California: Return to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Flowering Joshua Tree

Flowering Joshua Tree

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Joshua Tree is one of our favorite national parks (near Twentynine Palms, California). The trees are giant members of the Yucca family. The largest tree in the park is 42 feet tall, 34 feet wide, and has a trunk 9 feet around. Although trees start off growth as a single stalk, each one quickly develops its own unique shape due to damage to the growing tips. Joshua trees have a very important role in the Mojave High Desert ecosystem. This beautiful landscape has been featured in many movies and TV shows. More info is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/naturescience/jtrees.htm   A previous post is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/joshua-tree-national-park/

California: Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory

Model of Telescope

Model of Telescope

Celestial Lamp

Celestial Lamp

Palomar Mountain View

Palomar Mountain View

Big Berry Manzanita Flowers

Big Berry Manzanita Flowers

Purple Lupine Flowers

Purple Lupine Flowers

Scarlet Bugler Flowers

Scarlet Bugler Flowers

The drive up to Palomar Observatory is especially beautiful in spring (near San Diego, California).  The wildflowers and mountain scenery are gorgeous!  The telescopes at Palomar have discovered quasars, brown dwarfs, and Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. 

Anza Borrego: Native Palm Oases and Carizzo Badlands Overlook

Native Palm Groves Sign

Native Palm Groves Sign

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Pygmy Grove Oasis

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Washington Fan Palm with Skirt of Dead Fronds

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Cholla Cactus Growing on Mica-Studded Granite Rock Slopes

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Barrel Cactus Surviving with Few Roots

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Flowering Barrel Cactus

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Panorama at Carizzo Badlands Overlook (click on picture to enlarge)

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Carizzo Badlands Landscape

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

Close-up of Carizzo Badlands and San Jacinto Fault Zone

The southern region of Anza Borrego Desert State Park contains many treasures. We especially enjoyed hiking on Mountain Palm Springs trail, which leads to several native palm oases.  The oases here form where groundwater seeps up to the surface along the Elsinore fault zone. The trail begins up a dry wash leading past cholla and barrel cactus.  The landscape’s white granite rock contains mica that sparkles in the sun.  The first group of palms encountered along the trail is the Pygmy Grove. The “skirts” of dead fronds on the palms provide shelter to owls, bats, snakes, and many other creatures. In Fall and early winter, animals feast on the palms’ sweet sticky dates.

A little further south is a spectacular vista overlooking the Carizzo Badlands. As you look out at the Coyote Mountains, you are looking at the active San Jacinto earthquake fault zone. These mountains are rich in fossils of mastodons, camels, zebras, and sabertooth tigers from a million years ago. What was really amazing was that no one else was around when we visited – the only sound we could hear was the wind. Not a car, not a plane, only silence. It was magical. More info about the geology and natural history of Anza Borrego is at: http://www.abdnha.org/anza-borrego-desert-geology.htm

 

Anza Borrego State Park: Sculptures in the Desert

Statue of Extinct Horse in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Extinct Horse in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Ancient Gomphotheres (related to elephants) in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Ancient Gomphotheres (related to elephants) in Local Fossil Record

Statue of Nonlocal Allosaurus Dinosaur from Jurassic Era

Statue of Nonlocal Allosaurus Dinosaur from Jurassic Era

Statue of Nonlocal Spinosaurus (spiny lizard) from Cretaceous Period

Statue of Nonlocal Spinosaurus (spiny lizard) from Cretaceous Period

Statue of Nonlocal Utahraptor Dinosaur Guarding Nest of Eggs (Jurassic Era)

Statue of Nonlocal Utahraptor Dinosaur Guarding Nest of Eggs (Jurassic Era)

Fanciful 350-foot-long Dragon Serpent with Rattlesnake Tail (road runs through middle of sculpture)

Fanciful 350-foot-long Dragon Serpent with Rattlesnake Tail
(road runs through middle of sculpture)

