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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Anza Borrego State Park - Hikes Near Ocotillo Wells

When we last visited Anza Borrego State Park in February 2017, we only had time to hike up into Palm Canyon.  We had no time to explore the other intriguing parts of the park.

Today, we started making up for that.  We arrived in Anza Borrego State Park yesterday, and this morning we decided to take some hikes in the area of Ocotillo Wells, in the southeast corner of the park.  We had three objectives:  The Slot, Elephant Trees Trail, and Wind Caves.  Here's what we found.


The trailhead for The Slot was a couple of miles off Highway 78.  After navigating a relatively easy dirt road, we arrived at the parking area.  To get the lay of the land, we climbed up to a high point for a 360 degree view of anza borrego state park from above The Slot.

We found the trailhead and started down, pausing only for a view of our Jeep back at the parking area:

As we descended deeper into The Slot, Kathy gave an idea how far down we would be hiking:

Once we reached the bottom, we entered a half-mile-long slot canyon that was so narrow, we could barely fit through:

As we turned one corner of the canyon, we looked up to see a natural arch:

The canyon boasted many interesting sandstone formations:

Near the end of the canyon, the trail opened up and we found a garden of inuksuks and other rock art!

Kathy tried her hand at her own little stone guy:

We hiked back to our Jeep through the slot canyon and then headed further south, across 7 miles of sandy, rocky Jeep roads, to the trailhead for...


This trail, only about a mile round-trip, is said to exhibit typical geology and vegetation for an alluvial fan.  Below, Kathy stands in the middle of the trail as it climbs the alluvial fan:

At the far end of the trail, we finally found the mythical elephant tree, which boasts very thick trunks surrounded by amazingly green foliage: 

The elephant tree is likely the most unique plant in the entire Anza-Borrego Desert, and only one such tree stands along this one-mile nature trail.  Elephant trees typically grow to a height of about ten feet.  The name comes from the peeling parchment paper-like bark on its wrinkled limbs.  Their leaves are small and similar to a mesquite bush or ocotillo, which can handle the rays of the harsh desert sun.  The trees are common in Baja California but their range barely reaches north over the border into California.  Thus, seeing these trees in California are rare but their existence is certainly not endangered.

Having fulfilled our second mission, we moved on to our third goal.


This feature was much less clearly signed than the other features.  We headed in 4 miles on Fish Spring Wash, admiring the desert canyon views:

Our Jeep Dusty handled the sand and rocks with aplomb.

The surface of the wash was almost like a moonscape:

We found our likely trailhead, although there were no signs to mark it.  With faith, we climbed until we were far above the valley floor:

Eventually, we reached the mythical wind caves - hollowed-out formations in the sandstone cliffs far above the canyon floor:

The shapes are intriguing and are reminiscent of rounded cave dwellings:

Some of the sandstone walls are very thin:

The cave holes riddle the rocks on the cliff faces:

David modeled one of the caves:

From his vantage point, David could see Kathy with the valley floor and our Jeep in the deep background:

By the time we reached our Jeep and drove back into Borrego Springs, it was almost sundown,  This was a full day's hiking and off-roading, giving us a great introduction to the far corners of Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  After an exchange of visits with our friends Eric and Ginny, we'll have a chance to explore one more region of the park before we have to leave.

Monday, November 26, 2018


November 25, 2018
Hi Blog!

While it seems like we've been celebrating Kathy's birthday for the past week, her actual birthday was Sunday, November 25th. To cap off our week of celebrating, Dave and Darla took her to Disneyland! Upon arrival, Kathy received her birthday button.

We've been to Disney World in Florida several times, but this is Kathy's first visit to Disneyland. Main Street here has a similar feel to that of Disney World -- just a bit smaller.

First stop, the Christmas Tree.

Getting spacey on Space Mountain.

Time to chill out at the Matterhorn.

A visit to any Disney location wouldn't be complete without a churro!

Just like in the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas," Jack Skellington takes over the haunted house and decorates it with the help of the folks from Halloween Town.

We saved the best for last.

On our way to see the famous mouse, we took a selfie in the fun house.

Chance for Mickey Mouse to wish you Happy Birthday - priceless!

While most of the attractions in Toontown are geared to the little kids, we still found something for us big kids!  We didn't want to leave Darla "Home Alone" or she would have missed out on this joyride:

Just as we finished our souvenir shopping, it was time for the Christmas Parade! The musical toy soldiers entertained the crowd with their high stepping.

Minnie and Mickey were busy decorating their tree.

Woody prepared to lasso some toys.

Everyone eagerly awaited the tap dancing reindeer.

Of course, the highlight of the parade was the jolly old elf!

By the time we left the park, Kathy had received 29 Happy Birthdays from various crew members -- and THREE of them knew her name (Kathy points out that this might be because her name was on her birthday badge). 

This will be a birthday Kathy won't forget!

Riverside Festival of Lights

November 24, 2018
Hi Blog!

