Spring Travel Archives

February 18, 2004


Ah Sunshine here we come. A few clicks of the mouse and a quick phone call and we are done. Air, car and hotel. We leave early on Thursday (5:30am !!) March 18th and return late on Sunday March 21. We are flying on America West since it was over $600 to fly Alaska! We're flying to Phoenix and getting a car. From here we will drive 90 miles to Tucson and stay at the Ghost Ranch Lodge, a motel from the 40's which has the most awesome cactus garden. We have stayed here before. We got a kitchenette so we can make our lunch for hiking.

We plan to hike Mt. Wrightson , the tallest peak in the Santa Ritas at 9453ft. It is typically a 11 mile hike with 4033 elevation gain but they have closed the parking lot at the trail head for construction. The construction won't be finished so we will have to add 3 miles to our hike. Bummer. This is a training hike for Mt. Whitney.

I called the Nogales ranger station and we will need to park at either a picnic area or the beginning of Madera Canyon. Parking is $5.00.

We also want to spend a day visiting Boyce Thompson Arboretum and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. And eating a lot of Mexican food.

March 18, 2004

4 days in Tucson

Well, it was a busy fast hot four days in Tucson last week. We wanted to squeeze a trip to the desert since we haven't been there since 2001 and have a chance to do a training hike for Mt. Whitney.

3:00am buzzzzzzz... off goes the alarm and there is no time to hit the snooze alarm. The cats eye us suspiciously... what the heck is going on??? We have a 5:45am flight to catch. Groggly we brush our teeths and make a cup of coffee. I logon the computer and do a web-checkin for America West. By 3:30 the bag is in the car and off we go.

The traffic is light but steady. We make it to the Ajax parking lot shortly after 4:00am. Surpisingly, we are not the only people going to the airport. In fact, the van is full with over 10 people. Wow!

We shuffle up to the America West area. We still have to get in line for a counter agent to check our bag. We are taking our hiking poles and they are not allowed as carry ons so we need to check our bags. We got a new extra large duffle bag 36 inches long which is much bigger than we would normally buy but it is actually working our great for the hiking gear. It doesn't take long to check the bag and it is off for the gate.

But first a stop for some java at Starbucks which is open at 4:30am in the morning. Our flight is at gate B15 - good because there is no line at the B concourse (unlike the 20 minute lines at the B and N concourses for Alaska and United) - bad because it is at the end of the concourse. I pick up a Economist magazine and "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" to read on the plane.

Hubby is doing so-so. He got the flu on Monday and was running a temperature of 102 when I got back from St. Louis on Monday. He is still feely crappy and is not looking forward to a plane ride. But hopefully, the heat will help.

The flight is uneventful and we arrive on time in Phoenix. Already it is about 72 degrees at 9:30am. We grab our bag and head for Alamo to get our car. The plane must have been full with Mariner baseball fans. Everyone seems to be going to the game. The agent is pushy as usual and tries to get us to take insurance, etc. She ended up putting the optional gas on it anyway. I try to refuse but she tells me I can get a refund if I return it full. We end up with a brand new Nissan Sentra with a CD player and a sun roof. All right!

It is off to the Desert Botanical Garden . View image

swallow.jpg This year there is a new butterfly garden which just opened. Irridescent wings flutter by while a gentle mist cools the garden. We spend about a half hour watching them fly by.

Hunger attacks us and it is soon time for lunch. I did some research on Chowhound and House of Tricks in Tempe sounded like a great place and close by. It is located just off the main street in Tempe. We got there about 1:30 and we were able to get a seat outside in the shade. The menu has several interesting salads and sandwiches. George had the Grilled Tuna on sourdough with grilled onions and sweet pepper aioli. I had the Grilled chicken and green chile on onion roll with jack cheese and cilantro aioli. Both were excellent. We had two microbrews, a Rio Salado Hefeweisen and a Stone brewery Pale Ale. Both were just right for the warm afternoon.

We headed off for Boyce Thompson Arboretum but the traffic was slow. By time we got to Florence Junction it was 4pm and we realized it was probably too late so we headed on to Tucson. Hubby also needed rest since he was still fighting the cold and flu. We drove along Pinal Pioneer Highway hoping to see some wildflowers but only a few scatterings of lupine. Soon the Pusch Ridge outline of the Santa Catalinas were looming in the horizon and we were in the outskirts of Tucson.

We checked into the Ghost Ranch Lodge which is one of our favorite places to stay. The neighborhood continues to go downhill with a strip joint just down the street but it is clean, quiet and gated. Our kitchenette was at the far end and totally funky. The one main room with dark wood beamed ceiling had a SW motif. Two doors opened off the room. One went to a small fully equiped kitchen with a full refrigerator, full stove and oven, sink and microwave. There were adequate cooking supplies for two people. The other door lead to a walk-in closet with a small bathroom off the side. Definitely very comfortable and useful for two days of hiking.

We rested a bit and headed for the nearest store which was a Basha's at Flowing Wells and Roger. We got supplies for sandwiches, water, beer, orange juice and fixings for a salad. We would eat in this evening since we were tired.

We discussed the plans for the next day and decided to switch our hiking day from Friday to Saturday to give George another day to recover from his cold and a day to rest. We were fading fast and it was off to bed.

March 19, 2004

Mad Dogs and Seattlites

I never do well in hot weather. So why did I think it would be different this time?

We slept in and lazily got up around 8:30am. We decided to go to Blue Willow for breakfast before going for a hike in Romero Canyon. I kept thinking it was Saturday instead of Friday so I was so surprised when we pulled out of the Ghost Ranch and saw school buses.

