Kicking it in San Diego, California – Part 2

Top on our list for choosing San Diego was, of course, our favorite resident. Our son Kevin moved there shortly after graduating from high school and has adopted it as his hometown.

Kevin Catches Me Taking a Candid Photo While Jon Shows Bailey Something on His New Phone.

We understand his choice given all the beaches, hiking trails, and nightlife that is available. And don’t forget the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park. Who wouldn’t want to live in this subtropical zone with high temperatures that range between 66 and 77 degrees and lows that dip between 49 and 67?

Sunset Beach

After a day of hanging out at the trailer, we met up with Kevin and his girlfriend Bailey Bishop for a walk along the cliffs at Sunset Beach. The popular spot draws people out of their homes and apartments to enjoy the last hour or two of the day before the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean. With clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s, we joined the fun.

Swimmers Check Out Conditions
Catching Dinner

When I stepped out of the car, moist ocean air reminded me of another reason I come to San Diego. The whiff of the ocean breeze and the moisture that settles on my skin provokes a sense of calm I rarely experience anywhere else.

Boulders Piled Up On Beach Prevent Cliff Erosion

I hadn’t realized I missed the beach so much. We would have stayed at Campland on the Bay Resort as usual if they had not raised their rates to $96.00 a night. La Mesa RV will have to do for future stays as long as I remember to visit the beach more often.

Beautiful Day at the Beach
Nice of This Pair to Pose for a Photo

Ocean Beach Brewery

Ocean Beach Brewery’s rooftop restaurant was another great place to watch the sunset from our bistro chairs and table we were fortunate to snag. The place was hopping when we arrived with barely any standing room near the bar.

Ocean Beach Brewery Rooftop. How Many Cell Phones do You Count?

Jon said the El Diablo double burger with a red onion spicy aioli on a brioche bun was the best he had ever eaten. I enjoyed the Mona Lisa, a marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted red pepper, fontina cheese, with a spread of spring mix basil pesto on a ciabatta roll. Crispy French fries and a glass of Hidden Gem Dunkelweizen on tap accompanied our dinner selections.

The Gulls

Kevin surprised us with tickets to the Gulls, an American Hockey League team affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. None of us knew anything about hockey, but with tickets around $20, it seemed like an inexpensive way to spend a few hours.

The San Diego Gulls on Ice

We watched with excitement as The Gulls managed a goal on the Tucson Roadrunners, then the Roadrunners scored, and back and forth, the players skated from one side of the rink to the other. With mere minutes left on the clock, the Gulls took advantage when the Roadrunners replaced their goalie with another player leaving their net vulnerable to attack. The Gulls pulled ahead and won the game when they easily shot the puck over the undefended Roadrunners goal line, not once, but twice. After this game, I might adopt hockey as a sport to follow in the future.

The Big Game

The Super Bowl is the one and only football game I watch each year, often hosting a party for friends and family. Our fifth wheel with it’s 32” television hardly has space for a party. Fortunately, Bailey’s parents invited us to join them for the big game.

Jon Watches the Game with Ray and Cherrie Bishop
Oops! Bailey Catches Me in the Act.

We were treated to a spread that included chips and queso, guacamole, and salsa; pulled pork sliders with a tangy slightly hot barbecue sauce and coleslaw to cool it down; and a variety of hot wings. These cute little football deviled eggs were delicious.

Cutest Little Deviled Eggs

Even after all that food, none of us could resist the Knock-You-Naked Brownies. They were gone before I had time to take a picture.

The Super Bowl for me isn’t at all about the game. It’s about the food, great company, halftime, and the commercials. The food and company was a hit, the halftime show entertaining, and a few commercials made me smile while I shook my head at others.

Although I’m not into football, I did find the game entertaining this year and managed to cheer along with everyone else when the Philadelphia Eagles won. Who could not wish a close game win for the underdogs? Maybe the gamblers who bet on the Patriots were peeved, but we were ecstatic.

Our San Diego stop had come to a close and it was time to say good-bye. The next day we hit the road headed east for who knows how long.

