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Southern California

May 2007: A visit to Tamanawas Falls

The Wall
It doesn't get any more southern in California than this - the US/Mexico border. The border wall here is a corrugated metal wall about 12ft high. In front of that is a road the border patrol uses, and a small barbed-wire fence (which is probably there to keep cattle off of the road, not for security). Every night, a cat and mouse drama is played out.
The Fountain of Youth
This monument marks the start of the Pacific Crest Trail. The man standing on top was just about to begin on a 2650-mile journey northward. I hadn't been back to this spot since I hiked the trail in 1999 - it was certainly interesting to remember how I felt at that time, and reflect on what's changed since then.
Oceanside Surfer
Surf's up dude! All up and down the coast of California people catch waves every day (this photo was taken near Oceanside, CA). The waves weren't very large on this day, but still provided a good ride.
Salton Sea Shoreline
I've always been fascinated by the Salton Sea. A brief history? About 60 years ago, a flood happened while an irrigation project was being constructed, and the Colorado River jumped its banks. The water poured into an old dry lake basin for 2 years before the river could be re-directed. The resulting sea was immense. Someone stocked it with fish and people built resort communities... all was well for about 10 years or so, when it became obvious that the lake was a fluke with no reliable source or outflow. The shoreline retreated, the water got saltier, fish died by the millions and the people left... mostly. Today, the lake is somewhat sustained by run-off from irrigated farms to the south (meaning the lake is getting more polluted all the time), and people still live along the depressing, smelly shore (which is essentially made from the bones of dead fish). There is talk of bringing the lake back to life (it is an oasis for migrating waterfowl - though, likely not a very healthy one), but it would take quite a bit of work and money.
Tram to the Sky
A tram near Palm Springs hoists visitors up about 6000ft in 10 minutes - bringing them to a cooler, forested environment that seems a world away from the hot desert oasis below. There is a visitor center and restaurant at the top of the tram, as well as some short hiking trails that connect to the larger trail system in the San Jacinto Mountains. The tram leaves twice an hour during the day, year-round.
Wind Power
Just outside of Palm Springs, desert winds are funneled through a narrow pass between the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains. All that wind drives a huge wind farm - makes one wonder how many windmills can you add before the wind stops?
Slow Poke...
The desert tortoise is native to US southwest deserts. These are well-adapted animals that escape the heat of the day in burrows, and store water in their bladder. If you encounter a desert tortoise, please leave them be. If they get stressed (i.e. if you pick them up), they can void their bladder, losing precious water they need to live.
Baker Thermometer
This thermometer in Baker, California lets everyone know just how hot it gets out there (up to the 130's!). It's wasn't so hot on this day however.
Shoshone Mines
Miners near the town of Shoshone, California dug their homes in the sides of some cliffs... a pretty smart move, as it stays quite cool inside.

Where is it?

Southern California is in... southern California. The locations described above are scattered far and wide.

Before you go...
Just prepare for the weather - hot in the summer, and it can snow quite a bit in the mountains in the winter.

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