Sunday, December 29, 2013

Downtown San Diego

On Friday Dan and John toured the USS Midway.  I had done that a couple of years ago, so I was more interested in joining our other son Mike and Dan's wife Amanda for a tour of downtown San Diego.  Amanda was especially interested in seeing some art galleries, so the historic Gaslamp area of town was the first stop on our walking tour.  Pictured below is the sign which denotes the entrance to the Gaslamp area.  This area of town is a dining and nightlife center, interspersed with boutiques and art galleries.
Some of the buildings have Victorian design and date back to the late 1800s.  Just looking at those buildings was interesting,  but we also found some art galleries which proved quite fascinating.
The familiar figure of Wilie E, Coyote greeted us at the doorway of Chuck Jones art gallery.  Chuck Jones was the cartoon director at Warner Brothers from 1938-1962.  He had many requests to sell original artwork from his animated films, which brought about the creation of this particular studio.  Represented here is also the artwork of many other animation legends and pop culture giants.  Among the artwork we found a framed letter from Dr.Seuss, written regarding Chuck Jones, which notes: " I have been enthused about his work for the past forty years,and each successive year I have become more enthuseder".
From the Gaslamp area we walked over to the harbor of San Diego.  Sprawling alongside the bay is the convention center,  a portion of its roof line suggesting huge sails.  Mike has been to Comic Conventions  several times there over the years and is very familiar with the center.  Our last stop was at the Horton Plaza, which is a large shopping mall distinguished by its multi-colored buildings.
Dan and John were not finished touring the USS Midway by the time we were done with walking around downtown, so we then spent some of our afternoon at Balboa Park.  I believe that I have featured that park on this blog site in the past, and am not sure yet whether I will write about it again. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

After we were done with all the Christmas festivities, John and I were ready to do some serious sight seeing with our son Dan and his wife Amanda.  They flew in Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with us and our other son Mike.  Dan was anxious to get out into the wilderness and do some hiking, so on Thursday we drove southeast to the desert.  We all were thinking that, given we would be hiking in the desert and the fact that the temperatures lately have been around eighty degrees here in Vista, it would only make sense to wear shorts and tee shirts.  We did not take into consideration that we first would be driving through mountains before arriving at our destination.  Our first stop was in Julian, a picturesque old gold mining town famous for its apple pies.  Leave it to John to discover that important piece of information about the town!  We stopped there for lunch, and after course, apple pie.  Every cafe and restaurant in Julian advertises that it has apple pie to offer.  We did not spend much time touring the town as it was quite cold when we stepped out of the car.  All we wanted was some hot drinks, apple pie and maybe some lunch.  The apple pie we had was delicious with a very flaky crust.   It has been said that there is not one bad apple pie in Julian.
The town of Julian is at an elevation of 4,220 feet, and what a difference in scenery as we descended down into the desert after leaving the town!  We rapidly went from pine-studded mountains to the shrub and tumbles weeds of  Anza State Park.  The landscape also looked a bit like the Badlands with rugged canyons and eroded gullies  We were still at about 1,000 feet elevation when we stopped at Yaqui Pass.  We took a short hike to view Sunset Mountain and the surrounding desert valley.  From this viewpoint we could see Salton Sea off in the distance.  It is one of the world's largest inland bodies of saltwater.
To get more information regarding the park we stopped at Tamarisk Grove Campground.  It was quite unusual to see a grove of trees in this desert landscape.  They are an old world tree, and had been planted in 1930 to shade a prison camp.  They are referenced in Genesis 21:33.
At this campground is the headquarters for the southern end of the park.  Anza-Boreggo Park covers 634,000 acres, more than half of the real estate of the entire California state parks, of which there are 279.  What we enjoyed about the park was the wide variety of cactus which we saw while hiking.
The cactus which we saw in the park, and were able to identify, were: ocotillo, agave, barrel cactus, and the cholla..  The latter cactus had an interesting glow around it as the sun set lower in the sky.
It was one of the more interesting desert hikes which John and I have ever taken, because of the presence of a wide variety of vegetation.  And we did see some wildlife, a black-tailed jackrabbit.  It was certainly a big rabbit and he impressed me with the high leaps he took to flee from us!

