2012 Resolution Recap

It’s that time! Time to see what I was able to get done over the last 365 days. I’ll start by going through my 2012 New Year Resolution List. (Sorry for another pictureless post)

Life Absorbed’s 2012 Resolution List

– Complete all 42 walks in “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA”
I wasn’t able to finish the entire book due to some health issues, but I certainly did 80% and now I have the pleasure of enjoying the walks as I complete the rest in 2013.

– Go rock climbing! I got to go indoor rock climbing with Amber, Lindsey and Adam thanks to a groupon to Hangar 18. Despite my crazy fear of hieghts, I was actually pretty good and got into it. I’m no pro, but I would gladly go again.

– Do at least one “monster” walk in 2012. Use my new “Car-Free LA” book to find a good really long walk and make a day of it. This didn’t get to happen. I’ve done monster walks alone, but they are more fun with a friend and my walking buddy Michelle had a wild year of getting pregnant and giving birth to lovely Cole. This goal will have to pushed to my 2013 resolution list.

– Resume hikes from my hiking book! Give those new hike boots a work out. I wasn’t too successful completing a ton of new hikes from my hike book, although I did complete a handful from the book in 2012. Bigger than that, I hiked Mount Whitney! That’s a pretty big goal for 2012, in fact I was so concerned I wouldn’t follow through with it, I didn’t add it to my resolution list from 2012. And I did it! 

– Go camping! Camping happened for a few days around Mt. Whitney as well as on The Channel Islands and when I went tubing the Kern River. 

– Hike (or ski) Mt. Baldy. I got to complete this with weights as I was training for Mount Whitney. I actually found this to be more of a challenge. 

– Go back to Catalina! When my parents came to town in September, we got to take them to Catalina and took them parasailing. My sister and I had so much fun doing it last year, that when another groupon deal came up, we bought enough for all of us to go as an anniversary gift to them. 

– Keep filling my nights and weekends with fun activities, even if it means being tired the next day. It’s worth it! This is of course hard to gauge, but I think I did a really good job at going out a lot after work and on weekends. In fact I went out so much didn’t get a ton of my night walks in. It’s about finding a balance and I have to be better about that in 2013. 

– Visit Hearst Castle. Check! I got to go when my parents came to visit and loved it. As a family we took a weekend trip up there and drove back along the coast stopping at the small beach towns. 

– Go cross-country skiing for the first time. I wasn’t able to complete this (due to lack of snow last winter) but the groupon was extended into 2013 which means I’ll be going this winter and already Big Bear has gotten some great snow. 

– Go white-water rafting. Another side-effect of no snow in the winter, is that the run-off over the summer is so depleted that there’s not enough water to make it “white water”. But in place of rafting, we got to enjoy tubing down the Kern. I’m looking forward to white water rafting in the summer of 2013!

– Go kayaking. I got to do this during my weekend excursion to the Channel Islands as well as doing it about 3 times when I was visiting my parents in Cape Cod this past summer. I love it.

– Try yoga. Did it repeatedly! I love the Core Power Yoga free Sunday noon class. Although I didn’t realize you needed to pay to borrow the mats, so I didn’t realize I was stealing every time I went. But now that I’ve realized it I will be investing in a yoga mat in 2013 🙂

– Try spinning. I did not do that this year, although I really need to. I ended up canceling my gym membership this year, so now I’ll have to pay to go to a class but I still want to do this. The only reason I didn’t complete this goal was because I was busy, and frankly I forgot about it. This is why it’s good to do midyear resolution recaps, to remind myself what I still need to complete. 

– Make new recipes to last during the week. This I did only a few times. It’s hard to make meals for one. Also my job often provides meals that are around dinner time, so it’s nice to save money by eating that food and leave the cooking to the professionals. 

– Go to Chicago to visit my good friends and see a new city. CHECK! This was a really fun resolution. I got to lump a short stopover in Chicago onto my summer trip to Cape Cod. I had such a great time visiting friends and seeing the tourist sights (the FLW House!). 

– Keep up my nightly walks. An hour a day does so much. As I explained above, I did this but not as regular as I used to (since my walking buddy was busy having babies and I started doing more event stuff at night). But in 2013 I’m going to go back to doing this a solid 5 times a week, if not more. 

