Visiting Joshua Tree

Travel

Somehow, when picturing Joshua Tree National Park, I always thought of one lone Joshua tree. After all, if there were a lot of trees the tree would be plural, right? Oh how wrong I was. Joshua Tree National Park has more than one tree and is a vast desert.

One thing that overtook me about Joshua Tree (roughly 45 miles from Palm Springs, California) was how large it was. It seemed the desert could go on forever. It is actually made up of two deserts coming together to form the park. Below 3000 feet makes up the Colorado Desert or Eastern part of the park. The higher elevation makes up the Mojave Desert where the Joshua trees can be seen.

Skull Rock

When planning a trip to Joshua Tree, keep in mind the temperatures. We took our trip in December, which was a perfect time to go for pleasant hiking. Temperatures are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in December, dipping down cooler at night to somewhere in the 30’s. Spring is the most popular time of year at Joshua Tree due to the desert flowers in bloom. Summer would be the least desirable time to visit as it is a desert and the temperatures can get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit warm to be hiking.

Joshua Tree has a lot of hiking trails and is a beautiful place to visit. At night the stars are plainly visible without any light pollution. If you want to see the stars at night pack a jacket, as it does get cold at night. There is nowhere to purchase food in the park, so pack a picnic and plenty of water. Be sure to pack a camera to capture this remarkable park. Happy Traveling!

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The Beautiful Rotary Botanical Gardens

Travel

The Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin is one of the most beautiful gardens I have visited. Full of interesting plants, colorful flowers, and fun sculptures, it is well worth the trip. Let me give you a tour…

kaleidoscope to view flowers – so cool!

The Rotary Botanical Gardens is developed into 26 garden spaces on over 20 acres of land. Some of my favorite garden spaces are the French Formal Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Shade Garden, and the Japanese Garden. I also was delighted by the interactive kaleidoscope sculpture that allows you to look at flower petals through a kaleidoscope.

A view of the Japanese Garden

I went in the summer, however, the Gardens would be wonderful to see in other seasons as well. The plants are changed out for different seasons so there is always something new to see. Along with different seasons come different hours of operation. Be sure to check the hours and days they are open before making your trip.

The Gardens are a photographer’s dream. Tons of beautiful flowers, interesting backdrops, sculptures, and insects make it well worth the trip. Charge your batteries before going and be sure to allow time to take in the gardens. There are plenty of benches throughout the garden to sit and enjoy nature or to take a break.

The admission to The Rotary Botanical Gardens is reasonable and they have events and classes throughout the year , so be sure to check-out their calendar. One can also have meetings or weddings held at the Gardens. How nice that would be! On the way out, do not forget to stop in the gift shop. A nice selection of garden merchandise is available for purchase.

So, if you like gardens and find yourself in Wisconsin, be sure to stop by Janesville and enjoy an afternoon at the Rotary Botanical Gardens. You can bring a lunch and have an enjoyable meal on their terrace. Remember to stop and smell the roses.

Snow Year Round in Yellowstone

Travel

It’s summer and a great time to plan a vacation. Perhaps the perfect time to visit a national park. Wouldn’t Yellowstone be lovely this time of year?

My family and I set off for Yellowstone National Park in late June (we just got back). I checked the weather before leaving so I would know what to pack. I was expecting it to be on the cooler side but was blind-sided on our last day at the park when it started to snow. Snow in June! Really!

I spoke with a park ranger who greeted us with, “Welcome to the first day of summer”. I asked him if the weather was typical for this time of year. He said that it could snow every month of the year in Yellowstone due to the elevation. Oh!

Luckily, the day before, we traveled on a road that was now closed for the day due to the snow. On that particular road we had been lucky enough to see four bears. Timing is everything at Yellowstone.

Now for a few tips for having a good time at Yellowstone. First of all, be patient. Unexpected traffic delays can occur due to animal sightings by motorists. Also, it takes time to spot the animals you are hoping to see. Second, be flexible. Weather may close roads and rerouting your agenda may be necessary. If you are staying outside the park, you may want to consider stopping somewhere to get a picnic lunch to bring into the park. It is not likely to be around a restaurant at the time of lunch, although there are places to eat in the park if you plan for it. However, just in case you get stuck in traffic, be sure to have plenty of water and some snacks to tie you over. Lastly, be sure to prepare for all types of weather in the park. Remember, it can snow every month of the year in Yellowstone.

Where the Buffalo Roam

Travel

Hoping to see buffalo on your trip to Yellowstone National Park? You need not worry. I would say it would be difficult not to see buffalo at Yellowstone National Park.

Buffalo tend to roam the park in herds, however, can be found in smaller groups or even solo. Of the three days in the park, we saw buffalo every day. We visited Yellowstone at the end of June and there were a lot of baby buffalo. These little guys were a lighter caramel color and resembled baby cows. Terribly cute!

When visiting Yellowstone, allow extra time to get around the park. Why? Traffic jams occur, of which we were part of on more than one occasion. These traffic jams can cause cars to back-up for over an hour for sure. What causes these traffic jams? Animal sightings by people wanting to snap a photo and buffalo crossing the roads or standing in the road.