After spending the better part of the day hiking, Dave and I were eager to meet our friend Darla for dinner. Afterwards, we drove into Riverside to take in the annual Festival of Lights. The Festival is celebrating its 26th year. USA Today calls it one of the "Best Public Lights Displays in the Nation." Since it's free, it draws big crowds every year. Having a local with us, we avoided the long lines and high parking fees at the downtown garages. Here we are getting ready to take it all in.

Created by the Mission Inn & Hotel, the Festival of Lights became an annual gift to the community from property owners Duane and Kelly Roberts, who saved the historic hotel from destruction in 1992. The streets surrounding the Inn are closed to motor vehicle traffic. There is a stage for live concert performances and vendors have booths surrounding the Inn selling all sorts of holiday goodies.

The castle-like hotel is illuminated with 5 million holiday lights.

The line to tour the inside of the hotel was pretty long, so we opted to just walk around the outside.

Since the Mission Inn spans an entire city block, some festival goers opted for lighted carriage rides while taking in all the light displays.

If you have enough money to stay at the Inn during the holidays, an Elf will tuck you in at night after your carriage ride!

Highlights of Festival of Lights include 200 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers. Note the shadows of the characters standing on the balconies.

The Mission Inn has played host to U.S. Presidents and celebrities, and served as the setting in many Hollywood productions, such as 1915’s “The Vampire,” 1938’s “Idiot’s Delight,” and 1997’s “Man in the Iron Mask.”

Toy Soldiers stand guard at the back of the Inn.

As we finished our circle around the Inn, we were just amazed by the volume - not just the volume of lights, but the volume of people making the pilgrimage to see the lights. New York City may have Rockefeller Center, but  SoCal has the Mission Inn.

Tomorrow, yet another adventure awaits us. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ramblin' Up Rubidoux

Whew!  This Thanksgiving weekend has just been a social whirl.  We've hardly done much other than eat, drink, make merry, and fall into bed to get some sleep before we start all over again.

Darla suggested we get together today in the late afternoon, which left us the better part of the day to fit in a climb of Mt. Rubidoux.  We've wanted to explore that craggy peak since our original visit to Riverside in February 2017.

Mount Rubidoux was named for Louis Rubidoux, who established Rancho Rubidoux in 1847 after purchasing a portion of Rancho Jurupa from Benjamin Davis Wilson, the second elected mayor of Los Angeles.  Our campground and the surrounding Rancho Jurupa Park makes up much of the balance of the original Rancho Jurupa.

The mountain, which lies just west of downtown Riverside, has been designated a city park and landmark. It is the site of the oldest outdoor non-denominational Easter Sunrise service in the United States. Many historic markers and memorials have been placed on the mountain, the most prominent being a cross at the summit dedicated to Father Junípero Serra. While a majority of Mt. Rubidoux is owned by the City of Riverside, almost half an acre at the peak is owned by a private, nonprofit conservancy.  After the cross attracted a potential lawsuit for being on public property, the city decided to sell the land at the peak in an auction, where it was purchased by the conservancy.

Our total hike was almost 8 miles, with four miles of the total our walk over to the base of the mountain and back.  After a mile or so, our quarry was squarely in our sights:

The Santa Ana River runs along the base of Mt. Rubidoux, and boasts a paved 30-mile multi-use trail that stretches inland from where the Santa Ana River empties into the Pacific Ocean.   Crossing the bridge over the river, we could see swaths of cottonwood, willow and other local vegetation stretching south:

Monuments mark the base of the mountain on our side where the trail starts up its flank:

Our climb started steeply up a dirt trail:

Soon, we had views west over Jurupa Valley:

The hillside is speckled with vegetation growing in a sandy soil that has eroded from gigantic granite formations.  In places, big rounded soft granite boulders congregate.  Here, Kathy enjoyed the company -- not to mention the shade -- of some of the boulders:

Climbing further, we found ourselves so high above the floor of Jurupa Valley that we could look across or down on small planes banking to make their final turn to land at a small airstrip near our campground:

Kathy spotted a bench with a great view toward our campground (in the center background) and Darla's community (in the left background):

Eventually, we reached one of the summits, which was graced with a large American flag.  To the right, the Peace Tower peers over the granite rock formations:

Another summit of the mountain boasts the cross dedicated to Father Junipero Serra.  Between us and the cross, huge amphitheater-like seats or stairs climbed steeply:

Starting to descend, we walked toward the Peace Tower, which gave us sweeping views to the east, including downtown Riverside:

Reaching the base of the Peace Tower, we admired the stonework, and Kathy drafted David to pose with all of it for scale:

We picked a route down that differed from our path to the summits, so we had a chance to see other faces of the mountain.  The downward path we chose put us in a neighborhood adjoining Mission Inn Avenue, and we followed park paths along Mission Inn Avenue back to our original trailhead.

After another 2 miles walking home on concrete sidewalks, we probably don't need to report that our feet were very tired and sore.  We hurried into crocs, had a quick bite for lunch, and took a warm shower to soak our tired muscles.

Now we just need an hour or two to rest up for the adventure Darla has planned for us tonight:  dinner and the Christmas lights of Riverside!

Stay tuned for another big birthday adventure tomorrow.