Thursday, December 31, 2009


We have been on the East Coast for a week now. Our visit was a surprise so we didn't tell anyone we were coming. We flew from Oakland to Las Vegas, where we had a surreal layover (they have slot machines, oxygen bars and vending machines that sell iPods there). Once we arrived in Baltimore, we took a taxi all the way out to my parents house and trekked through the deep snow in their front yard to ring the doorbell at midnight — the official start of Christmas Eve.

It took my mom a few days to get over the shock. I've got to visit with lots of relatives I haven't seen in awhile (this includes checking out one of my uncles new Grinch tattoo — no joke). Ediza has gotten to play with her cousins who live in Pennsylvania, and last night my mom took Amber to get a pedicure.

We woke up this morning to a fresh dusting of snow and Ediza tried out her new bear-claw snowshoes that Santa brought her. A year ago, Ediza was on my back during a snowshoe trek to a cabin in Yosemite. Things were a little bit different this time around.

For New Year's we went to Gettysburg. The night found us meeting a man on stilts dressed as Abraham Lincoln, having coffee and dessert at a diner and sipping champagne in the streets while watching a fireworks display. We wish everyone a happy, healthy and adventure-filled new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Photos

This year we went unconventional and decorated a piece of manzanita as our Christmas tree. Going this route has a number of practical benefits: it was free, it doesn't need watered and it helped clear the brush from someone's property. Aside from those reasons, it is very beautiful. The white lights paired with silver and crystal ornaments seem to give it a special glow.

During the past few weeks we have been attending many holiday parties and events. Earlier this month, I was an elf at a Christmas dinner for senior citizens. The following day we walked llamas in Twain Harte's charming Winter Wonderland Christmas Parade. Ediza preferred to be carried rather than ride on Mac.

Just the other day we participated in the 30th annual Pop Hudson Memorial Christmas Sing in downtown Sonora. The newspaper organizes the event, where community groups stand on the courthouse steps and lead Christmas carols. Everyone standing in the park below joins in. The newspaper's staff always starts the festivities by singing "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful." I got to sing a second time (with Ediza's preschool). Can you guess what song we sang?

Monday, November 30, 2009

One parade down, another to go

This photo was taken the other night at the 26th annual Historic Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade. We've walked Mac and Golden in this parade for the past three years (since Ediza was just a little baby). This year, we're also participating in Twain Harte's Winter Wonderland Christmas Parade later this week.

As you can see, Ediza continues to grow. She is really enjoying her preschool, which is a cooperative run by parents. At the school, parents work directly with the children. Parents also help cook, attend meetings, perform maintenance and complete fundraising. For our fundraiser, Amber and I helped put on a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament. The event was a huge success and raised more than $1,000 for the school.

A few days later I celebrated my 28th birthday with a bowling party. That celebration led to Thanksgiving parties, which have quickly turned to Christmas cheer. Indeed, there's much to celebrate!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin fairies

This Halloween Amber and Ediza are pumpkin fairies. Amber made the wings out of wire, panty hose, paint and lots of glitter. She tried to get me to be a pumpkin fairy as well, offering to make me a pair of "manly" wings. Once she showed me the tights she wanted me to wear, I knew that I was going as a pirate again. Arghhh.

This morning we went to a nearby shopping center where Ediza and tons of other kids paraded around to all the stores collecting candy. Ediza won third place (and a $10 gift certificate) for her costume!

Within the past week, we've been to two Halloween parties, and I got to hang out with a gravedigger for an article I wrote. Tonight we're going to the Sierra Waldorf School for their elaborate celebration. Happy Halloween to everyone!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The third year's a charm

The big news around here is that Ediza turned 3 on Friday. After cupcakes and a pumpkin hunt at preschool, she had a birthday celebration with Amber's parents and sister. We then went to see "Where the Wild Things Are" -- Ediza's first indoor movie. The movie was artistically done and had good music, however, the plot needed some work. Ediza has the book so well memorized that she can read it to us now.

The next day Ediza and six of her girlfriends painted pottery at her birthday party. Amber made festive party hats and the girls painted everything from tiny teacups to ceramic snakes. Here she is blowing out the last candle of her ice cream cake.

We ended the day with a family walk where bats flew around us at dusk. Today, after I finished working around the farm in the morning, we went up to the high country to visit the family ranch of our friend. It was a beautiful autumn day and everyone got into the Halloween spirit by carving pumpkins (check out the final creations).

Ediza ended her birthday weekend with a stroll around the mountains on a horsie named Luna.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Strawberry Hideaway

On Labor Day we returned from another Strawberry Music Festival and after a busy week of work, preschool, etc., I'm just now getting a chance to blog about it.

This time around our friends from Monterey, Maggy and Karen, came to stay with us a few days before and after. We camped with them in our usual spot hidden in the trees. Amber decorated the camp with butterfly ornaments to give it a whimsical feel.

