The season’s first snowfall in San Francisco’s East Bay

Midwest transplants, rejoice! Winter promises to bring more than one snowfall to the East Bay this year, thanks to El Nino and colder-than-normal temperatures. Here is a wonderful video, courtesy of student Bryan Navarro at St. Mary’s College in Moraga,  of our first snow of the season, Dec. 7, 2009:

And thanks to Bennett Hall for the photo, below, of his wife Helen and dog Jasmine on a winter walk.


Happy Wanderer: My top 7 picks for best outdoor adventure


When it comes to travel, it’s all about the list. The top ten this, the top five that…it’s almost daunting to pour through

dogsledding above the Arctic Circle

the minutia of must-sees as mentioned in books like 1,000 places to see before you die.

So here is a “bucket list” of real adventures – hand-picked by the Happy Wanderer over years of wild living leading up my recent hip surgery. These are not for the faint of heart. They are action-packed adventures for the daring and strong-boned and able.

  1. 1. Cage diving in the Farallones. In late fall, when the Great White Sharks come to feed on the convention of Elephant Seals off the Gulf of the Farallones, you can be part of the process. The trip calls for a hearty constitution as you travel by boat some 30 miles in choppy waters to this extraordinary marine sanctuary. Continue reading

Happy Wanderer: Hot air balloons spark flights of fancy


It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the balloon boy. If ever a story captured our collective imagination –the recent balloon

odyssey in Colorado did the trick. And although the saucer-shaped aircraft turned out to be empty, it could very well have housed a boy, a baboon, or even something sinister like the Japanese bomb balloons in World War Two.

It got me thinking about ballooning, and my recent trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta – the most photographed event on the planet. With over 600 balloons punctuating the sky, it’s easy to see why.

The carnival atmosphere starts before dawn. Under a blanket of stars, vendors prepare for the throngs of visitors making the pilgrimage to this sacred ballooning site in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. The smell of burritos and corndogs permeates the still air and flickers of light pierce the darkness as the first shots of propane surge into the nylon envelopes. Continue reading

Tis the season for…block parties

Every neighborhood should have a way for folks to get together and cultivate common interests. We all need to look out for one another! A little food, some libations and even entertainment make a block party the social event of the summer. this moonlight bash on Merriwood with master didgeridoo player Stephen Kent.



TRAVELING IS GOOD for the soul, albeit not so good for the wallet. But with a cowlittle imagination, you can visit some far off places sans your suitcase and credit cards.

Here are my fave five East Bay getaways:

1. Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. It’s Ireland without the pubs. The undulating terrain formed by ever-shifting tectonic plates reminds me of the hills south of Dublin in County Wicklow. And while Sibley’s prominent feature is Round Top, the 10 million-year-old volcano, I’m more smitten with the bovine. Continue reading