Anza Borrego: Palm Canyon

Peninsular Desert Bighorn Sheep in Palm Canyon

January 30. With two of us and our dog Carson, we decided we’d take turns hiking. Dogs are not permitted on the trails in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Many of the trails run through canyons that are home to wildlife. Joann hiked the trail the previous evening and reported seeing sheep. I opted for a morning hike thinking I’d be more likely to see sheep then, and I thought the soft morning light might be conducive to photographing wildlife. Once the sun was over the canyon I imagined the lighting would be harsh.

It’s a mile and a half from the trail head at the campground to the palm oasis. Along the trail there are numbered post that correspond to descriptions in a printed guide. I had picked up a guide at the visitor center the previous day and I used the guide to learn more about the desert environment.

For this hike I decided to carry my Nikon D800 and a 28-300mm lens. For day hikes I usually carry a little Sony RX 100 which is a great camera for travel and hiking. For this hike I thought the opportunity to photograph wildlife warranted the bigger camera.

I wasn’t too far down the trail before I heard rock falling which I interpreted to mean sheep were near. Sure enough, scouting the cliffs above the trail I could see sheep cavorting in the rocks. Then I rounded a bend in the trail and I could see a ram ahead hidden partially through the bushes. I stopped and slowly brought my camera up to my face and started taking photos. The ram didn’t seem to take much notice of me. Then I spied a ewe with a baby lamb making way down the hill side. I found a palm log to sit while I took a few photos, trying to be quiet and still so as not to startle the animals. After a few minutes I could hear breathing behind me, almost down my neck, I turned slowly and there were two rams munching on the grass just five feet away. I was in awe. These animals are supposed to be shy and reclusive, but it seems here they have become habituated to people. They just seemed to go about their business munching the lush grass while people walked up and down the trail taking photos.

After watching the sheep for some time, I decided I better continue to the palm grove. If I were ever going to get back to camp at a reasonable time I needed to get moving. At the end of the trail is a lush oasis of palm trees.

More photos are available on my website.

Anza Borrego: Sheep Canyon

January 28 marked our first day in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, having arrived the previous evening. We thought it would be fun to take a drive up Sheep Canyon. I had been following the wildflower reports and it looked like we might find Ocotillo in bloom in the canyon. We were thinking it would be a short drive and we would be back in camp for lunch. The park maps shows the road as a “Primitive Road,” and the road was in good shape for the most part. A few miles in we stopped at Desert Garden where the ocotillo were putting on a display. The Ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, is large shrub with long spiny stems. Like most desert plants it is uniquely adapted to heat and drought. In the heat of the summer it looks like a bunch of dead thorny sticks. Following a rain, if there is sufficient moisture it will sprout leaves., sometimes the leaves will appear within 48 hours of rain. It will then drop it’s leaves when conditions warrant conservation of water. The flowers look like flames bursting from the tips of the stems. I was happy to discover that a number of ocotillo were in bloom. Usually they bloom later in the year.

As far as Desert Garden the road is smooth and easy to manage. A few miles further we stopped to scout a stream crossing. We had some question about whether we could manage the crossing. We were informed by a woman that seemed to know the route quite well that we should have no problem with this stream crossing, as well as two additional crossings. She also told us that there was a section of road that required a good clearance and bit of rock-climbing. So undaunted we continued on. When we got to the rocky section we put the truck in four-wheel low and crawled up the rocks and continued on to the end of the road in Sheep Canyon. There we found a primitive camp with pit toilets. We had half a mind to simply pop up the camper and spend the night. It was a lovely spot with a trail heading further up the canyon into a palm grove. Dogs are not permitted on most of the trails in Anza Borrego, and since we had our dog Carson, and we had already paid for camping in the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, we ate lunch took a walk around the bottom of the canyon and headed back down the canyon. It was late afternoon when we returned to our campsite. Like so many adventures, there’s just so much to see along the journey. You can see more photos of Sheep Canyon here.

Here’s a clip from the dashcam showing some clips we captured on the drive back down the canyon.

