Joshua Tree National Park is located approximately 140 miles east of Los Angeles and a short distance to neighboring Palm Springs area. This protected land is comprised of vegetated high desert and low desert making up this extraordinary national park.
This park has many interesting and diverse parts that will appeal to any exploring hiker.
Much of this land expands across both the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and is home to a variety of species living in this desert ecosystem. Here are a few of the living residents of this amazing national park:
Prickly pear cactus
and many more.
Our day of exploration at the park was on National Public Lands day so we enjoyed an entry fee free day. The next fee free day at the parks is November 11, Veterans Day. As we continue our journey through this park, we were more amazed the further we went. The beauty, quiet, serene, and peaceful ora of the desert is intoxicating.
We were lucky enough to also spot some big horn sheep and capture them wandering around near the Barker Dam area of the park.
Some of the key points of interest that you may wish to explore on your visit to Joshua Tree National Park are listed here:
⭐️Lost Horse Mine
⭐️Geology Road Tour
⭐️Cholla Cactus Garden
Barker Dam Trail
Check out the hiking trail at Barker Dam: a short, easy pleasant trail to the historical dam. And wow those boulders and rock formations are incredible!
Skull Rock Trail
Camping is also allowed and the sites are located near impressive boulders and lovely trails, this particular site is located at Hidden Valley; this area was where a cattle rustlers hideout was.
Views throughout the park:
Quiet, serene and peaceful surroundings.
Silver Bell Mine
Cholla Cactus Garden
This garden is comprised of jumping cholla, so you do need to be careful and cautious as you stroll this attraction. It is a bit mesmerizing as the endless number of cholla cactus dominate this particular area of the park.
The cholla cactus (jumping cholla) with its barbed spine, are known to attach to skin, fur, and clothing.
The day we tipped toe through this garden, a female in the group in front of us ended up with a cholla spine in her shoe, and it appeared to go all the way through the rubber sole of her shoe.
Another side note; be cautious of bees near and around the cholla cactus garden area.
Here is a bit more information you should know before you visit Joshua Tree National Park:
1.There is no cell phone service in the majority of the park.
2.Stay away from abandoned mines.
3.Carry at least one gallon of water per person per day.
4.Flash floods are a danger; avoid drainage areas during and after thunderstorms
5.Do not climb unless you are properly trained and equipped. (Rock climbing is allowed).
6.Pets are prohibited on the trails and beyond 100 feet from any park road, campground, or picnic area.
7.Off-road driving is prohibited.
Some camping sites are available at a first come, first serve basis; visit www.recreation.gov to learn more. Campgrounds are usually full on the weekends from October through May. Check out the website to plan your next visit.
The desert may not be high on your list of places to see and visit, but Joshua Tree National Park may change your mind. It is incredible how this desert land teaches us about adaption as these animals, plants, and landscapes adapt to the summer 100 plus degree temperatures, relentless sun, and so little water. That is impressive in my book.
Channel Islands National Park might be one of the most under appreciated national parks of them all. Granted, there are still several national parks I have yet to visit, but Channel Islands has definitely been put on my ‘visit again’ bucket list.
We had no expectations of this park and were open minded and excited to see something new. This national park is truly amazing and unique. So much natural beauty, landscapes, and pleasant surprises; like seeing a whale surrounded by a pod of dolphins and seagulls all in their natural habitat!
The Channel Islands are comprised of a total of 8 islands of which only 4 are included and designated as the national park. These four islands include San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Anacapa Island. You must call ahead and plan your visit and tour either by boat or airplane concessioners that will take you to the islands. The national park visitor center is located nearby the Ventura Harbor where the boat excursions depart from. Ventura Harbor is also a visiting stop for the Hikiananalia California Voyage; a 2800 mile voyage from Hawaii to California using traditional old school non-instrument navigation.
The several activities you can do on the islands include the following:
This is one of the top scuba diving sites in the world as well.
Santa Cruz is the island we chose to explore and go hiking. We also planned the extra tour of Painted Cave. We called about a week prior to our visit and made our reservation and purchase on the catamaran boat operated by Island Packers, Inc. There is an additional fee for Painted Cave; and it was well worth it! Learn more about prices and trip info here: islandpackers.com
For this type of adventure, you need to plan and be prepared in advance for your day trip, which is the tour that we chose. We were informed to bring the following since there are no concessions, water, or supplies on the island.
Packed lunch and snacks
Enough water for entire day
Dress in layers, weather can be unpredictable
Bring needed supplements to minimize motion sickness if needed.
Bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
Do not feed any animals
We arrived early at the Ventura marina and checked in around 8:10 a.m., it’s recommended that you arrive early so you are not delaying the departure of the boat. The scheduled time to board the boat is about 9:15 a.m.
There were approximately 85-100 people on this excursion. The weather was windy and the seas were very rough due to the hurricane to the south of the area (near Mexico). The staff member who checked us in asked us if we were okay with rough waters and if we have issues with motion sickness. We told her, “guess we will find out.”
We departed on time and began the morning with a fun and exciting bumpy boat ride. It was about 30 minutes later, when several folks started to feel motion sickness, but the crew members were fantastic and continuously walked around the boat to check on people and helped anyone who needed it.
I admit, I was getting close to that sick feeling, but I turned on my mental power and made it to the island.
The boat ride is about one and half hour long, and the passengers who did not purchase the additional tour were dropped off at Prisoners Harbor and those of us remained on the boat and continued onto Painted Cave. This ride was approximately an additional 30 minutes one way. All I can say is,.. this was well worth it!
Painted Cave is a magnificent site that is one of largest and deepest sea caves in the world! You will see multi colors of remnants of algae formed on rocks and is absolutely beautiful as it reflects off the blue-green waters.
This was such an incredible experience to gently float into the cave and hear the quiet, serene environment with the breathtaking surroundings.
We spent about 20-30 minutes pondering within the cave, of which if the weather and waves are too strong, they do not go into the cave,. But on this day we were lucky enough to have been able to go deeper in the cave and capture some incredible photos.
We continued on and returned to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island and disembarked the boat and began our hiking journey.
We began hiking the trail of Del Norte and found a picnic table setting at a perfect viewing point and spot for enjoying our lunch.
We hiked about 2 hours before we had to start heading back to the boat dock for boarding.
On the return boat ride, it was a much smoother more enjoyable ride the on the way to the island. And we got lucky again with an added bonus on this experience as we encountered a hump back whale and a swarm of dolphins and seagulls on a feeding frenzy. Photos by: My husband.
This was the most incredible thing to see! This made our trip to the Channel Islands one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had.
Exploring around the island was spectacular as we captured some of the features and beauty that make up Santa Cruz Island.
Channel Islands National Park exceeded our expectations no doubt! The thrill of traveling over water to unfamiliar land and exploring the unknown is exhilarating! The wildlife on the island migrated over on vegetation. These include mice and fox. Precautions are mentioned about avoiding all contact with any of the animals on the island. Learn more about his beautiful park at nps.gov/chis
Here is more information to plan your next trip to Channel Islands National Park
Imagine a life where you are surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, ocean blue waters, and palm trees galore? We might call this California Dreaming as you may think that no such place exists in your world. Well, this is our attempt to bring that world to you.
San Diego is a vacationers dream with so many exciting attractions, amusement parks, the famous San Diego Zoo, and exquisite dining. However, San Diego offers so much more for you other than the average everyday tourist hot spots. Here are a few different things to discover and see less traveled areas in the San Diego area. Enjoy this photo journal series capturing some of San Diego’s hidden treasures that you may wish to explore. Happy Viewing.
Torrey Pines State Reserve: Hiking and Views
Torrey Pines Hiking
Torrey Pines Hiking
Torrey Pines Hiking
Torrey Pines Hiking
This is a peaceful, beautiful trail for visitors to enjoy in a clean, natural environment, and stunning landscapes and views. This is a reserve; according to torreypine.org, a reserve is not a park. This reserve is a targeted area protected for conservation and also has other restrictions different than a park. Read more here:
Torrey Pines State Beach
The beach is at the bottom of 300 foot sandstone cliffs of white and golden stone, with a greenish layer sometimes visible at the very bottom.
La Jolla Cove and Shores are one the most photographed beaches in San Diego County!
It is home to several species of sea life including seagulls, seals, and occasional spottings of Orca killer whales. See more photos of this area here: La Jolla Cove
Sante Fe Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest
Del Dios Gorge Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest
The Sante Fe and Del Dio Gorge Trails are both segments of the San Dieguito River Park area and the Coast to Crest trails. Three pre-historic cultural periods describe parts of this region and portrays a peak at how Native Americans explored through this valley. The Harris Site is noted as one of the most significant archaeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
Miramar Air Show: Marine Corp Air Station
The Miramar Air Show was spectacular this year and certainly did not disappoint. This years air show theme was honoring 100 years of women in the Marine Corps. Also feature highlights were some impressive aircraft such as the F-35 Lightening II, F/A -18 Hornet, MV-22 Osprey, AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper, and of course, the infamous Blue Angels! Miramar Air Show is an annual event usually scheduled for some time in late September or early October.
