Big Rocks and Blooming Things

We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we left the RV yesterday to go hiking in Pinnacles National Park.

There are no roads through the park, and so there are entrances on both sides. We happened to be on the west side of the park, and so we used that entrance. The visitor center is at the east entrance, which is only significant because I wasn't able to get a shot glass at the "contact center" where we went in. Boo Hoo. However, I did pick up the much coveted refrigerator magnet, and so all is not lost.

We drove about five miles on California State Highway 146 to arrive at the entrance. It was a very narrow and winding road. In the image below, you can see that it is only ridiculously narrow.

At times it went from ridiculously narrow to absurdly narrow. At those stretches, signs were posted warning us that it was a one-lane road, and that we should drive carefully. Duh.

While we were in talking with the ranger at the contact center, the call came in announcing that the main parking lot was already full (it was around 9:00 a.m.), and so we were instructed to park at the overflow parking and hike the half mile to the main parking lot. As we made our way down the road, we could look off in the distance and see the marine layer burning off in the valley below.

From the overflow parking lot, we could see the pinnacles ahead of us.

Below is a tiny section of the park map, showing the area we walked. The green line is there to indicate our path. The cave was dark, and required flashlights. Also, it was quite steep and so we only hiked as far as we though we could go safely on our rickety knees, and then turned around and came back the way we came. As a consolation, even young people were turning back at the same spot...not that we're not young, you understand. I just mean there were people even younger than us turning around. One Japanese man described himself (and us) as "obsolete children," and that's exactly the term I've been looking for.

When we reached the far side of the Chaparral Trailhead Parking, we had one decision to make. Since the Juniper Canyon Trail was an over 1,000 foot elevation gain, strenuous, and narrow, we opted for the wimpy Balconies Trail. 

Here's a little description of it. 

We started out in the bright sunshine, but the trail was nice hard pack, rather than the soft sand we often walked while in the Valley of Fire.

Eventually, we found ourselves among the shadows of immense rocks and oak woodland.

Morning wasn't the best time for photography, but it's the best light we were going to get.

At times, we were standing right beside huge boulders.

After taking that shot, I looked behind me and saw this.

Eventually, the trail grew quite narrow, and we found ourselves in a slot canyon.

Here's how we thought we might die on this trip. Heads up, please.

And these were some big m-effing rocks, let me tell you.

It brought to mind hiker, Aron Ralston, who was trapped when one of these big boulders rolled onto his hand while hiking in a slot canyon. I won't repeat Aron's story here, but if you don't know who I'm talking about, it's worth a click on this link right here. We kept our hands in our pockets as much as possible.

Eventually, we came to the area where the cave is located. It is sometimes closed off because of the stream that runs through here during wet periods. 

It was dry on our trip, and there appears to be a salt residue...calcium? Hard to say.

Look near the bottom of the image below, and you'll see how short and skinny we had to make ourselves to fit through these holes in the rock.

When the trail got too steep, rocky, and dark, we turned around and headed back. On the way out, we marveled again at the immensity of the landscape.

There was a lot blooming along the trail. I know the names of almost none of them, so I'll just let you look.

This here is a thistle.

These little yellow jobs were tiny...a little smaller than a dime.

This next one was on a large blooming tree that was covered with them.

This next one was blooming in profusion in an area where there was water in the stream. Its flower looks a lot like what we call a Scotch Broom in the Pacific Northwest. The plant was different, however.

These little purple jobs were growing in abundance all along the trail.

After that, we returned the way we came and were back at the RV just after noon.

We thoroughly enjoyed this park. It was quite a delightful surprise since neither of us has ever visited before. Now we want to come back and enter on the east side, but that will have to wait for another trip. Today we are making a day trip to Monterey where there will be a lot to see. There is fabric in my future.

Cat Patches

Speaking of fabric...the linky party for the Bag Ladies of the Fat Quarter Club goes live day after tomorrow. Don't forget to link up, my stitch-along friends. No need to finish your piece. Just join in the party and show us your progress.


