Tag Archives: hiking

Each Footstep: NPM22 Day 8

Participating in #verselove over at Ethical ELA feels like a daily workout, faced with innovative approaches to poetry that I might not otherwise attempt. And today is no different. Today Scott has challenged us to show something without telling. So here goes…

Each Footstep

Don’t let them fool you

It’s all about the shoes

pulled on over two pairs of socks

a smooth, thin inner layer

and soft cushy outer layer

crissed and crossed

hooked and tightened

tied in a double knotted bow

These boots are made for walking

And they log miles

on dirt

over rocks

through snow

into squelching mud

across crunching gravel

beside trickling streams

Heading nowhere and everywhere

filling my ears

with birdsong

and windy symphonics

the scritch of lizard toes

echoing thump, thump of woodpeckers

the chasing race of squirrels

My faithful friend

gives me a lens

to see anew

snapping scenic vistas

noticing nature’s intricate and unexpected artwork

heightening awareness and concern

for Earth’s fragile beauty

Each footstep connects me

to my breath

to the planet

to these booted feet

These feet were made for walking


(Showing hiking without telling that I hike…with my camera!)

San Jacinto: NPM22 Day 5

Today’s prompt for #verselove on Ethical ELA is to craft a 4×4 poem: 4 lines, 4 syllables per line, 4 stanzas, and a repeating refrain that moves from line 1 to 4 through the poem. As I hiked San Jacinto today, I found myself thinking about words and ideas that might fit this new-to-me poetic structure. Here’s my draft:

San Jacinto

On San Jacinto

desert dry surrounds

mountains touch the sky

beckoning welcome

Alpine gondola

on San Jacinto

lifts to altitude

snowy spring hiking

Slushy slidy snow

melting in cool pools

on San Jacinto

desert far below

Descent to Palm Springs

desert wonderland

after day’s hiking

on San Jacinto


Super Bloom: SOLC 2019 Day 9

The desert is usually subtle.  Many shades of brown often characterize the plants and animals that live there.  Blending in is necessary for survival and adaptations for preserving water often mean staying small and skinny to prevent evaporation.  But when there is abundant rain in the winter, the desert can be a bit showy.  Super Bloom 2019 is underway!

We planned a desert hike for today, knowing that hiking would give us glimpses of the blooming desert while taking us away from more of the bloom tourists.  We got up and left the house early…appreciating the beauty of the sunrise as we drove toward the east.


One of the perks of living in San Diego is that you can get to the ocean, mountains, and deserts in about two hours or less (if traffic cooperates).  We arrived in Borrego Springs before 8am and easily found parking near the Hellhole Canyon trailhead.

Many of the flowers were still asleep, tightly closed against the cool of the night.  As we walked, the desert slowly woke, stretching and unfolding in the gentle light of morning. Starting early meant having the desert mostly to ourselves, allowing the desert soundscape to fill our ears.  The caw of a bird called my attention to the hillside where I spotted a mama big horned sheep and her baby.  We watched and listened as they click clacked their way down the hillside.  I definitely envy their surefootedness!  A buzzing nearby had me turn my head where I spotted a beautiful tiny hummingbird sitting in a leafless tree. Painted lady butterflies played tag as they flitted from flower to flower to flower to flower. The trickle of water tinkled in the distance, growing to a burbling stream as we got closer to the oasis framed in native fan palms.  The outcome of abundant winter rain was in full view as we finally got to the maidenhead falls where water poured from over our heads into the running streams below.

The desert is carpeted in wildflowers right now.  Yellows and whites stand near purples and pinks.  Splashes of red and brilliant white blossoms punctuate the view.  Ocotillos are just started to bloom, along with the barrel cactus.  The prickly pears will be ready in a couple of week, judging from the emerging buds.


The super bloom is just beginning and there is nothing like seeing the desert in its full color glory!  As the temperatures gently rise, the blossoms will continue to emerge.  If it doesn’t get too hot, the bloom may last through mid-April!  Today’s hike was perfect: a just-right physical challenge as we gradually climbed, scrambling up rocks as we approached the falls, like the sheep we saw earlier.  The weather was sunny, with coolish temperatures in the 60’s, and everywhere we looked, it was simply gorgeous!  It was a perfect Saturday adventure.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Fighting the Blahs

Some weeks my photography feels uninspired.  I simply don’t have the opportunities to get out and find the inspiration that bring photos to life for me.  But I’m determined to keep up my practice of taking daily photos…so out of the blahs, here’s a few shots that keep me going.

