Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day Trip: Kruse Rhododendron SNR

I remember the beautiful rhododendrons when I was a student at Humboldt. Both on campus and in the forest, they were a sign that things were warming up and summer was knocking at the door (though, in Humboldt, summer never knocked very loud).

Last weekend Bob suggested we get outdoors and explore something new. The Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve is located about 15 minutes south of The Sea Ranch, just off of Highway 1. After a stop at Twofish Baking for one of their delicious chai lattes and a baguette, we were off.

The reserve is located adjacent to Salt Point State Park. Edward P. Kruse donated the land to the people of California in 1933 as a living memorial to his father, a founder of San Francisco's German Bank. The land was part of a large ranch established in 1880, on which the Kruse family raised sheep and carried on logging and tanbark harvesting operations.  Today, the reserve contains second-growth redwood, Douglas fir, grand firs, tan oaks, and a plethora of rhododendrons. Each May these spectacular flowers burst into bloom and color the deep green of the forest with brilliant pink blossoms.

The park has a network of trails and we did the 2.2 mile loop trail that takes you both hillside and into the gulch. I think I was expecting to see a larger density of blooming rhodies, but the ones we did see were a fantastic pop of color in the backdrop of greens and browns. We also saw some wild irises, poppies and some other flowers which I couldn't identify. We were surprised by a fat banana slug in the middle of the trail as well.

After our hike we had a little picnic lunch and then drove the long road home, through Plantation and past the Buddhist retreats, through Kashia and then into Stewart's Point.

Thing to know, if you go:
- no entrance fee
- limited parking
- bathrooms are locked until July 1
- dress in layers

Monday, May 16, 2011

#16 - See a Space Shuttle Launch

We did it. After several reschedules, a last minute scrub and more rescheduling, I can now check off #16 off my life list, see a space shuttle launch.

On May 16 at 8:56 AM (EST), the shuttle Endeavour lifted from Kennedy Space Center. Coincidentally, today was the 19th anniversary of Endeavour's inaugural flight ... to the day!

The whole experience was overwhelming, really. I cried, I cheered and I was surrounded by hundreds of others who had made the same trek.

Pictures will never do this experience justice. If you want to see what the pros captures, chcek out the NASA page. Otherwise, here are the photos that Bob took while I was too busy clapping, cheering and sobbing!

We arrived at the Causeway before sunrise.
The shuttle was still lit with flood lights.
Shuttle after sunrise.
Shuttle after arm has been lifted.

At this point, we felt a wave of heat wash over us.
The sound had not reached us at this point.

I was surprised how bright it was.
A night launch must be spectacular.

There was a low cloud cover, so no high-in-the sky shots.
Still, totally worth it!

This gives a sense of the people density on the NASA Causeway.

During the launch. Yes, I'm crying.
Post-launch and all smiles!
So glad that Bob and I could have this adventure together.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

#16 - See a Space Shuttle Launch (On Hold)

We are back from Orlando. We were there trying to get #16 checked off my life list. Due to timing issues, we decided to come back home. The good news is we are committed to making a return trip once NASA identifies the next scheduled launch date on the STS-134 Endeavour mission.

On our return trip to the Kennedy Space Center we did the bus tour which took us fairly close to the launch pad. Here is the Endeavor on the launch pad.

... and this is about as close as I got to being an astronaut:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Orlando Day Trip: Merritt Island NWR

It is easy to get wrapped up into the commercial/theme park aspect of central Florida, however, we are getting an opportunity to see some of Florida's natural side. After a return trip to the Kennedy Space Center, for the full tour, we headed out to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Merritt Island NWR was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. Consisting of 140,000 acres, the Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. Some of the water heights within the NWR are managed to produce a variety of habitats for wintering birds.

Here are just some of the things we saw in our short visit.