Two Weeks in the Desert

Alamo Canyon. Organ Pipe National Monument.

We’re on our return trip from two weeks in the desert. Our adventures have taken us through Red Rock Canyon State Park, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Mojave Desert Preserve. Organ Pipe represents the Sonoran Desert with the iconic Saguaro Cactus, while Joshua Tree stands as the icon of the Mojave Desert. In Organ Pipe I was hiking in shorts and T-shirt, while in Mojave we woke to snow and 22 degree temperatures with howling winds.

We have WiFi access at the moment, so I thought I’d put up a short post to give you a preview of what to expect as I cue up the posts for the various segments of our trip. We’ve been traveling in our Four Wheel Pop-up Camper which has proven to be a comfortable way to travel. Stay tuned as I cue up more photos and stories about our trip.

Basilica of St. Joseph

If you are interested in architecture or you are looking for something to do in downtown San Jose, then a visit to Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is the thing to do. The cathedral is listed as a California Historical Landmark and as well as the National Register of Historic Places.

Dome of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and found very few visitors, which made it easy to capture photos of the architecture with out people.

The first church on this location was called San Jose de Guadalupe built in 1803. Earthquakes and fires took their toll of the original and several successive buildings. The existing structure was consecrated in 1877. In 1985 following a major renovation it was elevated to the status of cathedral and made a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997. The church is open to the public with no fee, although you may want to pay attention to the events happening at the church since it is an operating church with worship services and other events.

Merry Christmas from the Alabama Hills

Merry Christmas from the Alabama Hills.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas. We are camped in the Alabama Hills in the Eastern Sierra with what appears to be an annual ritual. We were here last year. This year we represent three generations of Johnsons, the the newest addition, Annabelle, being five months old. We arrived the afternoon of Christmas Eve, set up camp, got the camp fire going along with the coals for the Dutch Oven. Dinner was Chicken Cordon Bleu, with wine to wash it down.

We were surprised by a rain storm passing through in the middle of the night, but we were snug in our beds when the sound of rain on the roof woke us. We woke to find that water that had collected in the camp chairs had frozen solid. Even so we took our time getting the campfire and Dutch Oven coals going, being torn between the photo opportunities of the early morning light and the anticipation of breakfast. Breakfast was quiche cooked in the Dutch Oven. After breakfast we poked around the hills and rocks, A cold wind was starting to find it’s way through our jackets, so we broke camp and headed back to Big Pine.

The Alabama Hills are located in the Eastern Sierra, just west of the town of Lone Pine. The Alabama Hills is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the BLM Alabama Hills Recreation Area. There is no fee for camping and there are also not much available for services. No picnic tables, no outhouses, no water. It is also dog friendly; our two dogs were happy to wander around camp off leash. I’m always surprised to see how many people camp here over the Christmas holiday, but that said there is no shortage of spaces to camp. Last year we picked a spot that was exposed and had had a view of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states. This year, with the prediction of wind we found a more protected spot with an outcrop of rocks to block the north wind.

This is a popular spot for photographers who wish to photograph the classic morning light on Mount Whitney, Lone Pine Peak and the adjacent Sierra Nevada Mountains. The granite outcroppings also provide endless opportunities for photography. This is also a popular filming location, especially Westerns. Since the 1920s, 150 movies and a dozen or so television shows have been filmed here. There are also dozens of natural arches, with one of the more popular arches being Mobius Arch. The location is also noted it’s dark skies which makes it poplular for astronomy and astro-photography. Not far the North on Highway 395 is the Manzanar National Historic Site, another location worth a visit.

Perfect Day on the Bay

BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle. Tiburon Yacht Club to Point Molate.

