San Diego 2016: Cabrillo NM

My trip to San Diego began early, with a 5:00 am flight, but fortunately, I didn’t get the in-depth groping from the TSA agent that my girlfriend received. Something about the waistband of her pants made her seem like a terrorist, so she got more action than a prostitute in a lumber camp… I jest, but they really did give her the once over (more like twice or thrice over!), and she was not happy. It all seemed like a bit much for 3:45 in the morning…  What we do for the love of travel…

Our two flights were non-eventful, and we got to San Diego at about 9:30 in the morning, where we waited for ages for our rental car! It was easily the most banged up rental car I’ve ever seen!  I wasn’t going to have to worry about a scratch that we put on it! I put X’s and O’s all over the little diagram where it asks you to document any existing damage and took pictures of the car with my phone, and then we were on our way.

We checked into our hotel, but our room wasn’t ready yet so we changed into shorts, stashed our luggage with the bellman and made our way to Cabrillo National Monument!

Me! I loved this sign with its ship!

Me! I loved this sign with its ship!

Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the first exploration of San Diego Bay and the West Coast by Europeans: Spaniard Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.  Cabrillo had been a part of the group of Spanish conquistadors that landed in Mexico and wiped out the Aztecs.  After that Cabrillo settled in Guatemala, where he was given vast land holdings, but his spirit of adventure caught up with him and he was selected for a mission to explore the West Coast.

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

The three ships in Cabrillo’s expedition landed at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542, likely at the spot known as Ballast Point (the Ballast Point brewery is named after this spot, and their Grapefruit Sculpin is excellent by the way…).  They declared it an excellent port, and Cabrillo named is San Miguel.  The name was changed to San Diego about 60 years later.  Cabrillo continued north to Monterey Bay, and it is speculated that he got as far north as Point Reyes before bad weather forced a turn back south.  The expedition wintered in the Channel Islands, where Cabrillo died on January 3, 1543, after a scuffle with the local Native Americans caused him to fall and shatter a limb.

A view of the water at Cabrillo National Monument

A view of the water at Cabrillo National Monument.

 

A Pelican flying at Cabrillo National Monument

A Pelican flying at Cabrillo National Monument.

The monument was designated by a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1913; the original purpose was both to commemorate Cabrillo’s landing and to protect the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1855.  Approximately 877,951 visitors come here each year.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse - Built 1855 - Third Order Fresnel Lens

Old Point Loma Lighthouse – Built 1855 – Third Order Fresnel Lens

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was first lit on November 15, 1855, and guided sailors into San Diego Bay for 36 years from its perch 422 feet above sea level.  But on March 23, 1891, the third order Fresnel lens was extinguished for the last time, and a new light took over, built closer to sea level.  The problem with the Old Point Loma Light was that they hadn’t realized when building it that the heavy fog in San Diego often obscured that light that far from sea level.  Oops…  But the lighthouse remains, and it is now open to the public.  I went into the Lighthouse and saw the restored keeper’s quarters and various rooms, and was able to peek into the tower from below.  I have heard that they open up the tower one day a year to the public for visits, but otherwise it is protected by a metal grate.

The Third Order Fresnel lens in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse

The Third Order Fresnel lens in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

Cabrillo National Monument also has one of the best vantage points in the country for watching the annual Pacific Gray Whale migration; not far from the Lighthouse is a whale watching area where visitors flock in the winter.  We were there too late to see the whales, but we were able to see the Coronado Islands in Mexico off in the distance.  The view was spectacular!

The statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

The statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

Not far from the Lighthouse is a large statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo; it was placed there in 1988 after the original 1949 statue began to deteriorate from so many years of being exposed to the elements.  The statue was a popular place, with lots of tourists posing with it, or having their picture taken with the bay in the background.  My friends made a friend, a ground squirrel was clearly accustomed to being fed by the tourists.  We didn’t give in to his begging.

The very friendly ground squirrel who was looking for his next handout...

The very friendly ground squirrel who was looking for his next handout…

 

A cute lizard sunning himself near the Cabrillo NM Visitor's Center

A cute lizard sunning himself near the Cabrillo NM Visitor’s Center.

We took the path down closer to the water and watched the waves crash against the rocks.  Geologically, the rocks are formed from sandstone, shale and siltstone; they contain fossils of ocean dwelling mollusks, and dinosaur fossils have been found here as well.  It was neat to see how the ocean has carved these cliffs into very interesting patterns.  Visitors can also go further down and explore the tide pools and check out the creatures that inhabit them.

The waves have carved these rocks into some interesting shapes

The waves have carved these rocks into some interesting shapes.

 

Girlfriend selfie! Allysa is wearing the tiara for her birthday, more on that in an upcoming post.

