Sunday, November 28, 2010

Granny's Cinnamon Rolls!!!

When I was a kid, granny used to make these killer cinnamon rolls.  She didn't make them all the time, so when she did make them, it was a real treat!!  I've been know to eat an entire plate at one setting!

It's Sunday night, and I'm reflecting back on what a nice Thanksgiving weekend it's been.  Lots to be thankful for this year, and I'm 100% sincere about that.  One of the highlights of our family Thanksgiving meal was the cinnamon rolls.  Granny has passed on, but thank goodness the cinnamon roll legacy lives on!  My sister over at Lap Dog Knits blogspot ( has somehow decoded the secret process.  I can close my eyes, pop a cinnamon roll in my mouth, and instantly be transported back in time... a perfect re-creation of Granny's Cinnamon Rolls!!

Mmmmm!  A picture just can't do them justice!  Notice there are a few missing!!

 Another interesting Thanksgiving experience... what to do with the turkey neck and giblets??  Well, we decided to set them out in the desert for the coyotes, and much to our surprise, they were still there Friday AM.  But by late morning, I see this large bird on the telephone pole behind the house, and I'll be darn if he doesn't have a turkey neck up there with him!!  I'm guessing he's a Red Tail Hawk, but I'm not too good with birds, so would appreciate any input you can provide on what this bird is. 

So, how do you work off that great Thanksgiving meal (not to mention the full plate of cinnamon rolls)??  We decided to take a drive into Joshua Tree Park... that was the extent of my exercise on Friday.  But these guys know how to burn off major calories!!  Made me nervous just looking at them!

Hope everyone had a great 2010 Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

It must be nest building time for Cactus Wrens here in 29 Palms.  We were surprised to see a mating pair going in and out of our bird houses, and there is clearly one bird house with a nest under construction.  My wife noticed a wren sitting on top of a Golden Barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and pulling out the fuzzy stuff off the top of the cactus with it's beak.

Cactus Wren atop Golden Barrel (ouch!)

Prickly Pear cactus with nest in center
We've been watching these wrens for a while now.  Their nest last year was in some prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) - you can see it in the center of the photo if you look closely!

Here he is standing on top of the new home he (or she?) is working on.  We will have to see if this is a permanent selection!

New Home???

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"From the mountains, to the deserts..."

So, we are burning off some vacaction days this week prior to Thanksgiving.  We've decided to start off by getting some work done in the mountains... Green Valley Lake, which is about equi-distant between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains @ 7000' elevation.  We've been going up there for years, and really enjoy the beauty of the mountains.  We just happen to time it so we are arriving during the first snow of the season!!

Esquimox Rd in Green Vally Lake
Fortunately, only about 4" of snow is on the ground, with everything recently plowed, so we're in luck!

A Recommended Drive!

Hwy 18 in route to Big Bear Lake
With our work done in Green Valley Lake, we are on our way to 29 Palms.  This is a great drive... not sure how many ecosystems you pass through, but it's very cool!  The drive starts on Hwy 18 heading east towards Big Bear.  There are some great vistas along the way, so I had to stop and take this pic!

I chose to take Hwy 38 around the north end of the lake, and bypass the town and hubub.  It turned out to be a good choice.  You pass through Fawnskin, which looks like a neat little mountain town with some good local cafes and shops.  Soon you reach Baldwin "Lake" (dry) before heading down the backside of the mountain.  The Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pines soon give way to Pinion Pines and junipers, which morph into Joshua Trees.  Keep an eye out for Camp Rock Road as you reach the base of the mountain, which is the cut-off to Hwy 247 (Old Woman Springs Rd).  Go east (right), and you will have all of Johnson Valley on your left.  For the most part, this is wiiiiiide open desert with huge, sweeping vistas. 

Snow of the hood of my car, with desert Creosote background!

Hwy 247 reaches the Landers turnoff followed by Hwy 62 in Yucca Valley.  Heading left (East) on Hwy 62 we are soon "home" in 29 Palms.  A great drive that can easily be done in 2 hours (but give yourself longer to stop and explore!).

Home in 29!!  Joshua Tree National Park is in the background.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giant Volcanic Crater??

Just finished up a nice weekend in 29 Palms.  Second visit in a row that we found a tarantula - this one happened to be right outside our front door, and appears to be a "teenager" (not fully grown).  Here's the little guy now, walking in the gravel and measures in at about 1.5 inches.
Lots of bird activity this weekend, and the wife saw, on 2 or perhaps 3 occassions, birds of prey sweep in to feed on the smaller birds.  Once we got a good look and think it was a Cooper's Hawk.  Also frequently see Red Tail Hawks.

We decided to check out a spot on the map called Amboy Crater.  I figured a small volcanic crater next to the road, short 10 minute hike, so let's go check it out.  Well, my mistake:  I didn't do my homework to find out more about Amboy Crater and the length of the hike.  So off we go, heading east on Highway 62, north on Utah Trail, west on Amboy Trail through an interesting, dusty, unique area called 'Wonder Valley'.  Looks like the old west... very hard to drive through this area without stopping to explore!  So, first stop (totally random):  North on a dirt road called Schooler Road.  Lots more Tiny Desert Cabins in the Middle of Nowhere in this area.  Very cool!  And here's one for sale (and cheap, I'm guessing!): 

Not only is this area great for checking out jackrabbit homestead cabins, it's excellent for rockhounds.  Here's an old well (I think??) at another desert cabin in the area.  Check out the great rocks!

From the inside looking out, another cabin:

OK, on to Amboy!  After Amboy Rd. turns to the north, you head up and over Sheep Hole Mountains (more on that later), then follow the eastern edge of 29 Palms Marine Training Center.  Soon your drive levels out and you begin crossing Bristol Dry Lake.  Before long, it appears that there is snow on the ground!  Turns out this is a large chloride chemical mine, with weird mud hills all over the place and dried white chemical everywhere!  This area is great for photography, although a little tricky to find areas to safely turn off the main road.

So, on to the crater!  A short distance north of Bristol Dry Lake you will come to old Route 66.  Turn right to go to the "town" of Amboy (one gas station and a motel being refurbished) and left to go to the crater.

Well, turns out the crater is pretty impressive... very large (you can't miss it!), but about a 3 hour hike that folks finishing up tell us is quite strenuous.  Probably well worth it, but plan ahead with good shoes (you hike over lava), day pack, plenty of water, and early in the day (there is no shade).  Here's what it looks like from the parking lot, which is as close as we got on this day!!

Heading away from the crater, decided to make a quick stop in Amboy.  Here's the motel that's under construction.  Will be very cool (and vintage Route 66) when it is done.

On the drive back to 29, just couldn't resist pulling off Amboy Road on the south facing side of the Sheep Hole Mountains and taking some pics of the "tiny boxes".  These were taken in the middle of the day, but would like to go back around sunset when the shadows are long for some really outstanding pics!

Last interesting destination (back in Wonder Valley now) was a quick stop at The Palms Restaurant on Amboy Road.  It really should be named "The Palms Roadhouse Bar"... talk about the quintessential dusty desert bar!  Looked like one of the guys from ZZ Top was behind the bar, very friendly, and the bar appeared to have been there forever, with all kinds of weird and interesting things on the walls and ceiling.  Seriously cool place with a back room for sit-down diners and a small stage area surrounded by chain link fence!  They evidently have live bands from time to time.  My Telecaster would have been right at home here!!  My only regret is I didn't take my camera inside with me. 

Need to sign off now.  Here's our Jeep that gets the wife and I to all these cool spots, with the Sheep Hole Mountains in the background.