Friday, April 22, 2016

Hike at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Escondido, CA - February 2016

I went down to Encinitas to see a concert with a friend at the Belly Up Tavern (great show!) and spent the night so that we could go hiking the next day. We ended up at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (love the name!) which is located in Escondido - part of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

According to the website "One of San Diego County’s most precious natural resources, Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve offers approximately 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trails, as well as picnic areas and scenic mountain viewing points."

Here's where we were:

You can see a trail map here.

They also have a botanical trail complete with a cool, interactive map you can find here (printable version here). Lots of great information. We actually weren't on the botanical trail. We were just winging it and went up, up, up which I see now is fittingly called the "Way Up Trail" (1.41 miles).

I noticed right away how green and lush everything was. It smelled heavenly. In parts the ground was noticeably wet (this is a treat for someone like me who lives in such a dry place!).

Right away I started seeing wildflowers, looking extra bright against the saturated green.

California Lilacs (Genus Ceanothus)

Red Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus var. puniceus)

Elder (Genus Sambucus)

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica)

We hiked up a mile or so to the overlook of the Olivenhain Dam and Resevoir which contains 8 billion gallons of water!

Yucca blooms all around.

And then back down again!

After a few minutes relaxing streamside we left to get something to eat. A quick little jaunt, but much needed and appreciated.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Low tide at Abalone Cove State Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes - November 2015

Thanksgiving weekend K and I took advantage of the time off coinciding with a low tide to re-visit Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was my 5th trip there and the first place I ever saw tide pools so it holds a special place in my heart. I almost always see something unexpected and the constant land movement means it's never really the same place. The last time I'd been was January 2013 - so almost 3 years before! Hard to believe.

The low tide was -1.00 ft at 4:30pm so perfect timing to catch the sunset as well.

Here's where it is:

This being a holiday weekend, there were quite a few more people there than I have seen in the past, but still enough space to not feel cramped. Like I said above, there is constant land movement in this area and it's always a bit disorienting to see things look so different than they did only a couple of years ago. But also exciting because you always feel like you're exploring uncharted territory.

[NOTE: I see on their website that they have closed to area due to unstable ground and falling rocks. More info on the RPV site.]

I went out as far as I could right away since you see different tide pool life in different areas.

Many deep pools out on the rocky cliffs.

Lots of exposed sea grass.

This day, we were lucky to happen upon an octopus! A California Two-Spot. It's the 2nd one I've seen at this location but the last time the light was fading quickly so I didn't get much time to study it. They have always been in the same posture when I've seen them. Hiding until the tide comes back in.

California Two-Spot (Octopus bimaculatus)

I didn't take very many photos. Trying to exist in the moment.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Gooseneck Barnacle <-- 20="" br="" can="" live="" they="" years="">

Tidepool Sculpin Fish

See more of my photos from this location (and Sacred Cove which is just around the bend) in my Flickr set.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Palomar Mountain State Park, CA - November 2015

As you can read in the previous post, T and I were out in this area for a mini-trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We'd spent the day before in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but this day we headed the opposite direction back towards LA and up into the mountains.

Our destination? Palomar Observatory and Palomar Mountain State Park.

As we left Julian we drove past Lake Henshaw. We'd seen it the day before in the drizzly rain and fog. This day the weather was clear and crisp.

The drive up the mountain is pretty picturesque and we saw some beautiful fall color.

We stopped briefly to check out the observatory. Pretty cool site, but not much to do really. It's an active research facility and we didn't choose to take a guided (or self-guided) tour. But worth a short stop if you're up there.

After leaving, we headed down a bit and west into the park. On the way there, we stopped to take photos by the road - such beautiful trees! - and I spotted this hawk who didn't mind posing for me.

Once in the park, we parked in the Silvercrest picnic area and walked over to the Boucher Hill trail where this sign greeted us.

I can see how a Mountain Lion would call this place home. Gorgeous landscape. So peaceful and we were practically the only people on the trail.

We kept our eyes peeled, but we didn't see any lions. We did, however, encounter something else we'd never seen before. These trees that had thousands of acorns stashed into the trunks.

Earlier, I'd seen some woodpeckers like this one

and they turned out to be Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus). These are their granary trees - where they store acorns! They use these same trees year after year. Check it out:

Nature is so cool!

Once at the top of Boucher Hill, you're presented with another awesome view. This time of the ocean.

