Day Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

We live in a great place. In less than an hour we can be at the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, or the desert. All of these places have their unique qualities and we enjoy most of them. It’s really a toss-up for us- between the ocean and the desert- depending on the season. The disadvantages are, you can always expect a crowd.

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the spring flowers in the desert. With Joshua Tree National Park a mere 80 miles away, we packed a lunch and headed out first thing. By 9:00 we were in the park with mild temperatures and a sunny day before us.

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Joshua Tree National Park is named for the Joshua Trees found there. You won’t find them in all areas of the park as they are specific to elevations/conditions, but you can also find them in many parts of the Mojave Desert. They’re such interesting looking trees with almost outstretched arms which may be attributed to how they got their name. The lifting branches were thought to be the arms of Joshua leading to the Promised Land according to an old Mormon legend. It’s really hard to determine how old a Joshua tree is as they have no growth rings. These are protected trees in many areas. You will often find desert homes built around the trees to accommodate them. They can live, it is thought, up to a hundred and fifty years! The spiky and succulent leaves are not cactus but part of the agave family (information obtained through the Joshua Tree National Park official newspaper).

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The park is partially located in the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Deserts.  Within the transitions of the two areas, there is great diversity of plants and species.

We entered the park through the Joshua Tree Visitor Center located outside the town of Joshua Tree.  The Joshua trees had already bloomed and were spent for the most part….

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… but not all of them thankfully.

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There were also many rock formations,  hikers, and rock climbers in this area of the park.

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( and me, just a visitor, not a hiker)

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As we begin the drive into the more Southern portion of the park, we came across a stop that seem to attract carloads of people.

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(Maybe it was the name?)

We also passed by such interesting places as Sheep Pass, Jumbo Rock, Split Rock,  Cap Rock, and Hall of Horrors. There were several campgrounds (all full) located throughout the park. Close to a military base in nearby 29 Palms, Palm Springs and other desert communities, including the many suburbs located near Los Angeles,  the park attracts many outdoor enthusiasts.

As we meandered our way from one end of the park to the other, we often stopped to take pictures of interesting rocks or plants that we came upon.

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At about halfway through the park we must have entered the Colorado Desert portion as the scenery changed considerably. There were fewer  rock formations with sprawling vistas and distant mountains instead.

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We then came across the Cholla Cactus Garden where miles and miles of these cactus grew.

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Next stop, the Ocotillo Patch.

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It was here we started to see a greater variety of plants…

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… and the desert blooms we had been searching for.

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We stopped for our picnic lunch near the Cottonwood Springs Visitor Center on our way out of the park. The majority of the flowers could be seen as you exit the park east of Indio. Along the highway there were Ocotillo and these gorgeous yellow flowers growing everywhere.

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It really was a great day trip. I love to be outdoors and see God’s handiwork up close and personal!

California Citrus State Historic Park

A few weeks ago on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon, (say that 3 times fast!) we decided to get outside and enjoy the day. We are not used to so many cloudy or rainy days around here.  We headed to Riverside to visit the Citrus  State Historic  Park. Having driven by this place a few times over the years, we really didn’t know much about it or what to expect.

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With only about a 30 minute drive we arrived in time for the (free) 12:00 tour. There were about 10 people in our group, consisting of all ages. Some were local and others were visiting from colder climates and enjoying the California sunshine. Bree was our volunteer docent / guide. She is a full time high school biology teacher by day. She was very knowledgeable and made the one hour walking tour very interesting.

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After giving us an empty  bag and a promise of free samples,  Bree gave us a brief history of the Citrus industry in Riverside, California. At one time this was the California Gold. Soon we headed off to the magnificent orange groves for a few citrus lessons up close and personal.

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Naturally there was one person there who just wanted to buck the system and seemed to perhaps think that because of her age the rules simply did not apply to her. Shockingly she was probably the oldest person in the group! Perhaps she felt her age entitled her to some special privileges such as picking up dropped fruit from the ground when we were specifically told not to. It is a state park after all, so we must know you are not allowed to take anything out of the park. I felt sympathy for our guide when she had to politely chastise this overzealous visitor.

Anyway, as we walked along a very smooth pathway we stopped at various trees for information about that specific type of tree. There were also many photo opportunities and since it was such a gorgeous day we took advantage of it.

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The palm trees were added to distinguish the dirt roads within the grove.