The Blue Willow is good but I always forget what to order. George always has the Huevos Rancheros and I sometimes have an omelet. This time I decide to go for the Blue Willow special which is eggs, green chile, corn tortillas, chicken, salsa and cheese. I don't know what I thought it might be but it wasn't what I expected. It was somewhat like a frittata smothered with salsa and a thick layer of cheddar cheese. My stomach rolled over a couple of times. I just can't take the heavy fat in the morning. I scraped off part of the salsa and cheese and the eggs, tortillas, chile and chicken were actually quite good. It was similar to migas but I just couldn't take the salsa and cheese.

I also broke down and had a cup of caffeinated coffee. Boy that tasted so good. I got a slight headache so I know I can't do it too often but it was perfect.

saguaro.jpgWe finished and headed up Campbell to Skyline and then on to Ina and Oracle. We were heading for Catalina State Park to do a hike up Romero Canyon. We had wanted to do Brackett Ridge but the Forest Service had closed Sabino Canyon because of a mountain lion. The lion had been following hikers and joggers and the FS is worried about a possible attack on a human. The FS is planning on killing the cougar which does have many people upset. They do not feel they can relocate it because lions are very territorial. I hope they change their mind.

The parking lot was half full when we pulled in around 11am. We pull out the boots and head up. The trail crosses a small stream and enters a wash. The trail is a wide path through the mequite scrub. The sides are dotted with blues of lupine, jacobs ladder and water leaf. Spots of yellow desert zinna brighten the way.

After about a half mile, the cactus ad hopbush appears and the trail starts to climb. At a mile is a sign for Montrose Pools. The trail starts to climb in earnest now among rocks. The saguaro cactus appear giving stunning views back across the valley to the distant suburbs of Tucson.

lily.jpg We stop to photograph one of the few mariposa lilies that we find. and talk for a while with another couple of hikers. We end up talking about hiking on the Channel Islands and gardens of Santa Barbara.

lizard.jpg I am not doing well. The trail in this section is steep and the mid-day sun is beating down on me. I start to stop frequently and I'm getting light headed. Hmmm... I finally tell hubby, I need to go back - it is just too hot. Along the way down, we find a bit of shade and hubby discovers a collared lizard. George pulls out the umbrella and I hike the final mile and half with the umbrella feeling like a character in "Passage to India". But it works!

We throw the boots in the trunk and head back to Tucson. We decide to stop at Tohono Chul Cactus Garden which is at Ina and Oracle. They had remodeled quite a bit since our last visit. There is a new greenhouse nursery at the beginning next to the Tea Room. George is lost for a while looking at all the plants. We also check out the two gift shops. I find an interesting Oaxacan wood carved cat to add to my collection. We walk the paths for a while before heading back to cool off in the hotel room.

Later that evening, we go for our favorite Mexican food at Marisco Chicuahua. I have Shrimp Rancheros and George goes for the Shrimp Diablo, shrimp in a a smoky chilpote chile sauce. Very hot but good. Washed down with a couple of Mexican beers - I am in heaven.

Back to the room for another early night. Tomorrow is the big day. We will be hiking to Mt. Wrightson and need to get another early start.

March 20, 2004

Mt. Wrightson


Bzzzz went the alarm. 5am. I wasn't going to let the heat get to me again. We were going to get on the trail early.

I stumble into the kitchen and make the coffee and sandwiches. Breakfast is a cheese sandwich, cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. Into the pack goes the lunch sandwiches, apple, gorp, a liter of water, suntan lotion and extra clothes. I fill the camelback bladder for a second liter. We grab the hiking poles and hit the road shortly after 6am as the sun paints the sky pink over the Rincons.

Tucson is still asleep. There are a few travelers and mostly truckers heading south to Mexico. We turn off at Green Valley and head towards Madera Canyon. In the distance we can see Mt. Wrightson.

I completely forgot to get a map of Madera Canyon. They are doing construction on the parking lot at the trailhead and we are going to have to park further down the valley. Fortunately, it is well marked and we pull into the parking for Amphitheater. Unfortunately, it will add 3 miles/500ft roundtrip to our hike. There is one other car in the parking lot. We pay our $5.00 parking fee and we're ready to go.

The detour starts out on the nature trail. The trail climbs gently to the south with views towards Mexico. We can still feel the heat of the previous day reflecting from the ground. But there is a cool breeze and the day is overcast.

The trail swings back east and then climbs to a vista where we can see Mt. Wrightson. There are a few patches of snow along the gullies near the top. The detour trail continues along the hillside until it comes to the Chuparosa Inn where it drops into the stream bed. All along the way are signs warning about entry into the construction zone and a potential $1000 fine. Our trail dollars at work building the parking lot. The way is marked by blue and pink flags and is pretty rough climbing over and around boulders. After a half mile, the trail crosses the stream and joins in the original trail. saddle.jpg

We now have two choices. One is the older Baldy trail which is 5.4 miles/4000ft to the top or the Super Trail which is 8.0 miles/4000ft. Since we have the extra mileage due to the constructions, we go for Old Baldy trail.

The trail climbs up traveling along the old water pipes for the canyon residences. It is 2.2miles/1600ft to Josephine Saddle. The trees are interesting. Along the start are three different types of oak, Arizona white, Emory and silver leaf. Scattered throughout the oaks are also Aligator Junipers which are very striking. Their bark is black and knobby just like aligator skin. They stand about 6-10 feet tall with distinctive juniper needles and berries. Below them are yuccas and a few hedgehog cactus. There are few flowers other than what looks like a white philox. As the trail gets closer to the saddle, it gets steeper and switchbacks in the dark forest before emerging onto Josephine saddle.

