West 2015, The Itinerary, Part 7

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I entered the last week of my trip with a few factors working against me. First, I’d been on the road three weeks, and that’s a long time to be away from home, even for a seasoned traveler like me. Secondly, the extreme heat of the previous two days (124 F & 117 F) were becoming taxing. Thirdly, a late night in Vegas had left me sleep deprived. So, when I rolled into Zion National Park some 3 hours after leaving Las Vegas to find a sign telling me the parking lots were all full, I wasn’t a happy camper.

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Things improved quickly as I lucked out and found a parking spot right across from the visitor center. I quickly boarded the park’s shuttle and headed into the canyon.

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My first stop was one of Zion’s iconic sites, the three peaks known as The Three Patriarchs.

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I also stopped to take a short hike along the Virgin River. There were amazing views southward down the canyon.

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The one short hike I did was up to Weeping Rock, where water seeps through the permeable sandstone and drips down in front of an alcove in the side of the mountain. This view point also affords fantastic views of the enclosed canyon and it’s walls.

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I woke excited the next morning, because the first park of the day marked a milestone in my quest to visit all the National Park Units in the lower 48 states. I’d missed Cedar Breaks National Monument on all of my previous trips out west due to the fact that it is only open for a few months of the years. This gorgeous orange amphitheater is located at over 10,000 feet above sea level, leading the first snows in September to close the roads until late May or early June. Visiting here meant that I had visited all the parks of the West.

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I was lucky to be able to view a number of yellow-bellied marmots hanging out on the crater’s rim. There were even a few babies among their number. All of the marmots were a little thin, probably having only emerged from hibernation a few weeks before.

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Heading east from Cedar Breaks, I stopped briefly at Bryce Canyon National Park. I was shocked to find most of the park’s parking lots full, finding out later that the park’s annual Astronomy Festival was taking place this weekend.

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I resigned myself to finding parking a one viewpoint, so I could at least get out and photograph the abundant hoodoos that the park is know for. These spires of orange rock were formed through erosion and give the canyon it’s signature look and color. Hoodoos can be found all over the world, but nowhere else are they as prevalent as they are in Bryce Canyon.

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I spent the next few hours driving Utah Highway 12, the scenic Escalante Highway. The roads elevated viewpoints looked out over the canyons and badlands to the east and south.

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In the late afternoon, I came to Capitol Reef National Park, one of the Park Systems least visited and most underrated National Parks. The main purpose of the park was to protect Waterpocket Fold, a rugged up-thrust that extends over 100 miles through this portion of central Utah. The park contains a number of canyons and sandstone structures as well.

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The area near the visitor center is a fertile oasis amid all the rock and desert surrounding, and was the site of some early Mormon settlements. Their orchards still thrive under the NPS’ watchful eye to this day.

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The park also preserves a few historic structures as well- the most famous and well-recognized it the tiny, one room Fruita Schoolhouse. The building served as the community’s only school from 1894 until 1941.

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After staying overnight in the tiny hamlet of Green River, I set off the next morning early headed for two of Utah’s most spectacular National Parks. The first was Arches National Park, famous for containing over 2000 natural sandstone arches, as well as many other famous geological formations. I was glad I’d headed out early, as the day was to be the fourth in a row for me with temps exceeding 110 degrees.

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I started the day with a hike to the windows, two large arches standing right next to each other. My second stop was the overlook for Delicate Arch- Utah’s state symbol and probably the most famous arch in the park. The hike to Delicate Arch is moderate in difficulty and certainly was outside of my capabilities , especially on such a hot day.

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Despite the blistering heat I did make the couple mile hike to see one of the parks other most famous arches, Landscape Arch. This arch is over 290 feet long and is the longest in the park and the second longest in the world.

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In the afternoon, I drove out to the Island in the Sky district of nearby Canyonlands National Park. This is the most accessible of this large park’s areas, and the many scenic 0verlooks present a vast land plateaus, mesas and river carved canyons.

