Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moving North

Confusing as it sounds, at least to me, just south of Sequoia National Park lies Giant Sequoia National Monument (southern unit.) In our effort to see everything, we decided to check it out on our way to the more famous Sequoia NP.

We stayed at a Corps of Engineers campground at Lake Success. It's a pretty lake surrounded by rolling golden hills with views of snow-capped mountains to the east when conditions are good. At less than 700 feet in elevation, I was afraid it was going to be hot, but it was perfect.

We really like the COE campgrounds. They are usually clean, well designed, and inexpensive. This one was lovely with huge sites, but was rather more expensive than most we have visited - $30 with electric, $20 without. Luckily Ron's Golden Age pass cut that in half and with solar panels we don't need electric. And realistically, doesn't everything cost more in California?

Because we were there before the holiday weekend, it was also almost empty.

Off we went to explore the aforementioned National Monument. On our way up to 7000 feet, we passed through the clouds. Oooo, spooky.

But soon we came out of the fog/clouds to a beautiful sunny day.

Well, this sounds interesting.

You know, you just can't get good help anymore. A nice man volunteered to take our picture in front of this lovely giant sequoia and he took it while Ron was telling me to take off my hood. Oh well, at least it shows how cold it was.

Isn't it a magnificent tree? Giant Sequoias, although not the tallest tree in the world (that would be their relative the Coastal Redwood,) can grow to 300 feet and live for 3000 years! That's hard to imagine.
I don't have the stats on this particular tree, but it was a beauty!

On our way back downhill, we were treated to more stunning views.

And you know I can't resist a pretty flower. This was actually a bush, unnamed, at least by me.

Next up, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the story of the disappearing campground.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Joshua Tree, part 2

I'm already falling behind in the blog because we didn't have telephone or internet at two places we stayed - Joshua Tree being one of them. Last time Ron and I were at Joshua Tree, we took the ranger led tour of the Desert Queen Ranch. I highly recommend it - click here to see that post.

But this trip we did a couple of shorter hikes including the one from our campground to Skull Rock. Pretty scary, huh?

However, we noticed many other rocks that begged to be named. How about Cocker Spaniel rock?

Cartoon rock?

Cowardly Lion rock?

And this guy - maybe Fred Flintstone rock?

But the most amazing was this Squirrel rock - doesn't he appear lifelike?

Just look at the color and configuation of this cactus!

When I read there was an arch in the park, I had to see it. I've forgotten if it had a name, but I think it should be Elephant Arch!

Somebody got a little carried away with placing cairns to mark the trail.

And, yes, I'm just being goofy, as usual.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And We're Off!

On Sunday Ron and I left for our summer journey, barely making it before the real heat began in southern Arizona. What a job it was to load up the RV! I don't know how people do it for just a weekend. We finally left the house at 8:45 and headed west. Ron had really earned his breakfast at Cracker Barrel by the time we made it through Phoenix. Those are some stressful 50 miles, even with the lighter Sunday traffic.

For the summer we plan on staying west - California, Oregon, and Washington. We will be joining up with our WIN friends for some of the time, but for now we're on our own.

Our first concern was to get to someplace cool. And what's cooler than Joshua Tree National Park? So we zipped west on I10 to Jumbo Rocks campground in the park - 283 miles - a ridiculous distance to drive in one day! Hopefully we'll never have to do THAT again.

I love Joshua Tree and have been there many times. I could feel my excitement build as we drove up and into the park.

After entering from the south entrance, it's a long way before you see any of the trees for which the park is named. We made a quick stop at the Cholla Garden, but the cholla cactus is too scary. Sometimes called 'jumping cholla', they attack anybody who walks within three feet of them. (Okay, they don't really jump, but it sure seems that way when you're trying to pull their hooked spines our of your poor leg.)
But where are the joshua trees?

Ah, finally we see some of the unique trees along with really big rocks - two of my favorite things. What could be better?

There are several campgrounds in the park, but we decided to try Jumbo Rocks this trip and settled right in. (Tip - we had been told Belle was the campground for bigger rigs, but we never listen.) This was our yard for our two-night stay. Some people would want a bigger yard, but, odd as it might seem, we never sit out.

See our RV down there among the rocks? And it was nice and cool at 4000 feet.

Early the next morning, we drove up to Keys View - one of the best viewpoints ever. You can actually see the San Andreas Fault from this spot. The dust or pollution makes it impossible to see in this picture, so you'll just have to go yourself. The last time we were here, we could see Signal Mountain - 95 miles away in Mexico!

While walking around the viewpoint, we noticed this unusual joshua tree - even more unusual than the usually unusual ones. While most of the trees branch like any other tree, this one seems to have branched from the roots. Either that or a bunch of them sprouted in a cluster.

At one time, 'they' were claiming that these interesting trees were in the lily family! Now they have decided what any reasonable person would assume - they are in the yucca family. Although we were too late to see the gorgeous blooms on both the yuccas and joshuas, these yuccas up at Keys View were still hanging on to their seeds.