Safe Travels

Kicking Off 2018 Winter Tour in San Diego, Part 1

San Diego is a favorite destination for us so selecting the location for the kick-off of our 2018 Winter Tour on January 30, 2018, wasn’t difficult. During our stopover in San Diego, we searched for places we had never stumbled upon before.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park was our first pick. I’m glad past city leaders realized the benefit of setting aside a swath natural habitat for future generations to enjoy.  Although the town encroaches near the edges of the park, urbanites and visitors alike can spend a few hours in the wilderness and learn about the history of San Diego in the early 1800s.

We started at the Visitor Center located off Mission Gorge Road. After grabbing a map and discussing trails with the volunteer, we escaped the busload of school kids that had arrived shortly before we did.

Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center
Hello Up There

We drove directly to the Old Mission Dam, which is registered as both a National Historic Site and a California State Historic Landmark. Kumeyaay Indian laborers, under the supervision of engineers trained in Mexico, constructed the 250-foot dam to provide a year-round water supply for Spanish settlements.

Old Mission Dam

Construction consisted of cementing rocks and boulders together using mortar made of lime and crushed seashells. The dam created a reservoir that spanned the length of three football fields. A flume lined with hand-made tiles delivered water from the reservoir to the Mission San Diego De Alcala crops about three miles away and another 2.5 miles to the Mission. Today the reservoir is now a pond and the flume is no longer present.

Old Mission Dam

We followed the Oak Canyon trail along the San Diego River, through sagebrush, chaparral, oak trees, and grassland. Critters rustled through the underbrush as we approached and birds flew from grass to tree tops.

Bridge Across the River
Are You Coming?

Every once in a while, I forgot we were so close to an urban setting. Then a plane would fly overhead, the roar of the highway traffic would seep into my ears, or a semi would rattle its exhaust brakes as it slowed.

Stop Awhile and Rest in My Shade
Edible or Toxic?
Just a Puddle

At one point I heard rushing water. I picked up my pace at the prospect of seeing a waterfall or rapids in the desert environment. I knew it was just around the corner only to find more grass-covered hills. Around the next hill, still no water, nothing around the next hill either. Then I finally looked up.

High Tension Wires

What I heard was not the rush of water flowing but the rush of electricity through the high tension lines. Silly me.

There are 24 trails to explore in Mission Trails Regional Park with plenty of choices whether hikers prefer easy, moderate, or difficult levels. I envision future trips to San Diego so we can experience more of what the park has to offer.

Trolley Ride to Historic Downtown

The Trolley has existed since 1981, yet we had never jumped aboard.  I suspect the reason is due to the ease of getting around town in a vehicle. Since our RV site was adjacent to the 70th Street stop, we hopped on for a ride to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown.

The Trolley

A day pass was $5.00 plus $2.00 for a reusable Compass Card. We saved the Compass Card to use during our next trip to San Diego.

Craving tapas, we stopped in at Cafe Sevilla for a flight of sangria, bacon wrapped dates and empanadas. It turned out to be a great choice.

Cafe Sevilla’s Place Settings

The rich bacon wrapped dates melted in our mouths and the trio of empanadas contained generous helpings of meat wrapped inside. Next time I think we will stick to the traditional red sangria, although the apple and citrus glasses did have a crisp taste.

Yummy Bacon Wrapped Dates
A Flight of Sangria

Cafe Sevilla also offers Spanish music and dance lessons, making it a great place to have a birthday or anniversary party with family and friends.

Not Your Ordinary Bar Stool

Harbor Drive led the way toward the Midway Aircraft Museum where ships are often docked in port along the Embarcadero. First we came across The Headquarters.

The Headquarters

Once the San Diego Police Headquarters, the courtyard is now home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. The hallway to the restrooms contains a height chart to use as a background for taking selfies and a jail room with mug shots of prisoners.

Along the embarcadero is a memorial to the USS San Diego (CL-53).

USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial

The memorial was sponsored by the USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial Association, Inc. to honor the “valiant and remarkable service of the cruiser USS San Diego and the men who served aboard it during World War II.”

Take a look at this stealth-like ship. They offered tours of the USS Independence (LCS-2) but did not allow bags, a no go for us since we both had backpacks. Instead, we gawked at the ship from the pier. The trimaran build allows flexibility for the military crew to employ different types of operations.

USS Independence (LCS-2)

As we walked back to catch the trolley we admired a unique characteristic of San Diego’s skyline. One America Plaza, the tallest building in San Diego, sports a Phillips screwdriver roofline,

One America Plaza

while the Hyatt’s roofline resembles a standard screwdriver.