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Much of the park is accessible by steep mountain roads and rough paths only passible by vehicles with four wheel drive. These areas are a mecca for off-road enthusiasts, rock climbers and adventure sport nuts.

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I had a long drive the next day along I-70, which has to be one of the country’s most scenic interstate stretches, crossing the spine of the Rocky Mountains before reaching the Denver area. I didn’t quite make it to Denver, opting to take the longer route to Fort Collins, Colorado, to visit some of the area’s famous breweries that evening and the next morning.

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Fort Collins is home to New Belgium Brewing, which I visited the next morning. This unique, employee-owned brewery is one of the nation’s most famous microbreweries, and one of the first to start widespread brewing of specialty craft beer.

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And then, after a 1000 miles and two days of driving (with a quick stop in Lincoln, Nebraska to visit the Stueber Family), the nearly month-long trip was over.

West 2015- The Itinerary Posts

 

West 2015- The Itinerary Part 6

I left Los Angeles heading eastward for home for the first time in three weeks.

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My first stop was one of the National Park System’s newest parks, Caesar Chavez National Monument.

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Chavez is recognized as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, the first labor movement for Latinos, which later became a voice for all of the poor and disenfranchised in America.

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The park currently preserves the former headquarters of the UFW, and the site of Chavez’ grave. There are plans to expand the park in the future, but as of my visit, most of the site remains undeveloped.

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Heading further east, into California’s interior, I visited Manzanar National Historic Site, which I has visited in 2004, shortly after it’s visitor center had been opened.

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Manzanar tells the story of one of America’s darkest historic chapters. In the wake of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration made the decision to temporarily move many Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

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These citizens were hard-working Americans, and despite having done nothing wrong, they were subject to the loss of their homes and businesses, and in the case of Manazar, to be relocated to California’s baking interior.

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While being relocated to less than a less than ideal environment, they made the camp a community, where they shared the hardships together. While being one of America’s saddest history lessons, sites like this are preserved as a reminder so future generations can hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past.

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Continuing east, I headed into Death Valley National Park, a singular piece of desert containing many historic and cultural sites.

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Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, measuring -282 feet below Sea Level. I’d visited the spot back in 2004 on a mild Spring day with temps in the upper 90s, but it was considerably warmer this year.

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After a look around at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and dinner at nearby Furnace Creek Ranch, I proceeded on to Dante’s View, a scenic spot over 5500ft above the valley floor below.

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In the evening I stayed at the hotel attached to the Amargosa Opera House. This was an incredibly authentic experience, and I was able to tour the Opera House the next morning before departing. It was a quintessential piece of America, and I could help but wondering how the building looked in the 1920s during Death Valley’s Gold Rush era.

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Then it was off to Las Vegas. I had secured a great deal on a room at the Luxor. It was sure to be the nicest hotel of the entire trip for me.

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I had a friend from college, Doug, who is a teacher in Vegas, and agreed to show me around during the day. He took me to an area just east of downtown where there was a bunch of fantastic street art.

 

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We also had a chance to walk the eccentric freak show that is called The Fremont Street Experience. I’d missed this part of Las Vegas my last time in town and was glad to at least see it.

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My evening was spent in a pretty tame way, especially for a place like Sin City. I gathered up my camera and tripod and set off to photograph the sights of the strip.

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The Interior at the Bellagio

I walked all the way from the Luxor to the Venetian, sometimes dipping into the casinos themselves to checkout the lavish interiors, but most of the evening was spent photographing the exteriors, as well as people watching and enjoying the chaos that is Las Vegas.

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A highlight of the evening was watching the world famous fountains at the Bellagio.

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The Venetian

Although it’s not really my kind of city, I did enjoy my one evening there. I freely admit it’s a place I wouldn’t care to spend a lot of time in.

