Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sukhothai On New Year's Eve

Lots of things contrast the last three days in Chiang Mai here at Sukhothai. For starters, this place seems to be far less busier than the bustling city. It's also much warmer as well as less mountainous.

And as Julie and I attempt to embark deeper into the less touristed regions of Thailand in an effort to visit the acclaimed Thi Lo Su Waterfall, we're bombarded with incessant random sounds of loud fireworks as we're less than an hour away from 2009 in this part of the world. It sounds like a war zone here as I'm sure it sounds this way in other parts of the world trying to celebrate the New Year with the Roman Candles (which I believe is actually a Chinese invention).

Anyways, have a Happy New Year!

Waterfall of the Week

Closing off 2008 with another Icelandic beauty. Have a Happy New Year!

Goðafoss


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Broken Camera Lens (again)

It's now our third night in Chiang Mai. Up to this point, we've seen about 8 major waterfalls (6 in the Chiang Mai vicinity alone) with perhaps the best one so far being the Mae Ya Waterfall. To complement all the waterfall sightings, we've also seen numerous temples (including Doi Suthep and the chedis atop Doi Ithannon), Pong Dueat (a tiny hot spring and geyser area), and bustling night markets (including the Sunday Walking Street, the New Years Festival on the moat, and the Chiang Mai bazaar night market).

Well, that's the good news to report. The bad news was that today while atop Doi Ithannon (Thailand's highest mountain), my camera lens on my Canon EOS was acting up again. I suspected it was because some salt water got into it when a guy with wet hands (from the ocean water at Maya Beach in Phi Phi Island) was taking our picture. This one barely lasted 6 months. Eventually, the zooming on the camera failed as salt probably crystallized and jammed (or did something to) the fine gears within the lens.

Fortunately, at the end of the day, we went to the Panthip Computer Plaza in Chiang Mai where they sold lots of electronics. There, we were lucky to find a replacement lens (not cheap) . I was certainly glad the camera failure happened near a big city and not some place remote like Umphang. We still have half the trip left so hopefully this salvages our ability to capture moments and scenes from this trip and thus salvage it...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chiang Mai

After our night in Bangkok as well as in a jungle raft in Kanchanaburi, amidst the ruins of Ayutthaya, and the surprisingly Thai-crowded Khao-Yai National Park, we're now in the moat-surrounded northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

Apparently, our timing is just right for their "Sunday Walking Street" (not to be confused with their popular daily night market) set in the middle of town. The sea of humanity on this street completely dwarfs that of Khao San Road in Bangkok. Quite fun, but definitely have to keep an eye out for pickpockets and try to stay close to your party or else get lost in the "conveyor belt."

This part of our trip also marks the beginning of our long Northern Thailand journey that includes Doi Ithannon, Umphang, Sukhothai, and Kamphaeng Phet among others. We'll try to keep you posted on what goes on in this part of the trip as internet access and time are available. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waterfall of the Week

How's this for a Christmas Eve waterfall? (and no that person in the red jacket in the photo is not Santa Claus!)

Dynjandi


One Night In Bangkok

We're now on Day 4 of our trip (with Day 1 being that evening in Patong Beach, Phuket). Currently, we're in Bangkok. A cancelled flight and a slight delay later, we scrambled to check out Wat Pho and Wat Arun. The Grand Palace will have to wait for tomorrow (with an itinerary change so we've decided to axe the Floating Market).

Days 2 and 3 involved going to Phang-nga Bay and Phi Phi Island, respectively. Quite nice.

But after our one night in Bangkok (while trying to stay on top of hustlers looking at tourists like walking cash registers), tomorrow is the official start to the waterfalling portion of the trip...

We'll try to keep you posted on the latest of this adventure.

Finally, before I sign off, I'm sure it seemed scary about the whole PAD and the airport situation last month. Now we're here and discussing with some of the locals what went on, it seems that there wasn't any danger as the protestors were totally not targeting the tourists. In fact, they tried to accommodate and apologize to them. We're still keeping an eye out for latest developments, but with a better understanding of the situation and the local sentiment, we're less worried than we were a week ago...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Popular Ice Waterfall?

With the ice storm that has gripped must of the New England states last week, this article caught my attention. Ironically, it's one in which a big waterfall is famous for its ice.

Julie and I have been openly looking to visit the New England states (especially this past Autumn when there were some impossibly low rates), but that fell through.

But after checking out this article from WCAX-TV News' Destination Recreation series, I couldn't help but long for a trip up to America's northeast:

Destination Recreation: High Falls Gorge

Wilmington, New York - December 18, 2008

The wind is blowing and the clouds are swirling over High Falls Gorge in Wilmington, N.Y.

But inside the cozy confines of the visitor center it's nice and warm.

And it's here that every trip to the gorge begins.

Proper footwear is a necessity.

"So these are yak tracks. They're basically snow tires for your feet," explains Kathryn Reiss of High Falls Gorge.

Tourists have been visiting High Falls Gorge since the 1890s.

The half-mile long hike features several cascading waterfalls as the majestic west branch of the Ausable River tumbles north toward Canada.

"Right now it's beautiful and full," Reiss says.

Once just a summer attraction-- the gorge is now open-year round, no matter the weather.

"We have two snow blowers here and then it's a lot of shovel work where there's stairs," Reiss says.

"This is a climax forest. It's an original Adirondack forest. It hasn't been harvested and it hasn't burned," Reiss explains. "I think I'm going to put a hat on because it's awful cold. The wind doesn't help."

The half-mile long hike takes about 45 minutes as the path travels from one waterfall to another.

"I think the drama of it all; the artistry of it all is just amazing," Reiss says. "It really is beautiful, along with the power of the water coming down."

The ice storm of 1998 almost closed the popular attraction forever. Freezing rain covered everything with ice; trees toppled, crushing bridges, walkways and fences.

Ironically -- the ice is what now draws people here during the winter months.

Reiss says, "We turned a very dramatic experience into a whole new adventure for High Falls Gorge."

