Nov 30, 2012

Morro Rock


The most prominent vista point in Morro Bay is Morro Rock. Surrounded with an estuary and miles of undisturbed beaches, it is a volcanic plug standing at a height of 576. You can drive right up to the end of the causeway, where you will hear a lot of chatter.. Just look up and see the number of sea gulls and other birds nesting on the rock above.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock


Another spot to view the rock is from the beach located near Azure St, Morro Bay. There is a parking lot available with restrooms close by. A short walk from the lot to the beach will give you some beautiful views a few hours before sundown.. Silhouettes of people walking with their surfboards make some dramatic pictures.

WINTER BIRD FESTIVAL:

If you are an avid bird lover, you should visit this place in winter. The Winter Bird Festival usually held in January makes it a great place to photograph winter birds visiting the area. In 2013, the festival will be held on January 18,19th and 20th. Family Day is on the 19th. Please check this website for more information as reservation is required.

Bird Festival Morro Rock




Nov 28, 2012

CA-1 Central Coast

CA-1, California's scenic coastal highway begins from Leggett in Mendocino County and goes down to Ventura in Santa Barbara. The drive is beautiful along the rugged coastline with breath taking views. The single lane (and at times two) windy highway passes through many small towns along the coastal route from Mendocino county to Ventura. It runs concurrently with US 101 along the Golden Gate Bridge. On a clear day, you will enjoy some pretty views of the Pacific and California's coast drive. Our favorite  part of CA-1 is the drive along California's central coast from Monterey to Cambria.

Travelling to Los Angeles from the Bay Area via CA-1 is a great option. However with its winding turns and the frequent stops you will make to take in the views and pictures it can take more than 8 hours. Hence plan accordingly.

Coastline view
CA 1 looking north 

Tips:
  • The weather along the coast is mostly cold and windy. Have some warm jackets available.
  • Keep your camera ready. The best scenery may just be round the corner. Have extra batteries + memory card and a video handy.
  • Be prepared for motion sickness (if you are prone to it). A good option is to let that person drive. Carry paper bags.
  • Carry snacks specially when travelling with kids as there are not many options except in the town areas along the route.
  • Make use of restrooms whenever possible. You may not find one for miles together.
  • Since this route is along the coast, the distance between towns can be far. It is always a good idea to fill gas when half at the first available gas station to avoid running out of gas.
  • If you are travelling from US 101 ( North or South ) from Laytonville, CA to CA-1, the route is long windy and you may be the only one of the road ( just like it happened to us ). You will find very few people travelling along this route. When we were in the area, a local told us that the best and safest route is Highway 20 ( Willitts \ Fort Bragg road ). 
  • Do not always rely on your GPS if you are going off the road, carrying maps can come in handy.
  • The GPS may not work in certain hot spots along the coast.
  • There are many state beaches along the way. For a day fee, you can picnic and have a fun family day.
  • Check for contruction. That can sometimes delay your travel.
Ca1 route
Single lane road on CA 1 driving south
Driving along CA 1 is always refreshing and a great stress buster. The crashing waves on the rocks, sea gulls hovering above and the beautiful landscape make a great day out for the family. CA-1 is also great for spotting the whale migration. Have a good pair of binoculars handy. Below are listed the scenic places and stops that can be covered  in a day on this drive.

1.) POINT LOBOS STATE RESERVE:

Located 3 miles south of Carmel by the sea on the Cabrillo Highway, this is a perfect spot for photography, watching seals , sea lions, tide pooling and short hikes. This preserve is rich in flora and fauna and has a multitude of colors on land and sea. Stroller accessible, this is a nice hike for young kids too. You could spend a lot more time here as there are a number of scenic trails in this reserve. However we have included this point on this trip list in-case you want to start-off your drive with a great short hike.

Views from Point Lobos
View from Point Lobos

2.) HISTORIC ROCKY CREEK BRIDGE:

Stop for pictures and views of CA-1 looking North.

3.) BIXBY BRIDGE:

It is located about 13 miles south of Carmel and has been the most photographed due to its location and scenery surrounding it.

Bixby bridge
Bixby Bridge

4.) JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS STATE PARK:

This is my favorite spot on Cabrillo Highway. This is a must see location. It has featured in most magazines and is the most photographed scenic spot in California. Within the park, lies McWay Falls. An 80 foot waterfall that flows into the ocean year round! There is a short hike which starts within the park which is stroller accessible and very easy to the end of the walkway. Parking is available within the park for a day fee.  Cash only and self paid.

The views are fantastic from the end of the boardwalk.  With azure, green waters surrounding the cute cove and a waterfall flowing into the ocean, it is the most romantic spot for pictures. The beach access is difficult and has been preserved to retain its natural beauty.
McWay Falls
McWay Falls on a beautiful summer day

McWay Falls
McWay Falls ( pic taken in spring )
4.) ELEPHANT SEAL COLONY ON CA-1:

For more information on these seals are available here. This vista point is around 4.4 miles on CA1 from Hearst Castle.

seals on ca1
Seals on Ca 1

5.) HEARST CASTLE:

Click here for more information. You may need at least half a day here, unless you are staying close by. It is a good 3 hours or more drive from the Bay Area, so time yourself if you have a reserved time slot to visit the castle.

6.) MORRO BAY \ MORRO ROCK:

The most prominent spot in Morro Bay is Morro Rock. Surrounded with an estuary and miles of undisturbed beaches, it stands tall at a height of 576 foot volcanic plug. You can drive right up to the end of the causeway  to hear the chirping of hundreds of birds nesting above and enjoy the surrounding views, watch for birds or just photograph the surroundings.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock


Another spot to see Morro Rock is from the beach near Azure St, Morro Bay. There is a parking lot available with restrooms close by.

