Friday, April 29, 2011

Inyokern/Ridgecrest, CA area

Yellow as far as you could see South of Ridgecrest along Hwy395

I had been reading some of the local tourist brochures for Kern county and kept seeing neat things in Ridgecrest so I wanted to make a stop there.   I stayed in a Passport RV park in Inyokern and set out to see the sights in Ridgecrest 9 miles away.   My first stop was at their museum, the lady there was very helpful but when I wondered into the one room museum section while I was waiting for her to bring me literature she told me I had to make a $5 donation to see the museum part.  Thinking that it isn’t a donation if it is mandatory .. I left.
Yellow desert south of InyoKern off Hwy 14

Next stop was the BLM office as the lady at the museum told me they would have the information on dispersed camping areas going north.   The lady there wouldn’t even get up to come to the counter to speak with me.  I was quite disappointed in Ridgecrest.  The flowers around Ridgecrest however, were fabulous.  North & South of Ridgecrest were miles and miles of desert filled with yellow wildflowers.  The desert behind the RV park I was in had all different  kinds of flowers in it.   Every day I would see a new type of flower that I had not seen before.  It was very cool.   I spent 3 days here checking out canyons and scenic drives.  I didn’t make it too the Trona Pinnacles or the BLM Wild Horse place or to Lake Isabelle which are on the ‘official’ do not miss list for the area but I was so taken by the wildflowers, I was more than content with what I saw.
Yellow desert, Joshua Trees and funky rocks at Red Rock Canyon SP

I did visit Red Rock Canyon State Park and enjoyed all the very weird rock formations.  It was kind of like a gray Bryce Canyon in some places. I did take a trip down to Randsburg, which is billed as a ‘living ghost town’ .. I saw no one living while I was there.  It was after 5 which may have been the problem, the other is I was just more interested in nature’s show that was going on at the time.
More funky rocks at Red Rocks Canyon SP

Red Rocks Canyon

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Desert Solitaire - California BLM Style

View from one of the many 4WD roads in Jawbone

Wow, look at all this space, not another rig in sight ...  and it's free!  As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge boondocker, I am actually kind of a RV Park snob.  I like RV Park full hook-ups, level concrete pads, wifi and a hot tub to put my feet in.  I will stay in Walmart Hiltons, rest areas & truck stops when traveling between destinations but usually only do so for a couple days at a time.  I don't think I have ever just gone & camped in the middle of nowhere, by myself with no cell, wifi or TV service on purpose until now.  Its actually kind of an adrenaline rush .. kind of a .. stepping out, scary but exciting kind of feeling.  I am actually within view of a paved road, but I am 3 miles from the main road which is Hwy 14 north of Mohave, CA.  



Just a partial view of the spot we were in!
I am in the Jawbone Canyon OHV Recreation area, where yesterday (Saturday) the place had been packed with Toy Haulers, dirt bikes and dune buggies.  I have pulled in on Sunday afternoon and the place is empty.  No rigs between me & the highway and one or two rigs at that are at least two miles further into the canyon.  The dispersed camping site I am in could hold 6 - 7 rigs.

It is kind of weird to look around and just see nature and no people for hours.   I am a pretty social person and very used to having neighbors in rigs usually less than 20' away from me at all times.  There is always someone to wave at or say hi too.  Not here... just me, Dog and the desert.  I should sit and write, read or take a hike or _do_ something but instead I decide to just be.  Just sit & take it all in, the silence, the flowers, the shadows on the mountains from the changing position of the sun.   I let my mind drift to Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" and ponder the differences between here and Utah.  I watch all the phases of the sunset and finally head in when it starts getting cool.  The moon is out tonight and is very bright so not as many stars as I hoped I would see, but I find the moonlight a bit comforting.   
Poppies at Jawbone
My mother has always told me that if I stay out in the middle of no where that someone will come and get me.   I always assure her that no one wants to drive 40 miles from the nearest town to come and get me.  She is more likely to be ‘gotten’ in the city than I am 40 miles out of a town.  None the less...  I listen carefully as I sit and read, ready to act if I need to.  I hear nothing, not a bird, coyote, wind, nothing .. it’s kind of weird but I am liking it.  Maybe this boondocking thing isn’t so bad.  Now if the axe murderer doesn’t get me overnight I might try this again!
Alas, we lived to see another day, sightsee in the canyon and stay another night.  :-)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Antelope Valley Poppies



A couple years ago when I was at Antelope Canyon, I saw pictures in a book of the Antelope Valley Poppies.  They were beautiful and I immediately added a spring visit to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve on my bucket list.   This year it just happened that my neighbors for the winter, Dick and Rosie, make their home in Antelope Valley near Lancaster, California and invited me to park my rig at their home and take me Poppy hunting in early April.   Poppies, a spot to park and a local guide AND dog could go too... is there a cloud higher than cloud nine!?  :-)