Girlfriend selfie! Allysa is wearing the tiara for her birthday, more on that in an upcoming post.

On the way out, we got a view of the Rosecrans National Cemetery, with its perfectly straight rows of graves.  There is something so peaceful about cemeteries, I loved seeing this one in its perch high above the water.

Rosecrans National Cemetery, overlooking San Diego Bay

Rosecrans National Cemetery, overlooking San Diego Bay.

Cabrillo National Monument was a worthwhile afternoon outing – I loved it!

San Diego Sunshine

Just after Christmas, a friend of mine from my previous employer was talking about heading down to a conference in San Diego in April. We started discussing the idea of us flying down a bit early, and doing some touristing for a few days before her conference started. We also ended up inviting two other friends from that same former job. These three friends all happen to be turning 50 this year, and one turned 50 on the first day of the trip, so it seemed like a great opportunity to celebrate!

San Diego in April isn’t super-warm – mostly calling for temps in the mid to high 60s. Not really ideal pool or beach weather, so I planned some activities to keep us busy. I was trying to keep in mind that these ladies aren’t all as interested in history and nerdly pursuits as I am. It’s so hard to plan for so many personalities!

We had a great time all the same, and posts will begin shortly!

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

Beautiful Sunsets

I walked up to the University yesterday evening to watch the sunset.  It was beautiful!

Sunset at the University

Sunset at the University

The post-sunset sky

The post-sunset sky

 

It also made me reminisce on some of the other beautiful sunsets I’ve seen over the years.

The sunset turned a gorgeous pink later on...

Chincoteague Island, Virginia…

 

Harbor-Sunset-1

The Marina at Home

 

A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon Coast

 

Sunset at Gold Beach

Sunset at Gold Beach, Oregon Coast

 

A beautiful California sunset

Santa Monica, California

 

A spectacular Lake Michigan Sunset!

Sunset over Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

 

The Sunset at the Refuge was Fantastic

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, California

Sunset at Fort Casey

Sunset at Fort Casey, Washington

 

Desert Sunset

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

 

I know my future travels will add more beautiful sunsets.  Which one is your favorite? 

Joshua Tree 2015: A Rock Like a Skull!

My last day at Joshua Tree National Park was a half day, as I needed to get back to the airport and fly home.

I visited one of the most iconic rock formations – Skull Rock.  It really does look like a skull, with eye sockets and a nose and everything.  The area around Skull Rock has lots of fun rocks to climb on, and I took an opportunity to climb around with all the other tourists.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

 

Me with Skull Rock

Me with Skull Rock

Then I went over to Hidden Valley, which has a short one-mile nature walk through the rock formations.  Hidden Valley is so named because it was rumored to have been a place where cattle rustlers hid the cattle that they had stolen from nearby ranchers.  The location of the valley and its rock formations also made for a slightly cooler environment than other areas of the desert, meaning that it has a different ecosystem.  Oak, juniper and grasses grow here among the rocks.

A dead tree frames the rock formations in Hidden Valley

A dead tree frames the rock formations in Hidden Valley

The Hidden Valley Trail gave me one last opportunity to walk among and climb on the rocks.  It is a great trail for kids; an easy loop.

Me perched on a rock in Hidden Valley

Me perched on a rock in Hidden Valley

 

A raven stands watch at Joshua Tree

A raven stands watch at Joshua Tree

 

The raven takes off from his perch.

The raven takes off from his perch.

Hidden Valley is also an area where people try their hand (or feet!) at tightrope walking.  I was able to watch a few people walk across a line stretched between two rocks about 50 feet above the ground.  It looked terrifying!  It was really neat to watch, although I hope they were tethered with safety lines…  It looks like there’s one in the photos; I hope so!

A tightrope walker at Hidden Valley

A tightrope walker at Hidden Valley

All in all, I really enjoyed my time at Joshua Tree.  Even though it wasn’t really warm, the sun was shining and there was no rain!  What a fabulous long weekend!

Pelican Peek…

I’m still struggling with some tough times, and still finding it difficult to find the time or energy to blog.  Here’s a sneak peak of my recent visit to San Diego.  The last of Joshua Tree and more will be coming soon.  I hope all my blogosphere peeps are well!

A Pelican flying at Cabrillo National Monument

A Pelican flying at Cabrillo National Monument

Cheers!

Camille

Joshua Tree 2015: Gold and Horse Thieves

Day 2: December 6, 2015

Keys View

First thing in the morning I drove up to Keys View – a viewpoint within the park that offers 360 views of the desert and several unique features. Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are visible below, and I got a great view of the Salton Sea in the distance. Smog often conceals the view of Mexico, but the wind must have blown the smog away that morning, because I was able to see Signal Mountain, about 95 miles away, across the border to Mexico. It was a great view!

