Monday, February 22, 2010

February wanderings

It's been over a month....but our Spring-like weather and an extended road trip kept me off the computer for awhile. We left Oregon on January 25th and drove South to Yosemite National Park. What a glorious place in the Winter! A fresh blanket of snow covered the valley floor and iced the surrounding rock formations. We stayed at the lodge near the base of Yosemite Falls and spent three days hiking and taking photos. The area had been hit by major snow and winds the week before and crews were busy cleaning up downed branches and storm debris. Each evening as the sun set, hoards of photographers would gather at the prime viewing areas to see what the ever-changing weather would bring. We hiked into Mirror Lake near the base of Half Dome, marveled at the architecture of the Ahwahnee Hotel over hot soup, and enjoyed the trails up to Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls.

I only had time for one small sketch of the lovely old Ahwahnee Hotel, which opened in 1927.( plus my feet were cold standing in the foot deep snow!)

From there we drove down through the California central valley to Indio, where we spent a day exploring Joshua Tree National Park. The sun kept shining, with temps into the 70's during the day but getting quite cool at night. A three mile hike in the Mohave Desert to a hidden oasis of Palm trees, tucked into a small notch, was the highlight of the day. I loved the wonderful diversity in the landscape....from flat desolate sand reaching to the horizon, to piles of rounded rock, to forests of cactus....and, of course, the ever present Joshua Tree.

Just before leaving the park for the desolate 35 mile drive out to the south entrance, we spotted a forlorn looking Coyote making his way across the road. I wondered just how many animals prowled this vast desert without ever being seen. We were, after all, very unequipped intruders to this special environment.

Our only mishap was when Fred inadvertently stepped on a piece of spiny cactus and , in trying to get it off of his sandal, managed to get it stuck on his finger. Not a pretty sight! I cringed at the thought of having your entire body make contact with a fuzzy 'Teddy Bear' Cholla!

From Joshua we drove into Arizona and headed for the red hills of Sedona, where we spent the night at a B&B adjacent to many of the canyons. We spent the next morning hiking into Fay Canyon, before heading South for our final stop .... Tucson!

We stayed with good friends from college,spending four days exploring the surroundings. Our son had gone to college there years before so we were aware of some of the attractions. Besides taking a 26 mile bike ride on a borrowed tandem, we spent a day touring Biosphere2, and an afternoon at the Desert Museum....both fascinating to anyone interested in our environment and it's inhabitants. The museum had been expanded since our last visit, and we especially liked the beautiful Mt. Lion who posed so regally for us. ( it's been rumored that one exists on our hilltop in Oregon preying on the numerous deer in our neighborhood!) Along with large, natural enclosures for the animals, the many varieties of desert plants were on display. We had a great lunch out on an enclosed patio surrounded by vibrant colors and textures. I really wanted to set up camp there!

We finally started the drive North, heading across the desert from Tucson over to the Great Salton Sea, then passing through Palm Springs and Indio during a torrential downpour, and making it all the way up to Stockton before quiting for the night. Another full day of driving brought us back to our home on the hill in Oregon. It appeared that Spring had arrived in February this year, with temperatures in the 60's greeting us.

The weather has been wildly mixed up around our country this do you explain it when it's colder in Florida than Oregon, and when California is getting more rain than we are!? I know we'll still have some cold and wet days ahead, so I'm not rushing to put down seeds or new plants. Our adventure South just made me appreciate our natural world.....and I hope and pray that my grandchildren will be able to do the same in the future.

A Tucson door