As we stopped at each tree she educated us on the type of fruit, its history, and other  citrus related information.  She  occasionally, but carefully (to not harm either the fruit or the tree), cut a piece of fruit for each of us to take home. We came home with lemons, grapefruit, navel oranges, tangelos, and blood oranges just to name a few. Who knew there was so many varieties? The grove works closely with the University of California at Riverside in the development and education  of new and existing varieties of citrus. This would include disease resistance as well as trees specifically for grafting to produce the new varieties. I did not know that a citrus tree does not generally grow from a seed but from a graft. Some trees are specifically grown just for this purpose.

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Not just dropped fruit-a tree specifically for grafting.

 We had a picturesque and easy walk  around the grove.

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Notice the smudge-pot in the lower left of the picture. These were heated with oil to keep fruit from freezing years ago. Now, water is used. Much more environmentally friendly.

All too soon we were taken back to the main building and gift shop. On the patio our education continued along with slices of the various fruits.

20170129_132221.jpgI grew up in Riverside and spent most of my life driving around orange groves. I really did not think beyond the beauty of the trees and the groves themselves. It was just the way it was. Sometimes we don’t miss something until it is gone.

There are almost 400 acres of citrus trees in the park.

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A small Museum, gift shop, and outbuildings which are available for rent to host events make up the remainder of the park. For a mere $5 entrance you are able to spend an enjoyable afternoon and actually have something to take home with you! Perfect for history buffs, the curious, or for a local outing.  With the Cara Cara oranges being our absolute favorite, we stopped at a roadside stand and purchased a bag.

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Sometimes when you take a moment to look around your own community it is  amazing what points of interest you might stumble across. I highly recommend this to Southern California locals or visitors. Although orange groves were very commonplace throughout the areas here, eventually it was decided that the real money was in the real estate and  many thousands of acres throughout Southern California were plowed over in the name of progress. Now, homes fill the landscape. I suppose this is something that happens all over as we get away from a more natural environment to a more commercial or industrial environment. I’m so grateful for state and national parks in that preserve uniqueness and beauty.

What are your favorite protected parks?

Summer, Sewing, & Retirement

Every once in awhile I need an attitude adjustment. This retirement thing is a work in progress. Even after 2 1/2 years I can easily fall into lazy habits, get off track, cringe when I jump on the scale, and well…basically I need to refocus! Not that I am not busy but I sometimes have found myself being busy with the business of being busy.

Huh????

Last week is a perfect example. On Monday I was at the hospital all day waiting for the arrival of our newest great-granddaughter. Very exciting! I was the on call labor coach in case the young parents needed reinforcements. I have been front and center for four of my own (of course), my sister, and four grandchildren. For six others I have impatiently sat in the waiting room. I have completed 3 Lamaze classes, read countless books, and offered too many hours to count of advice by phone, visits to nervous moms, and had more than most of sleepless nights in this miracle of babies, pregnancy, and babies being born. So there was no place I would have rather been!!

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I mean, is she perfect or what????

It was also the weekend visit of one of my oldest and dearest friends, a baby shower of her second grandchild, and a visit from our oldest grandson, home from almost two years away. During the week I met a sister for lunch, had my brother staying with us (and thrilled to have him back),  met a friend for coffee and another dear friend for our usual swimming meet up. Church, household stuff, Bible study, and oh yeah…Thommmee-the most patient and understanding husband on the planet needed some attention too.

Anyway, I realized that all of this business was causing me to stress a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the moments with all of the scheduling. I was talking too much about what I still had to do (how special did that make the person I was with feel?) so….readjusting and focusing on my friends and family became priority. Fortunately, these wonderful people love me as is and were most patient with me. I have to say, I treasure each and everyone of them!

Once I realized what I was doing I reminded myself to do what I love, make Thommmee a top priority, and slow down a bit. After all, retirement does not need a checklist!

What does that have to do with sewing you might ask? One of the things I love is sewing. My newest project is making these Sprocket Pillows.

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(for a niece)

They are so fun to make and a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

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(given to a granddaughter)

I am giving them away as fast as I make them.

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(another granddaughter)

I am not offering a tutorial as I was not able to obtain permission from the website where I found them (besides her tutorial is so fantastic). You can find instructions at cluckclucksew with a template included.

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(my friends grandson-nursery colors black, white, and gray!)

They are simple, fairly quick, and come in two sizes.

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We are leaving in a few days for a trip. It will include a visit along the California coast. Our itinerary open and flexible. Brother is back to work, baby and new parents are doing fine (we saw them yesterday). The grads have graduated, no birthdays, and the diet is out the window anyway.  No sewing next week but, that is alright.

I am ready for some quiet and time with Thommmee.

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Zion National Park

This past week we had a opportunity to spend half a day in Zion National Park. Sadly, a few hours is not enough to really to explore all that this park has to offer. Having any time at all here leaves you hungry to explore more of Zion and the other wonders that Utah has to offer.

As Utah’s oldest and most popular national park, Zion is located in Southern Utah, about 163 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The quaint little town of Springdale is the somewhat official starting place to begin a visit. There you can board a tram for entry into the park, spend the night in one of the lodges, stop for a meal or drink in one of the cute cafes or restaurants, or visit one of the many rock and gem stores found there.

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We chose to drive into the park as we had big plans for a picnic after some exploring.

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Once inside you will need to park your vehicle and board one of the trams that run throughout Zion.

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The trams reduce the pollution and congestion within the park. At no cost to the rider, you can hop on or off at one of the many stops. They stop at such interesting places like The Grotto and Court of the Patriarchs. Running about every 15 minutes there is really no disadvantage to this arrangement. In fact, you can get a nice overview and scenic overload from the tram.  Load up your bike, picnic, or hiking gear to head out for an extraordinary day!

Zion is extremely popular with hikers. To really appreciate all of the beautify and diversity found here one might need to explore beyond the visitor center and tram stops. Destinations such as Emerald Pool Trails and Angels Landing called to us but with our limited time and my agility, we had to carefully choose where to spend our time. We decided on The Narrows  which is perhaps one of the most familiar and popular hikes. (A great place if you are in Zion during a hot summer day). We departed the shuttle at The Temple of Sinawava and hiked the 2.5 mile (round trip) Riverside Trail  along the Virgin River to the entrance of The Narrows. Once you begin the hike through the narrows, the water can be ankle deep and even  chest high in some places. I was pretty impressed with myself that I was able to make the hike at all! The trail is nicely paved and even-which makes it wheelchair accessible! Many of the people we passed along the way were prepared for the water. They had hiking sticks, backpacks,  water-proof pants, or water-proof leggings. People of all ages were prepared for the water adventure.

Along the trail we were able to appreciate the hanging gardens…

…plants that seemed to grow right out of a rock wall.

The trail meandered along The Virgin River.

We observed the Weeping Rocks…

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…where water seems to seep from the rocks.

The majestic views were breath taking.

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The canyons were wide and the skies were blue.

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After our hike and the 90 minute tram ride, we headed back to the visitor center and our awaiting picnic.  A few years ago we were able to hike the Timber Creek Overlook Trail which is located in the most northern part of Zion.

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Located in higher elevations, the scenery is as beautiful. There is a five mile scenic drive that rises above the majestic canyons and the red rocks of the Kolob Canyons. It was merely by chance that we discovered this often forgotten area of Zion. When traveling through Utah to another destination, we took a chance to stop here not realizing that  Kolob Canyon is somewhat separate from the main part of Zion but should not be missed!

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With many of Utah’s National Parks yet to explore, we have  Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capital Reef on our list of places to visit. We do love the outdoors and are already planning our next adventure!

Death Valley-Super Bloom

A special treat is happening in the Death Valley……spring flowers! With only an average annual rainfall of 2 inches a year, this season, the park got  3 inches of rain so far! Three rare storms in the first two weeks of October was enough to cause millions of dormant wildflower seeds to spring forth.

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Our yearly camping trip to Death Valley Nation Park is at Thanksgiving so the chance to visit this past weekend during the super bloom was a special treat. The roads, campgrounds, hotels, and just about everywhere we went was full of enthralled spectators. Never before had we experienced such unique splendor. Death Valley, despite its name, is such a beautiful place anytime of the year. Although barren of many plants, trees, and shrubs, the diversity and beauty of the park is not to be missed. It is this diversity that makes this park so incredibly appealing-from the salt flats to the sand dunes, the mountain tops  to the badlands, and the sunrises to the sunsets. It is a land of extremes.

We were going to see Death Valley in the spring and during the extraordinary blooming of spring flowers!  Out the door at 3:30AM we arrived full of anticipation and excited to explore. We spent two days driving around the park with many stops along the way.

This is some of the highlights of our trip.

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Desert Gold

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Deep Purple Phacelia

(If touched can cause a rash)

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More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.

We saw these at a higher elevation but I don’t know their name.

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The Desert Five-Spot

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The Gravel Ghost

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(see how seems to float from the very interesting leaves hugging the ground?)

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The Charcoal Kilns. No flowers but a group of young people making a video!

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Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. That is not snow in the background…

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…it is a salt flat.

