Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Wildflowers by Elizabeth Lake, Antelope Valley, CA - April 2016

It had been over 5 years (!!) since I had been out to Antelope Valley to see the annual spring wildflower bloom (check out the post about that windy day here) and I was way overdue!

Even though I couldn't find someone to go with me I decided to do it anyway.

I'd been keeping tabs on the bloom by using the Southern California Wildflower Reports so I knew there'd be some blooming near Munz Ranch Road and Elizabeth Lake Road.

I didn't see many large patches of flowers as I was driving there, but as soon as I turned on to Munz Ranch Road, there they were (and lots of other people too)!

I parked and started up the hill to get a closer look. I saw so many different types - some I hadn't seen before.

After a while I headed back to my car and drove north on Munz Ranch Road. When I was researching the area I'd stumbled upon something called "Shea's Castle" that looked interesting and decided on a whim to try and find it.

Tim King - Flickr: Shea's Castle
After driving down a questionable dirt road I came across a locked gate - couldn't even see the castle in the distance. Found out later that it's a private residence. Sometimes these adventures don't work out!

So I headed back down the road and over to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. I'd heard there wasn't much of a bloom this year, but wanted to check it out for myself (and use the restrooms!). They didn't even make me pay to get in because there was not a poppy in sight but the landscape was still beautiful.

I decided to head back to Elizabeth Lake/Munz Ranch Road area where I'd seen the best flowers and explore a bit more. I parked a few places and got out to walk around and see what else I could find.

Simply breathtaking!

Then I kept driving west on Elizabeth Lake. I guess there used to be a larger lake here (you could tell by the "lake front" properties) but now it's all a bit dry.

As I headed back to LA I took Lake Hughes Road which had some beautiful views of hills and Castaic Lake.

All in all, a great day exploring just a tiny sliver of what Southern California has to offer.

I was having some trouble getting my camera to focus so I don't have any flower close-ups but some of the flowers I saw that day were: California poppy, whitedaisy tidytips, Fremont's pincushion, bristly fiddleneck, strigose lotus, redstem filaree, blazingstars, cushion cryptantha, suncups, chia, lupines, lacy phacelia, bush poppy, and California evening primrose.

See more of my photos from Antelope Valley wildflowers in the Flickr album.

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.