Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Sunrise at the Broadmoor
I attended a conference in Colorado Springs this week, and it was a truly fabulous experience. We stayed at the beautiful Broadmoor, surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains and it was amazing. I rarely make time for my own continuing education, what with work and travel schedules for other meetings, it can get crazy fast. But I'm glad I made time for this one. It was really great, with some exceptional educational sessions and really great thought leaders facilitating. I'm coming back with plenty of great ideas!  

View through Siamese Rock
On Monday morning, there was a sunrise photography session, so I woke up super early and met the other brave souls willing to freeze their tookus off for a great photo, and we had a great time. We got tips from a pro, and captured some really beautiful images of sunrise at the Broadmoor.

On Tuesday afternoon I had some free time, so a new friend and I hiked around the Garden of the Gods all afternoon, enjoying gorgeous blue skies, sunshine and amazing red rock formations. While some of the trail markings (or lack thereof) were pretty hysterical and the maps not quite as accurate as one would hope, we had an awesome time. I'd highly recommend it!   
Garden of the Gods
You can view all my photos here. I haven't had a chance to weed through or edit any of these yet, so please forgive the redundancy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Valley View
Shannon and I just got back from a great west-coast trip, part work and part play, totally awesome.We’d never been to Big Sur, so we were super excited to check it out. The scenery was breathtaking. Read on for the deets… and of course check out all our photos here.

We arrived in SFO on Saturday, and hit the road, bound for Santa Cruz. We of course checked out the famous Mystery Spot, which was a hoot, as promised. Don’t want to give away the surprise, so that’s all we’ll say.  Our drive out to Big Sur was in total darkness, but luckily we found our tent cabin campsite easily (we highly recommend Fernwood Resort) and got all set up in no time. Luckily, we’d packed plenty of blankets, so we were set for a good night’s sleep. It was rainy, and a bit colder than we’d thought, but thankfully not too cold.

Sunday morning we awoke to find our tent cabin was surrounded by giant redwoods. Amazing! The whole campsite is situated right along the Big Sur River that feeds into the Pacific. Our first stop was Pfeiffer State Park, home of the famous Big Sur Lodge. After a gorgeous hike to the Valley View Peak, we made our way to Pfeiffer Falls. The scenery was spectacular to say the least. We were dwarfed by the monstrous redwoods at every turn. Once we reached a higher elevation and were able to survey the amazing forest from the high ground, we had a great perspective on the scope of this natural beauty. We enjoyed a picnic lunch along the trail, and warmed up with hot tea by the fire at Big Sur Lodge before heading to Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach is an amazing stretch of coastline surrounded by magnificent mountains. The beach features a dramatic landscape, with rock formations jutting out here and there. The drive down to the park is something else, too! It’s a narrow, unmarked road off of Hwy 1 and it’s 2 miles of windy weavy pavement with room for just one car at a time. But it is so worth it! It’s a beautiful, unspoiled beach that's popular with locals, somewhat unknown among tourists and well worth a visit. Besides beautiful offshore views of rocks and sea stacks and some nice surfing waves, this beach has unusual purple sand, from manganese garnet particles washing down the hillside. The further north on the beach you go, the more purple it becomes. Once you’re on the beach, you feel like you’re in a movie. It looks exactly like the type of place an old ancient ship would pull into. We walked for hours, climbing the rocks, making our way across the streams, photographing the sea lions and taking in the gorgeous views.

The waves will never reach me here!
On one particularly high outcropping of rock, which I insisted on climbing to the top of, I posed for a triumphant photo, declaring immediately after ‘The waves can’t touch me here!’ Famous last words. No sooner had the proclamation left my lips than a ginormous wave crashed onto the rocks, completely soaking me head to toe. It was funny, and I had to laugh. But it was also cold, and very, very wet. Being the light packer that I am, this was not good news for my one pair of jeans. As you can see from our photos, my wardrobe the following days was quite limited… I did invest in an oversized hoodie emblazoned with Big Sur across the front and wore my yoga pants from the plane ride in for the next 2 days. While comfortable, not nearly as versatile or hardy as jeans. But I made it through and was able to eventually dry my jeans by the campfire, only to find that in addition to being attacked by the Pacific Ocean (yes, the entire ocean), I’d also managed to sit in a black sticky substance that I can only guess was tar, but that Shannon argues is some ‘tar of the sea variety.’ I'm not sure what that means. So jeans dirtied, we carried on.

As sunset drew near, we witnessed a rush of photographers setting up their tripods in hopes of catching a dramatic shot with the keyhole shaped rocks, and were treated to brilliant blues and yellows as the sun made its descent. When we thought the show was over, we packed up and headed out only to find the show had gone on, as the sky lit up in the most brilliant shade of pink for our drive back.

At Pfeiffer Beach
On Monday, we decided to take in the scenic drive along Hwy 1 between Carmel and Big Sur since we’d missed the show on our nighttime drive in. We’re so glad we did! The coastline was absolutely amazing, with picturesque views at each turn. We stopped at least a dozen times throughout the day to walk the trails, see the views, visit the wildlife, and take hundreds of photos. When we arrived in Carmel, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach at Carmel by the Sea, and watched families and their beloved dogs playing in the surf for hours. Carmel is known as one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country! We wished Riley could have seen it, but know she was much happier snuggled up with her friends Ashley and Gigi in Atlanta than being drug around the central coast with us. After lunch, we visited the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, which was wonderful.

