Pride in San Francisco

City Hall, Civic Center, San Francisco

City Hall, Civic Center, San Francisco

Hang onto your hats if you’re in San Francisco this weekend.  It’s the annual Pride Celebration — a wild and wonderful festival highlighting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.  Throughout the month of June there are numerous celebratory events (like the LGBT Film Festival), culminating into the parade and final events this weekend.  Click here for more information about the events.


I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, this first photo is from that day.  In preparation for the special celebration, the Civic Center was decorated with LGBT rainbow flags.  Today they are setting up the chem toilets and road closures, and Saturday and Sunday the grass and flagpoles won’t even be visible in the sea of people.


Celebrants gather at this plaza and surrounding closed streets before and after the parade.  The long Sunday parade (over 200 contingents) proceeds down Market Street, and hours later spills into the Civic Center where there are several large stages, bands, and performances; hundreds of booths, and an absolutely roaring extravaganza.  Last year they had an attendance of 1.5 million people…it’s crazy!






Photo credit:  Athena Alexander



Palm Springs Adventures

Palm Springs, Indian Canyons, California

Palm Springs, Indian Canyons, California

Palm Springs conjures up images of a California city filled with resorts and tourists.  Although it is that, it is also palm groves with free-flowing springs, affording great hiking and prolific birding.


Located in Coachella Valley, during winter months it is a genuine oasis in the Sonoran Desert.  Melting snow from the surrounding four mountain ranges create abundant runoff through these canyons.  In the summer months it is a hot, desert town.


Costa's Hummingbird, Indian Canyons, CA

Costa’s Hummingbird, Indian Canyons, CA

Located approximately 100 miles east of Los Angeles, the city of Palm Springs has flourished as a resort town.  It was once a mecca for Hollywood stars (Bob Hope and others lived here), and Sonny Bono was even the mayor.  There are still events that draw film stars.


But it’s not the stars or resorts that called me here; it was hiking and birding in February.  There are spectacular mountain ranges to explore:  San Bernardino, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, and the Little San Bernardino Mountains.


There are so many places for hiking and birding that in four days we just scratched the surface.  We enjoyed a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.  In the more immediate area Indian Canyons, Coachella Valley Preserve, and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve provided excellent outdoor adventures.


RoadrunnerMore great birding was about a two hour drive away at the Salton Sea.  Palm Springs locals give you a perplexed look when you gleefully tell them you’re going to the Salton Sea.  So large it looks like the ocean, it is a runoff lake that is only 5 feet deep.  It is so saline and polluted that tilapia are the only fish that can live there.  Formed as a result of the moving rift plates, it has no outlet.  You can read more about it here.  It also smells, ha.  I saw my first roadrunner here…bee-beep.


The Palm Springs region is huge.  It’s easy to avoid the resort world and get lost in the mountains, canyons, palm springs, and desert expansiveness.  And if you’re a birder, get ready for some rockin’ times.

Indian Canyons, California

Indian Canyons, California


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

A Bobcat Tale

Bobcat in California, Point Reyes

Bobcat in California, Point Reyes

So named for its stubby, bobbed tail, the bobcat is the most abundant wild cat in the United States.  A small wild cat, they are twice the size of a domestic house cat, usually about 35-40 inches long.


Stealthy and solitary, Lynx rufus hunt primarily in the twilight hours, but can be seen at all hours of the day and night.  An adaptable species, they have the greatest range of all native North American cats.  Their diet consists of rabbits, birds, mice, squirrel, even insects; but they also hunt mammals bigger than themselves, like deer.  Their powerful deathblow is an impressive pounce from 10 feet away.


In my earlier days of hiking, I had a fear of bobcats.  Then one day in a park visitor center I saw a stuffed bobcat and was surprised at its small size.  I realized it would not tear my heart out and in fact, it was not that different in size than some of my friends’ well-fed pets.  From that moment on I decided I would like to see this wild cat, I was no longer afraid of it.  Before the end of that day, I saw a wild bobcat on the trail.  Since then, bobcat always reminds me to understand my fears.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Willow Ptarmigan

Willow ptarmigan, Denali Nat'l. Park, Alaska in August

Willow ptarmigan, Denali Nat’l. Park, Alaska in August

The State Bird of Alaska, the willow ptarmigan is one of those birds that looks completely different depending on the season.  A member of the grouse family in an arctic state where prey is not abundant, Lagopus lagopusis have to exhibit extraordinary protective methods for their survival.  In the summer it is mostly brown to blend into the vegetation (pictured here), in the winter they are primarily white to camouflage into the snowy landscape.


We found these beauties in a river bed while driving through Denali National Park.  Since we were in a RV, we took out our lunch and had a picnic with them.  That was a good call, because we didn’t see too many more of these lovely but skittish birds.


Unless you are comfortable in arctic temperatures, there is a small window of time in which to visit Alaska.  June through August is the Alaska travel season, so if you “have always wanted to see Alaska,” it’s time to go now!  Have fun!


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander