Great Sand Dunes NP of Colorado

July 2011 we headed to The Great Dunes to meet up with some friends from Albuquerque… only a small turnout of the four of us but was still good fun. Snagged a pleasant camp site at Great Sand Dunes Oasis. It was a dry year for the stream so we opted to do this hike outside the park.  Beautiful day for being outdoors.

The Architects are Ready to Hike

So these architects all met in Grad School at CU Denver a few years back and have worked in some of the same firms with some of the same people so was a ” Do you remember…?” type of weekend.  Best friend German Shepard – his first time on the trail carrying his own water.

Zapata Falls required hopping stones to get this view

Zapata Falls was spectacular. Was worth the rock hopping to get this view. This picture with three of us gives the falls a sense of scale.

Looking at the basin that holds the Dunes

A nice photo of us with the valley in the back ground. The sun was intense. The wildflowers were in full bloom as well as some oputias – gotta love the cactus! Pleasant to hear the aspens rustle in the wisp of a breeze.

The Architects on the Trail to Zapata Lake

We figure we only made it about 2/3rds of the trail to the lake.  We found out afterwards it was a 5 hour hike to the lake (not round trip), is a 2500 foot elevation gain. So we probably climbed about 1500 foot elevation gain in a 5 hour round trip hike. Snapped this at the stream crossing where we lingered, refueled, and turned back. So next year a bit earlier in the season so it is cooler…?

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

We pulled out of SD at 8 AM to travel I-8 with the destination of Organ Pipe Cactus NM in Arizona. We were thinking about the 800 Mile Wall as we saw it snaking over the sand dunes west of Yuma. We had attended a presentation by John Carlos Frey of his documentary at the Palm Desert Library (one of the many events we attended – thanks, Robin) and were sobered by the reality. That was about all of the wall that we saw along with glimpses of the All American Canal, but we saw plenty of Border Patrols – our tax dollars at work. ;-(

We pulled into Organ Pipe Cactus NM in time to enjoy the sunset, an hour later than California. This is gorgeous country – a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. This, we were told by the ranger, is “where summer spends the winter”. Edward Abbey would be happy to know that a little bit of his desert solitude prevails.

Our dinner entertainment

We enjoy an incredibly clear night sky compete with Milky Way, satellites, and shooting stars. Next morning, February 1, we motor a 20 mile unpaved road to access a hike to Estes Trail/Bull pasture. We could not have ordered a more perfect day – sunshine and temps in the 60’s…the calm before the storm?

The size of this Organ Pipe Cactus dwarfs the Mini!
Variety of cactus
Great specimen of Organ Pipe Cactus
Plenty of wonderful Saguaros also

This is a fabulous National Monument – we saw improvements since we were last here like solar heated showers – nice amenity 😉 But 95% of the park is wilderness and hopefully we will let it remain this way. It should be our southern International Peace park to complement Glacier and Waterton.

Our final sunset in the desert

San Diego

We had a very nice evening in Poway where my uncle Ken fixed a great salmon meal while Hilary sat on the patio entertaining us. My cousins Kevin and Sheri joined us for dinner making it a very memorable evening. In the morning, we went on Ken’s daily walk around the neighborhood, as he pointed out the various landscape projects he was coordinating. Good visit –

Henry scheduled us for the noon architectural tour of the Salk Institute (Jonas Salk was the discover of the Polio Vaccine). We were lucky to be a bit early as the parking was chaotic, there being the Torrey Pines golf tournament with Tiger Woods playing that morning. But Louis Kahn‘s building has held up well and we enjoyed the leisure time to look at the details. Yet another beautiful January day.

Plaza of the Salk Institute looking towards the Pacific
Salk Institute research offices from cafe

It is only a three story building but there is a floor between each usable floor that is for building systems, so Louis designed the first floor to be garden level. The stairwells have a public viewing, informal meeting area between each of the scientist offices allowing all to have access to the sweeping views of the Pacific.

Looking out stairway across plaza of Salk Institute

We spent the next day with my aunt Annie, exploring Cabrillo National Monument among other locals. She also took us to the harbor at night to see the large sculpture and the aircraft carrier. Casey joined us for many meals and after 20 years, it was nice to be reacquainted. Thanks to both for another nice visit.

Low Tide at Cabrillo National Monument
A Beautiful Sea Star in the tidal pool

Guess it is time for us to say good bye to California…thanks for the memories!

The Spanish Market in Balboa Park

Oceanside, CA and the Pacific

An early dinner at the marina, sitting al fresco enjoying the variety of boats and watching the gulls eying our grilled fish. A stroll along the boardwalk over to the ocean to watch the sun melt into the water. The surfers were taking their last ride and wandering away from the waves. The magic of the Pacific and the California Coast.

January sunset on the Pacific in Oceanside

We walked the pier at night and again in the morning.  We captured this fun artistic shot of the morning shadows…

Morning stroll on Oceanside Pier

What better way to enjoy your morning java!

