Mother’s Day Hike: Nicholas Flat

trail in the forest

A trail in the forest: my favorite thing to see

Mother’s Day. Every year for several years now the only thing I want to do on holidays is hike with my family. Without any whining. It seemed like it would happen on Mother’s Day this year—I gave the boys plenty of warning, and it was such a simple request.

But then this morning all three of them were sick. They’re leaving this week on a trip, so it seemed best to let them stay home and rest. So I went on a hike all by myself, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed. Since I knew I was going solo and could therefore go anywhere I wanted, I returned to a beautiful spot that isn’t super popular…yet.

Nicholas Flat

You can approach this area from the south via Malibu Springs Trail at Leo Carillo State Park or from the north at the end of Decker School Road. That was the convenient spot from here, because it’s off Route 23, which begins at Westlake Blvd. It’s a hairpin turn to the right and then just park when you reach the trailhead at the very end. The wide pathway takes you south through a foresty patch and then emerges out into a grassy meadow where you are greeted with this glory:

Nicholas Pond

This pond was dry until the recent rains. 

Bench by pond

A perfect place.

A side trail takes you around the west end of the pond and up into the rocks. As of today there were several fallen rotten tree limbs and one of them jumped out of nowhere and bonked me right on the head. Okay that was actually my fault because I was rushing up to the rocks, racing against my dying phone battery and distracted by a text (out here where there’s no service!). Lesson learned, nature. I’ll pay better attention.

Nicholas Pond

West end of Nicholas Pond

The side scramble and even the head bonking were totally worth it though because this:

Pacific Ocean from Nicholas Flat

I played around with trying to get a good picture of myself in this spot…


New profile pic

But that wasn’t the point of the hike, I promise. It was solitude and freedom to explore without anybody whining or standing around impatiently waiting for me to find a geocache. Which I did. Several times, and it was fun. So there. Happy Geocaching Nerd Mother’s Day to me.

Wildflowers in meadow

Had to bushwhack to find a cache. Rewarded with this view.

Wildflowers on trail

Nicholas Flats Road trail


View from trail. Lots of brush, worried about snakes.

snake on trail

This was the only one I saw today, and he left quickly.

plastic rat

Rat in a geocache!

burned trees

Entering the Fire Swamp

My total hiking time was 2.5 hours, but you can easily park at the trailhead and be at the pond and then the ocean view in less than 20 minutes. I bopped around and took lots of pictures (these are the best) and stopped at the above bench to pull all the pokey things out of my shoes and socks. By the time I got home, I was relaxed and accomplished, and my boys had cleaned the entire house even though they weren’t feeling good. Wins all around.

I’m curious about approaching this area from the beach, plus there are a few more caches out there that I’d like to find, so I’d like to go back sooner than later. People get really protective of their favorite hiking spots and caution you about telling everyone about them so they don’t get too popular and crowded. So keep Nicholas Flat and its trails between us, okay?

Decker School Road

Mother’s Day Gifts For the Mom Who’s a Reader

Do you frequently see your wife/mother/sister/friend curled up with a good book, or swiping her Kindle, engrossed in a story? Does she always have a magazine in her bag or something to read while waiting in the pickup line? Does she tell you about the latest New York Times article or amazing novel she just read, or does she constantly post Goodreads reviews to her Facebook feed?

She might like to read these lovely books about motherhood. Because even when you’re in the thick of it, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one. Or if your hands-on mothering days have gone by already, once a mother always a mother, right? You can look back and marvel at the experience, read about someone else’s journey, and find novelty or recognition there.

These titles are collections, and in each one there is an entry by writer whose work I know and I love. That their pieces grace these volumes makes them automatic reads for me, but their accompanying works measure up. I enjoy reading collections especially when my life is extra busy: I can read one or two pieces, feel like I’ve accomplished something, then put the book down until I get a few more spare minutes. Both are perfect Mother’s Day gifts, and you can order them NOW on Amazon for Saturday delivery and still look like a golden child. (Or husband, partner, sibling, whatever.)


mother's day letter to my mom

A Letter to My Mom created by Lisa Erspamer

Each of the entries in this book is a letter from the writer to his or her mother. I can imagine that each person sat down to write it, became incredibly choked up, and had to get up and pace, or fold some laundry, or do the bills, or load the dishwasher. Anything to procrastinate writing the most emotionally charged thank-you note of her life. Well, that’s what would happen to me if given this assignment.

