Category Archives: Sights

Giddying Up To Mud Caves with Ranger Don

IMG_8973Katie and I went to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park just a little under 4 hours away from Los Angeles for a weekend getaway. We arrived late in the evening at my friend’s place in Borrego Springs, super close to everything that we wanted to see. I have to say that I absolutely love the Anza-Borrego Desert. Only having been there once before I couldn’t wait to start exploring the desert again.

The next morning we woke up early and took a quick look at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Interpretive Activities. We headed out to Mt. Palm Springs Camp Ground to meet with Ranger Don for an Auto Tour to the mud caves of Arroyo Tapiado. Along the way our phones went in and out of service, but the route was very straight forward and clearly marked except for the final camp ground turn off.

Ranger Don was late due to some kids that were digging a trench in order to film a desert scene in their movie, but once he was there he was ready to go and so excited to show us the mud caves and his section of the park. He spoke to us for a few moments letting us know that we could ask him anything about the park or his job or anything related. Then we all jumped in our cars and followed Ranger Don to the dirt road that led to the mud caves.

Since Katie and I were driving her 2×4 truck we opted to stay right behind Ranger Don. He headed out of the camp ground and didn’t waste any time reaching the dirt road that takes us to the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves. He pulled off the road and let everyone else catch up, then headed down the dirt road and out toward the caves. Pretty much every path reconnected with the original path except at one main turn and then once in the canyon there was only one way to go. It was so much fun!

Being that we were keeping right up with Ranger Don and the rest of the group was falling behind, occasionally Ranger Don would stop his jeep and come talk to us while the others caught up. He reminded us that since we didn’t have a 4×4 if we felt like we were gonna get stuck we should just step on the gas and “giddy up through it.” He also pointed out a little campground Hollywood and Vine that we might camp at sometime this winter and the cave where the young man had recently gotten trapped inside and died. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, the mud caves really are very fragile. They might look intriguing, but it is advised not to go exploring these caves as they can collapse at any time making rescue difficult to impossible. It really was an unfortunate event that they were unable to rescue this young man.

Eventually, we reached the main Arroyo Tapiado mud caves. The first mud cave we saw Ranger Don chose not to have us explore inside. It was right beside a plaque that told us all about the caves which are just walls of dried mud. Over centuries water has been sculpting these canyons and caves and rains and flash floods continue to form and change the tunnels today. Ranger Don told us that according to Google there are about 22 mud caves in the area. He took us to a three that he hadn’t explored in a few years.

The first mud cave that we explored had a small opening about 4ft tall to 4ft wide. We ducked under the low ceiling and came out into a tunnel that was pretty tall. As we followed the tunnel the path it became pitch black. Good thing we had borrowed Ranger Don’s flash light or we would not have been able to see anything. The cave become narrow in some sections and wider in others. Some places you had to climb over, duck under or scurry around to continue into the darkness. It seemed to go on and on forever. We eventually decided that the others were waiting for us so we headed back to the beginning of the tunnel.

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Ranger Don told us that some of the mud caves go straight through the mountains and come out the other side in complete darkness while others end up on the top of the mountains and have openings along the way. It all just depends on which you explore. He took us to the next cave which the entrance had been blocked by a huge chunk of stone that had fallen from above. I squeezed underneath and came to a short pathway that led back into a big open room with a large opening at the top. If it wasn’t just dried mud it would have been a rock climber’s dream. I could only think that when it rained water might run down the wall similar to a waterfall. There was one small tunnel to the side, but the slit was so small no one of our group could fit through it.

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The last mud cave we explored had extremely high walls and many open ceilings. It was beautiful. We left the group for a moment and followed the path back where dried mud walls would slant across the path and we would dip beneath them for a few moments and soon be in another open section. It was interesting to see how the mud sat in layers within the walls and bubbled in others. Realizing we had been gone for a while we hurried back to the entrance to say our goodbyes to Ranger Don. I got a picture with him and his truck and then we followed him back out to the main road.

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I have to say Katie and I had a great time that day and for not having had much desert driving experience Katie did an awesome job driving and following Ranger Don. By the end of our tour we had ear to ear smiles and Ranger Don was a big party of it! I am so grateful that the Rangers at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park make time for visitors and truly enjoy showing guests around the area.