Scouting out some local hiking places meant an excursion into a nearby place we hadn’t previously explored.  I love our native plants for many reasons–their drought tolerance, their earthy smells, and their resilience. But they aren’t always beautiful in that ornate, photo-ready way.  I do love the old oaks in our area, especially when the sun shines through them.

img_3227A closer look at one of the smaller coast live oaks revealed acorns!  I love this one that reminds me of Halloween candy corn!

Processed with Snapseed.

If you pay close attention, you will also notice the insect life around. Swallowtail butterflies are pretty common in the area…and this guy even sat still long enough for this portrait.

Processed with Snapseed.

And I couldn’t resist this web built into the corner of the fencing along a portion of the trail.  I love the way that it is tucked into the corner, creating a lacy effect.  I didn’t see a spider…and this looks like it may have abandoned.


It was disturbing to see these dead palm trees in the distance.  We learned that they have been intentionally poisoned as part of an effort to restore this preserve area to its native state.  The palms are an invasive species and removing them will bring back native plants…and the ecosystem that native birds and other animals need to support them.


And a trip to the local mall offers an antidote to the blahs.  There’s a lot of construction going on as the mall is updated to better accommodate the growth in the area.  The cranes particularly caught my eye…along with the way the sunlight was streaming down towards them.


So…how might you use photography to fight the blahs…or adjust your eye to fight the photography blahs?  You might have to force yourself to start snapping and trust that something interesting will come up.  I try hard to remind myself to take at least one photo every day–even when I don’t feel inspired!  (Hence the construction photo!)

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #blahs for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Head out with your camera and take some shots…you’re bound to find something interesting and that will help with fighting the blahs.  And in the process, you might learn something about the place you live, the people around you, or even about yourself and the way you look at photos! Fight your blahs this week…and share a few shots with us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earthy

One of the things I like most about hiking is the feeling of being close to the earth.  I place my feet, one after another, on a trail, over rocks, skimming the earthy surface of our planet.  My hike last weekend took me away from beach, toward the eastern edges of the county.  I rarely think of San Diego as mountainous…but then I looked out from Eagle Peak and saw these in the distance.


Even with other people around, there is sense of spaciousness out here, an opportunity to connect with the earth on its terms.  I love the way this hiker looks so small against the vast earthy background.


And you never know just who you will meet…like this cow grazing nearby.


I found myself drawn to the design of the tree branches…and wondering if these are trees dying from the long standing drought or just bare for the winter. (Our local coastal live oaks usually stay green all year long)


Surprisingly, the next day was rainy and stormy, accompanied by unusually high winds. It took a toll on many trees in our area.  This one, at UCSD, fell over, unearthing its large root system (taller than me). Luckily, this one caused no damage to people, cars or buildings like some in the county did.


I love tulips.  They don’t grow naturally around here (I don’t think it gets cold enough), but you can buy them potted at our local Trader Joe’s.  This one bloomed and was beautiful…and I love its subtle continuing earthy beauty as the bloom fades and dies away.


And today I couldn’t resist this still life–designed by the sea–complete with bubbles from the rising tide.  An earthy arrangement of shell, sand, water, and rock.


So, what is earthy in your life this week? You might look in your yard, head outdoors into nature, or even look in the potted plants in your house. Or maybe you will find earthy in places I haven’t yet imagined!

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #earthy for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So, unearth the earthy this week, I can’t wait to see what you find!

Energize Your Leap Year: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Leap year comes only once every four years, bringing an extra day that evens up the calendar with the rotation of the earth around the sun. With all that rotating and leaping going on, it seems like a perfect month to continue the theme of energize with our photographs too!

Out hiking in San Diego’s back country today I noticed this sign advertising the dangers of entering the area…along with the bullet holes evident through the metal!  Luckily today was not a fire risk day and the hike was beautiful!