Angelo Greco of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., agrees.

"It's really amazing to see, to be up close to such a cool waterfall," he says.

The walkways allow visitors to get up close and personal with the falls.

"Over a million gallons of water flows through the gorge every day," Reiss explains.

A perspective you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

"The drama of that waterfall and the power of it is just amazing," Reiss says.

Winter at its finest-- in beautiful High Falls Gorge.

It costs $13.50 to visit the gorge during the winter and the experience includes a bonfire on weekends.

For more information on High Falls Gorge and on visiting the Wilmington area-- including directions-- click here.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

Once again, so many places, so little time!

Friday, December 19, 2008

PAD-Thai

Thailand is up next.

But unlike our previous trips, this one has got us a bit nervous. That's because the week of Thanksgiving, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) took over the country's two main airports for 8 days to try to oust the current prime minister at the time. It essentially stranded over 300,000 travelers (including those who weren't visiting Thailand since Bangkok's airport is an important international hub) and really impacted the country's economy (especially its tourism). It was also the culmination of numerous protests and demonstrations that took place ever since we first heard about it since returning from our Africa trip.

Now we had entertained thoughts of canceling our trip, but considering how expensive this trip was (and the land portion was nonrefundable), we knew we were going no matter what.

Just this week, the country elected its new prime minister (the third in as many months) from the opposition party. I'm sure there's now the pro-government supporters of the previous regime not happy with this development. As to whether they'll stage a similar protest to halt the economy or cause social disorder, who knows?

So you see, that's where we stand today. And even though politics has affected our travels in the past (like Kenya's post-election violence and Zimbabwe's Mugabe-dominated electoral martial rule), we have managed to come out with a deeper appreciation of how the world works and why people do what they do. We'll just have to consider this yet another educational experience (and waterfalling adventure, of course)!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bay Area Waterfalls

I stumbled upon this article about some waterfalls near the Bay Area that we've always been meaning to do but never really got around to doing. Who knows? Maybe 2009 is the year we find an excuse to drive up to No. Cal. and make good on our intentions to see the falls up there. In the mean time, have a look at the article courtesy of Silicon Valley's The Wave Magazine:

Chasing Waterfalls
A hike to a stunning waterfall is closer than you think.
By Damon Orion

For ages, artists have been paying tribute to majestic waterfalls. Painters such as Henri Rousseau and Georgia O’Keeffe have captured their likeness in oil; wordsmiths such as Carl Sandburg and Mary Oliver have invoked their image in poetry; and musicians as diverse as Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, the Stone Roses, Electric Light Orchestra and TLC have all sung their praises. With all the poetic whimsy surrounding them, it’s easy to forget that waterfalls are actual, tangible phenomena of nature – not to mention the fact that we have a wealth of them right here in our Bay Area backyard.

Here are some of the best local spots where you can hike to see waterfalls in all of their gushing winter glory. We may not choose to honor them with songs or paintings, but with so many of these wonders within hiking distance, there’s no excuse not to at least pay one a visit.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
21600 Big Basin Way, Ste. 406, Boulder Creek (831) 338-8860 www.bigbasin.org
Twenty-three miles northwest of Santa Cruz, we find California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods, home of an 11-mile loop of trails that leads to a series of raging cascades. Featuring approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain during its second half, this hike offers an eyeful of flora and wildlife on the way to the waterfalls, which are considered by many to be the finest in the Bay Area. While they generally run throughout the year, the cascades are especially powerful during the rainy season. There’s the multitiered Golden Cascade Falls (which, as its name suggests, gives off a striking golden sheen due to its iron-stained rocks); the majestic Cascade Falls, which boasts a mighty 80-foot drop; Silver Falls, which has rock stairs that allow you to walk just below the waterfall, bathing in the mist as you use a handrail for balance; and the 70-foot Berry Creek Falls, considered by many people to be the best waterfall on the California coast.

Castle Rock State Park
15000 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos (408) 867-2952 www.parks.ca.gov
One of the many natural treasures of the Santa Cruz Mountains is Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos, which, along with offering several opportunities for rock climbing and hiking, boasts the memorable Castle Rock Falls. A viewing platform makes it easy to get a peek at the waters of King’s Creek, spilling approximately 75 feet over a massive vertical sandstone slab. When the waterfall is in full force during late winter and spring, you’ll begin to hear its waters from a distance as you approach from the nearby hiking trail.

Edgewood County Park
Edgewood and Old Stage Rds., Redwood City (650) 368-6283 www.co.sanmateo.ca.us
At five feet in height, Sylvan Trail Falls is hardly the largest waterfall on the list. But the fern-covered rocks that surround it make for pleasant viewing, while visitors will enjoy a laid-back, family-friendly trek through Edgewood County Park in Redwood City, best known for the colorful wildflowers that cover its grasslands and hillsides in the springtime.

Forest of Nisene Marks
Aptos Creek Rd. and Soquel Dr., Aptos (831) 763-7062 www.parks.ca.gov
Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy this Santa Cruz County forest, famous for being at the epicenter of the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. A nine- to 10-mile round-trip hike via Aptos Creek Fire Road and the Aptos Creek Trail will reward visitors with an up-close view of Five Finger Falls, spilling 20 feet into Aptos Creek. Also known as Aptos Creek Falls and Monte Vista Falls, Five Finger Falls gets its name from the proliferation of five-finger ferns growing nearby. Also at Nisene Marks is Maple Falls, accessible via a challenging hike dotted with natural obstacles.

Memorial County Park
9500 Pescadero Creek Rd., Loma Mar (650) 879-0238 www.eparks.net
La Honda’s redwood-rich Memorial Park is the site of Pomponio Falls, which finds Peterson Creek dropping 24 feet onto Pescadero Creek. While you’re there, be sure to visit the eight-foot Upper Pomponio Falls. Also in La Honda is Portola Redwoods State Park, home of Tiptoe Falls, a cascade that is usually between five and eight feet in height.

