400th Post: Oaks


Welcome to my 400th post, everyone!

It’s crazy to think I’ve been maintaining this blog for over five years. Thanks to all my readers and supporters!

Today I thought I’d highlight some of my home state’s natural scenery and show some of these outfit photos taken in California’s dry, oak-dappled hills. I wore my tiny nautical skirt, which I haven’t worn in a long time due to its insane shortness and tendency to wrinkle easily. But it felt like the perfect thing to wear in this September heat, along with some black boots of course. Despite our drought, I still force autumn staples like these boots into my wardrobe. Soon it will be cold enough to justify my wearing them, I hope!

I feel like this outfit calls back to my old punk days a little bit. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.








Thank you all for supporting Un Petit Fauve over the last five years. You all are the best.


Many thanks to Arthur for taking all these photos.

Indian Tree

It’s not often I get to hike in my hometown. I grew up relatively close to the Indian Tree trailhead and I never even knew it existed until recently.

I hiked Indian Tree over the weekend with my long-time friend and hiking buddy Corrina. The trail is very dusty and soft in most parts, and very beautiful. It also happens to be covered in poison oak. I always stay on the trail on every hike, so I had nothing to worry about, but because the trail was so narrow, I had to be extra careful. I’ve never had a poison oak reaction before, so I have no idea if I’m allergic or immune, and I’m not interested in finding out.

We didn’t hike the entire length of the trail, but we made it up to this point, where we could see this beautiful view.

I’ll be taking a break from blogging next week,  but I will return on September 26th with my regular posting schedule.

See you then!

Amber von Nagel



Those of you who have followed my blog for a while (and those of you who just know me really well) know that I love hiking.  I have been really lucky to live in the Bay Area my whole life, where I have access to tons of great trails.

I’d like to encourage all of you to go on a hike sometime soon.  Summer will be ending soon, so try out some coastal trails while the weather is nice.  Then, when Autumn and Winter come around, go on some beautiful inland hikes, whether they be on rolling hills, misty mountains, or far-flung meadows.  Coastal hikes can be stunning in the colder months too, if you’re up for it!

Here are some beautiful old photographs (mainly from the early 20th Century, most from Norway) to get you inspired to explore your local state and regional parks.  I have a list of Marin County trails that I’ve never explored but plan on doing so soon.  I’m thinking Baltimore Canyon and Indian Tree in the late Summer, then Cascade Canyon and Cataract Falls in the Winter, with some possible return visits to the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve and Samuel P. Taylor/Devil’s Gulch in Autumn.

What are your favorite hikes in your area?

Mountain walk

Bergwandelen / Mountain hiking

Famille Crouzats, au Port de Venasque, Luchon, 6 septembre 1898

Picnic at mountain farm

Crossing a glacier, Kosciusko

Amber von Nagel

Poetry at the Park

Arthur and I put on our outdoorsy clothes on Sunday (and he was way more chic than I was) and went to Jack London State Park, which many of you know is my favorite park in the world.  It was put on the State Park closure list last year, and was scheduled to be shuttered this July, but was saved last month by the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, an organization that I donated to when the park was being threatened.  This was our first visit back to the park since the VMNHA took it over, and we are happy to see the place is still just as we left it.

The photo above was taken in the garden behind Jack London’s home.  I brought one of my “Redwood Children” poetry broadsides (the one with the art by Jesse Michaels) to the park so I could give it to the park to show them the inspiration they have given me over the years (and will continue to give me now that they’ll be staying open)!  The woman I talked to was incredibly sweet and had really nice things to say about my broadside.  Hopefully I’ll find the time soon to volunteer at the park myself!  I’d love to spend more time in the place that I love and help out the park as well.

It makes me really happy to know that my poem is in Jack and Charmian London’s home, and that it is appreciated by the people who work to preserve the land that London loved so much.

See you Friday!

Amber von Nagel

Lucas Valley

I spent my Saint Patrick’s Day hiking with Arthur and some friends.  We went on a wonderfully strenuous, muddy hike that I had never done before.  I’m not exactly sure what the trail’s technical name is, but it’s in the Miller Creek Watershed and on the other side of the Skywalker Easement in Marin, the trailhead marked by a big, beautiful boulder.  The trail is in Lucas Valley, the area of Marinwood where George Lucas’ many estates are (though the valley is named after a 19th Century landowner with the same last name).  I don’t know if this trail’s name is Big Rock, Skywalker Easement, or just Miller Creek Watershed, or anything else.  What matters is that it is one of the most stunning trails to hike in Marin County, especially during the greener months.

We especially loved the many little streams and rushing waterfalls that crossed the trail. There was a big downpour the night before, so this particular waterfall was especially loud and gorgeous.