Petco Park and San Diego Padres
If you visit San Diego, you must experience watching a baseball game at Petco Park with an unbelievable backdrop of the city surrounded by the ocean and spectacular sunsets!
You can watch airplanes arriving for a landing in the distance behind the city buildings as you watch the game.
San Diego is an exquisite city to visit and experience. It’s a vacation and travel destination for millions of people. And yes, there are the popular tourist attractions that visitors love to see but there are also the less traveled amazing spots that will leave you speechless. So when you make your trip to San Diego, be sure to explore one or two of the hidden gems that will make your dream vacation more complete. Thank you for reading! California Dreaming!
More Exploration and Adventure in San Diego!
Coming Soon: California Dreaming Series | Palm Springs
The following guest blog I wrote for CancerCare Parcel, a resource that offers comfort, support and inspiration to those dealing with or affected by cancer.
MUM, CANCER AND ME: HOW I HELPED MY MUM FIGHT BACK FROM ACROSS THE MILES
It’s Probably One Of The Worst Things For Someone To Be Told: “You Have Cancer,”
It can be devastating for a spouse or family member to hear it as well. I admit it, I felt my stomach fall to my feet when my mother called me on the phone to tell me the horrible news that she has breast cancer. I felt intense emotions of fear, sadness and guilt because I lived over 2000 miles away from her. I held back tears as she told me she had Stage 4 breast cancer and will be having a mastectomy and up to 9 lymph nodes removed. So, some of you may be thinking well this isn’t too big of a deal, there are people learning they have cancer every day. But you see, this is my mother; my mum, a sweet, kind, and gentle soul.
The beautiful state of North Dakota might be more known for its friendly people and open hearts. And you might be expecting to read another blog article about beautiful big buildings and structures, exquisite eateries and foodies, or glimmering art galleries. But this article is about more than that; it’s not of something tangible or aesthetically beautiful, but more of extraordinary experiences, places that touch your soul, and discovering a gratitude for life that is magical!
I am born and raised in a very small town in North Dakota, and do try to return and visit as often as possible, because most of my family still live here. On my recent visit, I explored new areas I have not yet explored and discovered incredible rich beauty and culture.
Since I am one of 5 kids in my family, we were a family that lived on a budget while growing up. My parents worked hard and did the very best they could to give all of us kids a good life while growing up. So there was no such thing as a vacation, no high tech gifts, and no name brand or fancy clothing in our house. But one thing there was plenty of… Love! There are, however, a few cool places I do remember visiting as an adolescent, this is closest to a vacation that I can recall. They include the following:
Attending a circus event in Jamestown, N.D.
Medora, N.D. Musical and driving around the South Unit in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (My memory is very vague)
Visiting the giant Buffalo in Jamestown, N.D.
Road trip to Montana to visit relatives. (This one’s a big one, it seemed it was a day’s long drive)
Since my adventure and exploration was a bit limited as a kid, I made it a point to seek and explore more of my home state on my recent visit to see my family this summer. There are a handful of unique things that make North Dakota not your average ordinary vacation destination. Nope, in fact it is an all around, peaceful, wide open spaces, beautiful and wonderful place to experience! Here is why:
North Dakota Heritage Center
Mostly, the people who live here are just common folks who work hard, care about others, and enjoy time with family. Speaking of spending time with family, I recently had the opportunity to visit the North Dakota Heritage Center along with my mother and her friend. We enjoyed learning about the Native Americans that populated the area many years ago, as well as the prehistoric creatures that lived across the plain states and nearby areas.
ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com
ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com
ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com
ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com
Some of the fossils displayed at the museum are actual findings as the one below with the attempt to preserve it and the dirt it was discovered in.
This exhibit is very interesting as the fossil still has some of the outer layer of skin preserved. The center offers static and rotating exhibits as well as a café inside; The James River Cafe. Check out more information here: www.statemuseum.nd.gov
Let’s not forget about street art and other beautiful art pieces around town.
The beautiful Missouri River, downtown Bismarck, open spaces and farmland.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
This national preserve is packed with rugged beautiful bluffs infused with red and sand colored landscape where you can get up close and personal with roaming wildlife.
The North Unit is a 14-mile scenic drive through badlands where you might encounter bighorn sheep, elk, and even wild buffalo. This is the perfect destination for those looking for a unique kind of adventure, history, and bison!
According to the Medora 2018 Adventure Guide; Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Medora for a buffalo hunt in September 1883 and fell in love with the land. After his experience in this area, he became alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and wildlife.
