Tuesday, August 29, 2006

i miss vacation!

i always find it amazing how you can spend 3 weeks away and not think a wink about all the articles and projects that need to be done, and have no stress at all, but as soon as you get back home it all lands, flop, right in your lap. Ugh stress. i hate it! i'm working on it; that is on reducing stress in general and the way i approach the whole to-do-list phenomenon.

so... a quick update - i wanted to finish my aussie adventures but just want to add a couple quick photos and say that our last day on moreton island, at tangalooma, was just absolutely brilliant. it is one of those days that will go down in my personal history as one of the best ever. we went on this amazing eco-cruise where a huge herd of dugongs (like manatees) surrounded our little boat and when they'd come up to breathe they sounded like they were breathing through a snorkel. you could hear the "huff" they made as they exhaled. the weather was drop dead gorgeous, the wind was super calm and hence you could see to the bottom of the ocean and all the amazing things swimming about - sea turtles, eagle rays that literally fly through the water, and jellyfish. dolphins came and played and swam in the front of the boat - the wave made from its movement. at the end of the day, we got to feed wild dolphins, and jenny and i just had a wonderful heart to heart on the way back to the mainland. i truly had a wonderful day.

the day before, friday, we also got to see my dear friend karine who i was worried i would not see - which would have been so disheartenening after keeping in touch over 15 years and i'd lost touch via email the past few months...but we got in touch - yea! and she drove hours to see me and i feel so blessed to have these wonderful friends. i am so blessed by these friendships and i just wish everyone could be in contact more easily, on person. if only flying were less expensive!

i'm working on some interesting projects and they are due very soon so i better get back to it!!!

This was the true color of the ocean the last day, when we were in Moreton Bay.
It was amazing!!!!!!

One of the many dugong that surrounded our boat. We killed the motor and floated through the herd of them...Sooooo cool!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

aussie photos

Just a selection - more to come!
Savannah petting a wallaby at the Australia zoo, home of Steve Irwin "Croc Hunter."

I have to laugh when I look at this photo because Jenny said something like "Isn't that just like a typical Aussie bloke - just put a beer in between his hands! The attitude!" LOL. These are red kangaroos at the Australia zoo.

A "joey" poking out of its mom's pouch! This was at Something Wild Wildlife Park in Tasmania.

Sam and Savannah out on the marine eco-cruise at Tangalooma on Moreton Island/Moreton bay. This was absolutely a most amazing day!! The water was clear blue and gorgeous and we saw a huge herd of dugong (like manatees), dolphins playing in the boat's bow, eagle rays, sea turtles, jellyfish - it was sooooo cool. That was our last day in Australia!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he... laugh kookaburra laugh kookaburra, gay your life must be! This was outside of my friend Kelli's house - they sound like a bunch of howling jabbering monkeys! I love them!

Sun setting over Shute Harbor, the Whitsunday islands.

Sam and Kai, Kelli's son.

Savannah and I in the Whitsundays.

Sam, Indie and Savannah holding Chloe at Tangalooma, our last day!

An Australian pelican at Tangalooma, Moreton Island.

Savannah petting a koala at Something Wild Wildlife Park, Tasmania

Thursday, August 17, 2006

fraser island

After Tasmania we went next to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, and it is a UN World Heritage Site. It is truly an amazing and diverse habitat. Riding over on the boat from Hervey Bay the kids snuggled next to me, the weather was perfect and the wind felt so good, and it just felt really peaceful. We got there and were greeted by two wild dingoes roaming the beach to forage. They are like wolves, but were introduced to Australia from Asia around 4,000 years ago so are pretty much considered part of the ecosystem now. They look totally different than wolves - they are tan and white. One climbed into someone's boat that was on the beach! LOL. Anyway that was pretty cool. The sunset was gorgeous! (photo on right, Lake McKenzie, a freshwater lake with clear water and white sand beaches)

The next day we got shown around the island by a Kingfisher Bay Resort Ranger/EcoGuide. There's no way to see it all but we saw a great cross-section! In the center, freshwater creeks run through primeval rainforest with tall palms and cycads and ferns. On each side of the island are Eucalyptus forest and huge sand blows which basically create massive sand dune complexes. We hiked across this yellow sand dune at Lake Wabby for an hour and it reminded me of scenes from Star Wars where R2D2 and C3PO are stuck on a desert with only sand. The way the sand blows the sand into rivulets is just beautiful. (photo to left, the kids climbing a giant "sandblow" or sand dune in the middle of Fraser Island)

The lakes are spring-fed and COLD so I let the kids swim but I stayed out and enjoyed the scenery. Colin, the EcoGuide who showed us around, was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about the ecology of the island. We saw a lace monitor - a huge lizard - among other things. During our trip we also ate "Bush Tucker" at the resort's restaurant which is Aboriginal food sources - not just the various plants used but we also tried kangaroo, emu and crocodile meat and the kids loved all of them!