If you are a ardent bird lover and a photographer, then Morro Bay is a must in winter. The Winter Bird Festival is usually held in January and makes it a great place to photograph winter birds visiting the area. In 2013, the festival will be held on January 18, 19th and 20th. Family Day is on the 19th. Please check this website for more information as reservation is required for some tours.

CA-1 from Morro bay joins US 101 South, from where we continued to L.A \ San Diego.

Nov 8, 2012

Sand & Art Festival, Goa - India

Sand art goa
2011 Goa Sand Art Festival Entrance
GOA..a tiny but beautiful state in India. It was ruled by the Portuguese for more than 400 years. People around the world know Goa for its friendly people, beautiful beaches, Portuguese architecture, impressive churches and temples, delicious mangoes, cashew nuts, feni ( a local liquor made from cashew and coconut) and the famous pork sausages amongst other things.



View Goa -- India in a larger map

For the last 3 years, Sand Cult - a Sand Sculpting Company in association with Goa Tourism, have been organizing the Annual Sand Art Festival on one of Goa's popular beaches. This year (2012), the event will be held on the Miramar Beach (near Panjim the capital city of Goa). It is a stupendous work of art! It is amazing to see the finished product from a huge mound of sand.

If you are visiting Goa this December anytime after the 13th, you don't want to miss out on this event. Entrance is free. Enjoy a picnic with the family or just have fun watching the artists sculpt. Miramar is situated about 3 kms from Panaji, on the way to Dona Paula along the "Marine Drive".

Below are some of the pictures I managed to capture during the 2011 event. With just a couple of tools, water, gifted hands and their amazing talent, they did a fantastic job that had the young and the old, all making their way to enjoy the sand sculptures. The 2011 theme was " Marine Life: Unseen Treasures under water ".

sand art goa
One of the artists sculpting

sand art goa
An octopus? underwater sea creature

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sea creature maybe a walrus

sand art goa
The silhouette of castle spires at sunset.

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
The curious crowd viewing the scuptures

sand art goa
Mermaid Sand Art Goa

goa sand art festival
The Castle

Sand art goa
Sand Art

Sand Art
Sand Art


Sand art goa
The complete picture!

sand art
Beautiful Sand scupture

Miramar beach
Enjoy a gorgeous sunset at Miramar Beach
For more information on Goa visit : http://goatourism.gov.in/

Find Sand Cult on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sandcult

Goa Sand Art Festival Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/goasandartfestival?fref=ts

For more sand sculpting events around the world: http://sandsculptingevents.com/
UK: http://www.sandworld.co.uk/visit.html
Florida 2013: http://www.artofsand.org/
Florida: http://www.sandbash.com/
India: http://www.sandindia.com/home.html
Australia: http://www.visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Events/Art-and-culture/Sand-Sculpting-Australia-Frankston-Waterfront.aspx
North America: http://www.neptunefestival.com/events/north-american-sandsculpting-championship/14

Any questions? Just email me at savsmichblog@gmail.com and I would be more than happy to reply to you.









Nov 6, 2012

Arches National Park

When we think of Arches NP, what comes to mind are the 2000 + rock formations and the spectacular night sky. A trip to Southern Utah? Make sure you include Arches NP on your itinerary.  It is a 5 1\2 drive from Bryce Canyon NP. Nearby places to include are the Canyonlands NP.  For ideas on how to plan your drive, here is a map that you can refer to.

If you have two days in Arches, here is what we recommend:

We spent 1 1\2 days here and decided to spend the first evening/night out at the park to take in the sunset and view the spectacular night sky (yes you can see the Milky Way on a dark and clear night!).

Many photographers and National park enthusiasts, hike to Delicate Arch earlier in the evening to photograph the sunset and stay on to photograph the night sky. The picture below was taken around 11.30 -12:00 midnight. The best time to get milky way pictures is recommended around 2-3 AM. You would get the milky way center vertically aligned with the earth as governed by the earths rotation. But note it can be eerie, and lonely out there especially if you are by yourself. The Milky Way is one of the greatest things to see in nature. Its spectacular and our amateur attempt to capture it (below) doesn't do sufficient  justice to it. Imagine being able to see millions of stars in the galaxy and the galactic center with your naked eyes (something you can only wish for from our cities)!

Night Sky @ Arches
The Milky way in the backdrop of Balanced Rock ( Do not miss the shooting star !)

Arches is a photographer's favorite place. Some beautiful and common places to photograph are mentioned on the National park service website. Here are some of the not to miss points as well as easily accessible if you are travelling with small children:

1. Courthouse Towers Viewpoint
2. The Three Gossips
3. Balanced Rock
4. The Windows Section: North & South Windows, Turret Arch:

Parking is usually difficult in summer. It is recommended to complete this early in the morning or late in the evening as it gets very hot. There is no shade and taking water is recommended. Restrooms are available. 
5. Delicate Arch
A 3 mile round trip hike up is recommended. If you are travelling with smaller kids, this hike up is not stroller accessible. There is an alternative viewpoint near the parking lot of Delicate Arch which is also stroller inaccessible. It has some steep steps to climb. Early morning or late evening hike up here is recommended. 

For details on more hikes check out this link. 

Here are some pictures of the above view-points we took at Arches:

Arches Courthouse
Courthouse Viewpoint

Arches road
Arches road once on the top

Baanced Rock
Balanced Rock
Arches Windows
Windows Section

Windows entrance @ Arches
Entrance to the Windows!
Arches NP

The Windows @ Arches

Delicate Arch ( from viewpoint )
View of Delicate Arch from the viewpoint
What do you think of Arches? Would this location be your next visit?

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