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This was a shrub growing among the Desert Gold flowers.

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On a normal trip the landscape would look more like this…

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…instead of this!

 Our second night  we were sent packing with 45-60 mph winds… which collapsed our tent….so…we slept in the car! Not the best way to end our trip but worth every minute to have been able to enjoy such a rare sight.

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A day earlier than planned we soon found our way home. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it though!

Boys and Girls

Isn’t it interesting how families seem to have more boys than girls, more daughters than sons, or more guys than gals? In our blended family we have 4 girls and 2 boys, 4 grandsons and 7 granddaughters, 1 great granddaughter and 2 more on the way (due in April and May). Thommmee is 1 of  5 brothers and 2 sisters, I am 1 of 4 sisters and 2 brothers.

In our more local/ immediate family we seem be surrounded by girls. As a result, I spend time with the girls in efforts of cooking, sewing, shopping, etc. We all spend time together camping, vacationing, playing games, barbequing,  beach trips, and a multitude of birthday parties. When it comes to doing ‘guy’ things, however, I have often felt that I fell short. I recently decided to make more of an effort to participate in some of the things that they enjoy. Surprisingly (or not) we actually ended up having a really good time.

A few weekends ago my 16 year old grandson and I made plans to attend an outdoors/sportsman event near me.  We were both really excited to spend this time together but honestly I was a bit apprehensive that I would disappoint him or he would be bored hanging out with grandma. Although we are very close and enjoy a very special bond, we are usually a part of a group since he has become a teenager. He lives about 30 miles away and this would also be his first trip managing the congested Southern California freeways by himself. On a Friday afternoon he headed my way as soon as he got out of school and arrived at my house about 3:30. I had decided to just go with whatever I would normally do so we quickly got busy making strawberry jam. Now, I realize this might not be a 16 year old boy’s idea of fun but I figured it was still hanging out with grandma so…. It was fun and he learned a thing or two about making jam.  Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, we took a jar of fresh jam and decorated it for him to give to his girlfriend ( along with his other special mementos).

While I cleaned up, he went outside with Poppa (Thommmee) to barbeque some steaks and veggies. I made potatoes and garlic bread.  After dinner we settled down to play some board games and cards. We baked brownies. We talked. We laughed.  Eventually Poppa was ready for bed but we sat up and talked well past my  bedtime. We really shared with each other and I will treasure that evening forever.

Early the next morning the three of us were up laughing and talking over pancakes and bacon (which is enough to make anyone happy-right?) We didn’t invite Poppa or anyone else to go along on this trip so the two of us headed off to the event. Now, I don’t know what I expected, maybe a bunch of dudes in overalls chewing tobacco or some other foolish notions of what hunters, gun carrying survivalists might look like (sorry if I offended anyone here-I am somewhat a sheltered urban raised girl ). Anyway, it was mostly men (hey ladies, the ultimate place to meet a guy maybe?), normal looking people, a few women, and even a few families. Nonetheless, I am fairly certain I was the only proud grandma accompanied by her handsome 16 year old grandson. We had a great time but for me this was a one time event (just the show not the grandson).

Encouraged by this adventure, the following weekend I offered to take Thommmee to the Gold and Treasure show at the Fairplex (formally know as the LA Fairgrounds). He loves to watch all of those treasure hunting, prospecting, gold digging type shows so he was all in! (maybe this is where I got that stereo-type idea of the outdoorsmen?) They were selling all types of  machines, gizmos,  and every sort of prospecting gear you could imagine. They even sold dirt and a dirt of the month club membership so you could pan for gold in the privacy of your own home…really? Again, mostly men but more women and families at this event…..normal people! I think get these ideas from the shows Thommmee watches. They must pick extremes types to keep the shows interesting.

OK. I tried. I love the outdoors. If you read my blog you know I love to camp, I sleep in a tent and cook outdoors. These two weekends were a bit of a stretch for me but these men  appreciated my willingness to try something new and I got to spend time with these great guys.  I am not complaining at all. Next weekend our church is having a ladies afternoon tea which I will be attending. Not sure this is a fit for me either. I like my jeans, sneakers and bracelets. Perhaps I am someplace in between but I would like to keep an open mind.

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Super Bowl Sunday and a day at the beach

Some people love football. Some people don’t. I don’t. Thommmee does. When faced with what to do on game day, he went to watch the big game with our daughter. She does. I picked up the 4 of the grandkids (they don’t) and we headed to the beach.

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It happened to be a beautiful day in Southern California.

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This was so much more fun than watching a football game.

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