For several months my two pals, Steve and Marty, had planned on meeting in Big Sur in November at good old Plaskett Creek Campground. I surrounded that trip with short stays in Morro Bay and Allensworth State Park (my new favorite) for a pure California trip. Sadly, Marty got sick and couldn't make it. I hope he's reading this so he'll realize how much he was missed. I know he was bummed about not going so we'll just need to schedule another trip soon.
I share lots of photos of Morro Bay on this website so I will only share a few more. I am on a "health kick" these days ('bout time, don't ya think?) and I did go on a ten mile walk one day while I was here - from the State Park to the Rock and then all around town. This time of year things are quiet in this sleepy beach town - reminds me of California past...
The next photos are from the hike near the State Park and into the estuary. Posting the photo of the Turkey Vulture online got a lot of responses. It reminded me when I went to a "talk" on them at the Grand Canyon two summers ago the Park Ranger put a photo up on the large projector screen and a kid yelled, "Oh, GROSS!" Cracked us all up and you may see what he means...
Here are a few more photos from magnificent Morro Bay.
After two nice days I drove the short distance to Plaskett Creek Campground which is south of Big Sur and north of Ragged Point on the California coast. Nearby is Sand Dollar Beach. It is one of the few remaining places that has ZERO cell reception which at first is strange and then worrisome and finally - so relaxing. I think we all need an electronics break and it's hard to take one so I suggest camping at Plaskett Creek as soon as possible! The first photo is a view of the sun and the marine layer from a stop along the Coast Highway. It reminded me of my days, long ago, driving across the Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead...the good old days.
Here are some photos of and from Sand Dollar Beach.
A few more photos of the area near Plaskett Creek.
My dear friend Steve arrived for the weekend. Recently he and I lost someone who we both loved very much. We spent time together connecting in the way that only people who have shared a mutual loss can. We walked and talked and remembered. It was a poignant and meaningful time together.
Luckily Steve brought his guitar and so we serenaded our nearby neighbors with songs of Slaid Cleaves and Jason Isbell. We also loudly proclaimed our thoughts on the band, Queen. One of us is a fan and one of us is not (me).
I didn't focus much on photography. That will be for another time. I'm grateful that Steve and I had that time together.
Here are a few black and white photos from the area.
You may recall that last spring I visited a State Historic Park in Central California in which I fell in love. On this trip I returned and my love affair deepened. I do have a request though -this place is off the beaten track and I'm worried that I talked too much about it online. So, let's keep this a secret just for us?
When I arrived at Allensworth I was only the second camper. The Ranger came by and wanted to talk about my Casita - while we did that she shared more about how I might be able to support the Park. When I came home I joined the "Friends of Allensworth" and made a small donation. I don't necessarily believe in reincarnation but I certainly feel at home here in some strange and reminiscent way.
Each day out there was glorious and I did get out to the local Wildlife Refuges as well.
Here are some photos of the buildings at Allensworth which have been faithfully restored.
Trains roll by on the regular. I love the sound of horns and the hum of the clickety clack as the freight trains roll slowly by. It lulls me into a calm and contemplative state like nothing else. I breathe easier.
On one particularly fine day I got up early and walked 6 miles all around the Park - made a lunch to go, jumped in the truck and drove to the Kern Wildlife Refuge. After meeting with the Ranger I took a few photos and then headed to Pixley Wildlife Refuge which is close to Allensworth for sunset. It was one of the very best days. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them...
Many of my favorite photos of the last few years are of telephone poles and solitary roads. This place was heavenly in that regard.
I will leave you with a few photos of my last sunset in my Central Valley paradise. Thanks for coming along on my western journeys. I love to travel alone knowing I get to share with you on my return.
My daughter Lilly, the very light of my life, went off to college this fall. She is my youngest child and my only daughter. Old sentimental sap that I am, I'm trying not to to cry as I write this.
I miss her.
I took the truck, with her belongings, to school in Corvallis, Oregon, and on the way home, to assuage my sadness, made a road trip out of it. I saw some places new and old and nature, as it always does, provided me with comfort and succor.
From Corvallis I headed east on magnificent Oregon Highway 20 through the Willamette National Forest. Over hills and through the mountains with water everywhere. Lost Lake, Foster Lake and the Santiam Creek were highlights.