Uvas Canyon County Park
8515 Croy Rd., Morgan Hill (408) 779-9232 www.sccgov.org
Rumored to be an excellent dating spot, Uvas Canyon County Park, located at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Morgan Hill, sports no less than seven small waterfalls that are best viewed in late winter. Five of these falls are listed on park maps: Granjula Falls, Basin Falls, Triple Falls, Upper Falls, and the triple-tiered Black Rock Falls (which, at approximately 55 feet, is the largest of the bunch). The mile-long Waterfall Loop that runs along Swanson Creek is an easy hike, while more challenging climbs along the canyon are also available for more adventurous hikers. The canyon can make for cold journeying, so bring extra layers (or someone to cuddle).

*This Article appeared in Volume 8, Issue 26 of The Wave Magazine.

Boy, I can't wait to get up there!

Waterfall of the Week



Monday, December 15, 2008

Clifty Falls State Park

This news posting caught my attention since it sits in Big 10 Country. Or, if you're not into NCAA conference designations, it's located in the Hoosier State of Indiana. The following is an excerpt from the Asheville Citizen-Times:

We travel for a reason — to make new memories, to visit old memories, or to visit with friends or relatives. Last October we went to Madison, Ind., to do all three.

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The lawn of the Clifty Inn at Clifty Falls State Park overlooks Madison, one of our favorite places to sit on a lawn chair and watch the Ohio River roll by. Years ago my daughter and I visited Clifty Falls.

Clifty Falls State Park was established in 1920 to preserve four waterfalls that fall from the rim of Clifty Canyon. The park offers 15 miles of hiking trails. These trails are challenging, so after a hike remember to go to the lawn of the inn and find that chair.

The park has camping, which is second only to Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana, swimming, picnic areas, nature center, fantastic scenery and the Inn. There are also ranger programs offered that explain the history of the park and wildlife, and offer guided hikes. One great guided hike takes the visitor to a 600 foot railroad tunnel.

Back in 1852, John Brough started building a railroad through Clifty Canyon. The railroad collapsed leaving remnants for us to visit today. After seeing the tunnel, remember that lawn at the inn? Well, it is time to visit that chair.

Now it is time to visit the waterfalls. The waterfalls heights range from 60-83 feet. The best time to see their power is in the spring. During a dry period these waterfalls tend to trickle. But none the less the walk to the escarpment is magnificent, particularly in the fall. Now what do you do after seeing the falls? That's right, back to the chair on the lawn.

Of course, a visit to the town of Madison is a must. Madison is between Louisville (Slugger) and Cincinnati (Reds). The town, named after James Madison, was established in 1809 as a river port.

The first stop in Madison is the visitor center, which has the local area maps to find local attractions and a list of special events. For example, if you visit Madison during July 4th, a must is the Madison Regatta where you can watch turbine powered boats race so fast that all other river traffic is standing still. Madison also has bluegrass music. Remember, Bill Monroe's home in Bean Blossom is not far away.

Next to the visitor center is the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum, which explains life on the river from 1809 to the present. Be sure to see the railroad station and exhibits which explain how the railroad in 1836 revitalized the town's economy. Also nearby is James Lanier's mansion. Built in 1844, the mansion depicts life in the 1850s, when Lanier was the financier of the railroad. The tour guide tells a great story about celery, too. During the Civil War, Lanier was a key player, financing Indiana's war effort.

Now you are ready to walk downtown. Madison's business district is a trip to 1900, when all the activity was on Main Street.

The architecture reminds us of the time when the horse and buggy competed with the horseless carriage. The shop windows show off the latest antiques, art, confections and places to sit and enjoy the food.

After a day in Madison, it is time to go back to that lawn chair at the inn and watch the evening rise in the east on the river town. And as the sun sets, pay very close attention to the twinkling lights as they brighten the approaching evening.

Madison is 377 miles from Asheville. If you go, remember to create memories that you can revisit.

My wife and I created new memories as we visited old memories of our daughter.

Sue and Ken Schroeder live in Arden

(excerpt from "Reader travelogue: Madison, Ind., takes visitors back a century" by Sue and Ken Schroeder • published December 14, 2008 12:15 am in the Asheville Citizen-Times)

This might give me the excuse to go waterfalling in Indiana! Ah, so many places so little time!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

La Jolla Canyon Falls

Photo by Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles TimesThis was a forgotten waterfall before I happened to chance upon it in the LA Times.

I believe it was back in the 2002 or 2003 timeframe when we were still visiting local waterfalls. However, we had a typically dry winter and we were naive about visiting waterfalls. After all, we were in the correct season and assumed the falls must be flowing. Well, lo and behold, we ended up visiting a trickling waterfall. That fact that we took no photos attested to our disappointment (and was probably why we had forgotten about it).

Oh well, at least Julie got to shop at Camarillo afterwards as the consolation prize. But perhaps with a storm that promises to deliver this week, maybe that might mean some much-needed rain and perhaps an opportunity to get re-acquainted with this waterfall...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Care About Waterfalls?

Now I've waxed poetic before and wrote about what waterfalls do for our health and spirit, which you can read about here. However, more recently with the energy crisis and now the financial turmoil around the world, I thought it might be worth a look at why waterfalls usually get sacrificed for the sake of energy and agriculture.

Are waterfalls for energy a worthwhile trade?

Well, that's in line with all the economics versus environment debates that are constantly going on and we won't get into here. But at least this article should shed some light on the types of decisions policymakers and businessmen must make while trying to appease environmentalists. The article also looks into alternatives to the status quo...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waterfall of the Week



Sunday, December 7, 2008

Australia

Julie and I just saw the movie Australia today. Since I'm not much of a movie-goer, Julie billed it to me as an excuse to see Western Australia's major waterfalls - especially Mitchell Falls, which we saw on a trailer for the movie.