The Super Trail joins up for a short distance at the saddle. There is a memorial to three Boy Scouts who died in an early November snow storm in 1958. Off in the distance is the summit of Mt. Wrightson which is still 3 miles/2400ft away.

forest.jpg snow.jpg
The trail now goes north. The forest is open and we hike through needles of Apache and White Pines. The forest is also very quiet. We only hear an occasional small plane passing overhead. No birds; not even a jay. We climb out of the forest and have wider views down over Green Valley and across to Mt. Hopkins. We leave behind the pine forest and enter an area of deciduous low oaks and aspens. We come across our first patches of snow. They are easy to cross other than being somewhat icy on the edge. We try to skirt along the sides when possible. Most of the plant life is still asleep. Above us towers the rocky side of Mt. Wrightson as we switchback up and back passing Bellows Springs.

At around 11am, we reach Baldy Saddle at 8,800ft. Just under a mile left to go! We head north and the trail switch backs up out of the forest. We cross several patches of snow. Again, nothing too difficult to cross especially with the hiking poles. The trail swings to the south and enters and area of waist high oaks and white rocks. Above, you can see the edge of the top not far away. Soon we are on the top at 9,450Ft shortly before noon.

It is still overcast and the wind is cool. I put on a top and look around. I was hoping to find the summit register or a geographic survey marker but no luck. There is the foundation of the lookout. But the views. Wonderful 360 degrees views. South is Tucson and the Santa Catalina Mountains. To the West is Baboquivari and Kitts Peak. You can just make out the white observatories at the top. To the East are the Chiricahua mountains and Miller Peak. To the south is Nogales and Mexico.

We had the summit to ourselves. We grabbed our sandwiches and had lunch. A few moments after lunch, two women joined us at the top. They were both from Tucson so we talked about living in Tucson and hiking. One had done Mt. Whitney so I got some tips. Shortely after that we were joined by several other parties and we decided it was time to leave. By now the sun had come out and the sky was turquoise blue. Going downhill is always harder for me. We passed a few parties going up but not many. Most people do like us and start early to summit before it gets to hot. After we left Josephine Saddle, my knee started acting up. My iliotibial band on the side of my knee gets quite painful. I had to stop once or twice to sit and stretch it. Both of us started getting a couple of hot spots on our feet. I ended up with one blister. Not bad. By 4pm, we were back to the parking lot. 4hours 30 minutes up and 3 hours 30 minutes down. Total mileage 14 miles, elevation gain, 4500ft. Yahoooooo! Mt. Whitney here I come.

March 21, 2004

Homeward Bound

I don't want to go home. Four days are just not enough. At least our flight doesn't leave until 8:30pm

The 4th Ave street fair is happening this weekend and we decide to do a quick visit. It probably doesn't start until 10am so we lazily check out. We talk a bit with the clerk and we mention that last time we stayed there in 2000 they were affliated with Best Western. She said that BW wanted them to modernize the rooms and make the hotel more 'cookie-cutter' style. They didn't want to change the ambience so they parted ways. I agree. I wouldn't want them to change it at all.

The street fair is going by time we get there. It is huge - about 7 blocks or more. I am looking for an eye glass holder/leash like I got last time and for the travel photographer from whom I've purchased a couple of prints. I find the photographer and get a photo of blue gondolas in Venice called Gondolas at Dawn. It is so hard deciding. I could not find the eyeglass vendor. Oh well.

We decide to spend the afternoon at Boyce Thompson. But first we need food. George suggests we try Sauce which is on the way out of town at Oracle and Ina. Great pizza. It is very interesting set up. The complex is very upscale but it is really fast food. You walk in and order at the front desk. The choices are very interesting. Everything from mozzerella and tomato to wild mushroom and truffled arugla. We decide on a Rosmary Potato, Spinach, feta and Olive Tapenade pizza and a Portobello and artichoke. Both are wonderful. I love the thin thin crust which still has a great flavor instead of tasting like a saltine cracker. We have these along with glasses of chianti which was so-so. I highly recommend it. You can also find some of the pizzas at North.

We head out and decide to go a different way. We decide to go towards Globe and then cut across at Wilkerson to Superior. Along the way there are some patches of yellow California poppies and blue lupine. Along the way, we pass the Arsarco Ray Mine which is huge. It is amazing how much of the earth is left barren and sterile after mining for copper. We get to Boyce Thompson around 2:30pm and head off to some of our favorite places. I really like the demonstration gardens. You can sit away from the others and watch the hillside for birds. We see several vultures soar above and notice a dart of red; a Cardinal. We spend some time watching and listening to him sing. We head off to the cactus garden to get some shots in the late afternoon sun.

4:30 comes too quickly. We need to give ourselves at least an hour to get back to Phoenix. We probably need to check in by 6:30 and we run into a little bit of traffic from some event near Apache Junction. The Superstion and Lost Dutchman peaks look so inviting. We must try a couple of hikes in the area next time. We have a new hiking book that has more hikes in the area so we have those to look forward.

We get to Alamo by 6pm and check in. I have to go to the counter to get my "optional" gas refund. The clerk in the lot knows nothing about it. The America West checkin is pretty amazing. There are at least 30 web check-in kiosks and the line snakes at least 4 times. But it is moving pretty fast and it takes us about 10-15 minutes to get to a kiosk. Then it is off to security. This takes longer - probably 20 minutes. Of course our gate is out at the end of the concourse. Sheesh... Seattle gets no respect. We stop and grab a pizza since there will be no food on the flight. It leaves on time and we get land at 10:30. Bags arrive, off to parking and we are home by midnight. Who knows what we will be like in the morning but it was hella good fun!

February 12, 2005

Spring Desert Wildflowers

It is going to be an outstanding year for desert wildflowers. All the reports say it will rival or exceed the last El Nino year, 1998. We have learned to watch the rainfall that Southern California and Arizona receives starting in October. This rainfall will help the flower germinate the following spring. It needs to had a continue supply through February along with moderate temperatures.

We usually go to Tucson to see the flowers but newsreports started mentioning Death Valley. DV averages about 2 inches of rain a year but already it has received 5 inches since July 2004. The rangers are forecasting a good bloom.