On a beach walk I took recently I noticed this surfer with his surfboard carefully balanced on his head.  I couldn’t resist snapping a picture…and he smiled when he noticed me.  It’s importance to practice balance in lots of ways.


I’ve been noticing other photographers “in the field” and have enjoyed photographing the photographer.  Watching others with their cameras gives me a way to think about and understand my own processes.  I couldn’t quite decide what this guy was focused on.  You can see the fisherman in front of him, but I never did confirm his subject–he might have been photographing the waves.


I love watching seagulls and capturing their antics through my lens. Many of the photos are static, making this one even more interesting as I caught the seagull wading as the rising surf moved into his space.


And here’s one from a while back when I went to watch my niece dance at her university. This recital ended with an exuberant African dance to the beat of music played by drummers in the room.  I love the energy of the dance and the way even the small movements seemed to leap from the floor.  (I loved my niece’s dance too…but this African piece was contagious!)


When I heard the giggles of these kids playing in the surf, I immediately turned my camera lens to catch them in silhouette.  I love all the ways to enjoy the beach–regardless of age–


from playing to meditating (like this guy crafting a meditative mandala maze)–there is something for everyone!


So for the not-quite-as-short-as-usual month of February be on the lookout for shots that energize.  Look for action both subtle and obvious. Capture the moment of the leap, figuratively or metaphorically.  To get you started, here is a list of verbs to remind you of the variety of action and energy you might find as you head out with your camera.

  1. Advertise
  2. Balance
  3. Bloom
  4. Craft
  5. Design
  6. Ease
  7. Flip
  8. Giggle
  9. Help
  10. Inquire
  11. Jot
  12. Knot
  13. Leap (of course!)
  14. Meditate
  15. Nurture
  16. Ooze
  17. Practice
  18. Question
  19. Revise
  20. Shine
  21. Think
  22. Understand
  23. Vanish
  24. Wait
  25. Wade
  26. e”X”amine
  27. Yawn
  28. Zip
  29. Your choice!  (This day only comes once every four years!)

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you find new ways to look at your world, to find the unexpected in the ordinary and the beauty in the mundane. You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Energize February with your photos of action, leaps of imagination, and innovative designs.  Let February be your muse as you view the world through your lens.


Erosion: Reading Nature’s Text

One of my favorite things about hiking is spending time outdoors, up close to nature’s beauty.  Today  I found myself pretty close to home, at a place I have been a number of times before.  We’d been thinking about venturing further out, but were having trouble finding the information we needed for the unfamiliar hike we wanted to try–so we decided to save that for another day and decided to head to Torrey Pines Reserve instead.

Apparently our idea wasn’t an original one…there were tons of people there!  After waiting in a line of cars to enter the park and making our way up the hillside to park, we headed out onto the trails.  I noticed right away the deep trenches in the trails, a visible impact of the heavy rains over a week ago.


It was clear that the rangers had employed sandbags and other tools to limit the damage, but nature is strong and water’s power is amazing.  I noticed erosion around me, thinking about the differences in this place over the years I have visited.  The landscape is constantly changing, pieces of the cliff are undermined by the wind and water and drop off to the beach below. Pathways move and are moved–directing the public away from danger and protecting sensitive ground and plants.


In spite of human intervention, the edge of the cliffs keep changing, moving east away from the sea.  As we continued our hike toward the ocean, I noticed all the ways people have worked to shore up and protect access to the beach.  Steps replaced the scary ledges I remember traversing on a field trip years ago.


Deep grooves become pathways up and over the cliffs, creating access to other less crowded stretches of beach.



This natural process of erosion creates new landscapes, new spaces to explore and to adapt. It’s a reminder that change is not a choice, it is a natural consequence of our interactions with the natural environment, with people and places, and with ideas. The rains and the wind and placement of our feet forge landscapes that didn’t exist before–some subtle and barely noticeable and some dramatic and barely recognizable.


And as much as we resist change and warn about its dangers, it will come. So maybe nature’s reminder is to pay attention, appreciate each moment, and adapt to the changes…maybe even anticipate the changes, allowing us to work with them rather than against them. Read the environment, nature’s text, the alphabet of rock and soil, as a way to understand both the story of the past and the one that will be written by those to come.


