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Tilden Regional Park, Orinda, California

Tilden Park is known for its Merry-Go-Round, steam trains, petting zoo and Lake Anza. We enjoyed the steam trains on a weekend before Christmas. It was a chilly day when we arrived around noon on a Sunday. We purchased our tickets at the booth and got in line. We were the second group in line for the train. After about 10 minutes of waiting, our train arrived. We chose our own car, two behind the train driver. We noted that our position was a good one, as the steam produced in the front of the train helped warm us on a cool afternoon. Our timing was perfect just before Christmas as our train ride went past many decorative holiday ornaments and even a Santa locomotive. Dress warmly, as it does get chilly in this open-air steam train.

Falls Trail Hike, Mount Diablo, California

We started our hike on a cold, wet January morning. It had been raining for the last few days, and we had a few hours break from the rain before the clouds rolled in again. Our hike started at Regency Gate,with a step-over creek crossing. We followed Donner Canyon Road, down to Cardinet Oaks Road, and took a right on Falls Trail. Downhill from where Falls Trail started, at the beginning of Cardinet Oaks Trail, was a large stream which threatened the continuation of our hike. But with some determination we made it across. Alternatively, we could have turned right at the junction of Meridian Ridge Road and gone left at Middle Trail to connect to Falls Trail, to avoid the large stream at the base of Cardinet Oaks Trail.

Badlands Loop, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

We started our hike in Death Valley on a cold December morning. Death Valley is the lowest and driest place in the United States. In the summer months, it is also the hottest place in United States. Sitting below sea level, Death Valley is most popular in the winter months.

Devil's Postpile National Monument, California

Our day started early for a hike in Devil's Postpile National Monument. We had breakfast in the park and began our hike. The hike to the postpiles was short about 1 mile roundtrip. The postpiles look like tall tree trunks stacked high and upright against each other, measuring 40-60 feet (12 to 18 meters) high.  These Postpiles were formed as a product of the slow cooling of a hot basalt lava lake. The lava lake was 400 feet deep and existed between 80,000 to 100,000 years ago. As the lava lake cooled, cracks (called joints by geologists) formed to release the tension that lay within. Cracks extended from the outside in, forming these hexagonal columns. These hexagonal columns were later exposed by many forces, one of them being glacial excavation. You can see the glacial striations on the rock at the top of the columns on the hexagonal “tiles”. Though very much man-made in appearance, these hexagonal shapes are common in nature - example bee hive honeycomb, packed bubbles, eyes of flies.  For more information on the geology of these postpiles, see Geology of Devil's Postpile

Phantom Falls, Oroville, CA

Phantom Falls is located in the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, near the town of Oroville, California. It is a seasonal waterfall, flowing only during the wet season, and disappearing during the dry season, hence its namesake. Phantom Falls, also known as Coal Canyon Falls, flows near the end of Coal Canyon. It flows over cliffs of basalt columns formed by ancient lava flows. North Table Mountain is a mesa-like structure that is both tall and flat, forming a table top like formation. There are many waterfalls on North Table Mountain, as creeks and streams make their way down from the table top cliffs.