Free Museum Day – Descanso Gardens

Photo Jan 28, 1 30 42 PM

I decided to partake in the free Museum Day in Los Angeles, CA last week. I have been spending far too much time indoors and was glad for an excuse to get outside. There were a lot of places taking part, but I chose Descanso Gardens because I had never been. It was a lovely day out, with the temperature in the 80s, despite it being ”winter.”

It seemed as though many people parked in the residential area, but there was ample parking in the actual lot. My boyfriend, Brian, and I got our tickets online, which helped us avoid standing in an extra line. We stopped by the café first, which is right before the entrance. My lunch was good and the perfect amount of food. A woman in the line mentioned that she likes to take advantage of free museum days. Last year, she went to MOCA in Downtown LA, but said it was so crowded that she doubts she would ever go again on the free day. Descansco was definitely busy, but there were moments of complete quiet and peace, which were much needed. We got to enjoy a bench by the lake for a fair amount of time without interruption.Photo Jan 28, 2 11 00 PM

 

The grounds are enormous, with much to see. Each season has it’s own group of blooming flowers, with spring having the most. I really enjoy how it is set up, allowing you to walk through different sections. The Oak Forest and Ancient Forest were my favorites and Japanese Gardens are always beautiful and calming.

There are a few trails and places that are a bit of an uphill hike. We walked up a bit of a steep hill to find that it was an even steeper walk down, walking next to a fence. Most of the grounds are even and accessible for everyone, though. They do offer wheelchairs at the Visitor Center. Also, there are benches and bathrooms throughout the grounds.

The Boddy House, former home of E. Manchester Boddy, who founded the gardens, was an unexpected hike uphill, at least on the route we chose to take. If you have difficulty with something like that, please make sure to plan ahead and look into other routes/options so that you can enjoy this attraction. Restored in 2007 and opened as a museum in 2008, the Boddy house is considered a “must-see.” There are informational signs within the house and the rooms are, rightly, roped off. There is a functional sink with a sign that asks everyone to please not touch or use it, but, clearly, someone turned the handles because there was splattered water within the basin. (That both annoyed me and made me laugh.) The rooms and furniture are a “re-interpretation” of its appearance. Since the house and furnishings are contemporary, it didn’t have the same historical feel as many other places I have been, making it feel like more like going to a house party at a very nice house. There are docents available, but due to the crowd, it didn’t even occur to me to find one to gain any insight. Again: Free Museum Day. Brian couldn’t help himself as we left the building, telling random people where the keg was. Everyone enjoyed his joke, I think.

We also went to the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which is next to the Boddy House. It has nature-themed art, of course.

On our way out, we did stop in the gift store, where they sell many garden-related items as well as food items, like jellies and bread mix.

I am glad to have visited Descanso Gardens, regardless of the crowd. It did take Free Museum Day to get me to finally visit, but it will only take a change of season to get me to go again. I am looking forward to the lilacs in the Spring.

Lilacs to be
Not quite lilacs.

 

 

 

* Wear comfortable shoes.

**Make sure to bring water in your recyclable bottle.

Descanso Gardens

1418 Descansco Drive

La Canada, Flintridge, CA 91011

(818) 949-4200

descansogardens.org

 

 

 

 

 

Aviation Arrows, Utah

St. George, Utah

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In the early 1900s, mail carriers flew small planes across the country. Aviation arrows were placed along the route across the USA to help the pilots safely find their way. Many of these arrows are on private land, but there are some that are on public land that you can visit!  I am not entirely sure how to know which are on public vs. private, yet. There are a few sites out there that help find them all, but it is up to you to research which you can actually see.

On the day we arrived in Utah, my boyfriend, Brian, and I attempted to see one that was possibly on private property. Since it also happened to be really hot outside, my interest waned quickly. I didn’t want to start hiking uphill just to find out we weren’t allowed to go farther. We skipped that arrow so we could go off to Zion. Saving that one for the next time.

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Uhm….. YES!

Determined to visit a cool piece of history, Brian found another arrow that we could attempt to see at the end of our trip, on our way back to SGU.

 

The aviation arrow he found is up atop a hill in a suburban enclave. IMG_2017We started up the dirt hill in the hot sun. There was not much of a path when we went, but it may not be the case now. There were some parts that I got concerned about since we also had to walk back down. Slippery dirt and all. Also, I wasn’t super excited about getting completely sweaty before a flight, but persisted. I was excited that Brian was so determined to see the arrow because that forced me to climb. This was not the easiest hike, but also not the most awful, in the end. I think I was slightly panicked about making our flight and therefore felt like the hike was harder than it was.