We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort which was one of the first-ever ecoresorts, truly designed with the environment in mind - from the architecture of the buildings and rooms to the food to the natural history tours - birdwatching to spotlighting to whale watching and island explorations - and everything in between. I was very impressed with the way they developed everything, preserving all the native vegetation, elevated walkways, energy conservation.

Last we went on the most AMAZING whale watching trip, which was almost surreal. The water was a deep but clear blue you could see the whales under the surface. Two subadults played near our boat for over an hour. They got SO close to the boat! They did all the behaviors from spy-hopping to pectoral fin flapping to tail slapping to breaching. They went back and forth under the boat and really just seemed to enjoy our attention (we made noise, and it draws them to the boat). They are amazingly beautiful animals.

A subadult humpback whale surfacing in Platypus Bay, near Fraser Island.

Sunset on Fraser Island.

The clear blue waters and white sand of Lake McKenzie.

The rivulets in the sand dunes on Fraser Island, near Lake Wabby.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Australia's island state just blew me away. Hobart itself was a quaint little town with truly outstanding cuisine, but the scenery really didn't blow my socks off until we got out of the city and into the national parks. We first went to Mount Field National Park and this was, I think, the kids first truly "wow" experience in Australia. The rest had been cool (they'd loved Daydream Island and snorkeling) but this place was straight out of the primeval past! (photo to right is the view out our hotel window - the harbor at Hobart at night).

Huge tree ferns towered above, Eucalyptus trees grew to nearly the size of California's redwood giants (they are the 2nd tallest trees in the world here) and moss-covered logs were strewn about the forest. Drizzly rain and mist covered the day and it gave it a lush, cool, moist feel. It resembles the Pacific NW forests of the US quite a bit. But the coolest thing is that pademelons were everywhere!!! These are tiny kangaroo-like creatures - well not tiny but about 1.5 feet tall. It was the kids' first experience seeing the classic Australian wildlife in the wild as opposed to in a wildlife park. Sam dubbed it "dinosaur world." (view to left is a giant eucalyptus tree in Mount Field National Park. They are the 2nd tallest trees in the world after the giant redwoods in California).

It was chilly but not freezing and our warm gear kept us cozy. Sam saw a platypus in the creek! I was so jealous. He yelled out "there's a platypus!" and that scared the little thing away. They are quite abundant in the area. We were sure we'd see one later in the day at the top of the mountain in a crater lake but the one thing they don't like is wind, and just at the time we got to the top a huge blustery gale came and it blew fiercely and we only got out of the car for a few minutes before heading back down the mountain. We then went down a bit and the winds calmed down and we walked around an Alpine herb field which was just STUNNINGLY gorgeous. Autumnal colors of rusts, reds, yellows and oranges covered the landscape, which had mostly shrubs, and huge boulders covered with colorful lichens. Tarns - small shallow wetland ponds - dotted the landscape. We all just kind of walked around looking for wombats, because their square poo was everywhere. :) I just loved it. We were literally in the clouds as we were high up the mountain and a cloud had descended on it. We could see, but there was an omnipresent mist. (above is the alpine herb field at Mt Field National Park)

We visited Something Wild Wildlife Park earlier in the day and got to pet and/or see wombats, koalas, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, squirrel gliders, various Australian birds - budgies, cockatoos, rosellas - etc. The roos and wallabies had joeys in their pouches and I got some great photos. The next day we also visited the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park which was very cool too. It had a whole field full of kangaroos and wallabies that you could walk through, and the kids got to pet them! We also visited the Tasman peninsula which is connected to the mainland via a narrow isthmus and this is where the famous Port Arthur prison was, though we didn't visit it. We saw the coastal cliffs and walked along a very cool beach all in Tasman National Park. (photo to the left is a Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore. They are declining rapidly due to a new disease - a fatal contagious cancer)