Monday, December 23, 2013

La Jolla Sea Cove

Our plans were to meet up with our son Mike Friday evening for supper and to attend one of his Improv shows in San Diego.  We started out earlier in the day with the intention of taking the sea coast south and stopping at some of the beaches north of San Diego.  For some of you who have been following this blog since we started traveling, you may remember that we visited this area several years ago.  La Jolla is considered the "Jewel of San Diego".  Its coast has cliffs which are riddled with sea caves.  There is one cave which can be entered, for a small fee at the La Jolla Cave Store.  However, we found an underground area which were able to enter by crossing over some rocks.  Unfortunately the tide was coming in and we ended up with wet feet!  The picture below was taken from within the cave, looking out unto the harbor.
In 1970 the City Council of San Diego created the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, 6,000 acres of tide and submerged land owned by the city.  The park extends south from Alligator Head La Jolla to near the northern boundary of Torrey Pines State Reserve.  A big attraction of this park are the many water birds, seals and sea lions who have chosen this area as a safe place to hang out. A small cove protected by a concrete breakwater wall was built to create a safe swimming area for children, but eventually the sea lions and seals took it over.
Brown pelicans are also numerous in this cove, many could be seen on the beach and in the water.  However, I found one who seemed to more prefer a solitary existence.
Our son Dan and his wife Amanda are arriving Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with us and our other son Mike.  We will be busy showing them the sights of the area so I do not expect to write any postings until after the holidays,  In the meantime, a very Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Escondido, California

We are now sort of in our winter mode, which means parking in one area for two to three months and doing less touring around.  Christmas activities are also claiming some of our time.  We have mailed out Christmas cards, and done some Christmas shopping.  And I suddenly got inspired to bake Christmas cookies.  I have the molds for springerle ( a German cookie which my mom use to make).  It takes a bit of skill to create that cookie and so I make them every Christmas to insure that I will not forget.  We are also volunteering at a homeless shelter.
Last Sunday our son Mike and John went golfing at Welk Resort.  It is on land which Lawrence Welk once used as his summer home and is still owned by his family.  John wanted to return to the resort on Thursday to look at the Welk museum which is in the lobby of the resort's music theater.
The above picture should give you a good idea of the scenery which we saw on our drive to the resort, as well as to how picturesque the town of Escondido is.  The area, located in North San Diego County, lies in the foot hills of the San Marcos and Merriam Mountains.  In Spanish the word Escondido means "hidden".  as it lies in a valley surrounded by hills.  Our first stop in the town was at the Escondido History Center where we learned that the town was once part of a large land grant- the Rimcon del Diablo, in English it is known as "corner of the devil".  Despite the ominous name given to the land, it is an area rich in natural resources favored by Indians, Spanish, Anglos and Californios over the years.  Five local historic buildings were moved into the history center of Escondido.  We found them all open for tours and docents available to explain their historic significance.  Of special interest to us was the 1890 Victorian country house which was lived in for 50 years by the family of a Lutheran pastor.  We were told by our guide that he and his wife had eight children, and that Pastor Hoffman was more a farmer than pastor.
The house is fully furnished with items from the time period.  No bathroom was ever built into the home.  From the historic park we drove to Kit Carson Park to find Queen Califia's Magical Circle.  Before I move on to that, I first want to explain Carson's presence in this part of California.  It was in 1846, at the battle of Mule Hill ( America was fighting Mexico for possession of California) when Carson traveled 20 miles over rocky terrain barefooted to obtain needed supplies and reinforcements.  He was successful in his mission.

