Thursday, January 30, 2014

Vista, California

Saturday we are leaving,  moving our rig from the rv park in Vista where we have been sitting since November.  We will certainly miss the many sunny days we had here.  And John has remarked that this area in Vista has been the prettiest site for us, in comparison to the other places in California where we have parked in previous years.  We have not had to walk or drive any distance before seeing hills or canyons.
This picture was taken up the hill from where we are parked.  The owner of the house on the left took advantage of the scenery by constructing a patio on top of his garage.
John is pictured above working with children and another volunteer at Operation Hope, a homeless shelter in Vista.  There have been no community activities in the place where we have been parked (as we had experienced last year in Texas), so it has been great to be able to put in a couple of shifts a week with this center.  The shelter has 12 rooms for families or single women.  It has funding only to be open from December through March, and hopefully by the end of that time the residents have found housing and jobs.  There are social workers at the shelter who are available to assist them in that regard.  John and I have enjoyed working there and becoming acquainted with both the staff and the residents.  Almost half of the residents are young children and teens, and that brings me to another subject which I feel is important to mention here.
This past Sunday John and I attended a human trafficking workshop.  A brief talk was first given  regarding human slavery world wide, and it was noted that there are 27 million slaves in the world today.  The other  speakers were a detective from San Diego and a social worker who works primarily in north San Diego County.  San Diego is one of 13 United States cities which has a highest incidence of child prostitution.  Quite often the children caught up in this slavery are "throw away children", children who have no record  of being reported missing.  They make be foster children or children coming from homes where they have been abused.  The youngest one found by police was 11 years of age, she had been transported here from the east coast.  Once picked up by a prostitution ring, or street gangs, they become slaves and are dehumanized.  Some have a bar code tattooed on their arms.  They may turn an average of 25 tricks an evening, at $100.00 for each one.  So, as you may see, there is big money in this business.  Crystal Anthony, the social worker who spoke in the workshop,  becomes involved with these victims when they are picked up by the police.  The foundation which employs her (Lifeline) provides her with the funds to help the individuals gain a life of freedom with no exploitation.   They are viewed by the police as victims, not prostitutes.  Anthony ask those of us at the workshop to get the word out to at least five people regarding this story of human trafficking in the United States.  Hence I decided to include that topic in my last posting from California.  Young children and women who accept gifts from strangers need to be made aware of the fact that those gifts may have a horrific price tag attached to them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Palomar College Arboretum

In the picture above is a flowering pear tree, one of several in a row in front of the clock tower at Palmer College.  Back home in the Midwest it was part of the spring scene, I am not too sure if that is true here.  Judging by some of the vegetables which are now being sold in our local farmer's market it may well be spring.  Greens and sugar snap peas are now out on the produce tables, and we have been told that it is the end of the grape season.  By the way, the sugar snap peas are delicious- very crisp and tender, they need no cooking.  We are sure going to miss the fresh fruits and vegetables when we leave here!
Palomar College, located in San Marcos, has quite the pretty campus with flowering shrubs and tall trees, as well as a variety of succulents and cacti on its grounds.  In 1973 a five acre hillside was set aside for an arboretum.  Soon after many trees, palms and bamboos from around the world were planted.
We certainly found many unusual plants and trees in the park.  Pictured above is the flower of an eucalyptus tree from Australia.  If you are wondering, that is a bee in the flower on the right.  There were also flowers just starting to bloom on the tree and it is quite fascinating that they start out in what looks like an acorn.  Not only were the plants beautiful and interesting, but John noticed a hawk sitting in a tree who was kind enough to fly down and sit on a rock for our viewing pleasure.  I was able to get fairly close to him to snap a picture.
I tried to identify the bird later in my bird book.  Unfortunately there are a couple other hawks who seem to have his same color patterns. My best guess is that it is a ferruginous hawk, the only hawk noted in the book who sits on the ground.  We were surprised to see any hawk in the garden, usually they are flying out over open countryside looking for a tasty meal of rodents or other small animals.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wilderness Gardens Preserve