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Joshua Tree Visitor Center

IMG_8973While at Joshua Tree National Park I stopped by the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center near the west entrance to the park early in the morning to see if there was anything I should know before I started my exploration that day. It was quite busy for a Monday, but the customers seemed to only be interested in the store section of the center. I decided to take a look at the other side.

I started by checking out the map on the wall to get my bearings to see if there were any other small hikes that I could explore on my own, but only came up with the few I already had in mind. Then I spent a little time watching a video about the older days of the park. Last, I took a look at Lichenologist, Kerry Knudsen‘s inventory of lichen that can be found through out the park. Currently, he has found 145 different species of lichen in the park.

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By the time I was finished study the knowledge part of the center most of the customers had left. I took a few moments to see what they had for sale and eventually decided to leave without speaking with the employees. I’m sure they would have been able to give me very knowledgable information had I asked, but I was excited to get my day started.

Next time your at Joshua Tree National Park, stop by the visitor center and see what they have in store for that week. Who knows, if your timing is right maybe you can join one of their guided tours or catch a short patio talk by a park ranger to learn even more about the park. Next time I go back I’m for sure going to schedule a Ranger Program such as their Keys Ranch Tour.

Coyote Corner in Joshua Tree

IMG_8973While at Joshua Tree National Park I wanted to check out the main store I had heard about and saw online. I believe this shop is the best and possibly only place to stop for souvenirs, Coyote Corner Joshua Tree National Park Store. This unique gift shop has everything from camping and hiking gear to desert candy to all types of Joshua Tree National Park logo apparel. They also have firewood for purchase, offer showering facilities, and give out information about the park. If they don’t know the answer I’m sure they would direct you to the visitor’s center across the street.

I pulled up to the store located off route 62 near the west entrance to the park pretty early in the day and parked right out front. The front steps and porch were covered in merchandise. I walked inside and it was packed, not with people but with more items to purchase. Without much room to move I looked around the small store a bit finding an interesting article on a love story in the area.

As I continued to explore the store I stumbled upon some childrens’ science toys and found a dinosaur egg that you excavate to reach the bones hidden within. It was so cool that I couldn’t resist and bought one. I found some candy such as coyote and tortoise poop and rattlesnake eggs, at least I hope it was candy, and then I found the sweatshirts with the Joshua Tree logo on them. I was only interested in the blue and purple one so I asked the cashier if they had my size in the back. They did, so I made my purchases and left the store noting that it would be a great one to come back to next time I was in the area.

If you need any souvenirs while you’re at the park this is the place to stop. You’ll find special gifts for people of all ages, young and old. No need to go anywhere else.

Keys View in Joshua Tree

IMG_8973Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park is a quick stop that everyone should check out. While it’s not the closest to everything else in the park, it  is definitely worth the drive. Turn south off the main east-west road, out past Lost Horse Mine and to the end of the road. You will literally drive right into Keys View. It has ample parking and a restroom for you to enjoy your stop whether you only plan to stay for a few minutes or a few hours.

Keys View overlooks 50 miles of the Coachella Valley it’s gorgeous whether you are visiting at sunrise, midday, or sunset. From the overlook, you can see a few cities and landmarks. The main ones are the Salton Sea which is to the southeast 35 miles away and 235 feet below sea level. Moving west across the view is the Signal Mountain 95 miles away near the U.S.-Mexican border. Continuing further west is Indio, directly south and the center of the upper Coachella Valley. Next, to the southwest is Palm Springs followed by the Gorgonio Pass where the smog-filled air comes into Coachella Valley from southern California. Last is the San Gorgonio Mountain, the tallest point in southern California.

Keys View has a short .25 mile nature trail that loops from the parking area to the top of the valley and back with a couple of amazing views along the way. Stay for as long as or short of a time as you wish. I actually went twice while I was at Joshua Tree National Park. Once at sunset and once during midday. Both times the view was absolutely beautiful. During the day time I could see all the way to Signal Mountain and could even make out the Salton Sea it was so clear. In the evening the haze had rolled in adding depth and different colors to an already breathtaking sunset. As the sunset further the cities began to light up. It was easy to make out which was which.