But we came out of that movie picking up a few more things about Aboriginal culture, about cattle farming as a way of life in the Outback, and about the Top End's role in World War II. I guess the fact that we watched the movie on December 7 (the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor invasion) kind of reinforced that angle. But honestly, we didn't intentionally time this. It was purely coincidence!

Anyways, regarding waterfalls, we did see a few waterfall scenes. But the Mitchell Falls view wasn't what was shown in any of the trailers we saw. However, they did show King George Falls. And if you watch the movie, you'll see that the falls was certainly appropriate as perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to one of the recurring characters throughout the movie.

Plus, some of the Bungle Bungle scenes brought back memories of our botched tour as well as our brief time in Kununurra.

As for the movie itself, Julie and I had heard about and read about some of the mixed reviews (though Triple J's Mark Fennel's review was pretty funny). And we both felt it was predictable. However, it was certainly entertaining and not as bad as some critics lead you to believe. Maybe it's just because we've been to Australia before (especially up in that remote area of the country) that we could appreciate the social theme about the Stolen Generation and get some of the language and inside jokes throughout whereas others not as familiar might be like "what?!?" Nevertheless, we think it's alright and worth a look (if not on the silver screen, at least as a DVD rental).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Caribbean Travel Blogs Created

After putting up the waterfall pages for St Lucia, there was still the task of putting up the remaining pages for the Caribbean as well as St Lucia such as the travel blog about our recent trip.

I've also added pages about timing your visit to the Caribbean as well as a review of the book we used.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Friday, December 5, 2008

St Lucia Pages Added

I've finally gotten around to updating the website with the handful of St Lucian waterfalls we've visited during our Thanksgiving weekend trip to this lovely Caribbean island. I've decided to place Caribbean destinations in the Caribbean pages as opposed to appending it to the Latin America pages, which was my original intent. I figure if you really think about it, people generally don't think of the Caribbean when they think of Latin America.

Have a look and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waterfall of the Week

I decided to move the waterfall of the week to Wednesday to help you make it to the weekend!

Gullfoss


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back from St Lucia, mon!

Last night, we finally arrived home after a pretty relaxing trip (by our standards) to this beautiful Caribbean island. It was a trip in which we had great weather for nearly 2/3 of the time, but the last day and a half was marred by relentless downpours. Of course, we did see a handful of waterfalls as well as the signature Pitons. We'll update the website with the latest travel stories, waterfalls, photos, and blog entries in the coming week. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

St Lucia Is Next

It seems like traveling has now become part of a Thanksgiving tradition. After all in recent memory:

Gee, I can't remember what it's like to have a Thanksgiving with the family.

In any case, this will be my first true Caribbean waterfalling experience and we're looking forward to it (Kaieteur Falls doesn't count even though even though Guyana in South America considers itself Caribbean).

Thailand Trip In Jeopardy

It's not normal for me to blog about a trip that isn't happening for another month, but this is a major issue that has been bugging Julie and I ever since we've been following its developments right after the end of our Africa trip.

In fact, we went through similar political uncertainty following the post-election turmoil in Kenya as well as the pre-election problems in Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, we're already committed to the Thailand trip since we've already paid for it. The question is whether we should subject ourselves to their political chaos by making our money count (that trip isn't cheap since it's peak season in December) or just declare a big loss and not go on that trip. We're currently taking a wait-and-see approach right up to the last minute crossing our fingers.

As for what the political situation is about, here's the latest from CNN as well as another article trying to break down why it's taking place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Drought in South Africa

Apparently, we're not the only ones with a looming water crisis.

I came across this interesting editorial, which talked about a respected writer getting sacked over his dire warnings about South Africa's water problems.

This caught my attention because we had to nix our intentions of visiting Tugela Falls (allegedly the second tallest waterfall on earth) from our Africa trip upon learning of their drought. I guess we made the right move back then.

Still, I thought it was strange that someone tried to tell the truth and stimulate some action to address the problem only to end up getting sacked and censored. I certainly hope we in Southern California can take more responsible action to address our drought situation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Waterfall of the Week



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Timing A Waterfall Visit

To follow up on the previous blog post, I've added another Waterfalls 101 Class titled When Should I Visit Waterfalls?.

It's a full featured article discussing how to best optimize or time your visit to waterfalls of various types. Check it out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Waterfall And Weather Paradox

Visiting waterfalls can be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling activities you could ever partake in. Unfortunately, they could also be one of the most frustrating.

Ever since the fires of last weekend, I got to thinking about how we need storms to replenish the freshwater systems, but at the same time, bad weather can really put a damper on the waterfalling experience. We're currently hoping we'd at least get some amount of rain so it might motivate a pair of trips to Northern Arizona next Spring.

Plus, we've seen waterfalls that were trickling or were completely dry (e.g. several Australian waterfalls back in 2006 like Sailors Falls, Trentham Falls, and Nigretta Falls among others) as well as those where weather really made for a soggy experience (e.g. our Milford Track experience) or obscured views of the falls itself (e.g. our Catarata de Chinata excursion in Peru). We got lucky with our our Angel Falls experience as the weather cleared up for just long enough for us to see it before going cloudy again.

It's funny how nature is full of paradoxes and waterfalls seem to embody it. But you've got to take the good with the bad. And besides, when a waterfalling experience is spot on, it'll make you appreciate it that much more!


So when should I go visit waterfalls?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Waterfall of the Week

Back when I used to use the old blog, I used to periodically show a featured waterfall of the week.

I had forgotten about doing this until a loyal reader brought this up. (Thanks!!!)

So I'm going to resume this little tradition.

First up:


Saturday, November 15, 2008

There's No Winters Here; Only Santa Anas!

Julie and I planned to visit the new Griffith Park Observatory today in a small celebration of our wedding anniversary. But then, we were greeted with a massive traffic jam on the I-5. It was only 9am at the time, but we could see the massive plume of smoke that was coming from the Sylmar fire, which we had just learned broke out last night. And if you can imagine burning gas, paint, metals, plastics, etc. from homes, you can imagine how toxic this smoke is!

