March 19, 2017 Success Lake COE Campground, California

Wildflowers Across Lake Success

Wildflowers Across Lake Success

Looking for Sequoias

The scene above is what I see when I leave my campsite in the Army Corps of Engineers Campground on Lake Success just east of Porterville, California. This is a nice enough campground with paved interior roads and lots of green grass with sites that are for the most part, pretty well spaced. The spaces are all backins and are reasonably large but very few are terribly level.

Unfortunately there is only a very weak Verizon signal here and I was unable to even get weather forecasts online here. There is 50 amp electric at some sites and some sites have shared water spigots. There is a dump station in the campground as well as trash dumpsters. $30 night with 50% discount for old farts.

Fields of Wildflowers

Fields of Wildflowers

While here I took a couple of trips in the Prius up into the mountains to explore Sequoia and King’s Canyon NPs for Sequoia trees. I drove Route 190 from the campground up into the Sequoia National Forest until I came to where the road was still closed by snow.

Red Buds Blooming

Red Bud

At around 3000′ elevation, I ran into lots of red bud in bloom, hope to get some better shots into a future post because there are areas where entire hillsides are dotted with these colorful trees.

California Route 190 in Mid-March

California Route 190 in Mid-March

Once up around 6000′, there are snowbanks still hemming the roadway …

The End of the Road, Route 190

The End of the Road, Route 190

… and around 7000′ you come to the end of the road, where they just stop plowing in the winter and wait for spring ( May or even June ) to reopen the road.

Entering the Giant Forest

Entering the Giant Forest

This is the scene as you enter the Giant Forest along Route 198 east of Three Rivers in the Sequoia National Park. To reach this point traveling up into the park from the south, you will have negotiated about five thousand switchback turns as you ever so slowly ascend from 300′ elevation to 7000′, don’t even think about driving an RV up here! These were the first sequoias I ran into but I had to turn around here for an appointment I had back in Visalia, but I will venture farther up and into the park in the next week ( weather permitting, lots of rain coming ). Stay tuned!

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March 10, 2017 Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Desert in Bloom

The Desert in Bloom

The Desert in Bloom

BLM camping area south of Joshua Tree NP

BLM camping area south of Joshua Tree NP

I am camped just outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree NP on BLM land located along the access road to the park. Very fortunate this area is available for camping since it appears all but impossible to get a site within the park. The park campgrounds were not designed for today’s camping rigs so very few of the campsites in these campgrounds will accomodate a larger rig and the few sites that might are pretty hard to snag. I have made the run through the various campgrounds within the park hoping to luck out and snag an empty site pretty much every day I have been here but have had no luck, so I am thankful for the BLM site.

This would be a perfect spot to stay were it not so warm. There is no shade and the temps are hitting the very high 80’s every day. I even turned on the big generator and ran the AC for three hours the other day to make it through the heat of the day, I think that was the first time I have ever done that while boon docking. The other issue is the distance one has to travel across the Park to get to where the Joshua trees grow, about 40 miles from the BLM land. On the other hand, the best displays of wildflowers are all right here at the south entrance to the park just a mile away from my campsite.

Joshua Tree in Bloom

Joshua Tree in Bloom

Joshua Trees

The park’s namesake trees are a multiple branched Yucca on steroids, and many of them are in bloom at this time.

Joshua Tree in Bloom

Joshua Tree in Bloom

But I came here primarily for the desert wildflowers and for once I timed it fairly well.

The Desert in Bloom

The Desert in Bloom

The desert floor is carpeted with colorful blooms right now and the brittle bush is about ready to add to the color.

The Desert in Bloom

The Desert in Bloom

The only drawback so far has been the heat and the unrelenting wind that makes any type of closeup or macro photography impossible. But that wind that ruins my chances for any decent flower images also is the only thing that allows me to survive in my RV when the temperature comes close to hitting 90 every day. Interestingly the park info states that the average March high temperature is 70 degrees. Fortunately, when the sun sets, the temperatures do drop to very comfortable levels fairly quickly.

Looking East at Sunrise

Looking East at Sunrise

Went outside this morning to snap a shot of the colorful sunrise to the east …

Looking West at Sunrise

Looking West at Sunrise

… turned around to get back in the RV and got the full moon still out at sunrise. Just love boon docking in the desert !!

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March 7, 2017 Salton Sea, California

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

A Brief Stay along the Salton Sea

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

Monday morning, I reluctantly broke camp at Ogilby Road, now one of my favorite all-time boon docking spots, and headed west to the Salton Sea. Route 78 west takes you through the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, a mecca for dune buggies and four wheelers.

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

A Single Digit Salute to Caltrans Employees

In the image above you can just see a tower and what look like some buildings at the peak of the highest sand dune. As I drove the motorhome closer, I could make out a couple large RV’s with trailers parked up there and then noticed a sign indicating that there was an observation point up there. A wide paved road appeared to the left of the highway that takes you to the top.