– Try new bars, restaurants and museums from my “L.A. Bizarro” book. (As Amber pointed out to me, we don’t have to see any of the porn-esque stuff and that is agreed). I got to do a bunch of these with Amber earlier in the year, although they did take a back seat to all of my other goals as the year went on. It’s worth digging this book out again and going more in 2013. 

– If someone says, “try this hike with me” or “lets do this sport” or any other physical activity, say yes! So far so good. Saying yes to life has only meant good things.

– “Grow a Pair!” In 2012 I need to face the little fears. I successfully faced giant fears in 2011, so this should be easy right? I’m always working on that, and that’ll continue into 2013. 

– As a part of “Growing A Pair”, I’m going to go on dates in 2011. It’s something Ive been putting off because I hate doing it, but why not? If it’s the worst, then oh well. If it’s great then maybe I get a new friend out of the deal. I’ve jumped out of a plane, I think I can handle a silly little date. So send your single, outdoorsy, male friends my way. This remains true in 2013. Also, I’ve decided that “date” is too scary a word, and only call them “friend meetups” in an attempt to making dating less scary. 

– And of course I will work hard to maintain you, Life Absorbed. I wish I had started you last Jan. 1st, so now I must make up for lost time. I feel like in one year I did a lot to improve the blog. I tried (and I’m always trying) to come up with new features like Font Friday and Do This Today. I try to blog 1 or 2 times daily midweek and once on the weekends. I also designed a business card for the blog and changed the layout a bit. The “Life Absorbed” logo photo shoots where fun, and I hope to do more in 2013. Now all my photos have watermarks and I really work hard to make improvements as I get feedback. I’ve gotten retweeted by Scott Aukerman this year. I’ve gotten “shared” on facebook by some of my favorite comedians and even CBS included me in an article about the Secret Stairs of LA. It’s been good progress and I’m looking forward to more improvements in 2013!

This completes my resolution list for 2012. I can honestly say I gave it 110% and filled my time to capacity. There’s only so much time to get things done and I have no regrets with how my time was spent in 2012. I also want to share some things I did that weren’t on my 2012 resolution list:

A big Hawaii trip that included zip-lining, snorkeling, and hiking around an active volcano. Visiting the Queen Mary with my parents. Sitting in the UCB green room with Doug Benson and Zach Galifinakis (thanks Gabe!). The 1 million comedy shows I saw this year (I’m only exaggerating a little). Finally seeing David Cross do stand up! A fun weekend getaway to Palm Springs. My first hospital visit (not a good situation, but it could have been so much worse). Running the Denver Turkey Trot and getting to enjoy Denver fun. Getting to be Shari Lewis for the day. Doing all my DIY projects. Brunches with the girls. Visiting the JPL and going to about 5 neighborhood festivals. Doing the Color Run with Lindsey. Having my celebrity crush, Harris Wittels, comment on my blog. Tubing Mt. Baldy with Michelle and Lindsey. A weekend getaway to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. Visiting the horse racing park for Tom’s birthday. Going to a Beer Collaboration event. Magic Castle with the girls. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Chinatown. Gosh, this has been a busy year!

The Channel Islands: Kayaking + Camping

— As you know, I’ve just had an amazing time exploring the Channel Islands (specifically Santa Cruz Island) and can’t wait to share my trip with you. It’s best if I break it down into the three parts that make up the trip: Getting There, Kayaking + Setting Up Camp and Hiking the Island. —

Part II: Kayaking + Setting Up Camp

(map provided by the Nation Park Service)

You can see from the map above, we really had a full day of kayaking (and I’ve got the sore muscles to prove it). We chose Channel Island Outfitters as our kayaking company, and they were excellent. As challenging as it was, our kayaking group really ranged in age and abilities and yet there were zero complaints. They really accommodated everyone well. We started by heading toward Cavern Point and then looped back to see Scorpion Rock, and if anyone was too tired to continue there was a spot where people had the option to end their day (or go snorkeling), but our whole group kept at it.

As I mention in my previous post, we already met our guides Ben and Phil on the main land before we boarded the ferry. Once on Santa Cruz Island, we followed them to their kayak station where they gave the group the ranger talk about the island.