The Pacific at Oceanside Pier

California Gardens

What great color to see outdoors in January! The Getty Center used a variety of succulents planted in a contrasting ground cover, like these hand-sized echeverias,  to appear like the blooms – clever.

Succulents at Getty Center

Check out the size of this agave americana. I enjoyed the variety of cactus and succulents at the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There were also nice woodland gardens – and we saw iris blooming…probably a first for me to see in January.

Agave at South Coast Botanic Gardens
Cactus and succulent Garden at South Coast Botanic Gardens

Relatively near by in an LA sort of way, is the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden on the campus of California State University Long Beach. This is a gorgeous pocket respite (from traffic) to stroll and relax. Very nicely designed. Perfect spot for a picnic lunch in January!

Japanese Garden at CSU, Long Beach

The following day after we walked around Batiquitos Lagoon near Carlsbad and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the coast in Encinitas, we visited San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Gardens). In addition to this succulent garden, they had another planted in such a way that it looked like an underwater coral reef. There were also succulent topiaries which were quite fun.

Succulents at San Diego Botanic Gardens

The Getty Center and Gardens in LA

On 20 January we had the pleasure of seeing the public art documentary “Robert Irwin: The Beauty of Questions” at UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center. With more knowledge of the artist and designer of the central gardens, we particularly enjoyed a docent led garden tour on 25 January.

View of Getty from Power Location in Garden

This was our fourth visit to The Getty Center and it is really such a treat to savor: one of our favorite built environments. It is an incredible site and there is so much attention to detail. We marveled at Richard Meier‘s attention to design from the overall to the minute. Robert Irwin‘s art-garden has matured very pleasantly over the years, and it was great fun to see in the winter without the leaves of the sycamores blocking some of the sight lines.

The building connecting to the garden

It was quite amazing how much color was in the Central Garden (The link takes you to the Getty Center Plant list).  Gorgeous succulents and grasses of all shades. There was subtle playing of shades of green, textures, and heights. The docent reminded us that this was planned as a work of art first, not as a garden: rather the plants are the medium to express the art.  I appreciate this approach!

Robert Irwin's iron Bougainvillea trees

The design features a “natural” ravine and tree-lined walkway that led us through an experience of sights, sounds, and scents. Everything in the garden was selected to accentuate the interplay of light, color, and reflection. Irwin’s statement, “Always changing, never twice the same,” is carved into the plaza floor, to remind us of the ever-changing nature of this living work of art.

Water connects all of the Getty gardens
Water terminates in Azalea planted reflecting pond
Balcony at Getty with Breeze Soleil

After lunch in the excellent “cafeteria” and the garden tour, we enjoyed exploring the buildings and the art collections. What a collection! Everything from tiny illuminated manuscripts to large sculptures. After having the Henry Moore sculptures in Denver, this one particularly caught my attention. This relationship between the mother and child represents so much of the essence of this architecture – the undulating form that reflects an exaggerated landscape, a shallow cave carved in the side of a rock to shelter her child, creating a haven and nestling place. So it is with the Getty as it gazes out at LA – an independent physical form but so much a part of the spirit of the city. Thanks J.Paul for sharing with all of us!

Henry Moore's Draped Reclining Mother & Baby - Getty

Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA

25 January, we left Palm Desert and headed to LA. This was the view we had that morning of the exterior of the Disney Concert Hall – nice lighting.

Main Entry Disney Concert Hall
East Elevation of Disney Concert Hall

We took the self guided walking tour of the building. With the audio wand, we listened to Frank Gehry explaining his building, concepts and construction decisions. It was a great way to explore the facility although it does not take you into the main concert hall.

Lobby Interior ceiling of Disney Concert Hall in LA

The self guided tour takes you to an upper level garden in an outdoor plaza as well as another floor higher to look out over the city.

Looking up in upper level courtyard

Henry liked the negative/positive spaces he captured in this photo.

Looking Up from the exterior top walkway

Joshua Tree National Park

19 January we headed to Morongo Canyon Preserve to join up with the morning bird hike. We enjoyed meeting people, and seeing a variety of feathered friends, including a nesting pair of hawks.

We had one more hike we wanted to take to a watering hole in Joshua Tree National Park.  It was another beautiful California day! Hard to believe this is January!

A Joshua Tree on Willow Hole Trail

The Willow Hole Trail is the southern portion of the Boy Scout Trail (near picnic area 8 miles in from West Entrance).  A relatively flat hike up a wash to a waterhole which was interesting – a good destination.

Artistic tree on Willow Hole Trail

A few days later, 24 January, we headed back to the Coachella Valley Preserve to take this photograph at the pond. We then had a picnic lunch under the California Palm trees, saying  “until we come this way again”.

McCallum Grove Oasis reflecting
Interesting Flora of a young Palm