The view of the Coachella Valley

The view of the Coachella Valley

 

The Salton Sea, with Signal Mountain - 95 miles away in Mexico - in the top, distant center.

The Salton Sea, with Signal Mountain – 95 miles away in Mexico – in the top, distant center.

It was really cold though – the wind and exposed location made me glad that I had brought my hat and gloves! Winter in the desert can be cold, especially at higher elevations, and it wasn’t even a particularly cold day!

Lost Horse Mine – 4 miles RT

The Lost Horse Mine is aptly named. In 1890, Johnny Lang and his father brought their cattle to the Lost Horse Valley for grazing. One night, their horses disappeared, and they were able to track them to near the Keys Ranch, where they had a run-in with the McHaney Brothers, suspected cattle rustlers. The McHaneys told them their horses weren’t there.

Looking down on the Lost Horse Mine Trail.

Looking down on the Lost Horse Mine Trail.

Along the way, Lang made the acquaintance of another man, who had discovered gold in the area, but was afraid to develop the mine because of threats by the McHaneys. He sold his claim to Lang, who acquired three partners to offer protection, and started developing the mine. He purchased a two stamp mill, hauled it up the hill, and set up a line to bring steam up the hill to power the mine. The work was difficult; due to the remoteness of the site, a road had to be built to haul all the materials through several miles of undeveloped desert.

Mining Equipment at the Lost Horse Mine.

Mining Equipment at the Lost Horse Mine.

Unlike many other mines in the area, the Lost Horse mine was very successful. Eventually, Lang partnered with a Montana businessman, who brought a larger ten stamp mill to the site. Of course, at some point he realized that Johnny Lang was skimming profits off the top, as the day shift and the night shift were producing very different amounts of gold. He gave Lang the option to either be bought out or go to jail. Lang chose the buy-out, and kept prospecting nearby, until he died of exposure one winter. His body wasn’t found for a couple of months, and then was buried near Keys View Drive.

Some sort of gears overlooking the Lost Horse Mine.

Some sort of gears overlooking the Lost Horse Mine.

The Lost Horse Mine produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 of silver, more than $5 million in today’s dollars, over its lifetime. Not too shabby!

The head frame of the Lost Horse Mine.

The head frame of the Lost Horse Mine.

The hike is an out and back, two miles uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. It is a moderate hike, with views of the valley and a recent forest fire, as well as rock foundation ruins of various cabins and outbuildings in the area.

The view from the Lost Horse Mine

The view from the Lost Horse Mine

The mine threatened to cave in several years ago; the National Park Service tried a new innovative technique that involved filling the mine shafts with polyurethane foam, and then covering the foam with fill dirt to prevent it from disintegrating in the sun. They also built a new head frame over the main entrance to the mine. Despite all this however, the mine is still unstable, so there is a fence around the main entrance to prevent people from walking too close to the shaft.

The head frame of the Lost Horse Mine.

The head frame of the Lost Horse Mine.

After checking out the mine, I also hiked up to the top of the hill for a 360 view of the surrounding area. It was beautiful! I saw a small, orange butterfly there as well, he was such a pretty little guy! On the return hike I saw a small lizard, the only one I saw during my trip. Most of the reptiles in the park are in a state of hibernation in winter, so it isn’t typical to see them unless the temperatures are sufficiently warm.

A butterfly at the Lost Horse Mine.

A butterfly at the Lost Horse Mine.

 

A lizard on the Lost Horse Mine Trail.

A lizard on the Lost Horse Mine Trail.

After the Lost Horse Mine, I drove over to the boundary where the Mojave Desert meets the Colorado Desert. Near this spot is a place where the habitat is perfect for a type of cactus, the Teddy Bear Cholla. The name is misleading though, as the cholla is covered in thousands of tiny, hair-like spines that will quickly attach and then embed themselves under your skin, making for a very painful experience. This one area of the park has a “garden” of hundreds of cholla, making it look like they were intentionally planted here.

Teddy Bear Cholla

Teddy Bear Cholla

The walk in the cholla garden is not rigorous, and gives visitors a good overview of how these cacti grow and reproduce. There are even birds that love to nest in the cholla, because the spines give them protection from predators! A short distance away from the cholla garden, the desert provides habitat for ocotillo, a succulent that has long thin leaves stretching high over my head. These plants can appear dead for much of the year, coming back to life and blooming after a rain.

Ocotillo

Ocotillo

My evening included a trip for more pho; this time at the Red Lotus in Twenty-Nine Palms.  It was kind of fun to compare the pho at each place.  I liked the broth at the Yucca Valley pho restaurant better, but I liked the meat better here.  It was a good end to another good day.