Monday, November 21, 2016

Backroads and Lunch in the Wild
Of course, we did a bit of backroading while in Joshua Tree, and stopped for a picnic lunch among the boulders!
Lunch Spot View
No, we weren’t along Arch Rock Trail, but we did find another section that had bunches of boulders.  In fact, this was in a campground (tent only) and we used a vacant campsite for our picnic.  It was rather cool to be sitting among the boulders that shielded us from the breeze and gave us a bit of privacy.
Waiting for Treats
A back road drive wouldn’t be complete without our Miki, too!  She waited patiently while we ate lunch, strategically positioning herself so that we couldn’t forget to give her puppy treats.  Unfortunately, we weren’t good puppy parents and didn’t bring any!  We did manage to come up with a treat for her from our people food, so all was good in her eyes!
Back Roads to Travel
There are a number of back roads to explore in the park, but the one we chose was the Geology Tour Road.  It’s 18 miles and if we followed the auto guide tour, it would have taken us a couple of hours.  We, of course, didn’t do that, so we just enjoyed the views…..and the bumps in the road!
Back Road Beauty
This is a view of the road taken looking back on where we’d been.  This road was what I call a lollipop type of road.  There’s one road leading to a fork in the road.  Truly, the fork is just the beginning (or end, depending on one’s perspective) of the circular loop road.  Still, it’s so great to have such wide open spaces not very far at all from “civilization” (Palm Springs, CA)!
Joshua Tree Back Road
How appropriate to end our exploration of this park with a view of the first thing we saw upon entering it – a Joshua Tree. This one lined the back road we were exploring, and was a bit farther south in the park.  That’s why there were only a few here and there.  If you look closely, you can see power lines in this image – a confirmation as to how close “civilization” was.  Thank goodness people with vision preserved this land for future generations to enjoy!  Just FYI – Joshua Tree National Monument was established in 1936. In 1994, it became a National Park.
Ocotillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park
A bit further down the road from the Cholla Garden, there was a small patch of Ocotillo.  This plant is a cactus and is quite striking looking. 
Reaching for the Sky
These plants grow quite tall, far taller than Jeff or me (up to 20 feet high)!  And, when I looked up at this plant’s green branches, I felt like it was reaching up to touch the sky.  Altho this cactus contains barbs, they don’t leap out at you like a cholla’s does, so getting close to it wasn’t a problem.  Also, if you look closely, you can see a very few scarlet colored blooms remaining on a few of the tips of this plant.  They generally bloom in April and May, so seeing them in November was quite unusual!
Ocotillo Landscape
I thought I’d share this view of ocotillo in their natural environment.  There are only a couple in this image, altho there were a number in the immediate area.  They really didn’t appear much in other areas of Joshua Tree National Park, so they must need a very specific type of climate to thrive.  As a side note, the temps varied quite a bit from the northern part of the park where the Joshua Trees are plentiful, but the ocotillo are not, to the much warmer southern part of the park, where we came across this patch (and very few, if any, Joshua Trees).
Ocotillo without Water
Ocotillo go thru numerous springs and falls each year, depending on rainfall.  When the plant gets sufficient rain, the leaves pop out and are nice and green (below).  However, when it doesn’t get rain, the leave wither and fall off and the branches are bare – except for the barbs!  Interestingly, we saw ocotillos experiencing both spring and fall in this one little patch.  I guess it really shows how concentrated the water pooling can be.
Ocotillo Leaves
Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree National Park
In one section of Joshua Tree National Park, there is a sort of grove of cholla plants growing.  We stopped for a few minutes because these cholla seemed to almost glow!  We have cholla in New Mexico where we live, but neither Jeff nor I can recall seeing this type.  Perhaps it was just the way the sun was hitting them, but it was really sort of magical!
Cholla Garden
This was the view from the road that made us stop.  The cholla doesn’t look quite as “glowy” in this image as it did in reality, but it was enough to make us stop.  I also love the way the mountains in the background set off the cholla.
Cholla Glow
Now you can see what I mean by “glow”! I believe this variety of cholla is called “teddy bear”.  It looks sort of nice and soft and fuzzy, but don’t touch!!  The barbs of this plant are incredibly painful.  And, there’s another variety, called Jumping Cholla that actually seems to leap off the plant and attach to you if you get too close.  Needless to say, we kept our distance from this pretty, but prickly plants!
