Local Discovery on a Wednesday Morning

We have our routines, whether we realize it or not. For me, I get up, brush my teeth, make my tea, sit in the garden with Daisy to have my tea and mentally prepare for the day, take Daisy for her walk, then come back to eat breakfast and start my day. 

The most variety I normally bring to my mornings is when deciding where to walk with Daisy. We have a few options: our neighborhood, our nearby park, the local mission, or the parking lot of wherever I need to run an errand {hey, a girl's gotta get things done!}.

Still, the mornings that feel more special to us are the ones when we do something outside of the norm. Recently, we went to a park very close to home, that we had not gone to before. And we LOVED it! Our usual park has been more and more popular, and while the socialization is nice, Daisy often does best when she be off-leash, sniff every nook and cranny, and calmly wander.

We discovered the local Heritage Park in Oceanside. It only opens Wednesday through Sunday, is completely free, and is adorable. It's got way more character than anything in a new park, and is usually empty in the mornings. This means Daisy can be queen of the park!

It's amazing what gems we find near our home when we just stop to take a closer look.

Happy exploring!

xo
~n

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Apple-Picking... Finally!

For as long as I've lived in California (12 years), I've wanted to go apple-picking in Julian. It seemed like the perfect Fall activity that would help put me in the mood while the weather was still feeling Summer-y. 

And yet, I hadn't gone yet! 
Until today.

When I casually read a blog post summarizing apple farms in the Julian area, and noticed that one is dog-friendly, I was set to go! A date was picked, family was alerted, and it was inked into the calendar. Volcan Valley Apple Farm, here we come!

I highly recommend going to this orchard during the week if it's possible with your schedule. They are open every day 10am-4pm, so the weekdays are sure to offer a more secluded experience, Just must be on leash, but be warned that there is a very friendly dog on the loose on site, most likely part of the Volcan Farms family. Daisy is not a fan of big dogs, and so this meant I had to hold her while in the parking lot.

Their bags are priced well for budget-minded folks, but it's not a very big bag. Still, walking up and down the rows of trees is a fun time! Plus, they let you try a couple of apples along the way to see if you like them (score!). We went around 3pm, and the light was perfect for photos. Bring that camera!

A great surprise was the winery that is attached to the farm! Did you wine-lovers out there hear me? A winery! Attached to the apple orchard! Plus, they have free olive oil and balsamic tastings. There are also picnic tables that are perfect for bringing a lunch with you to enjoy al fresco.

Since our visit was in early October, and peak apple-picking season is the month of September, it was slim pickin's for the apple types. Still, out bag was overflowing with apples to bring home with us. 

On the way out of the orchard, be sure to stop and visit the shops and restaurants in the adorable town of Wynola. We had some fresh apple pie at Mom's, which has a huge garden and sitting area in the back. You can walk through their garden, smell the lavender, and relax after a tough stroll picking your apples. There are also a couple of great antique stores on the edge of Wynola, along Hwy. 78, that are worth stopping to visit! The Barn is a store with amazing finds at even more amazing prices. If you need furniture for your home and want something with personality and history, GO THERE! Their Facebook page offer info on where they are, as well as updates. Next door to The Barn is a small architectural garden shop that was closed during today's visit, but will be on my "must see" list for next time. 

After our adventure today, we may just have a new tradition on our hands ;-)

xo
~n

Want to check out Volcan Valley Apple Farm for yourself? 
They don't have a website, but their Yelp page offers loads of information and an address.
 

Dogs must be on leash, but are welcome to walk anywhere that you go on their property. So fun!

Dogs must be on leash, but are welcome to walk anywhere that you go on their property. So fun!

Walking in the midst of the lavender at Mom's in Wynola.

Walking in the midst of the lavender at Mom's in Wynola.

Dusty Lenses Expeditions - Salton Sea - Day 2

Did you see all the action that happened on day one of the Dusty Lenses Salton Sea expedition? If not, here's the link to get caught up.
Ready for more? 
Great!

Day two is where we hit the ground running and don't stop until late at night. It's by far the most active part of the weekend, and has loads of juiciness! We start with a sunrise shoot, then head to some local landmarks (Salvation Mountain and Slab City), stop for lunch, visit some serious quirkiness full of bananas, take a bit of a rest before heading back out for sunset photos and low key dinner at a local dive. We top the day off with a nighttime adventure in a local slot canyon for steel wool experiments and starry skies. By the end of the day, we are beat! 

Let's start with sunrise shooting. We go to a spot on the edge of the water that is walking distance from the hotel, where we set up tripods and scope out our perfect spot. Some quick checks on who needs help with settings and composition, and then we watch the sun rise in all its glory! It is absolutely spectacular.

Moving on, we head around the South end of the lake to Niland, where we turn through the town to go to Salvation Mountain and Slab City. Salvation Mountain is loaded with religious phrasing and praising of love, but more importantly, is a major art installation that has been handmade by a local artist who passed away in 2014. His legacy continues to live on thanks to friendly caretakers who are passionate about maintaining this work of art.