Bodie Aborted

Returning to last weeks adventures, after leaving Emerald Bay on the morning of December December 21, I passed through South Lake Tahoe where I stopped to fill my coffee mug. Then I took Highway 207 through Kingsbury heading east to pick up Highway 395, famous for it’s scenic beauty running roughly north-south on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When I got to Bridgeport I was intent on making a trip to the ghost town of Bodie, a former gold mining town. Several attempts to call the park for road information only resulted in a busy signal. I knew that Highway 270, the main road was closed due to snow. The park, Bodie State Historic Park, is open year round, so I thought I’d try one of the alternate routes into the park. Heading east on Aurora Canyon Road I decided to try my luck with the 17 mile drive through the Bodie Hills. A few miles into the hills the Aurora Canyon Road turns into the Bodie Masonic Road. One lane, gravel and dirt. After an hour’s driving I had logged 10 miles. The road had snow in many places but tire tracks indicated that the road had been driven recently.

It was now afternoon and as I gained elevation the snow was getting a bit deeper. I stopped for a picnic lunch and let Carson out for some well deserved off-lease time. After lunch we climbed back in the truck intent on continuing our adventure. Not far up the road though the tire tracks I was following disappeared and the grade increased a bit. The wheels were starting to slip and slide in four wheel drive as I proceeded up hill. I figured at the rate I was going it would take me another three hours to get to Bodie, if the road was even manageable. I turned around and headed back down the road. Temperatures were in the 50s, which meant the snow and ice I had been driving on was turning into slippery mud. Slipping and sliding a bit I made my way back to Bridgeport and headed south towards Mono Lake. I wanted to catch the afternoon light on the lake, weather permitting.

It was windy and chilly when I reached Mono Lake and the lighting was not as dramatic as I’ve seen on previous visits, so I left my tripod and big camera in the truck and took my trusty Sony RX100 for a few hand-held shots. I put Carson on a leash. After the walk I found a spot to camp for the night, not too far off of Highway 120, near Mono Lake.

Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright: Oak Park Walking Tour

On October 2 we arrived in Chicago to start our “Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright” tour. We spent our first few days in Oak Park, on foot. We took Uber from the Airport to our B&B, staying at an AirBnB listed as “Victorian Gem in Heart of FLW District,” on the corner of  Forest Ave and Superior. A lovely place to stay and close to many FLW houses. There are about two dozen of Wright’s houses within walking distance. We managed to visit a few. First and foremost is Wright’s house on the corner of  Forest and Chicago, a block from where we were staying. Build in 1889.

We visited this house as part of a tour offered through the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Photos were permitted on the tour, so I used my little Sony RX100 to capture some handheld images. Next door to the house is Wright’s studio, built in 1897.

And a short walk around town will take you to a number of Wright designed houses. These houses are all privately owned and not open for tours, although you can walk the neighborhood to view them and you can take photos from the sidewalk.

The Parker house, built in 1892, is one of Wright’s “bootleg” homes, one of several commissions Wright took under the table while working for Sullivan & Adler. Sullivan eventually dismissed Wright for his transgressions.

If you happen to have the opportunity to visit Oak Park and you are looking for a self-guided tour check our this link on Curbed. There are also a few phone apps you can use.  A search on the iPhone comes up with a Oak Park walking tour with the title “Frank Lloyd Wright Tour.” I didn’t discover this until recently, but I’d certainly give it a try. We used a printed guide we found in our room at our Airbnb. There’s also an app called the “Wright Guide,” which includes a comprehensive list of FLW projects. A must for any Frank Lloyd Wright Fan.

And of course there is the Unity Temple which is one of Wright’s most famous projects; a ten minute walk from Frank Lloyd Wright’s house. Keep in mind this is a operating place of worship. Visitors are welcome and photos are permitted, but you’ll want to check ahead to make sure you time your visit when you have access. We visited the temple as part of a paid, guided tour. I also returned to the Temple in the evening because I wanted to photograph it at dusk.

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On to Loubressac

Our walk today took us from Carennac to Loubrassec, logging 16 km walking through woods, across meadows and past the hamlets of French farmers. We took an un-planned detour when we got to the tourist location of Gouffree de Padirac. The literature says “the most famous cave in Europe.” The price was right, 12e, and there was no line, so underground we went for a 2 km boat ride on an underground river. A refreshing side-trip from the heat of the afternoon. Then back on the trial. Keep on walking. A dip in the pool at the hotel was a refreshing end to the walk, followed by a five course meal. Exquisite! \

From Paris to Meyssac

My travel blog is not going to be in Chronological order. We left Paris by train this morning and arrived in Meyssac this afternoon. Tomorrow we start a self guided walking tour of the Dordogne region; a tour offered through Macs Adventures. Stay tuned in for more info.