Up Close Glow
No, I didn’t get closer – I just used my zoom lens!  In this image, you can better see the barbs contained within the “glowing” branches of this plant.  I did really like the effect of the glow, tho!
I guess if the cholla doesn’t get you, the bees will!  I think we were a bit late in the season for bees, but the sign is always there to warn folks.  I never knew bees were in the desert, and I guess that’s part of the reason for the warning.  The bees are always seeking water, so if you are there and have water handy, the bees will find you!
Arch Rock Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
In the northern part of the park, there are fairly large groupings of giant boulders that seemed to have just sprung out of the earth.  Or, some spaceship from another galaxy decided to toss them around from their hovering spaceship!  Just joking, of course, but that was a thought that popped into my head, because it just seemed like such an unlikely place to find such gigantic rocks!
Contrasting Texture
This image gives you an idea of why I said what I did about spaceships.  This happens to be an area where there are a lot of the boulders seemingly strewn about, but there are other areas where nary a rock can be seen.  However, they didn’t exactly “spring” from the earth, nor were they tossed from above.  These boulders are made of a type of granite called “monzogranite”.  These monzogranites formed beneath the earth starting about 245 million years ago, and with the youngest forming about 100 million years ago.  Because of the shifting of the geological plates in the area, cracks were formed in the monzogranite over the years, and hot magma from below the earth’s crust seeped upward via a process called intrusion and helped form these shapes underground.  They also broke some of the monzogranite into much smaller particles.  Eventually, erosion caused the smaller particles to wear away, leaving this giant boulders protruding from the earth. 
White Tank Granite
Along Arch Rock Trail, the granite is called White Tank.  Scientists believe the White Tank granite intruded into the overlying rock about 135 – 150 million years ago in this area.  This was during the time of the dinosaurs, so maybe the boulders didn’t seem quite so large to them!
Minerals in the Granite
This is a close up view of the granite making up the boulders along Arch Rock Trail.  White Tank Granite is made up of three basic minerals – quartz,  feldspar, and biotite.  Also, in the past, this rock was called White Tank Monzogranite and White Tank Monzonite.  Different names, but it’s all made up of the same minerals.
Arch Rock Trail View
I couldn’t help but look up and enjoy the view as I explored along this trail.  I was continually fascinated by the diversity of landscape that makes up this park!
Rock Formation
Here’s a close up view of some of the boulders.  Imagine – in the spaces that we see between the rocks, there once flowed hot magma from deep beneath the earth.  And, think about it – all these rocks were once one huge rock, in a sense – the crust of the earth!
Peek at the Arch
Compared to some arches I’ve seen (at Arches National Park in Utah), these is rather a teeny arch.  However, it does illustrate how the wearing away of rock over the years has created some lovely pieces of natural art.  And, in time, the continued wearing away will result in this arch falling and tumbling to become just some smaller rocks along the path.  Things do change, whether we want them to or not, is the lesson to be learned!
Soil Line
Can you see what you may think of as discolored rocks in this image?  Well, they really aren’t just discolored.  That’s what geologists call “desert varnish”.  If you look toward the bottom of the “varnish” you can see a lighter color to the rock (the rock in the middle of this image seems to illustrate this the best).  That line reflects where the soil once was.  It’s just another way we can see that nature is constantly changing all things around us.  Sometimes, as in the rocks, we can see the change, and at other times, it’s more subtle and we don’t really notice the change.  I find it interesting that the Mojave Desert area was once quite moist…..about 8 million years ago!  Perhaps part of the change in our climate is truly part of a natural cycle.  Worth considering.
 Sculpted Rock
Here’s another piece of Art by Nature!  If you look at the bottom of the rock in this image, you can see that the bottom portion of it has been sort of sculpted out.  This happened naturally via a processed called cavernous weathering and undercutting.  This occurs when water is trapped on the surface of a rock or in the soil long enough to begin to dissolve some of the minerals in the rock.  Running water and wind then wash away the dissolved minerals.  Generally, this type of sculpting is found on the shady side of rocks, where the moisture doesn’t evaporate so quickly.  Nature is just full of amazing things!
Unexpected Adventure – Joshua Tree National Park
I’m calling our visit to Joshua Tree National Park an unexpected adventure because it wasn’t in our original travel plans.  I had selected another place to visit, but Jeff had already been to that place before, and said it really wasn’t all that interesting, and that I’d probably be disappointed.  So, I checked out the map to see what other potentially interesting spots lie along our planned route, and discovered Joshua Tree.  What luck!  There was truly a lot to discover about this park in the Mojave Desert!
Beautiful Boughs
First, of course, is the tree the park is named after – the Joshua Tree.  You may wonder where it got its name – I know I did.  According to legend, to Mormon pioneers, the branches of the Joshua Tree reminded them of the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the Promised Land.  In this image, you don’t exactly get that impression, I know.  It looks rather like an interesting version of a typical tree.  But, wait…..
Joshua Tree Branch
Let’s take a bit of a closer look at the Joshua Tree.  To some, it doesn’t really look like a tree, but more like a cactus, with its spikey “leaves”.  I think the texture of the branches gives it a bit of a shaggy look, a bit like an Old English Sheep dog or something.  But, it’s not a cactus – it’s part of the agave family.   Another interesting note – it doesn’t have tree rings inside.  Instead, it’s fibrous inside.  And, they can get to be rather old, with researchers thinking a typical lifespan may be 150 years.
Joshua Tree Landscape
I just loved the way these trees added some character to the landscape.  Also, in this image, you can see why the Mormon pioneers thought the branches looked like arms reaching up.  And, my old opinion of the Mojave Desert keeps getting revised.  This park is located in part of the Mojave Desert – again, a lot more there than just sand!
Joshua Tree Birdhouse
Altho by the time we visited the park, nesting season was over, Jeff did find an old abandoned nest in one of the Joshua Trees.  There are a variety of different types of animals that call the park home
Stand Alone
I really like this image of a Joshua Tree.  You can see that it’s in a sort of grove of trees, and I truly love the mountains in the background.  I believe they are the Little San Bernardino Mountains, and they really are not as close as they appear in this image.  This park is quite sprawling and nothing is truly as close as it appears.
Joshua among the Rocks
One of the things I found fascinating about this park was the diversity of the landscape.  Who would expect to find these giant boulders in the middle of a desert?  And, altho these rocks may look like sandstone, they are actually a type of granite, not all that different from what some of us may have as countertops in our homes.  But, more about those later, when I actually strolled among them….
Key Points View
It’s true that still waters run deep……and I guess that peaceful views contain deep turbulence.  This view is of the meeting of two geological plates, the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I took an image of the topography of the San Andreas Fault!  The actual fault is just outside the park’s boundary, but literally hundreds of smaller faults crisscross the ground upon which I was standing.  Yikes!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wine Country Landscapes
One of the things that adds to my enjoyment of the wine country of Napa & Sonoma are the lovely landscapes that we come across as we drive from winery to winery.  It always feels so peaceful, one can’t help but come away with an optimistic perspective about how life truly can be lived.
Wine Fields in Napa
As you drive further up north along the Silverado Trail in Napa, you get some wonderful views of the wine fields.  For this trip, the clouds were very low hanging, but you can see there were some blue skies just above them.
Vineyard Home
When I saw this homestead set in the fields of vines, I thought about what it would be like to live among the grapes and having this view from one’s home office, living room, front porch……you get the idea!
Misty Hills
One treat we got this visit that we’d not seen in previous visits, was the effect of the low clouds and wisps of clouds hugging the hills.  We were told it was a bit early for this type of weather, and people apologized for the bad weather we were having (as if they could have done anything to control Mother Nature!), but it certainly made for some great moody views!
Fall Vines
One thing that the wet weather did was to make the fall colors really pop!  The crush was just over when we visited, and we were able to just enjoy the beauty of the vines after they produced this year’s crop of future wines.
Winery Visit – Sterling Winery
Jeff & I had never been to Sterling Winery, altho originally, Jeff thought he had.  We have visited a few wineries in our time, and have even take a tour or two, along with our fair share of tastings, but this one was a bit more unique than the rest.
View from the Tram
One difference – we had to take a tram to get up to the winery!  I can say this is the first time I’ve ever had to do that.  It did give us a nice, and different, view of the countryside.
Aging Wine
Once at the winery, the tasting was handled in a different way, too. We were each given a wine glass to take with us from tasting station to tasting station.  Along the way, we toured various areas of the winery – a self-tour.  I don’t believe that I ever have seen area rugs in the area where wine was being aged in traditional size wine barrels.  I believe these barrels contained their “reserve” wine grapes.