Finally, we got to the top and saw the arrow. There was a guest book, which was really neat since I have never done any type of hike or activity that had one.

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I am very glad we put forth effort to see this incredibly cool piece of American history. We hope to be able to see as many as possible. It is a great idea to plan a whole trip around, actually. Pick an arrow and explore the whole area around said arrow.

(click the photos for the captions)

 

I pretty much whined about possibly being late for our flight for the entire hike. SGU is a really small airport. We returned the car and were at the gate in probably 10 minutes. I am such a baby sometimes.

-jenn

 

 

A cat got loose on our plane.

 

Zion

Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah

A few years ago, I won a contest to Zion from A to Zion. Since the server this blog was on was not working, I never did finish posting about the trip.

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Brian’s and my flight was delayed from Denver, so unfortunately, we lost a few hours on our first day in Zion. The shuttle from the airport costs way more than renting a car, so Brian and I opted for the wheels from Alamo. St. George has a nice and small airport so finding the car rental was a cinch.

I have a fascination with aviation arrows and knew there were some around St. George. Though I had a map printed out, we were unable to find the first arrow. We weren’t sure if the land was private or not and didn’t want to risk trespassing. Also, it was really hot out, so we postponed that search so we can get to our hotel, Flanigan’s Inn, in Springdale.

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The view from our hotel, Flanigan’s Inn.

I cannot say enough nice things about this place. The staff was extremely nice. The room was lovely, clean and comfortable with a balcony that had an out of this world view. AND. . . it is the closest hotel to the entrance of Zion National Park. They were kind enough to leave me this lovely note and gifts. IMG_1777.JPG

 

We threw down our luggage and got right into our hiking clothes to hike Emerald Pools, since it is an easy hike.

I have been to Red and Bryce Canyons, but Zion quickly rose to the top for me. The deep red and browns, with perfect fluffy clouds made for an almost out-of-body experience. It felt like a nature-Disneyland. So beautiful, that I had wished the sun would not go down. Utah, for the win.

On the hike, there was a little girl that kept clapping her hands together, yelling at her Dad, “CHOP CHOP!” Pretty funny. Then we passed a gaggle of girls that were all talking at the same time, with not one actually listening to the others. I don’t miss being that young. Then we got to the waterfall! Everyone loves a waterfall!!!

For dinner, we went to the Spotted Dog at Flanigan’s Inn, which I definitely recommend. The dinner was outstanding. They played Nora Jones, so she will forever be associated with that pleasant evening. I really like getting stuff for free and the dinner was included in my winnings.

The next morning, I woke up very early so I could walk up to the labyrinth to see the sunrise. Yes. Flanigan’s Inn has a labyrinth!!! I went up alone and enjoyed the silence as the sun arose. (Their labyrinth is flat on the ground and not like “The Shining.”) I spent quite a while there since I knew there was NO way Brian was going to be awake yet. Then I had to walk down. It is not a tall hill, by any means, but when I realized that snakes like sunrise, too, it became the longest walk ever. No snake sightings, though. I have never actually seen a rattle snake in the wild and am hoping to keep it that way.

 

We fit in two hikes that Tuesday. Neither required a permit and were both fairly easy and not too lengthy. Per weather.gov, I knew it was going to rain, so we hoped to get the hikes in before it was to start in the later afternoon.

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The first one we did was Weeping Rock. Gorgeous, with water seeping out of the rocks above. GORGEOUS!

 

The second was the Riverside Walk, which is a very simple walk that leads to the Narrows. As we were walking, the sky made it clear that it was ready to spout upon all of the hikers. Parks are always extremely clear about dangers within and Zion was sure to have warnings about lightning and flash floods. So, when we found ourselves right by a river with no safe cover when the torrential rain began to pour, I may have been a bit panicky. We started to walk back quickly as the drizzle began, and I kept believing we wouldn’t get wet, but, as I became more and more drenched, it became more and more fun. We were in hiking clothes so who cares how soaked we got? It was exhilarating and romantic. Also, cold. Wet clothes can definitely get cold.

 

We snagged a shuttle back to the entrance, where we had tickets to see a movie about Zion.

The movie was weird. Just weird. It was a story about the evolution of people dwellers in Zion and hmm. Sure. So, when that was done, we got massages, available at Flanigan’s Inn, which is always a nice perk. The rain had finally stopped, so we thought we were good for the evening.