The Highway 20 black and whites.
After driving through Bend to Burns I spent a day in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, this magnificent place may be more well known for the welfare rancher Ammon Bundy and his crazy, gun toting freaky followers and their month long occupation of the refuge back in January of 2016 than for being a natural splendor. It's too bad, of course, because Malheur is also renowned for the birds that visit and call it home as well as other wildlife and, of course, the Eastern Oregon scenic beauty. I found it stunning.
From Burns I took a leisurely drive down Highway 395 and went to visit a place I've seen on the map, all my life, and never visited - the very northeast corner of California. There are some huge lakes up there - Gigantic Goose Lake straddles the border and Lake Abert and Honey Lake are also near the highway. I'd been picturing it in my mind's eyes for a long time and it certainly was better than anything I could have imagined.
I drove to Virginia City in Nevada. My mom and grandmother took me there around 1967 and I hadn't been back since. It's a novel town that focuses on its history and, in 50 some odd years, it hasn't changed much at all. It's exactly as I remembered it and I think that's the idea.
Since I had no reason to rush I took my own sweet time to come home and was able to stop and make some photos that I think capture the everlasting Nevada of my youth.
Another trip and another chapter ending and a new one beginning. And the seasons go round and round... Thank you for coming along.
My health improved enough for me to get my backside back on the road at the end of August. Yee haw! The physical therapist, diet and daily exercises have really helped. Of course at my age the Dr. keeps finding things he wants to test and it looks like that'll continue for awhile but in the meantime... let's take a quick jaunt to a couple of my my favorite central coast haunts.
First, without pain, I took my little trailer up to Gaviota State Beach where my camping pal, the inimitable, entertaining and hilarious Marty, met me. I wasn't quite as mobile as I will be but I did take a few photos of the pier and Gaviota Creek.
After Marty left I drove up to Morro Bay State Park. That drive is spectacular and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Highway 101 from Santa Barbara along the coast and then, when it turns inland into the California Oak savannah country, inspires me for a number of reasons. It's beautiful, of course, but it always feels like I'm finally leaving Southern California behind and moving on to a new and wonderful place.
And I am...
The weather at Morro Bay was alternatively sunny and foggy. I did a few touristy things this trip. I took the "Sub View" tour which is a lot like the old glass bottomed boat in Catalina. You only go out a little way into the harbor and they chum for smelt. It was simple but still fun. The next day I decided to go on the whale watching tour and, for only the second time in my life, I got sea sick. There was a large swell and it got to me. Sigh. That wasn't expected or welcomed. I was miserable and since I wasn't feeling great I only took a few photos.
The whales though...magnificent.
Here are some photos of my first day on the water.
That afternoon I drove over to one of the last remaining old fashioned California beach towns, Cayucos, and make a few photos. As I was parking I noticed many pelicans on the water. Some old guy, seeing my camera, ran up to me and shouted, "Get some pictures of the storks!". Cracked me up. I did take his advice.
Here are a few photos from the rest of the trip.
The black and white images.
Thanks for coming along on this short trip. Tomorrow I leave for Corvallis, OR as I take my daughter's things to her dorm room. It's bittersweet. I'm so proud of her but I'll miss her like crazy.
My hunch is I'll take some photos of the countryside.
We'll talk soon!
It's been an odd summer and I feel the need to check in and say hello.
Let me start by saying that if there is one single lesson I have learned in this lifetime it is this:
ALL things are temporary.
As one gets older and friends and family pass away one's own mortality becomes a center focus of daily life. This is not morbid or bad - it is the truth. As far as I know I'm only getting this one crazy and beautiful life and, as I get older, runaway time seems to become more precious.
I lost my best friend Richard in 1983. I lost my Mom in 1995 and my Dad in 2004. My mentors, John Fitzpatrick, Bill Dickson and Bill Slout are gone in the last 5 years. My uncles and aunts and cousins are now nearly all dead. So, I work to remind myself that this too will be my fate and it 's always too soon, isn't it?
Everything changes all the time. This June my youngest child, my daughter, graduated from high school and is heading off to college in Oregon this fall. Man, I'll miss her.
All things are temporary.