We took our time walking back to the car and drove around to Doane Pond but it was getting late so we decided to start our drive back to LA. Of course, we had to catch one last sunset.

What a peaceful place! Highly recommended.

You can see a couple more photos of this location in the Flickr set.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - November 2015

T and I really needed to get away from LA for a bit and it was our 2-year wedding anniversary so we headed south to spend some time near Palomar Mountain, Julian and Anza-Borrego.

As we drove the 3.5 hours south from LA the weather started to turn stormy and by the time we got to our Bed & Breakfast in the mountain town of Julian it was dark and raining and cold. We found the only restaurant that was still open and after eating retired to our room for the night. We didn't mind going to sleep early since we planned to get into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the morning before sunrise.

Here's where we were:

We overslept a bit (if you can call 5am oversleeping!) and as we drove east down the mountain on the 78 into Anza-Borrego park the sun started to come up. Not wanting to miss it, we pulled over and took some photos.

It's such an impressive landscape with Ocotillo and Teddy bear cholla cactus plants. The colors are divine. We even saw a rainbow.

Here's a part of the park map:

Once we arrived down in Borrego Springs we explored some of the metal sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda. There are over 130 of them scattered around the desert town. You can get more information and locations of them here.

Near the Red Ocotillo cafe where we stopped for breakfast we happened upon this Roadrunner who was puffing out his tail and posing for me.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
We enjoyed driving around most of the park but didn't get out much to hike because it was VERY windy and there were scattered dust storms.

However, we made an exception to explore "The Slot" which is, as you may imagine, a slot canyon in the southeast section of the park. More info here. Very cool! Once we got to the section that was super narrow we turned around (T was wearing a wrist cast so not easy to maneuver).

After that we went back into Borrego Springs for another meal and killed time until the sun set by walking on the path near the Borrego Palm Canyon Visitor Center.

T was hoping to take some photos on film with a long exposure to capture the stars and Milky Way. The wind and our lack of preparation (in terms of flash lights) thwarted most of our attempts, but he was able to get a couple of shots and learned what he'd need to be prepared for the next time he wants to shoot the cosmos on film.

I hadn't been to Anza-Borrego since the first time I went with V way back in the spring of 2010 when we came on a wildflower excursion. This time of year there wasn't as much color in terms of flora and the strong winds made it hard to explore outside, but it was still nice to wander around and see parts of the park I hadn't seen before. Definitely worth another trip.

You can see more of my photos from Anza-Borrego in the Flickr set.

The next day we headed up into Palomar Mountain State Park.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

First trip to Yosemite National Park! - September 2015

It sounds strange to say we ended up going to Yosemite National Park for the first time "on a whim" or that we "drove through on our way home" but both statements are accurate. Our plan was to go to Mono Lake and the planning stopped there so after sunset and then sunrise at the lake we decided what to do next over breakfast. Yosemite seemed like a good idea so we went for it.

Click to enlarge

We entered the park from the Tioga Pass Entrance near Lee Vining. What a dramatic landscape! I have to admit I didn't get many photos of this breathtaking area because I was busy driving and watching out for the people who were running on the road. It happened to be the Graniteman challenge which includes a 12.4 mile run up the pass!

The first place we got out to walk around was Tuolumne Meadows. The recent, and in some cases still burning, wild fires made the sky hazy.

We continued our drive west into the park, passing some areas burned from wild fires years ago.

As we descended into the Yosemite valley the haze thickened and made it difficult to get a good view of Half Dome, but the sheer granite cliffs were just as impressive. Makes you feel very small. Photos don't even begin to capture the feeling (especially considering all the smoke!).

Once in the Valley we parked near Sentinel Meadow and walked around some more, spending quite a bit of time with a couple of mule deer. There were a lot of deer in this area.

It was amazing, if not a bit troubling, that this one was so comfortable with T getting so close to him.

The smoke gave the air a magical quality.

After driving to the end of the road and having some food at the impressive Ahwahnee hotel we headed back out to the main road.

For one last hurrah we decided to stop at Bridalveil Falls which, from below, could only be recognized by a small amount of mist way up high on the cliff.

The boulders over which the falls usually flow were dry so we decided to climb up and see if we could find more of the falls.

It was really fun!

And then it was time to leave the park through the south entrance towards Fresno and head back to LA.

Yosemite, you amaze me. It was an honor. I hope we meet again on a day that's a little more clear.

You can see more of my photos in the Flickr album.