We found Queen Califia, which was exciting because we were told that the artist, Niki De Saint Phalle, purposely wanted her hidden in the park.  Unfortunately the gates to the garden were locked, as it is currently being renovated.  However, we did find a few high spots outside the garden from which we could view it and take pictures.  The queen is a fictional warrior who ruled over a kingdom of Black women living on the mythical island of California.  In the picture above the queen stands on the back of a five-legged eagle mythical eagle.  Surrounding her is an ornamentation of colorful mosaic snakes.  An interpretive sign near the garden explains that the artist's central themes of her work are "joy, color, aggressive humor and fantasy". 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Highlights of our trip to the Midwest

The past two weeks have passed quite quickly.  Five of those days were spent traveling to the Midwest, and then returning to California all via Amtrak.  We have always enjoyed traveling by train, and this time was no exception.  What made this time on the train even more interesting was the fact that we are now so much more familiar with many cities and small towns because of our recent travels around the United States in our motor home. 
We left Los Angeles late at night and awoke the next morning to the familiar sights of the Arizona desert which include lots of sage brush and flat, sandy dry land.  Occasionally the landscape would be broken up by fascinating large red rock formations.  And it was in the Southwestern Desert that we saw a large field of solar panels, which was a first for us in our travels!  Tucson, Arizona held special memories for us as well as El Paso, Texas where we saw the Rio Grand River once again. In that town we saw a familiar sight- border patrol trucks.  From our train windows we could look over the border into Juarez, Mexico. 
Early Sunday morning we had a strange experience- the train which pulled our sleeping car and one coach car disconnected from us and went east to New Orleans- the two cars left behind were hooked up to another train (the Texas Eagle) heading north through Texas and into Missouri.  Until we got to Missouri the weather had been sunny and quite warm (we knew that because occasionally the train would have a stop of at least 30 minutes and we were allowed to wander around outside).   Monday morning we had to face what we had been dreading; grey overcast skies and a landscape largely devoid of anything green!   However, it was great seeing family and friends again so the winter-like weather was not too difficult to endure.  We had a great Thanksgiving with our daughter Melissa and her husband Spencer.
Our return trip was on different railroad routes than previously.  We traveled through Kansas and into Colorado.  We awoke the first morning to relatively flat land, so I was surprised later, in the observation car, when the conductor came in and announced that we were getting the first sightings of Pikes Peak!  Slowly that mountain with its snow covered peaks came into our view.  For most of that day we enjoyed beautiful sights of forests, canyons and mountains.  Our highest elevation was 7,000 feet at Raton Pass.  From there we traveled through New Mexico, a land dominated by many ranches, pueblos and missions.  A highlight of that day for us was in Albuquerque where the view of the Sandia Mountains at sunset was very spectacular.  They were bathed in a brilliant pink color under the rays of the setting sun.  And when we could no longer see the mountains, a beautiful sunset could still be seen across the horizon.  The last day of our trip we awoke to a green landscape with flowering bouganville, hibiscus, and bird of paradise.  California at last!
It was good to get back home.  Before concluding this I want to mention one other experience of our train trip, which is an important part of traveling by train.  In the dining car we had community meals- John and I were usually paired up with another couple during our meals.  On this trip we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with a couple from Australia, who happily stated that they were in our country for a “look about”.  We also got to know the executive director of a Humane Humane Society in an Arizona town.  John once worked for that agency so those two had a lot to share with each other.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rancho Guajome Adobe- Continued

I ended the last posting with a mention of Samuel Clemens.  There is another connection which the house has with a famous author.  Helen Hunt Jackson stayed in the guest bedroom which has been referred to as the "Ramona Room".  She had been a guest at the ranch several times over the years and it has been reported that she based the hacienda in her novel Ramona on this adobe.  Rumor has it that she did not get along with Ysidora because of her belief in the rights of Native Americans.  
Cave Jr. added two end sun rooms in the 1920's.  One of them is pictured below and opens into what once was the teacher's bedroom.  Next to that room is the children's schoolroom.  The steps in the foreground lead up to what became the sewing room, the only second floor room in the hacienda.
On this veranda is a Mason and Hamlin reed pump organ which Cave Jr. gave to his wife Lily Bell in 1890.  It has a three manual keyboard and two octaves of bass notes played by the feet, so someone besides the organist is needed to pump a hand lever on the side of it for the bellows.  Today the wind is furnished by a vacum motor in the next room which is connected to the organ by a flexible tube.  Our tour guide Jerry is an organist so he played "La Cucaracha" for us on the organ.  What a great sound from an old lady!
In Cave Couts Senior's office is his diploma from West Point.  Jerry informed us that it is written on sheepskin.  We did not know that diplomas actually were once written on sheepskin!  Outside of the house is located the chapel which was rebuilt in 1920 by Cave Jr., it is pictured below.  Next to it, on the right, is a cistern which was built using  bricks from the old mission.  A lot of the building material for the house was taken from the Mission San Luis Rey, including several religious relics.  When the mission was once again in use Mrs.Couts returned the religious items.
This is pretty much some of the highlights of this 7,000 square-foot hacienda and surrounding grounds.  In its day it was a city unto itself and lots of southern California history happened on this ranch!   Generations of Couts heirs lived there until 1973 when the County of San Diego acquired the property. 
Tomorrow John and I are leaving by train to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter Melissa and her husband Spencer in Illinois.  I will be taking a writing hiatus from this blog site for several weeks.

