Whale Watching

In the heart of Newport Beach (where there is very little parking), you can take a 2-hour tour (said in the Gilligan’s Island narrative voice) a few miles off the coast and see various types of whales.  The time of year will dictate what types of whales you might see in this area.  I went on this excursion on Saturday January 19th.  It was a beautiful 75-degree day with barely a cloud in the sky. 

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A nice day to paddle your way around the shoreline.

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Pretty cool to see snow-capped mountains while cruising on the ocean.

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We were told by the boat’s captain that there were a few Gray Whales in the area and we should have a reasonable chance to see them.  These whales migrate at a top speed of 3 miles per hour from Alaska to Baja Mexico.  He also mentioned that the whales lose a considerable amount of weight because they do not feed while migrating.  We met up with two smaller boats that were staking out an area.  Approximately 10 minutes after we arrived, we saw some water spouts so we knew they were near the surface.  Shortly thereafter, we were able to see one of the whales breach the water and two tails flip over.  And that, folks, was the extent of our experience.  LOL.  After about 20 minutes, the captain told us that whales can go under water and hold their breath for 20 minutes.  We waited a while longer but did not see them again.  The captain then took us to some other locations but we were not able to see more whales.  We did to see some sea lions who were laying on each other on a buoy.  We then made our journey back to the dock.  I took many pictures so I hope you enjoy them. 

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I like the following sequence of photos. Check out the changing ripples of water with various shades of light hitting them as the sun begins to set.

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Same situation here. This is a closeup of the waves and foam from the ship’s engine.

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Check out the color and shading of the sun on the water on the next couple of pictures. The water looks like it is on fire.

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I’m not sure who this guy is but he is extremely tall. Either he or the woman or both were flown in on the helicopter and joined the party on-board.

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For more information about Gray Whales, click the link below.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/g/gray-whale/

Woolsey Fire, California

The Woolsey Fire in southern California destroyed almost 97,000 acres, killed three people and forced the evacuation of almost 300,000 residents.  The fire started on 11/8/18 and was fully contained on 11/21/18.  Here are some pictures of the fire when it was burning out of control.

Photo courtesy of Businessinsurance.com

Photo courtesy of Businessinsurance.com

Photo courtesy of Curbedla.com

Photo courtesy of Curbedla.com

Photo courtesy of Hollywoodreporter.com

Photo courtesy of Hollywoodreporter.com

Photo courtesy of weathernationtv.com

Photo courtesy of weathernationtv.com

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com. Residents evacuate Malibu, CA.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com. Residents evacuate Malibu, CA.

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This house was built to withstand a fire. Notice the large driveway that goes completely around the house, creating a barrier for the flames. The garage to the left was not so lucky and was destroyed by the fire.

This house was built to withstand a fire. Notice the large driveway that goes completely around the house, creating a barrier for the flames. The garage to the left was not so lucky and was destroyed by the fire.

A simple spark from power lines, an out of control campfire or lightning strikes can start a fire but the major cause of destruction is the wind.  Strong winds can carry embers from a small fire and drop them onto hillsides or into canyons where there is no fire to exponentially expand a fire area.  In the Woolsey fire, the winds escalated to 50-60 miles per hour which rapidly spread the flames. I spoke with one gentleman who said that he received a call from family who said they needed to be evacuated and came to stay the night in their home.  A few hours later, their own neighborhood was evacuated because the fire had continued to advance.  Geography can also make it difficult to fight fires and get rescue equipment to where it is needed.  

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The local utility company used a helicopter to set new power poles so they could string new lines along the mountains. The chopper hooked onto a pole, circled to where workers guided it into a hole and then repeated the cycle.  Even this was a dicey project as the winds were still gusting around 25 miles per hour. 

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I moved to Los Angeles in May and it only rained (actually drizzled, not a full rain) twice in the first six months I’ve lived here.  These drought conditions leave the hills in a high-risk condition.  Between the dry climate, a simple spark and the high winds, you have a recipe for disaster.  Many of these mountains have been completely scorched and there is very little vegetation left. The desert trees, shrubs and grass will grow again over time but these areas are at risk for mudslides if any significant rainfall occurs.

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A stone mansion which survived the fires overlooks the mountains.

A stone mansion which survived the fires overlooks the mountains.

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The Burn Scar from outer space.

The Burn Scar from outer space.

