The Radioactive-ish Island in The Bay

Halfway between San Francisco and Oakland, smack dab in the middle of the bay, acting as a midway point for the dual spans of the Bay Bridge, sits Treasure Island. While usually bypassed by those driving from one city to the next, the area is actually full of plenty of treasures, some of them grand, some of them cursed.

Built in 1937 in time to host the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition (that is to say, the 1939 World's Fair), the island is chock-full of old buildings listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, was until recently the home to a 40-foot tall sculpture from Burning Man, and offers perhaps the best view you're going to get of gorgeous San Francisco. But also, as this KQED story points out, there are worries of other sorts lingering on the island:

After Treasure Island was constructed in 1939 for the World's Fair, the U.S. Navy used the site to clean ships that were used to test atomic bombs. Many buildings on the island are still marked as radioactive, which concerns several of the families who live there.

Which isn't to say passersby are in danger of radiation poisoning from a simple stop-over; none of the homes on the island have been listed as "unsafe" by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, soon the island will be accessible to bikers from the East Bay, once the bike path on the Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge is complete. So, next time you're driving across, don't ignore the exit ramp that takes you to this treasure hidden in plain sight.

Joshua Tree Possibly Adding 32,000 Acres

Drive through one of Joshua Tree National Park's main stretches of road, and it seems as though the desert stretches on forever and ever. That, after all, is one of the big draws of heading out there in the first place. But a new plan may add upwards of 32,000 acres to the park.

The area in question is located in the Eagle Mountain area, just past the eastern section of the park. Currently, park officials are going through the logistics of how adding the land to the National Park will affect, well, all sorts of things. Here's a brief history of that area:

Originally part of Joshua Tree National Monument when designated in 1936, the study area was later removed for mineral extraction activities in 1950. Major mining activities in the study area ceased in 1983. In 1989, the area was proposed for a landfill. After decades of challenges and litigation, the landfill proposal was withdrawn in 2013.

Seeing as this is a big addition, the park is holding a series of public meetings to allow for comments and questions. The schedule is as follows:

- July 29, 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m., Online Meeting
- August 4, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Lake Tamarisk Community Center
- August 5, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Joshua Tree Community Center
- August 6, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., University of California, Riverside - Palm Desert Center

So, if you have thoughts about this new plan, or just live nearby and want to see how your National Park border sausage gets made, head on over to one of the meetings.

Half Dome Altered By Nature

There's a certain illusion of safety that comes when you step into a National Park with the size and reputation of Yosemite. "Here is an area of the wilderness that's been carved out and tailored to the needs of us city slickers," we believe. "There are clear and distinct paths that are maintained consistently, and as long as we stay on them, we'll be fine. It's safe."

And, for 99 percent of the time, that's exactly the case. But every now and then, it's good to have a reminder that when you're out in nature, you're out in nature.

Case in point, earlier this month, a pretty huge chunk of rock fell from the iconic Half Dome formation and landed right on the well-traveled pathway. According to a report on the fall:

The rockfall has affected pitches 11 and 12 and while it is unclear when precisely it occurred, the sizable slabs are believed to have peeled off at the start of July during some very heavy thunderstorms. This would explain why no one witnessed the rockfall and, importantly, no one was injured during what is usually a very busy period. Climbers are warned to steer clear of the area as further rockfall may occur.

While no climbers were hurt, they certainly could have been. Rock falls like this don't only happen during thunderstorms. So, keep it safe out there everyone.

5 of Ventura County's Best Coastal Hikes

This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail project, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

Better known for its coastline and agricultural lands, Ventura County also lays claim to a chunk of the northern Santa Monica Mountains, a rugged zone replete with trails for hikers and mountain bikers. Challenging and dramatic trails can be found here, and easier strolls along the beaches await, too.

There are Greater Dangers Lurking In The Ocean Than Sharks

Sharks are scary to us. That goes without saying. Whether this is due to "Jaws" is kind of a chicken and egg question. But the fact is: Ocean swimming is somewhat frightening because of potential shark attacks.

However, here's some good news for you. According to a new study from Stanford, shark attacks along the California coast are extremely low:

[D]espite increasing records of shark attacks - mostly by white sharks - in California, the individual attack risk has dropped by more than 91 percent during the past six decades.

How does this contradiction work? Scientists point out that human population is expanding, and there are now more ocean areas open for people to swim. If you have more people in the water, you're going to have more attacks. But the likelihood of being attacked is still super low.

In fact, to drill the point home, the research goes through a handful of other ocean activities that are way more dangerous than sharks: Scuba divers are 6,897 times more likely to be hospitalized due to decompression sickness, and ocean swimmers are 1,817 times more likely to drown.

The best way to avoid a shark attack is, obviously, to swim when they're not around. Scientists recommend avoiding the coast of Mendocino between October and November because it is the riskiest time and place for shark attacks. And if you're between L.A. and San Diego, you can drastically lower the risk by swimming in March.

But the main takeaway is: If you're heading out to swim, surf, or scuba, avoid other potential risks rather than fret over the unlikely event of a shark taking a bite out of you.