Castle in the Hills
The tour did take us to the top of the winery where we had an excellent view of a neighboring winery from the rooftop deck.  The deck was set up to be able to host some nice private gatherings, where one could sip wine while taking in beautiful wine country views.
Big Barrels
I don’t know what types of grapes are being aged in these barrels, but I don’t think these would be any barrels that you could later convert into planting containers!
Heading Down
And, after a small additional tasting in a charming area where we sat at our own table, we took the tram back down to where we began.  It was truly a very different way to enjoy a wine tasting and tour!

Trinity Road
There’s this wonderful narrow, winding road that connects Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley.  As we travel from one end to the other, this road has, I believe, 3 different names.  I know it by the name it bears on the Sonoma Valley end – Trinity Road.  To me, it’s the quintessential wine country road.
Autumn around the Bend
I especially love driving this road in the fall, which is really the only time I’ve ever visited Napa & Sonoma.  There is such a peaceful feeling driving down this little road.  It takes me to a place I think I’ve only ever been in my mind, but how I imagine the roads thru the wine country of Italy and France must either be or have been at one time.
The road has a warning sign at the far end of either side, telling large trucks and RV’s that this road is truly not meant for them. The twists and turns are such that would probably be difficult for them to navigate.  But, it’s perfect for our little Jeep.
Napa Valley
And, at the Napa end of the road, we are presented with a wonderful view of the Napa Valley, as we descend from the upper reaches of the hills that lie between the two valleys.  Traveling this road is as much a part of a visit to this area as sipping the wine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Miki at Del Mar Beach, California
Oneam afternoon in southern California, we took Miki to a dog beach in Del Mar.  Dogs are so much nicer than people they didn’t mind if people were also on the beach, which is often NOT the case when it’s a “people” beach!  (Tee, hee!)  Anyway, as I processed these images of Miki enjoying herself, I just kept thinking that dogs just seem to live naturally in a perpetual state of joy and happiness.  So, I thought I would share some quotes about happiness as we look at Miki in absolute bliss.
Miki into the Surf
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
Anne Frank
Miki Full Stride
“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.”
Omar Khayym
Through the Waves
“True happiness enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Miki got the Ball
“If you want to be happy, be.”
Leo Tolstoy
Happy Pup
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

Decide to be happy.

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum – A Piece of US History
While in San Diego, Jeff & I visited the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum.  Altho I primarily suggested it because I thought Jeff would find it interesting, I have to admit, I was truly impressed by it, and by what life may be like for all those who serve on aircraft carriers!
The Kiss
Just outside the Midway, in a sort of park area, there is this large statue of what is probably one of the most famous photos from the World War II era.  I think of it as “The Kiss”.  When victory was declared, a sailor turned to a nurse next to him, and swept her up in a kiss.  A lucky photojournalist captured that and it has become symbolic to capturing the joy that was felt at that moment.  The two didn’t know each other, but have been forever linked in history!
How Carriers Have Changed
Aircraft carriers have certainly changed over the years.  This exhibit in the Midway shows models of two carriers – the USS Langley, the first aircraft carrier, and the USS Gerald R Ford, one of the more recent ones.  The USS Midway lies in between these two, in terms of when it was built.  The Midway is the 20th century’s longest-serving carrier, from 1945 – 1992.  As a museum, it hosts 1 million visitors annually, and many of the docents in the museum/on the ship served either on the Midway or on another aircraft carrier when they were in the military.
Moving Around
Altho not the largest aircraft carrier in existence, the Midway was plenty large enough to me!  It has 18 decks, and based on the annotations of the location, I would have been in a perpetual state of “lost” had I served on this ship!  In the photo in the upper left of this compilation, you can sort of see what I’m talking about in the markings in the yellow box.  It’s all gibberish to me, but apparently, it tells you what deck, its location on the ship, etc., etc. you are on.  Also, check out how steep the ladders are that get you from one deck to the other!  The photo in the upper right shows you what a typical hall walkway below deck looks like.  And, the bottom photo is looking down several decks to where the bombs would have been stored/loaded onto the ship.  Impressive.
