4th of July Weekend aka My Break from City Life

The 4th of July holiday evokes images of fireworks, barbecues on the overcrowded beach, s’mores, and lots of time spent just looking for parking (in the city). The only thing I did on this list is the s’more part because for the second year in a row, I spent my holiday weekend at Moses Gulch.

It may become my and Conrad’s annual 4th of July trip. Going off the grid for even a few days really rewired my brain for the better, and I still dream of sleeping under the stars and Sequoias with no city noise or gross smog polluting the air. (One night, though, some bros decided to blast their country music – absolutely the rudest thing you can do in the middle of the forest besides burning it down.) And, though I’m a people person, I get tired of people every once in a while (my introvert takes over at some point). Not seeing or dealing with very many humans was kind of heavenly.

Okay, so reflecting on why I loved this trip even more than last year brought me to a conclusion: camping will be an annual trip. If not Moses Gulch (I could go there quite a few times before I get tired of it), it would be some other remote camping site in the middle of the forest. Maybe sleep among the redwoods sometime in the near future. And, of course, Lulu and her wonderful parents have to be there. What a bonus it was to pseudo-serendipitously bump into them and end up sharing their campsite! They certainly made the trip exciting and saved me and Conrad the prospect of spending the whole weekend on our own, which wouldn’t be terrible, of course.

A 30-45 minute hike uphill and worth the trouble.


Moses Gulch Campground

This city girl finally had her first legitimate camping trip during the 4th of July weekend, and what better place than Moses Gulch Campground in Mountain Home State Forest! It’s within the larger Sequoia National Park, and wow my gosh, how beautiful! It’s quite a drive from Los Angeles (about 5 or 6 hours without traffic), but it’s well worth it. I didn’t take photos until our third and last day, but I’m glad I saved the best site for last: Hidden Falls.

Huge thanks to Amber and Eric for being so welcoming and open to have us tag along, and for making my first camping trip so easy. And endless thanks to Conrad for being the sweet, sweet cherry on top and for making it such an unforgettable weekend. But no thanks to the bugs for giving me bites all over…

My 25th at Grand Canyon

Many friends of mine have celebrated their 25th birthday with huge parties, but I knew I wanted something different from the day I turned 24: the Grand Canyon.

How it was barely my first time at the Grand Canyon, don’t ask. For a girl who has a huge travel bug like me, it was baffling that I put it off for so long. But what counts is that I finally made it out, thanks to the very sweet Conradical, who proclaimed that he would take me anywhere I wanted to go for my birthday. I would’ve said Paris, but I’ll ask for that way down the line…

We stayed in Flagstaff, which has a cute and quaint downtown, very walkable and lively. The morning after the Canyon, we luckily stumbled upon the best restaurant in town called MartAnne’s which claims to have the best Mexican breakfast – my chilaquiles and Conrad’s omelette made us believers!

At the Canyon, we started at Yavapai Point and walked through the Geology Museum to get a refresher on the history of the Canyon. We then walked a couple miles to the village where we enjoyed lunch outdoors at a cute hotel. To walk off the nachos and buffalo wings (so healthy), we hiked a couple miles down the Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. Easy going down, of course, but whoah, my gosh, walking back up – it did a job on my lungs. But it felt so good to get to the top again – it made me feel so well achieved, even if it was only a couple miles down. One day, I’ll make the hike all the way down! Or, ride a donkey. Whichever comes first.

We then drove to Yaki Point, where an old watchtower provided 360-degree views of the Canyon and where I found my favorite view of the Colorado River–

My favorite view of the canyon from an old watchtower.We then drove back to the Visitor Center to enjoy the beautiful sunset. We were unsuccessful at taking great pictures of ourselves, but luckily a sweet stranger sympathized and offered to take a photo for us–

Great shot from a sweet stranger who didn't mind taking the photo.We finished the trip with Grand Canyon’s annual Star Party, which only happens one week in the year – the weekend of my birthday fell perfectly in coincidence! It was a truly magical way to experience the sky, with no light pollution whatsoever. The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association provided tons of different types of telescopes to look mostly at Saturn and a few galaxies. They were informative, engaging, and so passionate, as I’ve found all astronomers to be anyway. The Star Party as a whole was just unbelievably amazing – something I want to experience again soon.

This was definitely the best 25th I’ll ever see! Thanks to Conradical for making it happen!



Hamid Sardar

The Annenberg Space for Photography’s group show “No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in A Modern World” features a comprehensive and expansive visual study of culture, particularly ones that are becoming rarer and smaller. Sounds like an overdone and cliche show but far from it. I fault myself for not educating myself enough about different cultures, but the show inspired me to stimulate my curiosity especially about those that are in danger of disappearing too soon.

Photographers in the show include Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, a dynamic and well matched pair who’ve studied African cultures for decades without the tinted lenses of Western ideas. Brent Stirton, the senior photographer for Getty Images, whose projects literally cover the entire globe. A Yin’s longitudinal anthropological study of Mongolian nomads experiencing extreme degrees of globalization within just a few years.

My absolute favorite, Hamid Sardar, also spent time with Mongolian nomads but in this particular project, he studied those yet largely untouched by the outside world with emphasis on their gracefully natural relationship to animals. Sardar says of the project:

My goal was to create a photographic inventory of nomads and identify the part of wisdom buried in their customs and their way of life before they are separated from their natural environment and spirit… Being completely cut off from urban civilization, strangely, I felt protected in the Mongolian wilderness. It reveals a resonance between the animal and the man that can not be found in other places less primitive. I met this old man in the Gobi desert, who with his violin, a camel moved him to tears and made him adopt the abandoned camel. I saw a Buryat lama who brought the wolves at his door by singing an old song. I rode the mountains of Altai with Kazak herdsmen who taught me to capture golden eagles in their nests and train them to hunt, before releasing them into the wild. This ecological mysticism which links the animal to man has become the main theme of this work of art.

Take a trip to the Annenberg in Century City before the show leaves on Feb 24, and while you’re there, watch the featurette.   It was well crafted like the rest of the show. What’s even better about the whole thing – all shows at the Annenberg are free to the public. So there’s really no excuse not to see it.

Copyright Hamid Sardar

Copyright Hamid Sardar