Hi! My name is Donna. I chase clean air. Let's go! Out of Los Angeles and into the world, chasing clean air, beauty and a sustainable life!
"My compliments on a superb and extremely helpful web site. To the best of my knowledge it's only one of its kind that provides so much detailed information in one place for the clean-air conscious traveler..."
"Your site is outstanding and very informative! I live here in LA and have been hoping to one day find an area with cleaner air..."
"Wow you’re fun to read! I was just forwarding your website to a friend and so had occasion once again to get wrapped up in your world. You are an inspiration..." Read more!
Entertainment industry icons and climate activists Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and Li Bingbing star in a series of public service announcements to inspire individual climate action against the backdrop of uncertainty in the environmental movement wrought by the election of Donald Trump to the White House.
The president-elect has previously claimed that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, leaving an opening for China to establish itself as the global leader in sustainability and the booming renewables industry.
Tule Elk Bachelors and Hiker on Tomales Point Trail
An hour drive north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, 700-pound Tule elk roam a magical land with a power to transport tranquility-seekers back thousands of years to a time when Coast Miwok people inhabited what is today’s 71,028-acre Point Reyes National Seashore.
Created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy in order to save the land and seashore from Marin County developers for future generations to enjoy, the preserve’s granite cliffs and shoreline provide visitors year-round sightings of the once almost extinct California Tule elk. And seasonal sightings of gray whale migrations, elephant seals mating and birthing pups, and birds of the Pacific Flyaway.
Before the 1848 Gold Rush, 500,000 Tule elk grazed central and coastal California but hungry miners dwindled their numbers to 10. In 1978, Tule elk herds were reintroduced to Point Reyes and are now considered the most visible herds in California.
On September 17, 2016, I drove with a friend from Marin County’s San Rafael to Point Reyes National Seashore. We passed artistic towns and Redwood groves along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and pulled into the Bear Valley Visitor Center in about 30 minutes. The modern facility showcased the area’s natural and human history. We learned volunteer docents stationed on Tomales Point Trail had scopes for Tule elk viewing. It was mating season—the rut—which ran from mid-August through October.
Bishop pine forest of Point Reyes National Seashore along northern part of Inverness Ridge. Dense pine patches alternate with the rare Marin manzanita. Bishop pines are gorgeous and grow sparingly on the California coast.
The drive along Pierce Point Road to the trail was breathtaking: wind-swept Cypress and Bishop Pine trees, and blankets of California brush and wildflowers atop rolling hills. The Pacific ocean appeared between ribbons of fog. We turned on the car’s headlights, passing Tomales State Park, historic dairy farms, Abbott’s Lagoon and Kehoe Beach. We arrived to the end of the road and the Tomales Point Trailhead parking lot in 35 minutes.
Majestic Tule elk grazed on a hill. A siren pierced the air. The male Tule elk, or bull, bugle call was attracting females.
Tomales Point Trail was flat and easy to navigate, with areas of slight elevation. We dressed in layers with wind breakers, which proved helpful. Inhaling salty air, we passed purple lupine, orange California poppies, and yellow and white meadow foam wildflowers on the sides of a thin dirt trail that widened. The landscape included dramatic Pacific ocean views.
Volunteer docent, Katie Ballinger, offers information and powerful viewing scopes to watch Tule elk herds during their rutting (mating) season at Windy Gap located on Tomales Point Trail.
It was about one and half miles and a 20 minute walk to volunteer docents John Blair and Katie Ballinger at Windy Gap. Hikers peered through two Nikon scopes pointed at White Gulch, a dry grassy valley with a spring. Around 30 elk engaged in activity.
“Three harems got together when people went off the trail and spooked them,” said Blair. “Now two bulls are fighting to maintaining their harems. Take a look.”
Two bulls, antlers faced down and toward each other, fought. The high-pitched, eerie sound of the bulls’ bugle permeated the air. Another bull chased a female.