Climbing Jumbo Rocks

IMG_8973Jumbo Rocks is one of nine campgrounds located at Joshua Tree National Park. My friend and I stopped there for a picnic lunch during our visit. We drove around the campground for a bit and eventually found an empty site to rest. The site, like most of them in the park, was right up against some rocks. It would have been so awesome to camp there. Too bad all the sites were full the weekend we wanted to camp. We’re just gonna have to try another weekend.

We ate our lunch while listening to the white-tailed antelope squirrels scuffle in the bushes near by. They weren’t confident enough to come ask for any of our food, which was sad, but also a good thing. It means campers aren’t feeding them and they are still able to find their own meals in the park without relying on the humans. We also watched as some lizards chased each other around the rocks, stopping to bask in the sun.

We finished our lunch and decided to check out the area a bit. We climbed up the nearest rock and could see trails leading around and through the campground. I found a rock with hand and foot holes that could be used to get to the top. I decided to give it a try and then realized how unsafe it was and found another way up to the top instead. We also found some impressions in the rocks and laid down to look at the sky. It was so blue and clear. You could see for miles. What a beautiful day!

We cut our exploring short because we had a couple trails we wanted to check out and as we  drove out of the campground we realized that there were a lot of free sites. So, if you want to camp in Joshua Tree National Park and can’t get there early Friday or  Saturday morning to claim a spot, try Sunday, not on a holiday weekend, and you shouldn’t have a problem.

© Caroline Foley
© Caroline Foley

 

 

The Sassiest Rock in the Park Skull Rock

IMG_8973As my friend and I drove through Joshua Tree National Park, one of our main stops was to see Skull Rock. This rock is located right off the main east-west road, Park Blvd, near Jumbo Rocks campground. You don’t even have to hike to see it, reach it, explore it, or climb all over it. Parking is all along the street with two main paved pull offs on each side of the road with spots marked. If those are full, feel free to park in the dirt closer to the rock and on either side of the road as well.

If you haven’t guessed it yet Skull Rock resembles a huge skull. The eye sockets and nose that we see have been eroding over hundreds of years. Rain drops must have gathered in tiny depressions in the rock and started to erode the granite. Over time more and more granite was washed away. We can clearly see the two hollowed-out eye sockets and nose impression that resemble a skull today.

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Looking at Skull Rock directly from the road he appears to be hiding behind his hands. Maybe one of those hands is a little inappropriate for children, but most people will just chalk it up to his sassiness. As you walk up the trail and closer you can see just how massive this rock really is. His eye sockets are big enough to fit a whole family inside them and if you have the right footwear and are pretty athletic you might be able to scramble up Skull Rock’s face and sit inside his eye for a photo opportunity. If you can’t make it to the left eye don’t be discouraged it is a tricky climb with basically nothing to hold onto. And to be honest, who wants to be stuck in an eye all day trying to figure out how to get down or waiting for the park employees to come and save you? No one! So if you can’t make it to the eye socket on the left eye, try the right eye. Most people can reach the ledge just below the eye on this side.

Skull Rock, the sassiest rock in the park, is definitely one of the main attractions in the park with many visitors coming to see it from all parts of the world. We were only there for a short time, but it was full of people from the moment we pulled our car off the main road until the moment we drove away.  Many small groups with people of all ages, young and old, were sharing the Skull Rock experience with us. I wonder if they spent more time than we had as there is a 1.7 mile nature trail to be explored if you wish to extend your stay at Skull Rock and the Jumbo Rocks campground. According to the National Park Service website it begins either just across from the entrance to Jumbo Rocks campground or inside the campground, across from the amphitheater. I’m sure many did check out the nature trail and I plan on getting back to Joshua Tree someday soon  and trying that hike too.

World’s Biggest Dinosaurs in Cabazon

IMG_8973About an hour outside of Los Angeles is where The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs were built 30 years ago. At that time the Cabazon Dinosaurs  were the only thing out in the middle of nowhere with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. Today they are surrounded by a few small stores and have a dinosaur museum where you can walk through the gardens learning how archaeologists unearth dinosaur bones, hear different dinosaurs’ roar, and even climb inside T-Rex. One weekend on my way to Palm Springs I decided to check them out.