The Hyatt

Other buildings also have unique designs that makeup San Diego’s skyline.

Next week we finish up with Part 2 of our visit to San Diego.

Safe Travels

Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California

One November Sunday, the house filled with the aroma of nachos and a blaring television. The crowd roared, announcers babbled, and Jon yelled, “Catch the ball,” for the umpteenth time. It was time for this NFL widow to get out of the house.

Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California, called me to visit the restored Victorian country estate built by Christopher Augustine Buckley, Sr.

Ravenswood Historic Site

Known as the “Blind Boss” of San Francisco politics in the 1870s and 1880s, Mr. Buckley, a saloonkeeper and Democratic Party political boss, built the cottage on the left side of the photo in 1885 for his family. He later planted a 100-acre vineyard and finished the main house in 1891.

Historic Ravenswood Site

The Buckley family spent summers at Ravenswood from 1885 to 1920. They did not ignore the once rural area that served as their part-time home. Generously donating to local charities, and appearing regularly on the society page of the Livermore Press earned Mr. Buckley the nickname “Lord of Livermore.”

Main House

The Ravenswood Progress League docents conduct guided tours of the 1885 cottage, the 1891 main house, and the grounds on the second and fourth Sunday from January through November and the second Sunday in December. Tours start at noon and run from 20 minutes to one hour. Special events during the year include an ice cream social the second Sunday in August and a Victorian yuletide the second Sunday in December. The tours are free but don’t be shy about leaving a donation. The docents use the funds to help maintain the property and purchase period antiques to fill the home.

The day I visited, preparation for the Victorian Yuletide celebration was well underway in the cottage.

Cottage Entry Halltree
Decorated Christmas Tree
Mantel Decorations
Chairs for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus

The city rents out the main house for weddings and other events, so the rooms do not contain furniture. My footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor while wandering inside admiring the artisanship in the doorknobs and hinges and in the stain glass windows.

Main House
Stain Glass Window
Architectural Detail of Main House

Had I lived in this house, my favorite place would have been the benches next to the fireplace. Pillows, a worn quilt, and a good book would have provided hours of pleasure during a cold spell.

A Cozy Place to Read a Book

An outbuilding holds a collection of period pieces that the Buckleys could have used on the property when they spent their summers in the valley.

Typical Farm House Supplies

Outside a baby carriage sat on the porch of the cottage, a statue of a boy is given prominence as the centerpiece in a garden, and a sundial tells time nearby.

Baby Carriage
Boy Statue

From the parking lot, vineyards spread out in the valley, and the Livermore hills rise in the south.

The historic site, located at 2647 Arroyo Road in Livermore, California, is part of the Livermore Area Recreation Park District. Livermore, known for the Livermore and Sandia National Labs, is also home to award-winning wineries, breweries, and a lively downtown.

I felt restored after my trip back in time at Historic Ravenswood with its vineyards decked out in their fall colors and views of the golden hills. The trip made for a perfect place to escape the cacophony of the football games blaring at home.

Safe Travels

Sequoia National Park and Lemon Cove, California

The next day we managed to get through the 10:00 a.m. traffic flow through the construction zone with no delays. The Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia National Park was our first stop where we listened to a ranger talk about the sequoias. Inside the museum, he had planted a couple of seeds, which had sprouted into tiny seedlings. It was difficult to imagine how those seedlings could grow to the size of The Sentinel that stood outside of the museum.

The Sentinel

Capturing the Sentinel from base to crown was a challenge even though it ranked #42 in the Wikipedia list of the largest sequoia trees.

Our next stop was Moro Rock where we climbed up 350 steps to an overlook. I could have stayed there half a day gawking at the views of the High Sierras, the valley below, and the road leading to and from the Lemon Cove.

Stairs, Stairs, and More Stairs
High Sierra Peaks
Moro Rock Trail


Generals Highway Twists and Turns. Line of Cars Waiting for Construction Pause.



Valley Leading to Lemon Cove


Tunnel Tree was our next stop.


Tunnel Tree


A short drive from Tunnel Tree was Crescent Meadow where there were plenty of picnic tables. Unfortunately, the insects were so fierce we ate in the cab of the truck. I braved the onslaught of flying pests long enough to fast walk to the meadow and grab a few shots.