Oh and how can I forget, we got to see a little (fairy) penguin rookery. We hid in the cliffs until they came ashore which was not until it was quite past dusk, and I was very disappointed because I really couldn't see anything at all. Savannah wrote in her journal that she got so excited, then bored, then she cried with disappointment when she could not see anything but a dark blob emerge from the ocean (there were not a whole lot of them). However the story gets better! We finally climbed down and after the biologist was assured that all had safely climbed into their burrows he showed us the burrow of one in a rock crevice. To be honest it did not look very penguin-like and so I was a bit disappointed. But then we walked back toward the car and up stairs because this was a public beach but most people don't know it's a penguin rookery (it was actually devastated by dogs a couple years back) we saw a penguin ahead of us climbing the stairs!!!!! They actually make nests and burrows all along the area, not just right in the beach cliffs. So this little penguin, not much bigger than the stair itself, would scrunch its little booty up, wiggle and then jump like a piece of popping popcorn to the next stair! It looked very penguin-like at that point. We watched it do this for several steps in the light and it was just so adorable. Then it went to the side of the stairs and we went on our merry way. (view to the right is the rock formations on a popular surfing beach in Tasman National Park)

I think if I had to pick one single best moment of my trip so far that was it. I was just in love with this little penguin hopping up the stairs! It so exemplifies the state of wildlife in today's world. Here they wait until the night is dark because the full moon exposes them more to predators and this response has evolved over millions of years and it worked with their natural predators. But now we've introduced domesticated dogs and feral cats and even foxes to their world, and as hard as they may try to come ashore on some supposedly safe island, they end up completely vulnerable. We could have just scooped it right up. There's no way for them to escape something like a dog attack. They can't fly, they can't run. They don't bite. They are absolutely vulnerable. And here they are in our human world, climbing up stairs trying to get to a little burrow to make a home for a nest they'll lay in a month or so. Fortunately the biologists are working to create artificial burrows and protect the rookery from dog attacks etc.

And we had a truly great guide - Josh - who appreciated the kids zany sense of humor and more than anything just allowed them to be themselves and enjoy the world their way more than anywhere else. We all laughed a whole lot these days in Tasmania. The penguin day that included Mt Field NP was truly the best day of my whole trip so far. (View to the left, another view of the beach at Tasman National Park).

Oh and my laptop electrical cord died so I've been unable to recharge my laptop meaning I can't access anyone's email unless they email me!! I downloaded all my email Aug 10 so anything sent before then I can't access either... I need everyone's mailing address for postcards so Dad, Celeta, Holly, Daline, Lazer etc write me!! :)

Did I say it was a little chilly at the top of Mount Field??

Sam at the Tasman National Park beach.

Sunset shot through the car window!

The markets at Salamanca in Hobart.

The lush temperate rainforests of Mount Field National Park.
This is the stream where Sam saw a platypus!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

whitsunday adventures

so much to say, so little time! we're having a good time, and i can't find the cord to upload my photos at the moment or i'd put some up here. we spent a day at hardy reef snorkeling which the kids loved, and then 2 days on a resort on daydream island which was really awesome. daydream is a small island very close to the mainland in the whitsundays. the entire island is pretty much made up of this one resort, and we stayed in a gorgeous room overlooking the beautiful aquamarine ocean with a tall palm tree just outside our window. our room was so beautiful! (photo to left: the view out our room's window)

they have a huge marine lagoon surrounding the resort that has many of the great barrier reef creatures including rays, sharks, corals, fish, squid, etc. it is shallow and clear so easy to see the animals. The guy who takes care of the marine lagoon, Dave, showed us the various fish including Pancake and Pikelet, two huge rays. We got to "pet" one. Very cool! Dave was super nice and the kids really enjoyed it.

the resort interior was so cool too with colorful art deco furniture and a tropical fish theme. we had nearly 2 full days there and it was our first stay somewhere besides my friend kelli's home so it was very exciting for the kids. the whole resort is surrounded by this create marine lagoon with all the marine creatures.