A Day of Driving

There isn't a whole lot to say about yesterday's activities. We drove a long distance over some terrible roads and some better roads, and moved from the dry foothills of California into some lush farmlands and wine country. There are lots of nut trees growing in the area south of us. As we drove along, we started noticing trees with clusters of what appeared to be red blossoms. We mused about whether they might be cherries (seemed a bit too dry and hot in the region). Peaches? Plums? Crabapples? When we started seeing signs advertising pistachios, I asked my friend Siri to show me some images of pistachio trees, and she came up with this one:

It's a little grainy, being an internet image, but there you have it. And I'll bet you though pistachios lived their whole lives being green.

There were a few interesting barns along the way. Somehow I lost my pictures-out-the-window mojo yesterday...or maybe I only dreamed I ever had it. Sorry for these crappy pictures, but they're the only ones I have.

Eventually, we passed into mile after mile of vineyards. It almost felt like home.

What my pictures lack in blur, they make up for with their reflections off the windows. 

We're staying in a very nice RV park for three nights this time around. It's beautifully landscaped with wide level spaces. Although the wind was howling, we took a walk around the grounds to get the lay of the land. Along the way we saw agapanthus (not sure why I chose that weird angle)...

pretty red daylilies,

and some pretty yellow ones.

Also, some of my favorites, not seen in years...African daisies.

These were planted at the freeway overpasses near where I lived with my family in Oceanside, California, when I was growing up. I'm not sure I've seen them since we left the area.

The kitties are seasoned travelers now. While their cubbies were important in the beginning, they've determined that they are much to sophisticated for kid stuff like that, and so now they've commandeered one of the comfy chairs.

Go ahead and take a bath break, Smitty. I'll stand woofie post.

We stopped off at a Petco a while back and got some new kitty toys...the old ones were a bit stale. Also, new scratching posts and some double-sided sticky tape. Prior to the new scratching posts, they were using the couch, and this was unacceptable. They are not happy about the double-sided sticky tape, but the couch will take less of a beating.

Today we'll visit Pinnacles National Park. Neither of us have ever been. It's a small park about half an hour away. Just now I checked the website and discovered two alerts. The first was that the "Bear Gulch Cave" was closed until mid-July to protect a maternity colony of Townsend's big-eared bats. That's kind of cool, but now I really want to see the bats. You can see a picture at the link I gave you there.

The other alert had to do with the parking situation. They warn that the parking lots are full between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., which can be a serious problem with our pig of a truck. We're going to get going early and try to get there before the madding crowds arrive. You might remember that we were prevented from doing any hiking or even seeing the visitor's center at Zion National Park a few years ago because of the parking situation. Obviously, we need to plan our visits to the national parks better. For now, Memorial Day Weekend it is.

Tomorrow we'll make a day trip into Monterey (about an hour away), where there is a quilt shop. I've called ahead to make sure they're open, and they are! Can't wait to pick up a regional print from the area. It's a very scenic portion of the California coast, and we've visited many times before (but never the quilt shop). This time we'll take in a few lighthouses.

So, off we go exploring. Hopefully, I'll have some better pictures for you in my next post.


Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

We arrived here in Acton, yesterday afternoon. The drive over started with temps in the high 90's, but by the time we reached Acton, we were into the high 60's with a big wind blowing. The wind is supposed to die down by tomorrow, but today, it's plenty windy. The drive over was pretty boring...miles upon miles of the same desert scenery.

The kitties were happy for a door-open day. It's been either too hot or too cold to have the door opened, and they love just sitting and watching what's going on outside.

When we arrived yesterday, I ran my hands over Smitty's back the way I always do when I greet him, and came back with a big handful of fur. He started shedding practically overnight, and so I spent about half an hour brushing him. He soaked it in, and I came away with big huge piles of fur. We could probably have felted a full-sized cat with it.

From here on, we're visiting things I've been collecting, literally, for decades and so I've pulled items from our California folder for the remainder of the trip. One never knows what we might find...the Musical Road, for one thing. As I'm typing, my video of the road is slowly uploading to YouTube. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get it done until our next stop. The RV park internet is not secure, and so my Norton Antivirus software has me completely blocked from using the park internet. It's the first time that's ever happened. Probably just as well that it protects me from myself. Nevertheless, I can use the hotspot on my cell phone...if the signal was stronger...and it's pretty darned slow. All of that to say the video is very slow uploading to YouTube, and so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed while it does its thing. This makes typing very difficult, so please excuse any typos you see.

