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!

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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?

Day trip: San Diego

We live about 100 miles from San Diego so when out-of-town family showed up there this week, we headed off to meet  with them. They were visiting from Connecticut and were very much enjoying an opportunity to thaw out from a brutal winter. We were only to happy to  share our beautiful weather.  Bright and early the next morning we headed south.

Thommmee drove the coastal route.

We made a stop…

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 …or two along the way.

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 After about a 90 minute drive we arrived in San Diego.

We met them in Pacific Beach, a popular beach…

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  and vacation destination area of San Diego.

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 Picture perfect weather!

After lunch and some walking around, the next stop was a drive through the business…

 

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 and Gaslamp districts.

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Gaslamp is a historical part of downtown San Diego. This area was revitalized during the 1980’s and 90’s. It has many restaurants,  shops, and cultural activities. At night it comes alive with activity with special emphasis in dining, pubs, and nightclubs. There are a variety of festivals and special events scheduled throughout the year. (We were a few days too late for the St Patrick’s Day festivities).

There are so many interesting areas to visit In San Diego that it was difficult to select where to go in the few hours we had. After a  bit of exploration, we decided to head to Seaport Village where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

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This is another popular coastal area…

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full of unique shops,

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oceanfront views,

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restaurants,

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 casual dining, bakeries, and ice cream!

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(I just had to indulge)

There were beautiful succulents to appreciate…

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unique plants…

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…gorgeous trees…

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…and an overall relaxing atmosphere.

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(and did I say shopping?)

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So little time!

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So…..

if you are ever in the area, plan a few days in San Diego.

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There is much more to see and do.

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All too soon we were headed back.  Southern California traffic is  not much fun. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get home!

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Had a great time!