What made this festival extra special was a beaming full moon that lit up the night. Musical highlights of the festival included Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, the Avett Brothers and the Del McCoury Band.

Here's Maggy and I at the Sunday morning revival, and below is Ediza taking a bath -- Strawberry style.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our return to Lake Ediza

We recently returned from our third annual family hike to Lake Ediza, a hidden gem in California's eastern Sierra Nevada.

Ediza, who turns three in October, has also been to her namesake when she was 8 months old and 21 months old. Just as we've done the past two summers, we headed over Sonora Pass with three llamas. The beasts of burden make it possible for us to backpack with a toddler. I carry Ediza on my back while the llamas carry everything else.

Our first night was spent at Shepherds Hot Spring in the high-elevation desert. There, a late-night reveler climbed on a rock and preached a drunken sermon to us as if we were his congregation. Thankfully, once Ediza finally passes out she can sleep through just about anything. Amber and I were not so fortunate.

In the morning, a hot-air balloon took to the air right in front of us. Here's a pic of two of the llamas below the rising balloon.

Shortly after this we hit the trail to Lake Ediza, tucked away in the rugged mountains near Mammoth Lakes. After days of planning, enduring a sleepless night and hiking in the hot afternoon sun we finally arrive at our destination -- Lake Ediza.

The picturesque lake can be found deep in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest. We were lucky enough to spend three days/two nights at this magical place.

When Amber was pregnant and we were coming up with potential baby names, we were both drawn to Ediza as it sounds exotic and, like the lake, is very beautiful. About a year after our daughter was born, I began to research who the lake was named after.

I asked people, read guidebooks, researched Basque immigrants, even enlisted the help of a retired forest historian. She used her vast contacts ranging from Inyo National Forest employees to a U.S. Geological Survey cartographer in Colorado. Still nothing.

Just like the lake's deep blue waters, I guess some things are better left a mystery.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The other day I hiked Half Dome with my friends Dominique (a former coworker who now helps put on professional tennis tournaments all over the world) and Chris (a longtime reporter/columnist at our local newspaper). Despite the crowds, Half Dome continues to be the ultimate day hike -- climbing up two waterfalls, winding through the forest, the climax of the cables. It's always such a thrill.

Well, it seems as if I'm always writing about or posting photos of Yosemite so here's some of what else we've been up to.

Amber has had quite a successful llama shearing business this spring and summer. She just sheared two more yesterday. And she's reaping the benefits of all her hard work in her garden. It's amazing how much better home-grown produce tastes than what you'd buy at the grocery store.

Ediza continues to keep us busy with her nonstop energy. The only time we can really get her to nap is in her car seat. Ediza is now completely potty trained and she's excited about starting preschool in a few weeks.

As for me, I just started a three-month gig at the newspaper I used to work for here. I only work three days this coming week because the other half will be spent on our annual llama-packing trip to Lake Ediza. Photos from that trek will be posted soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A week of sightseeing & ice cream

My parents flew back home to Maryland today after a busy week of watching fireworks at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, riding a historic train in Jamestown, gambling at Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne, taking Amber to llama shearing jobs, walking around Yosemite Valley, dancing in the streets of Columbia and eating out at what feels like a million restaurants and ice cream shops.

Despite all the activity, we did manage some downtime. The photos above were taken in Yosemite, while the ones below were at home. (The one at the bottom was Amber and I holding Maggie after sharing a couple bottles of wine).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fair photos

I've always wanted to enter photos in our local Mother Lode Fair but never seemed to have the time. This year I made it a priority and entered pics from our around-the-world journey. The fair was held this past weekend and I earned two ribbons, including one for this photo of Ediza on the beach in Greece. For this photo, I won an impressive $7 -- exactly what it costs to buy one soft pretzel and a bottled water at the fair:)

More importantly, entering photos in the fair forced me to tackle a much larger project: sorting through and developing prints of some of the 5,000 photos we took during our trip. Not an easy task!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Camp Tuolumne Trails

It's been a while since I've posted anything. We've been staying busy working around the farm, fixing up our home, etc. On Father's Day, we took Ediza and Maggie on a hike all the way around Pinecrest Lake (a week or two before that we went up to Pinecrest to watch an outdoor movie under the stars -- very cool).

Today we took two llamas -- Golden and Pele -- to Camp Tuolumne Trails, just outside of Groveland. The camp is geared towards children and adults with special medical needs. The campers we met really enjoyed visiting with the llamas and were naturally very inquisitive. My favorite question one of them asked me went something like, "When a llama goes to a new place does he take time to observe his surroundings?" Good question.

Pucker up, Golden.

Pele wants some love, too.

Yes, that's Ediza -- a llama trainer in training.