Volunteer docent, John Blair, offers information and powerful viewing scopes to watch Tule elk herds during their rutting (mating) season at Windy Gap located on Tomales Point Trail.
“There’s one male for up to 20 females,” Blair said. “The Tule elk bull thrashes his 40-pound antlers into brush until brush hangs on his antlers for a sexy look. Then he urinates on himself to create an attractive scent. The strongest bulls fight for their women and that’s what you’re seeing.”
It was thrilling. Could it get better than this?
A group of teenagers approached, saying they’d just seen 25 Tule elk by the trail ahead. “No need for scopes or binoculars!” I’d never seen a large number of wild animals up close. We excitedly continued up the trail.
A weathered couple in good shape approached from the north, “How far until we see elk by the trail?” I asked.
“About 15 minutes,” the woman responded.
“How many elk did you see?”
“Ten,” she said, though her husband blurted, “Twelve!”
As we walked, the sun burned through fog. I wrapped my jacket around my waist. We passed fences to our right, which prevented Tule elk from roaming near cattle, a concern for local ranchers. But the fences also prevented elk from finding needed water sources during drought years. As a result, the herd population diminished from 540 in 2012 to 286 in 2014. Meanwhile in 1998, a Tule elk herd moved to nearby Limantour Beach and left free to roam found water sources and grew a third in size during the same period. That herd became two, and one herd roamed toward Drakes Beach.
That's me, posing along Tomales Point Trail with Bachelor Tule elk in background
Our walk continued, as a solo man with bulging arms, signaling strength sprinted by. “How far until we see elk by the trail?” I asked.
He spoke with certainty. “Five minutes.”
“How many did you see?”
“50!” he said, “I could hardly believe it!”
We stopped for a picnic lunch, sitting on a rock with ocean views. At times, we saw only one or two people, and raptors soared above.
Onward, we encountered a hefty family walking down a hill. “How far until we see the elk by the trail?” I asked.
The mother breathed heavily, “It’s pretty far.” She looked uphill. “About 30 minutes.” Her husband said, “No, 15 minutes,” proving much in life is relative.
“How many elk did you see?” I asked
“19 elk sitting next to the trail and a pond,” the woman said.
We received conflicting reports until we arrived to the hilltop and peered down. 19 bulls with elegant antlers lounged under the sun! A large pond was nearby and Tomales Bay was in the distance. It was a scene for Beethoven’s 6th pastoral symphony. A sight for budding Monets. We’d learn these were the bachelor elk who couldn’t get a girl.
I took out my camera lenses.
Watching Tule elk along Tomales Point Trail.
I focused on bulls sitting. Getting up. Jostling. Posing with heads high. Looking at me. Walking toward me. What’s the behavior of male bulls? One bull stepped closer and into my comfort zone. I think our eyes locked. “Some weigh as much as 800 pounds,” the docent had said. I was girl scout savvy enough to stay calm. Slowly, we turned back.
We stopped at Windy Gap—about 2.5 miles from the pond—and I asked docent Ballinger about the bachelor Tule elk. “Were we in danger?” The consensus was that elk are generally not aggressive with humans but it’s best to avoid close contact.
My elk experience was spectacular, so much so that when the car didn’t start because we’d left the fog lights on, I was lost in thought about my return trip to Point Reyes. It would be for winter gray whale migration. “You forgot to remind me to turn off the fog lights,” my friend said. Ah, yes. Fortunately, Point Reyes was far from the maddening crowd but an easy AAA call to nearby Inverness tow trucks. While we awaited our rescue, I added elephant seal mating and bird-watching to my next Point Reyes adventure.
A young couple approached a nearby car. I introduced myself and voila! Their jumper cables started our battery and we were off but not before the fellow said, “We’ve left our fog lights on before at Point Reyes. I hope you’ll pass the warning on with helpful information for others.”
We started home when the ribbon of fog lifted, revealing the magical Bishop Pine forest and a feeling that all was well in the world.