Change is constant, change is natural…so look for opportunities to notice change, to adapt to the changing landscape, and even to sculpt your vision for tomorrow. What will your story be?





The Vibrance of Walking

There is something about putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, heading somewhere–even if the destination isn’t clear.  I’ve really only learned to appreciate walking in the last few years…before that it was simply a way to get from one place to another rather than an activity in itself.

As I read Brainpickings today, this piece about walking and wanderlust caught my attention.  Rebecca Solnit wrote a book called Wanderlust: A History of Walking…and though I haven’t read the book, this quote caught my attention:

Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.

And for me, walking is a way of paying attention.  Paying attention to my thoughts and feelings and to the world around me.  That “nothing” of walking works as production for me.  It generates creativity, increases my energy and problem solving, and generally increases the vibrance of my daily life.

Walking some dusty urban trails in our downtown park yesterday, I was struck by these vivid desert flowers.  They’ve taken advantage of the rains in May and blooms are in evidence.



Up hills and down, following the twists and turns of the trails I noticed the dryness and imagined what the brush would look like in August.  But for now, a carpet of color explodes calling to the bees and other pollinators…and reminding me to notice and appreciate beauty in unlikely spaces, beyond the park’s groomed landscapes and curated exhibits.  Geoff and I were noticing the differences in the yellow flowers…and naming the ones we have come to know, natives (like me) to this dry and wondrous place.


And in the formal park, we walked by many beautiful blooms.  This hibiscus caught my eye–not only because it is vivid and beautiful, but because of the way the stamen cast a shadow onto the petals.  It would have been easy to walk by, but because I was walking with no particular destination, I took the time to lean down and look closely–finding something wondrous!


Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.


The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making. And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thinking made concrete — for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can.

Today’s landscape for walking was quite different as I headed out in the early morning light, beckoned by the low tide and time pressures.  There was a stillness beneath the rhythmic roar of the waves, quieting the shouts of work that needs doing and responsibilities to deal with, creating space for thought…and no thought.


And while I find my peace though the lens of my camera, Geoff finds his in his call to pick up litter in this beautiful place.  There are plenty of plastic straws, baggies, and food wrappers…and the occasional vibrant red ball left behind, bounced onto the shore by the waves.  We are both engaged in our art, in the rhythms of our body, and in the vibrance of the walk.


Quiet Forces of Nature

When we think of a force of nature, our thoughts often turn to those terrifying and often devastating earthquakes, tornados, avalanches, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and wildfires.  But sometimes in nature, forces whisper and almost go unnoticed.

In the solitude of the hiking trail, the rhythm of our boots joined the whoosh of the wind as it races through the tree tops.  When I look closely I can see how the wind shapes those tall sentinels, bending and curving them with its quiet force.


Could have been wind or water (or the lack of water) or something else that worked this tree trunk loose from the ground.  Now it continues to contribute to life in the forest as it decays, providing a home to insects and fungi, enriching the soil…and providing a natural frame for this photo!


Tiny flowers spring up, planted by the wind and passing wildlife, watered by the increasingly rare raindrops, and nibbled by the local inhabitants.  In the meadows they create a carpet of color, a delight for the eyes.


Look closer and you can see the individual blossoms as they sway in the breezes, their beauty fleeting…it won’t be long before the blooms dry up and fall off and this colorful carpet will turn to dry brush.


The barbed wire hints at the cattle that graze these spaces.  As I see the fences I remember a photo recently posted by a friend…and it becomes a mentor for one of my own.


I hear birds and look up.  On this hike I have seen birds of prey floating on the wind currents and what I think are local woodpeckers, with bright red heads, chatting with one another in the tall oaks high above me.  I see other evidence of their presence, the creation of granary trees where they store their acorns.


There are so many forces of nature at work in this magnificent place in our local mountains.  Nature’s forces weren’t roaring, but they whispered their power, begging me to take notice and appreciate the intricacies of her systems at work.  I’m part of this system too, and when I care I can make a positive difference, remembering that my needs and desires need to stay in balance with those of the trees and the birds and the wildflowers.