Lisa Page Rosenberg (whose mother I have actually met, and is lovely like she is) demonstrates that mix of life lessons and common sense that we can thank our mothers for. She writes “From you I learned about hard work, responsibility, and not putting my elbows on the table.”

Letters in this book come from writers, performers, creatives, children, adults, and people who have become mothers themselves. They range from names you may have never seen, to famous people like Suze Orman and Nancy O’Dell. Some are not actually thank-you notes, but messages of forgiveness, longing, or guilt sent beyond the grave. I found myself hoping that each new letter was to a mother who is still alive, because so many of them are not. How can one live life without a mother? I have been lucky to not know the answer, only to witness that loss in others.

Maybe you’re not a writer, and you haven’t written a letter since you applied for your last job. Just get this book for your mom. It’ll speak the volumes you’re not brave enough – yet – to write yourself.

A Letter to My Mom created by Lisa Erspamer
Hardcover available on Amazon

mother's day multiples illuminated

Multiples Illuminated edited by Megan Woolsey & Alison Lee

Kick it up a notch with this collection of essays and advice about creating and birthing twins and triplets. My own (singleton) children are 9 and 11, so pregnancy and childbirth are but nostalgic memories for me now. I can revisit that time in my life by reading posts from my personal blog, on which I chronicled the adventures, but it was so long ago that I remember it mostly with a fuzzy fondness. Look what I did, I think, when I look at my children. I made these kids.

Reading the stories in Multiples Illuminated, though, I feel my lady parts clench right up. Hell no, I think. Better them than me! But seriously. Even though I have several friends with twins and one with triplets, I never had to live through the fear that a multiple pregnancy brings with it. The struggle to get the babies far enough along inside the womb for them to be healthy outside it feels very real in this collection. The mothers’ anguish during daily visits to the NICU, their long bed rest periods, their supersize pregnancies.

Lexi Rohner, whose essay “Same Time Last Year” breaks through the fog of memory to when her triplets were born, prematurely as many multiples are, and she was unable to hold them for a week. When she finally did, “Touching them was an undeniable sedative. What small creatures to have such power over my heart.”

Throughout the book, the editors have placed helpful advice to women who are expecting to give birth to multiple babies at once. Advice beyond what you’d read in a “regular” pregnancy book. And that’s something I can relate to, considering the best advice I ever got when pregnant and parenting babies was from blogs. Many of the contributors to this book are bloggers, and they do a great job of keeping it real.

Multiples Illuminated edited by Megan Woolsey & Alison Lee
Kindle edition and hardcover available on Amazon

Mother’s Day Gift: Portrait of Mom With Her Children – Sittings May 17

Los Angeles photographer and owner of Litetrap Studios, Michael Murphree, has offered Mother’s Day-themed mini sessions as a priceless gift for the moms in your life with all proceeds going to support Help a Mother Out’s efforts in Los Angeles.

mother and baby portrait

Portrait by Michael Murphree

For a donation of $100 or more, up to 20 mothers and their children will receive a 15-minute portrait session on May 17, two 5 x 7 prints, and a custom Facebook timeline photo.

Michael Murphree has 20 years of experience as a commercial and celebrity photographer, starting his career as apprentice to world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz. It was when Michael had his own family that he fell in love with photographing his wife and twin babies. This led to the creation of Litetrap Studios, where Michael takes joy in capturing the special moments in other families’ lives with the goal of creating cherished heirlooms that pass on through generations.

litetrap studiosThe mini-sessions are available to up to 20 mothers and their children, and children of any age. Want a priceless memory of you with your own mother? This is a wonderful opportunity to have a true artist create a portrait of you, and help another mother out at the same time.

Studio space is generously provided by Books and Cookies, a bookstore and play space in Santa Monica.

books and cookies logo

To reserve your sitting appointment or to arrange for one as a gift to that special mom in your life for Mother’s Day, make your donation here.

Mother’s Day Mini-Sessions with Michael Murphree
May 17, 2015
Books and Cookies
2309 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
To purchase click here

For more information please contact me at