So we turned around and headed to Little Saigon for some Vietnamese food. But when we left that restaurant a short while later, we suddenly saw another giant plume of smoke hovering over the immediate area. This time, it came from Anaheim Hills/Corona/Riverside area.

Just when I was hopeful that the rain from a couple of weekends ago would usher in the Autumn and Winter and perhaps improve the conditions for some local waterfalling, we now get 90-degree weather and low humidity again - in the middle of November!

It seems like the Santa Ana winds are happening more frequently these days (wasn't it only a year ago that there were numerous fires in the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, Santa Monicas?). It's pretty obvious to me that our drought and wildfires are intimately linked to Global Warming and overdevelopment locally. Two years ago, we saw firsthand the drought in Australia and they already made the connection (possibly one of the reasons why Kevin Rudd was voted in over John Howard in their election a year ago). I think it's our turn to feel that kind of pain (if we haven't been in it already).

Locally, it seems clear that Mother Nature is trying to take back the hilly areas where fire has been suppressed. But I always contended that irresponsible laws and economics (especially regarding the lack of environmental accountability) led to overdevelopment and increased reliance on fossil fuels. Well, we're witnessing the effects of such policies right now.

While I see the economic recession as an opportunity to right the ship nationwide and bring in a system that makes sense both economically and environmentally, locally I see these wildfires as an opportunity to halt urban sprawl, invest in desalinization, public transportation, solar and wind energy, etc. (pretty much restoring the state's infrastructure) rather than leaving things be. How much longer can we tolerate not doing anything?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How do you measure a waterfall's height?

If you've read about waterfalls (especially on the internet), then you know that they're usually accompanied by a measure or estimate of its height.

But believe it or not, a very large percentage of waterfalls around the world (many of which may have reported height figures) haven't been accurately measured!

In some cases, you can tell there are dubious claims of a waterfalls' height (probably to increase visitation) while there are other instances where there have been best guess estimates.

Fortunately, there's a way to measure a waterfall's vertical height. All you need is some portable equipment and a little math. So how do you do it? Read on and find out!

Another waterfall accident in New Zealand

I came across another accident relating to a waterfall in New Zealand. Except this time, it's in the Hawke's Bay region instead of Mt Ruapehu.

The following excerpt came from the New Zealand Herald.

Hastings hunter Eddie Kettle, who plunged eight metres down a waterfall while hunting on the East Coast on Sunday night, remains in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit.
Mr Kettle, 23, was transferred from Hawke's Bay Hospital to Hamilton on Monday with serious head injuries after losing consciousness for nearly five hours while a rescue party battled dense bush to carry him to safety. He underwent surgery yesterday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kiwi Anniversary

Today marks our fourth year wedding anniversary, which took place in New Zealand.

Julie and I have very fond memories of that moment as well as the honeymoon thereafter.

And when we take a step back and see what that fateful trip did to us, we appreciate how it ended up changing our lives for the better.

You see, it was the trip that singlehandedly turned our waterfalling into a global endeavor. And as we met different people, we've learned more about different cultures, different places, and different perspectives. We also saw different landscapes, different ecosystems, different climates, a variety of natural features (especially waterfalls), and more!

All of this helped us to better understand our world from how it works to why things are happening. Plus, it made us grow even more as individuals and motivated us to invest our time, passion, and energy to try to make our world a better place (you might be able to tell from some of the recent articles and blog entries).

Indeed, today is a very special day for us.

We hope you get to experience similar joys. Plus, we certainly hope we can keep going like this.

Peace!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Woman Dies In Skiing Accident In New Zealand

This tragic event caught my attention in a New Zealand Herald headline. The only details released at the moment were from an officer investigating the scene who said she fell into a waterfall hole on the western side of Mt Ruapehu in the Turoa Ski Field.

The waterfall piqued my curiosity since I've been to Mangawhero Falls and Waitonga Falls both of which are on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. But we never made further upslope at the Turoa Ski Field (it's actually accessible via Whakapapa as opposed to Ohakune).

Then, I chanced upon this blog (http://moby.nzpunter.com/gallery/v/Turoa_15_Oct_05/) with a photo gallery of a snowboarding trip where a snowboard fell into a waterfall hole in the Turoa Ski Field (the photos here came from that blog). I wonder if it was the same waterfall hole involved in the skiing accident.

I'm sure it's all speculation at this point, but since waterfalls generally occur where the terrain is steepest, do be careful when you're around them, and exercise more caution when you leave the groomed runs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cautious Optimism

Well now that we can call Barack Obama "Mr President" (uh, well, president-elect until January), I actually feel a sense of hope that policies that will come out of this administration will strive to consider the environment while stimulating the economy in doing so. I think that's good news for waterfalling in general as you need to have a healthy environment in order to have healthy waterfalls.

For far too long, the world's economy disregarded the true cost of goods and services by discounting the amount of resources used and detrimental effects on the environment to procure them.

While I strongly disagree with Obama's support for biofuels and "clean" coal technology, I do get the feeling that he's real serious about carbon caps and truly clean renewable solar and wind energy.

But now the real work begins...

As the economy is in awful shape, I wonder whether Obama's good intentions will be hampered by the fact that America's broke and owes trillions of dollars. I think in order to appreciate the depth and magnitude of what we're in for, we need to look at how long it took Japan to recover (and how they managed to do it) from the bursting of their economy, which was based on artificial wealth. Of course, we can also reflect back on our history lessons and take a closer look at the Great Depression and what it took to get out of that.

I sure hope Obama's vision of a better America will be fulfilled. But I'm certain this will take longer than his current term so I'm actually hoping if he starts the momentum in the right direction that he can get re-elected in 2012 to keep the momentum going...

The expectations and stakes are high, but I'm cautiously optimistic about Obama's Administration. Indeed, we have reason to hope, but it's gonna take more than that to pull through this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rain At Last

This past weekend, Southern California saw its first true rain storm of the season. Needless to say, it was badly needed as California is officially in a drought.