Perhaps it was the accumulation of events or simply random but I had some minor health problems start in May that precluded me from traveling. Now, to be sure, I've suffered with mental health problems in my life - depression, alcoholism and even PTSD - but this was different, each day was physically painful, and it scared me and worried me and motivated me to start doing things I want to do before it is "my time" or until I am no longer physically able to do what I can do now.
I missed my summer trip to the Grand Canyon and I know I'll never get this summer back again. It bummed me out.
Life is different in your 60's. When I was young and I had to miss some experience it was not big deal, after all, I had years to make up for it. I no longer have that luxury.
So... this summer, while going to physical therapy and doctor appointments and diagnostic tests, I have been travel planning in earnest. Life is short and I want to get a good look around before I go! As Simone de Beauvoir said,
"Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay".
So, we have to get cracking. As my grandfather would say, "we're burning daylight".
I have big plans for 2020. Let's hit the road.
Next year, I have 4 major trips planned. In the Spring I'll do a southwest tour in Arizona and New Mexico, and in July I'll be at the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) convention in the beautiful city of Baltimore and in August I'll be in the Northern Rockies. And also...
In June, I'll potentially be meeting a few friends in Chicago and then driving the "Mother Road" all the way back to Los Angeles. I will be finalizing the dates and plans and sharing them with my friends who follow the southwest dude's travels on my blog and through social media. Why don't you plan on meeting me in the Windy City and we'll all motor Route 66 back? You can join the gypsy caravan. My plan is to take 12-14 days to drive the whole enchilada. Of course, that may not be your cup of tea and that's cool - I'll take you along vicariously and share my photos when I return whether you like it or not!
Of course, I have many other ideas for traveling next year, too. I'll certainly have my desert time and I'll be at Death Valley in January.
But how about the rest of this year? Well, I am starting to feel better. It seems like the physical therapy is working. In a few weeks, if I'm OK, I'll be taking my annual central coast trip to Gaviota and Morro Bay. I'll be going to San Diego to see my Dodgers play the Padres with my pal Tracy, and then I'll be helping move my sweet daughter to her college dorm room in Corvallis, OR and taking a leisurely road trip home. In November, I'll be meeting the two best camping buddies a guy could have in Big Sur and in December I'll go visit my Bay Area family who I miss and love so very much.
Then...it's 2020 and what promises to be an epic travel year.
“So have adventures. Go exploring. Drive around at midnight. Feel the wind running through your hair.
Life is so short, my darling. And there's no day like today.”
― Morgan Matson
All things are temporary.
Last month I took a quick jaunt down to San Clemente State Beach.
My friend Dell was supposed to join me. Turns out, he stayed one night in San Clemente but had scheduled work. With my plans to camp with him dashed I took a few photos and decided to go home the following day because I felt like Hell.
I woke up the next morning - reminded myself that life is short - and decided, what the Hell, to drive to an obscure State Park which I had recently heard about in the California Central Valley.
Interstate 5 and Highway 99 are notorious in California. Recognized as either the "most boring" or simply "ugliest" drives in California they are only to be used to get from one place to another in the quickest manner. I used to subscribe to this notion, too - especially when I was younger.
My 4th grade teacher, Eve Boram (yep, her last name was pronounced BORE 'EM) instilled in me a bit of California love. In particular, she loved to pull down the map and talk about "The Great Valley" and its impact on American agriculture and how it fed Americans. She talked about the "hot Mediterranean climate" and said the valley had its own special beauty.
I never really saw that - after all, Yosemite is east of the valley and Big Sur is west - and well - that's BEAUTY. But you know....I realize now - she was right.
So, let's go. The weather was perfect and I had a leisurely drive up 5 to the 99 to Earlimart and then to Colonel Allensworth State Park. Do you know the story of this place?
"Established on August 3, 1908, the town of Allensworth was the vision of Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. Born in 1842, Allensworth escaped slavery during the civil war and joined the Union Navy. In 1886, he became the chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment, retiring in 1906 as the highest ranking African American officer in the US Army.
On June 30, 1908, Colonel Allensworth, Professor William Payne, Dr. W. H. Peck, Harry Mitchell, and J. W. Palmer formed the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. They purchased land at this location to build the town of Allensworth - the only town in California founded, built, governed and populated entirely by African Americans."
Here is the link to state website.