We have never been to Death Valley but what a perfect complement to climbing Mt. Whitney. We can now visit the lowest point in the continugous US after having climbed to the highest point.

We've booked a flight into Las Vegas and reserved a car. The drive is about 2-3 hours and is actually the closest airport. Ontario is pretty close also but we really didn't want to do that drive again.

Unfortunately, most of the accomodations at Furnace Creek are booked. Oh well, we'll go camping. We've flown and camped before. We just use our ice chest as a suitcase and put all the gear in the ice chest. Of course, we can't fly with camp stove fuel but our small backpacking stove has a detachable fuel canister so we'll just swing by the REI before leaving Vegas. Actually, there is also a Whole Foods so we can also grab some gourmet grub before leaving.

I am actually looking forward (somewhat) to camping. I love it at night when you can see the stars. I can't say that I'm looking forward to sleeping on the hard ground.

Of course, we hope to do a hike or two. We're only going to have three nights so a bit of sightseeing and short hikes. We mulled over renting an SUV but we really don't think we'll use it in the short period. So we'll have to stick to the paved and good gravel roads.

But we couldn't resist the lure of Tucson. Initially, it sounded like the rains had mostly missed Tucson but the Sonora Desert Museum is also predicting a stunning show. So we booked also a quick trip to Tucson the weekend after Death Valley. An early flight out to Phoenix, two nights and then return at midnight. That will give G one day to work on his plants for the spring sales.

February 26, 2005

Death Valley Links

Another week of rain in Southern California! Is it going to dry out in time for our visit? So far, Death Valley has received over 3 inches since the beginning of January. The hills are green, the valley is in bloom and the rivers are flowing. But there have been good reports of flowers. Yooohoooo!

G has been doing a tremendous job organizing and packing the camping gear. We went out and got a new icechest with wheels and a handle. This will make it much easier to get in and out of the airport. We've packed the softgood (tent, sleeping bags, poles) in a long duffle bag. We've got stove, boots, cooking gear, food in the ice chest.

Here are some great sites for planning a trip to Death Valley

National Park Official Site
California Wildflower Hotsheet
Death-Valley.US They also have a great forum for checking the latest information.
Death Valley Tourist Information from Ridgecrest. This page is an excellent set of information and links. I highly recommend this page.
Death Valley National Park Links

March 13, 2006

In search of the wild salvia

Salvia - or sage's botanical name. G has a small home business, Smartyplants, growing salvias to sell in local plant sales. Many of our travels have involved either visiting nurseries to see what salvias they sell or trying to find salvias in the wild. I remember searching out Mara Nursery in New Zealand and spending a lovely afternoon having lunch with the owners.

Salvias grow through out the world. We found several species in the wild on our trip in Africa. They also grow in the US. We came across Salvia funerea totally unexpectedly while hiking in a canyon in Death Valley in 2005.

Here are a few pictures of some salvia we found in the wild in South Africa:

Salvia africana-caerulea

Close-up of Salvia africana-caerulea

Salvia dentate near Nababeep

Salvia africana lutea in the wild outside Darling

Southern California is another prime region for wild salvias and we hope to find some on our trip this week. Saliva apiana and Saliva mellifera grow in the chaparral of the South Coast. In Anza-Borrego, you can find Salvia vaseyi. I found a great site by Tom Chester which has a lot of details on the plants of Southern California. I really like his plant lists for trails of the area.

We are going to stop at the Santa Rosa plateau on the way from Ontario to Anza-Borrego. Tom has a listing of plants on the Vernal Pools and several salvias are to found. We are planning on stopping since it is on the way and we will have time.

March 25, 2006

Anza Borrego

We were itchin' for some sun after our more-than-dreary winter this year. But luck wasn't with us this year. It was sunny in Anza Borrego but it was cold and windy. As expected, the wildflower show was small to non-existent. The fall and winter rains just didn't materialize in California.

We arrived on-time in Ontario and I started a long string of mishaps by leaving my travel folder and hiking book on the plane. Darn if I didn't realize it just as I passed out of security. Fortunately, I kept my boarding pass so I was to go back to the gate and they went on board and found it. It was actually quite fast and I got to baggage before our luggage had been unloaded.

We got our car, a mid-sized Dodge Stratus from Thrifty. Again, I left the folder! This was a sign of things to come. It did take us a while to get baggage and our car so we didn't get on the freeway until almost 10:45 after arriving at 9:40. I was so glad to have the mid-size. I swear everyone seemed to be driving large SUVs. I've never seen so many Hummers on the road. Soon we were flying down I-15 at 75-80 mph and still being passed.

We pulled off at Lake Elsinore at 11:30 and lunched at the In and Out Burger. We made it to the trail head at Santa Rosa Plateau by 12:30. We had realized that we were actually a little early for the wildflowers. Everything still looked asleep But we found our quarries - Salvia apiana (white sage) and Salvia mellifera (black sage).


On to the desert after a stop for groceries at Ralph's in Temecula. We came across patches of snow near Warner Springs. The forecast was for rain but we had hopes that it wouldn't happen.

We made it to Borrego Springs by 5:00 and checked into our Casita. It was very clean and nicely furnished in a mix of tropical and southwestern decor. It was going to be perfect for the weekend. We relaxed and had a nice dinner of ravioli before heading to bed.

The next day, we made a stop in Borrego Springs to check out what was available in town. Not much. There was a grocery store
and a handful of restaurants. We checked out Jilbertos Tacos and made a plan to return for dinner. We went on to the visitor's center at the State Park to get information on where there might be flowers in bloom. The ranger suggested a short walk up Surprise Canyon just behind the restrooms at the Hellhole Canyon trailhead. We also had plans to visit Culp Valley and the parking lot was on our way up.

