Living Off the Los Angeles Landscape, With Pascal Baudar

Foraging in Los Angeles!

The instructions said to meet beneath the 210 freeway overpass in the L.A. foothills neighborhood of Lakeview Terrace. We get out of the car, unbuckle the children, and head toward a group of 15 people huddled at the base of a cement embankment. A soft-spoken man collects the $20 fees and hands out small cups filled with a red liquid—a fermented soda made with wild blackberries, cherries, manzanita berries, tarragon berries and raw honey. After a morning of foraging, we will sample more of the wild aromatic infusions created by Pascal Baudar, all as pretty as they were refreshing.

Welcome to the “Wild Food Walk and Wild Aromatic Infusions Tasting” hosted by Urban Outdoor Skills, which aims to connect city people with the natural environment all around them.

“Most people who live in larger cities are disconnected from nature. Nature was part of my life from the beginning, it was my world,” said Bauder, who writes and teaches about wild food and self reliance. Baudar founded Urban Outdoor Skills in 2006, and leads weekly classes on foraging and wild edibles that range from three-hour plant identification walks to daylong desert explorations.  Continue reading →

Palms and Perfect Rocks In a California Resort’s Desert Oasis

Sometimes life happens to you all at once. Things are fine, or at least as fine as they ever are, and then life throws you a crisis. And crises, like hyenas, travel in packs.

In the midst of such crises, it’s normal to think, “Man, I could really use a vacation.” But this time, that was exactly my problem. I did have a vacation planned. A four-day vacation with my partner’s entire family in sunny Palm Springs, California, the Florida of the West. And I was completely unraveling. I wailed in self-pity. There wasn’t time for a vacation, with everything crumbling around me! I began to tumble freely within a vortex of psychotic, rueful laughter.

But fortunately, I hunkered down. I faced the hyena pack of absurd deadlines and other threats and tragedies, hoping to beast it all by the time vacation time rolled around. Or at least, enough of it. I also whined incessantly. My partner, Sam, bore the brunt of this. I flopped despondently on the couch, buried in a sea of papers. I asked him repeatedly to remind me what wonders lay ahead of us. Just humor me like you’re George and I’m Lennie, I whimpered, morosely. Tell me about Palm Springs. Tell me again.

Palm Springs, he told me, is a beautiful desert oasis, a magical place where you can lounge poolside with a margarita, or go for a hike surrounded by mountains and palm trees, or go on a thrifting binge. As it turns out, Palm Springs is a haven for gays and the elderly, and as such, it boasts incredible thrift store pickings. And while I did lounge like a lizard, and I did leave with a stuffed suitcase full of what looked like prime picks from Rue McClanahan’s estate sale, what I found most wonderful was the nature. Nature, of course, was the only thing that could save me from myself.  Continue reading →

Mount Tamalpais and the Wildflowers of Persephone


I hung a right at the Stinson Beach fire station, and the trailhead appeared. My friend Tami and I had tried to hike this trail in February, somehow missing the trailhead and hiking the Cataract Trial farther up Mount Tamalpais instead. But because no fewer than three people told me the Matt Davis Trail was their favorite, I decided to give it another shot. And now here I was.

I followed the trail into the forest.

The Persephone of myth was radiant, referred to as “Kore” or simply, “the maiden.” She was gathering flowers with Artemis and Athena—what need the huntress and wise woman of war had for flowers isn’t clear. Perhaps they simply liked them. The three of them, along with some nymphs, were gathering flowers when the earth opened up. Continue reading →

What Makes People Want To Clean Up Their Beaches?

Don't feed me garbage.For reasons both biological and aesthetic, garbage on the beach should be removed. And the easiest way to encourage people to pick up some trash on their walk is to install Beach Cleanup Stations. I’ve seen these in the parking lots of some of Point Reyes National Seashore’s popular beaches and now I’ve heard from a group that makes them: All One Ocean, based in Marin County. And they’re having a benefit on Sunday afternoon in the town of Point Reyes Station.  Continue reading →

Surfing With the Noon Patrol: A Snowboarder At Sea

Surfing Dog

It’s possible that the marketing lingo on the arm of my wetsuit is a touch aspirational, as I haven’t been in the water before lunch since this whole thing began, almost nine months ago. I know it’s been that long because I have the note that I scribbled to myself, right here: “June 21st, the longest day of the year. Not a snowflake in sight.”

It was the middle of summer, and I was anxious to get to the mountain and resume the success of last year’s snow season. I began snowboarding in 2008, when the economy tanked and I couldn’t afford my city apartment anymore. I moved to the mountain for the cheap rent, for the solitude. I found a season pass abandoned in one of the rooms of the ski lease, my snowboard was a generous gift from an old boyfriend. But 2013 was the year commitment bit hard. The year I didn’t go to the resort anymore but headed into the backcountry. The year I sat through all the avalanche seminars, the year I learned to dig and dig and dig and dig. The year I could run on ice and coil rope and build emergency snow anchors with nothing but chapstick. The year I spent actual, real life money on a book on how to tie knots.

But that snow season was several months gone and I still hadn’t recovered. Never re-oriented back to my day job, secure and well-paying, which I had to quit because after all the adventure in the snow the world had grown bigger and my mind collapsed under the routine. Never adjusted to summer weather that I found mild and uninspiring. I really needed something to do, and eventually it occurred to me … the ocean was right there. Surfing and snowboarding, the fundamentals couldn’t possibly be that different. Stand on board. Aside from the fact that I’m not a very good swimmer, that I had no board, no wetsuit, any idea how to surf, and that the coast of Northern California is the third-largest Great White Shark breeding ground in the whole world, I considered it a flawless plan.  Continue reading →

Greenfriar Bookshelf: “Desert Solitaire,” by Edward Abbey

Desert SolitaireLast Thanksgiving, Gizmodo veterans Joel Johnson and John Mahoney started a nice thing called Just One Book, with the idea that people probably had one very important book in their lives, and maybe they could write a blurb about it and … I have no idea, really, because the day I found out about it, Joel was hired to be my semi-boss at Gawker Media and Just One Book was never updated again, the end.

Except: I typed a quick thing about a book I still like, Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, and sent it to Joel. Or, into the voidMight as well put it on Greenfriar as our inaugural ripoff of Just One Book, which we will call “Only One Book” or maybe “That 1 Book.” Or, we will not call it any of those things, because this is the Greenfriar Bookshelf, and Matt Langer is supposedly coding up a whole Online Bookstore for these various titles beloved by your various writers at Greenfriar. Continue reading →

Ditching the Cubicle For the Pasture

Our friend Edith Zimmerman, who wrote this piece about the young farmers who call themselves the Greenhorns, just told us about a new Greenhorns’ Web documentary. What is it like, to ditch the city and figure out how to be a farmer?

It is hard work, and it takes years to make sense of it all, and nobody’s making Silicon Valley wages, but my god what a beautiful place. And look at these healthy young adults, able to move around of their own accord, outside in the pasture, surrounded by green hills and ramshackle barns. Continue reading →