*Although you can get quite close to the wild animals, there are warning signs posted stating the buffalo are dangerous, so enjoy them at a distance.
Roosevelt later pursued interests in conservation when he established five national parks, 51 federal bird reservations, four national game reserves and 150 national forests. “I have always said I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.” Says Roosevelt. (Source: Medora 2018 Adventure Guide) There is so much more to see and explore, learn about this gorgeous national park here www.nps.gov/thro.
Medora, North Dakota is a town located at the far Western part of the state and is home to the infamous Medora Musical, and gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I visited this place with my parents many years ago in 1983 and I remember I did not appreciate it then because I was so young. My parents have attended this several times over the years. This musical is performed live outdoors on a stage setting surrounded by a 2900 seat Burning Hills Amphitheater under the beautiful Badlands sky! The performance usually is dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelts’ time in the Badlands and to the Spirit of the West. Talented performers come from all over the world along with live horses make this high-energy musical show to be like no other. I look forward to my next visit and seeing this show again in the near the future. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is also located near Medora as well.
There are tons of other things to do in Medora as well, such as golfing at Bully Pullpit golf course, hiking, biking trails, camping and cabins, horseback riding, and a cowboy cookout. Find your own adventure at Medora.com.
Home to the world’s largest buffalo and the city where I was born. A quaint historical city where historical author writer Louis La’Mour walked the streets and gained inspiration for one of his novels called ‘A Walking Trail’. The Stutsman County Fair has made Jamestown home over the 4th of July for many years and one event I’ve enjoyed as I was growing up. Jamestown is also known for their Stock Car Races, which always makes for intense excitement and family fun! Jamestown is also known for the World’s largest buffalo monument.
Elks Camp Grassick
One of the best summer jobs anyone could ever have! I worked here for three summers along with my sister and we experienced some of the most magical times of our lives. As you drive into the entrance off the gravel dirt road leading to the camp there is an exterior sign that states; “Elk’s Camp Grassick, A Very Special Camping Experience.” This is exactly what it is.
Elk’s Camp Grassick is owned and operated by the Elk’s of North Dakota and is a camp that serves children and adults with various special needs and disabilities. My experience working at Camp Grassick was extraordinary. My sister and I worked as Kitchen Staff, but we were still able to participate and be engaged with the camp participants. Here are some of the unique memorable things we experienced while working here:
Enjoying time with special needs children, witnessing their improvements and making new friends. Learning to smile, laugh, and believe in themselves!
Participate in Recreation events such as a costume party, seeing the campers dancing, laughing, and having fun.
Attending the Stutsman County Fair where each staff member was assigned to tend to a camper and assist them so they can too enjoy the fair and feel like a regular kid.
A peaceful canoe ride on Lake Isabel in the evening with other kitchen staff members, who have become lifelong friends.
Making new friends with counselors, campers, and creating a special friendship with Camp Directors, Dan M. and others.
The small town of Tappen, North Dakota is so small that if you blink as you drive on Interstate 94, you will miss the exit ramp. This town with a population of 250 give or take a few; is the town where I lived, attended school, and played piano for the small white church on the corner street located across from the school (there is only one school). There were not very many events or activities happening in this small quiet little town, but the one event the entire town looks forward to is the Tappen Demolition Derby.
This event is action packed and full of hot rods and junkers that crash into each other to compete for the trophy and other prizes. There are only a few vendor stands; there might be T-shirts and food sold. However, this event was free to attend in the past, but recent years, there is a fee now. Many folks from all over North Dakota attend this event, and this year’s show did not disappoint. Attendees bring their campers, lawn chairs, or large pick up trucks backed in as they sit and watch the crashing and demolition derby action. This is a great event for affordable, family fun. Here are a few captions.
A great event for family fun. Tappen, N.D. had celebrated its 125th Year Quasquicentennial Anniversary in 2003, and it was quite a celebration. The entire town was looking like something in a picture book of green manicured lawns, gardens and flowers, and tidy as far as I could see. I remember the 100th year Centennial Anniversary and found some old photos in my parents photo albums.
According to the centennial book, Tappen was a hopping, busy little town. Today, however, it has remained its quiet slow pace, farmers are abundant, and several of the old time buildings have been either torn down, dilapidated, or removed from Tappen and taken to Bismarck. A replica of a small midwest town called Buckstop Junction, has been re-created in Bismarck, using original old building and structures from various small towns. Learn more about this historical place: https://website.buckstopjunction.org:89/
Tappen may be small, but there are a few businesses that help make Tappen a great place to live or stop in and visit this small town USA.
