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Sunday, April 2, 2017

••◊ San Juan Capistrano MIssion


Last week I visited the San Juan Capistrano Mission and came away with quite a few photos, but no swallow stories - probably because we were about two weeks late.  When we arrived the mission was filled with school children on a field trip, but they quickly cleared out after lunch, leaving the grown ups to play.

The mission's history goes back to a year before America's independence from England.  Although he didn't first establish the mission site, Saint Junipero Serra is generally associated with bootstrapping the mission in 1776, shortly after helping to settle a revolt in San Diego.  You still see many signs of him on the church ground, including the statue above.  Interestingly enough, the first photo below has a historical description of the architecture and features that are still original to the church from his time.  Unfortunately the great stone church was destroyed in an earthquake in 1812 and only the ruins remain.

During the first half of the 1800's the mission's lands had been pieced off and sold by the Mexican government.  Governor Pio Pico even sold the mission itself to John Forster, his brother in law, and it became a private ranch.  After the Mexican-American War and California's newfound statehood in 1850 many people petitioned the U.S. government to return the mission to the church.  Father John O'Sullivan along with Charles Lummis, are largely credited with restoring the mission after it was returned by President Abraham Lincoln.  



The preservation staff does a wonderful job of maintaining the gardens.  From a picture taking point of view, the only issue I had was that they had strings of lights out in the inner courtyard for an event that evening.  It's amazing that all these architectural features still stand today.  I doubt my house will last as long.

Just walking the ground you'll notice a huge difference in temperature between the shade and covered hallways.  It makes me wonder how they dealt with Southern California heat back in the earlier days of the mission.  Food had to be prepared outside in brick kilns!  Those cooks were tough.  Wine was made by squashing grapes with dirty, smelly feet.  I didn't see a single shower or bath tub on the site.  Although they did have a trough for running water through the courtyard.











The history placards indicated that over 2000 people were baptized in the cauldron shown below.  I assume that many of those baptized were natives, whom the Spanish catholic priests converted.  The natives that chose to be converted were taught Spanish and weren't allowed to leave the mission grounds without permission.





One interesting artifact they have on display is a painting of Mary Pickford getting married at the mission, which isn't quite the full story. At a friend's wedding she and husband Owen Moore decided to renew their vows with Father John O'Sullivan presiding.  Another fun fact is that the Spanish shawls that were so prized by the senoras at the mission were actually made in China or the Philippines.  Even back then the most stylish clothes were made in the far east.







...and finally, the gardens.  Flowers are currently in bloom after a few months of rain in Southern California.  We were lucky enough to be there at the right time.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

••◊ Joshua Tree National Park Pictures


Last week I finally visited Joshua Tree National Park.  I've talked about it for years, but like most nearby locations I continually put it off thinking that it's something I could do anytime.  The Joshua Trees were named by Mormon travelers in the 1800's because they thought the trees reminded them of the biblical story of Joshua raising his hands in prayer.  By historical terms, the park is relatively new.  It was declared a National Monument in 1936 and became a National Park in 1994.  Just for reference, the park is larger than the state of Rhode Island and crosses both the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

We started out journey from the West visitor's center in the village of Joshua Tree.  The first thing you come across are large piles of rocks that were formed 100 million years ago from the cooling of magma.  Flash flooding has eroded the areas around the rock piles, leaving these rock islands among the trees.




Joshua Tree is also a popular place for rock climbing.  Below is one of the first markers I noticed in the park - for creatively named "Lizard's Hangout" and "Mel's Diner".  You quickly come upon Intersection Rock and Old Woman Rock near Keys' Ranch; a popular area for rock climbers.  On every high rock I saw adventurers up on top or descending.  It seems to be a very popular camping spot as well.  





Just a block away was a left turn toward Key's Ranch, Barker Dam, and the Wall Street Mill.  We opted to skip Keys' Ranch, since it's only offered as a park ranger guided tour at certain time intervals.  Bill Keys arrived in the area in 1910 and befriended Jim McHaney, a local outlaw and cattle rustler.  Jim owned the ranch, originally called Desert Queen Ranch, and Bill took it over after Jim's death.  For time's sake, we only visited Barker Dam, the only nearby source of water.  The trough that Jim and Bill used for taking care of their cattle is still there just below the dam.  If anyone is missing a pair of Minnie Mouse sunglasses, they might still be available on the hike.






As you leave Barker Dam you'll see a path leading up to this rock.  Inside the little cave there's petroglyphs.  Unfortunately the petroglyphs were vandalized by the Disney Company in 1961 as they were making a film there.  The production team painted over the petroglyphs so they showed up better on camera.



The next spot we visited was Keys' View.  It's quite a lengthy uphill drive from Keys' Ranch to Keys' View and you only know you've arrived when you come around a bend and see the parking lot.  Unfortunately for me the toilet was invaded by a large swarm of bees looking for water.  I braved the it and made it out alive!  Take that David Blaine!  From the view you can see the Salton Sea and Indio on the left, Palm Springs on the right, and the San Andreas Fault in the middle right of the picture.




Along the way to Skull Rock, we made a brief stop at Ryan Ranch.  This homestead was established in 1986 by J.D. Ryan and family, who owned the Lost Horse Mine.  Unfortunately the house was burned down in 1978.  All that remains today are the adobe walls and various "stuff" laying around the yard.  The middle picture below is a panorama I took while standing in the middle of the building slab.  The third picture below shows a defiant rock standing upright on the pile next to the ranch.  It will probably be standing there long, long after I'm gone.




We also stopped at the Hall of Horrors, which was a huge "huh?"  I only later found out that the area was nicknamed that by rock climbers.  There is actually a narrow "hallway" between the North and South Horror rocks.  We completely missed the "hall".  I guess I'll have to find it on another trip.  At least the bathroom wasn't infested with bees.



Just a little more south are the Jumbo Rocks and Skull Rock.  Kids love to climb inside the skull eyeballs and have their parents take pictures.  I had to wait about 10 minutes to get a "clean" picture of the rock.  One little kid was so enamored with climbing the nearby jumbo rocks that he defiantly ignored his parents and tried to take off up the rocks until his parents have the ultimatum command voice.  I have to admit, they were fun to climb on.





The next to last stop of the day was the Cholla Cactus Garden, named after the large number of Cholla plants in this little area.  This area seemed to offer a kamikaze mission for caterpillars.  They were squished along the trail, road, and even off the trails.  These little buggers were able to maneuver between the cactus thorns.  The one in the third picture below even stopped to look up at me; like "what are you going to do to me?  I'm in between thorns!"






We did stop at Cottonwood Springs as well, but by that time neither one of us wanted to do a 2.4 mile hike (my feet were DONE) and the sun was starting to set.  So we walked down to the palm grove and turned around.  It had already been a long day.  The drive from the northwest entrance to the park down to the south entrance is nearly 70 miles, and that doesn't count the off shoots.  The flowers were blooming down by the south entrance near I-10, but I was too tired to get out and take a picture despite their beautiful back lighting.  Sean Penn's character was right in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Sometimes it's just about not taking the photograph and just taking in the moment.