Spring Wildflowers at Coyote Ridge

Spring Wildflowers at Coyote Ridge

The warm, 75-degree temperatures last weekend made for incredible spring-like hiking in the Bay Area. We do still have lingering showers, but there’s no doubt about it: The wildflowers have arrived! Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve in southern Santa Clara County was my Sunday destination, and it was one of those rare hiking experiences where I was able to interact with many friendly volunteers. Here’s what I loved about Coyote Ridge, the wildflowers I saw, and what you can expect if you go.

Loving Wildflowers to Life

Loving Wildflowers to Life

Wildflowers brighten everyone's day. Maybe it is their color after drab, rainy winters, or their wacky combinations of shades and shapes. It’s like solving a puzzle when I find wildflowers blooming in certain months of the year, an inner celebration when I finally spot the one flower I’ve been searching for. It fills my heart.

This winter I have been writing about wildflower hikes for Modern Hiker, and have been in awe of the wildflowers blooming in the Bay Area. In California deserts, a 2019 super bloom is getting underway. In the spirit of the upcoming wildflower season, I wanted to talk about wildflower ethics and why it is important to be mindful of wildflowers when you hike.

10 Great Waterfall Hikes near Seattle

10 Great Waterfall Hikes near Seattle

There is something calming, soothing, and magical about waterfalls, especially when surrounded by ripe, green forests or a snowy, winter wonderland. I love waterfall hiking in winter and spring to see falls in their full glory, to practice my waterfall photography, and to have some fun—How many can I see?!—during the rainy season. Seattleites have access to dozens of waterfalls in the Cascades and Olympics. While you could travel hours to a waterfall hike—I sure have!—sometimes it is nice and just more doable with your schedule to stick closer to home. In that spirit, here are ten great waterfall hikes off Interstate 90 near Seattle. Many are featured in my book Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle and I've noted page numbers where that’s the case. Please take care of the waterfalls and trails while you’re out by Leaving No Trace. Happy waterfall hiking!

A Birthday Caliversary with the LA Philharmonic

A Birthday Caliversary with the LA Philharmonic

It has been one year since we moved to the Bay Area—a milestone we call our Caliversary. We celebrated in Los Angeles seeing the LA Philharmonic. Gustavo Dudamel conducted a concert of John Williams's music, and we were delighted to see John Williams come out on stage at the end to conduct “Happy Birthday" to Gustavo. Although we had originally purchased the tickets for Onur's birthday on November 29, the concert was on January 26—Gustavo's birthday—and weeks before my birthday on February 14. Believe it or not, John Williams’s birthday is February 8. It was a Happy Birthday Caliversary :)

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls, a coastal waterfall in Point Reyes National Seashore, is the one waterfall hike near San Francisco that everyone seems to know about and wants to do. I admit that I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about when I began researching it, but after trekking 17.7 miles out in the Phillip Burton Wilderness, now I’m more like, “Oooh,” as my stepdad Bill would say, eyebrows raised with a slightly wondrous and enlightened expression. Here are my favorite pictures from the hike, with inspiration from a Brooklyn, New York couple interviewed on StoryCorp.

Murietta Falls

Murietta Falls

Murietta Falls, a 12.5 mile hike with 4500 feet cumulative elevation gain in the Ohlone Regional Wilderness, has been described as "brutal" and "strenuous." I came away from it feeling like it was more of a “quest” than a hike, requiring stamina and stealthy timing to see the falls. It turns out the 100-foot tall, threadlike waterfall depends on a steady flow of rain to make it go. Too early in the rainy season and it’s a trickle or nothing at all. By late spring, the falls dry up. Here’s a bit about what I discovered on the trail and what makes the hike special to me. This week’s inspiration comes from Smokey Robinson.

Mount Diablo and Honey Lemon Ginger Tea

Mount Diablo and Honey Lemon Ginger Tea

What do Mount Diablo and honey lemon ginger tea have in common? Absolutely nothing, except they are both enjoyable in the wintertime. Recently I was up on Mount Diablo scouting a waterfall hike, and so I thought I’d share my favorite pictures from it, as well a single-serve recipe for honey lemon ginger tea. This week’s inspiration: Rami Malek and Herb Kelleher.

Trail Lessons

Trail Lessons

“Do you think they’ll let me run barefoot?”

I was over halfway through a triathlon and had just finished my bike ride. Staring dumbfounded at my station, I realized I had forgotten my running shoes at home. Unsure what to do, I had turned to another triathlete and half-jokingly asked this question. It turned out she had a daughter with a similar shoe size, and she must have already finished because the next thing I knew, she was handing me her daughter’s shoes and saying, “Go for it.” So I did. I raced through the run course and finished the triathlon in another woman’s shoes.

I thought of this story after a similar experience this week. I was hiking in Uvas Canyon County Park when I realized I had lost my Garmin GPS device. I rushed back to where I thought I had left it, carefully scouring dead leaves, damp soil, and clumpy hillsides. I imagined triumphantly finding it. I imagined the relief I would feel. I imagined telling this story to friends and family. This was just temporary, I assured myself.

Nothing.

Happy 2019!