When You Go
Point Reyes National Seashore California (415) 464-5100 https://www.nps.gov/pore/
To experience Tule elk with docents: Weather permitting, volunteer docents are stationed at Tomales Point Trailhead 10:30 a.m. to 4 pm. on weekends and holidays from August through October, and stationed at Windy Gap, along the Tomales Point Trail from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Docents will have binoculars and spotting scopes to allow visitors to observe elk rut behaviors and answer questions.
Until next time, breathe easy and make life an adventure! Let's go! Out of Los Angeles and into the world, chasing clean air, beauty, and a sustainable life! FACEBOOK LIKE Chasing Clean Air
Electrolux UltraFlex Vacuum after cleaning bedroom carpet and emptying dust cup.
Powerful, versatile and light!
Shopping for a vacuum? I highly recommend the powerful and light Electrolux UltraFlex vacuum, which works well on plush carpets, wood floors, drapes, lightweight fabrics, upholstered furniture, frames, bookshelves, and hard to reach nooks and crannies. Measuring 13 x 11.5 x 20 inches and weighing just under 12 pounds, this versatile vacuum takes up little space and is easy to maneuver. Plus it's equipped with the all-important HEPA filter, which captures 99.5% of all dust, pollen, and other airborne irritants.
I couldn't believe how well the Electrolux UltraFlex vacuum worked, picking up loads more dust - in a convenient bagless system - than my last vacuum.
Out of the box, I saw a pretty red machine, which I picked up by its convenient handle - lightweight! While the instructions were easy to grasp, initially I figured basic things out on my own due to its intuitive design. I read about its versatile tools like a crevice tool and dusting brush stored conveniently on the handle to clean crevices and stairs in one quick step, and upholstery and bare floor nozzles to help clean all surfaces. Plus the added convenience of three level height-adjustments.
A nifty 21-foot power cord pulled out of the canister and with the touch of button shot right back in. Pure ease! No more laboriously wrapping a cord around and around like my last vacuum.
A self-cleaning dusting brush that removes tangles from the brush roll with the touch of button sounds incredible for human and animal hair removal.
On versatility, I live in a one-bedroom carpeted apartment, though I'd prefer hardwood floors. So that UltraFlex attachment for wood floors - the bare floor tool - will be much appreciated one day. I'll keep dreaming. I did use the vacuum on my bathroom floor, first turning the brushroll switch to "off". Also, I'm reading about minimalist living where multi-functional home tools are all the rage.
Back to my carpets.
Power in a Vacuum!
I'd vacuumed my apartment recently (my old vacuum), so I was shocked when the UltraFlex bagless dust cup, attached to the canister, completely filled with dust on the first go! I maneuvered around furniture easily due to a smooth swivel-turning design. And in tough to reach spots, I removed the power nozzle and used suction in narrow areas, utilizing the different power suction settings. It was as if I'd never vacuumed my rooms before. Yet, I had!
Dust, dust everywhere, spun in the canister as I vacuumed. It was kind of cool to watch, like watching clothes in a dryer, and also frightening because all these years I thought I'd vacuumed well enough and obviously that wasn't true. While the vacuum behaved beyond amazing, I wondered to what degree I'd unnecessarily breathed unhealthy air in previous years.
I don't have a pet but I read the UltraFlex works wonders with pet hair and dander. So to my friends with pets, consider this wonderful machine.
Clean-Up a Breeze
When I finished vacuuming, I put on gloves - oh, so much dust in that dust cup! - and with the touch of a button, easily removed the dust cup from the canister. I turned my face away in case loose dust poofed into the air, and dumped a huge dust ball into the garbage bag. Twist-tied the bag to keep that dust away, and returned the pretty red machine to its new spot in my apartment. Voila!
Extra Special Features for Cleaner Air
As for the benefits and impacts of the HEPA filters, HEPA is an acronym for "high efficiency particulate air.” The Electrolux s-filter® HEPA Washable Filter in the UltraFlex canister provides top cleaning performance with a high-tech design that captures 99.5% of all dust, pollen, and other airborne irritants. It's recommended to replace the HEPA filter in approximately 2 years and wash every 3 months in cold water. Also replace foam dust cup filter every 2 years, and clean every 3 months in cold water. Make sure filters dry for 24 hours before placing back in the canister.
