The Maps App Sent Me Over a Cliff

Dear Maps App, I trusted you. I trusted your soothing female voice. I trusted your visual representation of my location right there on my phone that tells me where I am and where I’m going and even where my car is parked. I believed you right up until you told me to drive over a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.

It happened this week when I asked my phone to direct me to my friend’s house in Moss Beach, a little coastal town near Half Moon Bay. She would say, “In one half mile turn left,” and it had been working well until she instructed me to turn left onto Ocean Blvd. When I turned in that direction, there was ocean but no boulevard. Ocean Boulevard had slid down the cliff. I’m not making this up. I have pictures. This is the road the map app directed me to drive onto.

Keeping up with the ocean’s voracious appetite for the California coast is not easy, I admit. Acres can disappear in an instant. Still, it seems like something that should be a high priority for the map app, erasing roads as they are devoured by the sea and removing them from the map. Oh, and not directing drivers to drive there.


Someone etched a house into a foundation where a house once sat, now hanging over the cliff.

Esplanade Beach–you know, the Pacifica spot where several buildings had to be torn down before falling over the cliff into the Pacific–is a dynamic stretch of coast we’ve been keeping an eye on. The latest development this winter was the ocean’s undermining and destruction of the relatively new public staircase and trail from the bluff far down to the beach. Neighbors told us the plan is to rebuild the stairs and trail exactly as they were. Good luck with that. Here’s what the trail looked like before and after the wipeout.


Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, BC

One of the highlights of our recent visit to Vancouver, BC (sometimes called “VanCity” by the locals in order to distinguish it from Vancouver Island) was a visit to Queen Elizabeth Park. Molly’s brother Don, who resides in Vancouver with his husband, John, was our tour guide. We took the train from Don’s neighborhood of Yaletown to the park (we love the public transportation in Vancouver, by the way!) This will be a post of few words and many photos as the visuals speak for themselves (click on any photo to see it larger), but here is what the official website ( says about the park:

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver’s horticultural jewel, is a major draw for floral display enthusiasts and view-seekers, and as a popular backdrop for wedding photos. At 152 metres above sea level, it’s the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore.

The 52-hectare park is home to the stunning Bloedel Conservatory. There is also a gorgeously landscaped quarry garden, the arboretum with its collection of exotic and native trees, sculptures including one by internationally renowned artist Henry Moore, and diverse recreational offerings such as tennis, lawn bowling and pitch & putt.


As we walked into the park we were drawn to these metal scuptures. Close examination showed them to be a place where lovers can hang locks symbolizing their commitment.

On our way to the Bloedel Conservatory we walked through the gardens of the Quarry area. Some flowers were over for the season but others were in full swing. The rhodedendrons were stunning.

The views of Vancouver from the top of the hill, where the conservatory is located, were fabulous.



















The conservatory allowed one to get up close and personal with many varieties of birds, including a variety of parrots and finches.

So, Stanley Park gets all the press but Queen Elizabeth Park is pretty spectacular. It should be high on your list if you visit Vancouver.

Glimpses of Shasta

Driving north from the Bay Area on Interstate 5, we look for the Magic Mountain to materialize to ease the monotony of the flat, straight highway. She first appears somewhere in Yolo County, just barely visible above the level horizon. The vision, beckoning down to the plains, always makes me gasp.

We rejoice as she grows bigger. She holds the promise of new environs, lush snow-covered fir forests. This year she is glimmering, whiter than I’ve ever seen her. Contrast these photos with the header picture of a bare Shasta, taken in late summer a couple of years ago during a historic drought.

We stopped for lunch at the Sundial Bridge which spans the Sacramento River at Redding. Walk out to the middle of the bridge and you get another view of Shasta. Swallows nest under the bridge and you can look right through the glass into their nests to see parents feeding their chicks this time of year. The Turtle Bay Discovery Park is still being developed and now there is a 17.5 mile paved trail from the park all the way to Shasta Dam. On the other side of the river is a dirt path. I really want to walk or bike it some day, but on the day we visited in early May, it was already too hot for a hike. It’s on my calendar for next April.

By the time we reached Dunsmuir, the mountain was towering above the highway, peeking out around corners, eliciting new gasps with each curve in the road. To the west we could see Castle Crags, another impressive rock monument. We decided we had to drive up as close as we could get to Shasta, just 14 miles on a decent road up from the town of Mount Shasta. A parking lot at the 6950-foot mark has been plowed to accommodate visitors. We paid tribute to the Magic Mountain with a selfie before continuing on our journey north.

