Traveling to Death Valley

Travel

Death Valley. The name does not sound like a welcoming place. I imagine it is not very welcoming in the summer, with temperatures well above one hundred degrees. However, Death Valley is quite welcoming in the winter.

The destination of our family trip was Death Valley, Nevada. This was not going to be a glam trip. I figured that out with a little research. It would not exactly be roughing it either. Here is the thing, we would be staying in Beatty, Nevada, just a little outside Death Valley National Park. A convienient drive to the park. Staying inside the park was not an option. Not only were they sold out, the rooms were over $300 a night, which was beyond our budget. It ended up that our hotel was just fine. Recently remodeled rooms and nice thick walls (so we could not hear our neighbors). The main problem, the reason I say it was going to be a bit hard, was that we would have to bring food for our trip. Yes, that is correct, be sure to bring lots of food to Death Valley.

Beatty only has a hand full of restaurants. Our oppinion was that they were not even close to being somewhere we would recommend. We tried the VFW, as it got good reviews. None of us thought much of the food there. I ordered the shrimp scampi. While the shrimp was delicious, the noodles were very greasy and had enough garlic to ward of vampires. They also did not give me the bread that was to come with the meal. Our adult kids, who normally like French dip sandwhiches, did not have anything good to say about these. We tried another local establishment. As soon as we walked in, we were told that they had to close but would reopen in a half hour. Something sketchy about that. We ate at Denny’s. Not a five star restaurant, but the burgers and fries were better than anything else in town. The last night we took a different way out of the park and found a Mom and Pop style Mexican restaurant. Everyone liked that meal except my husband, who said it was just ok. I might add that we took all our meals to go and ate them at the hotel or in the car.

We did not see options in the park for food, although the hotels were supposed to have restaurants. I HIGHLY recommend bringing a cooler full of food. We did this and were thankful of it. We brought food for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Our hotel had a microwave and refrigerator. I made a simple pasta salad for dinner the first night and packed it on ice. We ate the rest of the dinners out from restaurants the rest of the trip, but were not overly joyed at the quality of the food to choose from. Beatty does not have a grocery store, the nearest was over an hour away, we were told. They only have a Family Dollar, which has a few food items.

Getting over the food obsticles, the park was beautiful. Winter is the perfect time to go, as the temperatures are perfect for hiking in a desert. It was a bit cooler than I had orignally thought it might be. I was glad I researched the weather and packed accordingly. December in Death Valley was cold for a So Cal gal. I wore a light winter jacket, every day, over a hooded sweatshirt and was glad for it. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. A hat or earband would also be highly recommended as would gloves for the early morning chill. We even saw a few snow flakes while in the park. Some areas of the park are warmer than others due to terrain and altitude differences.

Every day of the trip we saw wild burro wondering about. They are running around Beatty and some can be spotted close to the park entrances. There are mixed reviews as to whether or not they are friendly. Some say they can be petted, others say to keep your distance. We also saw coyote.

The dunes were vast and beautiful. The mountains were colorful and majestic. The hiking was plentiful. The desert was grand.

Here are some lovely views of the park…

Wild Burro looking into our vehicle
Dunes
Stove Pipe Wells
Natural Bridge
Crater
Devil’s Golf Course
Charcoal Kilns

As always, Happy Travels!

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Palm Springs California

Travel

Late fall through winter is the perfect time for a desert getaway. Summer in the desert is too hot to be enjoyable, unless planning to spend the whole time in the pool. However, Palm Springs is warm enough to use the pool year round.

Palm Springs offers a variety of things to see and do. Downtown offers shopping and dining galore. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at Thai House. Enough food to share and that is what we did. Speaking of food, dates are a regional delight. We picked-up some of the sweet fruit in the form of dates rolled in almonds and the ever-famous date milkshake.

Like Hollywood, Palm Springs has its own walk of fame with stars lining the sidewalks. It is fun to stop and see whose names are engraved. Of course, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy have stars in Palm Springs.

Hiking is abundant in Palm Springs. The scenery is beautiful. Trails vary in difficulty. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Unlike hiking in the mountains, there is little shade on these trails and, even in the fall, it doesn’t take long to work-up a thirst.

The Palm Springs Museum of Art is a wonderful museum. The architecture of the museum itself is very interesting. It has multiple stories that look down upon each other. There is also the Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center. Something for everyone.

I was lucky enough to see a roadrunner crossing the road while we were driving. I found out that according to early Native Americans, having a roadrunner cross your path is good-luck. Oh boy!

As always, Happy Traveling!

International Cottages at Balboa Park

Travel

Whether it is learning about one’s ancestors or learning to appreciate other cultures, the International Cottages of the House of Pacific Relations has it all. The cottages are located in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The goal of the HPR is to “further the pursuit of ‘pacific’ or peaceful relations among nations”.

House of Finland

Each house represented in the International Cottages displays cultural information and items relevant to their country. It is a great way to get a taste of a culture. On Saturdays and Sundays, the cottages are open from 11am to 4 pm. Visitors can view the cottages and on Sundays can enjoy refreshments from the culture (donations are welcome). Some cottages also provide refreshments on Saturdays as well.

Music inside the House of Ireland

Houses also put on performances at the stage. This may include music, dancing, singing, etc… Annual special events include an Ethnic Food Fair, and the International Christmas Festival celebrated at the Park’s December Nights. During these annual events, all the cottages are opened and ethnic food is available for purchase.

