Friday, March 31, 2017

Sagebrush and Snow - in Los Angeles?

March 26-31, 2017
Santa Clarita, California

Sunday family and friends join us for BBQ and visiting. Everyone's schedules are so full, we can't get the whole group together at the same time, but this afternoon we get close. They don't even see each other very often - jobs and school and family and life keep them all hopping.

We have a great visit, and of course these days is all about the little ones. 

Richie (the youngest), Bill, and Corey (#2) with Maximus.

Corey, Scott (Nick's best friend and like another son), Bill, Allie (Scott's wife), Nick, Jillian, Richie and Tessa.

Maximus and Ella (Scott's youngest)

Nick, Jillian and Maximus

Ella and Daddy Scott

Maximus and Autumn (Scott's oldest)
Corey's girlfriend, Carlie, and Travis (#3) and girlfriend Emily join us later in the evening and by then the camera is forgotten. Some day I will have photos of everyone :-(

Monday I never get out of my pjs while the high winds bluster and throw branches at our roof. Tuesday we get together with Brian for lunch and run some errands.

Wednesday the wind is not as bad and we're ready for some nature. There are forests "up the road" from us. Let's go see that!

Just north of the little town of Gorman, near the summit of the "famous" Grapevine hill in northern Los Angeles County, we leave Interstate 5 heading west.

The next six hours we traverse the very diverse region that is the Los Padres National Forest. While the hillsides along the interstate are very green, we spend most our day in grays and browns. It looks completely different here. Not because it's dead, or because it didn't get a lot of water, but because the indigenous flora here is mostly manzanita, chemise, scrub oak, toyon sumac and true sages. The growth is thick and healthy, just not as much green.

From chaparral, to juniper-pinyon woodland, to oak woodland, to conifer forest, to the sub-alpine fellfields at 8,000 feet, we enjoy an every changing environment under beautiful blue skies.

Throw in wildflowers, water, rock formations and snow - and we have a really great drive.


More signs of the heavy February rains.


Highway 33 connects us back to Highway 126 and home.

Out of the mountains we stop for lunch at the cute little town of Ojai. From 55 degrees at the summit, we are now sitting in the shade at 85 degrees. It just adds to the feeling that we've covered a lot of territory :-)

Spring blooms
Agave Maria's - my favorite Ojai eatery

Happy for bright colored shade.
Back home we get ready and head out again. This time we're off to the big city of Valley Village in the San Fernando Valley. The traffic isn't bad (going in this direction) and we arrive on time for dinner at Megan and Chris' place. How sweet to enjoy a home-cooked meal and wonderful company. We are so blessed with family.

Thursday we spend a little more time with Brian and then meet Travis and Emily for dinner. Where I finally remember to get a photo of these two cuties. More blessings.

Emily and Travis - getting married next June :-))
Our Friday starts out with a visit from Richie and his girlfriend Gabby. They come bearing bagels and a Cribbage board - sweet! Bill played the game with his dad and taught all his boys. Nick made Richie his own board, and today Dad and the youngest play a game. Life is good.

Gabby, Richie and Bill....too much sunshine :-(
The rest of the day we get a few things done before our travels over the weekend. More celebrating with more family!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Out and About in Southern California

March 22-25, 2017
Santa Clarita, California

Ezra saw his doctor and got the necessary antibiotics for his sinus infection, Tessa spent an afternoon getting her teeth super-cleaned, and Bill and I both went in for our dental appointments. Everybody's all good now :-)

With near perfect weather, and the area draped in intense Spring green, we got out a few times to enjoy the beautiful hillsides.

The road to Lake Piru

One of dozens of colorful hillsides - such a beautiful Spring!

We're surprised to see Lake Piru still fairly low.

Entrances to one of the many ranches

in full bloom.
This area is surrounded by canyons on every side. The fires, followed by months of heavy rains, wreaked havoc in many places. Placerita Canyon is still closed about half way up, and while we were there at least two dozen trucks came through - hauling out rock and mud.