Another Grandmother Has Died

Whenever we travel to Roseville to visit Holly’s mom, we stay in a hotel we call the Blue Oak (even though that’s not its name, it should be) because the building was constructed around a spectacular grandmother oak. On our recent visit we were saddened to learn that our revered grandmother died this winter. We had worried about her as the drainage was never good and water would collect at her roots. Oaks require good drainage to thrive, and after two weeks of steady rain, the behemoth toppled. She was estimated to be 300 years old. We mourn her passing.

A Visit to Hunter’s Point Shoreline Park

We often visit Heron’s Head Park, the spit of land at San Francisco’s south end. It’s one of the best bird watching spots in the city, and when you reach the tip of the spit you feel like you’re right out in the middle of the bay. This week we found that the new Hunter’s Point Shoreline Park, where the PG&E power plant used to be, is open, so you can walk from Heron’s Head over to India Basin Park. And that’s what we did.

Cross the new steel bridge over the waterway and you’re on a wide concrete walk and bikeway, a new part of the Bay Trail. It’s got spacious benches, water fountains and viewing decks with new landscaping alongside. Perforated steel story boards tell the history of the park and surrounding neighborhood. We learned that citizens had to organize and fight city hall for years to get rid of the polluting power plant.

This beautiful bayside park is the result of their efforts. We say thank you!

Headwaters in the City!


Park buildings in the midst of a makeover in the distance

Today Holly and I took a pre-Imbolc holiday walk in one of our favorite parks, Glen Canyon. The park is walking distance from our house in the adjacent neighborhood of Glen Park. Winter and spring are good times to walk there as rains make the canyon’s hills green and birds are abundant. It’s a little too early for wildflowers. The one thing blooming profusely is the oxalis whose yellow flowers cover the surrounding hills.


The park now has trail signs and stairs

Upgrades have been underway in the park for years now. The new tennis courts and kids’ play area are well used. Right now the community center and gym buildings are getting a makeover. We met up with Murray Schneider, a park volunteer and writer for the Glen Park News. He reminded us that the new trails and stairs that climb the park’s steep slopes were paid for with bond money that we voted for years ago. Yes! This is where I want our public money spent.overlook

Today we did something we’ve never done. We walked all the way along the Islais Creek Trail from the playing fields at the park’s southern end up to the headwaters of Islais Creek near Portola Drive and the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. This part of the trail is new. I’ve battled the brush to get up there before this trail existed and come home with poison oak. Now we can walk unimpeded all the way. Murray told us it’s part of the Creeks to Peaks Trail system which leads up to Twin Peaks.

Bridge over Islais Creek

Bridge over Islais Creek

I have a thing for headwaters, so I was just delighted to be able to access the Islais Creek headwaters on the trail. Headwaters in the City! The headwaters don’t look like much, just a patch of willows protruding from the side of the hill. I took pictures anyhow. I do know that Islais Creek, one of the only daylighted creeks in the city, has several headwaters. The others have mostly been buried underground. Researching neighborhood history, the Bernal History Project came across old maps of springs in the area. There is supposed to be another spring that feeds Islais Creek on the west canyon wall near O’Shaunessy Blvd.

This is what headwaters look like

This is what headwaters look like

From the big rock outcropping below Radish Hill (detritus from earlier construction) we scanned the canyon below and the sky above. We saw red tail hawks circling overhead along with ever-present ravens. Then, hiking down into the canyon, we watched a flock of cedar waxwings snack on berries.


Coyotes live here too

A hike to a wild city park on a lovely sunny day after weeks of rain was a perfect way to celebrate Imbolc.

Northern CA from the Air

By Molly Martin (the Mo in HoMo)

Whenever I fly I try to sit in a window seat, not above the wing, so I can see the landscape. For me, this is the very best thing about flying. About which, come to think about it, there aren’t many good things anymore. On a flight from Sea-Tac this week I got a pretty good view after the Northwest cloud cover wore off. I started taking pictures with my iPhone just as a substantial fire came into view at the Oregon-California border. I identified Mount Shasta and could see that the smoke was blowing toward it from the north west. It just got better from there.



The high peaks of the Klamath Mountains (that’s rock, not snow, though I did see a few patches) with the gigantic reservoir Shasta Lake beyond.


Seeing Clear Lake makes me think of the Bloody Island massacre of a village of 60-100 Pomo Indians by the US Calvary in 1850. The Island, which was on the north end of the lake, has been “reclaimed.”


I could see the huge charred area in Lake County that burned in the last two years.


The Richmond Bridge and Mount Tamalpais came into view.


Then a spectacular view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Bay and Richmond bridgemtDiablo

Mt. Diablo rose above the clouds.


Finally as we landed, the South Bay salt ponds and drainage. Definitely worth the price of admission.