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I arrived back at the Luxor at close to 4AM and was woken up by a brilliant desert sunrise and hour later. Although I hadn’t partied like a rock star there, Las Vegas still go the best of me. While I did get a few more hours of sleep, the long night was going to make for an exhausting next day, as I pushed through the last few days of the trip before making the long drive home.

West 2015- The Itinerary Posts

 

West 2015- The Itinerary, Part 5

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After finding lots of great beer but not enough sun during my five days in San Diego, I headed north under a bright, sunny sky. My first stop was about an hour south of Los Angeles- the historic mission of San Juan Capistrano.

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The mission was built by the Spanish in the mid 1770s and served as an important mission to the local Native Americans until the 1830s.

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Much of the original mission lies in ruins, but it is still clear to see the early Spanish building style in the ruins. Especially impressive is the remains of The Great Stone Church.

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The mission fell into disrepair after it was abandoned by the Catholic Church, and with most of such missions, it’s resources were raided by locals and the buildings became derelict. The impressive masonry buttresses, most of which are the mission’s original ones, survive to this day.

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The most famous part of the mission is the Serra Chapel, the only remaining chapel where Father Junípero Serra celebrated mass that remains standing.

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I hadn’t planned a lot for my day in Los Angeles, knowing the simple act of moving around in the city’s famous traffic would occupy much of the day. I was going to be limited a couple distinctly “Los Angeles” experiences, so I decided to spend some time at Venice Beach.

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Venice Beach is such a quirky microcosm of Los Angeles. It’s got quite a bit of counter-culture, but it is also a place where many of the ‘beautiful’ people hang out. It’s such a weird, chaotic scene.

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The main thing I’d wanted to do for years in Los Angeles was to watch a sunset from the Griffith Observatory, which rests on a mountainside overlooking the city’s sprawl.

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I found out on the drive up to the observatory that I wasn’t the only one who had this idea on a sunny June day. I lucked out and found a parking spot only about a quarter mile from the Observatory’s grounds. On the walk up I was afforded great views of the famous Hollywood sign, a short distance off to the northwest. Once one the grounds, I spent over half an hour trying to capture a picture of one of the many hummingbirds feeding on the flowering plants here.

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The main attraction of the Griffith Observatory is the amazing views of the downtown area of Los Angeles and the vast patchwork of suburbs that radiate away from it. As the sun went down, I was treated to a seminal LA experience.

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I couldn’t spend anymore time in the City of Angles, I need to head toward sunset and the coast for my next day’s National Park visit.

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The next morning found me in Oxnard boarding a boat for Channel Islands National Park, specifically Santa Cruz Island and the NPS’ Visitor Center at Scorpion Harbor. We were able to observe seals lounging on the buoys that mark the entrance to the harbor.

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On the way to the island, the crowd on the boat was delighted by being able to see both common and bottlenose dolphins interacting with the boat.
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One of the highlights of the visit to the island was the opportunity to view the Island Fox, North America’s smallest species of fox and one that is found only on the Channel Islands.

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I hiked up through the island’s rugged interior to the Cavern Point, which provided amazing views of Santa Cruz Island’s North Coast.

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The Cavern Point trail lead back around to Scorpion Harbor.IMG_3645

After returning to the mainland, I drove out of greater Los Angeles and into California’s fertile Central Valley. While there were a lot of crops growing, the ongoing drought gave much of the area a burnt look.

It was onward into California’s most famous desert, and another National Park site, one of the system’s darkest….

West 2015- The Itinerary Posts

 

San Diego Microbreweries I Visited

San Diego has an amazing microbrewery scene, with over 120 breweries in the county alone. When I started planning my trip to the American West, I allotted 4 days in San Diego, predominantly to visit the many well-reputed breweries that call the city home. As it turned out, I arrived in San Diego early, which afforded me a 5th night.

I ended up visiting a total of 22 breweries in the 5 days. Here are brief summaries of all 22.

