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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Water Bottle Holder

Projects

Like to take water with you but don’t want to carry it? Can’t get anyone else to carry it for you? A water bottle holder is just the ticket. Sling it over your shoulder and you are ready to go.

I have made four of these water bottle holders. What I like about them is that you can personalize them to whatever pattern or color you like. They keep the water cool and the sweat from the bottle does not get all over the place. Mostly, I like that I do not have to hold the bottle and can have my hands free.

Materials needed: 1/4 yard cotton fabric, Insulin-Bright insulating material (www.warmcompany.com), one package of double fold bias tape quilt binding .875″ wide, thread, pins, sewing machine, iron.

The holder does not take much fabric and is easy to make. It can be customized to fit the size of bottle you have. For a standard size water bottle, cut 2 pieces of fabric and 1 piece of insulating material : 10 1/2 ” wide x 11 ” high.

Take the insulating material and place the two pieces of fabric with the fabric right sides together on top of it. Sew on the top side (10 1/2″ wide side) through all pieces using a 5/8″ seam allowance. Turn the top fabric piece to the other side of the insulating material. Now the piece should have the insulating material in the middle with fabric on either side, right side facing out. Smooth flat and pin the piece everywhere with quilting pins. The sewn side will be the top. Sew in one inch lines from top to bottom or quilt as desired. Fold in half so sides meet, sew lengthwise 5/8″ seam. Set aside.

Cut a piece of binding tape long enough to cover the unfinished edge of the holder and the desired length of the strap.

Now take the binding tape and open it up and enclose the seam with the tape. Pin to the unfinished edge of the holder. Sew up the side keeping close to the edge of the bias tape and keep going down the remainder of the tape. Next, place the end of the strap inside the holder and sew in place. Turn the body inside out.

Cut two circles of fabric and one circle of insulating material 4″ diameter. Place together with the right sides out and insulating material in the middle. Pin. Sew an x through the circle. Sew a 5/8″ seam around the edge.

Pin the bottom circle piece in place in the bottom edge of the right side of the holder and sew around. Turn to right side. Put a water bottle inside and enjoy!

(My bag is adapted from the pattern on: blog.ilovefabric.com)

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.