The Holy Fire, Lake Elsinore, California

Many western states suffer through massive wildfires during the summer months.  The Holy Fire, which has been raging near Lake Elsinore, CA for weeks is one of the smaller fires in CA.  Fires in the northern portion of California have set records for size and destruction.  Many of last year’s fires were ferocious in their speed and destruction.  People around the world who saw this video will never forget the feeling of doom associated with the drivers on the freeway just trying to get to work safely. 

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Planes bring much needed water to douse the flames from above.  

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Thankfully, the 2018 fires in southern California have been nowhere near as devastating as the 2017 version.  (Northern California has not been as lucky.)  Lake Elsinore is in southern California just east of Orange County and north of San Diego County.  Here is some information about the history of Lake Elsinore.

http://www.lake-elsinore.org/visitors/history/city-timeline 

Here is the city website updating the status of the fire.

http://www.lake-elsinore.org/Home/Components/News/News/3535/26

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I took these pictures and video on Saturday, 8/11/18.  The Holy Fire is much more contained at this time.  Residents who evacuated are being encouraged to return.  Hopefully the winds will stay calm so that the firefighters can finish the job. 

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These pictures were taken from Route 15 in Temescal Valley.  Helicopters were picking up water from small lakes near the highway to try to get the fire under control.  Notice the real estate sign.  Location, location, location!

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Have you visited Lake Elsinore?  What was your experience like?  Please post your thoughts, comments and questions below. 

Red Canyon: Dixie National Forest, Utah

Just 14 miles west of Bryce Canyon National Park on Route 12, Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest gives a glimpse of what is to come at the grand national park down the road.  It is like a little brother that lives in the shadow of his big brother who gets all the accolades.  Red Canyon is perfect for sunsets and moon rises.  The orange sandstone and the green pine trees glow in the setting sun.  The moon ascends from behind the park and functions as the icing on the cake. 

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There are trails to hike and a campground if you prefer to stay the night.  When covered in snow, the trails can be navigated with snowshoes or cross-country skis.  One of the more photographed areas of the park are the tunnels.  The tunnels are currently undergoing construction so be careful when driving through the area.  Oh, and watch for passing vehicles if you insist on taking pictures of them while standing on or at the side of the road. 

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Framed by the blue sky, wispy clouds or none at all, this smaller version of Bryce Canyon is never ignored, but is less crowded than its larger brother to the east.  If you visit Bryce Canyon, take the leisurely drive to Red Canyon.  It’s only another 10 miles to the small town of Panguitch or an hour to the gorgeous Zion National Park. 

For more information on Red Canyon click on the link below.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/dixie/recarea/?recid=24942

 

Route 395: Manzanar

Manzanar was a World War II Japanese Internment Camp located on Route 395 between Lone Pine and Independence California.  I had the opportunity to spend some time in the visitor’s center and took many pictures.  I also watched the video that I posted below.  Please watch the video as it tells many stories of these poor people who had everything taken from them just because of their ancestry.  Although this is a beautiful area, the climate can be difficult.  The living quarters were hastily slapped together and did not always shield the inhabitants from the harsh elements.  Over 11,000 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. 

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This is a model of what the camp used to look like.  Only a few buildings remain.

This is a model of what the camp used to look like.  Only a few buildings remain.

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This is a list of all the people who lived at Manzanar.

This is a list of all the people who lived at Manzanar.

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Eight people were assigned to each living area which measured 20x25 feet. 

Eight people were assigned to each living area which measured 20x25 feet. 

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This is the Manzanar cemetery.   135  people died at Manzanar,  28  were buried in Manzanar's cemetery. 

This is the Manzanar cemetery.  135 people died at Manzanar, 28 were buried in Manzanar's cemetery. 

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For more information about Manzanar, click the link below to visit their website.

https://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm

Route 395: Lone Pine and Mount Whitney

Route 395 must suffer the fate of the middle child.  On one side, you have two of the most legendary sites in the US National Park system in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.  On the other, you have one of the largest parks in the National Park system that has the lowest point in North America.  Yosemite is quite possibly the most photographed location in the United States.  Tunnel view, Yosemite Valley and places like Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadow and Tenaya Lake on the Tioga Road are a photographer’s idea of heaven on earth.  Sequoia National Park boasts the largest trees on earth that can live over 3000 years. 