Now normally, when I am traveling with the Prius in tow, I am very, very, cautious about driving up this type of road, always being afraid there may not be room to turn around since I can not back up with the car on the tow dolly. But since I could see the two big rigs already up there, I decided to risk it to get a bird’s eye view of the dunes below.

Big mistake ! About half way up the very steep two lane paved road, the road was completely blocked by a good two feet of wind blown sand! So, there I was, unable to proceed, and also unable to back up, and absolutely no way to turn around. My only option, unload the Prius, drive it down the hill, then back the motorhome and unloaded dolly down the very steep incline. As most people reading this probably know, backing a small tow dolly behind a large motorhome is something you always wish to avoid.

About the time I got the motorhome down to the bottom and managed to get it turned around, a Caltrans work truck pulled in and parked just a few feet behind me, but leaving me room to be able to get the Prius loaded, once I walked back up the hill and drove it down. This was now around 9:30 AM, and the lone state employee carefully avoided making eye contact with me as he lit up a smoke and I went about my business. A few minutes later, a large dump truck with snow ( sand ) plow attached pulled in and parked next to the first truck at the bottom of the hill, I imagine waiting for me to retrieve the Prius and get out of the way so he could begin removing the sand blocking the road.

Now you could probably guess that I really wanted to ask these guys why someone could not be bothered to put out some barriers blocking entrance to this Oobservation Point Road or at least put up a temporary sign indicating that the entrance road was impassable and thus closed. I wanted to, but I restrained myself since, who knows, they may have been somewhere else doing something more important.

By the time I had the Prius reloaded, two other tourists driving pickups had pulled off the highway to drive to the top. The guy in the plow truck, now about half way through the sand blockage, obviously saw these folks waiting to drive to the top, yet for some reason stopped his plowing and backed down the hill to join his chain smoking buddy in the first truck … for what apparently was coffee break time ! Too bad for anyone wanting to get through the blockage, whether those two vehicles at the bottom or the vehicles at the top who were also trapped and waiting to get down.

After all, a unionized government employee of a super liberal state undoubtedly has his priorities, and serving the public most likely sits at the bottom of that list.

OK, sorry, rant over, but this incident really did tick me off. This just happens to be the first time in four years of full timing and traveling with the Prius in tow, that I did have to unload to get out of a situation like this, and this should never have happened.

Corvina Beach Campground, Salton Sea

Corvina Beach Campground, Salton Sea

Corvina Beach Primitive Campground

This was my primitive campsite for two nights at the Corvina Beach Campground on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. Campground is probably overstating it since it is essentially just a wide gravel parking lot with some picnic tables and fire rings, along with a few trash barrels. No water or dump on site, although you are allowed to use the facilities a few miles north on Route 111 at the main campground free of charge if you are staying here. Camping fee is $10 or $8 for a senior.

Despite the highway running closely parallel to the campground and a busy railroad track running on the other side of the highway, I had a couple nights of blissful sleep here under dark starlit skies. The trains were fairly heavy during the day, but I never heard one pass at night. I actually enjoyed my two nights here and would have stayed longer if not for the weather forecast … temps into the 90’s here at an elevation of 200 feet below sea level, so I had to head to higher ground, a few thousand feet up in Joshua Tree National Park.

Niland County Park, Salton Sea

Niland County Park, Salton Sea

Several years ago, when visiting Anza Borrego for desert flowers, I drove east to check out the western shore of the Salton Sea. I remember discovering a very depressing site where ¬†obviously many grand dreams had gone to die. I always wondered if perhaps there was a more pleasant story over on the eastern shore. Turns out there wasn’t.

The image above was taken at the Niland County Park and Boat Launch, obviously abandoned years ago, although the state highway signs on Route 111 still stand that announce a campground out here ( there isn’t one ). Another Caltrans neglected duty?

I drove south from where I was staying at Corvina to check out the Wister State Wildlife Area, without a doubt the most depressing, neglected wildlife area I have ever come across, then proceeded a little farther south to the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, also not exactly a place I would want to revisit. This is a very neglected part of the great state of California and I suppose it’s just as well I’m only passing through..

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March 4, 2017 Ogilby Road BLM Area, California

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

More Hummingbirds at Ogilby Road

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

The gorgeous male Anna’s Hummingbird made several visits to the feeders over the past few days so I was able to get a few decent shots of this colorful little bird.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

When the wind shifted to the south, I finally was able to capture some of the wild variations of color in this birds throat and cap.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

As usual, the number of females and immature males far outnumbered the colorful adult males I most desired to shoot.

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Hummingbirds and Ocotillo

Hummingbirds and Ocotillo

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Nonetheless, these guys are beautiful in their own right, even if not as spectacularly colorful as the mature males.

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Immature ?? Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Once more the male Rufous made an appearance also.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Note the pollen on the top of his head, obviously he has been visiting other feeding sources out in the desert.

Rufous Hummingbird Portrait

Rufous Hummingbird Portrait

With temperatures forecasted to hit 90 this week, I am going to break camp and head west to the Salton Sea and then up onto higher, and cooler, ground in Joshua Tree National Park where the desert flowers are getting ready to put on a show ( I hope ? ).

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