Even though we love sunny weather, I actually appreciate it when it rains because it replenishes waterfalls, momentarily clears up the smog and yields nice vistas of snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains, and supplies much-needed freshwater to the people who call this place home.

Besides, rain kind of affirms a natural cyclic order of things. If it stopped raining altogether, something just seems wrong.

In fact, rain couldn't even put a damper on the morning of Election Tuesday (have you voted yet?).

But not all's fine and dandy with the rain.

That's because it managed to wet the interior of my car. You see with all the heat from our nearly perpetual Summer, I tend to leave the windows a little open to let out some of the heat accumulated when the car is parked. And because of that move, I ended up going to work with a wet behind and sticky, dirty hands (from the dirty steering wheel combined with water).

All things considered though, I hope the rain keeps coming.

We need it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time To Fall Back

In case you don't know, today we're supposed to fall back one hour.

I wish we'd just stick with either Daylight Savings Time or Pacific Standard Time year round and keep things simple. Plus, I don't buy the energy-saving argument because we're still seeing the same amount of darkness (when more lights and other appliances are turned on) either way.

This also reminded Julie and I of a scary moment while in Buenos Aires, Argentina last year in late December when they sprung ahead an hour without us knowing on a day we had to fly out!

I suppose it could be even more drastic like in a country as large as China, which is all synchronized to one time zone!

Anyways, we'll just have to take it for what it is and move on...

Running Out Of Clean Water?

While most of us rejoice at the nearly constant sunny weather in Southern California (where Winters are nearly nonexistent), I was certainly happy when it rained this weekend.

Granted, it's not nearly enough to undo our drought situation, but when I came across this blog entry this morning, I was reminded that diminishing rainfall distribution is merely a small part of the overall problem of freshwater availability.

Indeed, our waterfalling endeavors have made us well aware of this issue.

Especially in the case of Los Angeles as well as other municipalities throughout the American Southwest, drastic measures in terms of agro-business clean-up, our own water consumption habits, and water procurement (e.g. desalinization) must occur or else we face dire consequences not unlike those we'll face by ignoring global warming or peak oil or overpopulation or the depletion of other natural resources (notice how all of these are related?).

It's worrying to say the least, but as citizens with the option to cast a vote, it's up to us to vote in the people and the measures that we think will actually do something about our environment (and shoot down those where we can smell the BS).

Sure, it's not easy with all the misleading advertisements flooding the airwaves and the discouragingly confusing text presented in the ballot, but our future (and that of our kids) depends on the actions we take by exercising our right to cast an informed vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rainbows and Waterfalls

After seeing the early morning rainbow at home before our failed attempt to vote early, I was thinking about seeing rainbows around waterfalls. I can't think of any other juxtaposition of features that captivates the imagination as well as make your waterfall memories that much more special than the waterfalls and rainbows combination!

We've seen numerous examples of this throughout our travels. So with rainbows accentuating waterfalls like few other natural features, I wondered whether there's a way to time or position yourself for rainbows together with waterfalls. Indeed, it's one of those things you just can't get enough of, right?

Well, after looking through some old photos, I came to the conclusion that if it's early to mid-morning or mid- to late-afternoon and the sun's behind you, you have your best chance at seeing a nice rainbow in the waterfalls' mist or in the plume of the waterfall itself if you're more or less standing at the same level as the waterfalls itself. The lower the sun's angle, the higher the rainbow arcs before you.

When the sun is the most intense during the middle of the day, you get favorable angles when you're above the waterfall looking down. If you're at eye-level with the middle or base of the waterfall, the rainbow would've been behind the falls and that's why we don't have such waterfall/rainbow photos during the height of day. The higher the sun's angle, the lower the rainbow arcs below you.

So now you know. Now, it's your turn to visit a waterfall on a sunny day and chase your own pot of gold by making your own postcard waterfall photo!

Failed Early Voting Attempt

With this being Halloween, we thought we could get a head start on the day by taking a little time off work and going to the Norwalk Civic Center to do some early voting. We learned about this option after hearing on the radio last weekend when Kirsten Dunst and Jacob Scoboroff went there to make people aware of this option.

Julie and I were shocked to see it had rained this morning and we were greeted with a very nice early morning rainbow!

So armed with our intent to make our voices heard (and promote the cause of the preservation of our future and of course our waterfalling obsession), we got to Norwalk at around 8:15am. The polling stations were said to be open at 8am.

But when we got there, the lines were already ridiculously long!

Well, knowing that on election day November 4th, we'd be able to go to our local polling station to vote and that there'd be far more stations available to vote in general, we declared this trip a loss and headed back home.

Seriously, it seemed like the queues on the early voting booths defeated the purpose of early voting in the first place - to save time!

All this got me wondering about our antiquated voting process in general.

I mean, if we can perform online banking and credit card transactions, why isn't there online voting? You could register year after year, all records would be in an electronic database, officials can do quick lookups and quickly verify against fraud, and the vote tally would be both accurate and synchronized with the rest of the nation (so no vote would be swayed by early voting results).

I also thought about the long lines in the swing states like Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. You get the sense that voting frustration (like in our case) would result in lost votes. And you get the sense that voters hoping to vote for Obama and other Democrats are not getting their voices heard with their votes because of this.

Then, I thought about the 2000 election when Florida discounted many minority votes with their "pregnant chads" fiasco. And we all know what happened thereafter...

All the more reason to go electronic!

In any case, we hope the early voting woes doesn't discourage citizens from letting their voice be heard. The world is anxiously watching... anticipating...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prop 7 and 10

A pair of initiatives on the California ballot this year tries to appeal for renewable energy and alternative fuels. They are Proposition 7 and Proposition 10.

According to the ballot, Proposition 7 basically seeks to impose and change some new and existing requirements on renewable energy generation by utilities. There's a bunch of other legal mumbo jumbo that'll probably put you to sleep.