We headed up Montezuma's Grade to Culp Valley. It was cold and very windy. The distant mountains between the desert and the coast were covered with snow. But we found another salvia. We thought it might be Salvia vaseryi since our trail plant guide said it was supposed to be one there but we think it was really just an apiana or a cross between the two. The plant we found had tall seed spikes which are found on apiana instead of the whorled ones found on vaseryi.

The views were stunning but I couldn't take the wind any longer so we headed back. We found the parking lot this time and went for a short walk up Surprise Canyon. We found several interesting items in bloom, Ocotillo, chuparosa, phacila and best of all several barrel cactus in bloom. But more importantly, we did finally find Salvia vaseryi.

We had a few more hours of daylight so we decided to try to find another location suggested by the ranger, Plum Canyon. By time we got over Yaqui Pass, the weather turned cloudy, cold and windy again. We pulled off the road and checked out some agaves in bloom before heading back. At the top of Yaqui Pass, we decided to take the short xxx loop and watched the shadows lengthen before the sun set.

We headed back to town for dinner at Jarmillos. It was definitely cheap but so-so. I liked my Carne Asada Tacos; nice chuncks of seasoned beef with guacamole on warm soft tortillas. G's chile rellenos were so-so. They were anaheim chiles with some strange cheese filling and a very thick batter. The sauce wasn't great either. Oh well maybe we should have went to Pablitos instead?

Back at the casita, G discovered that we had HBO and we caught part of the Sopranos. It was the season opener. Whoa! what a shocker. We made a note to catch the full show the next night.

Our last day dawned sunny but windy again. We headed south towards Mexico after filling up. Filling the half empty tank cost more than it did to fill my little hybrid! The drive took us down over the pass used by the original stagecoach line to Southern California. What an arduous trip that must have been. The passengers often had to get off the coach and walk up the pass. The views were stunning between the desert and the snowy mountains.

Our destination was Mountain palm canyon. Near the campground was a short two mile loop trail took you to several palm oasises where the birds congregated attracted to the water and food. Between the two canyons, the trail climbed up and over a ridge where we found cactus, octillo and other plants in bloom. We watched the clouds cast shadows on the desert and they moved across. I always wonder what the first pioneers thought of the expansiveness of the desert.


The next morning, we went to the Red Octillo restaurant located in the quanset hut just outside of town. It was excellent! Too bad they don't do dinner.

Sadly, it was time to drive back. We had one more stop before our flight, Rancho Santa Ana Gardens in Claremont. LA was overcast and drizzly but we had a great tour of the garden. Spring was in full bloom with the blues of the ceanothus and bright orange of Fremontodendron. It was a very relaxing 3 nights in Borrego Springs. It was a very relaxing 3 nights in Borrego Springs and a nice end to the weekend.

May 5, 2006

Cabrillo College Salvia Sale 2006

Well, it is time to make our annual run down to California Mother's Day. As usual, we will drop by the Cabrillo Plant Sale. G is reviewing the list to see what he wants to purchase. I've been researching what we might want to do on the way over on Friday. G's sister told us about Del Puerto Canyon. The road goes from Patterson to San Jose and looks like a perfect place to check out wildflowers. It is also a great birding location. Here is another great link.

We will do our usual and take down our trusty hard sided Samsonite luggage to pack all our plants. G has to be back to work Mother's Day but we will get a chance to visit one or two days before.

May 12, 2006

Return from California

Well, it has been another successful trip to Cali both for visiting our family and purchasing stock plants. It was a quick flight and drive into the valley. It was hot especially for May. It was over 90 degrees and we loved it. We spent a two lazy days visiting including a great get together on Thursday night. We had 4 generations for pizza. Everyone from grandma down to the great-grandchildren. Lots of fun.

Friday, we spent a long but enjoyable day. I didn't really calculate the timing but it all worked out. We left around 9am and drove the backroads over the Altamont to San Jose. What a beautiful drive. We meandered along the Del Puerto Canyon road for about 3 hours spotting some nice wildflowers. G was pretty estatic to find a new milkweed. We were at the junction around noon and realized we needed to get going to make it by 3pm to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, the best flowers were on this section of the drive. Lots of lupine and Chinese houses. But we couldn't stop.

We made it to San Jose by 1:30 which actually was what was estimated - 4 hours from Stockton to SJ. Fortunately, the traffic wasn't bad on Hwy 17 and we pulled into the parking lot at Cabrillo at 2:30pm. We didn't get a chance to stop for lunch. Thankfully, we had some snacks along but we were starved.

We paid our membership and got in line. It wasn't long until 3pm and the gates opened. We grabbed a red wagon and went in search of salvias on our list. We were with a lot of other 'salvia collectors'.

We spent about an hours looking over the selection, talking to the growers and running into other salvia enthusiasts. We saw Betsy and Genny who are always good to see.

We spent a bit going through the garden and seeing what had survived and was in bloom. It is always interesting to see that even in Santa Cruz, some salivas will not survive the winter.

Around 5pm, we left. Unfortunately, the traffic was a bear. It took us forever to get to Gilroy and we didn't make it back to the valley until 8:30. We called Mom once we were in the valley so they could go ahead and eat.

Long long day but fruitful. We spent Saturday packing and everything made it back.

April 8, 2007

Cave B Inn

I just returned from a wonderful holiday in Central Washington. Yes, Central Washington! Central Washington is the northern edge of the Great Basin Desert but one would barely know it is a desert due to the Columbia Basin Project. The project run by the Bureau of Reclamation provides sustainable renewable energy and water which has transformed the sagebrush land into fertile farms. Hay, corn, and potato is grown along with wine. Wine was what led us to the Cave B Inn.

G was talking with a customer a couple of weeks ago and they got to talking about Walla Walla and wine. We had enjoyed our getaway in Walla Walla last year. They said "Have you been to Cave B near Quincy?" G did not know of it but thought I would heard of it. Well, I had not.