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Alpine Brewing Company- I stopped at Alpine on my way in to SD from Southern Arizona, and, after a long drive, I was in need of a beer. They’s recently sold to Green Flash, but my sources told me I would still love the beers produced at their original location. I’d been told the IPAs would be the highlight, and Pure Hoppiness, Duet and Nelson all scored high marks from me. The staff at the brewpub wasn’t the friendliest bunch I met however.

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Benchmark Brewing Company- This was truly a ‘bonus’ brewery, as it had missed the cut on the ‘four-day’ plan, but it was on the way to my hotel and they had a good reputation, so I was glad to get a chance to stop. They’re located in an industrial complex (as many SD breweries are), but the inside of the tasting room was comfy and I certainly thought their beer, especially the Talking Tree Saison, were good.

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Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido- This is, simply put, the single most beautiful brewery space I have ever been. I’ll dedicate a whole post to this amazing, multi-million dollar facility, but the tap list of Stone beers is impressive, and the guest tap list includes so many amazing beers it would be impossible to try them all in one visit. The food is certainly fancy and has the price tag to prove it. If you visit one San Diego brewery, this would be the one. (For those without their own transportation, this might prove hard. The Escondido area has plenty of affordable accommodations and Ubers- I availed myself of both).

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Coronado Brewing Company (Production Facility)- Since I’d had lots of Coronado’s beers before, they were originally not on my list. I’d noticed that this particular location (just north of Old Town) was open at 10 AM, and it just so happened that I was passing here on my way to Ocean Beach at just that time. Good fortune smiled on me as I ended I chancing to meet Rick, Coronado’s president, while sitting in the pub having a few samples. This is a top rate brewery, and their tasting room had plenty of interesting stuff not in their normal bottling rotation.

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Pizza Port (Ocean Beach)- This longtime San Diego mainstay has 5 locations around the area, but the Ocean Beach brewpub is the most famous. Of course I had to try a couple of their famous slices with my flight. This pizza was as good as advertised. My favorite of the beers was a brett saison called Beer Hunter Episode 2.

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Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment- This was a stop on my way out to Pacific Beach, and this brewpub certainly captures the chill, SoCal environment nicely. They staff was friendly, with lots of great tips on how to spend my days in San Diego, and the beers were pretty good. This is an incredibly convenient stop for those using public transportation, as it’s just a couple hundred feet from the northbound tram line.

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Amplified Ale Works- This place was recommended because of good food & beer, with an awesome guest tap list, and it was only a few hundred feet from the beach. That would allow me to visit the Pacific, grab a flight and some food and then make it back to the beach for sunset. All of these things happened except the sunset. Their beers were good, but this highlight of this visit was the Döner Fries, a huge plate of fries which I got with salmon. It was also topped with garlic aioli, California chili & avocado dressing. It was also half price during happy hour.

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Modern Times Lomaland Fermentorium- I’d originally intended to visit the Modern Times location in the North Park neighborhood, but as my plans changed, I seized the opportunity to visit this location, which was close to the bus line back to my hotel for the evening. I was certainly glad I did, as their beer was amazing- I enjoyed everything I had on the couple of flights I ordered. Particularly impressive was Black House, a coffee oatmeal stout, and Universal Friend, a saison aged in Pinot Noir barrels.

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Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen (Little Italy)- One of San Diego’s most famous breweries and certainly one of my favorites, I had a brilliant lunch and samples here, only a 10 minute walk from my hotel. This location had one of the most impressively knowledgeable brewpub staffs I encountered on the whole trip. I was so impressed with the Grunion, a mosaic hop pale ale with a beautiful nose, that I bought a six pack to bring back with me. No visit to San Diego’s beer scene would be complete without a visit tom on of Ballast Point’s locations.

