Joshua Tree National Park

IMG_1260Joshua Tree National Park is located 140 miles east of Los Angeles, encompassing 792,510 acres of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. This fragile and unique ecosystem is dominated by Joshua trees that are actually species of Yucca (Y. brevifolia in the west and Y. schidigera in the east). Slow-growing at only one inch per year, they can reach 40 feet tall and live up to 500 years. The one pictured above could very old indeed!

Home to a wide range of plants, animals and unusual rock formations, it offers camping and miles of trails. Being a desert, one must bring ample water and wear protection from the sun. The range between night and day temperatures can go from below freezing to over 100F. To live here, plants and animals must be very hardy!

I was fascinated by the geology and learned that the piles of granite boulders were formed when two tectonic plates collided. Here is a two-minute video explaining the process.

In the slideshow below, you can see snow-covered San Bernadino mountains that range east of Los Angeles beyond a forest of Joshua trees, different rock formations, cacti and the lovely textured bark of a Joshua tree. What a cool place to visit!

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Super Bloom

IMG_1596Seeing California’s spring wildflowers has long been on my bucket list. With the long drought quenched by soaking rains the past few months, this year’s bloom promised to be a big one. I am most fortunate to have friends in SoCal willing to take me to see the show at Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore and wow, what a mind-blowing event it was. The tiny people on the far ridge above give you an idea of how vast the coverage was, 180 degrees of mountain vistas covered with California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and several other wildflowers.

Below is a slideshow to enjoy–

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IMG_0233Oak leaf encased in ice after being repeatedly splashed by the waterfall.

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Silent Sunday

Red Tulip

“When you believe in beauty, you can find it everywhere.” ~ Dennis Ference

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Silent Sunday

Cornus florida

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dsc00054Since it’s snowing here and they’re forecasting frigid temperatures to follow, I thought I’d head back to Florida (virtually, that is).

Above is the mouth of Lower Suwannee River as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The 30-foot-tall Shell Mound located here was built of millions of 2-inch oyster shells between 1,000-3,200 years ago by indigenous peoples, though there is human evidence as far back as 7,000 years. It is believed that the mounds were sacred, as burial mounds were discovered at ends that face winter and summer solstices. The thought of countless generations of workers building this, using only baskets, is staggering.

When I arrived, the sun shining through the Spanish moss was enchanting. I only wish my photos conveyed the backlit beauty.

This tree trunk was colonized by ferns, which struck me as equally beautiful.

dsc00051Plants lay one upon another, trees, vines and moss; every ray of sunshine has a tendril reaching toward it. A startling jungle filled with birds, insects and various critters!

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Ice Dam

dsc00198I was astonished to see the height of the river yesterday afternoon on my walk. Rain had poured down all day with totals above two inches, breaking up the 8-10″ thick river ice. With the ground frozen, all that water sheeted off directly into the watershed. The grinding, backed up ice seen here is at least ten feet deep, a scary thing if any one or animal got too close and fell in.

Last summer, at the bend in the river at the top of the above photo, erosion toppled a large spruce tree into the river, essentially creating a dam. With debris flowing downriver trapped since then, it had become a formidable obstacle.

Below is a photo taken in October to give you an idea of just how high the water had risen. The flood came close to overflowing the left bank, but thankfully, didn’t crest it.

Around 11:00 pm, I heard the dam crack and give way– all that moving ice sounded like a giant glass tumbler of ice cubes, clinking together as the pieces were drawn downstream. Today, the river is all clear. Isn’t Nature amazing?

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