California April/May 2011

I made a trip to California for a few days at the end of April and beginning of May, 2011. After arriving in LA, the first order of business was dinner:

Tommy's Hamburgers. In the Valley @ Roscoe X 405. Glad to see it is still there. It has indoor seating now. Seems to have lost a bit of its charm and sense of urgency. The Chili Fries are still tasty.

I spent April 30 and May 1 in Ridgecrest; after that I went to a conference in Anaheim. The weather was unseasonably cool, struggling to reach 70 F on both days. It was also, for the most part, very windy. On the first day in Ridgecrest, my dad and I explored the hills south of town. The old mining towns of Randsburg, Johannesburg, and Red Mountain are rather timeless. They refuse to die. I went to school with a couple of kids from Randsburg / Johannesburg, and one from Garlock...

The Silver Dollar Saloon in Red Mountain. About 25 years ago, a couple of my friends were in a band that played at this joint. Looks like it's been closed for several years and the desert sun is taking its toll now...

A bit cheesy, but a rattlesnake theme. On the main drag (395) in Johannesburg.

The Santa Barbara Church, in Randsburg. Built in 1904.

This interesting site is out in the middle of nowhere:

A monument erected in memory of Major Michael Adams, USAF. He was killed in an X-15 crash here on 15 November 1967. I was fascinated by the X-15 when I was a kid, and had no idea that one had crashed not far at all from where I grew up. We'll probably never see an airplane that badass, or test pilots allowed to take such risks, ever again. The world air speed record for a manned fixed-wing aircraft, 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7), was set by Major Pete Knight in an X-15 back in 1967 and still stands.

A closer look at the miniature X-15 on the top of the pole. The flag swivels on the pole, operating as a weather vane. This feature was much in evidence on this day.

Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), as spotted on the side of a dirt road. Always nice to see these.

The Southern Sierras, as seen from high in the El Pasos.

Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana), as found.

Dad and Laurel Mountain, in the El Pasos.

Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia).

A closer look.

The next day, I went for a lengthy hike in the Lava Mountains, which are located northeast of Randsburg.

A subadult Great Basin Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola).

A closer look.

Zebra-tailed Lizard (Callisaurus draconoides).

Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), as found, trying to get warm.

Same animal as above, looking south.

Same animal as above, looking north. I like taking in-situ photos when possible, and this was very willing to sit tight. So I made the most of it. Both snakes that I came across this day were on the crawl and would not sit still while I got my camera out.

Cuddeback Dry Lake (in the distance).

A nearby hillside.


Beavertail Cactus.

Beavertail Cactus.

Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata).

A closer look.

I was hoping for a better look at the snake in this photo, but it wouldn't sit still. I found it on a steep hillside about four feet to the right of where it is in this photo.

An old tortoise shell, as found in the bottom of the canyon just below the Rosy Boa.

Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), as spotted in a wash.

That's about it. I wish I could have hung around longer. Other reptile species seen: Western Whiptails (Aspidoscelis tigris), a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister), a Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii), a Red Racer (Masticophis flagellum piceus) (DOR), and a Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) (DOR). I really do enjoy visiting with my parents and exploring the desert.