The really long traffic jams are most likely due to buffalo crossing the roads. Be especially carefully of the baby buffalo when they are walking along the road. They obviously do not have as much experience at crossing roads and while they tend to stick pretty close to their mother, will run a bit more sporadically into traffic.

We spotted one buffalo on his journey swimming across a body of water. He then approached two other buffalo and kicked up some dirt and made some vocals to the other buffalo. They eventually all settled down and seemed cordial to each other. Very interesting to see.

Buffalo are a huge animal. They are also a wild animal. Having said that, when you are in the park, be sure to give them their distance for a safe viewing experience. Enjoy nature at it’s best in Yellowstone National Park!

Visiting the Popular John Moulton Barn

Travel

Anyone enjoying photography may be familiar with the sight of the John Moulton Barn, one of the most photographed barns around. This barn is located in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. There you will find it nestled with the mountains for it’s backdrop. The perfect setting for an absolutely beautiful photograph.

The barn is part of what is called Mormon Row. Mormons established this farming community near the turn of the 19th century. Here they shared the farm labor with their community. The Mormons dug ditches to irrigate their crops. Today, Mormon Row is part of the Grand Teton National Park.

Visitors from all over the world come to see and photograph this barn and the other buildings on the property. There is a small lot for parking your vehicle. Watch your step when walking around the buildings as there are some pretty large holes you will want to avoid. The holes were made by the current residents of the property, the Prairie Dog. You will see many of these little guys scurrying about.

Take some time to picture life without electricity at this beautiful Wyoming homestead. Have camera in hand and hope for beautiful skies. Venture further into the park and perhaps be lucky enough to see a moose as we did. Happy travels!

Visiting the Idaho Potato Museum

Travel
Baked Potato with Butter…Yum!

Road trips are a great way to learn and experience new things. One can come across some pretty interesting places on the road. One such place is the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho.

On our recent road trip, I happened by the sign for the Idaho Potato Museum. Oh boy! I REALLY wanted to stop, however, it was not on the schedule and stop we did not. I was disappointed but knew we had to pass the museum again on our way back. My group, however, was not promising anything.

I checked out the museum’s website and found out that they served potatoes. I absolutely HAD to eat an Idaho potato in Idaho. My group thought that eating an Idaho potato in another state would do. After all they said, ” You probably eat Idaho potatoes all the time”. That was not the point, I wanted to eat the Idaho potato in Idaho, plus I love this kind of museum.

Idaho Potato shed

I am happy to say that we finished sight-seeing early and were actually able to go to the Idaho Potato Museum. On our way there, I called ahead to reserve our potatoes. When we arrived we toured the museum, which was very educational, and learned the history of the potato and the potato industry. There are exhibits that go into detail about planting, irrigation, harvesting, and processing potatoes. The world’s largest Pringles Potato Chip is on display. Also on display are potato peelers and nails (which were used by cooks hoping to speed up the cooking process). Movies about potatoes were also available to watch. Outside the museum is a nice display of equipment used in the potato planting and harvesting process.

As I mentioned before, you can order a baked potato to eat in the museum’s cafe. The cafe also offers french fries, potato salad, potato bread, potato soup, potato cupcakes, potato ice cream, etc… The cafe is a nice, comfortable spot to enjoy a little something after the museum tour and refresh before hitting the road again.

potato doll

There is also a gift shop at the museum. They sell cookbooks, postcards, t-shirts, magnets, potato dolls, patches, pins, etc… They had a wide variety of reasonably priced items. I was even given a free bag of Idaho Spuds instant potatoes with my purchase. Bonus!

I enjoyed my visit to the Idaho Potato Museum. If you ever find yourself in Idaho, perhaps you too will make a stop in Blackfoot to eat a potato and enjoy a little history about the potato. I am glad I did.

Nesting Grebes at Lake Hodges

Travel

Are you interested in birds? If so, you may want to check out Lake Hodges located in Southern California. Right now is the perfect time to take a short hike to see the Grebes nesting on the lake.

Grebes build large nests at water level on the sticks and branches that are protruding from the water. It is quite a sight to see. In-between the sticks there are lots of nesting birds. My son and I were lucky enough to see one of the birds take a break from the nest and go for a swim, exposing a couple of yellow eggs. Of course the mommy did not go far from the nest and kept swimming close to check on the eggs.

It is an easy walk from the gravel parking lot to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge where you can view the Grebes nesting. Once on the bridge just look west (away from the freeway) and you will see the nests. I highly recommended that you bring binoculars to view the birds. You can also see them by zooming in with your camera. Without binoculars or a camera you will not be able to see the birds in detail. Also, be sure to bring water. Even though it is a short walk, Escondido gets very hot depending on the time of day you are there.

Besides viewing the Grebes, Lake Hodges offers other activities as well. You can bring your mountain bikes or hike on the many trails around the lake. If you walk to the end of the bridge and turn left, there is a nice hike to a stream and then back around past the lake. A drive to the other side of the lake would also allow you to rent kayaks, which my family and I did one year.

To get to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge to view the Grebes, take exit 26 W. Bernardo Drive/Pomerado Road off I-15 in San Diego, CA. Head left (West), pass the bridge, and park in the gravel lot on your right off West Bernardo Drive. There is a pathed bike/walking path from the lot to the bridge.