We explored for a bit, looking for treasures washed down from the mountains. Nada.....

Some water continues to flow, but nothing compared to what was clearly a deep, fast and destructive flood here.

The day use area is closed for now. 

We couldn't figure out what this bright white "thing" on the top of the hill was until I uploaded the pic. The remains of a burned palm tree.

The huge oak trees took a battering from the flood, and were close to the fire line, but most look hardy and healthy today.
We got to spend a couple hours at Maximus' house with his mom and dad. He's such a happy baby, content to play with toys on the floor, or sit on one of our laps. And he's so cute!!

Mommy really makes him smile.
Those cheeks!

You know how you don't "go see" everything in your own area, and then when you come back to visit you notice cool stuff you never saw?? Us too :-))  

Although we learn in history class that gold was discovered in 1848 near Sutter's Creek in the northern part of California, it was actually first found right here in Santa Clarita. Specifically, by Francisco Lopez in 1842. His story goes that he was dreaming of being wealthy while sleeping beneath an oak tree in Placerita Canyon. He woke to dig up onions beneath the tree and found gold stuck among the roots. Over 200 gold hunters came to the area in search of riches. 

This was a Mexican territory at the time and not big news for Americans. Several years later, the first oil in California was also found in the area - a rare white oil that burned much cleaner, but that soon ran out. It's fun to learn the rich history of our old hometown!

The Placerita Canyon Nature Center was spared major damage, but the grounds are being cleared of debris and trails are being reinforced. Francisco's oak tree is protected here, and a small interpretive center educates local schools on the flora and fauna of the area.

The Botany Trail meanders around the center.

Artifacts of the Tatavian Tribe date back to 450 A.D. They lived in multi-layered huts like this one. So many orbs in this little shelter!

The Walker family lived here from 1900 to 1950 when the property was sold to the state for a park. The family maintained the land in its natural state, protecting birds and mammals from local hunters. The small two-room cabin is only open for field trips.

The trail to the Oak of the Golden Dream passes under the highway. Thick mud and water about a foot deep fills the trail.

Got the chance to test the water-proofness of my Keene's. They passed :-)))

The original murals sustained some damage in the flood, but most of the rich colors and lovely detail remain in tact. 

The location of California's first gold find.

It's hard to find the beginning of this one.
Ezra is feeling better Friday so that evening we meet for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. Been a long time since we've eaten at one, and the pizza isn't quite as good as we remember. Still, we have a fun evening with the little man and his folks.

Every straw is a Jedi sword. Raising him right!

Oh this little boy.

Saturday morning I join Jillian and her mom, Denise, for a Beauty and the Beast matinee. Jillian made us darling shirts to wear, making it all the more special. While the next showing was sold out with a huge line, we enjoyed the movie in a half full theater. Yay!

And yes, the movie is wonderful. I want to go see it again!

Jillian and Jodee in our cool shirts.
Although sad that he got so sick, we're still grateful for the few extra days with Ezra. Saturday afternoon we meet them at nearby Vasquez Rocks. I've done a couple other posts on this beautiful place where multiple movies and TV shows have been filmed. Most notably an original Star Trek episode and a more recent Big Bang Theory. Today it's all about the little hiker. 

Daddy hides with him behind a bush and they jump out to "scare" mommy and grandma. Hearing him giggling in anticipation is priceless. He signs "more" then signs "scary" and "tickle" to indicate it's scaring that is fun. Soooo smart, already figuring out how words work together. 

In the little town of Agua Dulce, off Highway 14

Lots of people up on the high points of the many out-croppings

leaving the trails fairly empty - nice.

Ezra loves getting up on top - in his sweet hiking boots.

His "real" light saber and Jedi hood.

Brian, Ezra and Shalise

Ezra hiking solo.

Yes, he knows stuff we don't......
The sunny skies 

 turn to gray with cold winds.
They need to get on the road, and the weather is turning colder, so we sadly part ways again. 

Back home we start getting ready for Sunday's BBQ with the rest of the family.