We had the rental car, but I made us take the shuttle for the fun of it. So, when we first checked in, the front desk told us about the shuttles to/from the rest of the town (on Zion Park Blvd.), and also the ones that are within Zion. I did not remember when the last shuttle back to the hotel was, which proved to be an unfortunate mistake later. Slight foreshadowing: We went to a store across the street and randomly bought water/hiking shoes before we hopped on the shuttle.

Brian and I perused the stores until we needed food. For that, we chose pizza and noodles at The Flying Monkey and sat outside. At a metal table. As we ate, it began to rain again. I got my first ever picture of lightning. I probably took 800 pictures until I got it. We enjoyed the rain and our pizza as we gazed into the street, watching a shuttle go by and thinking nothing of it.

Dinner was finished and the rain was coming down so hard it was kind of opaque. We dashed across the street to the covered shuttle area and waited. And waited. And waited. We called Flanigan’s to ask when the last one would come. Oh, shit. The last shuttle left at 9. The shuttle we watched while eating. Neither of us had paid any attention to how far away our hotel was and it was dark and really stormy. I have no explanation why I did not just look at a map on my phone. I can’t remember if I had reception issues. Let’s go with that. Funny how my mind works. We went to a bar, Wildcat Willie’s, to try to wait out the rain. I ran into the store next door to buy some safety items to get back, like a flash light, ponchos and a bright orange bag so we would be visible to cars. AND.. we had those new SHOES! After I purchased everything, I mention to the store clerk, Spencer, how derp we were and he said if we waited until he was finished closing the store, he would take us back to the hotel. AND THAT is why I love smaller towns. So, Brian and I wait him out with some wine, beer and chips, buying a brownie for Spencer as our thank you. Finally, I go to Google to find out how far away our hotel is…. When Spencer was done, we hopped into his car and arrived at our hotel in less than 5 minutes. But, at least we have a cool bright orange bag that we now bring with us on every trip. The most important thing in it now is the wine opener.

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My first ever photo of lightning.

 

 

-Jenn

Red Rock, Rocky Mountain NP

(Originally Posted on October 27, 2014)

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Sunday. Our second and final day in Colorado. So many things that we wanted to do.. so many things we did not do. Two days is NOT enough. For sure!

We did not get out of the house until pretty late. After eating breakfast, which is something I usually do not put that much effort into on vacations, we decided to check out the Red Rock Amphitheater.

 

IMG_2353Brian lived in Colorado for a while years ago. He told me watching concerts there during rain and thunderstorms is the best. It is open to the public for free when there is no show. The stage is not accessible if a show is setting up, though. There were a lot of people using the place to exercise. Definitely a great idea to check it out. I want to see a show there someday.

We FINALLY made it to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been there
years ago, but wanted new memories. Zipping through Estes, we got to
the park pretty quickly.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

There were signs saying that there was no more parking near the hike and a shuttle is best. We parked in a lot and grabbed a shuttle.! Naturally, there was a ton of parking at our stop, but the shuttle did not take that much more time than driving.
IMG_2371We went on the awesome hike that includes the lily pads on Nymph Lake
and the stunning Emerald Lake seemingly unreal Dream Lake.

Time was not our friend. Unable to do any more activities, we zoomed
back for an AMAZING dinner, knowing we will return someday.

 

 

-Jenn

First Stop. Denver

(originally published October 20, 2014)

I won a trip to Utah from the St. George Tourism site AtoZion. It included a flight from Denver, CO to St. George, UT. Brian, my boyfriend, and I had previously discussed going to Colorado anyway, since we both have friends there and love it, so we took the prize.!! We used some of my United miles to get to Denver and used Priceline to grab a car rental. In retrospect, I wasted miles for such an inexpensive flight. Eh. We snagged a parking space at 405 near LAX. This lot does require a reservation. We were not asked to prove we had one, we did witness a woman on our shuttle who was refused entry due to her lack of one. She parked in another lot. So, I recommend doing this.

The next day, Saturday, the plan was to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and hike followed by the tram in Estes (which I had been on before and enjoyed), checking out the town and finishing up at The Stanley Hotel for a little ghost action. We took forever to get out of the house. Since I chose to sit in the backseat, I started getting carsick. I think the altitude had something to do with the severity of it. This made me dizzy, cranky and unable to make decisions and is why I completely misread a post on Facebook about National Parks being free.  Thinking it was free that next day, we switched our plans. Hours later, I realized that the free day was Monday, not Sunday. Ugh.

We decided to stop in Boulder to eat and found ourselves in heavy rainstorm without umbrellas. We waited out the rain in a parking structure.