Cleaning for those of compromised strength
After residual strength issues from shoulder and wrist injuries, I needed to go light with everything in my life or forego what used to be easy.
Uncle Franklin, Marin County, 2016. He likes breathing clean air in Marin county. He told me my grandma used an Electrolux vacuum too.
When my uncle Franklin asked why I chose the Electrolux UltraFlex model over another model, that was easy: The UltraFlex is lightweight, does multiple jobs in a powerful way, uses minimal extra parts, is easy to maneuver and store, and has a HEPA filter. It works for me and I'm grateful to be able to vacuum without suffering unnecessary pain.
About Electrolux, the company you can feel good about
Electrolux is a global climate change leader, using renewable energy in their operations. They've set a target to grow their share of renewable energy use to 50% by 2020. Recently recognized by the nonprofit climate change group, CDP, Henrik Sundström, Head of Sustainability Affairs at Electrolux, said,
“Improving our climate impact is a core part of Electrolux sustainability framework for the better, and CDP’s assessment is one of the most important external references showing we are at the forefront of the industry.”
Great job, Electrolux!
To learn more about the UltraFlex vacuum by Electrolux - a dream machine - click here.
Electrolux Appliances provided the UltraFlex vacuum for review.
Sun rays bathe path leading to the Redwoods of Big Hendy Grove. Hendy Woods State Park, California.
Always on the lookout for clean air destinations, Coastal Mendocino tops my California list. I loved how the clean air, vivid natural colors, and tall Redwood trees -- protected in special preserves -- made me feel.
A suitcase to rely on... I am always on the lookout to pack more efficiently for travel. Bring only necessities, (if only I understood what they were for changing weather and lifestyle conditions) and use the best suitcase for carry-on--which is what I normally take because traveling light is a priority.
I was at the airport a few months ago, when a well-traveled businesswoman raved about her suitcase that had traveled with her for 5 years. She rattled on about her suits and running shoes and computer stuff all combined in her one Victorinox Carry-on luggage. She opened her suitcase to show me how well organized she was.
Victorinox Spectra Expandable Compact Global Carry-On with Baggallini Tote
Pack it right!
Packing well is more than utilizing a quality suitcase or backpack, it's knowing what to bring and how to roll, align and pack. Don't get me wrong, using a quality suitcase or backpack is extremely helpful, but you still want to maximize your space with simple tips.
I use the following tips to pack efficiently, typically traveling with one carry-on suitcase and a large Baggallini Travel Tote with a sleeve that fits snugly on top of my luggage. These totes are very spacious: I'll carry toiletries, a Kindle, a small purse to be used at my destination, a rolled-into-a-pocket down jacket, sweater, wool hat and camera in just one tote.
Now packing the suitcase:
Lay out clothes you want to bring, and eliminate all but the essential. (Note, this is the hardest part for most of us) Think about weather and activities. Stick to a simple color scheme, and add colorful accessories if that's your thing.
Roll socks and place them inside shoes to save space. Wear your bulkiest shoes during travel. In my case, hiking boots.
Align shoes foot to toe along the inside edges of suitcase. I packed two pairs of sandals - flat (day) and low-heels (night) - and wearing the hiking boots on the plane.
Fold shirts and pants into airtight packing cubes or garment folders. I use two small Eagle Creek Pack-It-Garment Folders in my carry-on luggage. And roll skirts and dresses into the spaces left over on the sides. For my next trip, I'll bring one skirt, one dress, one pair of hiking pants, one pair of shorts, one workout pants, a few shirts that I can layer. Bathing suit.
Stack the heaviest items at the bottom and the lightest on top.
Pack toiletries and cosmetics on the top or if you have a large purse, in your purse for easy use while traveling.