We checked out the website and it looked very nice. Fortunately, it is off season and the prices were reasonable. We quickly booked two nights and decided to do it on Thursday - Friday to take advantage of the lower mid-week rate. I noticed that the prices are over double come summer. The Inn is located next to the Gorge Amphitheater and the winery was originally Champs de Brionne. The Inn has been open for two years or so.

Driving through the vineyards, the main inn building raises above the horizon. It is stunning; curved dark gray roof and stone sides that make the building look like it was carved out the nearby basalt cliffs. The staff if very professional and the inn is run by the same company that manages the Willow Lodge in Woodinville and Freestone Inn in Mazama. We checked in and walked a short distance through the Sangiovese vineyard to our Cliffhouse. There are 16 Cliffhouses; each one is a separate bungalow with a full view of the river canyon below.

Cliffhouse at Cave B Inn
The interior is decorated in warm Mediterranean colors and wood floor. The room is separated by a fireplace and entertainment area. One side has a comfortable seating area with leather couch and chairs. The other side is a large comfy king size bed. The fireplace is open on both sides and the TV will swivel so you can enjoy both either in the sitting area or from the bed. It reminded me a lot of the cottage at Bushman's Kloof in South Africa.

The bathroom has a stone floor, large soaking tub and separate glass shower. Fluffy towels and bathrobes are provided.

The west wall is filled with windows overlooking the Columbia River. You can walk out to a nice terrace where you can enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set to the west.

Located in the main Inn building is a gourmet restaurant, Tendrils. The Chef is a Slow Food Award award winner and has written a James Beard award winning cookbook The menu focuses on local products and producers.

Sunset at Cave B Inn
For breakfast, we had the buffet which had a potato, apple and cheese frittata, fresh baked pastries, fruit, granola, yogurt and fresh coffee and juice. We also had dinner one night. The menu had a nice selection of locally produced organic meats such as Thundering Hooves Ranch and fresh fish. I started with a beet salad which had a nice wedge of Humboldt Fog goat cheese and blood oranges. G had the fresh green salad. I selected the NW lamb chops from Cattail Farms which was served with a corn cake and sauteed greens. G had the fresh wild salmon with wild rice and fiddleheads. For dessert, we had coffee and an apple compote with wild huckleberry frozen souffle.

We thoroughly enjoyed our getaway. It is only about 150 miles from Seattle but it feels a world away.

Is Quincy the new Bend?

May 18, 2007

Viola trinervata - Sagebrush violet

I have been testing how to link from Flickr to my blog. I set it up a while ago but I couldn't remember exactly what I did. It turns out that there is a separate web services password in Movable Type to access your blog from another external blogging application such as Flickr. It makes sense but it is not obvious or well documented in Flickr.

February 13, 2008

Santa Barbara

We take a trip each spring to view wildflowers and gardens. Our favorite place is Tucson. We love to spend a few days in the desert searching for wildflowers and hiking. In 2005, we spent time camping in Death Valley and also made a quick trip to Tucson. In 2006, we visited Anza Borrego .

We have been watching the rainfall this fall and winter. The drought has continued across the Southwest and Mojave. But Southern California has had a lot of rain. We decided to extend our Riviera experience and visit the 'California Riviera' - Santa Barbara.

It looks to be a good wildflower year - if it doesn't get hot in March. April will be the best time for us and hopefully we will catch some flowers.

Besides wildflowers, the main place we want to visit is Lotusland. We met a couple from SoCa on the trail in Tucson that raved about it. KHB just blogged about it .

I gave them a call today and made reservations for a tour. Now that we have the reservations I can start to make the rest of plans. I looked and found this lovely cottage in Santa Barbara - Sycamore Cottage. I talked to the owner this evening and they have an opening. It sounds like the perfect getaway for a long weekend.

We are planning on flying into Burbank and stopping at the Getty Museum on the way and maybe driving up through Antelope Valley. We also want to do a hike in the mountains around SB. Figueroa Mountain looks to be a good place to hunt for flowers.

February 2, 2009

Back from Slow Bowl

Slow Bowl

What a wonderful weekend. It was the third annual Slow Bowl - a get together of friends who have met online at Slow Talk - the forum for Slow Travel. We all love to travel slowly - staying in one place for a week at a time and getting to know an area in depth.

We have been organizing get togethers or GTGs as we call them since the forum started in 2001. In February 2007, Shannon thought it would be good to have a GTG in the Paso Robles area during Super Bowl weekend. We could spend Saturday visiting a few wineries and Sunday watching the Super Bowl. We had a tremendous turnout the first year and have held it for three years.

We gathered on Friday and had a lasagna smack-down. The winner - a gorgeous porcini goat milk lasagna with home made noodles. Saturday, we met at 11:30 at Midnight Cellars for our first tasting. From here, we moved on to Jada Winery. A smaller group moved on to Adelaida Cellars. My favorite - Adelaida Cellars hands down. Not only was the server very knowledgeable but the wines were excellent.

Sunday, a few went to our group favorite, Castoro. One of the other moderators and I went down to Montana de Oro State Park for a quick bluff walk before returning to watch the bowl game.

Monday, it was time to leave. I took a leisurely drive back on a small backroad that ran parallel to Hwy 101. Highway 25 wound along through the San Benito hills which were lovely spring green. The day was sunny and warm. I didn't want to leave.

I love spending the weekend getting to know my on-line friends. It is always great to take social networking 'off-line' and meet other Slow Travelers face to face. Friends, great food, wonderful wine, beautiful memories.