A Little Buggy Wanted to Share our Lunch



Crescent Meadow
Dried Out Ferns on Crescent Meadow Trail


Back on Generals Highway, we continued to the Sherman Tree trail. Parking close to the tree is only available for wheelchair accessible parking. Everyone else needs to follow the signs up the hill and then take the ½-mile downhill trail consisting of steps, ramps, and places to stop and rest.

General Sherman, considered the largest tree in the world, tops out at a height of 274.9 feet, has a circumference of 102.6 feet, a diameter of 32.7 feet, and bole (trunk) volume of 52.508 cubic feet.

Taking a selfie with the tree required a long wait while a group of six guys and gals took photo after photo of each other. They took close-ups, far away shots, this person, then that person, one couple and then another couple, turn to the left, turn to the right, and oh, don’t forget to stretch out your arms. Eventually, we had a chance to stand near the tree.


Finally, Our Selfie with General Sherman.
This Would be a Nice Shelter


Sherman’s healing fire scar.


General Sherman Fire Scar


Don’t forget to look up once in a while. It’s a way to see the forest in a whole new light.


Sequoia Tree Crowns


Walking up the trail back to our truck did us both in at the end of the day. We skipped the Big Tree Trail on our way out of the park and headed toward Lemon Cove for our last night of our 2017 Fall Tour.

As we waited in line for the construction crew to finish up for the day and release the traffic, we reminisced about all the places we had traveled and all that we had seen. Utah gave us the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, colorful cliffs in Kodachrome State Park, a rushing river, and steep cliffs in Zion National Park.

We walked where dinosaurs once roamed and gazed at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The drive into Arizona to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon took us through meadows and gave us a glimpse of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, including Humphreys’ Peak, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and close up in Flagstaff from the observatory.

Prescott, Arizona, offered us trails to hike, rocks to climb, and introduced us to Sharlot Hall. California gave us trails among the Cholla, Joshua trees, and jumbo rocks in Joshua Tree National Monument and the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Moro Rock from the road


Moro Rock From Road


Here’s a Mystery Tree. Can anyone identify?


What Kind of Tree am I?
Mystery Tree Silhouette


After our white-knuckle ride back to Lemon Grove, we stopped for gas and took photos of some of the old buildings in this tiny town.


Old Timey Richfield Station
Quaint Green House


These buildings could use some tender care to restore them to their previous beauty. The name Victor Allred is barely visible on the one building expressing pride to be the owner of the enterprise that once occupied the space. When did businesses cease to use the owner’s name? It seems now most businesses make up words or some kind of catchy acronym to name their businesses.


A Little TLC is Needed Here


After 33 days, we were ready to head home on October 27, 2017. It was time to enjoy the holidays and recharge for our 2018 Winter Tour.

Our main destination for our next tour is Galveston, Texas, for our niece’s wedding. We haven’t quite worked out which route to take or what we will see along the way. Where will we go after the wedding? Who knows which direction the wind will blow us.

Safe Travels


Lemon Cove, California, and Kings Canyon National Park

We selected Lemon Cove RV Park in Lemon Cove, California, on October 25, 2017, for our three-night stay 25 miles outside Sequoia National Park. Although close to the road, the campsites sit below street grade dampening the vehicle noise. After getting settled, we drove to the Sequoia National Park visitors’ center to pick up a map and newsletter and inquire about the signs we had seen about the construction delays.

Mountains Tower Above Kings Canyon Floor

I’ve heard stories about drivers ending up in precarious situations if they rely too much on their GPS. I have to admit our trusty GPS backup, a map, got the better of us. Having missed the traffic release window on Generals Highway through Sequoia, our map showed a straight shot north to the Kings Canyon entrance. Thinking it would be faster than waiting to get through the construction zone, we took the Highway 245 detour. It was a lovely drive through citrus, nut, and olive orchards, a few vineyards, and small farm towns. Then the road turned dicey when it became narrow and curvy and increased elevation with each hairpin turn. What happened to the straight line I saw on the map? Once committed, it made no sense to retrace our route. Onward we continued through forested areas and remote property until the road intersected with Highway 180, which took us to the Big Stump Entrance of Kings Canyon.

