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Kayaking with Nature

Kelly Ann Schneider
October 19, 2009

Ever wonder what it is like to be alone, in a kayak, surrounded by a protected bird sanctuary, right in your own backyard? Every September you too can experience just that. Just once a year, the Batiquitos Lagoon in San Diego County, CA, is open to kayakers in small, guided groups, as a fund raiser for the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation. You will pick up trash that has accumulated along the shoreline and observe the bird life, but only from your kayak. Every couple of hours a new group of a dozen or so kayakers disembark from the shoreline to venture into the expansive lagoon. Only one group at a time is allowed out, so as to be the least disruptive to the native birds nesting and feeding on the lagoon.

On our journey, we each had an individual kayak provided by the Foundation, and our guide from REI San Diego paddled with us West, under the Interstate 5 bridge towards the ocean, then farther West under railroad trestles into a part of the lagoon rarely seen by passersby. Quietly, we glided in the shallow lagoon, and passed sandbars filled with sea birds, sometimes with just a few birds, other times with hundreds of birds, native vegetation, sand formations and gentle breezes. Since this is an area not accessible to humans, the birds just carried on their normal business, not really aware that we were in awe of them while observing their quirky bird ways, of feeding and flocking together, chirping and creating their own special bird song. It was a special time to self-reflect on my own life; experiencing the quietness of the kayak and the tiny sounds of life, in an area where there are no humans. Quite a respite from our usual busy life, and yet for a few hours, I was a part of the lagoon life, the peacefulness, the gentleness, the abundance of nature in an almost meditative-like experience. Yet so close to home.
The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve, located north of San Diego between Carlsbad and Encinitas. According to the Foundation website,, it is one of the few remaining wetlands on the southern California coast of the United States. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation is dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and protection of the Batiquitos Lagoon, and is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers. The Batiquitos Lagoon Kayak Clean Up event is held the last weekend of September each year

Green Romantic Getaways

By Elisabeth Bailey

There's something intoxicating about the romantic getaway. Stealing time away with your partner to make a little personal history (and a little something else) is an unparalleled pleasure.

If overconsuming the earth's resources doesn't seem very romantic to you, though, you might run into a few planning challenges. How can you best love one another and the earth at the same time? Well, here are a few places to begin:

Play Tourist in your home city or region. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, there are local secrets to discover together. Rather than Getting Away, Get More Present--with your partner and with the world you both share. Museums, historic sites, walking tours, hiking and biking trails, parks, berry picking--choose your pleasure. Give yourself permission to have nothing but fun, right where you are.

Blow Your Mind with a learning opportunity. Look for a way to take your shared interests deeper--a local foods cooking class, permaculture seminar, or organic wine tasting, anyone?

Appreciate the Body and schedule each other's for some luxury treatment. Consider spending a day together at a spa or yoga retreat, or just enjoy some organic massage oil and a lot of creative stretching at home. Experiment with a sensual breathing exercise, and see where it leads you.

Enjoy Some Earthly Delights together. Whether at home or away, invite romance by immersing your senses. Get your blood moving by planting a tree together. Go birdwatching. Cook your love a local, organic foods dinner. (Don't forget to pick up some organic wine and chocolates for the occasion.) Get closer to the earth--and closer to each other at the same time.

Keep It Green when you do stray far from home at a certified "green" hotel. is a handy guide for finding the spot for your tryst. For the rare big trip or honeymoon, consider something both poshly romantic and ecologically friendly, like Ecocamp in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile or Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The natural beauty and romance of the Tetons is hard to beat!

Family Camping

By Elisabeth Bailey

Camping is a great way for people of all ages to get to know and love their environment a little more. For responsible family campers, fun and stewardship of the land go hand in hand. The lessons your kids learn while camping will provide the base for their lifelong love affairs with the earth.

So what exactly does responsible family camping look like? Here are a few tips to ensure a happy, safe, and environmentally friendly trip:

  • Choose your camping location as a family. Look for a place that is age appropriate for your children, offers fun activities within easy walking distance, and allows for minimal site impact.
  • Teach your children the old saying: Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints. Figure out together what you'll need to pack in (and pack out) to follow saying.
  • Make a game of minimizing your energy use--from starting your campfire with a magnifying glass, to hand-inflating the air mattress, to finding a creative use for your gray water--who can come up with the best ways to save resources?
  • Plan your meals around eating local foods, if possible. If not, bring your own--including a picnic for the trip.
  • Bring a "get to know your environment" kit--binoculars, identification guides, a tape of bird calls, and a net for examining water life. Enjoy some time making plant, tree and bird identifications on your hikes and just around the campsite. The more of the local flora and fauna you get to know, the richer your experience will be.
  • While camping, be careful to keep your food away from little beaks and paws. Teach your kids why we Don't Feed the Animals by exploring their natural diets and how they fit into the ecosystem, instead.If you're interested in stepping your environmental focus up a notch, consider a guided trip from the Sierra Club. Their family-friendly offerings range from the mild to the wild, and include trips appropriate for the whole gang, from toddlers to teenagers. Regardless of where your camping adventures take you, remember: be safe, respect the earth… and have fun!

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