Back Off: What you’re doing is banned by the Marine Mammal Protection Act

This morning during my 8am class, I went to the Elkhorn Slough otter cam set up by and Animal Planet. The students are entertained, or at least act like they are, to stop working for a bit and take a look at the wildlife. It’s a welcome distraction, and a great way to start any morning. The camera was zoomed in on a dozing otter and what seems to be a juvenile sea lion. The otter ended up swimming off, and a red kayak slowly came into the frame.

Too close!

Too close!

The sea lion that had been resting has sat up as the kayaker paddles closer to get a picture. The California sea lion is not an endangered species, and the kayaker is seemingly doing no harm. But guess what buddy? You’re too close. If an animal reacts to you, it’s wasted energy that it needs to stay healthy. You taking your innocent picture, “it’s on land, I’m in the water, how could it be bothered,” are breaking the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

Enacted in 1972, it means you’re not allowed to harass marine mammals. The MMPA defines harassment as “any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to either: a. injure a marine mammal in the wild, or b. disturb a marine mammal by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”

Exploring the kayak

Exploring the kayak

It’s recommended that you stay at least 50 yards away from marine mammals. This doesn’t look anywhere close to that. I know that at Elkhorn Slough, it can be difficult to stay away from the animals – it’s an amazingly beautiful place, and marine mammals are everywhere, and many of them will approach you if you’re out for a paddle. Check out this sea otter who came up to a kayak (which I photographed using a telephoto lens from the beach).

But if an animal is up on the beach, it’s not curious about you, and paddling up to it for a photo op is not OK. Don’t think that people can’t see you when you’re breaking the law.

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Springtime in Monterey Bay

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Sometimes I forget how beautiful it is where I live, and I take it for granted. With visitors, I can often gain back the perspective of awe and thankfulness for the beauty that’s so close by here. I got to … Continue reading

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It’s official! Book contract for a guidebook to the trails of Kansas


Some people think Kansas is nothing but flat, flyover country. And while it’s true that it doesn’t have the mountains of neighboring Colorado, there are plenty of trails for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. And my brother and I are going to write the book on the best ones!

To be published in early 2015 with University Press of Kansas, it will highlight about 80-90 hikes throughout Kansas. We’re tracking our progress and telling tales of our recommendations for how to best get out and enjoy Kansas at:

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Startled sea otter

You never expect to be startled by a seagull when enjoying a meal.



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A weekend at Elkhorn Slough

About 30 minutes south of Santa Cruz along Highway 1 is the small fishing town of Moss Landing. Along with a power plant, it has one of California’s largest estuaries and the highest concentration of sea otters on the central coast and quite possibly in the state.

Along with sea otters, harbor seals, pelicans, sea lions, cormorants, snowy egrets, great blue herons and more all live or spend time here. I was able to capture just a glimpse of the amazing wildlife that you can see everywhere you look every time you visit this magical place.

I’ve spent time kayaking there, but I’d never really gone out just to take photos. So I rented a telephoto lens (50-500) and a tripod from, and I headed out for 3 days. I’m tempted to do it again, since 2 of those 3 days had cloudy mornings, but I think I did OK for my first time out. Which one do you like best?

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Snoozing sea otter

Snoozing sea otter sucking on a paw while he sleeps in Elkhorn Slough.

Snoozing sea otter sucking on a paw while he sleeps in Elkhorn Slough.

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Sunset and sunrise in Santa Cruz

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I live here, and it was a challenge to drag myself out of bed at 6am this morning, but I think it was worth it.

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Monterey, California

What will you do on your day in Monterey?

China Cove

1. If you drive into Monterey, California:

a.  at night and needing a place to stay, and you want oceanfront views, go to #2.
b.  at night and needing a place to stay and you’d rather avoid the crush of Cannery Row, go to #3.
c.  in the morning, and you’re starving, go to #4.

2. You’re bummed out by the cost of parking anywhere downtown, but drop your bag and give the squeal of a five-year-old girl when you see the stuffed sea otter holding its baby that’s nestled between the pillows of your bed. Continue reading

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Seduced by Pinterest into making a succulent table

Seduced by Pinterest into making a succulent table

So it’s possible that in my quest to not do “actual” work, I headed to Home Depot to get supplies to make a succulent table as inspired by Pinterest. Turns out that when Home Depot puts up the notice that they don’t do precision cuts, they’re not kidding – each board that was to be 20 inches was about 1/4 inch different. But after 2 days of work, 2 trips to Home Depot, and a lot of gratitude to whoever made the automatic screwdriver, I managed to put it together. And so far, nothing’s died. Hoping that everything will keep growing and the space will fill in.

Anyone else been tricked by Pinterest into making/doing something they’d never thought of before?

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It may indeed be better in the Bahamas

The current promotional tagline for the Bahamas is: “It’s better in the Bahamas.”

Take a look at some of my photos from my visit to Nassau and Exuma, and you tell me if you think they got it right!

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