This little craggy ledge overlooked George Lucas’ massive, Japanese-inspired estate. It was a fun sight to see, and it was a great little picnic spot. I’d love to go back there after the rain water has absorbed into the ground and have a picnic on that mountainside.

I like writing these hiking-related posts, mainly because I get to show you all the beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area, but also because you all get to see how I dress when I’m not in my usual street clothes (vintage dresses, etc).  All clothes express something about ourselves, and my hiking clothing is no exception.  I love my Point Arena hoodie (which Arthur got for me at the Point Arena lighthouse shortly after he proposed).  My hiking boots (also a gift from Arthur) are pretty wonderful too.  I have no idea how I hiked in Converse for so long.  And although I wore minimal jewelry that day, I made sure to wear my Grandmother’s 1919 Mercury dime, because it reminds me of her.

I do wear my engagement ring while hiking, too, since hiking doesn’t require a whole lot of activity from the hands.

We made it to the very top of the ridge, where we could see Mount Tam, the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, and San Francisco. We could also see the entire town of Novato, where I grew up.

This was one of the most intense hikes I had ever done, and I loved every minute of it.

See you Wednesday

Amber R. Nelson

Birthday weekend

Saturday was my birthday.  Last year I spent my birthday in class all day long, but this year was different, since I am no longer in school and finally have a Monday-Friday/9 to 5 job, so my Saturdays are wide open.  I headed out to Point Reyes in the morning with Arthur and my long-time best friends Corrina and Elena, and we hiked the Tomales Point Trail, which is better known as the Tule Elk Preserve.

At the start of our hike, Arthur found this cute caterpillar, and some tourists took photos of it.  It was adorable.

It was a beautiful day on Saturday.  Warm, with light winds and barely any fog.  From where we stood on Tomales Point, I could clearly see the tip of Point Reyes, where one of my favorite lighthouses stands. We got there at the best time of day, when the trail wasn’t crowded and when the parking was still good.

I wasn’t certain we’d even see Tule Elk that day, but all of a sudden we came upon a herd of them part-way through the hike. They were beautiful in every way. Arthur took lots of photos of the elk, so some of the following shots are his.

It was a truly lovely hike, and it was a great way to spend the morning/afternoon of my birthday. I also got to break in the new hiking boots I got from Arthur.

That evening, Arthur and I checked in to Cavallo Point, an eco-friendly resort and spa in Fort Baker, right next to the Golden Gate Bridge on the Marin side.

Fun fact: Fort Baker is also the location of Starfleet Academy in the Star Trek universe.  I am an insufferable nerd.

We donned some 1950’s vintage clothing and went for cocktails and eats with Arthur’s long-time friend, Simon, at Farley Bar in one of the antique buildings. Our stay was a gift from my parents, and what a wonderful gift it was! Arthur and I stayed in an old officer’s quarters, and in the morning we went to the spa for a soak and some lavender-lemon tea.

Doesn’t Arthur look smashing in his late 50’s/early 60’s suit?

We got cookies, milk, and cheesecake for dessert, and the waiter arranged for the cheesecake to come with a “happy birthday” chocolate!

I had a very peaceful, joyous birthday. I want to go back to the Tule Elk Preserve and Fort Baker very soon. Both are great picnic spots!

See you Wednesday.
Amber R. Nelson

Hiking China Camp

I visited China Camp for the first time last year, but I only visited the fishing village and left without hiking.  On Sunday, I returned to China Camp and brought Arthur along.  We hiked Miwok Meadows, part of Shoreline, and the Turtle Back trails.  It was a short but beautiful hike.  There were tons of hikers and cyclists out that day, and it made me wonder why the state would even consider shutting down the park .  It is obviously an incredibly popular place for hikers, and it’s especially popular for cyclists.  But beyond that, the park is an environmentally and historically significant place and it must be protected.

I did my best with the afternoon lighting.  Hopefully you all will get a chance to visit this park, hike some trails, and learn the history of the park’s 19th Century shrimp fishing village and its surrounding area.

Jack London: Pig Palace and Lake Trail

I needed to hike on Monday.  It was necessary.  The natural world offers incredible calm and joy for me, and I needed to be calm and joyful.  Arthur was off work that day, so we decided to head to Jack London State Park, my favorite place in the world.  I’d hiked to the Wolf House and Jack London’s grave many times before, and I have visited both museums in the park as well as explored the main area of London’s Beauty Ranch, so Arthur and I thought it would be nice to hike a new trail.  Arthur and I had never visited the Pig Palace before, so we knew that was the top priority for our visit.  We would continue on to hike to the lake afterward.

The Pig Palace really is grand.  Jack London really cared about his pigs.  The entire piggery was made to be spacious (especially for pregnant and birthing sows) and he was insistent on keeping it very clean.  London even asked that people thoroughly clean their shoes before entering the piggery.