Rancho Guajome Adobe County Park

Our first visit to this park was on Tuesday when we discovered that we could not tour the hacienda until Wednesday.  However, we were able to take a hiking trail around the ranch where, from the hills behind it, we could get a fairly good view of the home.
Our path took us through quite a large patch of dried fennel which gave off a nice scent.  Fennel smells like anise and licorice, so that should give you an idea of what we were smelling.  We also heard a loud creaky sound from the marsh.   The only creature we figured that could make that sound would be a frog.  What a surprise the next day when we returned and discovered that Guajome in the Uto-Aztec word wakhavumi  means "frog pond".   When we returned on Wednesday we had a guide, Jerry, to give us a tour of the home.  We learned from him that the ranch of 2,219 acres had been a Mexican land grant given to two native American brothers from the Mission San Luis Rey (this happened at the time of the secularization of the missions).  The brothers sold the land to a prominent wealthy San Diego man, who gave the land as a gift to his sister-in-law Ysidora at the time of her wedding to Colonel Cave Johnson Couts in 1851.  From 1852-53 they constructed a large residence on the property which has inner and outer courtyards.

The couple would eventually have 10 children, and over the years wings were added to the home.  The home has 28 rooms, which includes the ranch store and office,a living room and dining room, kitchen, pantry and bakery, servant's quarters, as well as 8 bedrooms.   Some of the furnishings of the home have been returned by descendants of the family, as well as by the descendants of the servants who worked at the ranch.  There are twos room dedicated to the Native American artifacts which includes their tools and baskets.  Some of the articles have been made by the Native Americans in recent years for the sole purpose of displaying their important connection with the ranch's history.  Servants on the ranch numbered about 200 in the 19th century.
I will continue the story of this ranch and our tour of it in my next posting.  Before ending this I will leave you with the picture of the front formal entrance of the hacienda.   The one room on the second level of the home use to be a guardhouse.  It was later converted into a sewing room by Cave Johnson Couts Junior for his wife Lily Bell Clemens (cousin of author Samuel Clemens) when he married her in 1887.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gardens of the Carrillo Ranch

Leo Carrillo had a couple different names for his ranch.  On our tour we saw the "Flying LC" painted or carved in many places on the ranch, and that symbol he branded on his cattle.  You can see the symbol on the chimney of the house in the picture below.

 Another name was Rancho de los Quiotes (Ranch of the Spainish Daggers).  Quiotes is believed to mean an agave or century plant sometimes known as the "Spanish Dagger".  Many of those plants are on the ranch.
Before our guide Pam even started showing us the buildings of the ranch she first pointed out many plants along the path which led us to the adobe hacienda. She showed us some white dots on a prickly pear cactus and quickly wiped them on her hand.
The white substance from the plant became a red dye- commonly known as cochineal.  When it is mixed with calcium or aluminum salts the dye is used in food colorings and cosmetics.  Pam also pointed out a spineless cactus plant to us.  It is a hybrid cactus developed  by Luther Burbank and is a cross between an Indian fig and Mexican prickly pear.  This particular cactus was once fed raw to cattle as there are no prickly spines on the pads (properly called thalli) of the cactus.
In keeping with the theme of his Spanish California heritage Leo Carrillo wanted peacocks on his ranch.  He remembered them wandering around his uncle's ranch, so he started a peafowl collection of 6 birds.  By the way, a peacock is the male peafowl.  Today there are about two dozen peafowl roaming around on the ranch grounds.  In 2004 one of the peahens had a clutch that included one white baby chick.  According to Pam this variation in peafowl occurs rarely but with some regular frequency due to a recessive gene.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Carrillo Ranch- Carlsbad, California

