Summiting Mount San Jacinto

When Will and I volunteered for California State Parks Foundation a week ago, we knew that we wanted to end the weekend (or more accurately, start the week) with a summit of Mount San Jacinto, the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains and sixth most topographically prominent peak of the lower 48.

The dramatic rise of Mount San Jacinto

Mount San Jacinto is known as one of the “Three Saints,” the three highest points on the three highest mountain ranges in Southern California (Mount San Antonio of the San Gabriels and Mount San Gorgonio of the San Bernardinos are the other two). What makes these mountains so special is that on a clear day, you can actually view the other Saints from the summit or slope of each one.

Mount San Jacinto was my first ascent of a Saint (and hopefully not my last), but I’ll admit that we took the easy way up. It rises to an elevation of 10,834 feet but the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, combined with a couple nights of camping in Tamarack Valley, gave us quite a head start to the summit.


August 25 2014      9 comments     Linda Ly

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a very special project with the California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the California State Parks system through fundraising, legislative advocacy, and volunteer work days at understaffed parks.

My husband Will currently leads the work days at our “home” park, Rio de Los Angeles, but had been tapped to coordinate and guide a group of volunteers on a two-day backpack up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. This is the only overnighter that CSPF organizes and the weekend fills up every year, even with the number of volunteers doubled this year.

With how often I personally visit the parks and utilize trails all over the state, this was a small way for me to give back. Many people don’t realize that a portion of the trails they hike every year is maintained by volunteers; this includes rebuilding and reinforcing the paths, creating new paths, cutting back foliage, and diverting trails around natural features. The volunteers hike in to these trails with their backpacks and tools, and if you’re familiar with some of the trails, you know they can be quite a distance!

We “lucked out” in that our project site, Tamarack Valley, was only three miles from the trailhead with about 700 feet of elevation gain, and we were camping right where we were working. Tamarack Valley lies in the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness at 9,200 feet. A network of trails spreads out from the designated campground, and our weekend entailed working on the trails (some of which were nearly nonexistent) and “freshening up” the outhouses (digging new holes and moving the structures — who knew that this was actually a job?).

I decided to highlight this project in a Five Things Friday post because one, I’m incredibly grateful for and impressed by the volunteers that made this event happen, and two, I hope to inspire you to give back to a community you’re passionate about, whether it’s the outdoors or even just your local garden club, food bank, animal shelter, or any cause that you strongly believe in and support. Many of us might feel encumbered by what little time we have, or think we’re stretched too thin already, but I am still amazed that it only took one weekend of work to provide years of future enjoyment for fellow hikers and campers in our state park. A little goes a long way!

If you want to spend a morning or two with wonderful people working with the California State Parks Foundation, you can join their Park Champions program as a work day volunteer. There are work days all over the state at various state parks; once you sign up, you’ll receive emails on upcoming work days and where volunteers are needed most. Their online calendar also shows scheduled work days, so you can find one closest to you. Monetary donations are great too, but bodies are always appreciated!

And now… the five little things that made my week! (You can see more photos on CSPF’s Flickr page.)

Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness

1. Though it was nearly 100°F in town, the mountain was at least 30° cooler and made for a fun, temperate hike to Tamarack Valley. Not a bad “office” for the weekend.


August 22 2014      15 comments     Linda Ly
Aventuras   Diversión

Curing your winter squash for storage

Before I started gardening, I used to think winter squash referred to the squash that grew over winter. Only after harvesting my very first “winter” squash did I realize all the pumpkins, hubbards, butternuts, and turbans that arrived at the turn of cool weather actually took three or four months to get there!


August 20 2014      28 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Verduras

Sparkling summer sangria with lemongrass, ginger and peach

If you’ve made my lemongrass-ginger syrup, you’re probably wondering what else you can do with it besides pouring bottomless lemongrass-ginger ales. (Not that there’s anything wrong with bottomless lemongrass-ginger ales!)

So, how about a spritzy white sangria filled with all of our favorite flavors of summer: tangy lemongrass, zippy ginger, juicy peach, and a hearty handful of fragrant basil.


August 15 2014      23 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas

How sweet it is: Yellow Wonder alpine strawberries

I grow a few different varieties of strawberries (as well as blueberries and other berries) but the stars of all my summer berries, hands down, are the Yellow Wonder alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca).

Alpine strawberries are just about the most perfect patio plant you could hope for. Green, lush, prolific, and full of melt-in-your-mouth berries bursting with a flavor that’s hard to pin down. I liken them to cotton candy, but with added notes of pineapple and rose. They’re complex and intensely aromatic. They’re full of sweetness and lack the tartness of commercially grown strawberries which, in my opinion, prove that bigger is not always better.


August 11 2014      8 comments     Linda Ly
Frutas   Jardín

Heirloom tomatoes

1. One of my favorite things about summer. (There are four or five varieties of tomatoes in there!)


August 8 2014      7 comments     Linda Ly
Diversión   Frutas   Gallinas   Jardín   Verduras

Behind the scenes of a cookbook photo shoot

Of all the cookbook shoots Will and I worked on over the course of five months, the two weeks that we spent in Northern California this past spring were among my favorite… and mostly because it felt like we were vacationing, not working.

Mount Tamalpais

The office on Mount Tam

I mean, when your office for the week is on top of Mount Tamalpais, there’s not much to complain about.


August 6 2014      14 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Libros   Trabajo