The town, due to water problems, slowly dwindled in population. By the 1950s Allensworth was an impoverished area without drinkable water. Colonel Allensworth himself had been hit and tragically killed by a motorcyclist in 1914 in Monrovia, CA.
In 1968, Cornelius "Ed" Pope, a former Allensworth resident, helped restore the area to a state historical site. In 1976, the site was established as a State Historic Park. The preserved town features nine restored buildings, including a schoolhouse, a hotel, a general store, and library and several homes.
In my life there have been 4 places where the feelings I had upon arriving were psychically overwhelming. I experienced an energetic calm and a feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Those four places? Arches National Park, Chiricahua National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and, strangely, Colonel Allensworth State Park. The isolated, stark, flat beauty of the Park was different than any of the places I've visited over the last 10 years. The air was clean and birds were everywhere.
As I was setting up camp one of these birds was raising hell with me with sharp and shrill chirps and an odd display of its feathers. It looked like a plover to me but I'm not well versed in bird identification. After I got the campsite ready I walked over to see why the bird was being so aggressive and, after nearly stepping on her eggs, I discovered why she was acting that way.
I took a photograph of the bird and the eggs and posted them on iNaturalist. Since this park is renowned for birding opportunities I assumed they'd get back to me quickly and, in 24 hours, I found out the bird was a Kildeer (indeed a type of Plover) and they often nest and lay their eggs right on the ground. Further, they engage in a "broken wing display" to draw predators away from the nest. In this scenario, I was, of course, the threat and the photo below was Mom's response to get my attention.
In my short time at Allensworth I fell in love with this Mama Kildeer and kept a sharp lookout for any people (or animals) who might get near her nest. I do believe we became friends and that she knew she could trust me before I left because she was calm around me and stopped using the broken wing display. I loved her.
Additionally, this place - besides the history - was, to me, a photographers dream. I have already made reservations to go back in November. I hope you will enjoy the following gallery of photos.
Abandoned roads, clouds, trains and telephone poles. Southwest Dude stuff.
One late afternoon the famed Tule fog started rolling in from the northwest. The sun was slightly obscured and made a photo that I enjoy.
Here are some other color photos of the Park.
I'm definitely not trying to sell this Park. It isn't for everyone, but it is just as "California" as the beach or Sierra Nevada. If you find yourself on old Highway 99, I would certainly encourage a quiet and reflective respite where, despite an overwhelmingly daunting past, one man, Colonel Allen Allensworth, an old escaped slave and war hero, had a dream and dared to make it a reality.
Each spring Lupe and I try to go on a short trip during her spring break. This year we decided to take the Coast Starlight from Anaheim to Seattle to see her brother and his beautiful family and to take in the sights and a Mariners game.
I love everything about trains. The sights that you see from the train window are different than those of the interstates and offer glimpses into real Americana. Train rides are like glorious road trips...with no driving. The Coast Starlight is a well known and scenic route from LA Union Station to King Station in Seattle. I first took this trip to celebrate getting my doctorate at USC in the early 2000's. I should point out that trains are NOT for everyone - there are always inevitable delays and if you're in a rush to get somewhere trains will make you crazy.
On the first day of the trip we left from Anaheim and headed up the coast in our "roomette". I enjoy the train horn but it seemed like the engineer was a bit fanatic about it - it was constantly blowing. When we got to San Luis Obispo we understood - the horn was stuck in the on position! It necessitated a delay while we got another locomotive. It put us about an hour behind schedule but no big deal. Here are some photos from the train window and from the stop in San Luis Obispo on our first day (yep - that is Gaviota from the trestle that I have so often photographed and shared on this blog):
We slept fitfully on the train that night and I'm not convinced, although she's been kind about it, that my wife enjoyed the accommodations. After we arrived in Seattle we did some sight seeing with my brother in law as tour guide - went to Top Pot Donuts, the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden with some of the most distinct and lovely glass art I've seen.
We also took our niece to the Gasworks Park. Fascinating place - marvelous views and quite the urban oddity. It reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Ewan MacColl about Dublin. "I met my love by the gasworks wall/ dreamed a dream by the old canal/ I kissed my girl by the factory wall/ Dirty Old Town."