Everyday Life
Here are some photos of what the servicemen encountered in everyday life.  The ship’s chapel is shown in the upper left corner.   A good place for quiet and reflection.  Altho you can’t see it, behind me in the chapel is a wall containing the names of all the servicemen who lost their lives while serving on the Midway.  A true reminder of what the cost of freedom is.  The bottom left photo is of the sick bay, certainly something that most likely got a lot of use when servicemen were first on board, before they got their “sea legs”! When operating, the Midway had 5 physicians (and 3 dentists) on board.  And, the photo on the right is of the barber shop – I’m guessing unisex barber shop in the later years of the Midway’s commission, when both men and women would have been on board.  Better make an appointment!  And, hope for someone who had some talent in cutting hair, as well as the other chores below deck (laundry, kitchen help, etc.).  With the exception of cooks, doctors and dentists, it appears that the servicemen took turns doing the other jobs!
1G of Memory
Because I’m married to a “techie”, this image got solo billing!  It’s the memory for all the computers and equipment that had been used on the Midway, a whopping 1G of memory!  Just as a comparison, the camera with which I took this image has a memory card of 64 in it!  How times have changed!!
When operating, there were about 4500 crew!  Here’s an idea of where and how they slept.  The top 2 photos are of the captain’s office and his bedroom – yes, he had his own bath, too, but I didn’t photograph it!  The middle photo is pretty much what most of the other crew would sleep in, altho perhaps sometimes they’d have 2 to a cabin.  The bottom cabin is the cabin right off the bridge of the ship. 
It takes a lot to keep the clothes clean for 4500 crew members, and the laundry set-up below deck on the Midway was quite impressive!  Apparently, once they were clean, the clothes were hung in what looks to be like a dry cleaning shop.  But, behind the scenes, there were many washers and dryers, and an entire room devoted to pressing or ironing the clothes! 
Needless to say, the kitchen set up was really big on the Midway.  The cafeteria set up and dining tables weren’t exceptionally large.  I’m guessing the crew ate in shifts.  On average, tho, about 13,500 meals were served daily on the Midway, including 500 pies when pies were served!  Can’t forget dessert!
Flight Deck
After viewing all the interesting things below deck, we then went up on the flight deck.  The deck itself was just over 4 acres, and it is about 3 ½” thick.  Altho the day wasn’t all that hot, on the flight deck, it felt extremely warm.  I found it hard to imagine what it felt like for the servicemen who worked on the flight deck day in and out over the years.
Planes on the Flight Deck
There were quite a few planes on the flight deck – here are a few that caught my eye.  The top plane had what I thought was a rather whimsical name, and whimsy isn’t something I thought I’d see on an aircraft carrier!  In case you’re having a tough time reading it, it’s “Easy Way Airlines”.  The other two photos displayed how bombs were loaded under the wings.  I also really think it’s rather cool the way the wings fold up – makes for more efficient storage of planes!
Pri-Fly and Chart Room
We then took a tour of what is commonly called “The Island” – it’s what looks like a control tower on an aircraft.  And, part of it is like a control tower, except it’s called the Pri-fly room.  I believe that’s short for Primary Flight Control room.  That room acts much like a control tower in an airport, and the top photo is the view from that room (through a screened window, which it why the photo looks a little odd).  The chart room is where the navigation was done, and much of the time the Midway was in operation, there wasn’t really a GPS!  Instead, tools like what are shown in the bottom were used.  The tool on the right in that photo is a sextant.
On the Bridge
The last stop on the tour of “The Island” was the Captain’s Bridge.  As we all filed onto the bridge, the docent giving the tour kept telling folks that someone was more than welcome to sit in the Captain’s chair.  I was in the back of the group at that point, but since the chair was still open, I took the opportunity to sit and rest for a bit!  It was actually quite high up, tho, so the climb to get into it was a little tricky.  Still, I didn’t make a fool of myself, thank goodness!  The top photo is the view from the Captain’s chair, looking out over the front of the flight deck and beyond.  The lower photo is Jeff standing in the small protected room contained within the Bridge.  He’s listening very intently to the docent!
Sailboats from the Captain’s Bridge
I thought I’d leave you with this lovely final image from our visit to the USS Midway.  I was still sitting in the Captain’s chair, and saw these sailboats over the shoulder of the docent. I couldn’t resist capturing them, and then converting the image to a watercolor painting.