Right next to Salvation Mountain is Slab City, a community of desert squatters who live off the grid and have an overall belief that nothing is to be wasted. The highlight of this community is arguably East Jesus, which epitomizes this lifestyle philosophy. We were lucky enough to get a personal invite for a behind-the-scenes tour by the lead resident artist, and boy did we get an eyeful! Details galore!

This is the hub of the private residence portion of East Jesus. Their living room, if you will. It felt surprisingly comfy!

This is the hub of the private residence portion of East Jesus. Their living room, if you will. It felt surprisingly comfy!

This small box shows the extreme to which they believe that nothing is to be wasted. These are actual bugs that have died, and have been preserved, painted, and kept as art or for jewelry. Nothing is wasted in this community!

This small box shows the extreme to which they believe that nothing is to be wasted. These are actual bugs that have died, and have been preserved, painted, and kept as art or for jewelry. Nothing is wasted in this community!

After a lunch stop in Niland, it was off to the International Banana Museum. Thankfully, it was open and oh-so-glorious! This stop is the quirkiest of quirky roadside attractions, with over 20,000 banana memorabilia. If you're lucky enough to catch it when it's open, do go inside!

Bananas galore!!

Bananas galore!!

The intense heat made us head back to the hotel for a break, and then we headed right back out for sunset photos in Bombay beach. The water levels have dramatically lowered since my last visit in April, changing the photo ops significantly, but part of the journey is also finding these changes and going with the flow! We each scoped out a spot for the sunset, explored the structure remains, and then packed up for another break in a local dive.

Ski Inn was spectacular, and the owners and regulars are extremely friendly! While we missed kitchen hours, we were treated to some drinks and popcorn, as well as some incredibly entertaining karaoke! 

Final stop for the day was a local slot canyon near Ocotillo Wells. The hike was a bit more strenuous than most of us expected, but the views from the destination spot were spectacular. We had fun with steel wool and then captured some gorgeous starry skies!

The morning of our third day was a much deserved rest. We slept in (our nighttime hike ended at about 2am!), grabbed a hearty breakfast, and then chatted a bit before heading back on the road to get home. Of course, spontaneous stops along the road always happen ;-) Borrego Springs offers some great art culture and is about a half hour West from Salton Sea!

Like I mentioned in the post for day one, this trip was a trial run of a new program for 2016. My dream is to do this trip - and eventually offer ones to other spots in the region - with a different group each time! 

Are you an adventure-lovin', nature-cravin', road tripper extraordinaire who loves new friends, photography, and quirky destinations? 

Fill out the form below to be added to the interest list for 2016! 
No spam here. Just the info you ask for.

Hope to see you on the next trip!

Dusty Lenses Interest List Form

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Dusty Lenses Expeditions - Salton Sea - Day 1

A seedling of an idea sparked in me a couple of years ago.

I knew I loved to explore and photograph; capture local cultures and discover hidden nooks and crannies; talk to locals and see the kindness that is out there for us to experience. 

The freedom of the open road has always been an escape for me. It's been a way to unplug and let my mind wander... and that's something we all need to do from time to time!

So why not invite a few folks to experience this with me sometime? 
Why not create a road trip program of photography workshops? 
Actual road trips - car sing-alongs and all!

Well, this road trip program is taking shape and will be launching in 2016! 
It will be launched as the Dusty Lenses Expeditions, and will be a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience a full-on road trip with new friends, learn some photo tips and tricks on-the-go, and explore locations that you've never seen before. I'm so excited for it!!

This past weekend, I took a small group of brave explorers on a road trip adventure with me to the Salton Sea. We drove together (a lot), we photographed together (a lot), and we sweated together (a lot). They were my guinea pigs, so to speak, and they gave me a chance to try out the first itinerary and to receive feedback so that the offering in 2016 will be the best it can be!

There is SO.MUCH. from this trip to share! I've broken it up into two posts, one for each day of shooting. It's nearly impossible to show everything, so I'll share with you the highlights!

Interested in hearing details when the program is ready for a full reveal? 
Fill out the interest form at the bottom of this post and you'll be added on the interest list! This means that you'll get an email with the full lowdown once all the details are worked out. I promise that you'll ONLY be signed up for this email, and will in no way get any spam mail from it.


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Please excuse the blurriness of this photo. Focusing is always tough when there are barely any lights, and I was more concerned about making sure everyone else was doing okay!

Please excuse the blurriness of this photo. Focusing is always tough when there are barely any lights, and I was more concerned about making sure everyone else was doing okay!

Love this shot, but darn that blurriness! Must. Go. Back.

Love this shot, but darn that blurriness! Must. Go. Back.


Fill out this form to receive updates once the Dusty Lenses Expeditions are ready to roll!

Name *
Name
Optional Opt-In

Desert Road Trip

There is a big project in the works, and it involves one of my favorite areas in Southern California - Salton Sea! While I can't give away any details of the big project, I can tell you that there was a need for a recon trip recently. I decided to make it a family trip, and brought Daisy and my mom along for company!