Display cabinet inside the House of Ukraine

The HPR is a non-profit organization. Anyone can become a member to one of the houses. Many people who grew up in a country and then moved to the United States will join to stay connected to their culture and share it with others. A membership application/fee is required as well as volunteering at the house of choice. This is a great way to use a language with (in many cases) native speakers of the country. Each house has their own functions. In some, there a choirs to join or language courses. Some get together for coffee and to talk. Holidays are also celebrated with special functions just for members.

The HPR also has a Queens Organization. This is for young members of the houses. A Queen and Princesses can serve from each house. The Queens act as ambassadors for their house and preform cultural dances and do charitable work throughout the community. “The HPR Queens Organization fosters a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill between all races and nationalities, and prepares its members to be adult members of their Houses.”

Visiting Balboa Park’s International Cottages is a great way to spend an afternoon and learn about different cultures. An excellent way to introduce young children to many different cultures at once. For more information visit: http://www.sdhpr.org/aboutus.html

As always, Happy Travels!

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!

Just Another Day at the Beach

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Ah summer! Schools out, the sun is out, and the sand is warm on your feet. Just another day at the beach in So-Cal.

What would a good summer be without a little sunshine and salt air. It’s time to hit the beach! Hitting the beach means a bit of prepping first in order to ensure a good day is had. After all, no one wants to get to the beach and realize (like I did one time) that they forgot the beach towels. Oh my!

My packing list usually includes a beach blanket, a beach chair with clip on umbrella, beach towels, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, beach shoes, lunch cooler with food, water, boogie boards, surf board, frisbee, a good book, music with headphones, and a badminton set. Oh, and the cart to hall it all to the sand. Is there still room for passengers?

Living in So-Cal there are plenty of beaches to choose from. The dogs even have their own beach here. My family has two go-to beach spots. It is nice to have a particular beach that you are comfortable with. By going to the same beach it builds a tradition that in turn builds great summer memories.

A favorite thing of mine to do at the beach is to listen to the ocean and take in mother nature. I also love to watch the groups of pelicans fly by. I find them simply fascinating. I can never get enough of these large birds flying in uniform overhead. I do not, however, enjoy the seagulls hovering about while I’m trying to enjoy my lunch. Hooray for the little boy who likes to chase them away! I’m with you kid! I also like to take a walk on the beach and look for seashells. It’s like treasure hunting, hoping to find a beautiful shell or sand dollar still intact.

Boogie boarding is awesome fun when you find that perfect wave to take you speeding into shore, not to mention a great way to cool off. My son tried to teach me to surf, but I never got to my feet. I think that will take much more time than the one day I gave it so far. Some day….

Of course, the beach is enjoyable year round, however, summer brings out the best in the beach. When you return home and shake off all the sand, don’t forget to treat yourself to another summer favorite, ice cream. Perhaps a Fudgsicle or ice cream sandwhich to top off the day. Yum!

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.

Borrego Springs

Travel
Big-Horned Sheep
The Badlands
Desert Wild Flowers

The small town of Borrego Springs, California is located in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This makes a nice day trip for So Cal residents. There is plenty to see and do in the park.

While driving down into the desert valley below, be sure to be on the lookout for big-horn sheep. I was told there were big-horn sheep in the Anza-Borrego Desert, however, I was beginning to question this as I had never seen any in all my years of visiting the park. Then, on my latest trip, I decided to really look as we drove down the steep grade and into the desert below. To my delight, I spotted not one but two big-horn sheep blending in with the rocks on the side of the mountain. I shouted “sheep” and my husband pulled over and we all got out and watched the sheep and took pictures. Then we were even more surprised to see that there were actually four sheep grazing on the mountainside. This indeed was our coolest trip ever to Borrego Springs.

In Borrego, there is a visitor center with trails and a small town with some shops and restaurants. There is also The Art Institute that exhibits artwork that you can purchase. The Art Institute always puts on a nice exhibit. If you are an artist, you can have your work exhibited there if selected in one of their artist calls. We like to bring a lunch and eat at the picnic tables at the round-a-bout in the center of the town. On occasion, there are craft festivals and such at the round-a-bout park.

A trip to the desert wouldn’t be complete without a hike. There are many places to hike in the dessert. Check out the park’s website to find one that suits your needs. I also, recommend visiting the Borregeo Badlands. This section of the desert will make you feel tiny and is amazing to see. The formations were created by water of which they were submerged a long time ago.

Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit the desert, especially if it has been a rainy season. Rain brings wildflowers to the desert. This year the wildflowers were at their best. Yellow and purple carpets of flowers sprinkled over the desert for all to enjoy. Even if the flowers are not in bloom, the desert is amazing and beautiful at any season.

Tips for a pleasant trip to Borrego Springs…Pack plenty of water. Remember it is a desert and while the town itself is small, the desert is quite large, so you don’t want to be caught without enough water. Pack a lunch or snacks. Don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. If you plan to hike, wear hiking boots. Binoculars could come in handy if you are a bird watcher or want to see animals such as the big-horn sheep. Remember, animals blend in with their surroundings. A big-horn sheep could be out there, you just have to find it. Borrego Springs is close to The Salton Sea. (See my previous blog.) Start early and see a bit of both or make a weekend of it.