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Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery- I’ll admit to not getting a real good feel for this place. They certainly have a good reputation, but, on the afternoon I visited, the pub was packed with homebrewers from the National Homebrewing Conference, which was in SD the weekend I visited (this was the only place I battled a crowd from the conference however). I had a couple of their house beers, which were good enough, but if I’d stayed longer (and actually thought I’d get served), I would have tried some beers off their rather impressive guest tap list.

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Mission Brewery- I stopped at Mission, another longtime San Diego brewing institution, in East Village across a few massive parking lots from Petco Field, on my way to a Friday night game between the Padres and visiting Dodgers. The brewpub is an impressive space, with much of the brewing operation visible to patrons in this open, dog-friendly facility. I’d previously had many of their beer that are available in my neighboring states (Illinois & Ohio), but I was impressed with the variety I hadn’t tried in bottles previously. With the rise of hard rootbeers, Mission’s is the best I’ve had and one not to be missed.

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Half Door Brewing Company- I stumbled upon this new downtown brewery right down the street from Petco Park as I was heading for my tram home. Set in an older house and modeled after a countryside Irish pub, the beers were good for a new brewery and the staff was also welcoming. It would make sense that my favorite beer of theirs was Roark Red Ale, a traditional red ale.

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Societe Brewing Company- I made a brief stop here while heading out the some of the more suburban breweries and wish I’d had more of an opportunity to try the beers from this well-reputed brewery. I did seriously enjoy The Bellowman, a stout which was seriously smoky.

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The Lost Abbey & Port Brewing Company- This was one of the breweries I had been looking forward to visiting most. I arrived on a Saturday in the early afternoon and found the place packed. I’ve particularly been a fan of beers from The Lost Abbey for years, since I enjoying funky and odd versions of common styles. I samples three of The Lost Abbey’s Belgian-inspired beers, which were good, but I was more impressed with the standard styles I had from Port Brewing, specifically the Shark Attack Double Red and Board Meeting Brown.

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Rip Current Brewing Company- These guys won three medals a few months after my visit at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, including the Best Very Small Brewing Company of the year. I wasn’t surprised as I really enjoyed the beer I had here in this extremely chill environment in San Marcos. My favorite were their IPAs, not a surprise from any brewery on the west coast, but they also did well on other styles, including a fantastic ESB and an outstanding Hazelnut Porter.

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Toolbox Brewing Company- This was one of the new breweries I’d visited and the only one in the San Diego area specializing in wild ales. I had not been able to find a ton of reviews of the place online, and the ones I did see must have been written by non-sour beer people, because I loved the place. Every beer I had was excellent. Reading back over my Untappd comments it’s clear I’d run out of accolades by my 11th and final sample, Virgin Cherry Sour Blonde Wild Ale, because all it reads is “Yes. Yes. Yes.” If you like sours, this is an absolute must-visit. If you don’t, maybe they’ll change your mind.

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Latitude 33 Brewing Company- This place was a short walk uphill from Toolbox in another industrial complex. The list the Honey Hips Strong Blonde their most popular beer, and for good reason. Not usually a fan of blondes, this one was flavorful and hid the 8.3% abv very well. I also liked the Thirty Three IPA, and brought bottles back of both to serve at my beer party in August.

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Booze Brothers Brewing Company- This was my last stop of 6 breweries in the Vista/San Marcos area, and I only had a chance to try a quick flight of five before they closed. My favorite of the bunch was Cherry Blind, which is a version of their standard witbeer, Snow Blind, with cherry in it. All five on the flight were pretty good- another place I’d recommend even after such a short visit.

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White Labs Tasting Room- “White Labs Inc. Pure Yeast and Fermentation team members have been active in the American and worldwide craft brewing movements since the 1980s,” says their website. This company is one of the worldwide leaders in providing liquid yeast to the craft beer industry, and also to homebrewers. Their small tasting room in Miramar area provided me with the unique opportunity to have a flight of four, all the same beer, the Pasteur Porter, but all with different yeast strains. Tasting notes told me what to look for and it turned out to be an educational experience. Of the four yeasts I tried (Belgian Ale Yeast, Dry English Yeast, German Ale Yeast & California Ale Yeast), I liked the German yeast best, which was the one I would have expected to like least. This isn’t a classic brewpub, but it’s a cool side trip.

