Category Archives: Running/Health & Fitness

My Travel “Essentials”

At Tulum

My travel “essentials?” I’m so glad you asked…

Running shoes, a bikini (if there is even the remotest chance of water and sunshine), my current journal, and my camera. Now, don’t get the misguided impression that I’m a carry-on only traveler. Not the case. Ever. But these are the “specialized items I’m not going to find in an airport kiosk or roadside shop. I’d rather forget necessary phone numbers than my running shoes! And perusing swimwear on vacation time sounds torturous as my interest in anything “retail” flags once I’ve purchased souvenirs for the folks back home.

So; how is it that I found myself camera-less in Akumal, Mexico (Ooh. I’m cringing just writing those words…)?

I could blame it on the passport frenzy that ensued when international travel requirements were updated to reflect present day realities. The kids’ paperwork was on its way well before the media grabbed the story in the spring of 2007, but when subsequent applicants expedited their passports; my three children were apparently relegated to the back of the tourist line. My Congressman Pat Tiberi’s office was responsive and helpful, but our margin to departure had dwindled to two days before our mail gal happily waved the envelopes at me from the end of the driveway. Maybe that blew my focus a little?

The sad reality is that when we arrived and I reached for a fresh camera battery, I suddenly remembered plugging my battery charger into an outlet by the garage door where I couldn’t possibly forget it. And I couldn’t remember unplugging and packing it.

With the dying battery light already flashing ominously in my camera screen, I checked out the options. Heather and Hannah before morning runThe Wal-mart in Playa del Carmen was my distant oasis of hope, and we didn’t plan to be near the city for several days. Thankfully, my more organized daughter had brought her camera, spare batteries and charger, and was displaying more than a casual flair for photography (Still haven’t figured out how she got both the creative gene and the organizational one; seems a little unfair…). She was annointed the trip photographer as I stingily snapped the odd photo, conserving what battery power remained.

Center of palm frond

Our eventual Wal-mart expedition was “educational”. I’d had a humorous Wal-mart experience previously in which my limited Spanish landed me my desired bug repellent only after a helpful employee first escorted me to the deodorant aisle. This time, we gathered Spanish language magazines and Mexican candy (“hot” chewy Skwinkles) for ourselves and friends at home. But when I asked about replacing my fading battery at the photo shop, I was informed that my closest possibility lay in Cancun to the north. Big sigh.

It was one of those “recheck your priorities” moments. Spending precious vacation time driving and shopping for something we might not even find in order to chronicle our happy adventure had the tone of an oxymoron. Another big sigh. Then, I resolved to maximize what was still available to us.

Tulum ruins

My daughter graciously considered my suggestions on “must-have” photos as we explored Mayan ruins and allowed strangers to snap group shots of us with her brand new digital camera. And I focused on capturing some mental snapshots and videos, because photographs are only one method of preserving memories…

I’ve written about my so-called “perfect moments”. They virtually save themselves into our internal data base, but with intent, they can become almost a transport point from days ahead to moments long behind us. It’s a matter of hitting your own “pause” button and then gathering in the messages that are nudging your senses. Like the stirring of a breeze as it ripples skirt against skin and hair into disarray. The lingering fragrances of sunscreen and ocean-salted children. Bubbling laughter layered over the rhythmic track of the tide… When deeply inhaled, these fragments fuse into a tangible place you can revisit within yourself.

Do I wish I’d had a working camera? Of course. Did it ruin my vacation? Never.

*Photographic credit goes to my daughter Hannah and a couple of anonymous passers-by.

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Down by the Bay (Upper Newport Bay, California)

When your hotel is situated on the edge of a nature preserve, it’s bound to get interesting. When there’s ten miles of trails winding through it? Even better. I spent a lot of time on the trails of Upper Newport Bay Preserve and Ecological Reserve a few years ago, both strolling with my camera and running without it. There’s nothing like fresh scenery to add a little spring to your step and pull some time off your mile.

Upper Newport Bay Map and Visitor Information

Upper Newport Bay is dedicated wetlands. Without intervention and education, it would eventually fill with sediment and evolve into meadowland. Home to half a dozen rare or endangered bird species, the estuary hosts over 30,000 birds a day during winter migration. Birds are only part of the story though; fish, native plants and assorted critters and mammals share the space in an intricate food web sustained by the unique conditions of a wetlands habitat. Some thirty to forty percent of California’s halibut catch is said to originate from spawning beds in the Bay. A flood control project in the late 60’s has impacted the Bay to the point that regular dredging is necessary to maintain its natural state. Fortunately, many believe the estuary to be worth the effort.The serene liquid landscape teems with life; mollusks, fish and snails emerged along the waterline as well as assorted shorebirds that fluttered away at our approach. We searched in vain for a California trapdoor spider, but a sleek long-tailed weasel caught my eye as it slipped across a narrow channel.

The Muth Interpretive Center was an unexpected find, tucked away beneath a curve of the trail. The paths of an outdoor garden led us down to fascinating displays on the Bay’s ecosystem. We arrived with questions and the employees were more than happy to share information and point us to helpful exhibits. Muth Center guides also helped us identify a couple of plants that intrigued us, including the coyote gourd or coyote melon plant.

The trailing vines of this flowering plant were expansive, invading the territories of all surrounding vegetation and even creeping out onto the horse trail that runs alongside the biking and running path. Jumping the vines daily as I ran the bayside path seemed reason enough for an introduction…


Updated from July 29, 2009.

Newport Beach Things To Do

Upper Newport Bay Map and Visitor Information

1000 acres of preserved wetland with 10 miles of hiking/biking/running trails. Kayaking, fishing, birdwatching...

Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center: Exhibits and information

Directions/Phone: 2301 University Drive; Newport Beach, CA 92660(949) 923 2290    Website

Newport Aquatic Center: Kayak and pontoon boat tours

Directions/Phone: 1 Whitecliffs Drive; Newport Beach, CA 92660(949) 646-7725   Website

View Upper Newport Bay Preserve and Ecological Reserve in a larger map


Featured Photo: Seasonal Mix

Featured Photo: Seasonal Mix (Alum Creek State Park; Lewis Center, Ohio)

Winter can be a rough ride for an outdoor lover who goes numb in freezing temperatures! Whispers of warmer seasons past and yet-to-be can help less enthusiastic winter dwellers weather the temporary chill and appreciate the architecture of a bared woods. This photo, taken last winter on a seasonally-vacated mountain bike trail, is an encouragement to bundle up and search out the beauty in a frozen afternoon.

I did my first snowy trail run at yesterday and have officially plunged into yet another Ohio winter. Sensation has returned to my toes; acclimation is complete. 



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