We spent the next day at the Museum of Flight which was terrific. I had seen the Apollo 11 command module at Smithsonian some years ago and it was at the museum in Seattle as part of an exhibition. In addition, the Amazon mega-rich guy, Jeff Bezos, funded a project to locate pieces of the Apollo missions in the Atlantic Ocean and many of those components were also on display. I was a child during the years of the Space Program and I still think it's easily the best thing humanity has done in my lifetime. A giant wave of bad and ill informed and wrong has been done by mankind in the last 62 years but there's that shining moonshot....
That night we took the convenient train from our hotel to what is now called T-Mobile Park (it was called Safeco) to see the Seattle Mariners game. Man, I like being a Dodger fan - our stadium doesn't change names every few years due to corporate sponsorship (see San Francisco for the most egregious example). Anyway, we had dinner before the game at the stadium and enjoyed a chilly night watching the Mariners roll over the Rangers. The stadium is a beauty. It was a kick.
Responsibilities were calling so the next day we got back on the train and headed back home. I can't describe the ride as it wended its way through quintessential California landscapes... I'll show you photos instead.
In conclusion - if you're ever interested in taking a trip on Amtrak I have one thing to say - Do it! Thanks for coming along...
I write about it all the time and you know, if you've been following this blog for awhile, that I am a regular at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I hope you have a place that fills your heart the way Organ Pipe fills mine.
I'm not going to bore you with too much narration on this post - if you haven't been to Southwestern Arizona and you're ever interested in going let's talk... It was nice to go when it was warmer and quieter this year in April. I was on the lookout for snakes and scorpions and the mythical Gila Monster...but, alas, I saw none...
Let's get on with the photos. With this post I'll do things a bit differently than previous posts - since I focused, to a large degree, on black and white images for this trip, we'll start there. These photos are from the first few days in Sonoran Desert heaven. The ruins at the bottom are from the Victoria Mine site.
The next series of photos are from the Ajo Mountain Drive and Puerto Blanco Road which includes photos of Bonita Well and Quitobaquito Springs as well as the trappings of the US Border Patrol. Perhaps, one day I'll devote an entire post to my interactions with the Border patrol since I'm often along the border in Arizona and New Mexico and see them regularly.
The next photos are from the Desert Walk near the Twin Peaks campground on my last day. The photo at the bottom - with the early morning sun on a saguaro - is my favorite B&W of the trip.
Let's move on to color. For those of us growing up around the Mojave the Sonoran Desert always surprises us with its color. This year- after all the rain - and going in April was marvelous.
There is an oasis out there called Quitobaquito Springs home to the Quitobaquito (Sonoyta) Pupfish. I cherish it. Here is an afternoon panorama and other images.
I've spent many hours on the bench in the photo above simply soaking in the beauty and history and solitude. No place on earth I'd rather be...
I hope you enjoyed coming along. Catch ya down the road...
I retired several years ago. My long term and instant goal was to get "out there". WAY out there. Often. Included in that dream was time with my kids in wild and natural places. I've been able to largely accomplish that goal. Each of my three children have gone with me. But...I hadn't been able to accomplish the one thing I'd been thinking of very often - going with my two boys together. When they were younger we regularly camped at Pismo Beach and other places and they are some of the best memories of my life.
For many years as they were growing up we all lived together. However, to my great regret, I spent far too much time away from home while trying to "change the world" and never spent as much time as I wanted to spend with these two young men- who, along with their sister, are simply the greatest joys of my life.
What gave me solace was knowing that "some day" after I retired we could finally spend quality time together for an extended period of time. But, my friends, you know how that goes. They grow up and guess who's busy now?!
But, HEY! We finally made it happen. Our original plan was to camp at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park, but, thanks to the genius in the White house our reservations were canceled. We quickly made plan B - getting the LAST spot available in the Borrego Palm Canyon campground (the big one) in Anza-Borrego State Park.
Anza-Borrego is in the Colorado Desert which becomes the Sonoran Desert as one moves eastward and it changes into something much different. I love Anza-Borrego but it's rarely as green as the Sonoran and has different flora - no saguaros for example. It's more stark and barren. But, after the rain we've had this winter though Anza-Borrego was greener than I've ever seen it. I'm guessing the wildflowers will be spectacular in just a few weeks. It was gem-like.
The photo above is taken from the campground on a very windy late afternoon. My son Kevin arrived on Wednesday, on his motorcycle, after driving through some very frigid weather. Check out the sign at the higher elevations near Culp Valley.