Having them both there with me did make it a little tough to just jump in the car and be spontaneous, but it was totally worth it to have great company in such desolate areas. Plus, I loved seeing Daisy enjoy the desert!

If you like what you see in the photos below, consider getting to know this area better for yourself! Here are some links that should help you plan your trip:

Official State Park page
Slab City & Salvation Mountain - recent article
Bombay Beach - Info page

Happy exploring!

xo
~n


Mom and Daisy, each braving early morning and dry heat with me :)

Mom and Daisy, each braving early morning and dry heat with me :)

Sunrise on the Western shore... and sunset in Bombay Beach

Sunrise on the Western shore... and sunset in Bombay Beach

We loved the adventure, but Daisy was very happy to come home and rest!

We loved the adventure, but Daisy was very happy to come home and rest!

The Silence in Rituals

I've never been a fan of routine. The thought of having a 9-to-5 job in one cubicle for my entire life was horrific to me, and therefore was one of the biggest reasons I absolutely knew I needed to be my own boss. About six months into running my business full-time, though, I realized that I needed to bring some rituals back into my life.

My profession is one that just by nature brings something different almost every day. And I *LOVE* that about it! However, one of the best things I have learned to do since being my own boss is to have one daily ritual that helps to ground me. In large part thanks to Daisy, I chose to make my mornings sacred. This means that I try my best to always have the first few hours of my day free of appointments. We wake up without an alarm around 7:00-7:30, I make my tea, we go out to the backyard to sit and drink tea. No technology. No company. No mental noise. This is my time to clear my head, let my thoughts wander, and get myself charged up for whatever needs to be tackled that day. Then we head out for our walk around the neighborhood, returning home to get ready for the day. 

I attribute my "morning person" tendencies to Daisy since this is the first time in my life that I can wake up before noon without an alarm! Daisy has forced a sense of ritual to enter my life, regardless of where we're sleeping or traveling. It's been the perfect way to keep a moment of silence and reflection in my day, and gives us a few minutes to spend quality time together before life's distractions kick in.

Below are a few photos from yesterday's tea time. We saw a tiny snail on the table in the garden and enjoyed the morning dew that lingered on the grass. 

Do you have enough rituals in your life? What do you do to find that space of silence that grounds you?

xo
~n

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A Taste of Adventure is Always Enough

It was one of those plans that you didn't think would actually come to fruition. I started planning a camping trip to Death Valley with some friends. Death Valley always seemed like such a mystical place, distant and vast. I felt like I knew it, when in reality I knew nothing about it at all!

As plans got finalized and I started taking closer looks at the map, I came to realize that we would only get a chance to see a tiny section of Death Valley. I. Was. Bummed. Do I really want to drive 6 hours to get to a tiny corner of a huge open area that was just screaming for me to explore it all?! Yes. Here's why.

The journey ended up being a big part of the fun! It was my first long drive with Daisy, and I wasn't sure how she would do. Thankfully, she l-o-v-e-d car rides on the freeway! She is a great traveler. We made a couple of pit stops, and at each one she got to get out of the car and explored a bit. I discovered a small town named Shoshone that had some adorable buildings in it that I want to revisit someday! 

Secondly, with a big huge area to explore, it's better to see a small piece of it than none at all. Death Valley is not a car-friendly destination, so getting to know a small piece of it well was a great introduction to the area. We stayed at the Furnace Creek campground, which was convenient to a few spots worth visiting. We were able to see Badwater Basin, Devil's Golf Course, and Artist's Drive. With a decent sized group and two dogs, that was plenty! Not to mention the unbearable heat...

Finally, you make the best with whatcha got! We all agreed on a trip that fit people's budgets and time constraints, which meant only 2 nights of camping. Would I have been happier staying at home? No! Would I have enjoyed it if I had kept thinking, "I wish we could..." or "If only...". Um... no! 

We had an amazing time. The trip was a great way to get an introduction to an area that I absolutely cannot wait to head back to! It created wonderful memories that I shared with Daisy soon after she came home. Not to mention the fun times with good friends. 

So go ahead and plan that trip, see whatever tiny corner of the world you can, and take it all in!

Interested in seeing Death Valley for yourself? Here are some helpful links:
Death Valley info:  http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm
If you're looking to live it up in luxury while at Death Valley:  http://www.furnacecreekresort.com/
Campground info in Death Valley:  http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/camping.htm

Happy Exploring!

xo
~n

Adorable building in Shoshone, CA. They even had a little museum next door, and a restaurant that puts on theater productions on a regular basis! Definitely going back someday.

Adorable building in Shoshone, CA. They even had a little museum next door, and a restaurant that puts on theater productions on a regular basis! Definitely going back someday.

Daisy blended right in at Devil's Golf Course!

Daisy blended right in at Devil's Golf Course!

Sittin' pretty at Devil's Golf Course.

Sittin' pretty at Devil's Golf Course.

It was incredibly hot when we went! It was April and unexpected, so be sure to take water for all travelers - including furry ones!

It was incredibly hot when we went! It was April and unexpected, so be sure to take water for all travelers - including furry ones!