On the way to Lone Pine

After checking out of our motel in Barstow, we drove to Mule Canyon in the Calico Mountains. I had gathered some locations where fossilized insects were found and it was just a short hike to one of them. Of course, there are rocks everywhere and I quickly realized I didn’t know how to identify a “nodule” that might contain a fossil. I need to do a bit more research before I try fossil hunting there again.

From Barstow we drove north on highway 395 until we reached Coso Junction. This was a convenient spot for a break, as well as the turnoff to go east out to a pictograph site. Pictographs are rock paintings. These particular ones are only a little over 100 years old, and historians believe they know the name of the native American medicine man who painted them. In addition to the pictographs, there are tons of obsidian flakes in the area.

A section of the pictographs at the site

Our next stop was at Owens Lake to check out two old, decaying charcoal kilns. They produced charcoal that was loaded onto a steamer and sailed over to Keeler on the east side of the lake, and then hauled up to Cerro Gordo to provide fuel for the mine furnaces. The kilns in Death Valley National Park near Rose Peak served the same purpose. Of course, Owens Lake is now dry because LA ships most of the Owens Valley water south via its aqueduct.

Charcoal kiln at Owens Lake

As the sun was setting, we drove out to the Manzanar Reservoir (just west of the Manzanar site) and looked at its concrete works and the graffiti scratched into the concrete by Japanese workers from the camp. Worker names and dates are in english, but the writings in Japanese characters express the workers extreme frustration at being held in the camp against their will.

Manzanar reservoir

We also made a stop at the Manzanar cemetery and, closer to Lone Pine, a small, memorial cemetery for those Lone Pine residents killed in a massive 1872 earthquake.

Along 395, February 2017 photo gallery

Joshua Tree National Park, February 2017

I have been craving a trip to explore desert areas, but it seemed like when our calendar was clear a rainstorm moved in. We finally got a clear week schedule-wise, and although we left home in a rainstorm, southern California was clear. We drove as far as Victorville and stayed the night. In the morning we went on to Riverside for an enjoyable visit with Karen’s brothers and their families. In the evening we drove to Yucca Valley and spent the night.

Sunday morning we entered Joshua Tree National Park. I had a list of locations to hike, but we modified that as we went along. First we made a short hike to Ryan Ranch and saw the remains of the adobe walled ranch house, an old well, and some water storage tanks.

Ryan Ranch area

After that, we did a longer hike to the Lost Horse Mine.

Winch at the Lost Horse Mine

We considered hiking to Barker Dam since it was filled with water, but being the weekend it was very crowded and the parking lot was full. We spent the night in Barstow.

Joshua Tree National Park, Feb 2017 photo album

2016 Christmas Letter

As is our habit we once again wrote a letter to accompany our Christmas cards. It describes some of our experiences this year. In this on-line copy, I’ve included some relevant photos.

December 15, 2016

Christmas is a time for gifts! Multiple emails from Amazon (and others) remind me of that on a daily basis. I remember a Christmas morning a long time ago when I opened the front door and found my first bicycle on the porch. I loved that bike, even though I didn’t know how to ride it. I just pushed it around the yard for a couple of days until Dad got me going on it. I imagine we all have a memory of some very special gift.

Interestingly, we have found our best memories this year are experiences, not things. Which leads us to reflect on the historical reason to celebrate Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ. As mankind has experienced all that results from his birth, life, death, and resurrection we see that we have received the ultimate gift when the Divine broke into human history and changed everything.

Point Lobos coastline near Carmel

So, about this year’s experiences—we traveled a lot! In fact we kind of lost count, but we’re pretty sure we were away from home for more than 2 months, spending time in some of our favorite spots as well as discovering some new places.

In February we spent a couple of days in Carmel, and explored south on Highway 1 as far as Mill Creek. We stopped for a photo op at the famous Bixby Bridge, but the light was poor and it was crawling with tourists (just like us). We always enjoy a hike at Point Lobos.

Mysterious moving rocks at the Racetrack in Death Valley

In early March Phil visited the desert areas around Death Valley and met up with Dan and some friends for a couple of days of exploring Death Valley during the spring super bloom of flowers. Particularly interesting spots were Manzanar, the old mining town of Darwin, and China Garden Springs. Death Valley in full bloom was amazing. Our visit to the Racetrack (where the rocks slide and leave mysterious tracks in a dry lake bed) was also amazing, and very expensive. The terrible washboard road destroyed the shocks on Phil’s and Dan’s vehicles. On the way home Phil visited the north-east edge of the Mojave National Preserve and the old mining town site of Hart.

Hole in the Wall area in the Mojave National Preserve

In April we (Karen and Phil) did an extensive driving tour of the southern California deserts. We found some very interesting spots, and some not so much. From China Date Ranch (near Tecopa) in the north to the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail (at the U.S./Mexico border near Campo), we traveled every major east/west roadway. The Mojave National Preserve was especially interesting, but remote.

In June we went to a couple of our favorite locations: Sisters, OR where the snow had not yet melted at our favorite hiking trailheads, and Bishop where the snow-covered eastern Sierras were beautiful.

Sparks Lake

The three Sisters

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

Long Lake

Long Lake

Rogue River bridge from the house

We spent the month of July in Gold Beach, OR where we rented a huge five bedroom house high up on a hill with a fantastic view of the Rogue River. We expected the kids to spend more time with us,

Seastacks on the Oregon coast

but they only managed to come for a week, so for three weeks we rattled around in a 5,000 sq ft house. We really enjoyed exploring and hiking the southern Oregon coast.

We have also enjoyed spending time in Sequim, WA and Sisters, OR (our favorite vacation spot), so in September we returned, spending 10 days in each location. It was so nice, we are ready to do it again.

Deck view of the Olympics

Olympic National Park

Looking towards Victoria

Selfie on the Olympic Mtns

Deschutes River

The Sisters

Sunset from the deck

Tumalo Falls

Long Lake, Little Lakes Basin

In October, the fall colors were peaking in the eastern Sierra, but we couldn’t get our schedules to work until late October. Most of the Aspens had lost their leaves and there was a bit of fresh snow on the higher elevation trails, but the mountains are always beautiful.

Our kids (Dan and Janet, Annmarie and Mark) and their families live locally and are doing well. Of course, as we’ve said before, our five grandkids are the smartest, most personable, best looking kids in town.

    “The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

We wish you a very merry Christmas filled with reflection and rejoicing, family and friends, gift giving and receiving, and a clear vision of Him who is far more than a baby in a manger. 

Photo gallery for Carmel/Big Sur 2016
Photo gallery for Death Valley 2016
Photo gallery for Southern California desert 2016
Photo gallery for Sisters, June 2016
Photo gallery for Bishop, June 2016
Photo gallery for Gold Beach 2016
Photo gallery for Sequim, WA 2016
Photo gallery for Sisters OR, September 2016
Photo gallery for Bishop, October 2016