After Kev arrived we went on the short walk to the Visitor Center.
Jordan arrived the next day and I decided to take them to Little Blair Valley and the pictograph trail. Except, well, except, er, I didn't drive to the pictograph trailhead. I took them to the Morteros trailhead. Oops! Dad screwed up. AGAIN! We did have a nice walk though but at some point the trail petered out and we were forced to scramble over and around and between rocks. The old man ripped his pants and knocked the eyepiece off his camera and finally - when we saw the end of the canyon - I knew we'd gone wrong. DUH! We did see ONE pictograph and the Kumeyaay Morteros are pretty cool.
This was the end of the line...
The next day Jordan and I drove out to the Peg Leg Smith monument and Clark Dry Lake to scout out some potential boon-docking spots. The day was spectacular.
We found an old abandoned building with graffiti indicating there was a, "DEAD BODY". I sent Jordan in to check it out.
Nope. No dead body. Thanks, Jordo for checking...
Here is a panorama of Clark Dry Lake
Other photos from our day:
I know I have many readers from out of California- if you do happen to make your way out to our overcrowded but wonderful state - please check out Anza-Borrego. You will not be disappointed. If you are from California, what are you waiting for? This spring will be sublime.
So, yep. We had a marvelous time. I don't mind saying that my kids, all 3 of them, are excellent campers. My theory that you learn a lot about a person in 24 hours of camping proves that I am one lucky father! Here's to many more years of camping together.
I'll sign off with a gallery of black and white photos, as is my way. Thanks for coming along. See you on the road!
I've been fortunate in the last few years to meet some really fine photographers like Lori Carey, Joe Smith, Tracy Schultze and Rachel Cohen (among others). Something that most of these photographers participate in is a year end list of their "favorite (or best) photos". We submit them to a well known and well regarded Bay Area photographer, Jim Goldstein, for his annual "Blog Project- Your Best Photos"annually. So this is my list.
I had the good fortune to maintain my regular routine of monthly travel (except October because of the Dodgers - dem bums). I started off the year with two trips to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave, visited Dodger Spring Training and Homolovi State Park in Arizona, took two trips to the Central Coast, went to Utah and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, went to each California League stadium, Petco Park, San Francisco (AT&T Park) and environs with Lupe, and took a fabulous Four Corners trip, which included Mesa Verde, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hovenweep National Monument and a quick jaunt to Joshua Tree to see my buddy, PJ Finn. Whew! Who said retirement was boring?! I made about 8000 images this year and 7,990 were pretty bad. Well, not really, but these photos represent my personal favorites.
The first photo (above) was taken in the fading light of a September afternoon at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from the south rim near Chasm View. To me, it seems to capture the "up close but oh so deep and mysterious" look of this magnificent canyon.
The next two favorites are also canyon photos and both from Imperial Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at opposite ends of the day. The first was taken while walking around with my amiga, Liz Kylin, in the late afternoon and a few days later I got up early to catch the sun as it just started to hit the point. You'll get a sense of how fascinating the light of the canyon can be from these two very different photos near the same vantage point (taken with the same camera).
Let's move from canyon country to the coast. My number 4 favorite is a photo of Morro Rock - a place I return to year after year (since the 1980's). I finally took a photo I liked of it.
Next is a Mojave Desert photo taken after a steady 24 hour rain and the clouds were still lingering and creeping over the ridges into the valley below.
The next photo is a long exposure of the pier, at sundown, in my beloved Gaviota State Beach. I'm not a fan of the ugly yellow boat hoist at the end of the pier - but, hey, that's Gaviota.
My amigo Joe Smith has really encouraged me to use more black and white and the last 4 are in that medium. The first is of Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu on a late summer afternoon.
The next photo is of Round Tower in Hovenweep National Monument. This structure was probably built between 1150 AD and 1350 AD by Ancient Puebloans.
This photo of iconic Spider Rock at sunset is probably my favorite of the year. Yes, I know its been photographed thousands and thousands of times but I like the simplicity and shadow of this black and white.
Lastly, you wouldn't really expect the old Southwest Dude not to have a railroad track photo, right? Right. My last is from a favorite spot near Cantil, CA.
