Boat and Beach Camping on Tomales Bay, 2013

August 17-18, 2013

Arriving at a beach on Tomales Bay by boat and spending the night must go back to the time of the Miwok.  Inverness Yacht Club members have sailed, motored, paddled, and rowed to Kilkenny or Marshall or Heart’s Desire beaches for overnights for so long that it’s a hallowed tradition. Continue reading

Sakurajima, an active volcano in Kyushu

December 31, 2011

There’s an active volcano (活火山, lively + fire + mountain) a ten-minute train ride away from Satsuma-sendai.  Named Sakurajima,  (桜島, literally, cherry blossom island), this formerly island volcano is home to giant radishes, tiny satsuma tangerines, and numerous hotsprings.

桜島は活火山だ。

While Sakurajima continually erupts today, ejecting clouds of ash and smoke, its most recent major eruption was in 1914.  Locals knew before the big eruption that it was time to leave: they’d heard stories about the giant 18th century eruption when the islands’ wells boiled, shoals of dead fish washed up on shore, and earthquakes rattled their towns.  In what was a rare eruptive event for Japan, home to explosive high silicate lava, Sakurajima belched a veritable flow of lava (溶岩), which covered villages and caused the island to grow, eventually connecting via isthmus to the mainland.  The volcano erupts more than daily, spewing ash over Kagoshima-shi in the summer and further south in the winter.

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Valley of Fire State Park

December 26, 2011

The road from Zion National Park takes you not too far from a brilliant red collection of Navajo sandstone rocks known as Valley of Fire State Park, close to Las Vegas.  While the sandstone in both parks is of the same, 150-year-old formation, the similarities between these two areas end there.  While in Zion the inherent majesty of the cliffs and spires dominates; in the Valley of Fire the saturated colors of the tortured rocks are off the charts.

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Zion National Park: Canyoneering in the Narrows

December 24, 2011

A conversation with my mother’s college roommate inspired a pre-New Year’s Eve trip to Zion National Park in Utah.  While her roommate and her daughter went to New Orleans for Christmas, we decided on the original plan of Zion.  We rented a car in Las Vegas and drove up Interstate 15 through Nevada, Arizona, and finally to Utah, where we turned off the interstate and passed the towns of Hurricane, Virgin, Rockville, and Springdale, arriving in a deep river valley gouged out by eons of flowing water.  The Virgin River cuts through ancient dense sandstone, carving out a narrow river valley amid the tall red and white cliffs.

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Bolinas and Stinson

September 2011

The tiny hamlets of Bolinas and Stinson are still on the edge of my mental map of West Marin; go a little further and there are dragons, expanses of agate-laden beaches, houses with secret passageways and treehouses amid Ponderosa pines, lush gardens, seals hauled out along the lagoon, rushing water that creates cascades as the reef drains, hedges resplendent with passion flower vines, and dentists whose offices give you splendid views across bluegreen lagoon water surrounded by pine trees.

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Fuji-san: Shiraito-no-taki (白糸の滝)

September 12, 2011

The great Fuji-san adventure continued: we’d seen the ice caves; now it was time for my final columnar basalt waterfall of Japan: Shiraito-no-taki (白糸の滝).  After leaving the lava caves, we drove through the leafy forests and open fields; dense woods and steep valleys of Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県, “mountain (Asian) pear prefecture”) and onto Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県, “quiet hill prefecture”).


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Fuji-san: caves of lava and ice

September 12, 2011

Where were we?  First we climbed Fuji-san in the dark, walked around the summit, descended down its slopes of scree, and spent the night at a vacation cabin, Tozawa, on the shore of Kawaguchiko.  The adventure continues…

But first, a word or two about the local fruit suppliers.  Everywhere we drove near Fuji-san sold fruit.  Peaches (もも, momo).  Grapes (ぶどう, budou).  Mushrooms (きのこ, kinoko).   Other local specialties from the mountain whose kanji and hiragana I didn’t recognize.  A favorite rhyme about peaches and plums in Japan:

すもももももももものうち

(A Japanese plum is a kind of peach, a peach is also a peach; both Japanese plum and peach are kinds of peaches.)

Yet, nowhere in these verdant prefectures did I see a single peach tree or grape vine, much less an orchard or a vineyard, despite abundant greenery and rich volcanic soil. Where do they grow those gigantic, dulcet, coral, iconic peaches so icon of the islands in Japan? Continue reading