As for the Musical Road, the things I read about it said to drive it at about 35 mph, and so we did. They also said to keep to the right of the roadway, and it turned out to be in the left lane. Geez. So, we kind of missed about half of it the first time around. We did a U-turn and tried again. The second time we got it right. There was also some roadkill and this vexed us some. So...without further ado...

If you can't see the video, click right here. Turn up your volume and listen very closely, because it's just barely audible.

Fun, huh? Now I can pull that one sheet from my overstuffed California folder.

We were so excited about that, we went to the grocery store just to settle ourselves down. It was quiet last night and the kitties are settling in, and so everyone is sleeping better. When we woke up, this was the view from our window.

We tried to visit a quilt shop this morning. Their website is active, but the store is permanently closed.

Fortunately, it was on our way, and so we only wasted a few minutes here. The sign was still above the door, but there was a lockbox on the door handle. The door was unlocked. When I opened it...nothing but an empty shell inside. Bummer. Oh well. Better luck next time. Just another reminder to call ahead.

From there, we made our way to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. I'd done some reading about this ahead of time. Almost to a person, commenters advised that we bring our wind breakers. Wow! The wind was something. I'll say more about that in a minute.

When I saw this sign, I realized I'd been remiss all this time in not telling you the many ways we could die on this trip. 

Please mind where you set your feet. We walked a few yards up the trail from there and the next thing we saw was this:

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm very curious about the story of this left-behind item. 

Most of the wildflowers and a lot of the California poppies were already bloomed out, but there were still plenty of poppies left to make it a beautiful hike. These are so pretty and delicate. This is California's state flower, and I've always loved them.

It might not be obvious from this next image, but they lined the trail on both sides.

Surely the landscape was prettier earlier in the season. I've seen pictures where these hillsides are solid orange. Nevertheless, there were enough to give us a sense of what it might look like earlier in the season, and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable, if short, hike. 

We saw lots of lizards. They are smaller than their Nevada cousins, but they are almost quicker than your eye can see.

Pleased to meet you, sir.

As I said, most of the wildflowers were gone, but there were a few...these tiny ones, for example. The flowers are barely larger than the head of a pin.

There was one clump of these blooming at the top of the hill.

The wind was so strong in the parking lot that we had to hold onto our doors while getting out of the truck to avoid having the wind spring them backward and break the hinge. (Yes, this happened to us once when we were visiting Crater Lake.) Because we've encountered high winds in so many places, Mike invested in an anemometer that he keeps in his truck. This was the wind speed at the parking lot.

It was greatest at the top of the hill, however, and so we measured it there.

Check it out. We watched the wind speed hit over 38 mph from here.

Here is a map of the park. If one were to walk the whole thing, one could walk a little over 5 miles. The wind was not unpleasant, but it did limit the amount of time we want to spend there, and so we walked just the little area I have outlined in green...twice, because we went back to the truck for the anemometer.

I'm really hoping you can read this next sign because it tells the origin of this place. Remember that you can always make an image larger by clicking on it.

Basically, an artist named Jane Pinheiro loved painting the poppies, and she got an idea to turn this into a park. Eventually University of California, Davis, got interested and after a period of time, negotiation, and persuasion, Dorothy Bolt approved the effort and embarked on a quest to purchase the land. She started a fundraising effort known as "Pennies for Poppies." Mike remembers collecting pennies for poppies when he was a boy. Anyone who contributed was given a paper poppy to wear on their lapel. The park was dedicated in 1976.

The only other thing I've been doing is continuing to work on the latest Hocuspocusville block. This morning I moved my hoop for the first time.

Now it's hooped up and ready to go again. I have a few days left to work on it, and then I'll be switching off to my next bag lady, Beulah.

From here, we'll be moving onto a place called Paicines, California, which is up close to the Monterey Peninsula. From there we can see Pinnacles National Park (our newest national park), Monterey (there is an award-winning quilt shop there), and several lighthouses. We have three nights there, and so there will be plenty of time to take in the area.

This post has taken me most of the afternoon and a good part of the evening to write and publish. I've had major connectivity issues here. I have no idea what the next stop will hold, and so if you don't hear from me for a few days, just know that my patience was used up with this post, and I'll be back soon.