General Grant Tree Grove

Our first stop inside the park was at the General Grant Tree Grove, which contains a 1/3 mile paved loop trail to General Grant Tree, the Fallen Monarch, the Centennial Stump, and Gamlin Cabin.

General Grant through the Trees Doesn’t Look so Big Here

General Grant, believed to be 1,650 years old, was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, a Union Army General and the 18th president of the United States. The tree stands 267.4 feet tall, has a girth of 107.6 feet, and estimates peg it at 46,608 cubic feet of wood and bark. What I find impressive is that the tree continues to add board feet and bark, increasing in not only height but also girth.

General Grant Crown

All about Sequoias

Although Sequoias are the largest living individual thing on the planet, they are not the tallest, widest, or even the oldest. Their trunks, however, occupy more space than any other single organism.

Fallen Monarch Measures 124 Feet from Roots to Top. No One Knows When it Fell

The trees occur naturally in groves on the western slopes of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains within a 260-mile long by 15-mile wide strip between 5,000 and 7,500 feet above sea level.

Centennial Stump is Partially Seen Behind and to the Right of the Sign

The trees’ bark, containing very little pitch and an abundance of tannins, provides built-in protection from burrowing insects, fungi, and fire. In fact, fire is one of the ways the tree reproduces. It clears the undergrowth and low branches and allows the tiny (.16 – .20 inches long by .04 inches wide by .04 inches broad) seeds to open up and flourish. Squirrels and insects also can cause the seeds to release from the cones and sprinkle the forest floor. A cone holds on average 230 seeds, but a tree may only produce one offspring during its entire lifetime of thousands of years.

Hey, What Are You Doing Here?

A sequoia can even heal itself, after it has been burned, by generating new bark around its blackened trunk. The sequoias are also self-pruning, shedding lower branches as it grows taller and reduces sunlight escaping through the leaves.

Example of Burned Trunk

It is a good thing that the wood of the Sequoia is fibrous and brittle and not ideal for construction. Otherwise, the Gamlin Brothers may have destroyed all of them. They held a logging permit in the area. At one point, loggers did fell the ancient trees for shingles, fence posts, and even toothpicks. Imagine how many toothpicks one of the beautiful giants could produce.

Gamlin Cabin Built 1872 To House the Gamlin Brothers who Grazed Cattle Until 1878

Kings Canyon

A drive through Kings Canyon gives visitors a snapshot of some of the attractions that make California a favorite place to visit. Towering granite cliffs, a rushing river, golden grass, and yuccas captured our attention as we drove beside the Kings River. Most of the campgrounds had already been closed for the winter, and even gates prevented driving down some of the roads. We stopped at Canyon View expecting a spectacular landscape only to find the view blocked by overgrown trees. I think someone needs to rename the overlook.

Contrasting Rock
Kings River
View Through the Forest

Montecito-Sequoia Lodge

On our way toward Sequoia National Park, we stopped in at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, an all-inclusive rustic resort. The property reminded me of the setting in the Dirty Dancing movie. Open year round, room rates include lodging, meals, and activities. I wouldn’t mind staying there a night or two. It sure would be more convenient than driving in and out of the park each day.

October Colors

As the sun fell lower in the sky, we continued out of the park, with no delays through the construction zone where the crews had finished up for the day. Low gear was required to avoid burning up the brakes while descending into the valley. With growling stomachs, we watched for the first restaurant to grab a bite to eat before we continued back to Lemon Cove.

Forest Mushrooms

 Gateway Restaurant & Lodge in Three Rivers looked like a good bet, and we were not disappointed. We sat at a table overlooking the Kaweah River illuminated by outdoor lighting. The snapper, the best I had ever eaten, was accompanied by a fluffy baked potato, plenty of butter and chives scooped on top, and perfectly cooked squash. The memory of the meal makes my mouth water.

Join us next time for a peek at Sequoia National Park.

Safe Travels

Boron and Tehachapi, California

After four nights in Twenty-nine Palms exploring Joshua Tree National Park, we were ready to find new places to explore. We had Boron, California, in our sights, on October 23, 2017. Not to stay overnight, just to check out the Borax Visitor Center, a place we had driven by for the past thirty or forty years going between northern and southern California. It was time to visit the company that once sponsored the Death Valley Days program on television.

