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Vegas: Red Rock hike 2014/11/01

Las Vegas, for the uninitiated, is a city seemingly adrift among the vistas of the harsh Mojave desert. While there are several small towns and cities within an hour’s drive of the ever-expanding edges of the Vegas cityscape, once you pass those you’re pretty much in the wastelands. We’re talking the land of infamous Area 51, the Nevada Nuclear test site, Graboids, and Fallout New Vegas. The benefit to all this expanse of unrepentantly rough terrain is that much of it is exquisitely beautiful if you dare brave getting to it. Red Rock Canyon is among these prettiest of places while conveniently close to the city limits and relatively low on the difficulty. You can certainly opt to scramble up challenging rocks and scurry through caves and cracks, but you do so at your own discretion. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is named for the signature red rocks that proliferate the land. Other colors also streak through the stones, providing contrast and context.  Lighter stones could indicate mineral leaching from being underwater, while darker colors might indicate the presence of dense clays or different combinations of compounds. While I’m no geologist, I have to admit it’s a bit awe-inspiring to peer upon stones that chart the changes of eons in their striata…and besides, the red rocks are simply pretty. Many of the plants that grow in the desert are a less vibrant shade of green than you see in forests or grasslands, but the subdued hues contrast against the red quite nicely.
Despite the unyielding temperament of the desert, animal and plant life still flourishes. After hiking around for a little while, we found this little amphibian and his pals in a small pond that had sprung up atop a stone during the last rain. Rain is a scarce commodity and the ecosystem has adapted to take full advantage of it when it finally arrives. 

Driving back into Vegas from Red Rock is especially pretty during sunset, as the sky grows moodier and the city lights begin to twinkle to life. If you have the time to linger, enjoy the stars unhindered by the distant city lights.
 Few things in life are quite as lovely as the stars in a crisp, clear desert sky. 
Have you ever ventured into the Red Rock Canyon conservation area outside of Vegas?
If not, I highly recommend it during your next visit!

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Las Vegas: Visit from a little bee buddy

Just nature doing nature stuff.
This little bee landed in the little patch of astroturf we have here (be water smart, shop s-mart) and hung out for quite awhile, posing for us like a true professional.
I’ve never been spooked by bees, and I’ve been stung several times.
Stinging someone requires having their guts ripped out… o_o
Why would anyone want to do that?
Even bees aren’t that cray cray unless you force them into a situation where they’d have to be.

 This little home-bee meant no harm!
And neither did we.
These are the flowers that attract the little guys. They also attract humming birds!

Thanks for hanging out with us little buddy! 
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San Francisco: Golden Gate Park to the Golden Gate Bridge

We walked a lot while we were in San Francisco.
I believe we did around 10 or 12 miles per day.
Neither of us are joggers, so running was an unrealistic option for exploring the city in all it’s quirks, rental cars are expensive (and parking even worse), and the bike rentals seemed like a great idea until it came to all those beautiful but steep hills. 
So, we walked.
Sure, we also took the BART, the busses, and the occasional trolley car from time to time, but mostly we walked. 
San Francisco is a city that, despite it’s hills, is probably best explored by foot. The neighborhoods aren’t nearly so far apart as they might initially appear; walking from Japantown to Chinatown took us maybe an hour and that’s with frequent stops for photographs along the way and sipping some of the green tea I picked up at Nijiya. Fisherman’s wharf was a quick trolley ride from there. 
Even our sojourn from the Golden Gate Park to the bridge wasn’t terrible, and we’d already walked to the park from our hotel near Haight. 
Walking gives you the opportunity to see things you might miss out on when zipping past in a car, or to stop at your leisure to smell the flowers or admire the view without worrying about causing a traffic incident. On our walk from the park to the bridge, we passed a small produce store where we picked up sugar dates, peaches and fresh Rainier cherries for fresh snacking during our hike.

At Golden Gate park we came across this massive tree near the Conservatory of Flowers.
It might not look that big, but for scale;

Here’s Antho and the tree. He’s about 5’9″-5’10”, so he’s no short stack by any means, but next to the tree he sure looks tiny!

Gazing up into the leafy abyss.

Beautiful flowers seem to be in abundance here, with the weather mild enough for varieties that don’t thrive as well in our desert climate.

Who doesn’t love a good Christopher Walken pun?

I used to see these flowers all the time in Tokyo! They’re called ajisai (γ‚’γ‚Έγ‚΅γ‚€) in Japanese, and bloom after the rainy season. I never knew the english word for them until today! All along I’ve been admiring the hydrangea. 

After hiking along Presidio we found the San Francisco Public Health Service Hospital standing near the crest of the hill. The view of the city was quite lovely, and a stark contrast to the congested roads leading more directly to the bridge. By choosing this route we ended up having an extremely peaceful walk through the hills and trees with minimal encounters with other people. 

We even found wild berries growing near the road!

They look so juicy!

These pretty little flowers were growing next to the berries, too!

Look at all the moss!!!
Moss is pretty rare in the mojave, so it’s a novelty to find it growing in the wild. πŸ˜›

Pretty little pinecone with a toupee!

Even these chairs were being reclaimed by nature.

Getting closer!

The actual stonework was quite large so it was hard to fit it all into one photograph, but the quote said;
β€œWe opened the gates to all the world and said, β€˜Let all men who want to be free come to us and they will be welcome.’” 
Did you know that San Francisco is a sanctuary city?
What that basically means is that they won’t deport people. The movement originated in the 1980s when civil war was forcing people to leave their homes in Central America and the churches took them in. The sanctuary ordinance was passed making it officially known that the city chooses not to enforce federal immigration law.
Personally, I think that’s neat. We’re all humans and sometimes it’s really not feasible to spend years working towards legally obtaining your visa- if the shit hits the fan, sometimes you just need to get up and GO, especially if you’re trying to protect your family.
Regardless, it’s come under controversy recently. A man who was recently released from detainment rather than deported shot and killed a young woman who was strolling along the Embarcadero, a murder that anti-sanctuary proponents view as having been entirely avoidable and perhaps it truly was. The man had no previous charges or convictions for violent behavior, primarily just narcotics (and believe it or not not all drug addicts are violent criminals) so this act of violence on his part was unprecedented. Still, such a shocking incident has certainly brought more attention to the city’s Sanctuary ordinance as of late and may lead to changes.
Anyhow, back to our adventure!
Pretty panoramic, but Antho’s face got glitchy. X3 it’s kind of creepy, actually!

How about this little place? A bit on the creepy side too, eh?

Inside the small little abode, holes in the floor, graffiti and pinecones.

We found a snail! Antho bonded with the little fella. 

Snails are cute, I don’t care what anyone else says!

Look at his wittle face! Awww!
We set him loose a little ways from where we found him. I like to think he had an epic adventure and when he told his snail friends it was the equivalent of an alien abduction story. πŸ˜‰

And there she is!

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Golden Gate Park

After ambling along Haight, we eventually made our way to Golden Gate Park. It’s a huge urban park with a lot of attractions for people of all activity levels and ages. 

I want to think this is being cheeky as opposed to trying to avoid the creepy.

An indoor merry-go-round! Neat. 

Goobers on segways!!

A whole gaggle of goobers!
Oh, how the glide.
So majestic.

Those outfits aren’t the least bit goofy. Oh, no. Not at all.


Guide map illustrating just how long the park really is.

Pretty little walking path tucked among the trees.

These trees seemed unconvinced that it’s still summer time. 

A little vine had grown up through the tree, clinging to various branches and stretching ever upwards.

I like their little stretching tendrils!