1. California Slideshows: Escape to Joshua Tree and Indie Shops in LA

    Desert Dreaming: Escape to Joshua Tree
    With sunny highs in the 60s and bright blue winter skies, December and January are excellent months to hit the road and head to Joshua Tree National Park and the quirky area surrounding it. This brief respite from the blistering heat allows outdoorsy types to rock climb and take long hikes without risking heat exhaustion (though you’ll need sunblock—and polar fleece at sundown). Photographers and botany geeks can linger as long as they like capturing the desert flora. There may be no better place to catch this month’s lunar eclipse and Geminid meteor showers. Especially if you are doing so while soaking in a hot spring under billions (and billions) of stars.


    15 Quirky Shopping Spots in Los Angeles
    Are you broke, a big-box store refugee, a militant recycler, a connoisseur of mom and pops, or just someone looking to outfit a home with something that isn’t owned by the teeming millions of Target shoppers? Attention indie shoppers: this list is for you.


  2. In Search of Alien Lifeforms: Mono Lake Road Trip

    NASA’s big announcement will surely inspire many to head up to beautiful Mono Lake, peer into the blue water, and ponder just how little we know about our very own planet. The fact that these newly discovered microbial oddballs have been there all along shouldn’t stop us from trying to get to know their remarkable ecosystem better. The area around Mono Lake also happens to be drop-dead beautiful—literally a photographer’s (that would be Ansel Adams’) dream. The area is teeming with other enigmas and—for those who are looking for more straight-forward fun—ski resorts.

    Searching for Rebellious Signs of Life in Mono Lake, California
    Most Americans will recognize Mono Lake. Ansel Adams loved this landscape, creating photographs that populate nature calendars tacked to walls around the country. Everything in this salt lake seems hypersaturated: the blue bellied sagebrush lizards, the unreal hue of the lake’s water, the surreal tufa towers that rise from the water like upside-down coral… and as we now know, even the bacteria breaks the rules. Hypersaline lakes are known for their bizarre ecosystems and oddly adapted species. Like a mini Galapagos, life here evolves differently. In Mono Lake, scientists discovered the first organism to replace one of the six building blocks of all known life—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus—with another element, in this case, phosphorous swapped for poisonous arsenic. Oddly enough, arsenic is only a trace element here and the lake is full of other phosphorous-friendly life (like brine shrimp and algae) that share our same evolutionary trajectory.
    Written by: Megan Cytron | Photo: Ottofunk9

    More things to do around Mono Lake:

    Check out the slide show on Huffington Post Los Angeles.