The Borax Mine is located on State Route 58 about 12 miles west of Kramer Junction—where US Route 395 and State Route 58 intersect. We weren’t sure we were headed in the right direction. All we could see as we drove down the road were tall towers, steam rising in columns, and hills, nothing that looked like a visitor center.


Borax Processing Plant


When we came to the end of the road, signs directed us toward an unmanned booth along a dirt road. We trusted the billboard that advertised plenty of RV parking at the top of a hill and kept on driving. When we reached the top, the road turned left and sure enough, there was plenty of space to accommodate multiple fifth wheels and buses.

Borax Visitor Center

An original 20-Mule Team Wagon set complete with hitched up mule statues welcomed us at the visitor center. The teams carried borax out of Death Valley 165 miles to the nearest railroad junction in Mojave. The round trip took 20 days to deliver 20 tons of borax between 1883 and 1888.


20-Mule Team Wagon with Statues


Today the operation mines colemanite, ulexite, kernite, and borax, from a borate deposit, which has been mined since 1927. These minerals are used in agriculture, ceramics, detergents and personal care products, fiberglass and glass, and as a wood treatment to prevent fungal decay and damage from termites, ants, and roaches.


Pit and Tailings



The visitor center is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays or during bad weather. Admission is free. Inside the building is a theater where a short movie and talks by docents provide information about the Rio Tinto Mining Company and the history of the pit. Displays show how borax is mined and processed, what products the minerals are used in, and the different types of minerals mined. Outside a ramp takes visitors to a platform where they can watch the giant dump trucks, which look like ants where we stood, maneuver atop the tiers.


Sample of Borate Ore (Kernite) Taken from Mine in 1997
Diagram that Explains the Process


The pit is almost like looking into the Grand Canyon. At 1 mile wide, 1½ miles long, and 650 feet deep, the heavy equipment is dwarfed by the vast landscape. A few pieces of equipment are barely identifiable in the mid-right gray area.


Borax Pit



Even Zoomed in, the Equipment Appears Like a Toy Among the Towering Tiers


Back in Boron is the Twenty Mule Team Museum. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to get back on the road so we could arrive before dark in Tehachapi where we planned to spend the night.

We found a quiet spot away from the trains and freeway at Mountain Valley RV Park where they offer water, electricity, restrooms, showers, and laundry. There is a dump station but no sewer hookups. A short walk away is the Mountain Valley Airport that serves small aircraft and gliders and operates a café.


Looking South From Mountain Valley RV Park the Last Bits of Sun Paint the Hills 
Little Birds Flitted About in the Dry Grass
Hills and Windmills Create a Backdrop for the Hidden Valley Airport 


Coyotes woke us around 4:00 a.m. and as the sun rose, the wind grew stronger. Time to hit the road.

Safe Travels

Joshua Tree National Park

From Prescott we headed toward Twenty-nine Palms, California, to explore Joshua Tree National Park, a place we had wanted to return to for many years. We checked in at Twenty-nine Palms RV Resort on October 19, 2017, for four nights.

Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center

This desert area became a national park in 1994 after being set aside as a monument in 1936 by President Roosevelt. Jon and I had driven by the park several times going to and from other places and often commented that we needed to go back and spend some time. I was curious about what had changed since I camped at Jumbo Rocks with a group of friends while still in high school. Finally, I’d find out.

Oasis Visitor Center

We started our exploration at the Oasis Visitor Center where we picked up a pamphlet and a map of the 794,000-acre park. We also walked around the Oasis Trail with a volunteer ranger. She had a grade school teacher’s personality that roused our interest as she pointed out features of the palms, the different plants, and the animals that visited the pond. She explained that they do not trim the dead palm fronds from the trees because they serve as homes and protection for birds, owls, and other critters.

Oasis Trail at Visitor Center

The main highway traffic ebbed into white noise leaving only the sounds of wind whistling through the palm fronds, the trickling spring, birds trilling their songs, and scampering lizards and mice rustling in the brush.

There’s a Spring Under All that Greenery

Along the path is a series of signposts that tell the story of what happens when a seventeen-year-old girl of the Chemehuevi falls in love with a white man. The story gave me a glimpse into the people who visited the oasis in the early 1900s.

Cholla Cactus Garden

Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes while navigating the quarter-mile loop trail in the Cholla Cactus Garden.