IMG_8971The Cabazon Dinosaurs are seen by over 12,000,000 people a year as they drive past on the 10 and are commonly seen in commercials, music videos, and films, including the 1980’s films Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and The Wizard. The apatosaurus, formerly known as the brontosaurus, took 11 years to build while the T-Rex took 7 years. The apatosaurus or Ms. Dinny is the biggest dinosaur in the world and has a small gift shop in her belly, while T-Rex or Mr. Rex can be climbed with a $9 admissions ticket to the dinosaur museum behind him.

My friend and I decided to check the museum out while we were there. We dug for dinosaur bones in the sand, and I walked away with a free prize, sifted through rocks with water to find gems we liked, walked through the dinosaur garden, listened to the dinosaurs roar, and hoped that something would move. Unfortunately nothing moved the day we were there, but we inspected the dinosaurs up close and came to the conclusion that either they used to move and no longer do or they were just turned off because it was late in the day.

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The real reason we went into the museum was to climb inside Mr. Rex and as we arrived at the base of his tail our excitement grew. We walked up the long ramp and entered into a blood red room. It was so cool. It really looked like what you would expect the inside of a dinosaur to look like, kinda gross. We walked up the first flight of stairs and could see piles of what we could only assume were partially digested food. We headed up another flight and came to a spiral staircase. We carefully climbed the spiral case and next thing we knew we were inside Mr. Rex’s head! We could see his mouth and teeth and the light shining through the inside of his eyes. As I stepped into his mouth I hoped Mr. Rex’s bottom jaw would hold up under our weight. He didn’t look super sturdy and I had seen him shift a little in the wind from below. I looked out through his jagged teeth, it was a little scary to look down and see how high you were, but the view of Ms. Dinny and the mountains were beautiful. I would definitely recommend going to the museum if you are in the area to check it out. It was so much fun!

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Surfing Surf Shops

IMG_8973On my trek back from San Diego to Los Angeles I decided that I would make a day out of checking out the surf shops from Torrey Pines to Oceanside, ending at California Surf Museum. Unsure how many stops I would have to make and how much time it would take I started my journey.

Now Torrey Pines actually doesn’t have any surf shops. My quick drive through was only to put me on the correct road, S21 also known as HWY 101. I continued through Del Mar which is also surf shop free and into Solana Beach where my first stop was a chain store, Surf Ride. They had this book, Everything I Know About Dating I Learned Through Surfing, which I thought was super cute, funny and just made me smile. I left after purchasing some Zinc for my trip in a couple weeks and continued on my way.

My next stop was Mitch’s Surf Shop, which has been around since 1967. This is the kind of shop I was interested in seeing. Something local. The inside was pretty packed and they had strung Christmas lights around which I thought was pretty unique. I found a surf movie that I had been searching for for a while, Dear & Yonder. I thought about purchasing it, but decided against it. I was on a journey to explore the surf shops, not purchase something from each shop.

The following stop was Hansen Surfboards which was a huge chain store that had almost everything you could think of. It had two stores, one for just surf stuff and another for clothing, skate and ski and snowboarding stuff. In the back of their parking lot they also had an outdoor ski and snowboard area where you could take lessons.

I continued into Encinitas and immediately ran into Encinitas Surfboards. This place was super small and so packed I could barely move. The employees were actually the nicest out of any store that I came across that day. He asked me if he could help and when I told him I was just looking he gave me space and told me to find him if I needed anything. I felt very respected.

Then there was Bing Surfboards, which didn’t have much inside. I think they actually make custom boards. The employee and another customer were talking about the way one of their signature boards feels in the water. I eavesdropped for a bit and then headed on my way.

Surfy Surfy Surf Shop was next. The employees in this shop were also very nice. They had really cool surfboard art work, lots of open space, and I think they even might do repairs as I saw one of the guys  outside in the back working on a board as I walked around the building and into the store.

       

I missed Progression Surf so I back tracked to check it out. It looked just like every other surf shop by that point and I was in much need of a break as checking out the different shops was becoming less and less appealing as the day progressed. Interesting pun there!

I stopped at San Elijo State Beach. There were some wooden stairs to climb down to the beach, people along the shore, and surfers out in the water. I decided to stay up top for a bit and then continued down the road to another spot. At that spot I sat down and listened to some music. I watched the birds cruise along the coastal bluffs and watched a lady feed the squirrels that lived there some food. They were so cute, so gentle, and some were more cautious than others. It brought back memories which made me smile a bit and then a little sad. I sat there a bit longer and then decided to head on my way.