Meanwhile, Proposition 10 seeks to borrow money in the form of bonds to distribute rebates for "clean alternative fuel" vehicles or other related incentives. If you want to read the raw legal mumbo jumbo, click here.

At a glance, these measures look promising and a no-brainer for the future of the state (let alone our environment).

But then, when you look at the fine print and the arguments for and against (and who's making those arguments), that's when the devil's in the details.

Here's some supplemental reading to get the skinny on these measures (I'm sure there's a lot more literature out there though)...

After spending quite a bit of time mulling over all this text, I've decided to vote no to both of these measures (actually, I'm voting No to every proposition except Prop 1A regarding the High Speed Rail, Measure R, and Prop 2).

Why?

For Prop 7, after getting tugged both ways by hearing arguments for and against, one telling indicator is where the Sierra Club stands (among other sustainability advocates). They opposite it! If you can't get one of the greenest organizations to buy into a "renewable energy" measure, then it begs for more scrutiny and skepticism. Another thing that bothered me about this measure is that it's hard to understand with all the stipulations in there (a real indicator that something is being sneaked in there by politicians and special interests). Generally if I don't understand the measure, I vote no anyways.

As for Prop 10, it seems clear that the big winner in the choice for alternative fuel rebates would be natural gas. This is BS because natural gas is a fossil fuel, which is not clean regardless of what anyone says since it needs to be dug up and it emits chemical byproducts. I'm not even sold on biofuels (another "alternative fuel") because of the amount of land clearing (i.e. deforestation), water diversion, and substitution of food for energy. Really, we ought to have solar plug-in hybrid electric cars if we're serious about zero emissions. Keep in mind that GM had the electric vehicle back in the early 90s before conspiring to destroy them (something to think about when the Feds are about to give them some of that $700 Billion corporate welfare bailout money).

As you can see, politics has lots to do with our future let alone waterfalling. I can only hope Californians read the fine print and really think about what they're voting for regarding these measures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Waterfalls Videos

The next batch of waterfalls videos I've put on the World of Waterfalls website consists of the Top 10 Icelandic Waterfalls.

Besides the already uploaded Dettifoss, there are now videos for Skogafoss, Gullfoss, Dynjandi, Haifoss, Godafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Hraunfossar, and Glymur.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Havasupai Indian Reservation Closed

This might be a bit of old news, but it's worth repeating considering how popular this attraction (especially Havasu Falls) is.

Back in mid-August of this year, the Havasupai Indian Tribe experienced yet another monsoonal flood that did damage to the Supai Village as well as the basic tourist infrastructure to accommodate visitors. That resulted in the closure of the Havasupai Indian Reservation for visitation.

Floods are nothing new to this part of the Grand Canyon as evidenced by the last major one that occurred back in 1997. That one destroyed Supai Falls and turned Havasu Falls from a singular 100ft waterfall into a double-barreled 75ft waterfall.

But if you're anticipating a visit to this magical part of the American Southwest, you have an opportunity to plan ahead and enjoy its wonders in the Spring of next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Videos on the World of Waterfalls

Since I was in the mood to upload and add videos to the World of Waterfalls website, I continued the momentum by adding videos of Kaieteur Falls, Orinduik Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Dettifoss to the mix.

Enjoy!

Videos on the World of Waterfalls

I know I've been procrastinating about this feature on the World of Waterfalls website, especially since we've received numerous inquiries and requests to have them.

So I finally got around to putting them in, but it's a rather time consuming process.

In any case, videos we've taken of waterfalls are now available for Iguazu Falls, Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, and Angel Falls.

More videos will be trickling into the website and I'll be posting to this blog as soon as they become available.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Solar Cells A Greenhouse Gas Emitter?

I recently read an article about a potentially damaging side effect of solar cells.

The problem is that the manufacturing process involved in purifying silicon for the purposes of thin film solar cells (as well as flat-panel LCD monitors and microcircuits) emits a gas known as nitrogen trifluoride. Unfortunately, this gas is orders of magnitude more serious than the greenhouse effect from carbon dioxide and it lingers in the atmosphere at least five times as long.

This can be considered bad news for those hopeful for a solar powered society (which also benefits waterfalling). But sometimes you have to face the truth and deal with it.

Now while I'm a tremendous supporter of solar cell photovoltaic technology, I do believe that processes involved in its creation and utilization must be as clean as possible. I don't think we should abandon the pursuit of solar energy, but we should definitely look for ways to contain nitrogen trifluoride during manufacturing or find other chemical compounds to process silicon for photovoltaic purposes.

In the near term, I think pollutants should be penalized by taxes (and solar cell manufacturing is no exception), but money collected from these penalties should subsidize cleaner methods and reward companies successful in pulling it off. Sure this might result in more expensive solar cells, but a truly responsible economy that factors all the good and bad of a product will provide incentive and rewards for improvement. Therefore, by no means should solar cell technology cease because of this since its successful implementation will be far better than our fossil-fuel-based energy paradigm we're forced to live with now.

To get more details about this story, click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Waterfalls FAQ

Over the course of hosting the World of Waterfalls website, we've noticed there were quite a few questions that were commonly asked.

So to address these common inquiries, we've put together a Waterfalls FAQ.

Now, you can see our answers to the most commonly asked questions.

You can also post your own questions or view questions, comments, and answers from other website visitors.

Inquiring minds want to know, so check out the FAQ!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still A Global Warming Skeptic?

I was at work overhearing a conversation between a pair of gentlemen questioning whether Global Warming is caused by mankind. Since Global Warming and Climate Change are something that alters rainfall distribution (and hence adversely affects waterfalls as well as the long term survival of the human race let alone most complex organisms left on the planet), I couldn't help but stop working and listen intently to what they had to say and how they can justify their skepticism.

Among the arguments made were that the sun itself was warming up, that volcanic eruptions were spewing out more carbon dioxide than mankind can put out, and that the warming is part of some long term cycle among others.