The Basilica Church, a registered National Historic Landmark, is the centerpiece of the Mission. Upon entering, visitors are usually struck by its catenary ceiling, thirty foot reredos and 5 foot thick walls. The Missions fine collection of Spanish Colonial Liturgical Art and Artifacts are displayed through the church. The Harry Downie Museum, located in the forecourt to the Basilica, houses interpretive displays and artifacts devoted to telling the restoration story of the Mission and the significance of Harry Downie’s efforts in the restoration. Behind the Basilica, in the Munrás courtyard, one will find the Munrás Family Heritage Museum. It displays the treasured keepsakes of one prominent Monterey family. Its goal is to enhance every visitor's appreciation of their own unique legacy. Adjacent to the Basilica, the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery houses the elaborate Serra Memorial Cenotaph, sculpted in 1924 by Jo Mora, of travertine marble and bronze. This museum is also the home to an art exhibit which changes periodically. In Convento Museum, through which one exits the Mission complex, is found the cell used by Blessed Junipero Serra and were he died in 1784. Other rooms in the museum present interpretive displays for further understanding the history of this beautiful heritage site.
It was a wonderful experience, and so cool to see these ancient relics and architecture so carefully restored and preserved. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and it was such a serene place. We greatly enjoyed our time there.

The drive back was just as gorgeous as the drive out, so we took our time, stopping here and there along the way, spending a little extra time where the baby lambs lured me into a mudslide ;) and also checking out the Bixby Bridge up close and personal.

Bixby Bridge is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge on Hwy 1. The bridge is important historically because it introduced automobile travel to Big Sur, connecting the remote coastal towns to each other. The structure is 714 feet long, 24 feet wide, over 280 feet high and has a main span of 320 feet. Its two heavy buttresses are actually unnecessary to physically support the structure, but they certainly add to the architectural interest. It is one of the most photographed features on the West Coast, and has frequently been used in automobile commercials. The construction of the bridge began on August 24, 1931 and was completed on October 15, 1932. Before the bridge was opened on November 27, 1932, coastal travelers endured rough wagon roads over precipitous ridges and valleys. The 30-mile journey from Monterey to the Big Sur River valley could take three days round trip. It has since become a regional landmark, and was used in the opening sequence of the film Play Misty for Me. The bridge is also loosely referenced in Death Cab For Cutie song "Bixby Canyon Bridge."

We drove over the bridge a total of six times during our trip, and it never got old! It truly is a marvel of engineering, and the gap it bridges is truly extraordinary – a dramatic ravine, alive with color, leading out to the deep blue Pacific in spectacular fashion.

We spent sunset at a scenic overlook watching the Point Sur Lighthouse twinkle as the sky grew darker and enjoying a bottle of delicious local wine, a nice fruity sauvignon blanc. It was a magical twilight after a day of amazing sightseeing in an amazing natural wonderland.

On Tuesday, we drove to Monterey and went on a mid-morning whale watching cruise. We saw 4 grey whales on our journey, and two different schools of dolphin. It was amazing to be able to see such enormous animals in their natural habitats, and they gave us a spectacular show, blowing air out of their blow holes so we could spot them easily, and then diving down to give us a great view of their majestic tail fins as they went on their way. We weren’t able to get extremely close, but our guides were extremely knowledgeable and taught us all about these majestic creatures as we observed them from afar. On our way back in to the harbor, we were visited by a group of playful Risso’s dolphins, who frolicked about just feet from our boat. It was so cool to be able to see them so close up! We also saw numerous seals, sea lions and sea otters on our cruise. The sea otters were our personal favorite. They were absolutely adorable, napping on their backs floating in the water. We saw one mother and her pup, and the pup was snuggled up on the mother’s chest and they just smiled at us as we drifted by.

On Wednesday, Shannon headed back to Atlanta and I checked into my hotel for my meeting. Once I was settled in and caught up on few work tasks, I decided to take a short run to Lover’s Point, just 1.5 miles from my hotel. The wind was in my face the entire time, which made for a difficult run, but the scenery was lovely, so I didn’t mind. Once at Lover’s Point, I enjoyed a quick picnic in the park there and took in the view from the point as waves crashed angrily against the rocks. I walked back, and discovered a little cove along the trail, full of seals napping. It was quite a sight! The walk back was much less windy, and I took a stroll along Cannery Row, checking out the shops and boutiques along the way.

I was in meetings Thursday – Saturday, but we were fortunate to have some free time on Saturday afternoon because our meeting ended early, so me and a couple of co-workers hopped in the car and took in the famous 17-mile drive. It was beautiful, as was to be expected, but the highlight for us were the beggar squirrels at Bird Rock! These guys were not shy, and they went so far as to stand on their hind legs and pull at your pant leg for a treat. They were so fat and cute, and we spent at least 20 minutes playing with them. Adorable! We were treated to wonderful views of wildlife and plenty of amazing coastal scenery on the drive, and we topped it all off with ice cream sundaes at the Ghirardelli shop in Cannery Row.