Death Valley National Park contains Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.  It is the hottest, driest and lowest National Park.  The hottest temperature in world history, 134 degrees, was recorded at (fittingly named) Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.  Death Valley NP is a massive 3.4 million acres and contains everything from mountains to sand dunes to caves and even snow in the winter. 

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Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

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With these two areas containing such marvels, what is left for the Route 395 corridor?  The view.  The view from this valley is better than what you will see if you are in Yosemite and Sequoia NP’s.  The eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains is the best view for these scenic wonders.  There is a collection of lakes cradled in the nooks of these majestic mountains.  I’ve driven this road in the summer and winter.  I highly recommend a trip during the winter months through this area.  The snow and ice accentuate the crags in the mountains.  Millions of years of abuse by the wind, rain, snow and ice have left these mountains with scars of beauty.  Roads snake their way through the foothills and make an ascent to the top rather manageable.  Warning: if you want to climb Mount Whitney, which is the highest peak in the lower 48 states, you must get a permit. 

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There are dozens of campgrounds which are either at the base or located partially up the mountainsides.  If travelling during the winter and early spring months, be careful of rock slides and debris on the road.  As the snow and ice start to melt, it dislodges rocks and dirt which create rockslides which can cause damage to people, cars and the roads.  Many of the roads and campgrounds partially up the mountains are closed during the winter but you can still drive a considerable way before a gate will block the road.  Make sure that you don’t go too far off the beaten path.  Some roads might only consist of dirt and gravel.  There are few visitors to some of these areas during the winter so, if you get stuck, you could get yourself in deep trouble.  Always be safe out there. 

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The Alabama Hills are at the foot of the Whitney Portal Road.  Collections of huge rocks have settled here and provide a unique scenery.  There are roads that twist and turn through the rock formations.  Shadows fall between the precarious round curves and sharp edges of the rocks.  They form a fascinating welcome mat to the gorgeous mountains that stare down at them.  I wonder what they say to each other when we are not around?

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Have you visited Mount Whitney?  What was your experience like?  Click the link below for more information about Mount Whitney.

https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/whitney.htm

Route 395: Red Rock State Park to Lone Pine

A couple of years ago, I decided to drive through Yosemite National Park on the Tioga Road (which is only open during the summer) and drive south on Route 395.  Looking at the map to prepare for my trip made me think that this could be a very scenic drive.  On my right were the Sierra Nevada mountains which were seeing pockets of rain showers, clouds and fog covering various peaks.  It made for some breathtaking photos even though my Ipad was not the best camera to capture the moment.  I vowed to return in the winter to see if the snow and ice would showcase the jagged edges of the mountains more dramatically.  I was not disappointed. 

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This time, I decided to start driving from the south.  My journey began with Red Rock Canyon State Park.  This is a small park which offers camping spots for tents and RV’s.  It is a beautiful location and has two main areas of interest with Route 14 splitting these areas in half.  Route 14 merges with Route 395 if you drive north about 20 miles.  At that intersection, you start to see the Sierra Nevada mountains on your left and the mountains of Death Valley National Park on your right.  Although the drive to Lone Pine shouldn’t take very long, your urge to stop and take hundreds of pictures of the various angles of the mountains will keep you moving at a snail’s pace.  It’s worth every second. 

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After an early blue sky day, snow clouds moved in and began to dust the Sierra Nevada mountains at various areas in the range.  

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Off to the right, Owens Lake will appear.  If during the winter and early spring, there might be a fog cloud over the water. 

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Finally, at Lone Pine, your breath will officially be taken away.  The landscape just got serious.  Mount Whitney is an impressive sight to see.  It is the highest point in the lower 48 states and is accompanied by jagged peaks on its flank.  Lone Pine is the kind of place that you aren’t sure where to look because you are surrounded by such impressive mountains to the east and west.  But this is just the first leg of the journey.  There are many winding roads, partially frozen lakes and massive mountains to come. 

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Have you driven through the Owens Valley?  What was your experience like?  What is your favorite location?  For more information about Red Rock Canyon State Park, click the link below.

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=631

Monument Valley

Driving south on Route 191 from Moab, UT and the spectacular Canyonland and Arches National Parks is a continuation of beautiful landscapes.  There are few people on these roads and just a few small towns on the way to Monument Valley.  Sacred Native American lands run through these areas and provide centuries of history. 

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