I managed to get back on the water yesterday to join some of my paddling buddies from BASK for the “Thursday Lunch Paddle.” We had flat calm with the exception of a few wakes from passing ships and ferries. We launched from Paradise Cay Yacht Harbor at 10:30, with eight of us in seven boats, two in a double, the rest in singles. The route crosses shipping channels, and we held up on the crossing to let shipping traffic and ferries go by before crossing the shipping lanes. When we reached Red Rock we gathered up to discus our options. With the calm conditions we decided to paddle on the Point Molate Beach. On the beach we found a picnic table in the shade and had a vary civilized lunch. When it was time to get back in our boats we had a bunch of inquisitive school kids eager to help us get back on the water. The return trip was just as calm as the trip out, with a slight ebb current carrying us under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and towards our destination. I wore my dry suit, which was probably more protection than I needed for the conditions, being a warm day, but having just gotten it back from the factory for repairs, I wanted to make sure the seals fit properly.

The photos I captured seemed to demand being presented in black and white, particularly with the lighting, reflections and design elements of the bridge. Here are a few more.

At the end of the paddle we had logged 8.8 miles. You can see a track of our course here.

Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright: October 15

tjp_1916_1474

Today marks the end of our two week trip through the mid-west chasing Frank Lloyd Wright. Our travels have taken us from the Oak Park region of Chicago to Pittsburgh driving through parts of four states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This afternoon we board the plane for our return flight to San Francisco.  For the past few days we’ve been wandering the small towns of the Laurel Heights region of Southwest Pennsylvania, including the towns of Dunbar, Connellsville and Dawson. There is so much to discover in small town America. More on some of those adventures in up-coming posts. Yesterday our adventures took us to the Cathedral of Knowledge on the University of Pittsburgh campus and to the top of  Mt. Washington by way of the incline. The view from the top is probably the best view of the city and the three rivers.  The temple of knowledge has a number of rooms decorated to represent different countries of the world. We spent a good two hours exploring some of the rooms, which are open to the public on certain days. Being Sunday classes were not in session. At the visitor information station on the first floor you can obtain a key and an audio tour to visit many of the rooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright: October 11

We arrived at Falling Water this morning for our 8:30 tour. The site is an eight minute drive from our B&B in Ohiopyle. This is small-town rural America by-the-way. Our innkeeper, Conrad has pigs, chickens and guinea hens. A rooster is crowing as I write this and the freight train is rumbling along the river. We stopped at the Ohiopyle Bakery for coffee and muffins on the way to Falling Water. We also got sandwiches for lunch, although the visitor center at Falling Water has a cafe.

We signed up for the in-depth tour which starts at 8:30. Photography is permitted on the in-depth tour but not on the standard tour. Those photos are on my laptop at the moment and I’ll need to find a good WiFi connection before I can share them.

The house was built for the Kaufmanns, of Kaufmann’s Department Store fame. When they selected the site little did they know that they would be living with the waterfall rather than looking at it. Wright’s desire was for the waterfall to become “an integral part” of their everyday lives.

The House, built in 1936, is a marvel of architectural design, with its cantilevered platforms extending out over the water.

Falling Water is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Open for tours daily except Wednesday.

Tues Oct 9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Out the door and in the car at 7:30 for a return visit to Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. At a bend in the Cuyahoga River I caught a glimps of the rising sun reflecting off the water, with a misty fog lingering in the bottom lands. No place to stop and I was intent on getting to the falls with the soft morning light. I could easily spend a week here with all the gorgeous scenery. But that might have to be another trip. Yesterday we did a three mile hike from Blue Hen Falls to Buttermilk Falls, through the woods and alone a creek, hiking through tall hardwood forest and moss covered rocks. Photographing the Falls was a challenge with people continually walking into my composition and a bit of harsh light. Today I had the woods and the falls to myself and I enjoyed basking in the peace and solitude.

Blue Hen Falls (10/8/18 boa iPhone. More to follow)

After my sojourn I returned to our B&B where we brewed a pot of coffee and had breakfast. Then we managed a three mile hike on the Ledges Loop trail, walking past some fascinating sandstone cliffs, with large blocks of sandstone forming ledges, again with moss, ferns and trees, some of the trees showing a bit of fall color.

Ledges Trail

Now we’re on the road again heading to Ohiopyle and back to our theme of chasing Frank Lloyd Wright.