Above is Phil going over the rules of the island, and giving an intro lesson to kayaking. Channel Island Outfitters provided all of the gear (lifejackets, wetsuits, kayaks, different water jackets incase you’re cold, paddles etc) and even had a storage lockup for all of our gear. No quarters required for lockers, as it’s a giant container they lockup. The only thing that is suggested, is that you bring water shoes (mine were $10 at Kmart and were perfect) and a bathing suit that works well under a wetsuit (the smoother and less-frilly, the better).

Once the safety talk was completed, we got into our gear and the kayaking began. You can see the weather was still overcast (which is why I opted for the extra jacket) but the water was actually perfect for kayaking. The water was pretty calm and a comfortable temperature.

Here we are above heading toward Cavern Point. They took us through many caves and tunnels. There was always the option of passing on whatever we didn’t feel comfortable with, but the guys gave us excellent instructions before each cave and it was fun to test out  our new kayaking skills. I should note, I’ve kayaked only a handful of times in my life and felt totally comfortable doing everything they suggested. Our group was quite large, but with two guides (one in front and behind) I was always within earshot of one of them. They have a plethora of knowledge when it comes to marine life. Both Phil and Ben had such a deep knowledge of the island (and even science in general) that this was a very informative experience.

Above you can see we were exploring caves while hanging out with sea lions. Nearby were several curious harbor seals. While the sea lions were loud and clearly staking their ground, the harbor seals are very curious stealthily creatures who were quietly watching us. Kayaking with seals and sea lions, how cool is that?

Ben and Phil also gave us a lesson about seaweed and its common use in many everyday  products. I even tasted the seaweed skin! It tastes like salty apple skin.

The colors, even on a cloudy day, were so beautiful. Look at the golden browns and blue water. It was really something special.

Fellow blogger AsHerWorldTurns, took the above photo of me (she also took many of the photos you are seeing posted from the kayaking trip). Between the GoPro and the underwater camera, she got us some great photos. I strongly suggest you only bring waterproof cameras on your kayaking adventure. I did get pretty wet and I’m glad I chose not to bring my nice camera.

Here was are above near Scorpion Rock learning about sea life. We got to hold those purple spiky balls and the spikes move when they feel your fingers (see below).

We lucked out and visited on a day when volunteers were planting on Scorpion Island. I don’t have an image of it here, but imagine a tiny island with people all over it gardening. This effort is part of The Nature Conservancy‘s plan to revitalize the animal life on Santa Cruz Island. These specific plants they were planting attract a specific nesting bird, and hopefully these plants will bring more birds to the island ultimately increasing their population. After looping around Scorpion Rock and even entering one of it’s caves, we had to head back to the main port as our time was nearing an end.

With 30 minutes until the ferry boat was heading back to the main land, we borrowed some snorkeling gear from Channel Island Outfitters and went for a quick dip in the harbor. While we were camping over (and not taking the ferry back), our guides had to head back as well as most of the kayaking group who just came to the island for the day.

Look at that stingray above! Even in our quick snorkeling time we still got to see some awesome animal life. The even had a kelp forest right in the harbor (which attracts all types of fish) and we spotted this stingray, and spent some time watching it feed. Alas, it was time to dry off and head back to shore. We spent a lot of time chatting with a Channel Islands Outfitters guide named JD, who was cleaning the gear and assembling it for the next days visitors. He was so nice and helpful. I really can’t stress enough, everyone we met on the island was so accommodating and eager to lend a hand. He even offered to help us carry our stuff to our campsite.

It was kind of him to offer, but we wanted the challenge of our camping weekend, so we carried our own gear to our huge campsite. You can see above, we made our way to the campsite and set-up our belongings. I touch on this in my previous post, but I must reiterate, when we went to book a campsite it was all reserved. By calling the number on the reservation website the rangers worked with us and really made this weekend happen. Sure enough they had many cancelations, and they gave us a giant site to ourselves.

We quickly setup camp and tried to get some photos in as the sun was setting. The above photo shows the wide shot of our campsite. Our site was under the trees on the left side of the photo.

Thankfully we hiked up fast enough to catch the sun setting. We also got to see some stellar views of where we had kayaked earlier that day.

After taking some photos we headed back to our campsite to have a bite to eat. While eating dinner one of the park rangers (Ranger Tim) stopped by to say hello. He was very kind and answered all our questions. I’ve always been fascinated (and super jealous) of people who spend all day outside and I had so many questions for him about what he does. He was very patient and told us all about island living. Later that night our good friend Cathy (see my last post for a photo) came by to answer any questions we had about hikes or wildlife.

