Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve State Park


Shortly after turning off the highway, the orange and yellow mounds appear approximately 10 miles on the horizon.  Undulations covered in color, a contrast from the green fields and solar panels on the way.  Halfway there, the fields are overrun with orange, yellow and purple flowers.  The hills are now easily seen.  They are vibrantly alive with an almost fluorescent color.  A wet January and February have spawned the super bloom. 

From the Poppy Reserve Website:

The Park

Each spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve comes alive with the seasonal surprises of the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat.  The duration and intensity of colors and scents vary from year to year.  The wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through May, with a variety of wildflowers creating a mosaic of color that changes daily.

Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season.  Get away from the city and relax in the quietude of the countryside, with the birds singing and hawks gliding silently overhead.  Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as meadow larks, lizards, and gopher snakes.  If you're lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat.  Numerous burrows around the trails may shelter mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, or others. 

For more information, click the link below.


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More from the Reserve Website

The Antelope Valley is located in the western Mojave Desert at an elevation ranging from 2600--3000 feet, making it a high desert environment. 

This State Natural Reserve is located on California's most consistent poppy-bearing land. Other wildflowers: owl's clover, lupine, goldfield, cream cups, and coreopsis, to name a few, share the desert grassland to produce a mosaic of color and fragrance each spring. As unpredictable as nature - the intensity and duration of the wildflower bloom varies yearly.  California State Parks does not water or use any other means to stimulate the flowers; the land is preserved to only be influenced by the natural forces that had once influenced all of our surroundings.  The broad views of this landscape provide eyefuls of brilliant wildflower colors and fragrance. Whether you most enjoy expansive fields or the close-up study of a single flower, this is the place to visit.

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Have you visited the Poppy Reserve? What was your experience like? Have you visited other areas that have seen a super bloom this year?

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.

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

Photo courtesy of

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Photo courtesy of Residents evacuate Malibu, CA.

Photo courtesy of 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. 

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

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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.