Since it is the end of the year I want to express my gratitude to each of you who follow my blog and vicariously travel the roads of the West with me. I hope you get some sense of how much I enjoy sharing my "traveling life" with you and I hope you know how great it is to have you along.
I'd like to also give a shout out to my pals and fellow inspirational photographers, PJ Finn, Craig Pindell, Scott Hays, Don Wendell, author extraordinaire, Chris LaTray and fellow travelin' fool, Scott Jones. I'm fortunate to have you dudes in my life (even if most of it is online).
Lastly, I also want to acknowledge the greatest blessings of my life which are my three children, my two daughters in law and my sensational wife. I don't know how they put up with me - but they do and I'm so damn lucky.
My best to all - let's have a brilliant 2019.
I loaded up the Casita and headed for the Mojave Preserve on Monday, December 7. A few months back I heard that the Mitchell Caverns had re-opened for visitors after being off limits for seven years. The Mitchell Caverns are part of the Providence Mountains California State Park which lies in the Mojave National Preserve in the Mojave Desert. I made reservations to visit the Caverns on Friday, December 7. My camping buddy and soul brother Marty joined me on Wednesday but we didn't anticipate how cold and rainy and windy it would be. The first day I arrived it was cold and pretty but a change was in the air. I have a favorite boondocking spot (or 3) out there but, since the forecast was for heavy rain, I opted to stay at good old Hole in the Wall campground. It is, without question, one of my favorite spots in the West.
On Tuesday, I drove down to old Route 66 and Amboy Crater.
Every year, in the summer, a few people seem to die near Amboy. It boggles the mind as the crater is close to the parking area and it seems impossible to get lost. While wandering around the volcanic piles I found a makeshift memorial to an Orange County couple who were found dead there in 2017. It's heartbreaking - even more so when you see how close they were to getting back to their car.
Here are some black and whites from the first couple of days.
I woke up on Wednesday morning to flash flood warnings on my telephone. I did as much as I could to prepare for the coming storm. I went for a walk and enjoyed the pre-storm calm.
Marty arrived and we enjoyed a fun evening hanging out, having great conversation, listening to music and watching a biography of the great Jack London on my iPad. The next day we went for a short hike and the rain started. We went back to the trailer and hunkered down. At one point, we looked outside and realized that we were the only people left in the campground. It was slightly unnerving as we both kept getting iPhone warnings about impending weather doom. Turns out that it did rain - steadily for several hours. However, it was never a truly "hard rain" and there was no flash flooding.
The day after it rains anywhere is usually wonderful but, in the desert, it is extraordinary. The smell of the creosote bushes permeates the air and the sun feels brand new. Marty and I got up early and went to the Mitchell Caverns which were terrific and highly recommended. For me, however, the landscape views that day were unforgettable.
Here are some photos from the Mitchell Caverns. The first photo is actually a mine - not a cave - on the walk to the Caverns. The second photo is the entrance to the Caverns...(on the right- the entrance on the left suffered a cave-in many years ago).
The short drive back to the campground after our cavern tour was spectacular.
A private ranch, Blair Ranch, still operates out there in the high Mojave. This is a view of the ranch from the Providence Mountains Visitor Center.
The next day Marty left around noon and I spent the afternoon lazing in the sun and reading. Sometimes, it's not the hikes or the sights or the drives - it's these moments I enjoy the most from my life on the road. Book in hand, cold cup of water, and sun in my face in the expansive and quiet desert. Yes.
The next day, my last in the Preserve, I decided I'd try and see Goffs Schoolhouse. I've tried a few times before and it was always closed. I drove until I got reception on my cell phone, called, and they said, "come on by!". I ended up spending much more time than I anticipated. The day was warm and the managers, Gus and Stella, were hospitable and helpful and kind. After seeing their work I ended up joining the MDCHA (Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association). Goffs is an even more fascinating place than I'd anticipated. Not only the schoolhouse but the dozens of exhibits outside encouraged me to stay and wander for as few hours. Here are some photos I made of the place.
Lastly, you probably know I have "a thing" for two lane highways, trains and telephone poles. To, me, they visually represent the hopes and dreams of the West that I have romanticized since my youth. I did get a nice photo that gets two out of the three.
The Preserve is about a 4 hour drive for me and I'm already planning my next trip. Thank you for coming along!
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.
All content (C) Jeff Hubbard. No re-use without express written permission