Something of Marvelous…….

In all things of nature there is something of marvelous ~ Aristotle

A road trip wouldn’t be complete without a few snapshots of the countryside. I’m more of a passenger, than a driver and I’m always on the look out to capture mother nature’s “something marvelous.” Hope you enjoy the photos.

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The guard tower at Manzanar  WWII Relocation Center

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Some colorful hills off a scenic byway

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Tufa’s from afar ~ Mono Lake

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The eerie waters of Mono Lake, Highway 395

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Somewhere on Hwy 395 near Bridgeport, CA

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Mt. Shasta from the back roads, Highway 89

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California’s golden hills, Interstate-5

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Coming home to monsoon skies

 

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Cowboy, Take Me Away (Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park)

The hubby and I gassed up the RV and headed out to Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park last weekend for a much-needed escape from the city.  Indian Cove is located 13 miles east of Joshua Tree Village and 10 miles west of Twenty-nine Palms, California off highway 62.  It’s a dry campground, so BYOW (bring your own water) or bring containers to fill at the ranger station.

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The campground is enclosed by towering rock formations, with many of the campsites nestled between the rocks; including ours—site #2.  Not all the sites accommodate RVs, and many are extremely slanted so leveling is necessary.  Fortunately, we didn’t need a running fridge, so we passed on leveling the rig.

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After backing in, we unfolded our new lounge chairs anticipating some R & R.  Earlier that morning, my daughter, grandkids and I “Stepped Up” and walked three miles through Knott’s Berry Farm to raise money to cure diabetes.  With sore legs and feet, I leaned back my chair, closed my eyes, and enjoyed the desert warmth and breeze blowing through the cove.

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Joshua Tree is known for its dark, starry skies, free from the light pollution of Southern California.   I brought my camera with intentions of capturing not only a beautiful desert sunset, but a sky full of stars.  After some delicious homemade burgers, the hub and I spent the evening stargazing. We were serenaded to sleep by the sounds of smooth Jazz from the radio of a neighboring camper.

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True to my internal work clock, I woke by five, but remained under covers until six. I planned to catch the sun rising over the rock formations, so after slicking down my bed hair, I grabbed my camera and tripod and set up outside the RV.

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Watching the early morning sun rise within the solitude of a desert is a spiritual experience for a city girl like me used to waking to blaring car radios and slamming garage doors.  I tried to make the morning last, knowing that check out was at noon.  After capturing the sun, I climbed up on an ancient rock and enjoyed the wild blue skies.

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It’s almost noon and it’s time to go home. As I pack it up I sing, “Cowboy Take Me Away,” by the Dixie Chicks: ”I want to look at the horizon and not see a building standing tall—I want to be the only one for miles and miles—I said, Cowboy take me away……………” and one day soon, he will again.

Casper’s Wilderness Park, San Juan Capistrano, California

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Our home away from home…

Spending a few days at Casper’s Wilderness Park was awesome! Although the hub and I visited the day use area during our dating years, this was our first time camping in the park. What a beautiful, clean, relaxing, place to stay and so close to home, less than an hour away. The camp spots for RVs are wide, spacious, private and surrounded by trees and grass meadows. Electricity is available for a few extra dollars, and although you must draw your water, there’s a spigot right off the road.  We topped off our tank before pulling into the site. The site was level, so no need to do anything but park and make things comfy.

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The grandson posing…………

To the delight of our grandson, the site was surrounded with a few old coastal oak trees, ready for climbing. He was able to entertain himself for quite a bit while we set up camp and got everything in order. Once we were done, it was off to explore the playground, as promised, where playing children were plentiful.

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A view of Saddleback and the Santa Ana Mountains

The next morning the grandson and I headed out early for a little hiking, leaving the hubby to sleep in. I was a little nervous about exploring the trails, especially after noticing signs warning of mountain lions.  Seems Casper’s is a mountain lion habitat. Awesome, big cats and rattlesnakes. The grandson and I discussed what to do in the event one crossed our path–“act big, make noise, throw rocks, don’t run.”  Water bottles, snacks, rocks….we’re ready.

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We chose the East Flats trail because the trail head was close to our site and the park guide listed it as “easy.”  After a half-mile of hiking straight up, the grandson and I decided that whomever dubbed this trail easy was seriously misguided.  After a few rest stops, a bottle of water, and some Angry Bird fruit snacks, we finally arrived at the Quail Run crossing.

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Quail Run

Listed as moderate, the grandson and I renamed this trail “OMG.”  We passed a dad with some really tired (and grumpy) children attempting to make the top of the ridge. Thank goodness we were descending the trail; I’m just not fit enough for moderate and strenuous labeled trails.

