Old Friends, New Friends, and Killer Whales

I typically get 2-4 colds per winter, and to stay on par I had my second one of the season this past week. On Sunday I woke up with a sore throat and ended the day as a mouth breather. That didn’t stop me from going to the Los Angeles Zoo with a few of my friends.

The LA Zoo is definitely worth a stop (if you aren’t planning on going to the San Diego Zoo in the same trip) as it has a wide variety of animals from across the globe. Remember when I was excited about pygmy hippos at the Omaha Zoo? There were real, full sized hippos at the LA Zoo, which are much more massive than I imagined! I also saw a leopard for the first time (regular leopard, as I’ve seen snow leopards back home), a 6 foot tall baby giraffe, a rhinoceros without a horn, a crabby koala, screeching giant otters, and kangaroos carrying joeys in their pouches. My friend made up stories and dialogue for many of the animals, making for a slow but very humorous venture through the exhibits. After the zoo we enjoyed some local Cuban food and then headed separate ways.

I woke up Monday feeling slightly better, taking my time to hit the road after LA traffic, on to La Quinta, California to visit with my uncle and his friends. The drive started out sunny but quickly turned to pouring rain my poor wipers could hardly keep up with. I made a detour to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, the best outlet mall in Southern California. A pair of Nike’s and a skirt and top later, I finished my drive to rainy La Quinta. Right away I headed to the Old Town, a touristy area of local shops housed in buildings fashioned like the Spanish era architecture. I made a quick swipe through, as it was still pouring, grabbing coffee to go.

Next I headed to Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area to check out the local fishing hole. There were large birds in the water, fishing like the men on shore I’m sure. The park looked like it was out of the third Jurassic Park movie, with a blue lake and palm trees with a backdrop of fog covered mountains. I’m sure the park would be a delight to stay at on a nice day, as there are many hills to climb and hike nearby. Then I joined my uncle and his friends for delightful conversation and dinner. It was wonderful being with family and meeting new people from back home in California.

The cold knocked me out for the next few days, although I did a local hike at Fryman Canyon in the Hills on Wednesday. The hike was mostly uphill, and I veered off the walking path to the more interesting horse trails. I stumbled upon two dome-like structures built with sticks and trees, being swallowed up by vines. No one was there, but I wondered if it is a place of refuge for a savvy homeless person on occasion. Thursday I caught up with an awesome college classmate and friend over pizza, talking way more than we ate. I love the friends I have out here, and that they are always down to do something fun. 

I had a pretty low key, but fun week. To wrap up my week and bask in the healing powers of 80 degree sunshine, I headed to Zuma Beach in Malibu on Friday. I chose this beach because it is supposed to be the best beach for watching surfers and dolphins. Boy was I in for a treat! I relaxed on a sand pile for a bit until the tide came in and took my beach away. Next I headed to a stretch further inland with a few more people around. As I was lazily reading my new favorite book (“Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World” by Rita Golden Gelman), I happened to glance up and see movement 1/4 – 1/2 mile off shore.

Dolphins? I watched for a few seconds, puzzled by these creatures. Much too large and dark to be dolphins, different fin shape, and very different body movements. Now, I have been hoping to one day see an orca in the wild, refusing to go to Sea World to see one. Plus I read about an orca pod miles off of an LA coast years ago, and the hope to encounter them is always in the back of my mind. So when I realized these aren’t dolphins, my mind connected the dots and I freaked out. I was able to get them on video way zoomed in on my cell phone (which can be viewed on my Instagram: elisabeththeadventurer), and I watched the whales over and over again later, zooming in more on my device and showing it to a friend. Definitely not dolphins. Definitely ORCAS at my BEACH! I am very confident my conclusion is correct, as a lifeguard quickly jumped in a large vessel to chase them off and stayed in the water where they were for the next hour (they don’t do that for dolphins). It looked like a pod of 4, and possibly more further down the shore. I cannot explain how excited I still am and will probably be for the rest of my life about this. It’s incredibly rare to see killer whales so close to shore, especially in Los Angeles, and I’ve been wanting to see a whale since I knew what they were at 4-years-old. I was not expecting this to be my first whale experience, but I am thankful I was in the right place at the right time.

My long vacation in Los Angeles feels fulfilled now. I’ve hiked the mountains, absorbed sun at the beaches, explored downtown, watched a show at the Griffith Observatory, enjoyed a spa day, brought in the New Year in Hollywood, and listed to live music at a speakeasy. Now I can add “saw orcas” to the list…how amazing. I booked my stay in Utah to begin my journey back home a week and a half from now. My trip home will take a little over a week, and will be filled with hiking and exploring of course. It will be difficult to close this chapter of my life, but this trip has opened my heart up to a lifetime of adventures and experiences. Life is as awesome as you make it. 17122214_10212561490415712_162341045_o17142111_10212561490735720_1500457582_o17148704_10212561490695719_1835021553_o17121480_10212561490655718_1728502467_o17142373_10212561490615717_853628149_o

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Old Town La Quinta

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Old Town La Quinta

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Recreation Area

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Vine Growth in LA

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Green Hike

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Zumba Beach in Malibu

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Orcas Surfacing Off Shore

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