The National Park Service has rolled out the list of fee-free dates for 2016:
January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 16 through 24: National Park Week
August 25 through 28: National Park Service Birthday
September 24: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day
With 409 National parks to choose from, 127 of them normally charging an entrance fee, this is a great opportunity to cure yourself of the winter blues and simultaneously show all the folks who help preserve these incredible national treasures that you really do care about their efforts. What better way to prove it than to show up on one of the fee-free days and enjoy our National Parks! You’ll be so glad you did!
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Check the schedule and make a date to have coffee with the International Space Station. We did just that this past Tuesday morning around 6:40 a.m. in Southern California. Go ahead. Check the schedule for yourself. Then, spend a minute marveling as the space station races across the sky in plain sight over your home. Remind yourself that there’s a half-dozen people riding in that thing, cruising along at over 17,000 miles per hour, circling the planet every 90 minutes or so, and then try to tell yourself that you don’t see miracles around you every day.
Miracles come in all forms, natural and unnatural–from flowers that instinctively open and close and even eat bugs (like the good ‘ole Venus Fly Trap) to man-made contraptions orbiting around the earth. Have a sip of coffee, remind yourself how blessed you are, and then give a wave to those brave astronauts floating around in space. They’re checking out YOU while you’re checking out THEM. Be a part of it!
Winter is a great season for whale watching in Southern California, and many sites around L.A. provide a great view. One of my favorite sites is Point Dume State Park in Malibu, CA.
Point Dume is a tranquil, lightly trafficked site for whale watching north of Los Angeles. It’s no easy task to find this State Beach in Malibu (I relied on personal accounts on the Internet for directions), but it’s worth the trip. Parking spaces are hard to come by. Patience is required, as you’ll likely have to wait for one of roughly ten spots to open. I left my boyfriend to the task of parking while I sought a path to the ocean across a wide, vacant lot in an otherwise typical, Southern California suburban neighborhood. The best path for whale watchers of all ages (including seniors) is the one to the right where a chained metal gate attempts to restrict path use to pedestrians only. Surfers make use of the other paths, confidently balancing their boards on their heads, drawn by the taste of salt in the air and the point on the horizon where Gray whales dive and spout.
From the gate, the dirt path ahead quickly narrows and presents a fork. Stay to the left and you are gifted with a wide, steady boardwalk that leads to the ideal perch from which to spot bountiful whales. A large wooden deck edged with weathered but sturdy bench seats invites you to settle in with binoculars and await a splendid view of some of the largest and most intelligent swimming mammals in the world. If the tide is in, you may not even need binoculars. If Blue, Orca, Killer, or Humpback whales make a showing, which they sometimes do, you might make better use of a simple, everyday camera. Radiant smiles are a natural part of the scenery!