Cholla Gardens
Cholla Garden

Although the branches appear as if they are covered with something soft and fluffy, don’t touch. The prickly barbs will latch onto shoes and clothing and you’ll have a jolly time trying to remove them. The cone shapes tipped with yellow are what is left from the flowers that bloom from March through May.

Cholla Close Up

Split Rock Loop Trail

Take the Split Rock short loop trail to see rocks and cactus up close, or extend the hike to a full 2.5 miles by taking the extension to Face Rock.

JT Waving at Split Rock
My, What a Big Toe You Have
Sleeping Baby Elephant?
Yucca Plant Cuddles With a Prickly Pear
Stone Steps Mark the Trail
Yucca Plants Hanging on to the Last of Their Bloom Stalks
Balancing Rocks Are A Common Sight
The Olympic Flame Just Like in Bryce Canyon

Joshua Trees

Joshua Tree National Park is unique in that it encompasses portions of both the Mojave Desert on the western half of the park and the Colorado Desert on the eastern half. The Joshua Trees, a species of yucca rather than a true tree, are most prevalent on the western side where elevations are greater than 3,000 feet.

Acres and Acres of Joshua Trees
Joshua Tree Forest

Skull Rock Trail

This is another loop trail and quite popular with cars and trucks parked on both sides of the road for about a quarter mile on either side. Start at Jumbo Rocks Campground, or at Skull Rock. There are trails on both sides of the highway and plenty to see.

View from Atop The Jumbo Rocks

A sampling of plants seen on the trails.

Or, is This a Baby Elephant?
Skull Rock Crawling with People

Hidden Valley Trail

I think Hidden Valley Trail was one of my favorites. It’s such a surprise to break through the tight boulder formations and encounter a rock enclosed valley that cattle rustlers may have used to hide out.


Yucca and Other Plants Find Cracks and Crevices to Grow
Climbers Have Plenty of Spots to Navigate The Steep Rock Faces in Hidden Valley
Look Ma, I’m King of the Hill
Stairs Make the Trek Easier


Hershey Kiss?

Keys View (5,183 feet)

Keys View overlooks Highway 10 and across the valley stands the Indio Hills.

San Gorgonio Peak
San Gorgonio Pass Looking West
Coachella Valley In the Haze

 29 Palms Inn and Restaurant

 We didn’t expect much in the way of a decent restaurant in town since the main drag was where most of the fast-food chains set up shop. We were surprised, however, when we drove to the end of a road, skirted the pool, and walked into the restaurant at the 29 Palms Inn on the Oasis of Mara. They have been dishing up tasty food since 1928.


29 Palms Inn Restaurant



Dining room at 29 Palms Inn Restaurant


The inn includes several adobe bungalows, suites, wood frame cabins, and other accommodations guests wanting a quirky place to stay. Oh, the stories those bungalows could tell if only given a chance.


29 Palms Inn Lobby


Camping at Joshua Tree National Monument

Camping is available year round. No reservations are needed during the summer when the temperatures rise to 100 degrees or more. October through May is the busiest time and mid-February to mid-May and holidays are the busiest. Two of the campgrounds accept reservations and six are first come, first served. By Friday morning, October 20, 2017, the campgrounds were already full. I’m glad we had arranged for accommodations outside of the park, although it would have been fun to look up at the pitch black sky and watch the Orionid meteor shower without ambient light getting in the way. Oh, about what has changed at Jumbo Rock Campground? Although I noticed a definite upgrade in the amenities, the crowded sites turned me off. Maybe Sunday through Wednesday wouldn’t be so bad.

Another Restaurant Recommendation

On our way from Prescott, Arizona, to Twenty-nine Palms, California, we passed through Wickenburg, Arizona, at lunchtime. The Tastee Freez looked to be the best bet in town, and we weren’t disappointed. Expecting only grilled hamburgers and French fries, this Tastee Freez, along with Sundance Pizza, has a large menu to satisfy any guest, including deli sandwiches and salads. If you are traveling through Wickenburg and it’s time to eat, don’t be shy about giving this Tastee Freez a try.

If the timing is right the next time we roll through Twenty-nine Palms, we’ll have to stop and explore more of Joshua Tree National Park. Plenty of trails still remain for us to take.

Coming up is the Borax Visitor Center in Boron, California, and then on to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Safe Travels