Up next, Ill detail the hiking the Channel Island hikes with plenty of blue sky photos.

The Channel Islands: Getting There

As you know, I’ve just had an amazing time exploring the Channel Islands (specifically Santa Cruz Island) and can’t wait to share my trip with you. It’s best if I break it down into the three parts that make up the trip: Getting There, Kayaking + Setting Up Camp + Hiking the Island.

Part I: Getting There

When planning a trip to the Channel Islands, you first (#1) have to decide which island is right for you? My sister and I decided to visit the largest island (Santa Cruz), so we could plan a Saturday of kayaking/snorkeling and then a Sunday of hiking and exploring. Santa Cruz Island had the most hiking options so we decided that was best for us.

(#2) Next we researched the camping, ferry, and kayaking options. Santa Cruz has two main ports on opposite ends of the island. We decided taking the boat into Scorpion Anchorage, where we were only a .5+ walk to the Scorpion campground would work out well (and they have primitive toilets! which is much better than none at all). This same port is where Channel Islands Outfitters leads their kayaking tours.

(#3) It’s now time to book this perfect plan. Channel Island Outfitters offered us an excellent discount and they were the perfect fit for this trek. They offer an all day kayaking experience and even have ferry spots pre-reserved for you (with Island Packers Cruises), so you can book directly through them and they take care of transportation reservations. As for booking a campsite, everything was reserved when we checked the website, but after calling the Ranger (through contact info found here) he managed to find a place for us. This also worked out perfectly, as there ended up being campsite cancellations and since they were so accommodating to begin with, we were able to fill one of those spots. I really can’t stress enough how friendly, helpful and welcoming all the people on the island were.

(map provided by the National Park Service here)

Once our trip was planned, we printed all our info, packed up our gear and made an early Saturday morning trek to Ventura where we signed in with the ferry company and our kayaking group guides, Ben and Phil, at 7am.

You can see above, groups were unloading gear and getting ready for their weekend on Santa Cruz Island (at 7am). I think we were all hoping the gray clouds were all just from the thick marine layer, which would hopefully fade away.

This was the boat we took out to the island above. This is their fast boat which can make the trip in about an hour. They have a small snack bar on the boat, so if you need a coffee boost, here’s the place to fill up. I suggest you sit on the upper deck and look for rare birds, seals, sea lions, dolphins/porpoises, and if you’re lucky, whales. I can promise you’ll see at least one of these animals on the boat ride across.

Above is Cathy, a park volunteer who rode out with us to the island and then stayed the weekend. She was there to teach people about the island and help answer questions. Not only was she on our boat, but she came around to each of the campsites around 7pm to meet all the groups. She was very sweet, knowledgeable about the island and eager to help. She volunteers her weekend to help visitors, which is awesome. Go to Santa Cruz and talk to Cathy!

We passed a team of rowers preparing for an early morning run.

Early in the ferry ride we passed this group of harbor seals warming up. They are so fun to watch up close like this (and on our kayaking adventure we got to be really close.. but more on that later).

Once we were on our way, the gray skies and blue water were so beautiful and still. There is something so calming about the photo above. It was chilly on the boat, so when planning your trip, dress in layers because the wind is chilly but when the sun comes out it warms you up.

Anticipation was building as Santa Cruz came into sight. It reminded me of that computer game Myst, where we approached this magical almost abandoned-looking island hidden in the clouds.

Making our way to the pier. Notice how different this port is compared to Catalina, which is often filled with boats. We knew we were heading to someplace much more private, natural and therefore more special.

Just one or two boats were in the vicinity of Scorpion Anchorage.

Here is where the boat docked, and we stepped off. All the passengers got into a line and passed all the gear down the line until a pile formed at the end of the pier. I love this comradery of helpfulness that everyone goes through as they enter this island. When you are on this island, youre part of a special group of visitors who must work together to get things done. It’s an excellent way to utilize team work and step into a world of nature.

Up next, Ill detail the Channel Island Outfitters kayaking tour.

The Channel Islands… Just A Taste

I survived! Can you guess where I went? The Channel Islands! Specifically, Santa Cruz Island (the largest one). I’ll have a full report for you soon, as it’ll take me a little while to sort through and edit all the photos from this kayaking/camping/hiking adventure. More to come soon 🙂