We went snorkeling at lover's cove on the island but the tide was sooo low that it was impossible to get out there without stepping on the corals, which is not good, and so it only lasted about 30 min and we went back in (this included the time walking out and falling on the sharp staghorn corals and helping the kids with their masks etc). savannah said that time it "freaked her out" because everything was so close to her face. lol. :) she also did the thing where she inhaled the ocean through her snorkel once which didn't help! both the kids liked snorkeling though and loved all the cool creatures. we saw all the cast of Finding Nemo :) they are all found in Australia. (photo to right - view from the top of the rainforest trail)

then we hiked up the rainforest trail which is only a 20-min hike across the island. we saw an orange-footed scrub fowl which is a megapode, they build huge mounds as nests and bury their eggs and incubate them by adjusting the amount of leaves and vegetation on the mound if the nest temp is too hot or too cold. the male tends the nest. pretty cool. i didn't know what the bird was when we were on the hike or i'd have looked for the nest, but i just looked it up in my bird book after the fact. So after our little rainforest walk across the island, we arrived to see wallabies (small kangaroos) feeding on the grass, which was very cool. it was the kids' first sight of wild wallabies! They come out on the lawns to feed at dusk.

today we fly back to brisbane at noon, and then tomorrow head to tasmania which is what i'm most excited about!! (besides seeing the friends which has been awesome). i love that few people in the world have been there, and think it will just be so cool. all for now! ciao!

(the photo to the left i call roo do, because this roo has an interesting hair-do! it's actually a wallaby, but close enough!)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

sea kayaking

We went sea kayaking and snorkeling today. I hated it! The waves were sooo huge and the cold water was slapping into my face and it stung my eyes and fogged my glasses. I normally kayak in calm rivers so it was very different. I've sea kayaked before but in calm water. It was sunny but cold, I was freezing! I was the slowest of everybody, and had a really hard time of it against the waves. Savannah was with me at first and then we switched Sam over to my kayak but it was still difficult. He's smaller and a stronger paddler because he goes with Matt a lot. I felt like a huge wimp. We went thrugh a shallow patch and I saw a sea turtle which was cool. When we got to the little island, I didn't even bother to go snorkeling. After a bit, Savannah switched and rode with someone else and he was a better kayaker than I so she had fun once she switched. She said they zoomed across, and she loved the snorkeling too. Sam liked it sort of except he was freezing cold and the snorkel mask would not fit right at first. It wasn't a great reef section so Sunday we go to a much much better one. I'm just glad the kids enjoyed it. Now I am glad to be home (at Kelli's) and warm!!

ps my black bear article for Defenders Magazine is now out! It's online at:

pss it posts as 1158pm Thursday but where I'm at it's 3pm Friday! :)

silver and gold: make new friends and keep the old

a quick email before bed... day 2 in australia and it's been sooooo cool connecting with old friends. friends to me are friends for life and i've made a major effort in the past couple years to stay in better contact with and to visit with friends. So in the past 4 days I've visited Paige who was a kindred spirit in LA when I lived there (she had a homebirth with the same midwife and we were in playgroup together when our kids were toddlers) and visited my 2nd cousin Daria & met her adorable 2 year old son Reed, and saw Jenny in Brisbane who befriended me in Australia and introduced me to sea turtles for the first time at Mon Repos National Park (where we scouted for turtles all night long) and one of my best friends from high school Kelli who I'd lost touch with for years before reconnecting last year. Tonight I'm with Kelli and its sooo cool to catch up. I tell ya, all of these gals they are awesome people.

So the kids are having a blast also, meeting new friends and seeing new things. We had a long flight and only arrived in Australia yesterday and spent some time exploring the Brisbane suburb of Redcliffe where Jenny lives (Savannah loved it so much she says she wants to live in Redcliffe). :) The thing I noticed about Brisbane is how clean & beautiful and how free of graffiti and billboards. I had fun with the kids walking along the ocean, having ice cream etc. Today we flew to the Whitsunday Islands & I let the kids play in a manmade lagoon at Shute Harbor, we went down to collect seashells and we saw a tree full of rainbow lorikeets. Had some lunch in town. All for now!

Paige and I at Caltech. Paige had the same midwife as I and we were in playgroup when our kids were toddlers in CA! She is an awesome person!

Paige's and my kids at Caltech. Being goofy!

My dear friend Jenny and I in Redcliffe, a suburb of Brisbane. It's been 15 years and it seems like yesterday! Jenny and I met when I did volunteer wildlife work at Griffith Uni in Brisbane and she took me to watch sea turtles at Mon Repos.

Teggun, Savannah, Sam and Kai (in front) all painted! This was on the Fantasea snorkeling trip to Hardy Reef, part of the southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsunday islands. Teggun and Kai are my friend Kelli's kids - Kelli and I went to high school together and were very close, and she moved to Australia about 10 years ago.