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Happy Grandma heading down the trail

After arriving back into civilization (e.g., the day use area), we decided to rest awhile under a shady grove of oaks and plan our hike back. We weren’t interested in returning the way we came in, it was all uphill.  We decided to hike one more trail, and I’m glad we did.  The Nature loop was level, shady, and relaxing–my kind of trail.

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Nature Loop

We came out by the Old Corral and took the road back to camp.  It was 1:30 p.m. and we had left 4 hours ago.  We lost cell service up in the hills so I called the hub so he wouldn’t worry.  What a wonderful day of hiking!

The red windmill and the Old Corral

The red windmill and the Old Corral

On Monday it was time to head home.   I was really impressed with Casper’s Wilderness Park.  Close to home, family friendly, abundance of trails to hike, great camping spots, helpful park ranger’s on site, and beautiful outdoor surroundings.

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Of course, there are a few downfalls.  Our camp ground, Ortega Flats, is next to the highway which means noise.  At times, the roar of passing cars and motorcycles overshadowed the sound of nature, but it subsides in the evening so sleeping is not a problem.  Last, the restrooms (aka flush toilets) and showers are located at the Live Oak campground, which is at least a mile away. But  if your desperate, there is an outhouse available in the center of camp.

Ortega Flats Campground

Ortega Flats Campground

Over all, I would return to Casper’s again. It’s a wonderful county park worth returning to for camping, hiking, or just spending the day wandering the hills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Until next time, happy wanderings!

Salton Sea State Recreation Area – Day One

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, lake located in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys in Southern California’s Colorado Desert. Originally a dry lake bed, Salton Sea was created accidentally by man and formed during a flood in 1905. The lake’s salinity is greater than the waters of the Pacific Ocean. One of the lowest spots on earth, the Salton Sea is -227 ft. under sea level.

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Located on the north shore of the Salton Sea, the Salton Sea State Recreation Area is about a three-hour drive from the Los Angeles or San Diego areas and has four campgrounds with varied amenities. With full hookups, a pull through site, and a five-star view, we chose Headquarters Camp next to Varner Harbor and the visitor center for our first attempt at RV-ing.

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Set in an asphalt parking lot environment, we were allotted one tree, a picnic bench, electric, water, and a dump hole.  We also got an unobstructed, panoramic view of the Chocolate Mountains, an overabundance of migrating birds, and the Salton Sea shoreline. The spectacular view more than made up for the parking lot style campsite.

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After setting up our home on wheels for the next few nights, the grandson and I were off to explore the shoreline of Salton Sea. True to the reviews, the banks of the lake were littered with decaying carcasses of well-preserved Tilapia and barnacled sand. After awhile the stench of fish and bacterial run off made its presence and we returned to camp.

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As the sky began to adjust from day to nightfall, I grabbed my camera and enjoyed my first fiery sunset capturing the yellows, pinks, and reds only the California desert can offer. It’s time to make dinner and prepare for some star-gazing.

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With the camp store closed early and no firewood to burn, we opted for a few hands of Rummy, 21, and Crazy 8s in the RV.  The grandson questioned why we didn’t have a TV in our RV, like most did in the campground and this old school, regular old grandma said, “Because camping isn’t about watching TV.  It’s about watching the stars and the sun setting and playing cards and spending time with each other.”

Stay tuned for day two of our adventure.

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.

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.

Oak Glen, California

001Just 15 miles east of San Bernardino, California, at the foot of the mountains lays the little town of Oak Glen.  A small farming community composed of several family farms selling every apple imaginable. There’s Vasquez and King David’s–apples grown only in Oak Glen; Gravenstein and Pink Pearl’s–apples no longer commercially produced; and sour Pippin apples–my favorite from childhood.  It’s apple season in California, it’s the weekend, and it’s crowded.

It’s a warm Southern California Saturday and we’re having a family day at Snowline Orchard. After purchasing hot-out-of-the-oil apple donuts and freshly pressed cider, we found a spot in the shade and watched the bagpipers and river dancers performing at the Milk and Thistle Scot Festival. When the dancers were done, we wandered through the market sampling apple slices and admiring the antiques at the back of the store.  With nothing left to do at Snowline, we headed down the mountain to the Parrish Pioneer Ranch.

004Our first stop was to snap a goofy photo of the husband and grand kids and then off to tour the recently opened Parrish House Antique store. Our real interests were in exploring the hundred years plus home, so we wandered every open room, climbed the skinny staircase to the second floor, and avoided the chatty sales girl trying to sell plastic period hats for Halloween.  While my step daughter and I escaped with our money intact, my husband and grandson exited with hats on their head and lighter pockets.

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With the day getting later and a two-hour drive home, it’s time to get going down the mountain–but not before stopping at the Parrish store candy counter for freshly made chocolates (think See’s candy).  With candy bags in hand, it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes and got into the car (not this one), content to have spent the day with family wandering outside in beautiful Oak Glen.