Today John and I got to know the man behind the character of Pancho in the 1950s television series The Cisco Kid, which starred Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.  Carrillo played the role as Cisco’s sidekick, Pancho.  Pancho was kind to everyone; dogs, cats or kids- anyone in distress.  While rescuing that person or animal he usually got his partner into trouble.  That was the gist of the series as I recall them- the characters  being a bit like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza who fought the windmills of mankind's woes.  An interesting side note here, which we learned while touring Carrillo’s ranch, is that the tale of The Cisco Kid came from O.Henry’s short story "The Caballero’s Way".  Carrillo acted as Pancho in 1950 at the age of 70 years.  At that time of his life Leo Carrillo had been on Broadway and in 90 films.
In 1937 Leo Carrillo and his wife Edith (Deedie) wanted a retreat away from Hollywood, and he wanted that home to reflect his Californian history. Carrillo came from a long line of prominent, wealthy Spanish- Americans, a descendant of one of the twelve original families of San Diego.  He found the land he wanted in Carlsbad, and on that land he constructed many farm and ranch structures.  By 1940 he had cattle herds and horses.  He was also growing crops of citrus, avocados, beans, corn and hay.  His hacienda is L-shaped, with the main wing having a living room, dining room and a large commercial-style kitchen.  In the other wing is two bedrooms.  He had only one guestroom where his friends from Hollywood (as Clark Gable, Will Rogers, Carol Lombard, Walt Disney) would stay.  As he had only one guest room, many of his friends came in their Airstream trailers and parked them on the ranch grounds.  On the entry way threshold of Carrillo’s home is carved the words “SUCASAMIGO".  Carrillo threw lavish parties and not only wanted his guest to have fun, but to also experience the life of a vaquero, or cowboy. For that purpose he had his guests assist him with branding his cattle and calf roping.  Pictured below is the pool and cabana.  Around the deck chairs is white sand- apparently Carrillo wanted his guests to also have the beach experience!
Another feature of the ranch is Carrillo's man cave in the barn and stable complex, which we found quite interesting.  Also on our tour we saw the small building which Carrillo constructed for his wife to pursue her artistic talents.  It was known that she was at times shy and reclusive and would escape to her hideway.  
On the side of this building there are restored pictographs etched by Carrillo.  Before he got into acting he worked for the San Francisco Examiner as a cartoon artist.  He was a poet and lyricist for California's official centennial song,as well as an influential environmentalist and conservationist for the state.   My next posting will spot-light some of the plants and animals we saw on our tour.  I had not expected the tour of the ranch to be as interesting as it turned out to be! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Batiqiotos Lagoon

Before I begin this posting I would like to share with you the great beauty we have right outside our door everyday- when the sun is shining.  This daisy-like flower opens up only when there is a lot of sunshine, otherwise its bloom is closed.  Another wonderful surprise near our home is a magnolia tree which is starting to bloom.  Since we have been in southern California, for some strange reason John and I have felt no desire to explore museums or art galleries.  Guess we are getting to be like the citizens of this state, it is all about the great outdoors and the sunshine.  A couple of days ago John and I biked the San Luis River Trail and Wednesday we did some hiking in Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center as well as Batiqiotos Lagoon.

