Rebounding Nicely

Almost two months ago I posted about the devastating Springs Fire, which seemingly destroyed much of the western flank of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. You can find my original post here.

I will keep this short. I simply wanted to update any concerned Loyal Readers that – for the most part – the area seems to be rebounding nicely. According to local park rangers, all trails have been reopened, and a volunteer “work weekend” helped put the finishing touches on any trail work projects. This is terrific news, of course, which goes without saying. Even more terrific, however, is the speed with which the debris was cleared, the damage assessed, and the trails rebuilt. Quite a contrast when compared to the Station Fire (July 2009) devastation of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. The burn area was of similar size, but several trail closures are still in affect four years later. (In all fairness, the San Gabriel Wilderness features more rugged terrain.)

Continue reading “Rebounding Nicely”

A Weekend in Pachuca

“We should go to Pachuca for the weekend,” Pamela suggested, perhaps in an effort to distract me from the fact that I had been staring at her chest for five minutes straight. “Huh?” I asked, perplexed. “Where is that?” Pamela explained that Pachuca was the capital of Hidalgo State, just 90 minutes by bus from Mexico City, and that it was in Pachuca that an exhibit of controversial Fernando Botero paintings was on display through mid-June. Having been floored by the Botero Museum in Bogotá, my interest was immediately piqued.

The above conversation occurred a few weeks ago, Loyal Reader. I normally pride myself on my geek-level knowledge of geography and places of interest, so color me perplexed that I knew little-to-nothing about Pachuca. Pamela suggested leaving there on a Saturday morning, arriving midday, and spending the remainder of the day (and an overnight) in the city and visiting the Prismas Basalticos that Sunday. The name suggested that los prismas would be similar to the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or at least to the Devil’s Postpile near Mammoth Lakes, California. Still, how is it that I had never heard of these basalt “prisms,” either? Quick research revealed that there weren’t any hostels in Pachuca, but when I discovered that I had enough hotel points for a free night’s lodging in the city center, the deal was sealed.

Continue reading “A Weekend in Pachuca”

By Special Request: Comparing Mexico City with Los Angeles

I was asked by my friend Chris to compare differences between Los Angeles – my old home – and Mexico City – my new home. A worthy challenge, and an honor – my first blog request!  (Alas, it took me so long to write this up that Chris – a longtime LA resident – finally just came down here to see for himself. Better late than never?)

Before I comment on the differences – of which there are several – I want to point out a few similarities as well. You probably already know that of LA’s roughly 40% Hispanic population, the majority is of Mexican descent. Most of those Mexican-Americans will, if asked, claim to have at least one living relative in Mexico City. As such, “Mexican” food in LA is often similar to what you’ll find on offer in your typical Mexico City restaurant. Sure, no one eats chapulines in LA – and nor do people eat burritos in Mexico City – but tacos al pastor at a low-budget Van Nuys taquería, for instance, are identical to the same-named dish at half-a-dozen quick-service restaurants in my own Mexico City neighborhood. Mole, a delectable spicy chocolate sauce that can adorn baked chicken or turkey, is a regional specialty that comes from Puebla, just two hours from Mexico City by road. I have enjoyed it in both LA and Mexico City (not to mention Puebla), and I couldn’t tell the difference.

Continue reading “By Special Request: Comparing Mexico City with Los Angeles”

Then and Now

Time flies when you’re having fun. A few weeks I realized I’d been living in Mexico City for six months. I have rarely regretted my decision to move down here – and you’ll be happy to hear that I renewed my lease for another six months – but my time here has been eye-opening in a few ways. Care to take a look?

(Just a few) Things I know now that I didn’t know six months ago:

Continue reading “Then and Now”

Where am I #1

Greetings, Loyal Reader. I thought I’d start a GringoPotpourri photo contest of sorts. From time to time I’ll post pics of your favorite gringo for you to guess where I am on the planet. I could be in Mexico, I could be at Yosemite, I could be in an ocean somewhere. I am looking for a city, state (if relevant), country and monument or wonder name (for example: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France or Yellowstone National Park, USA). Be as specific as you want.

I hope you’ll log in to WordPress with your guesses. The first pic, posted below, is pretty easy (I think)…but they WILL get harder. There aren’t any prizes – at least not yet – besides the satisfaction of guessing correctly. Still…don’t be shy.

Good luck! 🙂

 

whereami1

One of My Favorite Places in the World: Sycamore Canyon

I love hiking, wildlife, and natural beauty. As such, I was saddened, ten days or so ago, to learn that one of my favorite places in the world, the western corridor of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, was essentially going up in smoke, as an early-season wildfire – most likely caused by a carelessly-discarded cigarette, the dry Santa Ana Winds, and above-average temperatures – swept through the mountains.

If you don’t know the area of which I speak, the Santa Monica Mountains extend roughly 60 miles from east to west. They bisect Los Angeles in two – the famous Hollywood Hills are actually the Santa Monica Mountains – but most of the range runs along the Pacific Coast, from Santa Monica to Point Mugu, west of Malibu. A 65-mile hiking, biking, and equestrian trail, appropriately-named the Backbone Trail, traverses the most rugged “spine” of the mountains, passing film sites and archaeological ruins en route. The Chumash Indians called these mountains home as far back as 7,000 years ago, and shared the land with mountain lions, bobcats, and red foxes, all of whom roam free.

Continue reading “One of My Favorite Places in the World: Sycamore Canyon”