After passing the silos, we headed up the lake trail. There were two paths to choose from: a wide fire road and a narrow trail. We took the fire road on the way up and the narrow trail on the way back. I believe that smaller trail was the original one that London, his friends, and his family took to get to the lake on those hot Glen Ellen summer days.

Both the fire road and the original trail are shaded by towering redwoods and madrones.  I love Northern Californian trees.

The lake is silted and dried up now, but it is still so beautiful.  It’s surrounded by redwoods and lined with an old, time-worn dam that London built.  Arthur and I were blown away by the beauty of this silted lake; a ruin of sorts, similar to London’s famous Wolf House on the other side of the park.  While we were there, we relished the silence of this beautiful forest clearing, imagining how this lake must have been while London was still alive.

While I was writing this post, I found an excellent video about the park with a focus on the lake. You can watch it here.  And it’s narrated by Doug McConnell, the coolest Northern Californian environmental journalist ever.  If you lived around here in the 90’s, you’ll totally remember his old show, Bay Area Backroads, where he featured rad hikes, museums, and other local Northern Californian areas of interest.

My visits to Jack London State Park have been truly life-changing.  I am always eager to bring friends and family there, and I often act as an unofficial docent when I bring people to hike there with me.  I highly recommend visiting this park.  It is on the chopping block for 2012 park closures, but it does have a glimmer of hope.  The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association has begun negotiations with the state on taking over the park in order to keep it from being shut down.  You can learn more about saving Jack London State Park by visiting these links:

Jack London Lake Alliance 

Valley of the Moon Natural History Association shop (for donations…I have donated to them before!)

And of course I overpaid for parking while I was there.  It’s a thing I do for all State Parks, especially Jack London.  The self-registration parking fee at Jack London is $8.  I paid $20.

Devil’s Gulch

I’ve been on cloud nine ever since Arthur proposed to me on Saturday.  It’s been all smiles all the time these past few days.

The Wednesday prior to the proposal, I went on a hike with my long-time friend Corrina.  We were planning on visiting our beloved Jack London State Park, but forgot that it was closed on Wednesdays, so tried the Devil’s Gulch trail in Samuel P. Taylor State Park instead.  This popular park was actually one of the 70 state parks initially on the chopping block, but it was recently saved by an agreement signed by California State Parks and the National Park Service.  I hope the other 69 parks will be as lucky as Samuel P. Taylor.

I wanted to do this hike for quite some time, but I hadn’t found the time to do it until recently.  We were smart to go in the Fall/Winter.  The trail is stunningly beautiful right now!  The hike was nice and easy and totally gorgeous.  I want to take Arthur on this hike sometime.

We parked across the street from the trailhead in a little turnout, and when we finished our hike, we found that this turnout led down to a clear, slow-moving river that was lined with fallen buckeyes.  And we had to stop and enjoy the river before we left.

I love Jack London SHP

Perhaps you read a previous post here about my visit to Jack London State Historic Park with my friend Corrina last summer.  This week, before I was in full-on finals misery mode, I took my mom out there too, because she hadn’t been there since my brother and I were wee ones (back when I thought the Wolf House was haunted).  We were really distressed to find out this park was on the closure list.  This is my favorite state park by far, and one of my favorite places to be in the whole world.  I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t visit Jack and Charmian London’s graves, or the graves of the Greenlaw children!  What would I do without the Wolf House or Beauty Ranch or the House of Happy Walls?  This park is home to way too many historically-significant structures and sites to be shut down!  And what would the town of Glen Ellen do without the tourist money?

I did get to see something new on this visit to Jack London SHP, and that was the “guest” house at Beauty Ranch, where Jack and Charmian entertained their guests.  I got to see the original stove they cooked on (not a curatorial addition at all…they found it under the house and after some research they found out is was in fact the original stove) as well as the rest of the building.  It was beautiful.  I would have loved to have attended a party in that house.

We donated some money to the park and I purchased a great little copy of London’s short story “Love of Life” (along with other stories in this edition).  I especially love this story because I had read it to my dog Chester only a few hours before he passed away.  In the last few months of Chester’s life, I read him Jack London stories, all because I had visited and fell in love with this park!

After our hike around the park we went to the Jack London saloon. I had an old-fashioned and the old guy sitting next to us had a vodka straight.  Could it be?  Are my drink choices “older” than what actual old people drink?

I plan on going to Jack London SHP more this summer.  I want to see the bits of the park I haven’t seen before (the Pig Palace, etc).  I hope you all get to visit this park too.  It’s so beautiful!  Get a delicious sandwich at Glen Ellen Village Market beforehand, too.  Sandwiches, Jack London, and nature make for a perfect day for sure.

Amber R. Nelson