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 (http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/queen-elizabeth-park.aspx) 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.

I-5 Was an Indian Trail


Mt. Shasta from the north

I grew up and went to school in Washington State, then moved to San Francisco in my 20s, so I’ve been driving Interstate 5 between Washington and California for many decades. A working person who needed to get to my destination as quickly as possible, I concentrated on driving as fast as I could without attracting the attention of the highway patrol. With luck and a supply of No-Doz you could reach Seattle in 12 hours. I didn’t stop except to pull off and sleep or get gas or food. Now that we are retired and have time to appreciate our surroundings, Holly and I can take several days for this trip and we’ve acquired a new appreciation of I-5 and the various watersheds and ecosystems it runs through.

North of Mt. Shasta, the landscape changes quickly from forest to sagebrush country and reminds me of my hometown, Yakima, on the dry eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. We usually come through in August and it’s an entirely different experience in April. Brown and dry in summer, the sagebrush and scrub are blooming! We travel back in time when we drive north in the spring, watching trees and flowers in earlier and earlier stages of bloom. Invisible in other seasons, fuchsia redbuds dot the roadside. The deciduous trees have not yet leafed out and the hills are green. Golden maple and oak catkins cascade from the trees. The mountains are still covered in snow. I rediscovered a volcano in the rear view mirror–a snow cone! We found it on the map–McLoughlin, 9,495 feet. It’s usually bare in August and we barely notice it.

We stopped at a museum in Yreka, which had a fine exhibit about local Indians, but then next the exhibit about mountain men noted that they were “heroes in a virgin and unpopulated land,” essentially negating what we had just learned about the native population. Weird. It seems like the different curators didn’t talk to each other.

Interstate-5 from about Stockton, California, to Portland, Oregon, follows the track of the Siskiyou Trail, an ancient Indian footpath connecting California’s Central Valley with the Pacific Northwest. You summit four mountain passes between Yreka and Ashland, Oregon. The highest is Siskiyou Summit at 4,310 feet.

Siskiyou Summit

Siskiyou Summit

Like many other roads, I-5 follows rivers: the Sacramento in California up to Mt. Shasta. Once over the Siskiyou Mountains you hit the Umpqua, a wild river flowing through lava rock. But I-5 in Oregon mostly sits in the green lowlands of the Willamette river valley. You drive past farming operations and a section that claims to be the grass seed capital of the world, with signs telling us the type of grass grown in each location. I love this and think there ought to be a law requiring farmers to label all their crops so drivers don’t have to take their eyes off the road and risk accidents trying to figure out what is growing alongside.

Lucita and mountains

Lucita and Cascade Mountains

The best thing about driving to Washington on I-5? The volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains! Views of Lassen and Shasta are followed by glimpses of Washington and Jefferson. I love when Mt. Hood comes into view as you approach Portland, and then from the bridge over the Columbia River you can see both Hood and Helens. Then Rainier and the top of Adams as the massive river turns north at Portland and the highway follows the Columbia River basin into Washington State. Is it because I grew up in the shadow of the Cascades that these snow-capped mountains resonate so deeply with me? Driving north on I-5, I feel them calling me home.

By Molly Martin