Here we are driving through a joshua tree forest. When I was young, I thought these wonderful trees were as old as the sequoias, but although they can live to be 200-300 years old, their life expectancy is more like 100-150.

More on the park in the next post, but for those of you who where wondering about my tomato plant, this was my first red tomato (picture taken May 2.)

A few days later, Ron and I shared the 1 1/2 inch beauty and it was delicious! A friend said it must have been the best $4 tomato ever.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Queen Califia's Magical Circle

While we were in southern CA, we made a quick trip to Kit Carson Park in Escondido. Hidden in this unassuming park is a gem that I had wanted to see since I read about it in Richard's blog awhile back. I was very excited to finally have the chance to experience it myself - Queen Califia's Magical Circle.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) created this magnificent sculpture garden inspired by California's roots and her own vivid imagination. It is unlike anything I have ever seen.

The garden is enclosed by a 400 foot long wall topped by undulating snakes which are decorated with colorful mosaics.

In addition to glass of various color, translucency and degrees of reflection, the artist also used a variety of polished and tumbled stones.

The sculptures are truly mind boggling.

I can't imagine the amount of work required to bring the artist's creations to their mosaic glory. (I understand there was a team of workers to do that.)

More of the wall. Those snakes look pretty scary.

This is Queen Califia herself riding astride her 13 foot tall, five legged eagle. Wow!

It even looks pretty cool reflected in one of the mirrors on the maze wall.

It is really an incredible feast for the eyes. I recommend it highly if you are ever in the Escondido area. Pictures just don't do it justice.

The garden is open Tuesday-Sunday - closed Mondays and rainy days. For docent tours and information, call 760-839-4691. To see the website click here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Wedding!

As I mentioned in the previous post, last week we were in southern California for Ron's daughter Kelli's wedding to Sean. I don't know if I've ever seen two people who are so perfect for each other. They are both so special and Ron and I are so happy for them.

But first, a shot of the ubiquitous (there's a 25 cent word) ice plant, seen everywhere in coastal southern California, especially in intersections. They sure are pretty, although I hear not everyone is happy with them since they're non-native.

And a couple of trains for my father.

They were going about a billion miles an hour, so a little blurriness can be forgiven.

On to the wedding.

Here's Kelli having her hair done. If you look closely, you can see she's munching on a 'wedding cookie' - how appropriate.

Flower girl Shannon took her duties very seriously. Ring attendant Adam was very supportive and took good care of the rings.

That rehearsal paid off as father-of-the-bride Ron walked his baby Kelli down the aisle.

The ceremony was held on a deck overlooking the ocean and the weather couldn't have been better. However it did make it challenging to take pictures into the sun.

Later the official photographer took some posed pictures which I (again shamelessly) piggybacked onto. His will be much better, I'm sure. Here's Ron with his new son-in-law and all three of his children (although they're hardly children.)

And we wouldn't want to ignore his 'old' son-in-law Tom so here he is with his family.

Ron and I posed in front of the sun setting over the ocean, which you can't see.
It was a lovely day and a wonderful beginning of Kelli and Sean's future together.

Funny story - While the bridesmaids were dressing, I received a phone call that there had been a 'wardrobe malfunction.' With pins and a pocket sewing kit, I rushed to help, thinking a seam repair or something similar. Well, it wasn't that simple. The zipper on Amy's dress had come apart with the zipper tab at the top of the zipper. We tried holding it together and unzipping it to try to get the teeth to reconnect, but it wasn't budging. What to do. The only thing I could think was to sew the zipper closed, thereby sewing poor Amy into her dress. Amy, who was unbelievably calm throughout this catastrophe, said, "Go ahead." So I did. I think I was more nervous about it holding than she was. The last time I saw her that evening, she was dancing with lots of enthusiasm. I did feel good that I was able to contribute to the wedding - everybody likes to feel needed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quick Trip

This past Friday, we had a very happy occasion. No, it wasn't the wedding in England, but a wedding that was nearer and dearer to our hearts. Kelli, Ron's daughter, married Sean at a very nice resort overlooking the beach in Del Mar, CA.

Here is the lovely bride on the day before the big event . . .

And matron-of-honor Kim, flower girl Shannon, and ring attendant Adam.

I was totally wowed by our room in the hotel/resort. I'm a simple girl, you know.

I could live in this room. It even has little homey touches like books and knickknacks, but no microwave.

And the only refrigerator is stocked with very pricey goodies.

Check out the prices.
Are they serious? $8 for Jelly Bellies?

They even had a picture of Ron and me on the nightstand. (Don't I wish?)

I took a walk down to the beach - what a gorgeous day!

Then it was time for the wedding rehearsal. Ron was a natural at his father-of-the-bride bit.

Kelli looks a little doubtful here.

The attendants look ready for anything.

Sean's such a good sport. How many guys would be caught holding that girly ribbon bouquet?

Next posting - THE WEDDING!