On Monday John and I continued with our search of wilderness areas to explore.  The above mentioned park is still in San Diego County astride the San Luis Rey River.  It is quite a beautiful park, a valley surrounded by hills and mountains.  It has a combination of natural vegetation types, including oak woodland, riparian, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub.  Many bird species, including migratory birds are abundant here.  I found one curious looking bird scratching on the ground.  With a black head and neck he looked like a executioner with his black hood.  I discovered later that the bird was a spotted towhee.  I should have recognized him as I have met his cousin the eastern towhee back east at Walden Pond.
At wilderness gardens is the rock foundation of the 1881 Pala Grist Mill.  The wooden sections of it were removed to construct a home in the 1930s.  An interesting note on the mill is that grist stones were made in France, transported to St. Louis Mo. where the Sickler family was living.  They then brought the stones to California to build the mill.  From the park we drove to Palomar Mountain,  John wanted to see a conservatory which is located there.  Along the way we saw many roadside produce stands, primarily selling avocados, oranges and tangerines.  We soon saw the many of the orchards from which they were picked.
We have discovered in our travels that it is very wise to stop and purchase fruit and vegetables when we travel through areas like this, so we did stop at a fruit stand.  As is usually the case, the produce was inexpensive as well as delicious.  Other sights we saw along Highway 76 to the mountain were large casinos as well as resorts.  The territory is home for 6 different Native American reservations.
We arrived at the conservatory in late afternoon,  the conservatory was closed and gated.  We hiked in the area and noted that the ground in some spots was quite muddy.  A sign along the road noted that it is illegal to throw snowballs at cars.  So we figured that maybe recently there had probably been snow on the ground.  Coming down the mountain we were treated to some beautiful vistas as the sun was setting.  It bathed the mountains and surrounding countryside in striking hues of orange, pink and yellow.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Daley Ranch Preserve

John happened to read in the newspaper a notice of a hike in this park with a naturalist.  Unfortunately it was to begin a 7AM, a very ungodly hour for John!  However, he did know that I prefer the early hours for hiking, and an added bonus was that a naturalist was to be our guide.  The park is located in the rolling hills on the northeastern corner of  Escondido.   On the preserve is Dixon Lake, the water reservoir for the city.
The plan was for our hiking group to walk around the entire lake, and we were informed that it would be "moderately strenuous".  Starting out all John and I knew was that it was to be a three hour walk, and we figured on some of that time to be taken up with looking a flora and fauna.  Unfortunately we were all wrong!  We started out on one steep hill which required some boulder scrambling.  We still had some hills to climb after that, which were usually taken at a fairly rapid rate.  After two hours of walking Bill, our guide,  let us stop for a break.  I then mistakenly thought we had one hour yet to go, and I was ready to quit.  Bill had so far slowed down only once, and that was to look at the lake and mutter that there was some black and white duck out there that he had never seen before.  That was one of our few good looks at the park, which does have a variety of plant and animal species.  Well, I stubbornly did stop a few times to use my binoculars, even if that did put me behind the rest of the group.
During our break Bill informed us that we were half-way through the 7 mile walk.  My thought then was oh no, are we going to do the next 3.5 miles in an hour?  I did not dare ask or complain, our guide is 81 years old and usually kept a half a mile ahead of the group!   Our last brief stop was at the ranch, which had been farmed by the Daley family since about 1880.  In 1996 the city of Escondido voted to purchase the land and use it as a habitat preserve.  The ranch house, built in 1925, is still on the land and has been remodeled.  On the ranch grounds we observed some acorn woodpeckers pecking on a utility pole.  They had already done a good deal of damage to the porch pillars where they had pecked many holes and filled them with acorns.  We finished our hike in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and were told by Bill that we had covered 8 miles. I found it hard to believe that he was going to take another group out the next day for a 14 mile hike!  I guess, in light of that, that John and I are not in good physical shape!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Unlike its brother, the San Diego Zoo, this park is located in Escondido in beautiful San Pasqual Valley.
The admission to this park is quite expensive, as is the admission to the San Diego Zoo.  That being said, I am still glad we visited it because it is a very unique type of zoo.  The park has 1,800 acres, of which a good part of it is large expanse of land which simulates a savannah of Africa.
We took a tram car through this area and had a guide with us who could point out the different animals.  Pictured above is an eland antelope, the world's largest and slowest antelope.  This animal especially needs a large area of land for grazing. In the park they have lots of land and can move freely about while still being protected from predators.  We also saw in this habitat giraffes, rhinoceros, zebras, deer and a variety of other antelopes, all grazing freely.  It was interesting to see a herd of springboks pronking over a hill.  Pronking can also be thought of as springing, or taking high jumps with all four feet off the ground. 
The park also can be considered a botanical garden with 3,500 species  of exotic tropical plants.  And it features a lagoon where many flamingos, a variety of ducks and herons hang out.  In the foreground of the picture above is an African sacred Ibis.  The park has become famous for its condor breeding program.  We saw a number of them in an enclosure on Condor Ridge, and one of them was a star in the bird show.
Pictured above is Sespe, born in 1983 and oldest of the condors in the zoo.  The trainers tricked him into diving down and going for what he thought would be some tasty prey.  I think that I saw a look of disgust on his face when he discovered that it was nothing to eat!  It was one of the best bird shows we have ever seen with a variety of hawks, ibis, parrots and other birds flying over and around us.  We also saw the African secretary bird in the show and later found him in an enclosed area. We could easily guess why he received that name, he looks like a haughty office manager- all he needs are some glasses and a clipboard!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Elfin Forest