Along the path in the picture above is a strand of Eucalyptus, a tree native to Australia.  It has naturalized in California, invading native plant habitats.  The leaves and seed pods have pungent oils in them which prevent native plants from growing underneath the trees.  We had first stopped at the Audubon Nature Center before Batiquiotos Lagoon hoping to see some birds.  This area is along the Pacific Flyway, the annual migratory route for millions of birds passing through en route to winter or summer destinations.  However, we saw very little bird activity at the nature center in Oceanside (probably it is too soon for the migratory birds to be flying through), so we drove over to Carlsbad were the lagoon is located.  The lagoon is one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the southern California coast.  There have been many attempts to develop it into an amusement park or home development, fortunately not of them panned out.
There was a lot of bird activity going on in the lagoon, and we more heard the birds than saw them.  Frequently some sort of yellow warbler swooped in front of us- always moving too fast for us to identify him, but we did see the bright splash of yellow feathers.  Bush tits were twittering among the scrub, and we did see large numbers of them when they flew out from the brush.  The gurgling konk-la-reee sound of the red-winged blackbird could be heard in the marsh among the cattails where they were hanging out.  I was also pleased to hear the mewing of gnatcatchers, and we did see them too.  Hardly a day passes when we see hummingbirds, Anna's hummingbird stays in southern California all year.  Along the trail we saw the tobacco tree which blooms all year.  Hummingbirds love its long yellow flowers.
In case you are wondering how I came by this information, we had a self-guided trail guide for the lagoon.  Had we not had that brochure we would have missed seeing a wood rat's nest, nor would we have thought to look up in the trees to see a heron's nest!  Another interesting feature of the lagoon is a man-made sand nesting site of the least tern and snowy plover- unfortunately it is only in the spring when they are here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oceanside, California

We are now parked in Vista, California.  It is east of Oceanside, and Oceanside is where our son Mike lives.  He works in Carlsbad, which is south of Oceanside.  We have plans to stay in this area for at least two months, so I felt it necessary to orient you, our readers, to the three towns which I am sure will be referred to my postings in the near future.  I do need to add another city into this mix, which is San Diego.  We made a trip into San Diego Saturday evening to watch our son Mike perform in an improvisation show.  Oceanside is considered the gateway between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles.  On Sunday we joined Mike to explore downtown Oceanside and its beach.  The picture below was taken from the pier at Oceanside,  it is West Coast's longest wooden pier.  The town is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.  Part of its rich history are the pink cottages which can be seen in the picture, they date from the 1920s.
As we started to walk onto the pier we had a welcoming committee of sorts.  One man offered free rosaries and prayers to us, and another lady clasping a clipboard warmly welcomed us to the pier.  Turned out that she wanted to give us a tour of a nearby hotel!  Walking further onto the pier we noticed a special bench for Mike.  Unfortunately the bench was facing the sun and Mike was forced to squint.
Looking down on the beach from that point we saw Mike's name again, this time with other names.
That was quite some decorative sand art, but our Mike had nothing to do with it.  Downtown Oceanside was quite busy for a Sunday evening, besides the beach, stores and restaurants were bustling with activity.  Even a couple of barber shops had customers lined up for their cuts.  On Monday John and I drove to California's 18th mission, San Luis Rey de Francia, located in Oceanside.  The mission's name is Spanish and honors St.Louis the King of France who ruled in the 13th century.
The church has impressive architecture, a composite of Spanish, Moorish and Mexican.  Inside, on the walls, are painted Spanish and Native American designs and symbols.  They are the original drawings, but it has been necessary to repaint them over the years. Outside of the mission there is a rather extensive cemetery with Franciscan burial crypts, as well as rose gardens with pepper and olive trees.  Speaking of the latter, San Luis Rey has one very old pepper tree grown from seeds brought to the mission in 1830 from Peru.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Newport Beach, California

