of Carrieanna’s – on the Bird Island ADA trail. The docents were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this newly-accessible trail, and were clearly pleased to see so many wheelchair users taking advantage of the beautiful day on the trail!

Point Lobos now has three accessible trails:

Carmelo Meadow Trail (which starts near the Entrance Station and goes to Whalers Cove, where it connects with the partially-accessible Granite Point Trail);

Sea Lion Point Trail and Sand Hill Trail (which we have visited in the past; this photo is from July of 2008); and

Bird Island Trail (which allows a view of China Cove, Pelican Point and Bird Island).

We visited three trails on Saturday: Bird Island, Carmelo Meadows and Granite Point.

Come with us, as we show you what has been called “The greatest meeting of land and water in the world” (per landscape artist Francis McComas).

(Quotes are from the brochure provided upon entry to Point Lobos.  For a map of accessible trails, click here.)


“On the way to the Bird Island overlook, you pass between woods and sea, high above two white sandy beaches – China Cove and Gibson Beach. Both are accessible via long staircases. … China Cove’s sparkling jade-green waters are framed by hanging cliff side gardens.”

“As you walk the loop on Pelican Point, you pass wildflower displays that change seasonally. Here you overlook Bird Island, which becomes a large sea bird colony in spring and summer. Hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants nest close together on the flat part of the island. Watch for sea otters resting in kelp offshore ….”

(From southern parking area; round trip .8 miles; 30 minutes through coastal scrub; access to 2 beaches, good view of Bird Island and China Cove.)

Able-bodied visitors can use the stairs; wheelchair users roll up the path.

We found a bench and had a picnic, with China Cove as our view.

China Cove, from Bird Island ADA Trail, Point Lobos, CA

China Cove

The cove itself is not accessible; too many stairs.

We knew we were on the right path!

There was a portion of Bird Island Trail without any barrier. It was a steep grade and while scenic, with Gibson Beach to the left and below us, it was the one place along the trail where we did not feel totally safe.

(We mentioned this fact to the docents, who were happy to have our feedback.)

I counted 56 steps from the end of the rope barrier to the bridge.

However, once we rounded the bend, we had this wonderful view!

China Cove, as seen from the south side of the cove.

After enjoying the loop and seeing Bird Island,

we headed back down the trail …

… with a stop to use the clean and accessible restrooms …

… and say “Happy Birthday” to some celebrating ladies!

We then begin our trek along Carmelo Meadow Trail, headed for Whalers Cove.


“This wheelchair-accessible trail winds through an old burn area, across a small stream and through the forest to Whalers Cove. The woods and the adjacent meadow provide cover and protection for the birds and mammals foraging in this forest-edge habitat. “

(From Entrance Station to Granite Point Trail Juncture, through pine woods: .25 mi., 8 min.)

This trail was a bit more rustic than Bird Island Trail.

There was just enough of a decline that Carrieanna often raised her arms

as she “flew” down the path. Wheeeeee!

At the end of Carmelo Meadow Trail we come to Granite Point Trail,which is partially-accessible if you head east/northeast.

So we headed east/northeast.


“Beyond Carmelo Meadow, this partially wheelchair-accessible trail goes through pine woods to Coal Chute Point, a good overlook for observing Harbor Seals and sea otters. Continuing on through the dense, shoulder-high coastal scrub, the path takes you to the edge of a former pasture and then up to Granite Point.”

We were careful to stay away from the (beautiful) poison oak!

We were unable to get as far as Coal Chute Point. However, we did turn our backs on the cove and saw this beautiful monastery!

View of Whalers Cove from Granite Point Trail

Although Carrieanna could not follow the trail to Cannery Point …

Tree roots and a steep uphill grade = not wheelchair accessible.

… she encouraged me to do so.  So I did.

Cannery Point, Point Lobos

Ready to conclude our trek, we strolled / rolled to Whalers Station Museum, where a kind stranger took our photo.

Whalers Station

“These bones are from whales that washed ashore at Point Lobos and Garrapata.You are looking at the remains of a Fin, Humpback, and two Grays.”

We then headed back up the road to our parked car, grateful for a day of adventure and beauty.

Point Lobos State Reserve, we love you!

California State Fair: FUN that Moves You!

30 Jul

Nothing says “State Fair” like the smell of hay and fresh manure …

Unless it’s the sound of carnies trying to entice you to take a ride …

Or the promise of deep-fried … anything!

And, of course, if you’re in Sacramento in July, and the temperature consistently hovers around 100 degrees, it must be time for the California State Fair!

(Lego Bear, built by fine artist Nathan Sawaya; 40,000 pieces, took 80 hours to construct. Previously displayed at the California State Fair in 2007)

I have lived in Sacramento since 1988, and have attended the State Fair nearly every year since moving here. It’s one of the highlights of my summer.

While many people go for the food or the rides, my favorite fair activities include visiting the Livestock Pavilion and Nursery,

admiring the quilts

and the Fine Arts,

(“Cupcakes” by Robyn Slakey)

watching hypnotist Suzy Haner and other shows at the Expo Center,

and visiting the Floriculture exhibit — which included some colorful and exotic birds this year!

When my children were younger, we would often team up with another single-parent family and attend the Fair together. The kids would head for the Magical Midway rides, the parents would visit the County Exhibits, the Shopper’s Expo, and the Wine Garden!

Similarly, Carrieanna and her parents would visit the Fair annually “from gates-open to gates-closed.” Their Fair experience was a little different from mine in that they included a day pass to the Raging Waters water park, taking time throughout the day to swim, enjoy the water features and cool off, and then returning to the Fair exhibits.

In recent years, however, Carrieanna has been unable to attend the State Fair.

Although the grounds are accessible

and have many convenient restrooms – often an important consideration for wheelchair users – the hot Sacramento weather keeps Carrieanna from attending, as heat exacerbates the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

Instead, she “visits” the Fair vicariously through my photos.

So here we go ….

In The Farm area, the aisles are wide — but not shaded — and the plants are often huge!

This sunflower has some seeds missing — snacking birds, perhaps?

Visitors to the Farm were offered a refreshing slice of watermelon. Yum!

Next door is the Forest Center, with a cool path leading to an information center where visitors are offered a redwood seedling.

I was aware of many wheelchair users throughout the day. This woman, Sherry, lost her foot and parts of her fingers due to a disease. She told me that when she gets her prosthesis, she plans to do volunteer work to show amputees that life goes on. (I admire her spirit, and I wish her much success.)

I first noticed the Floriculture area and the Birds in Paradise exhibit from above. Naturally, I had to get a closer look at the birds, including these two colorful macaws!

Although I skipped the Shopper’s Expo, I did spend a few minutes in the Counties Exhibit and, in particular, enjoyed watching “Spirit,”

a bald eagle who lost part of her wing and, therefore, is unable to fly. Spirit is part of the “Wet ‘n’ Wild California” exhibit created by two state agencies (the Dept. of Water Resources and the Fish and Game Dept.) to educate the public about native animals and how water impacts their habitats.

I then headed over to the Exposition Center, where I especially enjoyed watching the grace and balance of The Stilt Circus

as well as the stroll down memory lane in Toytopia 2.0

Building with Lincoln Logs (fun for all ages!)

Cabbage Patch Doll, My Pretty Pony, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (“turtles on a half shell; turtle power!”)

And larger-than-life Transformers!

I enjoyed watching the dance and tumbling exhibition on Center Stage – especially since a friend’s daughter was one of the cartwheeling participants!

And then my tired feet informed me it was time to go home.

Another fun year at the California State Fair!

(“FUN That Moves You” is the Fair’s theme this year.)

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