When I saw the above words on a North San Diego map I was intrigued and thought that perhaps it may be a good place to check out.  John and I have been to several wilderness areas here in California and quite often we have discovered that those sections of land have no roads into them, and also no parking areas.  So we thought it a hopeful omen when we saw road signs directing us to Elfin Forest,and became even more encouraged when Harmony Grove road brought us into a parking lot near a visitor's center.  Inside the center we were greeted by a park ranger who was eager to show us all the available trails in the recreational reserve.  While John was getting those instructions I wandered over to an area of the room where another park ranger was viewing fly larva under a microscope.  She had picked up a water sample containing the  larva from the Escondido Creek   She pointed out to me the different varieties of larva, as well as parts of their anatomy.  It probably is one way the water district does watershed environmental monitoring.
The chaparral plant community is common to the foothills and lower mountains of San Diego County.  The Elfin Forest was given its name because here the trees and shrubs are dwarfed, rarely growing more than twenty feet high.  The path (Way Up Trail) we chose to hike on took us across the creek pictured above and 600 feet upward to the Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir.  It proved to be a very warm day but most of the trail was shaded and a gentle breeze kept us cool.  Many other hikers were also on the trail.
The above picture should give you an idea of the view we had spread out in front of us as we approached the Ridgetop Picnic Area.  Off in the distance are the Laguna and San Bernardino mountain ranges as well the city of Escondido,  located on the left side of the picture.  Pictured below is the dam and reservoior, our last stop on the trail before heading back down into a riparian area along the creek.
The dam was built in 2003, according to park information it does not block a stream or river but it does box off a canyon.  It was filled with water from the California aqueduct and from Lake Hodges.  There is concern at present about its low water level, California now has had three years of drought.
Fortunately Escondido Creek flows year round, originating in the hills northeast of Escondido.  It was quite pleasant walking in this section of the park after passing by a lot of dry shrub.  Along the creek can be found the coast live oak and arroyo willow tree.  The park provided us with a botanical trail guide which helped us to identify the shrubs and trees along the trail, I really am not all that informed when it come to identifying trees and plants.  The forest has quite a few other trails which we may yet come back to hike. 


Thursday, January 16, 2014

San Diego Botanical Garden- Part Two

John and I have enjoyed the farmer's market in Vista and try to get there every Saturday.  It has a wide variety of the local tropical fruit, some of which are very perishable and consequently are never shipped out to grocery stores in other parts of our country.  When they visited the market our son Dan and his wife were intrigued by many of those unusual fruits and even more adventurous than John and I in trying them out.  In the San Diego Botanical Garden is a Subtropical Fruit Garden.  Here we saw the trees which produce those fruit; guava, rose apples, sapotes, kumquats, and chermoyas.  The latter we have especially come to enjoy eating as it is like tasting a custardy apple. The inside of the fruit  has a creamy yellow color.  The fruit can be seen in the picture below, it does not have the round shape of an apple.
In the garden's orchard we saw trees loaded with varieties of oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons and also ugly fruit.  The garden also has a wide variety of palms, cacti, agaves, cycads, and succulents.  We were especially impressed with the large cressula (a succulent and part of the jade family) growing on a shed.
There is also a unique garden of water smart succulents which simulates a coral reef filled with marine life.
We certainly enjoyed our visit to the San Diego Botanical Garden!  Our route home followed the San Dieguito River through the Dios Canyon,  it was quite a beautiful drive.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

San Diego Botanical Garden - Part One

This wonderful garden has four miles of garden trails on 37 acres of what use to be a farm.  It began as "Quail Gardens"  in 1971 with many water smart gardens.  In 2009 the name was changed to San Diego Botanical Gardens.  San Diego County no longer supports it, rather it is operated by a non-profit organization.  It seems to me that any garden in California will be successful because the state is one of only five small regions in the world with a Mediterranean type climate.  According to  information provided by the garden, California has 4,300 species of flowering plants.  And not only did the plants delight us in the garden, but also many butterflies and hummingbirds.  The latter especially like the weeping bottlebrush tree.
That tree is from Australia.  Other sections of the garden also had plants from Africa and Central America.  In the Mexican garden there are many agaves, salvias and cyclamen.  We also saw some festive topiary mariachis.  Dancing to the music are other topiary figures.
In the children's garden we walked through a tree house created to look like an African strangler fig tree.  Other fig trees, along with many tropical plants and ferns have been planted in its concrete branches.  Also in the children's garden is an Elephant Foot Tree Forest, in which can be found many pony-tail palms.
Through out the garden are many pieces of artwork, one of which is the "Shime' Sculpture".
 Its secondary title is "Bamboo Holds The World Together" and was created by S. Glassman in 2007.  The gardens have one of the largest collection of bamboo plants in the world, and feeds the pandas at the San Diego Zoo.  I will have more on this beautiful park in my next posting.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Balboa Park