I've visited the camp a few times while it was being built, but today was my first time since it opened last summer. The camp was created by a couple who want to help kids with special needs experience the "simple pleasures of childhood." It was really great to see their dream (not to mention all the time, money and everything else they've invested into the camp) finally become a reality. We'll be returning next week to introduce the llamas to a whole new set of campers!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yosemite Falls

My new article for the L.A. Times -- "Hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls" -- is now online at and will be in this Sunday's travel section. Below are some more photos from my hike there earlier this month.

Tomorrow Amber and I will celebrate our third wedding anniversary. The day after we got married we went to Yosemite and got drenched by another waterfall -- the appropriately named Bridalveil Fall.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spring Strawberry

We just returned from four days of camping at the Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite. As usual, all three of us had so much fun! It's tough not to have fun when you enter Strawberry -- a surreal world filled with tie dye and bubbles and hula hoops. Its very basis is fun. Where else can you drink cocktails and go hiking to a beautiful lookout point only to return to camp and listen to world-class music under the shining stars?

Some of our musical highlights included two sets by Michael Franti (one acoustic by the lake and the other a high-energy dance party) as well as a powerful performance at Sunday morning's revival by Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue. Ediza especially enjoyed Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster.

The music ended last night and we made our way back home to the llama farm today. It always takes us some time to transition from Strawberry land back to the "real world." My transition was accelerated today by shoveling llama manure for more than three hours in the hot afternoon sun:)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Walking the line

The other day I hiked Yosemite Falls -- now in its full springtime glory from the snowmelt runoff. When I made it to the top I was lucky enough to watch this world-renowned slackliner (similar to a tightrope walker) make his way across a rope above the falls. It was really incredible to witness the stillness and balance on the rope as the waterfall raged below.

About a week or so ago I saw a preview for a documentary, "Man on Wire," about a young Frenchman who in 1974 walked a wire illegally rigged between New York World Trade Center's twin towers. I had been thinking a lot about this movie and when I saw the guy walk over the waterfall I knew I had to watch it. Last night we saw the film and I must say I was enthralled from beginning to end. It was really creative as the documentary used the tightrope walking as a metaphor for how you should live your life.

Completely unrelated, we hope all the mothers out there enjoyed their Mother's Day. We went down to the big city to buy some paint. I love the names they come up with for paint. We are painting our bedroom Indian Sky with Sanctuary trim and our bathroom will be Bali Turquoise with Bitter Orange and Terracotta Pot. Of course, Ediza left the store with paint swatches featuring every shade of pink you could imagine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

'Around the World in 80 Days'

Other than a couples yoga class, Amber and I haven't been on a proper date in 2 1/2 years. That changed this past weekend when Amber's sister watched Ediza and Amber and I went out to dinner (Indian food) and a play ('Around the World in 80 Days'). We had a lot of fun. Amber wore a dress she got in Paris and I even wore cologne (also for the first time in years). Of course, we talked plenty about Ediza. Before the play we reminisced about our own around-the-world adventure, although ours took much longer than 80 days (more like double that).

While it's no far off distant land, the town of Mariposa (Amber's hometown) is the subject of my latest article for the L.A. Times travel section. Check out "Mariposa Butterfly Festival will take flight May 1 to 3" at We'll be headed there this weekend.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter eggs

Ediza has finally fallen asleep! It seems like she's been up for the past two days straight with all this Easter excitement. She went on two egg hunts this weekend -- one Saturday morning with nearly 12,000 eggs and the other this afternoon at the llama farm. Amber prepared a beautiful feast for us today and she's now reading one of her Easter presents -- "Breaking Dawn," the fourth book in the "Twilight" series. Amber got me an iPod shuffle, which will come in handy when I go running. This past week I ran for the first time since the marathon in China and I'm still sore! Well, I better go hide the candy before Ediza wakes up (it was last Easter in New Zealand, after all, when she first discovered chocolate by biting right through the foil of a chocolate egg).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vernal Equinox

On Friday, the first day of spring, Ediza received her first haircut. She got her bangs and some curls trimmed at the place where Amber gets her hair done.

The next day we all went to a wedding. Amber and I have been to a variety of weddings (including one overlooking the Pacific Ocean and another at a Christmas tree farm) and this one was right up there as far as originality goes. They were married at a lake and the reception followed in their yurt. In the past, we had researched getting a yurt. Being inside of this one, which had a kitchen and bathroom, made us again interested in making one our home someday.

Waking up the next morning we were surprised by some of the largest snowflakes I've ever seen (and later that day we were caught in a brief snow and hailstorm whiteout). What made it so surprising was that we had been enjoying such nice spring-like weather and just the day before we saw hillsides blazed with bright orange California poppies. Looking out the window now, seeing frost on the ground and on the llamas backs, it appears as if Old Man Winter hasn't called it quits yet.