Clark Regional Park, Buena Park, California

038Completed in 1981, Ralph B. Clark Regional Park was originally known as the Emery Borrow Pit, a sand and gravel pit created in the 50s for the construction of the I-5 and 91 freeways.  After the discovery of prehistoric fossils, the land was purchased by the County of Orange and created into a park.  I visited this park last weekend with my grandson Tyler, but forgot my camera and was unable to photograph our outing.  So, I’ve returned this week, camera and notepad in hand, for an early morning walk on Clark Park’s unpaved 1.5 mile perimeter trail.

010The weather is cool and foggy, which I appreciated since trail starts straight up a hill. Climbing, I can smell the scent of buckwheat, sage, and dirt in the morning air.  On the right, I notice a chain link fence topped with barbwire, enclosing a trash area below and wondered is this original pit?  I got to the top for a view of the street, the baseball diamond, and the adjacent country club.  There were three paths to choose from—I chose to go down.

032After descending the hill, the noise from the traffic finally subsided and I could hear a few birds twittering.  The path is extremely shady, canopied by Monterey pines and other shrubbery and bordered on the right by an old-fashion split-rail wooden fence. The trail reminded me of a country lane and I had an urge to whistle the theme to the Andy Griffith show.  Is that you Opie?

024It takes quite an active imagination to feel like you’re away from the city when all you can hear is the noise from the traffic, equipment from the park’s work yard, and the crack of a bat from the baseball diamonds.  Although the trails are visually appealing, I prefer a park that tricks the imagination for a little while, allowing you escape to the simulated great outdoors.

My favorite part of the park is the Interpretive Center—a free museum dedicated to the areas prehistoric history. My grandson and I enjoyed checking out the fossils and learning how the area has changed from sea to land in the last billion years.  The park is a perfect fit for families interested in picnicking and getting active.

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Joshua Tree National Park, California

The husband and I decided to hit the road this Veteran’s Day weekend for a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.  Although we’re native Californians, we’ve never visited this park even though it’s close to home.   After several trips to Arizona and Utah, I’ve developed a favoritism for the orangey-red sandstone of the four corners over the bare deserts of home.  After spending a lovely day outdoors today, I happily discovered that Joshua Tree is not your ordinary understated California desert.

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We entered west on Highway 62 through the town of Yucca Valley.  After passing the ranger station, the landscape surprisingly transformed from blasé to spectacular.  Joshua trees began to dot the landscape and massive boulders and rock piles erupted from the ground.  I’m reminded of Utah, drapped in earth tones.

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Our first stop is the picnic area just before Hidden Valley for a couple of submarine sandwiches and a much appreciated cherry coke. There are no concessions within the park, so bring your own food and drinks.  After hitting the pit-style restrooms we stopped to admire the regular folk courageously ascending the rock pile summit.  Joshua Tree is a very popular place for rock climbers and mountaineers.

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Our next stop is Hidden Valley and the one mile nature trail.  Joshua Tree has many hiking trails for all levels from the easy under one mile nature trail to the strenuous back country 16-mile Boy Scout trail.  Due to health conditions and old age, the husband and I usually opt for the nature trails.

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For a stunning view of the desert valley and the San Andreas Fault line, take a detour to Keys View and climb the paved pathway to the top.  Looking down into the valley is spectacular, even with So Cal’s bad air quality.  I can only imagine the view on a clear day, it’s a drive worth taking.

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Joshua Tree overlaps two deserts, the Mohave in the west and the Colorado in the east.  After stopping for a few photos of Skull rock, we decided to drive the entire park to the Cottonwood entrance.  With a half tank of gas and twilight approaching we set out across the sparser section of the park en route to the westside and a cactus patch of Cholla.

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The Cholla Cactus Garden offers a quarter-mile trail through large patches of interesting Cholla Cactus.  Nicknamed the Teddy Bear, this beautiful, bristly succulent is anything but cuddly.  It’s recommended to wear long sleeves, as the husband was impaled by a wind born spine.

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There are 794,000 acres to explore within Joshua Tree National Park.  With hiking, climbing, birding, backpacking, camping, there’s a lot to do in Joshua Tree.  Unfortunately, the sun was setting and we weren’t camping so it was time to head home.  We were unable to see everything within the park, so a return trip is in the future of this impressed-with-the-California-desert, regular old grandmother.