Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring at Crystal Cove

photo by Mozaic Studio

The weather promised to be beautiful on Saturday, so we headed down to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach. The park, once part of the immense Irvine Ranch, covers some 2,400 acres of prime, undeveloped land available for hiking, camping and biking. There are stunning views of the water, shore and the hills from nearly every point in the park.
The current California fiscal crisis makes the day-use entrance fee a steep $15, but you'll probably forget all of that when you're walking on the pristine beach and enjoying the sun and the breeze. At low tide you can walk over rocks to tide pools, or look at one of the emerging arches in the cove rock. You can also hike or ride horses in El Moro Canyon, and in the spring view the abundant wildflowers.

Beach cottages were built in the 30s and 40s, when the cove was still in private hands. When the land was sold to California in 1997, the state began the long process of refurbishing the cottages and making them available for public use. You can make reservations for the cottages through the park's website.

But as long as the weather is good, the park is open to anyone, and it's definitely worth the trip. Park on one of the magnificent bluffs overlooking the water, then hike a short distance either down to the beach or up to the canyon.

photo by Mozaic Studio

photo by Mozaic Studio

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wildflower Season Ahead

(Death Valley wildflowers. Photo by Mozaic Studio.)

Since it's been a relatively rainy winter this year, several parks are predicting good wildflower blooms in March and April.

Poppy season officially started at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve March 1, and park reservations can be online.

The Mojave National Preserve promises a "memorable" wildflower display, and Death Valley, which received nearly 5 inches of rain this winter, predicts a more spectacular bloom than originally anticipated. Peak blooming should occur there from the end of March to mid-April—a short two- or three-week period. Trees at Joshua Tree National Park are already blooming at higher elevations, and flowers should appear in mid-March.

Meanwhile, Anza-Borrego State Park will host wildflower tours through mid-March, with each tour going to whatever area is blooming best. The cost is $5, and reservations are not necessary. See their site for dates and times.

For desert wildflower updates throughout the Southwest, go to Desert USA

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Hwy. 395 Audio Tour CD

(Fishing in the Eastern Sierra. Photo by Mozaic Studio.)

Roadside Heritage, a collaborative project of universities, chambers of commerce and businesses trying to promote travel in the Eastern Sierra, has a free, downloadable audio tour of U.S. 395.

If you’ve never driven it, 395 is a Scenic Byway that runs parallel to the eastern Sierra Mountains from the Mojave Desert up to Reno, Nevada. It’s a stunning drive that passes through Lone Pine, Bishop, June Lake and Mammoth. It’s also the prime gateway to Death Valley.

The audio tour is a collection of MP3 files that discuss some aspect about the Eastern Sierra—the flora, fauna, the volcanic geology, its mineralogy—that can be viewed from the 395 but may not be apparent to the untrained eye.

But 395 is not the only attraction for this website. You can also download free audio files about Mono and Inyo counties, and listen to the audio files while viewing an interactive map that shows you the precise area the audio discusses. You can also view videos or link to related photos on Flickr.

You can even customize an audio tour based on specific stops or areas along 395 you plan to visit. Select the spots and the website will collate the audio files for you.

So load your iPod, get in the car, and go.