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Green Flash Brewing Company- One of San Diego’s older breweries, the last few years have seen Green Flash expand it’s distribution by leaps and bounds, and now it’s a nationally recognized name. This spacious facility in Miramar has a small tasting room with a comfortable patio area, and offers frequent tours. Best known for their west coast IPAs, they have started to branch out into many more styles, and are also starting to get into the barrel aging side of the business as well. I’d had a number of their beers before, but was still able to find some new ones to try in the tasting room.

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AleSmith Brewing Company- AleSmith is another of San Diego’s signature breweries. Although not distributed in my home state of Michigan, I’d been fortunate enough to try many of their beers and bottle shares or while traveling out of state. The tasting room I visited is in their new building, and was a shell of what it someday will be. I was able to watch a promotional video while sipping on my flight which showed what they have in mind for the place, and it’s going to be impressive. The big score on this visit was getting to have the .394 San Diego Pale Ale, a tribute beer to baseball Hall of Famer and San Diego Padre legend Tony Gwynn, who passed away after battling cancer a few years before.

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Mike Hess Brewing Company- This brewery also has a location in the North Park neighborhood (which I regrettably missed on this trip), and another location coming in Ocean Beach, but I visited the original location in an industrial complex a short walk from AleSmith. The brewery’s founder and namesake started brewing at this location as a homebrewer back in 2009, and his reputation spread quickly. The taproom here has comfortable seating and a ping pong table, and the bartender I had on my visit was more than happy to tell me the story of their growing brewery. All the beers I had here were solid.

While the overall list of breweries I visited is somewhat impressive, it’s amazing how many other I was disappointed to have missed. By the end of the five days, I was thoroughly beered out, but I can see a return trip to this amazing beer city at some point in time in the future.

Here’s a Google Doc with all of my Untappd checkins.

West 2015- The Itinerary, Part Four

After 2 awesome days in Grand Canyon National Park, I headed south Flagstaff. On the way, I re-visited two more of the National Park units I’d stopped at in 2003.

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Main Dwelling, Wupatki NM

Wupatki, which stands for ‘tall house’ in Hopi, is one of the best preserved kiva based dwellings in the area. Occupied as early as 500AD, the site was greatly effected by the eruption of the nearby volcano, Sunset Crater. The National Monument preserves a few different sites, but the most impressive is the main sight near the visitor center, which is a pueblo that had more than 100 rooms.

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The Ballcourt, Wupatki NM

One of the most fascinating features of the site is the ‘ball court’. Little is positively known about the games played in these circular structures, but similar sites have been found in a few other sites in the Southwest.

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The nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument preserves the relatively young volcano (last eruption in 1064 or 1065 AD) that forced the temporary evacuation of the Wupatki settlements. The hiking paths to the rim of the crater have been closed (due to damage to the cone left by previous hikers), but there are a couple of good hikes around the base of the volcano, as well as a couple other through the vast lava field left by the eruptions.

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An hour down the road, I returned to ‘civilization’, that being the town of Flagstaff, Arizona. At over 135,000 residents, it was by far the largest city I’d visited since leaving Albuquerque a week earlier. My evening was spent visiting the many microbreweries the city had to offer. (A detailed post on Flagstaff’s breweries is coming soon.)

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Oak Creek Canyon overlook

I continued south the next morning, through Oak Creek Canyon, one of Arizona’s most popular and scenic drives. The route leads through both Slide Rock State Park and the kitschy artist community of Sedona, but my destination for the morning lay slightly east of these two.

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Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well is small, spring-fed body of water that has been important to local Native American communities since the 7th Century AD. The Well maintains a constant level of water, even through the periodic droughts this area experiences.