The past week has been a busy one for us, and because of that I have not gotten back to my blog.  After our son Dan and his wife left last Wednesday, to return home, John and I started packing for a flight back to Missouri.  Our most beloved brother-in-law Jim Schifferdecker had passed suddenly on December 30th, which necessitated our trip to the Midwest.  After the funeral on January 4 we had plans to return home on the fifth.  However, the polar vortex changed those plans and we were stuck in St.Louis for three days waiting out the storm and for planes to start flying again.  We have not been happy with how cold it gets here at night, now we have a different idea about what feels cold.  In St. Louis the past few days we experienced single digit and minus degree temperatures.  That is cold!  Needless to say, we are happy to be home.
Our last day of sightseeing with Dan and Amanda was spent a San Diego's Balboa Park.  Before entering the Botanical Buiding we happened upon this very large fig tree.  These trees have become a common sight for John and I here in California, but Dan and Amanda were rather amazed at the tree's size.  The Botanical Building was a beautiful place to visit.  Built in 1915, it contains over 2,100 permanent tropical plants, along with the current floral display of poinsettias.  The park also has 15 beautiful gardens, some of which we visited after our tour of the Botanical Building.  Thank goodness that the polar vortex did not exend into southern California!  Many beautiful gardens would have been affected.
Most of our day in Balboa Park was spent at the Museum of Man.  We certainly had many museums to choose from, like about 15 of them.  Currently at the Museum of Man is a special exhibit on the Maya civilization.  In the exhibit are replicas of some of their large monuments, upon which are written glyphs of the ancient Maya culture that flourished for thousands of years.  A smaller exhibit, which we also enjoyed, was on beer and what ties it to agriculture, cities, writing and religion.  On display was the solid gold cup of an Inca king. 
Pictured above is a street of the Spainish Village Art Center, located in Balboa Park.  It is perhaps a place we should have visited before the holidays to look for Christmas gifts!  In this village are more than 200 artists in working studios showing fine art and craft.  It was fascinating watching some of the artists at work, like one gentleman making mosaic pictures from paint sample scraps of papers.  The Sculpture Guild of San Diego also had a large display in the village of the work of local artists.  From the park we drove to Old Town San Diego for supper.  That was Dan and Amanda's last day in California, and I must say that we covered a lot of territory with them over the week they were here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Los Angeles in One Day

As part of their California vacation our son Dan and his wife Amanda wanted to see Los Angeles, a place which Dan had been to only once and Amanda not at all.  Mike, having lived in Los Angeles up until last year, was willing to be our tour guide.  It seemed funny to me that out of all there is to see in the city, consensus of opinion was to see the space shuttle Endeavour, which in 2012 was moved to Los Angeles and placed in a display pavilion of the California Science Museum.
I could only stand in awe looking at this space ship which looks pretty battered and worn.  It had kept humans in space for 30 years, having completed 25 missions.  It, as well as five other space shuttles, brought diversity to orbit and encouraged international travel.  The Endeavor carried the first African American woman, the first Japanese astronaut, and the first married couple.  On display were artifacts from it missions such as the tires worn on the ship during its last mission- and a sign located near them encouraged the public to feel free to touch them.  There was also information regarding food on the flights- a Mexican astronaut discovered that tortillas worked better than bread because it did not get crumbs in the eyes or into the equipment.  It also flings well as a frisbee!   AndI have always wondered how astronauts, especially the females, used the potty while on a mission.  According to the information provided, using the potty "takes practice, patience and a bit of acrobatics".  There were a lot more details provided regarding that, but I will only give you a picture of the toilet and leave the rest to your imagination.
I am neither scientifically or mechanically astute, but I enjoyed learning about the important parts of the shuttle as the drag chute, brakes, as well as the tiles placed on its belly to keep the aluminum from melting during launch and entry.  We spent a good part of our day there, the lines were long but moved fairly rapidly.  After looking at the La Barea Tar Pitts our next stop after that was Melrose street for lunch and to look at art galleries.  We only found a couple of the latter and they were closed.  However, we saw a fair number of interesting murals on the outside of the buildings in that area.  Equally fascinating were the mannikins outside some of the stores displaying vintage clothing.  We made it to Griffith Observatory just at sunset, from were we enjoyed the lights of Hollywood spread out below us.  Hollywood was our last stop and we did the usual tourist thing as looking at the prints of legendary stars in the concrete of of Grauman's theater forecourt.  It is now called TCL Chinese Theater.  We walked around the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel where the first Academy Awards were held- they were later moved to the Kodak Theater, which is now called Dolby Theater.  A shopping mall (the Hollywood and Highland Center) has been built in this area for the tourist's shopping and dining pleasures and it is from there that I took the picture which is posted below.  Christmas lights seemed to add an additional sparkle to this fascinating area of Los Angeles.