The park where our home is at present spreads out over 100 acres of private beach along Newport's scenic Back Bay.  And, as you may notice in the above picture, large sand dunes surround the bay.  Upper Newport Bay, also known as Back Bay, is the largest of only a few remaining natural estuaries in southern California.  Here saltwater from the ocean mixes with fresh water from inland sources to create a wonderful place for an abundance of wildlife including nearly 200 species of birds.  In the Upper Bay Preserve is one of the finest bird watching sites in North America.  And speaking of bird watching, I had an interesting experience with that yesterday at the preserve.  As John and I walked through the butterfly garden of the preserve, I heard a kitten-like mewing sound.  There were no cats around, the sound had to be coming from a bird.  We watched a film in the visitor's center which mentioned that the California gnatcatcher makes that particular cry.  Back outside later, when John and I were starting on a hike, I heard the cry again.  I was determined to find that bird!  Not only did I find him, but I also was fortunate that he took a minute to rest from his constant flitting in and out of the brush to pose for me.  Seconds after I snapped the picture he was gone.  While I was chasing down that bird John was enjoying the sight of ducks and egrets in the bay, fortunately he is quite patient with my birdwatching.
That small blue-grey songbird, the California gnatcatcher, is endangered.  His home is the coastal scrub land of the California chaparral, of which 90% of that land has been lost to development and wildfires.  From the Upper Bay Preserve we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Corona del  Mar, which is also part of Newport.
  Here we spent some time walking on the beach and exploring tide pools.  As you may notice from the picture, it is quite a rugged beach with many rocks.  We did not find much in the tide pools except for some anemones and quite a number of sea urchins- those purple creatures are in the picture below.
As I mentioned earlier, the southern coast of California is very developed and the traffic is horrendous.  So it was a pleasure today to leave our car behind and use our bikes.  We biked across a bridge in Newport, rode through Balboa Island and took the auto ferry to Balboa Peninsula.  Both places are part of Newport.  Balboa Peninsula has a boardwalk for bikes, and we soon discovered that the safest means to get through the streets to the boardwalk was by traversing the alleys.  They are paved and wide, also the backs of the houses are just as beautiful as their fronts!   Newport Beach is one of the most affluent communities of the West Coast.  The boardwalk took us past some very ritzy vacation homes, in fact I was more apt to be staring at them than enjoying the shoreline!  A lot of them had amusing Halloween decorations.  We did not cover the entire island, but at least we made it to the "Wedge", named for a large rock jetty which creates impressively high ocean waves.  It is a famous spot for body surfing, and we spent some time watching about 12 young men riding the waves.  There certainly is much more to see in this area, but we are moving out of here tomorrow to Vista,  where we will settle down for a couple of months.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Canyons of Orange County

Orange County has thirteen region parks, many of which are wilderness and canyon lands in the middle of urbanized areas.  In the 1800s the land was divided into large historic ranches, but with the housing boom after World War 11 they were sold for residential development.   Fortunately some of the ranch land was dedicated to the Orange County for the establishment of wilderness parks.
Our drive Friday was initially through Irvine Region Park which is known for its biological and geological resources.  We first stopped to look at the Red Rock section of that park in Silverado Creek Canyon., it is pictured above.  We were then on our way to Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park when we got sidetracked by a sign pointing to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary located in Modjeska Canyon.  Tucker is a major migratory bird route that extends from Alaska to the southern tip of South America.  We saw a variety of birds there, some of which were acorn woodpeckers.  In the sanctuary is a utility pole which they have used as their granary, a place where they store their supply of acorns.  We could see thousands of holes which they have drilled into the pole and filled with acorns.  At Whiting Ranch we did a little bit of hiking, not as much as we would have liked but we had killed a lot of the day at Tucker.
I was just going to write about our canyon trip in this posting, but after our trip yesterday to Bower Museum, I felt that I would like to share with you what we saw there.  The museum has two temporary exhibits on display presently.  The first one we looked at is called Gods and Gifts: Vatican.  This is a portion of the Vatican Ethnological Museum collection, home to more than 80,000 cultural achievements from around the world. The collection, begun in 1692, displays diverse religious beliefs and practices through works of art, and includes gifts presented to the Pope from heads of  heads of state and spiritual leaders.  We found that quite interesting; especially the piece of cloth made of silk, semi-precious stones, and coral given by the Dali Lama to Pope Paul VI.  Equally fascinating was the display from Van Cleef and Arpels.  It is a heritage display of their jewelry, watches, archival drawings and documents.  Included among the jewelry is a necklace once worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton gave it to her on the birth of her first grandchild.  The company was able to buy it back when it went up for auction.  There are also pieces in the collection worn by Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, the operatic singer Maria Callas and other famous personages.