The trick with poppies is that they are very particular.   They need the right amounts of water, sun and temperatures, at the right times, to grow.  But then even if they grow they don't open if it is too cloudy or too windy.  Some of the reports from the Poppy Reserve were that the season was disappointing and that the flowers were few.  The day we set aside to go started on the both the windy & cloudy side, but as we got a little bit out of town we had glimpses of blue and sunshine breaking through the clouds.   Since the Antelope Poppy Reserve reports weren't so good we headed a couple miles to the north of there on Avenue D to see what we could see.   I was delighted when we saw our first patch of orange, even though the poppies were closed up tight in the wind I was thrilled.    Our next stop had even more poppies but they were mostly closed.  Next we headed down a two track to check out some yellow that we saw by a hillside and wow, the yellows in themselves were spectacular but there were also orange poppies at some of the places & now that the skies had cleared they were beginning to open up.   It was beautiful!  I would have been content with that spot but we continued past fields of colors sometimes yellows, some white & some poppies.  Finally, after a little trek on a dirt road we came to a huuuggee swath of poppies all open and glimmering in the sun.   It was breathtaking!  Poppies as far as we could see, blue skies, sunshine and mountains in distance.  You couldn't ask for a much more beautiful sight.  Check mark for this bucket list item....   Thanks Dick & Rosie!



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yucaipa and Oak Glen, CA



Our first stop after leaving Palm Springs was just up the road about 50 miles to the west on I-10 in the city of Yucaipa.   We stayed at the Yucaipa Regional County Park which cost $35 for full hookups which I thought was a bit steep for a County park, but it was definitely a nice park.  We had a large site with lots of grass.   Dog thought she was in heaven after 5 months of living on a gravel lot!   Palm Springs is on the east side of the mountains and it is definitely desert but as soon as you go through Banning Pass to the west everything is green again.   My body was just sucking in the green.  Flowers were blooming throughout the park which coupled with the green grass .. made me feel like I was almost in heaven!  :-)
We took a day trip up to Big Bear, saw the lake and checked out the shopping in the little town.  I probably liked the winding drive through the mountain roads to get there best of all though.  The next morning we visited Oak Glen which is a cute little town about 10 miles to the east of Yucaipa where they have apple and cherry orchards.  I was hoping they would be in bloom but it was a little bit too early.   This town has many shops, stores and restaurants mostly related to apples.   Dog ran into a Goat while shopping in this town earlier in the year!  A must - stop here for me is Mom’s Country Orchards.  The gals there will keep you busy tasting probably 40 different kinds of jams, jellies and preserves.  Their Mitsu apples are great and we love the Multigrain Sourdough bread.  Dog loves this place cause she gets treats and pets.  I have to say the gal here is one of the most welcoming shop keepers of any place I have been (for real) and for that reason alone I will keep going back and checking out what they have.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wintering in Palm Springs


View of the Coachella Valley from the top of the tram
Well, well where to start?  After 6 years of wintering in the tip of Texas, wintering in the Palm Springs area  was quite a change.   Instead of Pickups and Border patrol vehicles, there were Benz's, Bmer's and Jag's. I have seen more high end vehicles than I had seen in my entire life during the last 5 months.  Gas prices from TX to CA made the 'Pick-up to Mercedes' kind of leap as well!  Other than gas, food and other cost here really weren't outrageous.  Like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Palm Springs sits in a valley that is a series of smaller cities.  It is hard to know where one city ends and the other starts. Palm Springs is in the Coachella Valley. Many a movie star, politician and millionaire have visited or lived in the Coachella Valley  ... and then there is me & Dog, none of those just yet! :-)   After not being allowed to stay at a park in Indio at the east end of the Valley, I found the Sands RV & Golf Resort in Desert Hot Springs .. nice park on the 'wrong side of the tracks'.  Wrong side meaning the windy, north side of I-10.   The good thing about being on the windy side of I-10 is that the RV Park prices are actually reasonable enough for non-millionaires to stay in and when the roads aren't closed from blowing sand, you can go to Palm Springs and enjoy a fabulous day out of the wind.

LaQuinta, CA Arts Festival Grounds
I found lots to do in the area and despite spending almost 5 months here, didn't get to do it all.  One of the things that I enjoyed was the Palm Springs Tram which goes up to 8500' to the San Jacinto State park.   There was snow up there the entire winter and you could snow shoe, sled or cross country ski all while looking out over the desert.  I had a great time enjoying the snow up there on Christmas Eve morning, then came back down and enjoyed my shorts and 70 degrees the rest of the day.

Downtown Palm Springs has many restaurants, sidewalk cafe's, shops, galleries and such to enjoy.   Every Thursday evening there is a street fair called the Villagefest with many different kinds of venders and entertainment.  The venders that let you taste their bakery and food items were my favorites to visit!  The Coachella has all kinds of fests and entertainment that come through.  The local casino's host all the big name concerts.   The Southwest Arts Festival was my favorite of the fests.  The Palm Springs Follies, where all of the entertainers are over 55 made for a wonderful evening out as well.

I could go on and on and on about the events, hiking areas, mountain towns, the Salton Sea and golf courses but just don't have enough space for that.   I will suffice to say that in spite of the windy day here and there, that this is a great place to spend the winter.

While I truly missed my friends back in Texas, I met some great folks here, made some new friends and enjoyed having new adventures.  

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