My little break rejuvenated my spirit and I headed to Carlsbad to see the last few surf shops along my route. First up was Carlsbad Pipelines Surf Shop. There wasn’t much to see here. Reminded me of a beach shop with some added surf shop. However, the employees were friendly and nice.

I continued my journey to Raw Skin Surf Shack, which had surf and bike rentals. They also had these super cute rock art cards which I couldn’t help but wonder who made them and where I could get some other than there. They used rocks in the sand to make paw prints and also had rocks balanced on other rocks spelling out words such as love with the ocean crashing behind it. They were very inspiring.

I moved along to my final surf shop stop, Real Surf Shop. This shop was quite interesting. They were the only shop that I found that actually allowed you to take out the boards for sale and try them before deciding to buy them. I thought that was just a great idea! I think almost every surfer loves to try out a new board before they decide to buy it. See how it works, feels, moves in the water.

I got back in my car and made my way to my final destination, California Surf Museum. Turns out it closes at 4pm and I just missed the cut off, arriving a little after 4. Instead I headed to the pier. I watched some more surfers, saw a huge pelican, and walked to the end of the pier where I waited to see if any of the fishers could catch anything. They got nothing, so I headed back to the car. It was a nice day of exploration, next time maybe I’ll check the museum’s hours before I head that way so I don’t miss them again.

Sweet Memories of Loved Pets

photo-1414490929659-9a12b7e31907Biking down Wrigley Rd on Santa Catalina Island into Avalon my friend and I stumbled upon a super cute pet cemetery. I know what you are thinking Pet Cemetery! Don’t go in there. And had it been earlier in the year, it might have looked completely different, with dead dried out plants all around. Looking like evil stuff would happen at any minute. But it was the cutest, sweetest, thing I’ve seen in a long time and we almost coasted right past it. We stopped for a bit to explore, see what it was all about and rest for a bit.

There was everything from dogs to cats to fish to snakes to hamsters buried there. It started from the street and had two paths that led toward the back. On one side the wild flowers were starting to creep into and around the plots, which looked super pretty. The other side was all grassy and had a little stone path with a wooden bench to sit and share time there.

The grave stones were super cute too. Some were just crosses with names on them while other were handmade, painted and designed. Some were stones that must have been ordered from companies as well. It’s amazing what people will do to remember a loved pet. Most of them had cute sayings, such as “Will RIP You were a great fish,” “Rozz a good friend,”and “ET a sweet Catalina cat.” I wish Los Angeles had a place like this.

       

Bubbling Mud Volcanoes at Salton Sea

IMG_8490These bubbling Geothermal Mud Volcanoes at the Salton Sea were so cool! I put in the address to my GPS and followed it until I couldn’t anymore. People had said that they were a far walk and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for so I turned down a street and started to drive. I saw a rabbit and a roadrunner. I decided I must have missed them so I turned around and drove back to where I was. There was a car along the side of the road with two people coming back from these small mountains. That must be them.

I walked out across the dirt to the small mountains of mud. I could hear them plop and bubble from a good distance away. It was so funny. The big fat mounds made low sounds while the skinny closed mounds made higher crackling sounds. They all had little pools of water or mud at their bases. The ones with water were bubbling ferociously while the ones with mud were much slower and more relaxed. A couple and their dog joined me. We talked a bit while exploring, going from mountain to mountain, not getting to close for fear of falling in, getting stuck, or the earth falling out from underneath us. The man kept saying that they were not the ones he had been to before, but we didn’t see any others anywhere near us. We walked around some mud and their dog stepped in it leaving little paw prints. We walked up the non-water side base of one and reached in to feel the heat. Nope, this one is cool, but the next ones we came across had steam rising from them.

IMG_8503The couple took off and I stayed a bit longer, another group joined me and were exploring a little. I over heard them mentioned something about a “No Trespassing” sign. I must have missed that. I took a few more pictures, pleased with my brief experience and decided to head onto my next adventure. I walked out the way everyone else walked in and there was the sign. Well, if you put it way over there no wonder I didn’t see it. I got in my car thinking, ‘What an interesting phenomenon these geothermal mud volcanoes are.’

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