Finally, we were able to grab some food on Pearl Street at Old Chicago. We couldn’t seem to agree on other types of food, so the place was perfect. Plus, hey, I’m from Chicago. Since I completely blew the original plans, (Thanks, stomach and non-functioning brain!) Eric, Brian’s friend that lives there, suggested we drive to Mt. Evans. Up and up and up a scary ass road with no friggen rails. As we ascended, the temperature got colder and colder. Like, purple fingernails cold. The wind was so strong that Eric could not open the car door at one point. The walk to the very top was short, but, due to a lack of warm clothing, we skipped that part and just looked up from inside the car. But we did get out to see the view a little lower.

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Brian and me at Chicago Lakes

It was so cold, that my fingers could barely move and my body was stuck in a frozen popsicle position. I remember it well from my life in Chicago; When you think that by staying in the same hunchy position, it will somehow keep you warmer. Yea. That never works.

We finished the night with sushi near Denver. Hoping to wake up early the
next day and get a move on. . .

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Wow. Just.
WOW

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-Jenn

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Salton Sea, Take 2, Bananas & Salvation Mountain

The first time I went to Salton Sea, I assumed it was some tiny little body of water, so figured it would be a cinch to find Bombay Beach. Sara and I got there and found a closed visitor’s center and a very smelly run down shack. This time, I made sure to actually research where it is.  This time was also my boyfriend’s first Dart and Map adventure, where it takes 8 hours to go on a 2 hour trip.

Brian and I went to Pappy and Harriets to meet up with some of his friends and to see Lucinda Williams, who was already on the stage playing by the time we got there.  Pappys is a great little restaurant and music joint in Pioneertown, which is about 1 1/2-2 hours from Los Angeles. Pioneertown was originally built as a set for Hollywood Western movies. Now, it has a motel, Pappys & Harriets and the old set buildings with weekend shoot-out reenactments.

We chatted Lucinda up a little bit after the show, which was very cool, and  since I had a few drinks by then, I babbled about how I had learned to play one of her songs on the guitar. Except, it probably sounded more like “ohhh! You inspired me to pick up the guitar and PLAY! bleeh awesome! woo supporting women woohoo” or whatever I said.  My happy drunk is very puppies and rainbows. And then I was probably asleep by midnight.BANANAS!

The discovery of the International Banana Museum trumped my excitement of finally knowing the location of Bombay Beach. Ever since I met a banana in San Francisco, I have developed a bit of an obsession for all things banana. (No, I do not have a million little banana trinkets.) Brian and I got up and out of our hotel room and drove to the banana nirvana. The website said it was open. I didn’t think to call anyway. So, of course, it was closed. Closed! : (

The owner did answer the phone when I called while in front of the place, but he was on his way out of town. Banana dreams. Foiled. (I can’t think of a good banana pun, so foiled will have to do.)

Next, we went to Bombay Beach. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, with Hollywood celebrities flocking there.  The high salinity, followed by storms destroyed this playcation hotspot by the 70s. If you look up the Salton Sea, you always see a picture of a decaying van. So, when you get there and do not see it, there is disappointment. Fortunately, Brian knows a lot of people and ran into a guy he knew. That guy was with a girl that had been visiting since the 80s and directed me to the iconic van. Now it looks like this: IMG_2170IMG_2164

There were some dead fish and random objects along with the rubble of what once was.

 

Brian grabbed the camera and snapped this very awesome photo. IMG_2161

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There are a bunch of trailers off of the beach where people still reside.

 

We went to a local place called Ski Inn for lunch before we darted off to Salvation Mountain, which is another iconic place you have to visit when you are in Southern California.

Salvation Mountain is the recently deceased Leonard Knight‘s way of sending his message to everyone that “God is Love.”  It is about 20 minutes East of Bombay Beach.

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Surely you have seen a picture of this…

People donated paint to him so that he could create his brightly colored mountain, filled with art.  We walked around and checked out all of the cool art on and within the mountain. We were curious about Slab City as well, being that it is RIGHT THERE, but have read enough about it to maybe go when we are feeling more adventurous. Slab is an off-the-grid kind of place. Though it sounds like there are plenty of artists and very interesting types of people there, we were advised to skip it.IMG_2209

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What’s up there?

We decided to go around the Salton Sea instead of back tracking.

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fft fft ffft fft ffft

 

Love driving through new places! I don’t know why it fascinated me that it is so close to Mexico, as was made very clear by the Border Patrol stop we had to make on our way back up. Since we weren’t smuggling anyone or anything, we zipped past and watched the Sea on our right until we reached the 10 Freeway to Los Angeles.IMG_2225

 

-Jenn