Happy 2019!

Happy New Year! It feels like the rush and magic of Christmas is slowly fading away, meshing and transitioning into new ideas, new beginnings, new hopes, and new dreams for 2019.

Regardless of how big your achievements are in 2019, I hope your most rewarding experience yet will be cherishing small moments. For me, noticing little things like a brilliant shade of fall red on a maple leaf makes me feel appreciative, joyful, and present. The best kind of gift :)

The memories I treasure most in 2018 happened outside, sometimes with friends and family and sometimes on my own. Mostly they were small things like discovering ferns I have never seen before. Other times it was sitting under the stars, walking among coast redwoods, and climbing to summits.

In that spirit of presence and gratitude in the outdoors, here are my favorite memories from 2018. These thirty pictures represent precious moments, changing seasons, and natural discoveries—California wonders like calla lilies, mariposa lilies, and the Big Sur coastline. I hope you enjoy them!

Wishing you a wonderful and happy 2019 :)

Melissa

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice and Merry (almost) Christmas! I hope this week is filled with light, love, and laughter with your friends and family, new and old.

This week I returned to Marin, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, to visit a multi-tiered waterfall called Carson Falls. Carson Falls cascades through Little Carson Creek, a tributary of Kent Lake in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. Carson Falls is my 15th trail description for Modern Hiker, and I'm really proud to have hit this milestone. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the hike!

Winter Waterfalls

Winter Waterfalls

It is teeechnically not winter yet, but with days getting shorter and Christmas in the air, it feels like it! And just like Seattle, we are in the midst of a rainy season. Sure, it’s shorter (November - March) and less intense, but it makes me excited for the waterfalls and ferny forests dripping in rain and fog. It turns out there is a word for this fresh, earthy smell after the first rain: petrichor!

So, what’s new? I wanted to share with you that over the next several weeks, I’m super excited to be working on a series of waterfall hikes in Northern California for Modern Hiker. I’ve learned so much writing about urban San Francisco hikes these past few months, and at the same time, I’m happy to be getting back into the forest, especially now that waterfall season has started.

A Hawaiian Getaway to Kauai

A Hawaiian Getaway to Kauai

When Onur and I drove out of Lihue airport in our compact Honda Fit, the first thing we noticed was how green Kauai was—the trees, the grass, the lush ridges, the steep valleys—everything was covered in plants! We breathed in the warm, humid air, like a bathtub.

Kauai turned out to be everything we had imagined a Hawaiian island to be—remote, quiet, verdant, and breezy—like we had been plopped on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Art in the Presidio

Art in the Presidio

Two Saturdays ago, Mom and Bill came to visit for Bill's birthday and I wanted to show them special places in San Francisco—places I had come across in my hiking research that I hoped they would love as much as I did. We first went to see redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, then to the Presidio to see art by Andy Goldsworthy, a site-specific artist who uses natural materials on-site, like tree branches and clay, to construct sculptures.

Mindfulness on Mission Peak

Mindfulness on Mission Peak

There are some podcasts I have memorized the introduction to. Some phrases that stick out when I listen. One is "we had to believe in impossible things" on the Ted Radio Hour podcast. Another is, "taking time to be more fully present" on Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations podcast. Sometimes I say the words out loud, as if I say them loud enough it will be true for me, too. Or maybe it's like singing along with the lyrics of my favorite song: There is pleasure in knowing the words and repeating them.

Tide pooling in San Francisco

Tide pooling in San Francisco

One of the most delightful pleasures of visiting the ocean are the colorful sea stars and anemone revealed in swirling pools of receding waves. I was stunned and brightened by the tide pools I encountered at Marshalls Beach. It was the first time I’d seen tide pools since moving to California, and it brought back fond memories of tide pooling with volunteers from the Seattle Aquarium at Puget Sound beaches.

Conquering Half Dome

Conquering Half Dome

Half Dome’s shark fin-shape is one of the most striking and recognizable rock formations at Yosemite National Park. It is also one of the most difficult hikes in U.S. national parks, notorious for its steep, 400-foot gain over 0.25 miles to the 8,836-foot summit. To assist hikers, waist-high stanchions are placed into pre-drilled holes and threaded with braided steel cables. Each year, the cables and stanchions are put up in late spring and taken down in early fall. In order to climb the cables, hikers must have a permit they can apply for in a lottery on www.recreation.gov.

So how did we end up hiking Half Dome? When we moved to California, I was determined to hike to summits—ones that would push my limits, ones that I could train hard for, and ones like Mount St. Helens that I had done in Washington State. Having new hikes to work for was a way to cope with moving to a new state and a way to continue my love of hiking in California. After doing a bit of reading, Half Dome and Mount Whitney seemed like the most exciting and obvious choices.

Sunset on Mount Umunhum

Sunset on Mount Umunhum

Our most recent adventure was driving to the summit of Mount Umunhum to watch the sunset. At 3,486 feet, Mount Umunhum is a prominent peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 25 miles south of San Jose. Up until 2017 it had been closed to the public as it went through an extensive restoration, and recently re-opened last September with a brand new 7.5-mile round-trip hike to its summit.