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Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Well is part of Montezuma Castle National Monument. The Castle is a few miles south of the Well, and was built quite dramatically into a cliff face. The structure contains 5 stories and more than 25 rooms, and was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans between 1100 AD and 1400 AD. The name of the site is misleading, as there is no connection between the legendary Aztec emperor and the dwelling. The name speaks to the ignorance the first European explorers who found the site back in the mid-1860s.

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Tonto Natural Bridge

For the first time in nearly a week, I was going to travel into an area that I had not previously visited on any of my trips, as I headed east into the Mazatzal Wilderness of Eastern Arizona. I stopped briefly at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

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Tonto National Monument

The landscape changed as I drove further south, from high elevation pine forests to cactus covered hills. I reached Tonto National Monument late in the afternoon and had just enough time to make the mile long hike uphill to the ruin at the top. The Salado people built a series of structures here in the 1300s to 1500s AD. Despite being in the baking Sonoran Desert, the Salado were able to find year-round water in the Salt River, which made habitation possible.

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The hike up to the cliff dwelling was not a whole lot of fun in the heat, but the views from the top of a storm rolling in over Lake Roosevelt and the cactus covered mountains made it worth it.

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Casa Grande NM

The next morning I visited the last of the Indian ruin sites on the trip, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, and hour south of Phoenix. Casa Grande, “Big House” in Spanish, refers to the main building, a four story structure build by the ancient relatives of the Hohokim people. The day was extremely hot and it made me wonder why people would find this area and attractive place to live sans climate control. This site was occupied for less than 200 years.

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The border wall with Mexico in the distance

Then it was off to San Diego, but I had a long drive through the Sonoran Desert to get these. I passed less than a mile from the wall on the Mexican border.

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The stretch of Interstate 8 between Yuma, Arizona and San Diego was one I had never done before. The road first passed through flatlands covered with windmills, then went up and through some strange boulder covered mountains, before heading downward toward the ocean.

 

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June Gloom

The main point of my days in San Diego was to visit a number of the area’s well-reputed microbreweries. I’d also hoped to mix in some sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and some sightseeing. The weather did not cooperate on the sunset front.

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A rare sunny moment of the Pacific

On my second day, I traveled out to the Pacific Beach area. The sun made a brief appearance when I first made it to the beach, but the clouds and marine fog returned before sunset. While San Diego sees more sunshine than any city in the United States, June is typically the most overcast and cloudy time of the year. Locals call the phenomenon ‘June Gloom’. I’d done plenty of reading about the area, but had inexplicably missed this term. While temps were pleasant, I didn’t see any more sun while along the coast in the next 4 days in San Diego.

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General Store, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

The gloomy skies didn’t stop me from enjoying San Diego. While I spent a great deal of time visiting microbreweries (post upcoming), I also had a chance to do some sightseeing. I visited Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which preserves many of the historic buildings from the mid-1800s, when San Diego grew up as a city. The park was very touristy, but still did a good job of conveying the frontier feel of the era.

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USS Midway

On my third day, I took a long walk along the San Diego waterfront. The major site on the waterfront is the aircraft carrier, USS Midway, which had been made into a museum. I’d planned on visiting, but the wait on this Friday afternoon caused me to change my plans.

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In the evening I caught a game at Petco Park between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a very attractive park, with the city’s skyline rising beyond the outfield stands.

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Cabrillo Monument

Out on Point Loma lies Cabrillo National Monument, which preserves the spot of the first European Landing by the Spaniard in September of 1542. Splendid views of Coronado Island and the skyline are prominent across the bay.

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Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Also on the sight is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Built in 1855 shortly after California became a state, the lighthouse is no longer in commission, but retains it’s status as one of the cities most prominent icons. The building are now a museum dedicated to lighthouses and area history.

My days in San Diego marked the halfway point on my trip. I was heading north toward LA, but the drive back eastward was on my mind….

West 2015- The Itinerary Posts