5 of Ventura County's Best Coastal Campgrounds

This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail project, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

Though small, Ventura County boasts quite a bit of undeveloped coastline with camping opportunities dotted alongside. The only trouble is that railroad tracks, the 101 Freeway, or the Pacific Coast Highway (and sometimes all three) run right next to what might be your digs for the night. Enduring that will allow enjoyment of this very fine section of Southern California coast.

Note: We've tried to feature only campgrounds with the best coastal sights, sounds, and smells. Many of those places are state-owned because the parks system boasts so much of California's best seaside real estate.

Not surprisingly, the beaches are among the busiest parks in the state. Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance through Book as soon as possible because many sites get snagged the day they become available. Cancellations can also free up previously booked sites, so watch for that. Thanks to, images of just about every individual site are available online, letting you choose a spot in the shade of a sycamore with just the right view. Unless otherwise stated, sites permit both tents and RVs or trailers. Some companies deliver RVs directly to campgrounds, making it possible to enjoy a road hotel without the need to pilot one on the highway; rental information can be found on most state park websites.

California State Parks Turning Off Showers

After a long grueling day of hiking, setting up your tent, and building a fire, there's nothing quite like heading over to the bathroom and washing the dust away with a hot shower. But with the ongoing historic drought ravaging California, many state parks and state beaches are turning off the spigot.

According to series of reports, a wide range of state beaches are turning off their showers in order to do their small part to conserve water. This is in response to Governor Jerry Brown's mandate for the parks department to reduce water consumption by 25 percent.

How big of an impact does this have? Each visitor uses an estimated 25 gallons of water per overnight (to be fair, that's still less than the 100 gallons that people use at home per day). With that in mind, the state will save an estimated 8 million gallons of water by turning off the showers.

So if you're heading to camp or to the beach this summer, be prepared to forgo the luxury of taking a shower to wash off that dust or sand. But you know what? That's fine! That's the beauty of the outdoors. If you need to wash off, just jump in the river, lake, or ocean!

A Look at California's Newest National Monument

Last week, President Obama signed an executive order creating three new national monuments in the country. It adds up to over one million acres that cannot be purchased by private hands. And roughly one-third of that acreage is located in Northern California.

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument constitutes 330,780 acres inside of the Mendocino National Forest, north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The land surrounds Lake Berryessa -- which is a man-made reservoir that has an abandoned town flooded at the bottom of it -- and elevation varies from sea level to 7,000 feet. As this quick primer details:

This biodiversity hot spot (mountain lions, Tule elk, and black bears, oh my!) has been home to Native Americans for more than 11,000 years.

For a whole lot more information about the new monument, head on over to the official website. In the meantime, here are a few more photos of the park for your viewing pleasure:

Yellowstone Parking Areas Shut Down Temporarily this Week

There are few things worse than planning a distant road trip, putting all of those miles on the car, finally getting to your destination, and realizing that some closure has put a kink in your entire plan. (For more about this, see: Clark Griswold and his family trip to Wally World.) That's why we feel it's important to bring you information about temporary parking lot closures coming to Yellowstone National Park.

Over the next three days, some choice parking lots will be closed for 24 hours at a time as construction crews perform paving-related tasks in order to breath new life into them. The closures are as follows:

Artist Point Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 15th through 7 a.m. July 16th
Inspiration Point Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 16th through 7 a.m. July 17th
Midway Geyser Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 17th through 7 a.m. July 18th

The construction is part of a $3.2 million project given the bureaucratically-based moniker "National Park Service Intermountain Region Pavement Preservation Program." So far, parking lot construction at Old Faithful, Upper and Lower Geyser, Uncle Tom's, and Wapiti Lake is completed. Weather, of course, may change the scheduled closure dates, so give a call ahead if you're planning a trip over the next few days.

Hiking The Headwaters: Where The Sacramento Starts

On Mount Eddy | Photo: Chris Clarke

An explanatory series focusing on one of the most complex issues facing California: water sharing. And at its core is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Stay with for all the project's stories.

Finding the headwaters of the Sacramento River is an arbitrary exercise. Which of the main stem's many feeder tributaries is the true river? Which tiny creek's origin spring becomes the headwaters?

Decide the true river is the one that contributes the most water to the river below, and call those others merely feeder streams, and there's no contest: the main stem of the Sacramento River above Shasta Dam is the Pit River, which quintuples the Sacramento's flow where they join. That would put the Sacramento's headwaters in the Warner Mountains, east of Alturas. And by the same logic, the Mississippi River would rise at the headwaters of the Allegheny in northern Pennsylvania.

Choose the officially named main stem Sacramento River, and you still have a decision to make: which fork? Three forks pour off the east side of the Trinity Divide, to meet in the reservoir Lake Siskiyou near Mount Shasta City. The South and Middle forks are dotted with lakes that are relatively accessible by car. I chose to visit the headwaters of the North Fork: It's wilder, only accessible by hiking, and involves climbing the tallest California mountain no one's heard of.