Roadhouse Bar and Grill: Offering a hometown fun and friendly place to enjoy cocktails and food. Occasionally, they will feature a live band. Roadhouse Facebook page.
Marlins Standard: Gas and Auto. (We used to buy candy bars from the station as kids).
Several Organic Farm businesses
Tanning N’ More
Tiff’s Hair Garage
Of course, some of these businesses are somewhat new and were not around when I lived there. I didn’t appreciate the simple good living I had growing up in North Dakota at the time. I do now, however realize how much I miss those wide open spaces, quiet lazy days, and forever sunsets. Everyone knew everyone; my classmates were like my brothers and sisters.
But I was a small town girl with big time dreams, I had goals to achieve, and it was difficult to leave home. I had the drive and curiosity to go out and experience the world that I was so shielded from as an adolescent. I am happy with the choices I’ve made in my life, I gained lifetime of experience and wisdom that are priceless. And although I miss my family tremendously, I do visit them and see North Dakota a couple times a year, which gives me a break from the busyness of life.
So if you have an opportunity to travel or planning on traveling in the future, you might consider adding North Dakota to your list. Read more here: www.NDtourism.com.
Thank you for reading! Do you miss your home town or state? Comment and let me know where you are from, I would love to hear from you!
Recently, there have been several spotting of killer whales gracing the coastal regions in Southern California. Whales have been known to roam in the southern Pacific certain times of the year. I’ve also seen several local news outlets capturing video of these majestic animals and their calves as they search for food in these waters. So, of course, seeing this inspired me to go out on a little adventure and do some of my own searching. I hopped in the car and cruised my way over to La Jolla, California.
La Jolla, California is a quintessential smaller coastal community located in San Diego County. It might be one of the most beautiful beach towns I’ve ever seen.
I have perused around this quaint community several years ago, but I was too focused on this short road trip to browse around the shops and boutiques again. I was in search of whales and surfers, since it was officially California Surfer Day.
I spent the afternoon pondering the coastal walkways and sidewalks, staring and glancing for hours out at the mesmerizing blue green waters.
It was getting late, and with disappointment and frustration, there were still no whales or surfers in sight. I did however, have a great time capturing all the beauty and wildlife that make these coves home. There were seagulls, pelicans, and seals soaking up the sun everywhere you looked.
Take a preview of what my day at the office consisted of below. Enjoy!
Shell Beach, Lajolla, CA
The park here in La Jolla Cove area is beautiful and peaceful to enjoy a quiet afternoon or a lunchtime break.
More gorgeous scenic captions here.
Did you know that La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California?
If you look close, the small rock island is covered with seals and birds lounging as they soak up the sun and relax.
Sealife is an abundance here at La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores area.
If you are visiting the San Diego area, you might consider adding La Jolla Cove to your itinerary, it will certainly not disappoint. This was my office for the day.
There are so many beautiful hiking trails and nature walks throughout San Diego County, but one of San Diego’s most popular and well known hiking spots is Mt. Woodson. This hike will offer you plenty of nature viewing pleasure and scenic landscapes.
But the point of interest that captures many hikers is Potato Chip Rock. This narrow, thin looking piece of rock might appear somewhat risky and scary. This is the most popular selfie and photo taking spots on the trail. Here are my captions from this gorgeous San Diego hiking trail.
Mt. Woodson: Backside Trail: 4.1 Miles Elevation 1220 feet DIRECTIONS
The backside trail is one of two different trails to hike to get to the Potato Chip Rock area. We decided to take the backside trail to see what Mt. Woodson was all about. Especially since we wanted to enjoy a more moderate level trail and not over do it for the weekend.
This was a beautiful trail and we were complimented with a gorgeous sunny afternoon too. Parking for this trail is actually along CA-67; and it can be busy so be careful and be patient in looking for a space to park.
The trail starts off nice and easy with neat walkways and shrubs and treeline paths. Then there are some steep incline areas as it reminded me of being on my stair stepper at the gym. I definitely encountered some heavy breathing, but that’s my kind of workout. Once you reach near the summit, you will see some radio antenna equipment and towers. Just slightly past that area is the infamous Potato Chip Rock, and if you hike during the weekend you may encounter a waiting line to step onto the thin appearing but steady rock piece that looks like a potato chip.
San Diego has such a vast array of things to do, including the beaches, nightlife, amusement parks, and more. But if you just want to take a few hours and explore the outdoors and keep it simple, go check out Mt. Woodson near Poway, California. Directions
Beginning of trail from the backside path, (parking off of Highway 67).