Head of Multi-Part Dragon Serpent

Head of Multi-Part Dragon Serpent

Visitors at Anza Borrego State Park, California, can’t miss the metal sculptures at Galleta Meadows. Over 100 statues by Ricardo Breceda dot the desert landscape. Some statues are based on local fossils found in the area, and others are more fanciful. All are fun to see! More info including a driving tour map is at: http://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html   A previous post is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/anza-borrego-time-travel/

California: Retro Palm Springs Architecture

Palm Springs Visitor Center (former Tramway Gas Station) with Distinctive Angular Roof

Palm Springs Visitor Center (former Tramway Gas Station) with Distinctive Angular Roof

Round Boulders Behind Palm Springs Visitor Center

Round Boulders Behind Palm Springs Visitor Center

 

Colorful Mid-Century Modern Home

Colorful Mid-Century Modern Home

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway - 1960 "House of Tomorrow"

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway – 1960 “House of Tomorrow”

"Swiss Miss" A-Frame Home

“Swiss Miss” A-Frame Home

Home Featuring Decorative Concrete Privacy Walls

Home Featuring Decorative Concrete Privacy Walls

Home's Dramatic Entrance Windows Overlook Desert Landscape

Home’s Dramatic Entrance Windows Overlook Desert Landscape

Palm Springs, California, has one of the largest concentrations of Mid-Century Modern architecture in America.  The Desert Modernism style combines sleek lines and modern materials with desert living.  Important elements of design include color, lighting, and texture.  Windows are placed to overlook the desert landscape  Many Desert Modernism style homes built in the 1950s and 1960s are now in top demand as chic retro-style housing.  Shops in town specialize in matching atomic/space age furniture. This architecture is so popular that tourists flock to Palm Springs every year for Modernism Week (http://www.modernismweek.com/).  Popular architectural landmarks are detailed in do-it-yourself driving tours:  (http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/page/mid-century-modern-architecture/8185).  More info is at:  (http://www.oldhouseonline.com/mid-century-modern-houses-in-palm-springs/)

California: Palm Springs Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines Along Highway 10

Wind Turbines Along Highway 10

Wind Turbines on Ridge

Wind Turbines on Ridge

Wind Turbines Among Sand Dunes

Wind Turbines Among Sand Dunes

Wind Turbines in Front of Mount San Jacinto

Wind Turbines in Front of Mount San Jacinto

Palm Springs, California, is home to the oldest wind farm in the United States.  Visitors can’t miss the wind turbines – it is surreal driving on Highway 10 among them.  The oldest wind turbines were built in the 1980s and stand 65 feet tall, with 15 foot blades, rotating up to 700 times per minute.  Newer models stand 300 feet tall, with blades half the length of a football field, rotating up to 45 times per minute.   Thousands of these wind turbines line the San Gorgonio Pass, producing electricity for the Coachella Valley.  This area has abundant wind energy because the air funnels through the mountain pass between the cool ocean and hot desert – sometimes reaching 80 mph!  There are even special dune buggy tours among the wind turbines.  A fun television episode of California’s Gold includes a visit by Huell Howser to the top of a wind turbine and can be viewed here:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2001/01/08/windmills-californias-gold-3012/

California: Return to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Sign

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Sign

Rotating Aerial Tramway Car

Rotating Aerial Tramway Car

View Looking Down

View Looking Down

View Looking Up

View Looking Up

Viewing Platform at Mountain Station

Viewing Platform at Mountain Station

View of Coachella Valley

View of Coachella Valley

Mount San Jacinto State Park Forest at Top

Mount San Jacinto State Park Forest at Top

Old Style Tram Car at Base

Old Style Tram Car at Base

One of our favorite things to do in Palm Springs, California, is to ride the aerial tram car up to Mountain Station near the top of Mount San Jacinto (8,516 feet).  The distance between the mountaintop and the desert floor is over 2 miles one way, and the journey takes about 15 minutes.  The circular rotating tram cars are state-of-the-art and were built by Switzerland.  The temperature difference between the top and bottom is quite dramatic.  There aren’t many places where you can hike beside cactus and play in the winter snow – all in the same afternoon!  More info is at: http://pstramway.com/history.html   A previous post from 2012 is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/palm-springs-aerial-tramway/

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