Vineyards west of Paso Robles
View of the wineries on the west side of Paso Robles

May 3, 2009

A day in the tulips

A Day in the tulips
Tulips in Skagit Valley Washington

One of the highlights of spring here in the Pacific Northwest is the daffodil and tulip blooms in Skagit Valley. Skagit Valley is a fertile delta of the Skagit River which is located about 60 miles north of Seattle. Mt Vernon is the main city in the region but there are many lovely small towns to explore. Our favorite town is La Conner. It is situated along the banks of the Swinomish Canal, it has a vibrant art community. Historic buildings line the main street - now with shops and museums. We also just discovered Edison which is north of La Conner and is a hot-bed of local artisan food. There are even wineries!

The spring has been cold and we could tell everything would be late when we made our first trip to the Skagit late in March. Usually the daffodils are in bloom by the last week of March but nothing was in bloom. It was cold and windy.

We finally got a chance to return last Monday - the last week in April. It was a gorgeous day; sunny although the clouds were obscuring the Cascade foothills. Everyone wants to go when Mt. Baker is visible for classic shots of tulips with Mt Baker in the background. It was not to be.

But the colors were gorgeous. The sun was out and color of the tulips just popped! The area has become tremendously popular when the tulips are in bloom. Fortunately they have created parking areas; unfortunately you have to pay $3-$4 for each time.

We found a lovely field in bloom that was a bit away from the main crowd. The center of the frenzy is always Roozengaarde, the headquarters of Washington Bulb Company. Washington state is one of the world's largest producers of flower bulbs. Roozengaarde is the display gardens for the company.

The plus of paying for parking is you can walk in the bulb fields. You have ample opportunities and angles for photos. I think we spent over an hour just meandering along the path between the different colored fields.

After getting our fill of color, we headed for lunch. Our normal lunch spot, La Conner Brewery had a long wait so we went up to Anacortes instead. After lunch, we drove around the area between Edison and Samish Island. Many of the businesses were closed since it Monday but everything looked great. Along with the artisan food stops, there are great places to bird both at Padilla Bay and on the way to Samish Island. I actually went out to check for rentals since it looks like a great place for a getaway.

Okay.. enough on the area - here are the photos.

A Day in the tulips

Workers in the fields picking out rogue tulips before harvesting

A Day in the tulips

Getting ready to top off the blooms before harvesting

A Day in the tulips
Fields of red

A Day in the tulips
Ready for harvest

A Day in the tulips

A Day in the tulips

A Day in the tulips
Fields go to infinity

A Day in the tulips
A prism rainbow of tulips

A Day in the tulips
The Rogue

A Day in the tulips

A Day in the tulips

A Day in the tulips

Related Posts:

March 12, 2010

San Diego Bound

My bags are packed I'm headed to the Slow Travel Get Together (GTG) - "A Taste of San Diego". It is a three day get together with members from our forum coming together from around the world. The last get together was in Savannah which I was not able to attend but sounded like a great time.

The planners,Jane, Marcia, Palma, Marcia and Shannon have worked so hard at planning it. Here's a bit of about the last minute preparation from Palma. Many people arrived on Thursday - check out what they have been up to and pictures.

Lots of wonderful people and food. I'll try to blog and post some pictures.

March 17, 2010

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala

You can not grow up in California without learning about Junipero Serra and the Spanish Missions. I learned about the different explorers who touched California in the 4th grade. Many countries came to California looking exploit the riches of the area. Sir Francis Drake and the Golden Hind potentially explored Point Reyes in Northern California. Bering explored similar areas for the Russians.

But it was the Spanish that were successful at colonizing the West Coast of the New World. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo touch down in what is now San Diego in September 28 1542 and claimed it for Spain. It was not until the late 1700's that Spain sent missionaries to the New World to establish settlements. Junipero Serra founded the first church in California at San Diego on July 16, 1769. It was later moved inland to the current site in 1774 to be closer to water.

I have been fascinated by these men who decided to leave their homeland for unknown lands. We visited Spain in 1985 and toured the area of Extremadura. How similar the land with golden rolling hills dotted with trees. I've often wondered what they thought when they traveled inland in California and found areas that reminded them of Spain.

The first mission founded was in San Diego. I finally got a chance to visit it during the Slow Travel get together. Here are some photos of the beautiful small first mission of California.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Courtyard Garden

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Spring blooming Aloes in the garden

Mission San Diego de Alcala
I love the bell towers at all the missions

Mission San Diego de Alcala
And the lovely loggias

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Modern statue of Serra with Indian infant

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Slow Travel group outside the mission

March 18, 2010

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey

Just an hour north of San Diego is another mission - Mission San Luis Rey. It was founded in 1798 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen who was the successor to Padre Junipero Serra. The mission which is the 18th founded in California and was named after St Louis IX.

It has a fascinating history. Father Antonis Peyri was the first father in charge. Under his direction, the mission became a center of agriculture and life in the region. Grapes, oranges, olives, wheat and corn were cultivated along with many heads of livestock. It became the largest mission in California by 1830.

Mexico won independence in 1821 from Spain and the missions were to pass over to the native people but instead it was taken over by several administrators who grabbed portions of the land.

In 1847-1857, the missions became operational bases for U.S. soldiers as the United States took control of California and it became a state. Several noted soldiers including Kit Carson served at the mission base. The Catholic church petitioned the US government to take control back of the missions and Abraham Lincoln signed an billed to pass control back to the Catholic Church in 1865. There is a copy of the declaration in the mission museum.

The mission fell into disrepair until 1892 until Father O'Keefe took over and rebuilt much of today's buildings. Another bit of trivia I discovered after visiting is Walt Disney used the mission buildings to film first season of the original Zorro TV series episodes. He added the distinctive skull and cross bones seen over the entrance to the cemetery which I unfortunately did not take a picture of. I think you can tell from the interior courtyards and distinctive architecture how it would be perfect location for a series on the early California Spanish colony.