Appreciating Stillness

As I waited for the passengers to board my flight home, my inbox delivered an article on stillness and its benefits…and the ways that we avoid stillness…by using our devices (to read that article, ironically enough) and keeping ourselves busy, busy, busy.

This weekend has been a nice exercise in stillness for me. Somehow, with my camera in my hand, I find myself watching and waiting, listening to my own breath and noticing nature’s breath too (even in the city). There’s so much around me that I don’t capture in photos, but because I am looking for interesting photos, I notice.  (I have written about this idea before here.)

A hike yesterday took us out in the rain and wind into a park in Seattle. Not quite knowing where we were going, we headed out for a shore hike hoping to catch a glimpse of a lighthouse way out on a point of land that we couldn’t drive to. The wind and rain made me zip my jacket up to my chin and tuck my camera inside my coat for a while. Bare trees swayed, rubbing branches against branches, creaking and groaning. Most seemed to flex, but there was also evidence of breakage along the way. We made our way down some steep twists and turns and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that elusive lighthouse. Knowing we’d have to climb back up however far we went down kept us from going all the way to the bottom for a closer view.

lighthouse in the distance

We got back to a trail that would loop us back toward our car and continued to listen to the wind, feel drops of rain bounce off our hoods, and notice winter’s rainy splendor of leave littered ground, bare branches, and evergreens shaking off some excess water drops. Geoff’s eagle eye spotted a bright yellow mushroom and some local hikers were amused as we squatted low to the ground to photograph this beauty.

another mushroom

Earlier in the day, as we left Port Angeles, we took a bit of a side trip out to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge. Alone in the stillness, we noticed how weather batters the trees and cliffs and off in the distance we could see the mountains we had climbed the day before wrapped in fog.

clouds in the distance

We headed into the city center of Bainbridge Island to find a place to relax with a cup of coffee and check in for today’s flight home. Even in the bustle of the coffee shop, I found a bit of stillness as I watched people, sipped coffee and nibbled on a crispy ginger cookie. My mind felt relaxed, not racing ahead to the next thing that needed to be done. We wandered around the island a bit, finding a walking trail around the marina, watching sea birds glide on the currents as everyone else seemed to be hunkered down in preparation for the big game. Seattle Seahawks were playing the Green Bay Packers for the divisional title…at home. We tried to time our arrival in Seattle for after the game had begun.

As we waited for the ferry, parked in our rental car, the rain poured down, creating a little bubble of solitude around us. I noticed the bright yellow slickers and tall rubber boots that must be the uniform for ferry workers…having the right kind of clothes for the weather makes all the difference!

The rain stopped right before we drove onto the ferry, and once parked, we headed up onto the viewing decks. While it was warm and cozy with lots of comfy chairs inside, I feel better outside on a boat…and the picture taking is better there too! We found a spot under an overhang, with a bit of protection from the wind where we could watch Seattle come into view. The whistling wind sounded almost like native American flutes in the distance, welcoming us to the city.

seattle skyline

We checked into the hotel just as the football game went into overtime and by the time we were on the 14th floor, we could hear the roar that signaled that the Seahawks had won! Horns honked, people danced in the streets dressed in blue and green waving flags with a 12 on them (the city is clearly part of the team…the 12th member on the field at all times!). As we walked down to our favorite doughnut and coffee place a couple of blocks away, we could feel the camaraderie of the city, gathering together to celebrate this win that almost didn’t happen.

Strangers chatted and re-hashed the game as we navigated the powdered sugar and dripping jelly of the most delicious doughnuts…and even better coffee. There is stillness even in the hustle and bustle of the city, if you stop to find it.

top pot donuts

And we went to sleep to an amazing view of the Space Needle from the window in our room, knowing we would make one more trip to Top Pot in the morning to gorge on doughnuts and coffee before heading to the airport.

space needle at night

And after reading that article as people boarded the plane this morning, I gazed out the window, lost in my thoughts, watching planes coming and going, thinking about stillness. I’m grateful for a weekend of stillness, of quiet and reflection, and for the opportunity to spend time just being…with someone I love.

I’ll be looking for some moments of stillness to squeeze into my everyday life…and remind myself not to turn to my devices to fill that precious down time.