While these arguments sound reasonable at the surface, I knew it wasn't the whole story. So I dug up some hard scientific evidence to lay this issue to rest once and for all (for anyone willing to let real science do the talking). I think the following chart provides the most compelling evidence of Global Warming being made worse by mankind...


The above graph shows the carbon dioxide level and temperature levels over the last 400,000 years. Climatologists were able to extract this information from Antarctic ice core samples (basically drilling into ice and pulling out a long cylinder of the stuff) since the Antarctic ice actually captures the concentrations of gases as the ice melts and re-freezes with the seasons year after year.

As you can see, cyclical variations in both carbon dioxide levels and temperature were confined to a range over the last 400,000 years. Also, note the tight correlation between carbon dioxide levels and air temperature! Keep in mind that this time period spanned ice ages, catastrophic volcanic eruptions (even greater than the recent eruptions of Mt St Helens and Mt Pinatubo), and even mankind's occupation of the planet prior to industrialization.

However, beyond 1800AD (near the onset of the Industrial Revolution), notice how the curves jump off the charts on the far right hand side!

I think pictures are worth a thousand words!

I picked this graph because it debunks all the arguments my coworkers were giving in one fell swoop.

Indeed, the evidence has been piling on as more studies are done on the subject by objective scientists without interest in the oil companies and nothing to gain by telling the truth (you can see additional evidence here).

So enough about trying to deny what the science is saying. Let's just accept the facts and do something about it rather than do nothing and let the problem get worse!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Makes A Waterfall A Waterfall?

After the thousands of waterfalls that Julie and I have seen, we realized that no two are the same.

You could have ones like:
  • Victoria Falls, which is trememdously wide and powerful

  • Angel Falls, which is majestically tall with mist swirling about its skyscraping profile
  • Iguazu Falls, which segments its way between rainforest trees resulting in some 275 distinct waterfalls and cascades
  • Pools of 'Ohe'o, which is a bunch of smaller waterfalls and cascades perfect for a swim
  • Waterwheel Falls, which you care more about how high the water is thrown up instead of falling down!
  • ...and countless more...


Indeed, each waterfall has its own personality, if you will, as well as its own shape (appearance).

But given the tremendous diversity of waterfalls that exist in nature, one nagging question that has always been on our minds is: "What makes a waterfall a waterfall?"

So after giving more thought to try to answer this question, I realized that it's really a more complicated issue than you'd think!

Why?

Read more and find out!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How Are Waterfalls Formed?

Ever wonder how waterfalls are formed?

Why is it that some places get waterfalls while others don't?

This was something I wondered myself so I did some digging and quickly realized that in order to understand waterfall formation, you'll have to learn a little bit about geology and even the water cycle.

After understanding the gist of what it takes to form a waterfall, I decided to write up an article to hopefully help you gain a better understanding of this interesting topic.

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Devaluing of the Icelandic Kroner

Well the financial mess that is currently going on has definitely gone global and it has essentially bankrupted the country of Iceland.

Back when Julie and I were visiting Iceland in the summer of 2007, it was one of our most expensive trips to date! Indeed, the Icelandic Kroner was valued at nearly 60 kroner to 1 US dollar. That ultimately translated to $25 pizzas, $25 hamburgers, $200/night for a double in three or two-star accommodations (It was over $360/night for what seemed like a dorm room in Reykjavik!), $40-$60 main course dishes (i.e. fish or lamb, respectively), $120 pocket Icelandic-to-English dictionary, etc. etc. We thought the $3 hot dogs were reasonably priced, and in fact, we pretty much dined on a mostly artery-clogging diet of hot dogs, burgers, and pizzas just so we don't go broke during the trip.

We wondered how the locals live under such pricey conditions, and after several inquiries, we learned that most of them worked two or three jobs. Plus, most of the citizens were living on credit. So you can imagine how devastated both the banks and the locals were once the credit bubble burst. I feel real bad for the Icelandic people, but I know they're pretty hardy survivors and they'll get through this.

The last we checked, the Icelandic Kroner is now trading at over 100 Ikr to 1 USD. I guess this will mean pretty affordable prices for travelers to the country these days.

If you're curious to see what visiting Iceland is like... [read more]

Waterfalls in the Movies

Ever since the Lord of the Rings trilogy influenced our decision to honeymoon in New Zealand, I started to think about the other movies that featured waterfalls in them. So which movies featured such waterfalls? Read on to find out! [read more]

Peruvian Nostalgia

Julie and I went to dinner at the El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant for the first time since two weeks before our Peruvian Trip in late April. Going there brought back memories because it was not only the occasion where Julie got food poisoning from bad ceviche at that restaurant, but during our time spent in Northern Peru going from Tarapoto to Pomacochas, I had to endure food poisoning with similar symptoms of vomiting, nonstop diarrhea, and nausea.

And indeed, as Julie and I chatted over dinner, we were remembering the nicknames our guides gave to each other (e.g. Bubú for our driver Asho), the mountainous roads with frequent landslides, the long driving, the brutal hiking to Catarata de Yumbilla, Catarata de Chinata, and Catarata Gocta (the whole purpose of the Northern Peru portion of the trip), and the authentic Peruvian food we tried to get while we were in the country.

As we dined over tallarin saltado de mariscos and lomo saltado, we thought about the humble but deliciously good home-cooked meals at Cocachimba, a local joint in Rioja that ended up being the only place we encountered that had the familiar green sauce you get at El Pollo Inka Restaurants with roasted chicken (which I couldn't eat because I had food poisoning), Pez de Rey (kingfish) at Pomacochas (again, which I couldn't eat because of my food poisoning), and even trying some overpriced cuy (guinea pig) in Cusco. I guess you can't get much more authentically Peruvian than cuy, which I'm sure no chain Peruvian Restaurant in Los Angeles would even touch.

Indeed, Julie and I were amused at how such a simple act of eating at a local joint brought back such memories of our time in Peru. Here's hoping we can experience more of that in the near future despite the economic conditions we're all facing (or about to face)... [read more]