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The rugged coastline of California’s Mendocino County has spectacular cliffs pounded by mighty Pacific storms. Some tough species of plants have evolved to thrive in this harsh environment. Further inland, ancient geological uplifting of marine terraces created areas of nutrient poor and very acidic soil where only dwarf trees grow. Dwarf Mendocino cypress can be seen in the unusual pygmy forest protected within the Van Damme State Park. A hundred year old tree here may only be less than 8 feet high.

Succulent plants cling to Pacific Coast cliff

Succulent plants cling to Pacific Coast cliff

Pygmy trees in Van Damme State Park

Pygmy trees in Van Damme State Park

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Bilbao is best known these days for the gleaming, titanium clad Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. Yet, this financial and industrial center of the Basque region in Spain retains medieval architectural charm in its “Casco Viejo“, or Old Town. The Santiago Cathedral was built in the 15th century on older foundations dating to 1300 or earlier. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with shops and restaurants featuring fresh seafood from the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Ocean.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Puppet show in the Casco Viejo

Puppet show in the Casco Viejo

February 2009
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