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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Farewell to Summer

Our summer here is officially over.  Fall begins tomorrow. The high temperatures will linger into October but the nights will begin to cool. In November  we will experience our “fall” in Southern California.  From now until then we will have dry dusty days without rain, Santa Ana winds, and abundant sunshine. The palm trees will remain green, native plants will flourish, hillsides will continue to brown,  leaves will drop and blow in the wind, but a few splashes of fall colors maybe found.

Summer was wonderful.  Although we spent more time at home than usual, we enjoyed many opportunities to get outdoors and appreciate summer. Rather than bore you with details,  I decided to showcase a few highlights and allow the pictures to tell most of the story.

A visit to Berkeley and the University of California

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Exploring Berkeley and visiting with family.

Visiting a winery near Gilroy, California

Salinas, California-Home of John Steinbeck.

Beautiful Monterey Bay

Camping in Big Sur and exploring the California coastline.

Laughing in amazement at sun bathing sea lions.

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A Phoenix sunrise. One of two trips we made to Arizona.

Who knew Arizona could be so green?

We loved our visit to Oro Valley north of Tuscon, Arizona…

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…and even enjoyed the rain!

Our small garden yielded us tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, and strawberries.

I worked on a few sewing and craft projects.

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We spent a great deal of time with family, friends, and just hanging out.

(and of course eating and shopping!)

So while we say farewell to the Summer of 2016…

I am looking forward to what comes next!

How was your summer?

(or winter-depending on where you live)

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!

Return from Quartzite

We got back from Quartzite last night. It was a whirlwind trip. We had a great time visiting the cousins and participating in the craft fair. It was a beautiful day, full of sun and the promised mid 70’s temperatures.

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(yep, pardner, it was a western theme)

 We enjoyed the beautiful sunrise,

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visiting with family, and eating (way too much)! The only thing missing was…well..customers!

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(cousins holding down the fort!)

That’s right. Not much in the way of buyers and only a few lookers (unless you count the other lonely venders). We had plenty of time to check out the other interesting, creative, beautiful, and some a little weird items other sellers had displayed. I had to resist becoming a buyer of a beer can wind whirly thingee…

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as well as a beautifuly stitched quilt.  I had plenty of time to compare prices and exchange ideas with other sewers and crafters.

With that in mind and the time spent with my cousins-chatting away and enjoying the sunshine-although disappointed-I had a great time! Thommmee had fun too. We always love a good road trip so the 3 hour drive coming and going was also fun.

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Quartzite has much to offer if you are just passing through or looking for a place to park your RV. Get out and explore or just enjoy the beauty of the desert. There is a bunch of that!

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Head on down on your next visit to Arizona and enjoy the wide open spaces!

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Saying Good-bye to Summer

Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer. The stores have been full of back to school shoppers. Already the pens, pencils, and notebooks are being pushed aside to make room for the Halloween goodies.  Kids all around us have started back to classes with a few stragglers  preparing to resume their studies within the next few weeks.

 For us summer for has meant beach outings,

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road trips,

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 playing outdoors,

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and swimming pools.

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It has been enjoying cool mornings before it gets too hot,

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 evening sunsets,

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and tomatoes from our garden.

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We have had some 100 degree plus temps and higher electric bills-but for us in Southern California, this is just the beginning.  September and October will bring us Santa Anna winds, hotter temperatures, higher fire danger, and more serious drought conditions. It will also extend our summer and allow us to enjoy more of the fun… wpid-2013-10-27-11.50.52.jpg.jpeg

…until we are so tired of the heat we will welcome with open arms the coolness of  a late fall.

The best part of the year is still to come!

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November is my favorite month. We will have pleasant days and chilly nights. The winds will have blown all the dust and dirt away.  There will be blue skies.

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We will pull up our blankets at night and run around in jeans and a t-shirt during the day.

We will take a rides

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and go camping in the desert for Thanksgiving.

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Before we know it (dare I say it???)

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It will be Christmas!

Road trip: Arizona

Thommmee and I visited Arizona during our recent road trip. We love road trips and often head to the Midwest to visit family. We have tried various routes, seen different things…… just enjoy the drive with time to talk and relax without the distractions of life. The big difference with this recent trip is that I had no deadlines and no workday awaiting me! Travel is great but the one thing that does not change……

there is no place like home!

Arizona is an interesting and diverse place to visit. Yes, they have deserts………

Painted Desert National Park

Painted Desert National Park

and tress………..

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and cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Many of the cactus have incredible blooms in the spring………

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Desert flower

 Oh…and don’t forget the Grand Canyon.

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 Upon crossing the Arizona/California border is

THE RIVER.

Colorado River border

Colorado River border

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In Southern California ‘the river’  means the Colorado River. Water is a somewhat of a novelty to us. Southern California is basically a desert (well, we do have a great big ocean but that is different). The second thing you notice is the price of gasoline. In California we have something called “boutique” gas which runs up to $1.00 per gallon more than in most other states. WOW!

We had a chance to visit Tombstone, Arizona (Thommmee loves the old west). This town has maintained the western history and feel of times gone by. Cute place with many restaurants, old west shops, original buildings…….

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interesting characters…….

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and sites……..

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……including a stagecoach ride around town

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 So, hit the road, you never know what awaits you around the next corner!

Happy Trails

 

More of ‘The Good Life’

We unexpectedly had the opportunity to go camping this past weekend. My daughter and her family had been camping since Friday. She sent me a text early Saturday morning and invited Thommmee and  I to come out and join them. Being a retired person who is developing a spontaneous attitude, I said yes! We grabbed out tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, and a few other essentials and headed out the door to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

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About 20 years ago we  made this 2  1/2 hour trip but were surprised to be reminded of this treasure so close to home. This is a great day trip as well as a camping place. (Reservations recommended). Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park!

We arrived about noon, quickly set up our tent and begin enjoying this lovely afternoon in the desert.  After lunch we headed to the visitor center, drove around  a bit then headed back to camp for a game of Rumicube, some time with the kids, and relaxing. As we prepared dinner, we were dazzled by the sunset.

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(love those sunsets!)

After dinner we headed over for the ranger program to learn about the big cats in the area and some of the other desert inhabitants. We completed the day toasting marshmallows over a campfire and then off to bed. A few things about sleeping in the desert-it gets pretty cold at night and it is very quiet.

With the morning sun the temperatures rise fairly quickly so in no time at all we were back into out shorts and t-shirts. My daughter prepared a fabulous breakfast of pancakes, we took down the tent, packed the cars, and took off for some exploring before heading for home. They had hiked the Palm Canyon Trail to the palm oasis  before our arrival. If you decide to visit this park, you will not want to miss this 3 hour round trip hike.  The desert is so diverse and there really is so much to see if you take time to look.

Due to our drought conditions this year, the desert flowers  are few. Some years the spring trip to the desert are worth the flower viewing alone! This year we observed

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and

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(Both of these plants have some serious thorns!)

Our first stop was Slot Canyon. We headed down a dirt road to what seemed in the middle of nowhere. When we arrived, we saw we were not the only other visitors to this remote location. This slot canyon is a narrow wash and is a great place to explore.

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After some time in the canyons, we headed to The Village Site which was another dirt road and remote site.

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(Thommmee loves this stuff!)

Although we had a quick one night trip, we agreed that it seemed much longer. Something about getting away and enjoying God’s beauty is soothing to the soul. We really appreciated our daughter inviting us. I commented that had I not been retired I might not have gone. Surely I would have had some dusting or laundry that just could not wait. I am becoming more spontaneous these days!!!  Ahhhhhhh retirement! The good life!