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey
Lovely cactus garden in front of the mission

Mission San Luis Rey
The oldest pepper tree in a church garden - almost 200 years old.

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey
Interior courtyard - the citrus, mimosa and wisteria were in bloom - it smelled heavenly

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey
The white and blue architecture looks like Greece

Mission San Luis Rey

March 19, 2010

Balboa Park

Balboa Park

Last Monday, I had a day to spend on my own in San Diego. My flight did not leave until 4:30 so I had an opportunity to explore. Where to go? G really wanted me to go to Balboa Park.

I left my studio and headed to breakfast. I thought about trying the Hash House but after reading all the warning of the large portions, I decided to go to the Crest Cafe which was also in the Hillcrest area near the park. I had a standard American breakfast of eggs, potatoes and sausage with some wonderful orange juice. Perfect to get me going.

It was a short drive from the restaurant to the entrance to Balboa Park. Named for the Spanish Explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, it is one of the largest urban cultural parks in America. Monday is a slow day at the park since most of the museums are closed so I was able to drive over the Cabrillo Bridge and up Prado Drive to the center and park. It was wonderful driving through the East and West Gateways into the center of the park.

This area of the park was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. This fair was to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and highlight San Diego as the first American port on the Pacific side of the canal. The buildings are in the Spanish Revival style highlighting much of California history. I loved walking the long arched walkways and peaking into the different alcoves and gardens near the center. It was a highly successful park with over 3.6 million visitors over 2 years.

Today the buildings house several outstanding museums. I did not get a chance to visit any of the museums but more the reason to return. But I did thoroughly enjoy exploring it on an Spring day without the crowds.

Here are some of the beautiful building. (Come back next week to see the botanical wonders of the park)

Balboa Park
West Gateway with California State Building dome and tower

Balboa Park
Detail of the California State Building. At the top is a statue of Junipero Serra and flanking the sides are two Spanish Explorers.

Balboa Park
California State Building which now houses the San Diego Museum of Man

Balboa Park
East Gateway

Balboa Park
A gate to the walkway on the East Gateway which leads to ...

Balboa Park
This walkway

Balboa Park
Casa del Prado Theater

Balboa Park
Close up of stonework

March 21, 2010

Botanical Building - Balboa Park

Laguna de las Flores
The Botanical Building - Balboa Park

The building I had to visit for G was the Botanical Building. I had actually forgot that it was a lath house instead of a glass house so I was a little surprised when I first saw it. It is one of the largest lath houses in the world and given the warm temperatures of San Diego, it makes much more sense than a glass house which would be extremely hot.

The Botanical Building was built in 1915 as part of the Panama-California Exposition. It has a somewhat checkered history which can be found on the San Diego History Society pages. It does remind me somewhat of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park which is a glass house.

The Laguna de las Flores, also known as the lily pond, is located in front of the building which is stocked with Koi and dotted with water lilies. In the past, the pond bottom has been cemented and it has been used for training naval personal or hospital therapy pool. A strange use to me. Today it is a beautiful reflecting pool although it is somewhat marred by the cement bottom and piping.

There are towering palms and tree ferns inside the greenhouse. There are displays of colorful orchids and other interesting tropical plants. A local elementary school was holding a drawing class and it was fun to see the kids scattered throughout the building painting the flowers.

G would have loved it.

Laguna de las Flores

Balboa Park

Botanical building - Balboa Park

Botanical building - Balboa Park

Botanical building - Balboa Park

Orchids in Botanical building - Balboa Park

Botanical building - Balboa Park

Botanical building - Balboa Park

March 23, 2010

Spring in the Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time there was few daffodils in bloom in the Skagit Valley. I have posted several times about birding or the tulips. Last year everything was two weeks behind and the best blooms were near the end of April. This year, everything is early.

We headed up today. The forecast was for cloudy with some sun breaks. We could see the brilliant yellow patches as we drove through the narrow backroads. We pulled off into a parking area setup for a large daffodil field. The paths were soggy and muddy. We were surprised as we got closer to see the flower edges tinged with brown. The daffodils were not at their prime and slightly past.

We passed several fields of tulips that were just tinted with color. They were still tightly budded but with a good warm day - they will be a riot of color but for now - they are still asleep. We stopped by Roozengaarde where the early tulips were in bloom. It gave us a wonderful taste of warmth to come on this early Spring day.

Spring in Skagit Valley
Fields along the narrow roads

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley
Gardens at Roozengaarde

Spring in Skagit Valley
Just coloring and not yet open

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

Spring in Skagit Valley

Related posts

March 24, 2010

Cactus Garden in Balboa Park

Garden in Bloom

There are over 20 different gardens located in Balboa Park San Diego. I knew I wanted to visit the Botanical building. I looked over the list of gardens and put the Desert Garden high on the list of must-see other gardens.

I could already tell that San Diego was an excellent location for growing cactus and succulents. I was seeing large specimens of succulents in gardens as I drove or walked around the town. The Desert Garden is located across from the footbridge over Park Boulevard near the Natural History Museum. The garden was planted in 1976 and has matured well. Many of the plants were in bloom.

The garden reminded me a lot of South Africa. Many of the plants were succulents and many were from South Africa - Aloes and Euphorbias. There were not as many cactus as I expected.

Here are a few of the wonderful plants that can be found in the Desert Garden.

Euphorbia candelabrum
Euphorbia candelabrum

Fouquieria columnaris / Idria columnaris
Idria columnaris

Dracaena Draco
Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco
Close up of Dracaena draco

Aloe barberae
Aloe Barberae - Tree Aloe

Euphorbia grandicornis
Euphorbia grandicornis

Pair of Doves
Pair of doves

Aloe Ferox
Aloe ferox

Aloe dichotoma with Aloe ferox in background
Aloe dichotoma - Quiver tree that we saw in South Africa

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